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Christ reproveth the Pharisees' blindness about the observation of the sabbath, by scripture, reason, and miracle: chooseth twelve apostles: healeth the diseased: preacheth to his disciples before the people, pronouncing blessings and woes: how we must love our enemies; and join the obedience of good works to the hearing of the word, lest in the evil day of temptation we fall, like a house built upon the face of the earth without any foundation.
Anno Domini 31.
Luke 6:1. On the second sabbath, &c.— On the first sabbath after the second of the passover. Commentators are much at a loss to understand what St. Luke means by the second sabbath after the first;— Σαββατω δευτεροπρωτω . Some think the proper translation of his words is, the first second-day's sabbath; understanding thereby, the ordinary sabbath which happened in the passover-week, and assigning the following reason of its name:—the law enjoined, that on the second day of the passover-week, they should offer the sheaf of the first-fruits, Leviticus 23:10-3.23.11; but in case of a backward season, they placed an intercalary month between the last month Adar, and the first month Abib, answering to our March, and called it, the Adar, or the second Adar. From the second day of the passover-week, on which the first sheaf was offered with prayers for a blessing on the beginning of harvest, they counted seven weeks to Pentecost. See Leviticus 23:15-3.23.16. Deuteronomy 16:9. Exodus 23:16. The day on which they offered the first barley sheaf, and from which they accounted the seven weeks of harvest to the feast of Pentecost, being the second day of the passover-week, it is supposed that the ordinary sabbaths happening in these weeks, carried in their names a memorial of the term whence they were computed. Thus the first of them was called Σαββατον δευτεροπρωτον, the first second day's sabbath; or, "the first sabbath after the second day of unleavened bread:" the second was called Σαββατον δευτεροδευτερον, the second second day's sabbath; and so on, till the seventh. There are, besides this, a variety of other interpretations and opinions: but upon the whole it may be observed, that according to all the interpretations of the passage, this first second day's sabbath happened near some passover.
Luke 6:3. An hungered— Or Hungry.
Luke 6:5. Lord also of the sabbath.— Lord even, &c.
Luke 6:9. To save life, or to destroy it?— That our Lord might expose the malice and superstition of the Pharisees, he appealed to the dictates of their own minds, whether it was not more lawful to do good on the sabbath-day than to do evil; to save than to kill? He meant—"more lawful for him on the sabbath to save men's lives, than for them to plot his death, without the least provocation." This was a severe but just rebuke, which in the present circumstances must have been sensibly felt.
Luke 6:12. In prayer to God.— 'Εν τη προσευχη του Θεου, in a proseucha, oratory, or prayer-house of God. These proseuchas, or houses of prayer, were common in Judea: it is well known that they were open at the top, planted round with trees, and often situated by the sides of seas or rivers. See Acts 16:13. Jdg 20:26 and Calmet on the word proseuche. Dr. Heylin is of opinion, that the phrase is emphatical, to import an extraordinary and sublime devotion:—In the prayer of God. So the high mountains, and tall cedars, in the scripture, are called the mountains of God, and the cedars of God. Jesus was to appoint his disciples the following day.
Luke 6:15. Zelotes,— Or, The Zealot.
Luke 6:17. And stood in the plain;— Dr. Macknight is of opinion that this sermon was not the same with that declared in the fifth and following chapters of St. Matthew. Amongst other reasons which he urges to shew the difference, he remarks, that the sermon recorded by St. Matthew was delivered on a mountain, in a sitting posture; for he went up into a mountain, and sat down to pronounce it, Mat 5:1 and after he had finished it, came down to the plain, Mat 8:1 whereas when he pronounced this which St. Luke speaks of, he was in a plain or valley, where he could not sit because of the multitude which surrounded him, but stood with his disciples. But though there were not an evident disagreement in the facts preceding and following these two sermons, the reader might easily have allowedthat they were pronounced at different times, because he will find other instances of things really different, notwithstanding in their nature they be alike, and were preceded and followed by similar events. For example, the two miraculous dinners were not only alike in their natures, but in their circumstances also; for they were introduced by the same discourses, and followed by like events; particularly at the conclusion of both, Jesus passed over the sea of Galilee; nevertheless, both being in the same evangelist, no reader can possibly think them the same. See the note on Matthew 5:1.
Luke 6:24. Woe unto you that are rich!— We may observe another circumstance in this discourse, in which also it differs from that in St. Matthew, namely, that our Lord not only pronounced blessings, but likewise maledictions, in it. As poverty, which is neither good nor bad in itself, cannot be acceptable to God, unless it is accompanied with the graces and virtues which are suitable to an afflicted state; so riches do not make us the objects of God's hatred, unless they be accompanied with those vices which frequently spring from an opulent fortune; namely, pride, luxury, love of pleasure, or covetousness. Rich men, infected with such vices as these, are the objects of the woe here denounced; and not they who make a proper use of their wealth, and possess, through divine grace, the dispositions and virtues which should accompany affluence. Wherefore, though there is no restriction added to the word rich in the malediction, as there is to the word poor in the complete denunciation of the beatitude, Mat 5:3 yet it is equally to be understood: "Woe unto you that are rich in spirit;" you who are proud, covetous, lovers of pleasure; "for ye have received your consolation." The parable of the rich man and Lazarus may be considered as an illustration both of the beatitude and the malediction. The reader will find, by referring to the parallel passages in Matthew 5 : &c. and the notes, the dubious expressions in this discourse fully elucidated.
Luke 6:25. Woe unto you that laugh now!— Our Lord's malediction is not inconsistent with the apostle's precepts which command Christians always to rejoice; neither is the mirth, against which the woe is here denounced, to be understood of that constant cheerfulness of temper, which arises to the true Christian from the comfortable and cheerful experience of the power and truth of those doctrines with which he is enlightened by the Gospel,—the assurance he has of reconciliation with God, the hope that he has of everlasting life, and the pleasure he enjoys in walking with God, in the practice of piety, and the other duties of religion: but it is to be understood of that turbulent carnal mirth, that levity and vanity of spirit, which arises not from any solid foundation, butfrom sensual pleasure, or those vain amusements of life, by which the giddy and the gay contrive to spend their time;—that sort of mirth which dissipates thought, leaves no time for consideration, and gives them an utter aversion to all serious reflection. Persons who continue to indulge themselves in this sort of mirth, shall weep and mourn eternally, when they are excluded from the joys of heaven, and banished for ever from the presence of God.
Luke 6:26. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!— "Woe unto you, ifby propagating such doctrines or sentiments as encourage and nourish the vain spirit of the world, you shall gain to yourselves the applause and flattery of the generality of men; for thus in old times did the false prophets and deceivers, who, accommodating their doctrines to the lusts and passions of men, were more caressed and better hearkened to, than the true prophets of God." See Matthew 5:10-40.5.12.
Luke 6:30. Give to every man that asketh of thee;— As the words ask not again, are used by the LXX to express a claim of interest due upon money and goods, some interpreters have chosen to render the words lend to every man that asketh of thee; and from him that receiveth thy goods, exact not interest. But the word απαιτειν cannot well signify the exaction of interest, because the word αιρειν, to which it relates, never signifies to borrow. But whatever sense we put on our Lord's precept, it must be understood with the limitations which common sense directs us to make; namely, that we give and lend freely to all who ask, or permit them to retain what they have unjustly taken; provided only that it be a thing which we can really spare, and the persons who ask or take such things be in real necessity; which without doubt was the meaning of the Mosaical precepts alluded to by our Lord in this part of his sermon.
Luke 6:35. Hoping for nothing again;— Distrusting nothing. "Shew these acts of kindness to your brethren, not at all despairing either of your present sustenance, or of your future reward." See Beza.
Luke 6:38. Good measure, &c.— Our Lord makes use of three phrases to express all the different kinds of good measure, according to the different natures of the things measured. Some of them, to make the measure good, must be pressed and trodden; some of them must be shaken, as the several kinds of grain; and some of them must be running over, as all sorts of liquors. The figure of giving this good measure into one's bosom, is an allusion to the eastern habits, which were long pieces of cloth wrapped round their bodies, and girded up with a girdle. Their garments being of this kind, they could receive into their lap or bosom, a considerable quantity of such dry goods as they sold by measure. See Ruth 3:15. 2 Kings 4:39. Nehemiah 5:13.Proverbs 16:33; Proverbs 16:33.
Luke 6:40. Every one that is perfect, shall be, &c.— "Whatever difficulties and sufferings may attend my followers in observing and communicating the instructions that I have given them in my doctrine and example, let them not think much of it: for the disciple should not expect to be exempted from doing what his Master does, nor from suffering what he submits to; but the highest perfection of a disciple consists in his being like his Master, and learning of him."
Inferences.—What actions are so fair and lovely, that malice cannot turn them into reproach?—What characters are so unblemished, what so exemplary, that uncharitableness cannot revile and condemn them?—While the eyes of the distressed multitudes are turned to Christ, as their only physician, and most valuable friend, the eyes of the Pharisees are continually upon him for evil; and they behold his wondrous miracles, not for their own conviction, but that they may, if possible, turn them into the means of his destruction. So ineffectual are the most obvious and demonstrative arguments, to those self-righteous souls that obstinately reject the grace of God, and will not submit to be saved by faith in Jesus Christ.
The malice of the Pharisees, however, did not restrain the benevolence of our compassionate Saviour, nor deprive the poor penitent of his cure. This ought to be the pattern of our conduct. We must not be overcome of evil, nor suffer the most unjust censure, or the most malicious opposition to break our spirits so, as to prevent us from doing our duty. If others be mad with persecuting rage, let us pity them, improving all their fury against the cause of God, as a motive to excite our most zealous and courageous endeavours for its service.
We may assure ourselves, that the apostles, the future ministers of our Lord, had no inconsiderable share in those petitions, in which, with unabating fervour and intenseness of devotion, he spent this memorable night, Luke 6:12.—And if we have any regard for the support of religion in the present or rising age, we likewise should pray earnestly for all the ministers of the Gospel, and also that the Lord would increase the number of his faithful labourers.
Our Lord here again pronounces (Luke 6:20-42.6.26.) the poor and the hungry, the mournful and the persecuted, to be happy; and represents those as miserable who are rich and full, joyous and applauded: not that this is universally the case, but because prosperous circumstances are so frequently a sweet poison, and affliction a healing though bitter medicine. The thought will reconcile us to adversity, and awaken our caution when the world smiles upon us; when a plentiful table is spread before us, and our cup runneth over; when our spirits are gay and sprightly, or when we hear, what to corrupted nature is too harmonious music,—that of our own praise from men. Oh that we may secure what is of infinitely greater importance, the praise of our heavenly Master by a constant obediential regard to these his precepts! May we be happy proficients in the art of bearing and forgiving injuries! May we be ready to every good word and work, maintaining an eye quick to observe, a heart tender to feel, a hand open to relieve the calamities and necessities of friends, of strangers, and of enemies; giving to some, and where there may be but little prospect of return; lending to others; which, if it engage them to greater industry, is as real a benefit as if the loan were a gift.
But let us not presume to call God our Father, if we do not labour to resemble him; nor dare to challenge the peculiar honour and privilege of Christ's disciples, if we do not distinguish ourselves from others by the charity of our tempers, and the usefulness of our lives, as well as by the articles of our faith, and the forms of our worship. Let a frequent reflection on our own faults teach us candour, while the sense of our continual dependence on the divine liberality makes us liberal towards those who need our assistance, lest we lose the comforts so justly forfeited, and abused mercies be another day repaid with measures of wrath pressed down, shaken together, and running over!—Abused mercies!—for surely it manifests peculiar kindness, that we are permitted to carve for ourselves: With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you. We ourselves are, as it were, to tell God how much mercy he shall shew us;—and can we be content with less than the very largest measure? Who then would not give to man, what he wishes and designs to receive of God?
On a future day, we are to give an account of ourselves before God, and therefore should judge for ourselves in matters of religion, and be very careful that we do not stupidly follow blind guides, till we fall with them into destruction:—"Lead us, therefore, O Lord, in the way everlasting; form us to a more perfect resemblance of our great Master; make us severe to ourselves, and, so far as it is real charity, indulgent to others. Sanctify our hearts by thy grace, that they may be as trees bringing forth good fruits, or as fountains pouring out wholesome streams: there may a good treasure be laid up, whence good things may be abundantly produced; there may those holy and benevolent affections continually spring up, which may flow forth with undissembled freedom, to refresh the souls, and animate the graces of all who are around us!"
And may these beautiful, striking, and repeated admonitions which our Saviour gives us, of the vanity of every profession which does not influence the practice, (Luke 6:46-42.6.49.) be attended to with reverence and fear: we are building for eternity. May we never grudge the time and labour of a most serious inquiry into the great and fundamental principles of religion: may we discover the sure foundation, and raise upon it a noble superstructure, which shall stand fair and glorious, when hypocrites are swept away into everlasting ruin, on that awful day, in which heaven and earth shall flee away from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne. Revelation 20:11.
REFLECTIONS.—1st. The passages in this chapter concerning the sabbath, we had before in the former evangelists. The time when the first of these events happened, is said to be the second sabbath after the first, or rather the first sabbath after the second day of the passover.
1. Our Lord vindicates his disciples from the censures of the Pharisees: and proves, by the example of David, the lawfulness of rubbing out the ears of corn, and eating them on the sabbath, when hunger called for food. Note; (1.) Works of real necessity are always allowable. (2.) The greater censurers of the innocent actions of others are often most indulgent to their own iniquities.
2. He vindicates himself from the same malignant cavillers. As he preached in the synagogue on another sabbath, there was a man present who had a withered hand. Jesus bade him stand forth in the midst of the congregation; and, knowing the malicious purposes of his watchful enemies, who, from such a gracious work as he was about to perform, intended to ground an accusation against him as if he was a sabbath-breaker, he appeals to themselves, whether they thought the fourth commandment could possibly forbid the doing good, or saving a man's life on the sabbath-day. Unable to reply, yet resolved to find fault, they were silent. On which, he with a word restored the withered hand. And thereat his enemies were so enraged, that, with fury rising to madness, they consulted how they might destroy him. Note; (1.) They who would be cured of their spiritual infirmities, must be found in the assembly of the faithful, where Christ usually dispenses his healing grace. (2.) Men's perverseness and wickedness must not deter nor discourage us from the work in which the Lord would have us be employed. (3.) Violent anger is a temporary madness: during its fury neither reason nor conscience is regarded.
2nd. We have,
1. Our Lord's retirement. He went out to a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God; which may signify either the object to whom his prayer was directed, or the fervency of his requests, or the house of prayer, to which he retired; such oratories being common in that country. (See the Annotations.) The length of the time he spent there, bespoke the importance of the occasion, he being about to choose and ordain his twelve apostles. Note. When matters of deep concern lie upon our souls, We are especially called to spread the case before God, for his direction and blessing.
2. The calling and appointment of the twelve apostles. These he ordained to be his chief ministers in that kingdom, which he was come to establish, putting them in trust with his gospel, and empowering them to work miracles in confirmation of their mission. The names of the apostles are the same as before; only he who was called Lebbeus, and surnamed Thaddeus, is here called Judas the brother of James, these names belonging to the same person; and Simon the Canaanite is here named Simon Zelotes, being probably, before his conversion, of the sect of the Zealots.
3. Having finished this work, he came down with the twelve to the plain, where great multitudes attended from the most distant parts of the country, to hear his discourses, and to partake of his wondrous cures. Nor were they disappointed: he graciously taught them, and richly dispensed his favours, healing all the diseased, and casting out the unclean spirits from such as were possessed; yea, such virtue went out of him, that the whole multitude of miserable patients, who came to him, sought but to touch him, fully persuaded that this would be effectual to heal them; and found, according to their faith, that their cure was instantly effected.
3rdly. Some have supposed, that the remainder of this chapter, from Luk 6:20 is an abridgement of the discourse recorded, Matth. v-vii.; others, that it was delivered at a different time and place, though the matter be similar. And this seems most probable, as there it is said he went up into a mountain and sat; here, that he came down and stood in the plain. (See the Annotations.)
As the disciples of Jesus would, for their attachment to him, be called to endure many hardships and sufferings, our Lord, fixing his eyes upon them, addresses them for their encouragement.
1. He pronounces those blessed, whom the world in general counts to be of all men most miserable. (1.) Blessed be ye poor, destitute of all earthly substance, or who have left all to follow me, and whose spirits are humbled into the dust, under the sense of your sinfulness and spiritual poverty: yours is the kingdom of God; the present riches of grace are your treasure, and the eternal inheritance above is reserved for you, as your exceeding great reward, if you persevere in this truly evangelical spirit. (2.) Blessed are ye that hunger now, either wanting necessary food for the sake of Christ and his gospel, or so earnest after spiritual blessings as the hungry are for meat; for ye shall be filled with food to satisfy the cravings of hunger, or better, with that supply of righteousness and grace which the soul desires. (3.) Blessed are ye that weep now, under afflictions for Christ's sake, or mourning over sin in yourselves and others; for ye shall laugh, filled with present consolations, and, if faithful, you shall be blessed with everlasting joys in that kingdom where every tear shall be for ever wiped away from your eyes. (4.) Blessed are ye when men shall hate you for your attachment to Christ and his gospel, and when they shall separate you from their company, counting it infamous to associate with persons so obnoxious, as well as excommunicating you from their religious assemblies; and shall reproach you, branding you with every malicious slander, and treating you with insult and contempt as the vilest of mankind; and cast out your name as evil, never mentioning you but with malignity and virulence, abusing you wherever they go; and all this for the Son of man's sake, because you espouse his interests, profess your faith in him, and live to his glory; which is indeed the cause of all their enmity at the bottom, with whatever specious pretences they cloak their malevolence. Notwithstanding their curses, you are truly blessed. Rejoice ye in that day therefore, and leap for joy; such reproach is your highest honour, and will, if you be faithful, prove your eternal advantage; for behold your reward is great in heaven; and this reward in glory will infinitely overpay all your losses and sufferings: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. In every age, the faithful, from the beginning, have met with the same treatment from the world of the ungodly. It is your honour to be made vile in such company: and to partake of the same cross which they endured is the way to the crown that they have won. Let us weigh well these things, and we shall say, welcome reproach, welcome every opprobrious name, welcome enmity, reviling, insolence. This is the way to glory.
2. He pronounces fearful woes on those whom the world calls happy; so different are God's thoughts from man's thoughts. (1.) Wo unto you that are rich, who, possessed of affluence, idolize the creature, seek your happiness from worldly enjoyments, and trust in these vanities; for ye have received your consolation; you have your all in hand, and have nothing to hope for in eternity. (2.) Wo unto you that are full, living in all fleshly gratifications, and faring sumptuously every day; for ye shall hunger, emptied of all your present abundance, and left to the rage of craving appetite, which can never be satisfied, and to raging thirst, where not a drop of water is granted to cool a flaming tongue. (3.) Wo unto you that laugh now, spending your days in mirth, pleasure, and sensual joy; for ye shall mourn and weep, where the sorrow will be as unavailing, as the torment which occasions it will be intolerable and eternal. (4.) Wo unto you when all men shall speak well of you, a sure sign that you do nothing to reprove them, either by your profession or Christian conversation, flattering them in their sins, and never offending them by your fidelity to their souls; then you will gain their approbation; for so did their fathers to the false prophets, whose smooth and deceitful prophesies obtained them the caresses of their countrymen; while the faithful prophets, who knew not to flatter, were abhorred and persecuted. And all these things are eminently verified and verifying every day.
4thly. The same truths are delivered in this sermon as in Matthew 5:38-40.5.44. Our Lord inculcates that universal charity, which is the eminent characteristic of his religion. Our love must extend even to our bitterest enemies, and make us ready to every good word and work for their service, rendering to them blessings for curses. Love will make us return prayers for despiteful usage. Christian charity must lead us to put up with affronts, without avenging them, or seeking litigious redress. Love must open our hearts to feel the distresses of the indigent, and our hands to relieve them liberally, according to our ability; often lending without the hope of repayment, and willing to cancel the debts of the insolvent, which unforeseen providences have disabled him from discharging. Love teaches us to put ourselves in the place of others, and act towards them in such a manner as, in their circumstances, we could with reason have expected them to act to us. And there are three reasons urged for this gracious disposition:
1. That this is the distinguishing badge of our profession. To love, serve, and lend to those who make us a return in kind, is no more than the most self-interested worldlings do: and the faith which worketh by love, must carry us much farther than these.
2. Our reward, if faithful, will be great in heaven, whatever ungrateful returns we may meet from men on earth.
3. As we shall herein most strikingly resemble the Father of mercies, who is good to the evil and unthankful. He will acknowledge us as his children, which is the most exalted honour and dignity.
5thly. The wise sayings contained in Luke 6:37, &c. we have considered at large on Matthew 7:0 and in other places. They give us the most noble directions whereon to form our judgment and conduct: happy they who observe them.
1. In judging, we must ever be candid, and lean to the most favourable side; interpreting the words and actions of others with those allowances which we wish and need for our own: and then we shall in general find the same candour from others, which we exercise towards them.
2. We must give and forgive, ready to relieve the necessities, and to pass by the offences of our brethren—charitable and merciful, as we ourselves expect mercy from God, who live pensioners on his bounty. And this will engage others the more readily to forgive us; and even in this life we shall often reap the fruits of our liberality.
3. As we deal with others, we may expect to be dealt with ourselves. Our rigour and severity to others, will provoke men to treat us with the same when we fall into their power, Jdg 1:7 whilst our known benevolence will usually engage a like return.
4. Ignorant and blind guides, who know not the way of salvation themselves, can never lead others aright; they who follow such, will perish with them. It is hardly possible that they should teach others the bitterness and burden of sin, who have never felt either; or acquaint them with the unsearchable riches of Christ, who have not experimentally found him precious to their own souls.
5. Christ's followers may not expect kinder treatment from the world than their Master met. The highest perfection of the disciple lies in conformity to his example; and when, like his Lord, he is enabled to lead a life of self-denial and deadness to the world, then he will be prepared to suffer whatever for his sake he may be called to.
6. They who set up for reformers of others, need first look well to their own souls: to be quick-sighted to the faults of others, and blind to our own, must make our rebukes absurd; and they would be justly retorted. When we are enabled to keep our own conscience void of offence, then our reproofs will come commended by the weight of example, and be doubly influential.
7. Men's actions will be good, or evil, according to their inward principles. As a tree may be known by its fruit, so may a man by his conduct and conversation: according to the good or evil treasure in the heart, such will be the produce. A good man, by divine grace, truly renewed in the spirit of his mind, brings forth the genuine fruits of righteousness and true holiness: an evil man, whose heart is unchanged, and under the power of native corruption, can do nothing truly pleasing to God; his words and ways are all corrupt before God; he is either grossly vicious, or he habitually forgets God; or if he pretend to serve him, pride and hypocrisy stamp his duties as an abomination.
8. It is not pompous professions but real fidelity, which makes a man a true disciple of Jesus. They who call him Lord, must give a proof of their sincerity by their obedience: it is not merely hearing, but doing, which he requires. They who believe indeed to the saving of their souls, whose practice proves their faith unfeigned, are like the wise builder, whose house, founded on a rock, defied the floods and storm. They stand fast in the hour of temptation, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel; and, persevering in God's holy ways, they shall be kept by his power unto salvation. But the careless hearer, on whose soul the word of Jesus does not take effect, builds his hopes of heaven on a sandy foundation, and flatters himself to his ruin. The hour of temptation here often proves him an apostate, or at least in death the hope of the hypocrite perisheth. Let us look well then to the ground on which we stand, that we may not too late perceive our irretrievable error.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 6". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany