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Christ sendeth his apostles to work miracles, and to preach. Herod desireth to see Christ. Christ feedeth five thousand: inquireth what opinion the world had of him: foretelleth his passion: proposeth to all the pattern of his patience. The transfiguration. He healeth the lunatic: again forewarneth his disciples of his passion: commendeth humility: commandeth them to shew mildness towards all, without the least desire of revenge. Divers would follow him, but upon conditions.
Anno Domini 30.
Luke 9:4. There abide,— This was to prevent any reproach which might be brought against them for changing their quarters, from too great a regard to the little circumstances of domestic accommodation, orfrom principles of luxury, with a view to living better. See on Matthew 10:11.Luke 9:6Luke 9:6. And they departed,] The reader will find in Mr. Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity, p. 133, &c. some important reflections on the propriety of our Lord's choice of his apostles, in proof of the admirable contrivance of the divine wisdom in the whole work of our redemption. See also the latter part of the note on Matthew 10:2, &c. and Luke 11:25.
Luke 9:7. And he was perplexed,— He was exeedingly anxious. The word Διηπορει strongly expresses a mixture of doubt and fear, which must necessarily throw the mind into a very uneasy situation.
Luke 9:9. And he desired to see him.— Probably that he might have an opportunity of beingreconciled to him; for though at first Herod affected not to believe that John was risen, yet the perplexity he was in whenhe heard of it, shews plainly that he feared the worst.
Luke 9:10. Bethsaida.— This place was only a village, till Philip the tetrarch of Iturea adorned it with new buildings, drew a wall round it, and called it Julias, in honour of Julia, the daughter of Augustus. This city, therefore, being under Philip's jurisdiction, must have stood somewhere to the east of Jordan. Josephus has marked its situation distinctly, by asserting that the river Jordan falls into the lake of Gennesaret, behind the city Julias. All the circumstances mentioned in the gospels, which have any relation to Bethsaida, quadrate exactly with this situation. Bethsaida is indeed called a town of Galilee, Joh 12:21 whereas the city which Philip rebuilt, was in Gaulonitis. But to this it may be answered, that Bethsaida being situated very near the Jordan, which divided Galilee from Gaulonitis, it might be called a town of either country, and belong sometimes to the one, and sometimes to the other. Farther, though when Josephus wrote, Galilee did not extend beyond Jordan, the boundary of Herod's dominions; yet the scripture gives the name of Galilee to the whole region lying north of the sea.
Luke 9:12. And lodge,— The original word καταλυσωσι, is used by mariners to signify to come back, or retire from the sea to the haven; and thence it is applied to travellers who go to their inn; and in a general sense it implies to refresh one's
Luke 9:25. Or be cast away?— This expression does not signify merely to lose life, which might be applied to a man, who accidentally met death in the pursuit of gain, (as a merchant, who should be lost in his voyage;) but it properly imports undergoing a capital punishment, which is an idea of much greater terror, as well as of stricter propriety in the present case; and it were to be wished that it might be seriously considered by every one in this aweful view. See on Mark 8:38. Our Lord frequently after this repeated the prediction of his sufferings. (See Luk 9:22 and compare Matthew 17:22; Matthew 20:18; Matthew 26:2.Luke 17:25; Luke 17:25; Luke 22:15.) But it is remarkable, that on none of those occasions was the prophesy delivered to any but the twelve, and a few select women, Ch. Luk 24:6-8 one instance excepted; namely, Ch. Luk 17:25 where it was expressed in terms somewhat obscure. The multitude of the disciples were never let into the secret, because it might have made them desert Christ; as they had not, like the apostles, raised expectations of peculiar preferments in his kingdom to bias their understandings, and hinder them from perceiving the meaning of the prediction. It is true, he foretold his resurrection from the dead more publicly; for oftener than once he appealed to it, as the principal proof of his mission, even in the presence of the priests, as is evident from Matthew 27:63.
Luke 9:26. In his own glory, and in his Father's,— In his own glory, may signify the glorypeculiar to him as God-man—probably the majesty and splendor of his glorified body, a visible representation of which he exhibited in his transfiguration, about a week after this discourse was delivered. He shall come also in the glory of the Father, augustly arrayed in the inaccessible light, wherein the Godhead dwells; (1 Timothy 6:16. See also Acts 1:11.) and which, darting through and enlightening all space with its ineffable brightness, shall make even the sun to disappear. Withal, to render his advent to judge the world the more grand, he will come with the holy angels, attended by the whole host, an innumerable company, ready to execute his commands. See Matthew 25:31.
Luke 9:28. About an eight days— What St. Luke calls eight days, is by St. Matthew and St. Mark termed six days. The like differences are to be met with in prophane historians. For instance, Suetonius Galba, Ch. 17 tells us, that Piso, before he was murdered, had lived six days in the character of Caesar; and Piso himself, in his speech to the soldiers, mentions the same space of time: "It is now the sixth day since I was adopted Caesar." Tacit. Hist. lib. 1: cap. 29. Nevertheless the same Tacitus, lib. 1: cap. 48 tells us, that he was Caesar only four days; and cap. 19 of the same book, that there were only four days between his being created Caesar and his death. See Matthew 12:40.
Luke 9:29. The fashion of his countenance was altered,— The appearance, &c. was changed. See on Matthew 17:2. This was so striking a circumstance, that Eunapius relates a story of Jamblichus, which seems evidently to be borrowed from this; (Vit. Jamb. p. 22.) as many things which Philostratus tells us of Apollonius Tyanaeus seem also to be borrowed from other circumstances recorded of Christ by the evangelists. The words λευκος εξαστραπτων, which we render white and glistering, may be literally rendered white as lightning;—splendid and dazzling as the blaze of lightning.
Luke 9:31. And spake of his decease— His εξοδος, or exit, which he was shortly to complete at Jerusalem. See 2Pe 1:15 and Wis 3:2. It is well observed by St. Chrysostom, that our Lord never spoke of his passion but immediately before or after some great miracle; and here we may observe, that in the midst of his wonderful transfiguration the two saints speak of his passion. A strange opportunity, in his highest exaltation, to speak of his sufferings! to talk of Calvary on Tabor! when his head shone with glory,to tell him how it must bleed with thorns! when his face shone like the sun, to tellhim how it must be defiled with spitting! when his garments glittered with that celestial brightness, to tell him how they must be stripped off and divided! when he was seen between two saints, to tell him how he must be seen between two malefactors! In a word, in the midst of his divine majesty, to tell him of his shame! and while he was trans-figured on the mount, to tell him how he must be disfigured upon the cross! Yet these two heavenly prophets found this the fittest time for such discourse, choosing to speak of his sufferings in the height of his glory. It is most seasonable in our best, to think of our worst estate; for both that thought will he best digested, when we are well; and that change will be best prepared for, when we are the furthest from it. See the Inferences on Mark 9:0.
Luke 9:32-33. And when they were awake— Probably the streams of light which issued from Christ's body, especially his countenance, and penetrated through the gloom of night, together with the voices of Moses and Elias, made such an impression on their senses, as to raise them from their slumber. The apostles, both before and after the transfiguration, were with their Master in many delightful spots of the country, heard many most blessed sermons, and saw many wonderful works; yet in no place, and on no occasion, but this, were they ever heard to say, It is good for us to be here. Peter fancied, no doubt, that Jesus had now assumed his proper dignity; that Elias was come, according to Malachi's prediction; and that the kingdom was at length begun: wherefore, in the first hurry of his thoughts, he proposed to provide some accommodation for Jesus and his august assistants, intending perhaps to bring the rest of the disciples, with the multitude, from the plain before them, to behold his matchless glory. He thought this was better for his Master than to be killed at Jerusalem; concerning which he had not only conversed with his disciples, (see Luke 9:22.) but also with the messengers from heaven; and the design of which Peter could not comprehend. Though St. Peter's proposal was, as St. Mark observes, Mar 9:6 improper enough; yet, perhaps, few in such astonishing circumstances could have been perfectly masters of themselves. The tents which he proposed to build, must have been only slight bowers, like those made use of at the feast of tabernacle
Luke 9:34-35. There came a cloud,— A bright cloud, St. Matthew calls it, Mat 17:5 and St. Peter, the excellent glory, 2Pe 1:17 whence we conclude, that it must have been the Shechinah, or visible symbol of the divine presence; as is evident also from the words that came out of the cloud, which were the words of God himself; This is my Son, the Beloved, hear him. The voice uttering these words just as Moses and Elias disappeared, intimated that men were no longer to hearken unto them, speaking in the law, but for the future were to obey Jesus; because Moses and Elias, though both eminent in their stations, were only servants; whereas this was God's beloved Son. Besides, the sentence uttered by the voice, hear ye him, plainly alluding to Deu 18:15 signified that Jesus wasthe prophet of whom Moses spake in that passage. See the note there.
Luke 9:39. And it teareth him— Throws him into convulsions. And so Luke 9:42.
Luke 9:41. Bring thy son hither.— In St. Mark, Mar 9:19 the order is general; here our Lord addresses the father of the youth. After having rebuked the Scribes for their obstinacy, he turned to the young man's father, and ordered him to bring his son to him.
Luke 9:43. And they were all amazed— All the disciples were amazed, when they considered the greatness of the power which Jesus shewed in his last miracle. It should seem that their wonder was accompanied with proportionably high expectations of happiness in that temporal kingdom which they were now convinced he could easily erect. Jesus, knowing this, thought fit, when they came into Galilee (the country where he had most followers) to moderate his disciples' ambition, by predicting his own sufferings.
Luke 9:44. Into your ears; for the Son, &c.— Into your ears; namely, The Son, &c.
Luke 9:45. And they feared to ask him— "Either they imagined that Christ, by the positive manner in which he delivered his prophesy, understood it to be adapted to their capacities, and therefore they dreaded to ask any farther explanation; or they were afraid to be more particularly informed of what contradicted their favourite notion of a temporal deliverer."
Luke 9:46. Then there arose a reasoning— Διαλογισμος, a debate, or dispute. As this dispute happened immediately after Jesus foretold his own sufferings and resurrection, some imagine that by his sufferings the disciples understood certain great difficulties which their Master was to meet with before the establishment of his kingdom; and by his resurrection from the dead, his surmounting those difficulties: however, the circumstances mentioned by St. Mat 17:23 that the prediction made them exceeding sorry, does not seem to agree so well with that supposition, unless the thought of his meeting with any opposition at all grieved them, even though they were sure he would surmount it. According to St. Luke's representation in our version, this dispute happened at the time when our Lord rebuked his disciples for it; but we are expressly told, Mar 9:33 that it happened as they went to Capernaum. But the evangelists may be easily and perfectly reconciled by translating St. Luke's words thus; Now, there had arisen a dispute, &c. namely, as they travelled into Capernaum—a translation entirely agreeable to the original.
Luke 9:51. When the time was come— About this time the feast of dedication approached—a solemnity not appointed by the law of Moses, but by that heroic reformerJudasMaccabeus,in commemoration of his having cleansed the temple, and restored its worship, after both had been profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes: but although this feast was of human institution, and Jesus foresaw that further attempts would be made upon his life at Jerusalem, he did not fear it, but went thither with the utmost calmness and resolution. St. Luke explains the reason of this: he had now continued upon earth very near to the final period of his life below, and was soon to be taken up to heaven, whence he had come down; he therefore resolved from this time forth to appear as openly as possible, and to embrace every opportunity of fulfilling the duties of his ministry. When the time was come, or fulfilled, (” εν τω συμπληρουσθαι, ) according to the Hebrew idiom, signifies, when the time drew on, or approached. The word αναληψις, in this passage, signifies Christ's being received or taken up into heaven; for we find the word ημερας, whence it is derived, applied expressly to his ascension, Mark 16:19. Acts 1:2. The word ημερας, days or times, does not always imply a determinate space, but is sometimes used in a loose and indefinite sense, as in this place. The phrase, he stedfastly set his face, imports a strong and intrepid resolution, notwithstanding the foreknowledge that our Saviour had of the dangers which awaited him. See Ezekiel 4:3.
Luke 9:52-53. And sent messengers— Our Lord did not now travel privately to Jerusalem, as he had often done before; but, declaring his intention publicly, entered on the journey with the most perfect fortitude.The road to Jerusalem from Galilee lay through Samaria; wherefore, as the inhabitants of this country bore the greatest ill-will to all that worshipped in Jerusalem, Jesus thought it necessary to send messengers before him, with orders to find out quarters for him in one of the villages: but the inhabitants refused to receive him, because his intention in this journey was publicly known. The Samaritans could not well refuse lodgings to all the travellers who went to Jerusalem, as the high road lay through their country: such travellers only as went thither professedly to worship, were the objects of their indignation. Hence the expression, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem, must imply, that his design of worshipping at Jerusalem was known to the Samaritans.
Luke 9:54-56. And when his disciples, James and John— That these disciples, so remarkablydistinguished by their Lord's favour, should havesome distinguished zeal and faith, may seem less wonderful, than that a person of so sweet a disposition as John should make so severe a proposal. Our Lord, whose meekness on all occasions was admirable, sharply reprimanded his disciples for entertaining so unbecoming a resentment: Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of: "Ye do not know the sinfulness of the disposition ye have just now expressed; neither do ye consider the difference of times, persons, and dispensations." The severity which Elijah exercised on the men who came from Ahaziah to apprehend him, was a reproof of an idolatrous king, court, and nation, very proper for the times, and very agreeable to the characters, both of the prophet who gave it, and of the offenders to whom it was given; at the same time it was not unsuitable to the nature of the dispensation which they were under: but the gospel breathes a different spirit from the law; and therefore it does not admit of this sort of rigour and severity. Bengelius would rather render the clause interrogatively, Do ye not know what kind of spirit ye are of? "Are you not sensible that this proceeds from a revengeful spirit, which is in every respect contrary to the nature of my dispensation, and the design of my coming into the world?" Accordinglyhe tells them, that to destroy men's lives was utterly inconsistent with that design: The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them, Luk 9:56 alluding to his miracles, by which he restored health to the diseased bodies of men; as well as to his doctrine and death, by which he gives life to their souls. Having said these things, he went with them to another village, the inhabitants whereof were men of better dispositions. This was a noble instance of patience under a real and unprovoked injury; an instance which expressed infinite sweetness of disposition, and which for that reason should be imitated by all who call themselves Christ's disciples. See the note on 2Ki 1:10 and the Inferences and Reflections at the end of this chapter. Sir D. Dalrymple observes upon this passage, that "it is of great moment, not only as pointing out the doctrine of the meek and merciful Jesus, but as shewing that we have the evangelical history without corruption; for would persecutors, that is, almost all men who have had power in all ages, have suffered such a passage, against persecution to have remained, had it been in their power to have corrupted it?"
Luke 9:60. Let the dead bury their dead, &c.— See the notes on Matthew 8:21. The present circumstance was plainly extraordinary, and might turn on reasons unknown to us. Christ might, for instance, foresee some particular obstruction that would have arisen from the interview with this person's friends at his father's funeral, and have prevented his devoting himself to the ministry; to which he might refer by saying, Let the dead bury their dead.
Luke 9:61. But let me first go, &c.— The phrase αποταξασθαι τοις εις τον οικον μου, signifies, "Permit me first to go and settle the affairs of my family, and take my leave of them who are at my house;" as Elisha was permitted to do, when called in so extraordinary a manner to the prophetic office, 1 Kings 19:20. Intending to give up his possessions, he probably designed to order how they should be distributed among his friends, as Hensius has very well explained the passage.
Luke 9:62. No man, &c.— Hesiod has given it as the character of a good ploughman, that "he keeps his mind intent on his work, that he may make a straight furrow, and does not allow himself to gaze about on his companions." Our Lord, on the like obvious principle, may use the phrase, of one that looks behind him while his hand is on the plough, as a kind of proverbial expression for a careless, irresolute person, who must be peculiarly unfit forthe Christian ministry; or he might allude to Lot's wife, whose looking back is explained by Philo to imply an immediate regard to the riches of this world, and attachment to family-connections, so as to make us indifferent to the life of God in the soul, the great duties of morality, and the cause of religion. How happy had it been for the church of Christ, had this lively admonition been regarded; without which it is impossible to divide, or rather direct, the word of truth aright, 2 Timothy 2:15. See Ch. Luke 17:32. See also Hesiod's weeks and days, lib. 2: Luke 9:6
Inferences drawn from Luk 9:51-56 of this chapter.—The time now drew on, in which Jesus must be received up: Calvary is in his passage to mount Olivet. He must be lifted up to the cross, thence to ascend into his heaven. Yet this comes not into mention; as if all the thoughts of death were swallowed up in this victory of our Lord over death, He stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. Well did he know the plots and ambushes that were there laid for him, and the bloody issue of those designs; yet will he go, resolved for the worst. It is wise to send our thoughts before us, to grapple with those evils which we know must be encountered: the enemy is half overcome, for whom we are well prepared; and the strongest mischief may be counteracted by a seasonable previous resolution.
The way from Galilee to Judea lay through the region of Samaria, if not through the city. Christ, now towards the end of his ministry, could not but be attended by a multitude of followers. Purveyors therefore and harbingers were necessary to procure lodgings and provision for so large a troop: some of his own retinue are appointed to this service. He who could have commanded the angels, sues to Samaritans for house-room and food. He that filled and comprehended heaven, seeks for shelter in a Samaritan cottage. How can we either neglect means, or despise homeliness, when thou, the God of all the world, wouldst stoop to the suit of so poor a provision!
No nations were mutually so hateful to each other as the Samaritans and the Jews; the looking towards Jerusalem in order to go there to worship, was therefore found sufficient cause of repulse: no enmity, alas! is so desperate as that which arises from matters of religion; and agreement in some points, where there are differences in the main, does but advance hatred the more.
Which now are we to think most strange,—to hear the Son of God sue for a lodging, or to hear him repulsed. And even upon such a denial, can we help wondering to hear the two angry disciples return to their Master on so fiery an errand, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire, &c.?
These sons of thunder would instantly become lightning. Whether as being kinsmen or disciples, their zeal could not brook so harsh a refusal: naturally perhaps more hot than their companions, they now thought their piety bade them be impatient. Oh what a change did the spirit of Christ soon work upon them!
Observe we their progress; a respectful preface led on a faulty suit; faulty, both in presumption, and in a desire of private revenge. Master, wilt thou, &c.? We do not hear them say, "Master, will it please thee, who art the sole Lord of the heavens and the elements, to command,"—but Wilt thou that we command? As if, because they had received power over diseases, and unclean spirits, therefore heaven and earth were at their beck and controul. But it is the fashion of our bold nature, when much is given, still to challenge more; and where we find ourselves graced with some abilities, to flatter ourselves with the faculty of large increase.
Had these disciples, indeed, either said or meant, "Master, if it be thy pleasure to command us to call down fire from heaven, we know thy word shall enable us to do what thou requirest; if the words be ours, the power shall be thine," this had been modest; but now the act had in it both cruelty and private revenge; and their zeal in general was not more worthy of praise, than their fury now of censure.
That fire should fall down from heaven upon men, is a fearful thing even to think of, and has not been often done. It was done in the case of Sodom, when those five unclean cities burned with the unnatural fire of hellish lust; it was done also repeatedly at the suit of Elijah; and it was done, in a height of trial, to that great pattern of patience, the patriarch Job: we find it no more, and tremble at these instances which we meet with.
But besides the dreadfulness of the judgment itself, who can help trembling at the thought of the suddenness of this destruction, which sweeps away both body and soul in an unprepared state; and this heavenly flame enkindles that of hell!
Thus inconceivably heavy was the revenge; but what was the offence? had these Samaritans reviled Christ and his train; had they violently assaulted him; had they followed him with stones in their hands, and blasphemies in their mouths, it had been just provocation perhaps to considerable indignation. But now their wrong was only negative; They received him not; so that their rejection was but a mere inhospitality to a guest most odious from national disgust;—and yet, no less revenge will serve these zealous disciples than fire from heaven.
Who will hesitate to say for you, ye Sons of Zebedee, that it was not spleen but zeal that urged so fearful a suggestion? your indignation was raised, to see the great Prophet and Saviour of the world so unkindly repulsed; yet will not all this excuse you from a rash cruelty; from an inordinate and excessive rage.
Even the best heart, if not fully on its guard, and watching unto prayer, may easily miscarry by a well meant zeal; no affection is either more necessary, or better accepted, when duly exercised; but there is nothing so bad as the corruption of the best things; and rectified zeal is not more commendable and useful, than inordinate and misguided zeal is hateful and dangerous. Fire is a necessary and beneficial element; but nothing more dreadful than fire, when raging and misplaced.
And thus it is that zeal sometimes turns to murder!—and then, they that kill you, shall think that they do God service. Sometimes it turns to frenzy, sometimes to rude indiscretion. Wholesome and blessed is the zeal which is well grounded, and well governed; grounded upon the word of truth, not upon unstable fancies; governed by wisdom, charity, and holy love—wisdom to avoid rashness and excess,—charity to avoid giving just offence.
No motion can want a pretence to countenance it. "Elias did so; why not we? he was a holy prophet; the occasion, the place differs not much; there wrong was offered to a servant, here to his Master; there to a man, here to a God-and-man; if Elias then did it, why not we?" There is nothing more perilous than to draw all the actions of holy men into examples; there must be much caution used in our imitation of the best patterns, whether of persons or things, if we would avoid the charge of servile indiscretion; or sinful absurdity.
The faults of uncharitableness cannot be swallowed up in zeal. Here our Lord turns back, and frowns on his furious suitors with a concise but sharp rebuke. Ye know not what spirit ye are of. Another man would not perhaps have felt it; a disciple's heart could not but be sensible of its force. The spirit of Elias is that which they want to assume and imitate; they shall now know the greatness of their error. How would they have hated to conceive, that any other than God's spirit had incited them to this passionate emotion! but they shall now be convinced that it was wrought by the very evil spirit, whom they most zealously professed to abhor.
It is far from the good spirit of God to stir up any man to private revenge, or thirst of blood; not an eagle's but a dove's was the shape wherein he chose to appear: neither wouldst thou, O God, be in the whirlwind, or in the fire; but in the soft, still, small voice. O Saviour, why do we then seek any precedent, but him whose name we challenge?
Those that would imitate God's saints in singular actions, as in the instance before us, must see that they go upon the same grounds. Without the same spirit, and the same warrant, it is either mockery or a sin to make them our patterns. Their Master, and not Elias, is the only fit exemplar for his disciples: The Son of man came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them. Then are our actions and intentions warrantable and praise-worthy, when they accord with his. O Saviour, when we look into thy sacred acts and monuments, how many a life do we find, which thou didst preserve from perishing! some that had perished, by thee recalled; but never any by thee destroyed. How then can we enough love and praise thy mercy, O thou Preserver of men! how should we imitate thy saving, thy beneficent Spirit, exercised towards us! especially, when we call to mind, that the more we can help to save, the nearer we approach to thee, who camest to save us all;—that the more destructive and merciless we are, the more we resemble him who is Abaddon,—a murderer from the beginning!
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Our Lord having called his twelve apostles to closer attendance upon himself, that they might be qualified for the work in which he designed to employ them, now sends them forth in his name, and invests them with miraculous powers, as a proof of their divine mission.
1. He directs them what to say and do. The subject of their preaching must be the gospel of the kingdom; and by their beneficent acts of healing men's bodies, they would not only confirm, but recommend also their doctrine to men's souls.
2. He directs them how to go on this errand. They must make no preparation for the journey; but in their fishers' garments, without change of raiment, without money, or provision, they must go forth trusting in divine Providence for the supply of all their wants; taking up their quarters with the first family who should receive them, and abiding in the same house during their stay, to avoid all appearance of fickleness or nicety. But if any refused them a welcome entertainment, leaving that city to its fate, they need only shake off the dust of their feet, and that should stand as a testimony against them on the aweful day of judgment for rejecting the gospel.
3. They immediately obeyed, and executed their commission; for every gracious soul delights to be employed for Christ, and runs at his command.
4. Herod the tetrarch was exceedingly perplexed and terrified at the reports which on this occasion reached his ears. The country rang with the miracles performed by Jesus and his apostles, and people offered various conjectures concerning this great personage; who not only wrought such wonders himself, but was able to communicate this extraordinary power to others. Some said it was John revived; others that Elias was come, the expelled forerunner of the Messiah; others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. Herod's guilty conscience smote him, justly fearing that the murdered Baptist was indeed risen, or some more mighty instrument of God to avenge his quarrel; and he desired to see him.
2nd, When they had finished their work, they returned to give their master an account. He is the chief shepherd to whom we are all responsible. The remembrance that we must appear before him shortly to answer for our ministry, should quicken our diligence. Christ took them for a while into a retirement: he is a good master, and desires not to weary out his servants: rest after labour is needful. But the people, eager to hear and be healed, broke in upon their retirement; and Jesus, unwearied in labours of love, preached to them, as usual, the gospel of the kingdom, and healed their diseases. He is so gracious, that none who come to him with their complaints shall be in any wise cast out. Yea, he not only feeds their souls with heavenly manna, but their bodies with miraculous food: five thousand men, besides women and children, are made to feast on five loaves and two small fishes. This miracle is recorded by all the evangelists, and affords us still food for our faith. (1.) In times of want and distress, our care must be cast on the Lord; he feedeth the hungry. (2.) If we have but little, yet let us not fear to divide our morsel with the poor; like the widow's cruse, it shall not be diminished hereby. (3.) When we look up to heaven for a blessing from God, though we by our sins have forfeited all title to our creature comforts, in Christ Jesus they will be restored to us; and then when we eat and drink, it will be to the glory of God.
3rdly, Christ having dismissed the multitude whom he had fed, retired with his disciples, to pray with them, and for them, as the master of this little family, and to teach us in our houses to follow his example. And when he had finished, we are told,
1. The inquiries that he made concerning the general opinion formed of him. The disciples informed him that the people were divided in sentiment: some said he was John, revived; others, Elias; others, one of the old prophets risen again. On putting the question to them, what they thought of him, Peter, the spokesman for his brethren, declared their faith in him as the Christ of God. He said the truth; but as it was not proper that this should be publicly and expressly urged, lest tumults should ensue among the people who expected a temporal Messiah, he at present enjoined them silence on this head, till the great day of his resurrection should manifest the glory of his character.
2. The warning that he gave them of his own sufferings and death; and this he immediately adds after the confession they had made of him as the Messiah, in order to prepare them for what might stagger them if it came upon them unawares, and to correct the common prejudices concerning the Messiah's temporal kingdom, which they, as well as their countrymen, had imbibed.
3. The admonitions that he gave them of the sufferings they must expect to endure for his sake. Instead of the ambitious hopes which they entertained, they must prepare by a course of habitual self-denial for the hardships and persecutions that they would be called to endure in his service, and be ready to take up every cross which in the way of their duty should be laid upon them; even, if need be, that of martyrdom itself. They might be tempted, indeed, by the terrors of suffering, or the allurements of the world, to save their lives by base compliances, but this was the way assuredly in eternity to lose what they meant to preserve; whilst a bold and faithful profession, though it exposed them even to death, would be recompensed with a better life in the eternal world. If they were unfaithful and apostatized, nothing could balance their loss; the gain of the whole world would be no compensation for the perdition of an immortal soul: and if they were ashamed of, and disowned him, their Master, the consequence would inevitably be, that they must be disowned by him, when in his own glory, (as God over all blessed for ever, and as Mediator,) and in his Father's glory, as having all power in heaven and earth delegated to him; and in the glory of his holy angels, the attendants of his triumphs, and the spirits that minister before his throne, he shall appear to judge the world. Note; The realizing views of a judgment-day are powerfully effectual to engage the believer to take up every cross, to hesitate at no loss, shame, or suffering, for Christ's sake. He knows that these shall finally prove the eternal gain, the immortal honour of every faithful soul.
4. The encouragement that he suggests for his disciples' support. Some of them then present should live to see the kingdom of the Messiah erected, in defiance of all opposition; his gospel spread through the earth, and condign vengeance executed on the Jewish people their persecutors and his murderers. It is a comfort to every suffering but faithful saint of God, that the time is short; in a moment he shall be triumphant over every foe.
4thly, The history of the transfiguration was recorded in the other evangelists. Some circumstances are added by St. Luke.
1. Christ went up into the mountain to pray, and then his glory broke forth, which should be an engagement and encouragement to us to maintain communion with God in prayer; since by such approach to him the glory of transforming grace is derived from him, and we become changed into his image.
2. Moses and Elias appeared in glory, as all Christ's faithful saints shall shortly do. They spake of his departure, his exodus, in allusion to the departure of Israel from Egypt; so happy an exit was Jesus shortly to make from this miserable world to the land of eternal rest and blessedness. The prophets had foretold his sufferings, and they talk with him on this subject; the time being at hand, and Jerusalem the place where he must be put to death. The way to glory lies through the grave; in our happiest days on earth this should be ever in our view; and this will reconcile us to all the horrors of death, when we consider it as opening the door of eternal life.
3. The disciples were heavy with sleep; probably it was night, and they had been wearied with the labours of the day: but when they were awake, they beheld their Master and his two attendants beaming with irradiation, and bright as the light. Note; By our drowsy frame of spirit we are ready to lose many of those glorious visits from above, with which the watchful and praying saints of God are favoured.
4. Peter, charmed with the vision, is for taking up his abode there, and proposes erecting three tabernacles, not knowing what he said. The saints of God who have once quitted this miserable abode, wish not again to take up their dwelling here; they have an infinitely nobler place, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
5. Fear seized them, as the bright cloud, the emblem of the divine presence, overspread them, and separated Moses and Elias from their view; but the voice of God silenced their fears, enjoining them with solemn attention to hear and obey his well-beloved Son. If he be with us, and we are following his revealed word, we need not be dismayed by any cloud which may come over us; he will bring us safely through.
6. The apostles kept the vision close, and told no man in those days, as Jesus had commanded them. The relation would meet with readier credence after his resurrection, for which time it was reserved.
5thly, It seems that Jesus and his three disciples continued all night on the mountain. The next day, descending to the multitude, he found his presence greatly needed. The people eagerly ran to him, and the father of a poor lunatic child earnestly besought that help from him, which his disciples had in vain attempted to give. The case was very afflictive: he was an only child, and was fearfully torn by the malicious spirit. What a mercy that we are not left to his power! what an invaluable privilege that we have the almighty Jesus near, to whom we can apply, and who is able to save to the uttermost. Rebuking the unbelief of that perverse generation, particularly of the scribes and Pharisees, who began to insult over the disciples, he gives them a convincing proof that his arm is not shortened, nor his power abated. With a word the raging devil is dispossessed, and the child is delivered to his father perfectly cured.
6thly, The works of the Lord are great, and worthy of our admiration.
1. This miracle filled the people with amazement at the mighty power of God. His hand herein evidently appeared. Is any soul recovered from Satan's power? much more may we say, This is the finger of God. Though it is through faith, we must ascribe to him all the glory from the beginning to the end.
2. Christ informs the disciples of his approaching sufferings. They were very backward to receive what was so contrary to their ideas of the Messiah's kingdom, and so destructive of the ambitious hopes that they had entertained. Therefore he prefaces his discourse with a solemn warning to them deeply to consider and carefully to remember what he said; but they understood not his meaning, blinded by their prejudices, and afraid to ask him, lest they should be reproached with their dulness, or meet the same reproof as Peter had before received, if they presumed to raise objections. Note; The plainest truths, when we are under the power of prejudice, are mistaken or perverted.
3. All that they heard had no effect upon them to cure their aspiring views. They disputed among themselves as they travelled, who should have the first post of honour in that temporal kingdom which they expected. Jesus knew the subject of their reasoning, and, by a most apposite emblem of a little child, teaches them the only spirit and temper which would make a soul truly great in the eyes of God. So meek, so lowly, so free from ambition, envy, and malice, should they be; delighting in, and receiving with warmest affection, all who shewed such a childlike temper: and every kindness shewn to such persons, he tells them, he would receive as done to himself; yea, God the Father would regard it with highest approbation, and reward them. Note; (1.) Jesus is the searcher of hearts; our thoughts are known to him; we need keep a strict guard over them. (2.) Nothing is more contrary to the spirit of a disciple of the lowly Jesus, than the affectation of earthly grandeur and the pride of life.
4. Christ checks the party-spirit which appeared in John and others of the disciples. John had forbad one whom he saw casting out devils in the name of Jesus, because he followed not with them; and for this probably expected his Master's approbation: but Christ saith, Forbid him not, for he that is not against us, is for us. Though he may not join us, if he concur in carrying on the same design, he is to be encouraged rather than silenced. Note; Though others follow not exactly our mode of worship, or refuse to join in our communion, let us not therefore stamp them as heretical or schismatic, and oppress or silence them. Do they labour to pull down Satan's kingdom, and spread the favour of the Redeemer's name? then it becomes us therein to rejoice.
7thly, Nothing is more contrary to the spirit of Christianity, which breathes universal love, than the fury of bigotry and the flames of persecution. We have,
1. Our Lord steadfastly setting his face to go to Jerusalem, which was shortly to be the scene of his sufferings. The time was come, when he should go up from Galilee, to return thither no more till after his resurrection: and this may also figurately refer to his ascension, when he should be received up into glory: and, knowing what sorrows awaited him, with unshaken courage and confidence he went forth to meet them. Note; (1.) When sufferings for Christ's sake stand in the way of duty, like him we should steadfastly set our face to meet them, and neither fail nor be discouraged. (2.) It is a comfort to look forward to the day when all our present troubles shall have an end, and, if faithful, we shall be received up to the place whither Jesus is gone before.
2. As Samaria lay in his way, he sent some of his disciples forward to prepare some refreshment in one of the villages, that he might not be delayed in his journey. But, as there was the most deadly feud between the Jews and the Samaritans about the proper place for worship, each preferring their own—when they perceived that Christ and his disciples were bent for Jerusalem, probably to celebrate the feast of tabernacles there, they were incensed against him for thus preferring the temple in mount Zion to theirs on mount Gerizzim, and therefore refused to grant him or his followers any entertainment among them. Note; If we be treated with rudeness and incivility, we must remember that our Master was thus used before us.
3. John and James, fired at this indignity put on their Master, would instantly, with their Lord's permission, have poured vengeance on the place, consuming them with fire from heaven, as Elias did, 2 Kings 1:9-12. They knew that, if Christ gave them leave, one word would complete the overthrow of the city, and make it as Sodom and Gomorrah. But he rebukes their fiery spirit, and says, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. They seemed to be actuated by zeal for his glory, but really were under the influence of pride, passion, and revenge. How different from that spirit of peace, love, patience, and forbearance, which his gospel breathed! for the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, by making his enemies monuments of vengeance, but to save them; not only by miracles of healing to cure their bodies, but by all meekness and long-suffering, and every mild and endearing method of grace, to work upon their hearts, and melt them with these coals of love heaped upon them. Note; (1.) Many good men have been sometimes carried away by false zeal, and did not perceive the malignity and selfish passions which lurked under the guise of that zeal for God. (2.) The examples of former saints are not to be pleaded as precedents, unless the cases be parallel, and we have the same warrant and authority under which they acted. (3.) The religion of Jesus is never to be propagated by fire and sword, but by soft persuasion, and every work and labour of love. Force may make men hypocrites: choice alone can make them Christians.
4. Christ hereupon patiently put up the affront, and quietly went with his disciples to another village, where they met a more hospitable reception. Note; To conquer our own spirit, is a greater victory than to lay our bitterest enemy at our feet.
8thly, They who would follow Christ, must count the cost, and be ready, without hesitation, to part with all for his sake. We have,
1. The offer of one who, expecting the Messiah was about to set up his kingdom, professes his zeal to serve him, in hopes that he shall be well rewarded for it. But Christ undeceives him. He would meet with none of the honours that he expected, but, on the contrary, innumerable hardships of which he seemed not to be aware. The Son of man, so far from providing for his followers, was more destitute than the foxes of the desert or the fowls of heaven, having neither house nor home. So poor, for our sakes, he became, to teach us contentment in the lowest station of life; never to aspire at this world's greatness: patiently to submit to every want that we may be called to endure; to expect tribulations; and look for no rest below, till the day comes that we shall rest in the dust, and then enter into the kingdom of God in glory.
2. Another, called to follow Christ, wanted to make excuse, and solicits a delay, urging piety towards an aged parent, and desiring to perform the last offices to him before he commenced Christ's constant follower. But Christ denies his request: a more urgent duty lay upon him: there were enough of dead sinners to bury the dead corpse; while he, as a living soul, was wanted to preach the everlasting gospel. Note; (1.) Delays are dangerous: many a soul has been lost by plausible excuses for withdrawing from present duty, and putting off the concerns of eternity to a more convenient season. (2.) Religion teaches us to shew piety at home, and to requite our parents; but, if the dearest relations in life would divert us from the service of Jesus and his gospel, then we must leave father and mother to follow the Master's call, and shew our obedience to his commands.
3. A third person makes a voluntary tender of his service to Christ, and only begs that he may first bid adieu to his friends, and settle his worldly affairs. But Christ, who saw that his heart was entangled with worldly things, lets him know the impossibility of uniting the incompatible services of God and mammon. No man, having laid his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. While he hankers after the world, and parts from it with reluctance, he will not heartily discharge the gospel ministry. Note; (1.) Worldly things are the most dangerous snares to draw the heart from Christ: even those that we may lawfully mind, are apt to engage unlawful and inordinate affections after them. (2.) When we have once set our faces heavenward, let us never look back. Remember Lot's wife.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 9". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter