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The mission of the seventy. The Lord's words to them of instruction and direction and warning.
After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also. That is to say, after the events just related which had taken place in the north of the Holy Land. "Alter these things" formally began the solemn marches in the direction of Jerusalem, which ended, as we have stated, in the last Passover. Roughly speaking, the seventy were first sent out about the October of the last year of the public ministry. The manuscripts vary between seventy and seventy two. The preponderance of authority is in favour of seventy. The Sanhedrin numbered seventy-one. The elders appointed by Moses were seventy. There was a Jewish saying also that the number of peoples on earth were seventy or seventy-two. Fourteen descended from Japhet, thirty from Ham, twenty-six from Shem. In the 'Clementine Recognitions,' a writing of the first half of the third century, the number of peoples is given as seventy-two. The Fathers dwell on the sacred symbolism of the desert-wanderings especially mentioned at Elim—"twelve wells and seventy palm trees," alluding to the two groups of Christ-sent missionaries, the twelve apostles and the "seventy" here mentioned. Two and two. As in the case of his apostles sent forth previously, for mutual help and comfort. Before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. By their means, as the time left him was now so short, all the needful preparations should be made before he personally visited the place. Villages and towns, too, where his presence was found, as in the case of the Samaritan village, unwelcome, would be thus carefully noted, and no time would needlessly be lost.
Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. This and many of the sayings reported on this occasion had been said apparently before, when the twelve had been sent out on a similar mission. It seems almost certain that, on several occasions, the Lord repeated the same expressions containing great truths, with scarcely any variation in language. The harvest simile was evidently a favourite one of the Master. "The field is the world" he told them in the parable of the sower. It is reproduced by St. John (Revelation 14:14-66.14.19).
Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. These first missionaries were to go forth unarmed and unprovided. They were to be a type of the strange, seemingly weak Christian preachers of the next two hundred years, before whose simple words and unarmed presence the great system of paganism was to go down. One of the rare but beautiful traditional sayings of the Lord is referred to the first occasion of his speaking the words of this third verse. Peter is said to have asked him, "But how, then, if the wolves tear the lambs?" And the Lord said, "Let not the lambs fear the wolves, when the lambs are once dead;" and then added again the words of Matthew 10:28, "Fear not them which kill the body," etc.
Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes. They were to burden themselves with no useless baggage, nor were they to be careful for ways and means of livelhood. Dean Plumptre very beautifully writes, on the similar words reported in Matthew 10:10 "Experience has led the Christian Church at large to look on these commands as binding only during the mission on which the twelve were actually sent. It is impossible not to admire the noble enthusiasm of poverty which showed itself in the literal adoption of such rules by the followers of Francis of Assist, and, to some extent, by those of Wickliffe; but the history of the mendicant orders and other like fraternities forms part of that teaching of history which has led men to feel that in the long-run the beggar's life will bring the beggar's vices. Yet here, as in the case of the precepts of the sermon on the mount, the spirit is binding still, though the letter has passed away. The mission work of the Church has ever prospered in proportion as that spirit has pervaded it." And salute no man by the way. This especially refers to the length and tediousness of Eastern salutations, often very unreal, and which would consume much valuable time. Men were to see that one absorbing interest possessed them, and that to them was no time given for the ordinary useless amenities of life.
Peace be to this house. The original of the words used in the Church of England Office for the Visitation of the Sick.
The son of peace. An Aramaic (Hebrew) expression. Although the language here is pure and fairly classical Greek, yet the presence of such expressions as this shows that the basis of this part of St. Luke's narrative was probably an Aramaic document.
And in the same house remain.… Go not from house to house. Similar instructions were given in the case of the sending out the twelve as missionaries. One house and family were to be selected as the centre of their work (see note on Luke 9:4). Eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire.
Eat such things as are set before you. Most commentators have simply seen in this charge
(1) an instruction to be content with whatever their host should set before them, avoiding even the appearance of caring or wishing for dainties;
(2) that his servants should look upon such maintenance in the light of a fairly earned wage, rather than as an alms bestowed upon a beggar. In other words, his servants, while perfectly content with the most frugal fare, at the same time should preserve their manly independence. The bare austere sustenance, the simple lodging,—these things they had surely earned. But in addition to this meaning, true and appropriate though it be, there seems a quiet recommendation not to be rigid in inquiring as to the cleanness or uncleanness of the viands. One very able commentator (Godet) remarks that of this there is no question, for we are yet in a Jewish world. But remembering only in the last chapter a mission was specially sent to a Samaritan village, such an assertion can scarcely be maintained. It seems probable that extreme rigidness in this particular, now that mission work on a broad scale had commenced, here began to be relaxed; and that in this charge of Jesus we have, at least, the basis of that yet broader commandment set out by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:27.
And heal the sick that are therein. These were strangely great powers to confer upon poor weak men—men, too, only in the very dawn of faith—and their naive surprise and joy (see Luke 10:17) show how little they believed in their possession of such powers, even after their Master's words announcing to them the gift. But this prodigality of miraculous energy was needful then. The first beginning of so stupendous a work as laying securely the ground stories of Christianity—what Renan, with all his enmity to revealed religion, calls "l'evenement capital de l'histoire du monde"—required this special aid from another sphere.
But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. Such a rejection implies that they would have nothing to do with the Master of these preachers, the pitiful, loving, Galilaean Teacher. These were days of possible mighty blessings, of proportional terrible punishments. The woe of Sodom, that well-known swift destruction, most probably through sudden volcanic agency, was tolerable in comparison with the far more awful doom reserved in the immediate future, at the hands of Rome, for these guilty cities of Palestine (see a further note on this on Luke 10:15).
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. In St. Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 11:20), where the woe of the fair lake-cities is announced in similar language, the "woe" is introduced with the words," Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done." Now, we have no record of any miracles having been worked at Chorazin, the first mentioned. But these cities were in the immediate vicinity of Capernaum, where for a length-cued period our Lord principally resided. He was, no doubt, during the Galilaean ministry, constantly in one or other of those bright, busy cities built on the shores of the Lake of Gennesaret. This bears out St. John's statement (John 20:30) concerning the many unrecorded miracles of Christ, and gives us some notion of the numerous events in the life left without mention; much must have happened in Choraziu to have called forth this stern saying. Late research thinks it probable that the site of Chorazin has been discovered near Capernaum; the ruins, however, at a little distance, look but a mere rough heap of stones. A great theological truth is urged in this saying of the Master. Men will be judged not only for what they have done or failed to do, but their opportunities, their circumstances, their chances in life, will be, before they are judged, strictly taken into account.
But it shall be more tolerable for Tyro and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. Tyre and Sidon, those representative examples of the luxury and vileness of the great cities of the old pagan world, will, when the dreadful awards are made, be beaten with few stripes, while the cities of the lake wilt be beaten with many, because these last listened unrepentant to the sweet and tender words, and gazed unmoved at the mighty works of mercy, of the pitiful Jesus of Nazareth. This is one of the passages in the New Testament where the doctrine of degrees in punishment is plainly set forth, and in words which fell from the lips of the Redeemer himself!
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. When the Lord came to speak of the woe of Capernaum, his own chosen city, his favourite earthly home, his words grew even more solemn. The simile he uses, "hell," better rendered Hades, is chosen to paint the contrast between the glorious destiny [this beautiful lake-city might have chosen, and the tremendous woe which she had voluntarily brought on herself. The present state of the Plain of Gennesaret is indeed so desolate and miserable that we can scarcely picture to ourselves that it was once a populous, crowded district, the blue lake covered with fishing and trading vessels, its shores and the plain inland highly cultivated, a very garden in that part of Asia. Rich towns and thriving villages in that favoured neighbourhood are described by contemporary writers in such glowing terms that we, who are spectators of the dreary and melancholy shores of the Gennesaret lake, are puzzled as we read, and should suspect an exaggeration, only an exaggeration would have been purposeless (see Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 3.3.2). Some thirty years after the woe had been uttered, in the terrible wars in which Rome avenged herself on the Jewish hatred and scorn, the garden of Gennesaret was changed into a ruin-covered solitude. Joseph's, who had been dwelling on the loveliness of the place, describes the state of the shore strewn with wrecks and putrefying bodies, "insomuch that the misery was not only an object of commiseration to the Jews, but even to these that hated them and had been the authors of that misery" ('Bell. Jud.,' 3.10. 8; and see Dr. Farrar's' Life of Christ,' 2.101).
And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy Name. How wavering and hesitating the faith of the chosen followers of Jesus was, even at this late period of his public ministry, is clear from this frank confession of surprise at their powers. They were contrasting the present with what had lately happened at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration, where the disciples were utterly unable to heal the possessed boy. What a contrast do these true writers of the gospel story paint between themselves and their Master! They never seem to tire in their self-depreciatory descriptions. They describe with the same careful, truthful pen their slowness to understand what afterwards became so clear to them—their mutual jealousies, their covetous hopes of a brilliant future, their shrinking from pain and suffering, their utter failure when they try to imitate their Master; and now we find them marvelling at their own—to them—unexpected success in their imitation of him.
And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. The Lord's words here were prophetic rather than descriptive of what had taken, or was then taking place. The seventy were telling him their feelings of joy at finding that his Name in their months enabled them to cast out evil spirits from the possessed. Their Master replied in an exalted and exultant strain—strange and rare sounds on the lips of the Man of sorrows—telling them how he had been looking—not on a few spirits of evil driven out of unhappy men, but on the king and chief of all evil falling from his sad eminence and throne of power like a flash of lightning. Jesus Christ saw, in the first success of these poor servants of his, an earnest of that wonderful and mighty victory which his followers, simply armed with the power of his Name, would shortly win over paganism. He saw, too, in the dim far future, many a contest with and victory over evil in its many forms. He looked on, we may well believe, to the final defeat which at length his servants, when they should have learned the true use and the resistless power of that glorious Name of his, should win over the restless enemy of the souls of men.
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. The older authorities read here, "I have given." The only recorded instance of a literal fulfilment of this promise was in the case of Paul at Melita, after the shipwreck (Acts 24:3-44.24.5). A similar promise was made during the "forty days". It seems however, best, in the case of this peculiar promise, to interpret the Lord's words as referring to spiritual powers of evil, taking the serpent and scorpion as symbols of these. It should be remembered that the subject of conversation between the Master and his servants was the conflict with and victory ever these awful powers restlessly hostile to the human race (see Psalms 91:13).
But rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. "After all," went on the wise and loving Master, "though you have made the glad discovery of the power you possess, if, as my servants, you use aright my Name, after all, your real reason for joy is, not the possession of a new, mighty power, but the fact of your name having been written in the book of life as one of my servants commissioned to do my work." Many commentators here cautiously point out that even this legitimate joy should be tempered with fear and trembling, for even this true title to honour might be blotted nut of that golden book of heaven (see Exodus 32:33; Jeremiah 17:13; Psalms 69:28; Revelation 22:19). In this deep legitimate joy men and women of all callings, who try to follow the Master, in every age, may share.
In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit. More than "rejoiced;" the Greek word rather signifies "exulted." Very rarely in the holy story of the life of lives is a hint given us of any gleam of gladness or of joy irradiating the spirit of the Man of sorrows. The exultation of the Blessed here was based upon his conviction that this first success of his own was but the commencement of a long and weary, but yet, in the end, of a triumphant campaign against the spirits of sin and evil. What these, in their mortal weakness by the aid of their poor imperfect faith in his Name, had been able to accomplish, was an earnest, a pledge, of the mighty work which his followers would, in the power of the same Name, be enabled to effect in the coming ages. In that solemn hour did Messiah see, in the far future, of "the travail of his soul," and was satisfied. The absence of all sign of joy in the life of our Lord is well brought out in that touching legend which we find in the spurious letter of P. Lentulus to the senate, that he wept often, but that no one had ever seen him smile. That thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Looking upon his servants after their return from their successful mission, a group made up certainly for the most part of poor untutored men—fishers, artisans, and the like, children of the people, without rank or position—Jesus thanks the Father that, in the persons of the men chosen to be the instruments of his work, he has looked away from all the ordinary machinery of human influence. As he gazes upon the band of successful missionaries, Jesus thanks the Father that henceforth his servants, if they would be successful, must owe the powers which gave them success entirely to his training, and not to the world's. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. This is "the only record, outside St. John's Gospel, of a prayer like that which we find in John 17:1-43.17.26. For the most part, we may believe, those prayers were offered apart, on the lonely hillside, in the darkness of night; or, it may be, the disciples shrank in their reverence, or perhaps in the consciousness of their want of capacity, from attempting to record what was so unspeakably sacred. But it is noteworthy that in this exceptional instance we find, both in the prayer and the teaching that follows it in St. Matthew and St. Luke, turns of thought and phrase almost absolutely identical with what is most characteristic of St. John. It is as though this isolated fragment of a higher teaching had been preserved by them as a witness that there was a region upon which they scarcely dared to enter, but into which men were to be led afterwards by the beloved disciple, to whom the Spirit gave power to recall what had been above the reach of the other reporters of his Master's teaching" (Dean Plumptre).
All things are delivered to me of my Father. These words, spoken late in the public ministry, evidently refer to the Almighty power possessed and frequently exercised by the incarnate Son of God. During the days of his humiliation, Jesus Christ exercised the power of Creator, Lord of the elements, Lord of the secrets of health and disease, Lord of life and death. Dean Mansel, comparing this statement, recorded both by SS. Matthew and Luke, with the language of St. John, remarks "that there is no substantial difference between the different evangelists in their views of our Lord's Person and nature, and that the Gospel of St. John, far from being the representative of a later theology, does but more fully expound what is implicitly contained in the earliest of the Gospels." St. Matthew (Matthew 11:28-40.11.30) here gives us that sublime invitation of the Master's to the weary and heavy-laden. In the consciousness of his possession of all power, Jesus, with infinite compassion, offers to the great army of sufferers that rest which he alone can give.
Luke 10:23, Luke 10:24
And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: for I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see. Alluding, especially, to such prophets and their words as Balaam (in Numbers 24:17) and Jacob (in Genesis 49:18). Keble has a quaint verse here, striking, as is usual with him, the central truth—
"Save that each little voice in turn
Some glorious truth proclaims;
What sages would have died to learn,
Now taught by cottage dames."
These last words, the evangelist expressly says, were spoken privately. In fact, such a statement could only have been addressed to the inner circle—to those men (not exclusively the twelve) who had been much under the immediate influence of the Lord's teaching about himself. Gradually their sense as to who and what he was was becoming more acute. Glimpses of his Divinity ever and anon flashed before their eyes. But, to the last, their faith was very weak and wavering. Such words as these, after what had gone before, must have sunk deep into many of the listeners' hearts.
The question of the lawyer. The Lord answers with the parable of the good Samaritan.
And, behold, a certain lawyer. It seems (as has already been noticed) probable that in St. Luke's general account of our Lord's teaching during the six months which immediately preceded the last Passover, certain events which took place at a short visit which Jesus paid to Jerusalem at the Feast of the Dedication are noticed. This question of the lawyer was probably asked on the occasion of this visit, and the little episode connected with the Bethany family of Lazarus took place at the same period. The "lawyer" is sometimes termed "scribe." There is little difference between these appellations. They were professional teachers and expounders of the Mosaic Law and of the vast complement of traditional sayings which had gathered round it. As the whole life of the people at this period was ruled and guided by the Law, written and traditional, this profession of scribe and lawyer was an important and influential one. Stood up. The Master was evidently teaching in a house or a courtyard of a house. Many were sitting round him. To attract his attention, this lawyer stood up before putting his question to Jesus. This scene, as we have said, took place most likely in or near Jerusalem, not improbably, as the Bethany episode follows, in that suburb of the city, and perhaps in the house of Lazarus. And tempted him; that is to say, tested him and his skill in answering questions out of that Law which then was the rule and guide of daily life in Israel. It is not unlikely that the lawyer hoped to convict the broad and generous Rabbi of some unorthodox statement which would injure his reputation as a Teacher. It was a hard and comprehensive question, this query how eternal life was to be won, and possibly one carefully prepared by the enemies of Jesus,
He said unto him, What is written in the Law? The Lord replied, perhaps pointing to one of the phylacteries which the lawyer wore on his forehead and wrist. These phylacteries were little leather boxes (the dimensions of these varied from the size of an ordinary hazelnut, to that of a large walnut, and even in some cases much larger). In these leather boxes were little parchment rolls containing certain texts from the Pentateuch. Certainly the first of the two great rules, that concerning God, was one of these texts (Deuteronomy 6:5); possibly, but not certainly, the second concerning the neighbour formed another text.
This do, and thou shalt live. The learned Jew was evidently confounded at the Galilaean Rabbi's first answer referring him to the sacred Mosaic Law. His perplexity is increased by the Lord's quiet repartee when he had rehearsed the two duties, to his God and his neighbour, "This do, and thou shalt live." It seems as though the clever, unfriendly critic of Jesus of Nazareth now forgot the hostile purpose with which he stood up to question, and, really conscience-stricken, willing to justify himself, in real good faith put the query which called out the famous parable.
And who is my neighbour? The self-righteous, but probably rigidly conscientious, Jewish scholar, looking into the clear, truthful eyes of the Galilaean Master he had been taught to hate as the enemy of his own narrow, lightless creed, was struck, perhaps for the first time, with the moral beauty of the words of his own Law. Of the first part, his duty towards God, as far as his poor distorted mind could grasp the idea, he was at ease in his conscience. The tithe, down to the anise and cummin, had been scrupulously paid; his fasts had been rigidly observed, his feasts carefully kept, his prayer-formulas never neglected. Yes; as regards God, the Pharisee-lawyer's conscience was at ease! But his neighbour? He thought of his conduct towards that simple, truthful-looking Galilaean Rabbi, Jesus, that very day; trying to trip him up in his words, longing to do him injury—injury to that worn-looking, loving Man who had never done him any harm, and who, report said, was only living to do others good. Was he, perchance, his neighbour? So, vexed and uneasy—but it seems in perfect honesty now, and in good faith—he asks this further question, "Master, tell me, who do you teach should be included in the term 'neighbour'?"
And Jesus answering said. For reply the Master told him and the listening by-standers the parable-story we know so well as the "good Samaritan"—the parable, which has been "the consolation of the wanderer and the sufferer, of the outcast and the heretic, in every age and country" (Stanley). The story was one of those parables especially loved by Luke (and Paul), in which instruction is conveyed, not by types, but by example. It was very probably a simple recital of a fact which had happened, and at some period in the Lord's life had come under his own observation. The local scenery, the characters of the story, would all lead to the supposition that the parable was spoken in or near Jerusalem. A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. We are not told who the traveller was, Jew or Gentile; not a word about his rank, descent, or religion; simply that he was a man, a human being. It seems, however, from the whole tone of the story, most probable that the wounded traveller was a Jew. The way he was travelling was the road leading down from Jerusalem to Jericho, a distance of twenty-one miles—not the only way, but the most direct. It was a rugged, rocky pass, well adapted for the purposes of thieves and desperadoes, and was known, owing to the many dark deeds of which it had been the scene, as "The Way of Blood." The Lord's words tell the story. The traveller, likely enough a Jew pedlar, bad fallen among thieves, who had robbed him, and then had left their victim—dying or dead, what cared they? lying in the pass.
There came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Both the priest and Levite were frequent travellers along this road between the capital and Jericho. Jericho was especially a city of priests, and when the allotted service or residence time at the temple was over, these would return naturally to their own homes. It has been remarked that the grave censure which this story levels at the everyday want of charity on the part of priests and Levites, fills up what would otherwise have been a blank in the Master's many-sided teaching. Nowhere else in the gospel narrative do we find our Lord taking up the attitude of censor of the priestly and Levitical orders. We have little difficulty in discovering reasons for this apparently strange reticence. They were still the official guardians and ministers of his Father's house. In his public teaching, as a rule, he would refrain from touching these or their hollow, pretentious lives. Once, and once only, in this one parable did he dwell—but even here with no severe denunciations, as in the case of scribes and Pharisees—on the shortcomings of the priestly caste. The bitter woe was fast coming on these degenerate children of Aaron. In less than half a century, that house, the glory and the joy of Israel, would be utterly destroyed, net to be raised again. No woe that the Christ could pronounce could be as crushing in its pitiless condemnation. The very reason for the existence of priest and Levite as priest and Levite would exist no longer. The selfish life of the doomed order, in which holiness seemed effectually to have been divorced from charity, is portrayed in the lifelike picture of the parable of the good Samaritan.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. They both, priest and Levite, shrank from the trouble and expense of meddling with the poor victim of the robbers; perhaps a cowardly fear of being identified with the robbers was mixed with these feelings. The whole of their conduct was inhuman, but not unnatural; alas! how faithfully is it copied by multitudes of men and women professing Christianity now! The Levite's conduct was better and worse than his official superior's—better, in that he did feel a little pity, and stopped to look, no doubt compassionately, on the sufferer; and worse, because he selfishly strangled the noble impulse in its birth, and passed on to his own place without so much as throwing a cloth over the poor maimed body to shelter it from the scorching sun, or the cold night dew.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. Now, for the sake of strong contrast, Jesus paints on his canvas the figure of one who, as a Samaritan, was as far removed as possible from being a neighbour to the sufferer (who, most probably, was a Jew) in the sense in which the austere Jewish lawyer would of himself understand the term "neighbour", The Samaritan, hated of the Jews, and most probably, in common with the rest of his nation, hating them—he, in his turn, was journeying along the ill-omened "Way of Blood;" he too sees, like the priest, the form of the man, wounded perhaps to death, lying by the way, and, like the Levite, draws near to look on the helpless sufferer; but, unlike priest and Levite, stays by the wounded man, and, regardless of peril, trouble, or expense, does his best to help the helpless.
Luke 10:35, Luke 10:35
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in off and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. All these little tender details of the Samaritan's pitiful love are sketched in by a master-hand. There is first a noble, generous impulse, at once crystallized into a kindly brotherly act. Not satisfied with merely carrying out the first impulse, the Samaritan puts himself to inconvenience, perhaps to peril, and, after dressing the wounds, takes the wounded one along with him, provides lodging for him, and even takes care of the sick and friendless man's future. The wounded man was no rich and powerful merchant or noble—that is clear from the necessity of the little provision which the Samaritan made for him at the inn when he went on his journey; probably just an itinerant Jew pedlar. There were many of these always travelling about the East, we know. The piled-up acts of kindness were all clearly done to a poor stranger, without hope of recompense or reward. The life of that kindly man was evidently one which finds its high but secret guerdon in the blessedness of its own deeds. The Master trod been called by his bitter foes, in their blind rage, a "Samaritan." liras he in any way picturing himself? To an inn. The Greek word is not the same as the "inn" of Luke 2:7. It reminds us that, besides the open khan or caravanserai spoken of at Bethlehem, and which was crowded with travellers, in Palestine at this period was to be found the Greek type of inn, where a host or landlord entertained the guests. The khan was simply a group of empty buildings kept up for the use of travellers, who provided furniture and food for themselves. Throughout the Levant, Greek customs were gradually being introduced.
Luke 10:36, Luke 10:37
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. The deep pathos of the little story, the meaning of which the trained-scholar mind of the lawyer at once grasped, went right home to the ]mart. The Jewish scribe, in spite of prejudice anti jealousy, was too noble not to confess that the Galilaean Master's estimate of a neighbour was the true one, and the estimate of the Jerusalem schools the wrong one; so at once he replies, "He that showed mercy on him." Even then, in that hour of the noblest confession his lips had ever made, the lawyer trained in those strange and mistaken schools, the outcome of which is the Talmud, could not force himself to name the hated Samaritan name, but paraphrases it in this titan. The scene closes with the Lord's charge, "Then imitate that act." Go, and do thou likewise. The parable thus answers the question—Who is my neighbour? Any one, it replies, who needs help, and whom I have power and opportunity to help, no matter what his rank, race, or religion may be. Neighbourhood is made coextensive with humanity; any human being is my neighbour who needs aid, or to whom I can render aid. But it answers the other and the still larger and deeper question with which the scene which called the parable out began. "Master," asked the lawyer (Luke 10:25), "what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Or in other words, "What is the virtue which saves?" The Scriptures teach that without holiness no one shall see the Lord, that is, shall inherit eternal life; and in this parable two kinds of holiness are set before us—the one spurious, the other genuine. The spurious holiness is that of the priest and Levite, two officially holy persons;—spurious holiness is sanctity divorced from charity. In the person of the Samaritan the nature of true sanctity is exhibited;—we are taught that the way to please God, the way to genuine holiness, is the practice of charity. Another and a very different exposition of this great and loving parable treats it as a Divine allegory. It commends itself to the present generation less than the plain matter-of-fact exegesis adopted in the foregoing notes. In the allegory, the wounded traveller represents mankind at large, stripped by the devil and his angels; he is left by them grievously wounded, yet not dead outright. Priest and Levite were alike powerless to help. "Many passed us by," once wrote a devout mediaeval writer, "and there was none to save." Moses and his Law, Aaron and his sacrifices, patriarch, prophet, and priest,—these were powerless. Only the true Samaritan (Christ), beholding, was moved with compassion and poured oil into the wounds. Among the ancients, Chrysostom and Clement of Alexandria and Augustine might be cited as good examples of these allegorical expositors. Among mediaeval Churchmen, Bernard and his devout school. Although this method of exposition has not been adopted here, still an exegesis which has commended itself so heartily to learned and devout Churchmen in all the Christian ages deserves at least a more respectful mention than the scornful allusion or the contemptuous silence with which it is nowadays too often dismissed. Godet, for instance, describes this allegorical interpretation adopted by the Fathers as rivalling that of the Gnostics.
The sisters of Bethany. The following points are noticeable. A close intimacy evidently existed between the brother and his two sisters and Jesus. They evidently were prominent friends of the Master, and during the years of the public ministry were on many occasions associated with Jesus of Nazareth, and yet a singular reticence evidently existed on the part of the writers of the first three Gospels in respect of the brother and sisters. His name is never mentioned by them. Here, for instance, Bethany is simply alluded to as "a certain village."
There was some reason, no doubt, why the three synoptical evangelists exercised this reticence. We have before explained that these Gospels more or less represent the "texts," so to speak, upon which the first preachers of the religion of Jesus based their sermons and instructions.
The long recital of John 11:1-43.11.57. gives us the clue. For the disciples of Jesus publicly to call attention in their sermons and addresses to Lazarus, on whom the Master's greatest miracle had been worked, would have no doubt called down a ceaseless, restless hostility on the Bethany household; for it must be remembered that for years after the Resurrection the deadly enemies of Jesus and his followers were supreme in Jerusalem and the neighbourhood.
There were reasons, no doubt, now unknown to us, which rendered it important to the welfare of the early Church that the Bethany family should remain undisturbed and in comparative privacy. The peculiar and unique position of Lazarus. During those four days what had he seen and heard? Much curiosity, no doubt, existed to question the risen one:what fierce hostility, what morbid useless speculation, might not have been easily aroused?
St. John's Gospel was not written for long years after the event. It probably represents no public preaching, rather a private and esoteric teaching. The home of St. John, too, for years prior to putting forth his Gospel, was far distant from Jerusalem. Probably Jerusalem had ceased to exist as a city and the Jews as a nation well-nigh a quarter of a century before St. John's writing was given to the Church. There were no reasons then for any silence. Jerusalem and Bethany were a heap of ruins. Lazarus and his sisters and well-nigh all their friends had probably then been long in the presence of the loved or hated Master.
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village. The scene here related took place, no doubt, at Bethany, and, most probably, during that short visit to Jerusalem, at the Feast of Dedication, in the month of that December which preceded the Passover "of the Crucifixion." This visit to Jerusalem, as has been suggested above, was made in the course of that solemn progress the account of which fills up the long section of St. Luke's Gospel, beginning at Luke 9:51. The characters of the sisters here mentioned exactly correspond, as do their names, with the well-known Bethany family of that Lazarus for whom the great miracle, related at length by St. John, was worked. There are several mentions of this family in the synoptical Gospels, besides the long and important notice in St. John. A certain woman named Martha. The name is rather Aramaic than pure Hebrew. It is equivalent to the Greek Kyria, and signifies "lady." It has been suggested that the Second Epistle of St. John was addressed to this Martha. It was written, we know, to the elect kyria, or "lady" (2 John 1:1). Various identifications, more or less probable, have been attempted in the persons of the Bethany family. Martha has been supposed to be identical with the wife of Simon the leper. One hypothesis identifies Lazarus with the "young ruler" whom Jesus loved (see Dean Plumptre, in Bishop Ellicott's Commentary); another, with the saintly Rabbi Eliezer (or Lazarus) of the Talmud. These are, however, little more than ingenious, though perhaps not quite baseless, fancies.
Came to him. Dr. Farrar very happily seizes the tone and temper of Martha. He renders the Greek words here, "but suddenly coming up." We see in this inimitable touch the little petulant outburst of jealousy in the loving, busy matron, as she hurried in with the words, "Why is Mary sitting there doing nothing?" Bid her therefore that she help me. "We almost seem to hear the undertone of 'It is no use for me to tell her.' Doubtless, had she been less' fretted,' she would have felt that to leave her (Martha) alone and withdraw into the background while this eager hospitality was going on, was the kindest and most unselfish thing which Mary could do."
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha. There are several notable instances of this repetition of the name by the Master in the New Testament story, and in each case apparently in pitying love. So "Simon, Simon," in Luke 22:31, and "Saul, Saul," in Acts 9:4.
But one thing is needful. Jesus had been saying to this kindly but over-fussy friend, "Are you not too anxious about these household cares of yours?" and then he adds, "See, only one thing is really needful." Now, what is the exact meaning of these last words? Some expositors have taken the expression to mean "a single dish is sufficient" for my entertainment; so much careful, anxious thought is thrown away. A curious variation in the reading occurs here in some, though not in all the oldest, authorities. It seems as though some of the early copyists of the text of the Gospel were wishful to make the words, which they possibly understood as a lesson of the Master's on simplicity of food, clearer and more emphatic. This other reading is, "There is need of few things, or of one only." In other words, "Few things are enough for me and my friends to sit down to, or even one dish only." The teaching contained in Luke 10:7 gives a little colour to this quaint interpretation of the Master's words here, which sees in them a general warning against taking thought for the pleasures of the table. But, on the whole, the old reading contained in the received text is preferable, and the old interpretation, too, viz. that the true life of man needs but one thing, or, if the other reading be adopted, needs but few things. If we must specify the one, we would call it" love," or "charity." So John, we know, in his old days, summed up all man's duties in this "love." If, on the other hand, we are asked to name the few, then we would add to love, faith and hope. The parable of the "good Samaritan," that practical lesson of the love or charity the Master was alluding to, had just been spoken; it was Still, we may reverently assume, fresh in the Divine Teacher's mind. And Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. And Mary, his dear Bethany friend, had made her happy choice of the one thing, that love or charity which never fails; or, perchance, had made her choice of the few things needful (if we prefer the longer reading of those old manuscripts we have spoken of)—the few things would then mean that faith, hope, and charity which abide both now and in the ages of ages yet to come!
Luke 9:1-42.9.6 and Luke 10:1-42.10.11
The mission of the twelve, and the mission of the seventy.
The differences between the two missions can be easily distinguished. The scene of the mission related in the ninth chapter is Northern Galilee; the scene of the mission related in the tenth chapter is Southern Galilee. The one speaks of a power delegated to the twelve apostles; the other, of an office and of gifts delegated to seventy—"other seventy also"—the two numbers of completeness, seven and ten multiplied. And these seventy are sent before the Lord's face, while the twelve are kept near to his Person. The one, although actually exercised for only a short time, is the sign of a work which, in its design and consequences, is coextensive with the world and its ages; the other refers to a merely temporary work—to objects local and immediate. But, different as the two missions are, they are connected in this homily because they set before us the great principles and features of Christian work in every time. The instructions in the ninth and tenth chapters are similar; and this, as we may conclude, because the instructions contain hints and suggestions to be embodied in ministries and services for Christ. No portion of the evangelical narrative more deserves to be attentively considered in connection with all that the hand of love finds to do. Let us regard some of its more salient features.
I. Observe, first, THE EVER-ABIDING-CHARACTER OF TRUE CHRISTIAN WORK. Luke 9:2 and Luke 10:9 give us the word "heal." And the meaning of this word "heal'' may be learned from the life and sacrifice of Christ himself. In both the sending of the twelve and the sending of the seventy, the spring of the action is the perception of a harvest waiting to be reaped (cf. Matthew 9:36-40.9.38). He sees the multitude around him tired and worn out, like sheep exhausted and scattered over a plain, with no shepherd. "The harvest truly is plenteous." It is the emotion thus expressed which always beats within his breast. "I am come," he cries, "that they might have life, and have it more abundantly." His presence is that of the Healer in a charnel-house of corruption. Before him evil spirits exclaim, "What have I to do with thee?" Foul shapes of sin and want are expelled by his touch. His works are more than wonders; they are signs of redemption, of healing—the overflow of that fountain of life which was enclosed in his Person. Now, it is in this, the sphere of the Lord's love and power, that the servant is to labour. He is sent to save. He is to calm the troubled. He is to exorcise the demons which prey on the life of man. He is to be a channel of the love which is neighbour to man in all man's need.
"The world's a room of sickness, where each heart
Knows its own anguish and unrest;
The truest wisdom there and noblest art
Is his who skills of comfort best."
Notice what this healing includes. The apostles (Luke 10:1) were endowed with authority over all devils, and power to cure diseases. "Go and preach," commands Jesus; but also, "Go and heal the sick." The clergyman and the medical man represent the two halves of the Christian ministry. We shall never rise to the height of the Church's calling until we realize more systematically the conjunction of these aspects. To some extent we do. In our medical missions we do, In the increased care of Christian communities as to sanitary regulations, nursing, and so forth, we do, But much remains to be developed. And what we need, as the sustaining spirit of all work, is the conviction that Christ has given his Church power to heal, to cure diseases. Those who magnify "faith-healing" have hold of a truth, though they press it unduly, and indeed often give it a twist which makes it practically an untruth. They are right in the contention that it is Jesus Christ who makes whole, that the power of the cure is with him, and that, in respect of the cure, as of all else, the way of blessing is the way of prayer. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. On this, undoubtedly, faith should build. But why oppose this to the use of means? Or why suppose that there is a higher faith in trusting him and dispensing with ordinary means, than in trusting him and availing ourselves of the medicinal properties with which he has endowed things in nature, or of the knowledge and skill which also are gifts of God? God answers prayer as really in making the means effectual, as in restoration without the application of surgeon's or physician's art. The essential point is that the power over body and soul is his, and delegated by him to men. Let the Church's devotion be, not less theological, but less polemical; more emphatic, first in the requirement of personal righteousness, and next in such work as "shall deliver the poor and him that crieth, the fatherless, and him that hath none to help him."
II. Now, this general position assumed, observe, secondly, THE CONDITIONS WHICH CHRIST LAYS DOWN AS REGULATIVE OF ALL TRUE CHRISTIAN WORK. Putting ourselves alongside of the twelve and the seventy, let us listen to our marching orders, our code of instructions. Condition the first: "Begin at the point next you." The twelve (Luke 9:6) are sent through the towns preaching the gospel. The seventy (Luke 10:1) are sent "into every city' and place, whither the Lord himself would. "come." Let us not mistake. These are special embassies. By-and-by the word is, Witness in Jerusalem, and Judaea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." The principle is this—there are times when attention should be concentrated on the field that is at our own door. And generally, the beginning, though not the end, of all work, is with our own. We are to work outwards from the circle that is next us; thence are to be extended, outwards, ever outwards, the golden pipes through which the healing oil empties itself. Condition the second: "Proclaim, The kingdom of heaven is at hand." The twelve (cf. Matthew 10:6, Matthew 10:7) are to speak this to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The seventy (Luke 10:9) are to stand by the sick, and, while they heal, preach the advent of the kingdom. They are to raise a supreme expectation. Not halting to give elaborate courtesies. As men hastening, full of a great word, they are to sound in the ear, now in trumpet-tones, now in gentle whispers, "God's kingdom is coma close to you." To tell poor weary men and women of the Christ who is behind them, of the love that is seeking them; to hold before their gaze the reality of a kingdom which is, not a name in a book, not a Utopia of priest or poet, but a living fact, a kingdom which "is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost,"—this is the burden of the preaching—the free giving of that which they have freely received. Condition the third: "Willingly, wholly, give yourselves to the work, trusting in the Lord whose it is." The pith of the Master's charge is, Be not anxious as to worldly provision—'purse, scrip, shoes.' Confer not with flesh and blood. Lo! I have sent you." Let us distinguish between the letter and the spirit. To act on the mere letter, in the conditions of nineteenth-century civilization, would be fanaticism. "The sterility of missionary labour," writes Dr. Farrar, "is a constant subject of regret and discouragement among us. Would it be so if all our missions were carried out in this wise and conciliatory, in this simple and self-abandoning, in this faithful and dauntless spirit? Was a missionary ever unsuccessful who, being enabled by the grace of God to live in the light of such precepts as these, worked as St. Paul worked, or Francis Xavier, or Henry Martyn, or Adoniram Judson, or John ]Eliot, or David Schwartz?" Undoubtedly not; yet, are Christian people to demand of missionaries what they are not, in some measure, practising themselves? Are they to insist that the missionary shall have all the self-denial whilst they take all the ease? Is it not better for each person to aim at levelling up to the mark required of the missionary? to ask what his or her Christianity amounts to? what is given for it? what living, working force is in it? what of self sacrifice is really prompted by it? Oh for a more heroic trust in the King, and devotion to the kingdom! "Lord, here am I." And condition the last: "Your whole conduct in the discharge of your mission is to be marked by courtesy." "Into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house" (Luke 10:5). First—before the character of its inmates is declared. The house is the home of men and women. No matter what it may prove to be, it is to be treated with respect. Christ's disciples are to be pre-eminent for the kindly courtesies which are the beauty of Eastern life. Contrast the sketch in the Book of Ruth, of Boaz coming to the reapers, "The Lord be with you," and the reapers answering, "The Lord be with thee;" with the picture of our worlds of capital and labour, each too often addressing the other in tones suspicious, if not defiant. All that is rude and bitter in speech and thought should be alien to the followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. There is a time to be firm. "The wisdom which cometh from above is first pure, then peaceable." He who commands the gracious politeness tells the seventy that against the city which will not receive them, they are to testify, "The very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you." But first, and always, let the Christian see that the name of gentleman is not, in service for Christ, soiled by any "ignoble use."
So much for the nature and conditions of Christian ministry. Note, in conclusion:
1. The twelve and the severity go in the strength of the Lord God. They are solemnly appointed to the work. God is a God of order; and ordinance is always honoured. But, with the ordination, they receive the power; and the power is in Christ for them, and from Christ into them. Let us recollect that Christ is risen. He has received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost. The Church is his body—"the fulness of him who filleth all in all." The strength which inspired apostle and evangelist in the first days is waiting for all who will to serve the Lord.
2. The seventy are sent, two and two, before his face. Economy and helpfulness in ministry are thus secured. The order of the "two and two" in the ranks of the apostles is given by St. Matthew—Simon and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James and Jude, Simon and the son of Carioth. By some law of affinity these Companionships were formed. In the Church there are alliances also. For two are better than one, and mutual sympathy and tenderness are Christ's rule.
Luke 9:10-42.9.23 and Luke 10:17-42.10.24
Utterances on the return of the twelve, and of the seventy.
These passages are separated by an interval of time. But as the missions of the apostles and of the seventy were considered together, tracing in them the great laws and principles of Christian ministry, so let us connect the utterances called forth by the reports of the two companies, tracing in them the expression of all that is to be most vividly realized by those who yield to the command, "Go work to-day in my vineyard." A threefold lesson seems to be conveyed.
1. A lesson as to the spirit of mind proper to the servant of Christ.
2. A lesson as to the ministry appointed to the servant of Christ.
3. A lesson as to the confession of him demanded from the servant of Christ.
I. THE SPIRIT OF MIND PROPER TO THE TRUE SERVANT OF CHRIST. Turn, for guidance as to this, to the words contained between the seventeenth and twenty-fourth verses of the tenth chapter. The seventy have returned triumphant. They have succeeded far beyond their expectation. Healing of the sick? "Even the devils are subject to us through thy Name." What a strange new sensation! Men, hitherto utterly obscure, the custodiars of a power so marvellous, beholding, at the word which passes from them, the most marvellous results in the lives and characters of men! There is no such jubilation in the tone of the twelve when they return; perhaps the issue had fallen below their expectations. But the seventy, the special and temporary executive of Jesus, are filled with the supreme joy of the conqueror—"the devils are subject to us." Now, there is no rebuke of this spirit. On the contrary (Luke 10:19), they are told that, in Christ's strength, they shall tread on all sorts of evil spirits—on the serpent and the scorpion, opposing them in serpent and scorpion-like natures—on "all the power of the enemy." And the Lord shares their elation. In their tidings (Luke 10:18) he sees the presage of the complete victory of the good over the evil. He pours forth (Luke 10:21) a fervent stream of praise that, at length, and through these poor babe-like souls, his holy love has been declared as victorious over the kingdom of darkness. Was not the message brought (Luke 10:22) a new sign of the Father's acceptance of the Man Christ Jesus, and of the universal sovereignty which had been assigned to him? But mark the "notwithstanding" of Luke 10:20. It is the interposition of a great check. Undoubtedly, nothing is more thrilling than the sense of strength. It may be tyrannous to use, but it is great to have, a giant's strength. But there is nothing more hurtful than a complacent resting on the evidences and results of power. Many a good man is spoiled by the overweening consciousness of force; he becomes inflated with pride; and, as he does so, he loses rank before God; he is not far from the loss of power even with men. Therefore the importance of Christ's "Notwithstanding, rejoice not that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." "Not, i.e. in the tokens of command, but in the capacity of service; not that you rule, but that you are ruled; that God in his grace has called you to work with him, has written your name in the register of the citizenship of heaven, has allowed you a part in the heavenly life and ministry." Both in what he thus said, and in the glimpse into his own mind (Luke 10:21, Luke 10:22), he indicates that the true disciple finds his joy, not in what he does, but in what God does by him; not in trophies of power, but in signs of Divine acceptance and anointing; not in the subjection of spirits to him, but in the subjection of his own life to, and his sympathy with, the eternal Father and the purpose of his love.
II. This being the spirit of the mind, look back to the narrative from Luke 10:10-42.10.17 of Luke 9:1-42.9.62., and recognize in it A SYMBOL OF THE TRUE DISCIPLE-WORK—the work in which ,Master and scholar are at one. This work is set forth in its essential character, and its Divine order, or method.
1. Its essential character is giving. (Luke 9:13.) "Give ye them to eat." The most typical pictures of the Divine love are those which most purely bring out the relation of the Giver—man wanting, God supplying; man's argument, "I need," God's argument, "I have." The babe cries, settles at once to the kindly bosom—the argument being the need. The mother has, and her abundance is the life of the child. This is a reflection of God and man. So, on that grassy plain near Bethsaida, we are introduced to a scene and work most significant of the love of God in Christ. All the evangelists relate it. It is the occasion of one of the most memorable of Jesus' discourses—that concerning the Bread of life. Altogether, it is a notably royal act, the picture of the ministry of the kingdom of God. How it came about we are told (Luke 9:10-42.9.12). The compassionate heart of Jesus is moved with pity by the sight of the great multitude which has followed him. "Send them away, Master," is the whisper. "We are here in a lonely place. They are hungry; they may become furious; let them go into the towns and villages, and lodge, and get victuals." The answer is, "Give ye them to eat." This is the manifestation of God in the flesh—God in his power, no less than his will. "What! Master," exclaims Philip, "all our store consists of five loaves and two fishes: shall we go and buy meat for all the people?" Oh, it is the unbelief, the slow-heartedness of man, which thus speaks out. "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?" Does not faith need to be reminded that the little brought to Christ is multiplied a hundredfold? "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts."
2. Notice the order or method of the work. Christ is always orderly. He sent the twelve, and the seventy, two by two, giving them their rules of procedure. Here, again (Luke 9:14), "Make the men sit down in companies of fifties." Dr. Farrar reminds us of the expression of Mark, "reclined in parterres, like a multitude of flower-beds in some well-cultivated garden." Organization is thus implied. And yet the life, the strength, is not in the organization. It is "the blessing of the Lord that maketh rich" (verse 16). The outstretched arm, the food held up to heaven, the look, the blessing, the breaking, the giving to the Church, and, through the Church, to the world,—every part of the action is sacramental, every part is expressive of some aspect of the truth as to the dispensation of the Bread of life. And then note, in verse 17, the care as to the fragments—the teaching of thrift even in the midst of abundance. The transaction, from beginning to end, is inlaid with suggestions which admit of endless applications to the changing circumstances and the varying conditions of the world and the Church.
III. Finally (in verses 18-22) we have THE RECORD OF A PRIVATE INSTRUCTION—one given "as he was alone, praying, his disciples with him"—TO THOSE WHOM THE LORD HAD CALLED INTO HIS MINISTRY. It is the instruction which gives the third of our lessons—that as to the confession of Christ which is demanded of the disciple. Observe:
1. There is the confession (verses 15-21) which is a secret between the soul and the Lord himself—that which is apart from all that men say, which is the expression of the personal loyalty and devotion. "Whom say the people that I am?" "Whom say ye that I am?" Parent, teacher, worker, pastor, is thy labor, is thy life, built on Peter's noble testimony, "The Christ of God"?
2. There is the living out of that inward life—the bold and fearless testimony for that preference as dominating all the action (verses 22, 23). The Master lays a cross on the back of his disciple, and bids him carry that cross daily, in token of his being grafted into a suffering, sacrificed Son of man. Solemn and searching are the words about the willing to come after him, and all which this involves. May our hearts answer, Amen!—amen to the daily following," amen "to the losing of life for Christ's sake, "amen" to the sturdy witnessing for him in the midst of the crooked and perverse nation; our "amen," rising, upwards to receive his when he shall come "in his own glory, and in the Father's, and of the holy angels."
The parable of the good Samaritan.
The second of the parables peculiar to St. Luke, and one of the loveliest and most suggestive of the matchless pictures of him who "spake as never man spake." Notice—
I. ITS OCCASION. Our Lord is in Judaea, not, as we infer from what follows, at a great distance from Bethany. He and his disciples, we may suppose, are resting, when a lawyer—i.e. a person who made the Law both oral and written his study—proposes a question with which, or its likeness, we meet at six different times in the ministry of Jesus. "Tempting him" is the phrase descriptive of the motive for the question; probably the phrase means nothing more than putting the Rabbi to the proof, submitting a question, the answer to which would, in the lawyer's view, settle his right to be heard as a Teacher from God. Jesus meets his interviewer as one not far from the kingdom of God, yet in a way which proved that, in regard to the issue presented, mere dialectics were of little avail. "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?", The mind is at once referred to the underlying reality of the Law. "What is written therein? thou who dost profess to know, how readest thou? That which thou hast read, that which thou dost find there—the love, in its two great aspects, upward and outward—that is the eternal life." Ah! this is not quite according to the jurist's expectation. "He came to catechize Christ that he might know him, but Christ will catechize him, and make him know himself." Seeking to parry the thrust, there comes forth the next question (verse 29), "Who is my neighbor?" This question is the occasion of the parable. Note, before passing, the clause, "willing to justify himself." The true heart casts itself on the Lord, "Lord, save, help! lighten my darkness!" The proud heart wills some self-justification, and, thus willing, produces some excuse, some word by which to turn aside the arrow of conviction.
II. THE SCENE AND THE PERSONS OF THE DRAMA.
1. The scene. The wild road, proverbial for deeds of blood, which Jesus and the disciples had just traversed.
2. The persons. The traveler, who had been attacked by the Bedouins, had fallen among them, and been spoiled, mutilated, left half dead. The priest, coming that way by chance, or rather "by a coincidence;" it was natural that he should be there, since Jericho was a station of the priests. When the priest saw the half-dead man, afraid of any defilement, "he passed by on the other side." Next, the Levite. Observe, "he came and looked on him," with the life ebbing away, and he too moved to the other side. And then, finally, the Samaritan.
(1) Look at him in contrast with the other two. Of them the kindness might have been expected. The traveler, we may suppose, is their co-religionist. They, at least, are fresh from the sanctuary—from the reading of Moses and the prophets. They hide themselves from their own flesh. The desire is to get home, and they pass by. The one not expected is "he who shows mercy." Is it not often so? Recall the word used concerning the Roman centurion, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."
(2) Who is the Samaritan? Priest and Levite denied him a share in the kingdom. He was a heretic, a descendant of the half-heathen stock, "the men from Babylon and Cuthah, whom the King of Assyria placed in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel." Cursed in the synagogues, the people were taught that to entertain a Samaritan was to lay up judgments for a house. This is the man. If it had been a Jew approaching a Samaritan, the Jew would have left him in his blood. The Samaritan stops, compassionates, binds the wounds, pours in the oil and the wine, puts him on his own beast, tends him, pays for him, provides for him. Brave, tender-hearted Cuthite that he is! Thus the Lord answers the inquiry, "Who is my neighbor?" Neighbourhood is dissociated from the range marked out by co-religionism; it is constituted by the fact of need. "Where you can be helpful, to whom you can be helpful, there, in him, is the neighbor." There are circles within circles. To love them that love us is not wrong; but, if that is all, what do we more than others? Humanity is neighborhood. Do not ask what the man is. Enough that he is there, and in want. Sad, and worse than sad, when the representative of religion is not also the representative of humanity! After all, who is man's neighbor? Like the traveler in the parable, man has left the heavenly city, and has fallen among thieves. To man the sinner the love of God in Christ is the neighbor. He has showed mercy; he is our Example: "Go, and do likewise." "Be imitators of God, as dear children; and walk in love as Christ also loved us."
The love of the neighbor.
Fixing, then, on Christ's definition of the sphere of neighborhood, we are called to give a length and a breadth to his rule, which make it equivalent to the assertion, "Your neighbor is, not your blood-relation only, not the circle of your acquaintance only, not your countryman or co-religionist only; but he or she whom you can help in any way whatsoever—the wretched tatterdemalion from the slightest contact with whom you shrink; the besotted and degraded; even your enemy, who hates you and despitefully uses you; him, her, mankind, you are to love." "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." A very searching word indeed. God help us! how far are we from realizing it? Here some may will to justify themselves, and assume the defensive in some such manner as this: "It is impossible. We may cherish a feeling of benevolence towards all men in virtue of their common humanity; but how can we love them? Love requires the perception of what is lovable; it requires, too, that there shall be some link connecting one personally with another. But to summon us to love the neighbor, in Christ's sense of the phrase, is to insist on love before the discovery of any such link, or notwithstanding the discovery that such a link is wholly wanting." Or, again, "This is a commandment to love. Now, we cannot love by commandment; we cannot go beyond the prompting of our own natures. Some we can embrace with affection, but from others we turn away. We have tried the law that is announced on a limited scale, and the result of the trial was this—So long as we thought of the world in a general, ideal way, we felt, in a measure, ardent; but as regards the persons actually crossing our path as neighbors, before the selfishness and greediness and ugliness which confronted us, we were forced to retreat, and to confess that we cannot love because we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves." Now, let it be acknowledged that these and similar difficulties are real difficulties. But, in the mean time, see whether Christ, in commanding, has not indicated the way of assistance; whether a more spiritual exposition of his teaching may not lead us into a region of thought in which the solution of the difficulties lies. Such a region seems to be opened up in the sentence reported by St. Matthew, "The second commandment is like to the first." To the first, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," we must look for the full truth of the love enjoined in the second, and for the significance of the measure which the second proposes, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
I. For, to show that the love enjoined in the two commandments is really one grace, WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE SPEAK OF LOVING GOD? Surely we mean a delight in God for what he is; for his righteousness, his goodness, his holy and loving will; we mean that surrender of ourselves to him in which our spirits respond to the Father of spirits. Now, in the first moment of such self-surrender, is it not the longing of the mind that he be glorified? Such a longing necessarily takes beyond self. It embraces the desire that the Eternal Name be hallowed, the eternal will be done in earth as it is in heaven, and the eternal kingdom of the Father come; that God be honored in all, and all find their true life in God. The pulse of this longing beats in friendship like that of Mr. Erskine of Linlathen. To his friend, the cold, astute lawyer, Rutherford, Mr. Erskine writes, "I love you. I could die for you to bring you to your true Centre, God." In the love of God, his love for his friend had been quickened and intensified. Yes; when Christ revealed God as our Father, he gave us men as our brethren; when the Spirit of the Son is sent into the heart, the spirit of the brother is formed in the heart. However we may distinguish in speech, in the working of the eternal life, there is no distinction between the love of God and the love of man. Each is implied in the other. They are the two sides of the one grace, the one life—love. And in this we have the solution of the difficulty already referred to. If there is no higher prospect than the neighbor, it is not to be wondered at that persons cry out, "Impossible! where the special links fail, there love must stop." But, observe, when we have gained the second commandment through the first; when the love of the neighbor proceeds out of the love whose first and greatest is God; such links are always at hand; there are interests and sympathies which serve as points of approach to all, to any one. Our love is God's love extending through us. All sorts and conditions of men are within the reach, before the vision, of God's love. Even beneath the hateful we can discern that which, to the Creator who is also the Redeemer, is immeasurably precious.
"… who loves the Lord aright,
No soul of man can worthless find;
All will be precious in his sight,
Since Christ on all hath shined."
We are, then, partners in the Divine interest in man. We clothe the neighbor with this interest. "Thy Father is my Father; my Savior is thy Savior too, and thou art precious in his sight. As he loves, so would I love thee—as myself.'"
II. BUT WHAT OF THE MEASURE, "AS THYSELF"? Let it be answered, "Thyself, after the first and great commandment has been fulfilled in thee—thyself loving the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and soul, and strength, and mind." There is a true self-love, and what the true self-love is is thus defined. Recollect, Christ's phrase is, "as thyself." In his teaching there is no place found for the pretentious altruism which strives
"… to wind itself too high
For mortal man beneath the sky,"
which insists that the love of man shall swallow up, shall annihilate, all self-feeling; that it shall involve the renunciation of all that is individual for the sake of a universal good, of humanity. The teaching of Jesus is too practical, has too keen a sight of" what is in man," for this humanitarianism. He recognizes a love of self as right and natural; but it is the self when truly consecrated to God. "There is no need," says one, "of a heart of supernatural texture in order to the love of our brother. What is needed is only the heart of flesh instead of the heart of stone." Yes; but this heart of flesh is a new heart. It is described in the Scriptures as the gift of God. It is "a heart of supernatural texture"—part of that new ordering of the life which is realized when the wayward will is offered to the consuming fire of God, and the inner man is born from above. See, then, what this pure self-love, which is the measure of love to the neighbor, represents. It represents a power of sacrifice. "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." Not only so; the principle which illustrates the direction of the love of our neighbor exhibits that which is to be sought for in it. He who prays that his self shall be in harmony with God's thoughts and ways, loving his brother with the same love, will discriminate between that which only serves the flesh, and that which tends to promote the righteousness which God reckons the permanent well-being; he will strive against the things in internal life and external condition which hinder this well-being; he will study the ways through which the greatest good may be realized for the neighbor. Thus, given the love of God poured out in the heart, the love of self, instead of separating, unites the man to his world. It is the dynamic of a holy and enlightened philanthropy.
Let the two commandments, then, be kept in the order which our Lord has marked—the first, as the first and greatest; and the second, as the second which is like to the first. Let them, in this order, abide in us; and, though the keeping of them may be to the flesh a cross, possible only through the slaying of that in the flesh which objects, the external nature of the commandments will gradually disappear; from laws outside us they wilt be changed into states of life, each finding its congenial nourishment in the other. The love of God will be fed by the love of the neighbor; the love of the neighbor will be fed by the love of God. So thought, so wrote St. John, in his own profound yet simple manner, "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also."
Christ's sermon in the house of Martha.
A very short sermon, its substance being given us in the two last verses. But it is a sermon whose teaching goes far down into the truth of our hope and faith. Let us trace it, first, in the revelation made in Christ's word of the differences which the heavenly life comprehends; and, secondly, in the counsel with regard to this life which Christ's word conveys.
I. HOW INTERESTING IS THE SKETCH OF THE TWO SISTERS AT BETHANY! They are so lifelike that we feel as if we had seen and known them. And, indeed, we have, because they portray familiar types of character and temper. No person of candour will regard the elder sister as only the embodiment of worldly mindedness in contrast with the younger as the embodiment of spiritual-mindedness. When we look more closely into the narrative, we see the injustice of this view. It is Martha who receives Jesus; it is she who provides for his comfort. If she is bustling and busy, this is only the sign of her devotion. Nor does Jesus say that, in her anxiety about many things, she had lost the one thing needful, and that she had no share in the good part which could not be taken away. He is defending Mary against the temporary petulance of Martha, and, in so doing, he cautions her against the temptations incident to her activity. "Jesus," says St. John, "loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Assume, then, that each of the two has a place in the communion of saints, and see what this place is and wherein each is fulfilled in the other.
1. The usefulness of the Martha character is at once suggested. It hears the impression of the liberal soul who deviseth liberal things, who will take any amount of pains to oblige, who is eager to serve. Honour to those who have the readiness to do, and the knack of business! In such persons there is generally a vast amount of self-denial. You will find them toiling when there might be many excuses for resting. Prompt, energetic, shrewd, they go straight on, their activity being in a high state of development. All honor to the housekeepers! They enable the quiet and thoughtful to think and write. Erasmus and Melancthon can study when Luther and Farel are up and doing; the Leightons can preach for eternity because the Melvilles and Hendersons preach to the time. Your Marys could not sit at Jesus' feet unless the Marthas were going about the house. But the Marys, too, have their place. Busy business people are apt to underrate them. They exhibit something of the elder sister's impatience: "We are left to do all; these dreamers do not help." Not help? It is Mary who sees into the truth of Jesus' sacrifice. It is she who, sitting and listening, divines the joy and the sorrow which meet in the heart of the Lord. By-and-by, when Martha makes a feast, she feels that the hour has come, and she brings the alabaster box of ointment which she has been keeping for the hour. "Against the day of my burying," says Christ, "has she kept this box.., this that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her." The prophetic spirit belongs to the meditative. Martha is the worker, but Mary is the seer.
2. The conclusion, therefore, is, "Let the Marthas and the Marys abide together in peace and mutual self-respect. Let the world of action and the world of letters recognize, each in the other, the balancing, completing half. God has created minds male and female—the active and the contemplative, the communicative and the receptive, the objective and the subjective. The Church of Christ, the progress of humanity, demands both; if the one is the guide, the other is the inspirer, of movement; and, for permanent effect, as well as for the discovery of truth, the Johns outrun the Peters. Let each person ascertain which of the two sides is predominant in him, and seek the balance supplied by the other. Whoso is Martha-like should cultivate the Mary temper. Unless he sit at Jesus' feet, he will be cumbered about the serving. It is not enough to get all right for the Lord; the first thing is to be right with and in the Lord. Whoso is Mary-like should recollect that gymnastic is needful to health; that he must work as well as enjoy quietly. He must not eat all the fat and drink all the sweet. The sitting at Jesus' feet must be with a view to the following in Jesus' steps. The real moral strength is found when this balance is found. So, from the Martha side it was found by St. Paul, who labored more abundantly than all the apostles, yet all the while sat at Jesus' feet. From the Mary side it was found by St. John, who, although the one who leant on Jesus' bosom, was the one named Boanerge—Son of thunder. To serve much, without being cumbered about it, "inquiring in the temple;" to be the thinker, with the liberty of the seat at the Master's feet, and yet the doer of the Word;—this is the beautiful proportion of the heavenly life. This life is love; and love must first see as did Mary; then, but in a sweeter and wholesomer spirit, it can work as did Martha.
II. Consider now THE TRUTH OF THE HEAVENLY LIFE WHICH IS INDICATED IN THE COUNSEL GIVEN BY CHRIST. It is a counsel administered under the twofold form of a caution and a commendation.
1. The finger of caution is pointed to Martha. (Verse 41.) Observe the antithesis—the "many things," the "one thing." The good, kind soul is distracted by a multitude of concerns. Who does not know the worry which comes through the pressure of many littles? May it not be added that there is nothing which more wears the energy out than attention to the details of home-management? The whole sentence of Jesus is most expressive. First, the "careful, or anxious,"—this is the inward fault; and then the "troubled,"—this includes the external, the "restless turning and bustling hither and thither." Is it not eminently characteristic of what we notice in others and sometimes feel in ourselves? And note the mistake. It is not the serving; it is the being "cumbered" about the serving—the serving impeding the movement heavenward, as a heavy garment impedes the one who runs a race. The "many things" run away with both the peace and the strength of the mind. We may not absolutely forget; in a kind of way we recollect; but we cannot really concentrate our attention on the one thing which is needful. "Martha, the feast over which thou art exercised is good in its way. The intention is kind. But this day salvation has come into thy house. There is no need of all these dishes, all this cooking and preparing. But there is need of thine acceptance of the gift of God. If thou knewest that gift, and who it is that speaks to thee, thou wouldst feel that the one thing needful is to ask life of him, to learn what the life is from him, to receive the gift of the life eternal. O Martha-like souls, of every type and shade, 'why do ye spend money on that which is not bread, and your labor on that which satisfieth not'? The heart hearkening for Christ is the one thing, and you cannot have that without an inward collection and repose of spirit, without peace and liberty in God. Why be so greedy of the unneedful? Why pursue it with such impetuous eagerness that there are only odd times, fragments of thought, for that which is needful to health of mind, to the wants and desires of an immortal nature?"
2. The finger of commendation is pointed to Mary. (Verse 42.) "She hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." The good part is a place, a nourishment, and a choice. The place—Jesus' feet. Oh the blessedness of sitting there! When the Gadarenes went out to see what had been done in their country, they saw the man who had devils long time—the devils now departed—"sitting at Jesus' feet, clothed, and in his right mind." To find that place is the sign that the strong one who binds with chains and fetters has been bound by the Stronger One, who has come into the heart. The nourishment—"She heard his word." That is the meat which endures to life everlasting. What cares she for the feast about which Martha is so busy, whose care is—
"Oh, take away whate'er has stood
Between me and the highest good!
I ask no better boon than this—
To find in thee my only bliss"?
The choice—"She has chosen." Behold the way of deliverance from the Martha carefulness and trouble. Choose your portion. Have within you, as the center of your life, a fixed, supreme determination. In this there is force. It keeps a united heart among the competitions of the "many things." The part is good, because it interprets the voice of reason; it expresses the wedding of the actual life to the truth and calling of God. It is good, because it confers a real spiritual independence, so that a man is not mastered by things, but can be the master of things. It is good, because it never can be taken away. Your banquets last for only a short time. The most satisfying food, apart from God, must one day fail and forsake you. Whatever is yours will be taken away. This part alone is you. It is you hidden with Christ in God—hidden where death can obtain no entrance. "He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever... Thou hast made him most blessed for ever: thou hast made him exceedingly glad with thy countenance." It is good, to sum up all, because it is not, as was the part of Martha, a moving about and around Christ, but "a seeking, laying hold of, and enjoying Christ himself." Thus one of the poets of the German Fatherland has sung—
"As Mary once devoutly sought
The eternal truth, the better part,
And sat, enwrapt in holy thought,
At Jesus' feet with burning heart,
For naught else craving, yearning for the word
That should be spoken by her Friend, her Lord,
Losing her all in him, his word believing,
And through the One all things again receiving;
"Even so is.all my heart's desire
Fix'd, dearest Lord, on thee alone.
Oh, make me true and draw me higher,
And make thyself, O Christ. my own
Though many turn aside to join the crowd,
To follow thee in love my heart is vowed.
Thy Word is life and spirit. Whither go?
What joy is there in thee we cannot know?"
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
I. THE LARGENESS OF THE FIELD. "The harvest truly is great." It is not a few human families, or a few small populations; it is not one large nation; it is not even one great continent; it is the entire human race, which Jesus Christ proposed and which he still purposes to redeem—this great human race, with all its nationalities, with all its creeds and all its doubts and denials, with all its pride and all its degradation, with all its profound estrangement from Divine truth and the living God. The harvest is great indeed; the task is tremendous; the victory, if it be gained, will make all other victories sink into utter insignificance; they will be but the small dust in the balance, There is encouragement in the thought of—
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE SEED WHICH IS SOWN. That seed was in course of preparation as Jesus Christ was speaking and working and suffering. It was his whole life; it was, indeed, himself in all his relations with men, in all the aspects in which he could be regarded, whether as Teacher, or Friend, or Exemplar, or Divine Sufferer. This was the seed which should be sown, the fruits of which would be the great harvest of God. "I, if I be lifted up," etc. But, on the other hand, there has to be taken into account—
III. THE CHARACTER OF THE AGENTS at work in the broad field of the world.
1. Their infirmity. They are men; good men, but "the best of men are but men at the best;" all (they should be) renewed by the Spirit of God and fired with the love of Christ and of human souls; but all (they are) "compassed about with infirmity," all bound with limitations of understanding, of character, of wisdom.
2. Their paucity. "The laborers are few"—few in comparison with the agents of evil and the sources of error; few, regarded in their proportion to the multitude on whom they are to act. in this light they are lamentably insufficient. There are great breadths of the field scarcely worked and other vast districts positively untouched. What, then, is—
IV. THE HOPE OF THE FAITHFUL? When we survey the greatness of the harvest and the fewness of the laborers in the field, where does our hope lie? In the providing power of the great Lord of the harvest. He who moves the stars in their spheres can create human souls, can endow them with noble faculties, can inspire them with generous aims, can send them forth on glorious and triumphant missions. We cannot tell the possibilities which are hidden in one great human soul whose heart God has touched, whose hand God has strengthened. One such man may be instrumental in turning a whole tract of barrenness into fertility: what, then, may not a number of such souls accomplish? When the Lord of the harvest speaks the word, great will be the company of the preachers, the number of the laborers. Wherefore let us pray the Father of spirits to put forth his creative power and send mighty workers into his waiting fields.—C.
"The laborer is worthy of his hire." What is it that we deserve? The answer depends entirely on the light in which we regard the question. We may look at it in three aspects.
I. OUR UNWORTHINESS OF ANYTHING. If God were to give to us exactly what we deserve, everything of every kind being taken into account, we should receive nothing more. For, weighing in one scale all that we owe to him for everything he has been to us and wrought for us and bestowed upon us, and in the other scale what response we have made to him in gratitude, love, service, we should "be found wanting," and could claim nothing. We are not worthy the least of all his mercies. All that he gives us is so much beyond our desert.
II. OUR OBLIGATIONS TO ONE ANOTHER. It is well that we do not make these a "matter of account," as tradesmen do with the articles they supply to one another, only paying the balance now and then. For who would decide on which side that balance lay? And of how much beauty and excellence would our daily life be divested! The true and wise course is to make acknowledgment of every kindness received, the warmer gratitude for the greater favor, but some thanks for the least indebtedness, not waiting to consider who is the greater debtor of the two. We are to "owe no man anything" only in the sense that we are to be ever paying and therefore ever cancelling our debts. But we are to be constantly indebted to one another. Poor and small indeed would that human life be which did not owe much to the service of others. What we are to seek after is not a life without obligation, but a life in which we are very freely placing our neighbors in our debt by the kindness we show them, and in which we are making very free acknowledgment of all that we owe to the love and the service we receive. Every laborer should receive his hire, his duo reward, and among others the Christian workman should be rightly recompensed.
1. It is a matter of righteousness, as between man and man; faithful service should have its meet reward; and this reward should be in
(1) affectionate honor, and
(2) substantial, material support.
2. When rightly rendered, the reward received will be an incentive to fuller labor and more energetic service.
3. The payment of the reward will react beneficially on him that pays it—he will appreciate more highly the ministry he receives.
III. GOD'S GRACIOUS AND GENEROUS OFFER. Though (as said) we can claim nothing from God as our right, yet he is pleased to offer us much. Our Lord has told us
(1) that the humblest service, done in a true and loyal spirit, shall certainly be rewarded (Matthew 10:41, Matthew 10:42); and
(2) that the reward we shall hereafter receive will be in proportion to the fidelity of our service here (Luke 19:16-42.19.19). Our tone and spirit will be that of men who are not conscious of deserving anything (Matthew 25:37). But his spirit and action will be that of a magnanimous Master, and he will make the most of all that we have done (Matthew 25:40), and count us worthy of a large reward.—C.
Guilt and punishment.
These very solemn words of our Lord demand our attention the more, because his thought is so fully illustrated. They suggest or convey to us three truths.
I. THAT GREAT INIQUITY MAY LOOK FOR SIGNAL PUNISHMENT AT THE HAND OF GOD. Jesus does not intimate that Tyre and Sidon suffered any more than they deserved, that Sodom had a retribution which was in the smallest degree out of proportion to its guilt. These cities deserved their doom; they sowed the wind, and reaped the whirlwind. That which happened to them was exactly what they might have expected; and it is just what such cities as they were may always look for. It does not require a desolating army or a miraculous storm to bring disastrous evil upon the head of shameful wrong. Without such particular instruments as these, the blow which slays and buries will certainly descend. If destruction comes not on the wings of one wind, it will come on those of another; whether we think of the vicious city or the profligate man, we may be sure that great guilt will, sooner or later, work out the downfall and extinction of the evil-doer. By human history and the record of the lives of men, as well as by the sacred page, "the wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness of men;" they cannot and will not "escape the judgment of God."
II. THAT NEITHER SWIFTNESS NOR APPARENT SEVERITY IN PUNISHMENT IS A SURE CRITERION OF THE MAGNITUDE OF THE CRIME. Destruction had come down suddenly and terribly on Sodom; Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida were still existing, and were still rejoicing in outward prosperity. Was the ancient city so much guiltier in God's sight than the (then) modern towns of Galilee? No, replied the great Teacher. Had these ruined cities of a former age enjoyed such privileges as the citizens of his own time were possessing but neglecting, they would have repented and would have been spared. We must take care how we argue from sudden and severe evils to the relative guiltiness of the sufferers. These evils may clearly indicate wrong; they may (though in some cases they do not) indicate very great wrong-doing; but they do not prove that those on whom they descend are more guilty than others who are spared.
1. God may think well, in one case, to manifest his holiness by severe visitation, and in another case to illustrate his patience by delaying long the stroke of justice.
2. God may punish one city (or man) by physical and visible inflictions; he may chastise another by letting his moral laws do their appointed work, and bring down the men themselves to that low spiritual estate which is the saddest and direst consequence of sin.
III. THAT PRIVILEGE IS VERY PRECIOUS, BUT IT IS ALSO VERY PERILOUS. Capernaum was "exalted to heaven," raised very high indeed in privilege. There the Son of God abode; there he wrought his mightiest works; there he lived his holy, patient, loving life; there he spake his deep, broad, ever-living truths; there God was manifested in power and grace. It was favored above all cities in the height of its spiritual privileges. But it knew not the day of its visitation; it drew not nigh in reverence to its Lord; it rejected his doctrine; it remained afar off from God and heavenly wisdom. And it incurred thereby the Savior's strong condemnation; it accumulated guilt, and laid up for itself wrath against the day of wrath; it was "thrust down to hell" in reproach and retribution. We learn, more particularly:
1. That humility of spirit, rather than reproachfulness of tone, becomes us.
2. That the children of special privilege have great reason for devout heart-searching, lest they should find themselves the heirs of Divine condemnation.—C.
The largeness of our life.
Jesus Christ is sending his disciples, two and two, to prepare his way; it is certain that by some towns and villages they will be well received, and equally certain that by others they will be repelled. He tells them that those who received them would be doing more and better than barely receiving them,—they would be entertaining him; but those who rejected them would do more and worse than repulsing them,—they would be despising him, nay, even the Father himself. That there is more in our acts, and so in our lives, than appears on the surface was a frequent doctrine of our Lord. In his first sermon he intimated that those who cherished a causeless anger or spoke a contemptuous word against their brethren were guilty of a very serious offense in the sight of God; and so also they who imagined themselves chargeable with nothing more than a hasty word (see Matthew 5:22, Matthew 5:34-40.5.36). He told his disciples that that "poor widow" was making a very much larger offering than the rest—a much greater one, we may be sure, than she herself suspected (Luke 21:1-42.21.4; see also Luke 23:34). Christ saw more in men's actions, both for good and evil, than they saw themselves at the time. It is the wisdom of the wise to recognize much in words and deeds, in decisions and in actions, which seem small to those that do them. Our human life is larger than we think as we live it; its several actions have more seriousness in the sight of God, and from our life greater issues will proceed than any we can estimate. This main underlying principle will apply to—
I. THE MESSENGERS AND THE MESSAGES THAT COME TO US FROM JESUS CHRIST. There may come to speak to us concerning the habits or the purpose of our life, or the character we are forming, or the good we are doing or leaving undone, or the prospects that are before us, some messenger that appears in very humble form, not delegated by any high authority, not sustained by any learning, not armed with any eloquence; there may be nothing more about the outward spokesman than a plain or even a blunt man, nothing better about the form of the message than a periodical which has no worth in the market at all; and yet the message which comes through that very common, through that vulgar medium, may come from above, may come from Christ himself, to warn or to arrest us, to lead us out of the dark shadows we were entering, into the path of life. And in repelling that message we should be rejecting the very truth of God; in accepting and heeding it we should be welcoming our Lord himself, and taking his Divine influences into our soul. This principle of the greater value and seriousness of our life finds an illustration in—
II. THE STUDIES OF YOUNGER DAYS. They who have to go through the daily task in the school or home see nothing more in their work than the laborious gratification of their teacher. But there is much more in it than that. There is obedience to parents; there is the consequent pleasing of God, and the reward of filial behavior; there is the serving and honoring of Jesus Christ by diligence and dutifulness, by doing the right thing as in his presence and as unto him; there is the mental and moral growth which prepares for an honorable and useful manhood. Life at home or at school, in our earlier days, is really a larger thing, with larger and greater issues, than it seems to be at the time. The same is true of—.
III. STRUGGLES FOR HONOURABLE MAINTENANCE. The Christian man who thinks he is doing nothing more than "paying his way," is or may be doing a very great deal more than that. He is illustrating in his sphere the very principles which the Lord himself taught and lived when he was here; he is translating godliness, Christliness, into busy human life; he is preparing for some broader sphere in that higher kingdom where, if not before, he that has been found faithful in that which is least will be proved to be faithful in much. We not only speak in the spirit and strain of our Lord's words, but we pursue the same subject when we refer to—
IV. ENDEAVOURS TO SERVE OUR FELLOW-MEN; and this, whether in the way of common philanthropy, or of distinctively religious service. Do we ask of those whom we find in the school, or the mission-room, or the church, "What are you doing here?" And do they reply, "We are only teaching some children, only feeding some poor people, only trying to gather some wanderers into the fold"? Then shall we reply to them, and say, "Nay, but you are doing much more than that: you are serving them; and you are rendering the very highest service you can to yourselves, for you are sowing seed of which you shall one day reap a glorious harvest of joy and power; and you are also serving your Savior, and that in a way in which he most delights to be served. He is saying to you, 'If you had eyes to see, you would recognize me in those pinched faces and ill-clad forms; if you had ears to hear, you would recognize my voice in those plaintive tones; it is my need that you are supplying, it is my heart that you are gladdening: inasmuch as you are carrying succor, strength, hope, life, to one of the least of these, you are doing it unto me.'"—C.
When Jesus said, "Rejoice not,… but rather rejoice," he did not mean to condemn the satisfaction which the seventy were expressing in their triumph ever the evil spirits. There was nothing wrong in such gratification. To exercise power, especially a newly acquired power, and more especially a power that is possessed by few,—this is simply natural; and to rejoice in the exercise of beneficent power is not only not wrong, but is distinctly and positively right and worthy. But there are other sources of joy that are more excellent; it is a question of the relatively rather than the absolutely good. We conclude from our Master's words—
I. THAT IT IS BETTER TO BUILD ON CHARACTER THAN ON CIRCUMSTANCE. This was a very pleasing incident in the life of the seventy; they would always look back to it with pleasure, and speak of it with interest to themselves and others. But it was only an incident. It was decisive of nothing. It did not determine their future course, their final destiny. They might, have done what they did and yet have gone downward and reached an evil end. To have "their names written in heaven" meant to be right at heart, to be reconciled to God, to be loyal citizens of the spiritual and heavenly kingdom, to be sound and true within. It is this which is to be desired and to be sought and to be built upon. Life may have a large number of interesting episodes, of gratifying circumstances, and may yet be a miserable failure, may have to be looked back upon with pain and shame. To be right with God, to have "truth in the inward parts," to be such a one on earth as that those who live in heaven will recognize us as their kindred,—that is the thing to be concerned about, that is the goal to be gained at all costs, the true source of human joy.
II. THAT IT IS BETTER TO ENJOY THE ABIDING FAVOUR OF GOD THAN THE SHORT-LIVED THANKS OF MAN. Doubtless one part of the satisfaction which the seventy enjoyed was the gratitude they received from those whom they relieved; but better than human gratitude is the favor of the living God. The thankfulness of a sensitive and responsive human soul is by no means to be despised or disregarded, but it is a very precarious basis of human happiness. It is sometimes denied where it is most due; it is sometimes very slight and transient when it should be deep and lasting. But God's favor abides. "Having loved his own, he loves them to the end;" "In his favor is life." If we are upheld in our integrity, and God sets us before his face for ever (Psalms 41:12), we can afford to part with other things.
"Better to walk the realm unseen
Than to watch the hour's event
Better the smile of God always
Than the voice of man's consent."
III. THAT IT IS BETTER TO EXERT A LASTING INFLUENCE FOR GOOD UPON THE SOUL THAN TO CONFER A TEMPORARY GOOD UPON THE BODY. The bodily service rendered by the seventy was great as far as it went and so long as it lasted. But the eyes then and by their means opened, and the ears then unstopped, were soon closed again in death; and the feet then made to walk were soon motionless in the grave. But to have their names written in heaven, and to be thus prepared to enlighten the minds and to quicken the souls of men, was to be in a position to render lasting, even everlasting good; that was to confer immeasurable benefit on those whom they sought to bless.
1. Are our names written in that book of life?
2. Are we appreciating its inestimable value?
3. Are we making use of the qualifications it implies to serve our fellow-men in the highest ways?—C.
The gladness of gratitude, etc.
Our thought is directed to—
I. THE GLADNESS OF GRATITUDE. "Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father." Joy and thankfulness are here united, as indeed they are everywhere. It is gratitude that holds the key to happiness of heart and life. Who are the miserable? Not the poor; they are often the most contented. Not the afflicted; they are often very cheerful under great privation. Not the lonely; they are found happy in their solitude, conversing with the departed great or communing with the Highest. It is the ungrateful who are the unhappy; it is they who take every kindness shown them by their fellow-men in a spirit of surliness, as if they deserved more than they have received; it is they who accept innumerable mercies and the "unspeakable Gift" at the hand of God without response, unmindful of the one, unappreciative of and ungrateful for the other. Who are the happy? Not the rich because they are rich; not the strong because they are strong; not those who have many friends because they have them. These may be burdened, wearied, wretched, and their life be darkly shadowed. It is the grateful who are the happy souls; it is they who receive with appreciation and thankfulness whatever man may give them, whether of love, of confidence, of sympathy, of practical help; it is they who have a deep sense of the kindness of the heavenly Father, and of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The heart that is full of gratitude is the heart that is full of joy; and such joy is both pure and lasting.
II. THE HERITAGE OF THE HUMBLE-HEARTED. "Thou hast hid these things from the wise,… and revealed them unto babes."
1. In our Lord's time the scribes and lawyers "rejected the counsel of God;" they refused the wisdom of the Wisest; and the supercilious Sadducees stood aloof from the kingdom of Divine truth, from the kingdom of God. The "wise and prudent" were too haughty of heart to part with their beloved prejudices and to welcome the new truth which the great Teacher brought them. But the "common people heard him gladly;" all "the people" were "very attentive to hear him." The fishermen of Galilee left their nets and their ships to follow him.
2. In the time of the apostles the same results were found (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-46.1.28).
3. In our own time we find that they who have gathered together a little human learning are apt to think that they are competent to solve, unaided, all the great problems of their being and their destiny, and they close the gates of their mind against the great verities of the Christian faith. But they who know how little they have grasped of all that is to be acquired, and who stand as "babes," as very little children, before the Divine Father, are ready to welcome to their souls all that he is ready to reveal to them, and theirs is the blessed heritage of spiritual truth, of heavenly wisdom, of eternal life.
III. THE REFUGE OF THE PERPLEXED. "Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight." We have our perplexities now, and they, may weigh upon our spirit with crushing power. We cannot understand God's doings or his inaction in the wide human world, or in the Church of Christ, or in the more limited sphere where our own interests and efforts lie. The more we think the more we are assured that we are baffled and beaten. The various solutions proposed do not reach the heart of the difficulty. What, then, can we do? Just retreat to that safe refuge—the strong, immovable assurance that all things are in the hands, and are subject to the guidance, of a holy, wise, loving Father.—C.
Luke 10:23, Luke 10:24
Apostolic advantage and disadvantage.
Our Lord compares the position of his apostles with that of the great and enviable of past times. We may follow his thought and may also pursue the same line of comparison in our own times. We look at their position—
I. As RELATED TO DISTINGUISHED MEN BEFORE THE ADVENT.
1. It was one of some disadvantage; they were men in a very much humbler position than many of the great in past days. Great kings had lived in a social state and with pleasant surroundings to which they could lay no claim; in society they were nowhere; of this world's luxuries and trappings they had nothing. Moreover, they were in a much less powerful position than some of the great men that had gone. Prophets had made or unmade kings; or they had delivered laws or changed customs, materially affecting the civil, social, moral, and religious life of the nation; witness Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Nehemiah, John. The apostles of our Lord were not doing anything of this kind when he spoke to them; they had done very little of a public character thus far; their influence had not been felt in the life of their countrymen.
2. It was one of glorious advantage in one respect. They had the most distinguished honor of being the personal attendants upon the Messiah himself. They not only saw his face and heard his words, but they ministered to his wants; they rendered him service; and, by rendering him service, they contributed largely and importantly to the well-being of all later generations.
3. It was one of greater honor than they themselves supposed; for he at whose feet they sat and of whose truth they drank was One very much higher than they imagined even their Messiah would be; and he wrought a greater good for a larger world than they conceived it possible even for the Anointed of God to work.
II. AS RELATED TO OURSELVES.
1. Their position was one of supreme privilege in one great particular—they attended upon and they served Jesus Christ himself, in his own Person. That was an honor which stands by itself; it is unique; of its kind it is unapproachable. Let any disciple of the later time reach any imaginable position; he must feel that in actually ministering to our Lord, supplying his necessities, being sympathetically as well as bodily present "with him in his trials," helping him in his supreme and critical work, the apostles of our Lord stand pre-eminent.
2. And in being the first to publish the gospel after our Lord's ascension they also stand in the very front rank.
3. It was also a very distinct advantage to receive Christian truth direct, without intervening media, with nothing to subtract from it or to add to it; they had truth at the fountain source, uncorrupted by the channels through which it passed.
4. But they were subject to some disadvantage also.
(1) Jesus Christ was not, in his Divine Person, so fully revealed to them as he has been to us; that would have made free and full fellowship utterly impossible.
(2) His doctrine was not as complete at the time of our text as it afterwards became; for his death, resurrection, and ascension constitute a very large part of Christian truth.
(3) They had not the advantage of Christian experience we possess. All the thoughts of wise Christian thinkers during many centuries; all the recorded experience of multitudes of Christian lives; all the moral and spiritual workings and triumphs of Christian truth and principle under many skies and through many ages;—these are ours as they were not theirs. Our privilege, even as compared with theirs, is very great indeed. Perchance our Lord would tell us, if he spake to us to-day, that it is as great as theirs, and that our responsibility answers to our privilege.—C.
Our love of God.
It is the glory of the gospel that it has made common to the multitude of mankind that which was once dimly seen by a few solitary men; that it has put into the mouth of the little child that which once was stammeringly spoken by a few philosophers; that the truths which once were only found upon the summit by a few hardy climbers are the fruits which are now gathered by thousands as they walk the King's highway, Here is one of these—the duty, binding on us all, of loving God.
1. If to those Greeks who came to see Jesus (John 12:20), he had said that the greatest obligation, or, as they would have put it, the most fitting thing, was for man to love God, they would have been amazed. They would have been prepared to render services and sacrifices to their deities, but to love God with all the heart was beyond their most active imagination.
2. If Christ had uttered this truth to the Roman procurator before whom he appeared, he would have been equally astonished.
3. This truth was far in advance of the Jew, as well as of the Greek and the Roman. It is true that it was to be found in his Law (see Deuteronomy 6:4, Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 30:20). But it was not in his mind, in his heart, in his cherished convictions, in his life. He "tithed mint and rue and all manner of herbs, but passed over … the love of God" (Luke 11:42). Even the worthies of Old Testament times were men who were more constantly and profoundly affected by the sentiment of holy fear than fervent love. "I fear God," rather than "I love God," was the summary of their religious character. How do we account for this?
I. THE JEW HAD REVERENCE ENOUGH FOR GOD TO BE ABLE TO LOVE HIM. The Roman, the Greek, had not. We must respect those whom we love, and the beings they worshipped could not be respected; they were unworthy of regard. Not so he whom the Jew worshipped. He was the Just, the Righteous, the Faithful, the Holy One. The Jew honored, he revered, God enough to be able to love him.
II. HE HAD A VERY CONSIDERABLE KNOWLEDGE OF THE GRACE AND MERCY OF GOD. For we find in Old Testament Scripture passages affirming the kindness, the pity, the patience, the mercy, of God, well worthy to be placed by the side of any we find in the New (Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7; Psalms 103:8-19.103.14; Psalms 145:8, Psalms 145:9; Micah 7:18, etc.). It was surely possible for him to let reverence ascend to love.
III. TO SOME EXTENT THE JEW DID LOVE GOD. Abraham was "his friend." David could exclaim, "Oh, love the Lord, all ye his saints!" "I love the Lord, because," etc. Yet it was not love but fear that was the central, commanding, regulating element of his inner life. This need not surprise us when we consider—
IV. THE JEW DID NOT KNOW GOD AS REVEALED IN JESUS CHRIST.
1. He had not heard Jesus speaking of the Divine Father hating sin but pitying and yearning over the sinner, determining at his own great cost to redeem him, as we have done.
2. He had not witnessed the Savior's life as we have followed it; had not seen the Father's character and spirit reflected in that of the Son, with his tender affection, his inexhaustible patience, his matchless condescension, his generous forgiveness.
3. He did not know the story and the meaning of his death; had not had, like us, a vision of the love of God paying that great price for our redemption, bearing that burden on our behalf, pouring itself out in pain and shame and sorrow for our sake. It is at Calvary, far more than elsewhere, that we learn the blessed secret of the love of God—his love for us, our love for him. We learn:
(1) That to love God is the highest heritage of our manhood. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he;" as we think, we are; a man is great or small, noble or ignoble, according as he thinks and feels; the height of our love is the stature of our soul, is the measure of ourselves. God invites us to love him, the Highest One, and by so doing he immeasurably enriches and ennobles us. If he filled our house with gold he would only give us something pleasant to have; but in inviting us to love him he confers on us that which is blessed and noble to be.
(2) That not to have loved God is the most condemning fact of our lives. Do we say," All these [prohibitions] have we kept from our youth up: what commandment have we broken?" We reply, "The first and great commandment. Have you loved God with all your heart?" We may well bow our head in shame as we realize the poor and pitiful response we have made to the Fatherly love of God.
(3) That the fact that we can at once return to God, in filial devotion, is the best of all glad tidings. Our return to him begins in humility, goes on in faith, is completed and perfected in love.
(4) That the fact that we shall continue to love God is the brightest of all good prospects. Other things will fail us sooner or later, but "the love of God which is in Jesus Christ" in our hearts will take us everywhere, will be our refuge and defense in all emergencies, will sanctify our joy and our prosperity, will be with us at the last scenes, will cross the river with us and will be with us and in us on the other side, will be our passport to and our qualification for the brightest and broadest spheres in the heavenly kingdom.—C.
Who is our neighbor?
This was a very pertinent question, by whatsoever motive prompted. None better could possibly have been asked, for it drew forth Christ's own interpretation of his own Law. And, like the Jews of his time, we are in no little danger of limiting the Divine thought. "Who is our neighbor?"—in our thought, in our feeling and practice? Who are those we feel bound to love and help? Our kindred, those of our fellow-citizens from whom we want the interchange of civilities, our countrymen,—do we draw the line there? If so, we "have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ" in this matter; we are falling out of rank as his disciples. There is nothing especially Christian about the affection we feel or the kindness we show to these. Going thus far, we go no further than pagans have gone before us. We must transcend this if we are to be worthy of the name we bear. In order to be that, we must find our neighbor everywhere and in every one, but more especially in the man who has need of us. The Christian conception of "our neighbor"—
I. OVERSTEPS THE LIMIT OF RACE. It is painful to think that men have been taught to look upon those who inhabit other lands with positive enmity, so much so that even Cicero could say that the natural relation of neighboring nations was that of enmity; that whole peoples (like the Greeks and the Chinese) should treat the outer world as "barbarians" to be despised and avoided. It is foolish and illogical enough, but it has been all too common. Nothing but the prevalence of Christian principle and the permeating force of the Christian spirit will avail to lead us to love those beyond our borders, without the pale of our own civilization.
II. REMOVES THE LIMIT OF SPACE. The simple and common notion of a neighbor is that of one locally near to us. But that idea, under Christ, has been very greatly enlarged. But is true that, since he spoke, we have seemed to be further off, in space, from one another. For those to whom he spoke had no notion of the width of the world, no idea that there were fellow-men living twelve thousand miles away from them.
2. But it is also true that, since he spoke, we have been brought near to one another.
(1) Christian civilization has given us an intimate knowledge of one another, so that we know more of what is happening in India than the "dwellers in Jerusalem" knew then of the events occurring in Nazareth; and
(2) Christian zeal has made possible to us a genuine sympathy and a practical kindness. We can, by rutting a coin in a plate, help to send the light of Divine truth to men of every color, in every latitude and longitude of the habitable globe. Who is our neighbor? All men beneath all skies, and it is open to us all to do something to help the wounded pilgrim on life's highway, even in remotest lands, to health and joy and life.
III. TRANSCENDS THE LIMIT OF CHARACTER. If that lawyer had answered his own question, it is certain that he would have given a reply which would have excluded the ungodly and the immoral. But in Christ's view the neighbor we should commiserate and rescue is not only the poor traveler who has fallen among thieves, but the erring soul who has lost his way in the search of truth, and that pitiable one who has fallen into the mire of guilt and shame; those who have been smitten by the worst of all strokes, and have descended into the darkest of all shadows. Our neighbor, in the view of our Lord, is not the man who is up and who can assist us on our way, but he that is down and whom we can help to rise; he is the man who is most in need of our sympathy and our succor; he is the man who has a bruised and bleeding heart that patient, sacrificial love alone can heal. If we will go to him and help and bless him, and make ourselves "neighbor unto" him, we shall thus "fulfill the law of Christ;" and we shall thus be not only "keeping his commandment," but living his life.—C.
Christ at Bethany.
There are few places at which we so much like to think of our Lord's presence as Bethany. We like to think that there the Son of man, who had not where to lay his head, did find a home; that there, away from the conspiracies of those who hated him, he found a refuge with those who loved him. We like to think that there he found a diligent disciple in one sister, and an assiduous and eager ministrant in the other. We must carefully consider—
I. THE COMPARISON WHICH OUR LORD WAS MAKING. (Luke 10:42.) For it was comparison, not a contrast—a comparison between the choice that was good but was not the best, and the choice that was the good one. It was not a contrast between the absolutely bad and the positively good; it was a comparison between the good that was insufficient and the good that sufficed. There are those who choose the positively bad—pleasures which are unlawful, profits which are dishonest, a life that is ungodly. Christ condemns this elsewhere; but here (in the text) he is condemning another thing. He condemns the too-absorbing pursuit of that which is not supreme, which is good only up to a certain point, and beyond that is powerless. Christ was comparing the woman who was absorbed in doing a right but an inferior thing with her sister who was intent on the highest and best of all.
II. THE INFERENCE HE WAS DRAWING. That many good things, however many they may be, do not constitute the good thing, and that they will disappear and disappoint. Health, home comforts, worldly position, literary delights, art,—these are good in their measure; but they will not together make up our human requirement; they are not "the bread of life" and "the water of life;" they do not satisty, and they will not last; sooner or later they break down and leave us portionless and hopeless.
III. THE POINT WHICH HE WAS PRESSING. There is one thing which is so surpassingly excellent that it may be considered the one good thing—that good part which shall not be taken away." To Mary this was Divine truth as it came to her in the Person and in the words of Jesus Christ. And to us it is also heavenly wisdom, as we gain it direct from our Divine Lord. She drank in that immortal truth as she "sat at his fact, and heard his word." We also receive it into our hearts as we "go unto him" and "learn of him," as we follow him, and as we abide in him. Of him we learn the way to God, the way to the light and the peace and the life which are in him. From him we gain forgiveness, friendship, purity, usefulness, a hope that does not make ashamed. This is the "good part," the intrinsically precious, the invaluable thing, of which no figures can indicate the worth; it is the good part which can never be lost. For there is no power on earth that can touch it to harm it. Disease will not waste it, fire will not consume it, force will not crush it, fraud will not steal it, time will not enfeeble it, death will not destroy it, the grave will not hold it. It lives ever and outlives everything which the eyes can see, on which the hand can rest. This is the one thing which is above high-water mark; all other, all earthly good things will be washed away by the incoming tide; but this portion, this heritage, no wave will reach in the mightiest storm. This is the "part" to choose.
1. We all can choose it. God is opening his hand to offer it; we can open ours to take it if we will; our destiny is in our choice.
2. We must choose it. If we fail to do so, we shall not only shut ourselves out from all that is most worth having and being, but we shall shut ourselves in to loss, to shame, to death.—C.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The mission of the seventy.
Jesus, as we have seen, is now going up on his last journey to Jerusalem, and he is anxious that the places he is to visit for the last time, and some possibly for the first as well as last, should be ready to receive him. On this account he organizes the mission of the seventy in addition to that of the twelve already noticed. They are to be forerunners, going to announce his advent in the different cities and villages. Let us study the mission as here presented to us. And—
I. THEY ARE TO GO FORTH IN A SPIRIT OF PRAYER FOR ADDITIONAL LABOURERS. (Luke 10:2.) The desire in the world to limit and regulate the number of laborers, to keep up wages, is to have no counterpart in the Church of Christ. The needs of men are so great, the harvest of souls is so enormous, that as many reapers as can possibly be equipped are needed and should be prayed for. Narrow-mindedness and jealousy are, therefore, out of place in Christian work. Those already laboring for God are to be the chief intercessors for more workers, and it is the inspiration of God which can alone fit men for such work.
II. THEY ARE TO GO FORTH PREPARED FOR OPPOSITION EVEN UNTO DEATH. (Luke 10:3.) It seems at first a foolish policy to send lambs among wolves. Will they not be torn to pieces instantly? Is it not to court defeat and failure? But it so happens that it is the manifestation of a meek and lamblike spirit among ravenous and wolfish men which wins the battle for Christ and conquers the world. Were it not for such exhibitions of meekness the world would never be won. Hence the martyr-spirit is the safety of the Church.
III. THEY ARE TO DEPEND UPON THE PEOPLE FOR SUPPORT. (Luke 10:4-42.10.8.) Some of the seventy, like some of the twelve, might have taken some provision or money with them. They were not all absolutely poor. The Lord himself might have brought from heaven or furnished miraculously all that he needed during his ministry on earth, but he preferred to depend upon his Father in heaven, and to accept of the loving ministrations of his friends on earth. The same rule he prescribes for his servants. They are to receive their support from those among whom they labor. And in the reception of support, they are to be content with whatever hospitality comes first. Peacefully are they to dwell in the house of their host, and they are not to be choosing some better hospitality and showing a mean and worldly spirit.
IV. THEY ARE TO GIVE THEMSELVES UNRESERVEDLY TO THE KING'S BUSINESS. (Vet. 4.) The instruction, "Salute no man by the way," does not advise any discourtesy, but as the Eastern salaams are protracted pieces of etiquette, they are to show so clearly that their "King's business requireth haste," that such cumbrous formalities must be dispensed with. It is a great thing gained if the Lord's servants are so concentrated upon their work that nothing is allowed in the least degree to interfere with it. God's work must be paramount.
V. THEY ARE TO HEAL THE SICK AND ANNOUNCE THE KINGDOM. (Luke 10:9.) It is the advent of salvation to these cities and villages of Palestine; hence the healing of the sick is performed as a sign of the higher salvation which is included in the coming of the kingdom. Physical miracles are spiritual signs. The health of the soul is to follow that of the body, if the people will only trust the King. The delegated miraculous power is the sign and announcement of coming spiritual power and salvation.
VI. THE PENALTIES ATTACHED TO THE REJECTION OF THESE AMBASSADORS. (Luke 10:10-42.10.16.) The Lord directs them, as in the case of the twelve, to simply shake off the dust of their feet against them. This was the sign of separation complete and final. But he indicates that in the judgment it shall be more tolerable for such cities as Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon, than for the cities which reject them. Now, the doom of Sodom and of Tyre was terrible. In the one case God destroyed the cities of the plain by fire; in the other case by siege and bombardment. But for Sodom and for Tyre—meaning, of course, for their inhabitants—there yet remains a judgment in the great day. Yet their sin, though heinous, was not so great as that of rejecting Jesus and his ambassadors. Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum will experience a deeper doom than even Tyre and Sodom, because they repented not. The solemn position of an ambassador of Christ cannot be over-estimated. To speak for Christ, in his Name, in some way worthy of him, is surely a great commission. What an altitude in ministration should we reach before we can conscientiously adopt the attitude of the apostles! £
VII. THE JOY OF THE SEVENTY AT THEIR SUCCESS. (Luke 10:17.) They delighted in the thought that the devils had become subject unto them through the Name of Jesus. How natural it is to rejoice in the success the Lord grants! But as Jesus here shows, it is dangerous. While assuring them of triumph over Satan and all the power of the enemy, he also would have them to rejoice rather in this, that their names are written in heaven. The meaning of this seems to be that they should rejoice in what the Lord has done for them rather than what they have done for the Lord. In the one case, they are liable to be puffed up and to think highly of themselves; in the other case, they are kept in wholesome humility. Let the Lord's work and the Lord's part of the works, rather than ours, be the source of our spiritual joy.
VIII. THE JOY OF JESUS ABOUT THE ARRANGEMENTS OF HIS KINGDOM. (Luke 10:21-42.10.24.) While Jesus advised them to rejoice in God's salvation of them, he himself proceeds to rejoice in their successful work. His reason for this was:
1. That it put to confusion the wise and prudent, through the revelation being made to babes. Those who are proud and self-confident miss the meaning of the gospel and the kingdom, while those who are babelike in their docility get an apprehension of both.
2. It is in virtue of his mediatorial commission. The Father has committed all things to Jesus, and he proceeds, as Son, to reveal the Father to whomsoever he will. Without such a revelation we should never know the Father.
3. Christ's joy is also because of the distinguished privileges enjoyed by the disciples. Many prophets and kings desired to see such things as they saw, but the prophets and kings had been passed by, and these weak ones selected. Hence it is that Jesus rejoices in such God-glorifying arrangements. The more humble we are in heart, the fuller shall be the revelation which God will make to us through Jesus Christ £—R.M.E.
The good Samaritan, and the good part.
From the success of the seventy we now pass to the temptation of the Master. The tempter is a lawyer, one who, therefore, professed special acquaintance with the letter and spirit of the Divine Law. He thinks he may find accusation against Jesus by inquiring from him the way of life. His question implies the belief on the lawyer's part that he can win his own way to heaven. But Jesus, when he asks, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" puts it to himself to answer, eliciting from the lawyer the reply, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," etc. Jesus then drives home the arrow of conviction by saying, "Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live." The lawyer, if he will only analyze his life fairly, must admit that he has failed to fulfill the Law. This suggests—
I. THE EXPERIENCE OF CHRIST IN FULFILLING THE LAW. When our Lord said to 'the lawyer, "This do, and thou shalt live," he was giving forth his own experience. He was himself loving God with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his strength, and all his mind; he was also loving his neighbor as himself; and he found and felt that this was life, and life everlasting too. Doubtless he might have to die, but beyond death there was the compensation of resurrection. He was entitled to life on the ground of law, since he had kept it in every particular. What the lawyer imagined he could do, Jesus had actually done. He had acquired the right, not on his own behalf merely, but also on behalf of all who trust in him, to the life everlasting. The obedience of Jesus to Law was the perfect obedience required.
II. THE ATTEMPT AT SELF-JUSTIFICATION ON THE LAWYER'S PART. He seems to have thought that his attitude to God was unimpeachable; but he was not so clear about having fulfilled his duty by his neighbor. Hence he asked Jesus to define "neighborhood." The Jew had the notion that, because he belonged to the chosen people, he had to show neighbourliness only to those of his own nation; all the rest were "dogs." And this lawyer had been as proud and as contemptuous as any of his tribe. Hence he wants from Jesus some definition of who his neighbor is, that he may estimate his own duty and the patriotism of Christ. The excuses in which selfish men indulge are marvellous. They are ready on any pretext to defend their selfishness.
III. JESUS DEFINES "NEIGHBOURHOOD" BY THE PRECIOUS PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN, And here we have four characters brought before us. Let us look at them in order.
1. The half-murdered traveler. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho has been from time immemorial infested by robbers. It is so still. This poor traveler has met the cruel fate of many before and since Christ's time. The highwaymen have robbed him of all he had, and almost of his life too. It is a case of unmistakable need. There is no possibility of deception in the circumstances.
2. The heartless priest. Coming down from the holy services at the temple, he so far forgets himself as to ignore the half-murdered man's wants, and pass by on the other side. The aristocratism of office has steeled his heart against those charitable impulses which the case should have evoked.
3. The heartless Levite. The sole difference between these two officials was that the Levite seems to have crossed the road, to have looked upon him, and then, judging it a hopeless case, or one in which he could render no help, passed by, like the priest, on the other side.
4. The good Samaritan. This man might have said, "This poor fellow is one of those Jews, who wilt have no dealings with us Samaritans; he has often, most likely, called us dogs; he deserves no care." But instead of looking for excuses for neglecting the sufferer, he gives his heart free play, and owns the poor man as a brother in distress. The result is he dismounts, and pours into his wounds oil and wine—the best remedies, the one to keep down inflammation, and the other to heal; and, having carefully bound up his wounds, he sets him on his own beast and brings him to the nearest inn and has him comfortably lodged. The next day he pays the bill, and becomes the innkeeper's security for anything more the patient may require until he is sound and well. Here is neighbourliness. Our neighbor is whoever is laid in our path by Providence and really needs our help. If we look carefully into the case, as the Samaritan here did, and conclude that it is a case of real need, then we should recognize in the needy one our neighbor, and have mercy on him. As Jesus dismisses the lawyer with this ideal neighbourliness before him, the self-justification must have passed completely away. £ Now, we have here the cosmopolitan spirit which Christianity fosters, and which is above and beyond the fellow-citizenship and patriotism which alone earlier civilizations fostered. Christ taught his people to be "citizens of the world," and to recognize in every needy human being a" man and a brother." It was in this spirit our Lord himself lived, and so he was able to inculcate it powerfully upon his people.
IV. THE GOOD PART AS DEFINED AT BETHANY. (Luke 10:35-42.10.42.) And here we have to notice the two types of character presented to the Lord.
1. Martha, to whom life is a perpetual worry and weariness. She was a Christian in the real sense, for she loved her Lord; but she was a Christian who had not escaped from the fuss and weariness which make up the life of so many. Besides, all her bustle was really under a false impression, that the greatest compliment she could pay her Master was to give him a good physical feast. She never fancied that a good listener like Mary complimented the Master more than any repast could. Hence Martha's fret and weariness.
2. Mary, to whom life is a calm fulfillment of her Master's will. The good part Mary chose was that of a scholar at Christ's feet, whose word is deemed Mary's law. This one idea made life simple and supremely blessed. Let us make sure of it, and the fret and worry of life shall cease, and an orderly and blessed procession of duties will make us experience a foretaste of heaven. The following poem expresses as beautifully as possible the thought of this passage; it is entitled "Cumbered about much Serving:"—
"Christ never asks of us such busy labor
As leaves no time for resting at his feet;
The waiting attitude of expectation
He ofttimes counts a service most complete.
"He sometimes wants our ear—our rapt attention,
That he some sweetest secret may impart;
'Tis always in the time of deepest silence
That heart finds deepest fellowship with heart.
"We sometimes wonder why our Lord doth place us
Within a sphere so narrow, so obscure,
That nothing we call work can find an entrance
There's only room to suffer—to endure!
"Well. God loves patience! Souls that dwell in stillness,
Doing the little things, or resting quite,
May just as perfectly fulfill their mission,
Be just as useful in the Father's sight,
"As they who grapple with some giant evil,
Clearing a path that every eye may see!
Our Savior cares for cheerful acquiescence
Rather than for a busy ministry.
"And yet he does love service, where 'tis given
By grateful love that clothes itself in deed;
But work that's done beneath the scourge of duty,
Be sure to such he gives but little heed.
"Then seek to please him, whatsoe'er he bids thee!
Whether to do—to suffer—to lie still!
'Twill matter little by what path he led us,
If in it all we sought to do his will."
(From Randolph's' At the Beautiful Gate.')
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Luke 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent