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St. Luke's brief notice of the women who formed part of the company of Jesus.
And it came to pass afterward. St. Luke here notices an alteration in the Master's way of life. From this time forward Jesus ceased to make Capernaum "his city," his usual residence; he now journeys with his little band of followers from place to place. From this time there was also a distinct change in the tone of his teaching. The Greek word rendered "afterward" is the same as that translated "in order" in Luke 1:3. Showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. The public work of Jesus may be well arranged under three heads: his work as Master, as Evangelist, and as Prophet. The first had especial relation to his own immediate followers, women as well as men. In the second, as the Preacher of the grace, mercy, and the love of God, he peculiarly addressed himself to the general population;—this was the special side of the Lord's work which St. Luke loved to dwell on; this is what he alludes to here. In the third, as Prophet, the Master spoke generally to an evil generation, and especially to the political and religious leaders of the Jewish society of his day.
And certain women. It has before been noticed that St. Luke, in several places, especially notices the love and devotion of women to the Master. The present position of women is owing to the teaching of the Lord and his disciples. Fellow-heirs with men of the kingdom of heaven, it was obvious that they could no longer occupy on earth their old inferior and subordinate position. The sex, as a sex, has made a noble return to the Master. Much of the untold misery and suffering which tormented the old world has been at least alleviated in great measure by the labours of the women of Christianity. Several of these kindly grateful souls here alluded to evidently belonged to the wealthy class; some even occupied a high position in the society of that time. It was by their gifts, no doubt, that Jesus and his company were enabled to live during the thirty or more months of the public ministry. He had given up, as had also his companions, his earthly occupation, and we know that he deliberately refrained from ever using his miraculous power to supply his daily wants. The presence and loving interest of these and such like kindly generous friends answers the question—How did the Master and his disciples, poor men among poor men, live during the years of public teaching? Mary called Magdalene. The name Mary (Miriam) was a very favourite name among the Hebrew women; we meet with several in the gospel story. This one was called "Magdalene," or "of Magdala," to distinguish her from others bearing the same name. Magdala was a little town near Tiberias. There is nothing definite to connect her with the "sinner" of Luke 7:1-50. The early tradition which identified these two women was probably derived from Tal-mudic sources. There are many wild stories in these writings connected with one called Mary of Magdala, a grievous sinner. The "seven devils" probably allude to some aggravated form of demoniacal possession. Two sets of ecclesiastical legends busy themselves with the after-life of Mary of Magdala. The one represents her as coming with Lazarus and Martha to Marseilles; the other, as accompanying the Virgin and John to Ephesus.
Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward. She must have been a person of wealth and high rank at the court of Herod Antipas. There were evidently not a few believers in that wicked and dissolute centre. Some years later we read of Manaen, the foster-brother of Herod, as a notable Christian (Acts 13:1). Even Herod himself, we know, at first heard John the Baptist gladly. and, after the terrible judicial murder, we find that unhappy prince fancying that his victim had risen from the dead. It has been suggested that this Chuza was the nobleman of Capernaum whose dying son was healed by Jesus (John 4:46). If this be the case, there would be a special reason for the loving devotion of this Joanna to the Master. She reappears among the faithful women in the history of the Resurrection (Luke 24:10). Susanna. The name signifies "lily." The Jews were fond of giving the names of flowers and trees to their girls; thus Rhoda, a rose (Acts 12:13), Tamar, a palm (2 Samuel 13:2), among many instances. Of this Susanna nothing further is known.
The parable of the sower, and the Lord's interpretation of it.
And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable. A great change, it is clear, took place in our Lord's way of working at this period. We have already (in the note on Luke 8:1) remarked that from henceforth he dwelt no longer in one centre, his own city Capernaum, but moved about from place to place. A new way of teaching was now adopted—that of the "parable." It was from this time onward that, when he taught, he seems generally to have spoken in those famous parables, or stories, in which so much of his recorded teaching is shrined. Hitherto in his preaching he had occasionally made use of similes or comparisons, as in Luke 5:6 and Luke 6:29, Luke 6:48; but he only began the formal use of the parable at this period, and the parable of the sower seems to have been the earliest spoken. Perhaps because it was the first, perhaps on account of the far-reaching nature of its contents, the story of "the sower" evidently impressed itself with singular force upon the minds of the disciples. It evidently formed a favourite "memory" among the first heralds of the new faith. It is the only one, with the exception of the vine-dressers, one of the latest spoken, which has been preserved by the three—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is identical in structure and in teaching in all the three, which shows that they were relating the same story. It differs, however, in detail; we thus gather that the three did not copy from one primitive document, but that these "memories" were derived either from their own recollections or at least from different sources. Now, what induced the Master thus deliberately to change the manner of his teaching? In other words, why, from this time forward, does he veil so much of his deep Divine thought in parables? Let us consider the attitude of the crowds who till now had been listening to him. What may be termed the Galilaean revival had well-nigh come to an end. The enthusiasm he had evoked by his burning words, his true wisdom, his novel exposition of what belonged to human life and duty, was, when he left Capernaum and began his preaching in every little village (verse 1), at its height. But the great Heart-reader knew well that the hour of reaction was at hand. Then the pressure of the crowds which thronged him was so great that, to speak this first parable, he had to get into a boat and address the multitude standing on the shore (Matthew 13:2); but the moment was at hand which St. John (John 6:66) refers to in his sad words, "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." It was in view of that moment that Jesus commenced his parable-teaching with "the sower." As regards the great mass of the people who had crowded to hear his words and look on his miracles, the Lord knew that his work had practically failed. At the first he spoke to the people plainly. The sermon on the mount, for instance, contains little, if anything, of the parable form; but they understood him not, forming altogether false views of the kingdom he described to them. He now changes his method of teaching, veiling his thoughts in parables, in order that his own, to whom privately he gave the key to the right understanding of the parables, should see more clearly, and that those who deliberately misunderstood him—the hostile Pharisee and Sadducee, for instance—should be simply mystified and perplexed as to the Teacher's meaning; while the merely thoughtless might possibly be fascinated and attracted by this new manner of teaching, which evidently veiled some hidden meaning. These last would probably be induced to inquire further as to the meaning of these strange parable-stories. Professor Bruce, who has very ably discussed the reasons which induced Christ at this period of his ministry to speak in parables, says there is a mood which leads a man to present his thoughts in this form. "It is the mood of one whose heart is chilled, and whose spirit is saddened by a sense of loneliness, and who, retiring within himself by a process of reflection, frames for his thoughts forms which half conceal, half reveal them—reveal them more perfectly to those who understand, hide them from those who do not (and will not)—forms beautiful, but also melancholy, as the hues of forest in late autumn. It' this view be correct, we should expect the teaching in parables would not form a feature of the initial stage of Christ's ministry. And such accordingly was the fact." As regarded the men of his own generation, did he use the parable way of teaching almost as a fan to separate the wheat from the chaff? "That he had to speak in parables was one of the burdens of the Son of man, to be placed side by side with the fact that he had not where to lay his head" (Professor Bruce, 'Parabolic Teaching of Christ,' book 1. Joh 1:1-51.). And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city. The impression of the witness who told the story to Luke and Paul evidently was that at this period of the Lord's ministry vast crowds flocked to listen or to see.. St. Matthew expresses the same conviction in a different but in an equally forcible manner. Only the Lord knew how hollow all this seeming popularity was, and how soon the crowds would melt away. He spake by a parable. Roughly to distinguish between the parable and the fable: The fable would tell its moral truth, but its imagery might be purely fanciful; for instance, animals, or even trees, might be represented as reasoning and speaking. The parable, on the contrary, never violated probability, but told its solemn lesson, often certainly in a dramatic form, but its imagery was never fanciful or impossible.
A sower went out to sow his seed. The Master's words, in after-days, must often have come home to the disciples. They would feel that in each of them, if they were faithful to their work, the "sower" of the parable was reproduced; they would remember what they had heard from his lips; how he had warned them of the reception which their words would surely meet with; how by far the greater proportion of the seed they would sow, would perish. But though the disciples and all true Christian men in a greater or less degree reproduce the sower of the parable, still the great Sower, it must be remembered, is the Holy Spirit. Every true teacher or sower of the Word does but repeat what they have learned from him. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside. Dean Stanley, on the scenery of the parable, thus writes: "Is there anything on the spot to suggest the images thus conveyed? So I asked as I rode along the tract under the hillside, by which the Plain of Gennesaret is approached. So I asked at the moment, seeing nothing but the steep sides of the hill, alternately of rock and grass. And when I thought of the parable of the sower, I answered that here at least was nothing on which the Divine teaching could fasten; it must have been the distant corn-fields of Samaria or Esdraelon on which his mind was dwelling. The thought had hardly occurred to me when a slight recess in the hillside, close upon the plain, disclosed at once, in detail, and with a conjunction which I remember nowhere else in Palestine, every feature of the great parable. There was the undulating corn-field descending to the water's edge; there was the trodden pathway running through the midst of it, with no fence or hedge to prevent the seed from falling here and there on either side of it, or upon it; itself hard with the constant tramp of horse and mule and human foot" ('Sinai and Palestine,' ch. 13.).
And some fell upon a rock. The picture here is not of a soil full of stones, but of a rocky portion of the corn-land where the rock is only covered with a thin layer of earth.
And some fell among thorns. "Every one who has been in Palestine must have been struck with the number of thorny shrubs and plants that abound there. The traveller finds them in his path, go where he may. Many of them are small, but some grow as high as a man's head. The rabbinical writers say that there are no less than twenty-two words in the Hebrew Bible denoting thorny and prickly plants" (Professor Hacker).
And bare fruit an hundredfold. This is by no means an unheard-of increase even in the West, where vegetation is less luxuriant. Herodotus, quoted by Trench ('Parables'), mentions that two hundredfold was a common return in the Plain of Babylon, and sometimes three hundredfold; and Niebuhr mentions a species of maize that returns four hundredfold. On the marvellous fruit-bearing which would take place in the days of the Lord's future kingdom on earth, Irenaeus gives a quotation from Papias, who gave it on the authority of those who had heard St. John speak of the teaching of the Lord to that effect. Professor Westcott ('Introduction to the Study of the Gospels,' Appendix C, 21) thinks that the tradition was based on the real discourses of the Lord. It is, of course, allegorical, for is it not a memory of. a conversation between Jesus and his disciples arising out of this parable of the sower? "The Lord taught of those days (of his future kingdom on earth) and said, The days will come in which vines shall spring up, each having, ten thousand stocks, and on each stock ten thousand branches, and on each branch ten thousand shoots, and on each shoot ten thousand bunches, and on each bunch ten thousand grapes, and each grape when pressed shalt give five and twenty measures of wine. And when any saint shall have seized one bunch, another shall cry, I am a better bunch; take me; through me bless the Lord. Likewise also (he said) that a grain of wheat shall produce ten thousand ears of corn, and each grain ten pounds of fine pure flour; and so all other fruits, and seeds, and each herb according to its proper nature.. And he (Papias) added, saying, Now, these things are credible to them that believe. And when Judas the traitor believed not, and asked—How, then, shall such productions proceed from the Lord? the Lord said, They shall see who come to those times" (Papias; see Irenaeus, 5.33. 3).
.—And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be! This is the only parable St. Luke gives as spoken by our Lord in this place. St. Matthew—who gives the additional detail that on account of the pressure of the crowd on the lake-shore it was spoken from a boat moored close to the bank—relates seven parables here in sequence. It is probable that the Master spoke some of these at least on this occasion, but St. Luke, possibly on account of its extreme solemnity, possibly because he wished to mark this parable as the first of this new kind of teaching, relates it and its interpretation only, saying nothing further respecting that day's parable-teaching. It is most probable that all these reported discourses, parables, expositions, or sermons, are simply a resume of the original words. The disciples evidently by their question—which St. Mark tells us was put to Jesus when they were alone with him—were surprised and puzzled, first at the strange change which that eventful day inaugurated in the method of their Master's teaching, and secondly, at the peculiar character of this his first great parable-lesson. It was, indeed, a sombre and depressing announcement whatever way it was looked at—sombre as a picture of the results of his own past ministry, depressing if regarded as a prophecy of their future success as teachers.
And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. In St. Matthew we have the Lord's reply given at greater length; the same prophecy of Isaiah which here forms the basis of St. Luke's account of Jesus' reply is given in full. St. Mark weaves the Isaiah-words into the Master's answer. The thought, however, in each of the three accounts is exactly the same. The parable mode of teaching was adopted by Jesus who, as Heart-reader, was aware now by sad experience and still sadder foreknowledge, that his glorious news rather repelled than attracted the ordinary hearer. They did not want to be disturbed from their earthly hopes and loves and fears. They preferred not to be healed as God would heal them. The Master then spoke his parables with the intention of veiling his Divine story from the careless and indifferent. These, he knew, would for the most part be repelled by such teaching, while it would specially attract the earnest inquirer. "The veil which it (the parable) throws over the truth becomes transparent to the attentive mind, while it remains impenetrable to the careless" (Godet). It was therefore his deliberate wish that such hearers might neither see nor understand. Dr. Morrison well and clearly puts the Lord's thought here: "It is the sinner's deeply rooted wish that he should not see and understand, and the sad explanation of this wish is given by St. Mark—the sinner is afraid lest he should be prevailed to turn. Lest at any time they should be converted (Mark 4:12)."
The Lord's interpretation of the parable of the sower.
The seed is the Word of God. It was his own sad experience the Master was relating. The picture was of things, too, which had already happened in the case of many of his own true servants, the prophets. It mirrored, too, the many future failures and the few future successes of the listening disciples; it warned them not to be deluded by appearances, not to be discouraged by apparent failure. The Word, of course, in the first instance is his own teaching; it comprehends, however, any preaching or teaching, whether of prophet of the past or minister of the future, winch tries faithfully to copy his own.
Those by the wayside are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. The wayside hearers represent the great outer circle of men and women who more or less respect religion. It must be carefully borne in mind that in none of the four classes pictured in the parable are despisers of God, declared enemies of religion, portrayed. To these the gospel, with its warnings and its promises, rarely if ever speaks. These of "the wayside" are they whose hearts resemble a footpath, beaten hard and fiat by the constant passing to and fro of wishes of the flesh, of thoughts concerning earthly things, mere sordid hopes and fears. Into these hearts the Word can never really penetrate. Momentary influence now anti again seems to have been gained, but the many watchful agents of the evil one, with swift wings, like birds of the air, swoop down and snatch away the scattered seed which for a moment seemed as though it would take root. Judas Iscariot the Jew, and Pontius Pilate the Roman, might be instanced as types of this class. These—before their awful fate—both appeared to have been moved. The one for long months followed the Lord and was trusted by him; the other pitied, and for a moment in his—Pilate's case—pity seemed passing into love and admiration, and tried to find a way of escape for the innocent Prisoner. But the one betrayed, and the other delivered to death, the sinless Son of God!
They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the Word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. These represent natures at once impressionable and excitable; impulsive men and women who, charmed with the beauty, perhaps (to them) the novelty, of the gospel message, receive the Word, take up the Master's yoke with joy, but without thought. These hastily make a religious profession, but they forget altogether to count what the real cost of such a profession amounts to. Upon these superficial but kindly natures come trouble, perplexity, discouragement, perhaps persecution; then quickly the once-loved religion withers away like corn growing on rocky places beneath the burning summer sun. John Mark, the would-be missionary companion of Paul and Barnabas, was one of this impulsive but little-enduring class; and Demas, once the friend of Paul, but who loved too well the present world. Another instance would be the man who offered to follow Jesus "whithersoever thou goest," as he phrased it, till he found, by the Lord's grave answer, that the Master he offered to follow had neither home nor resting-place; then he seems quickly to have turned back.
And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. There is something very sad in this, the thorn-choked class of believers. Each of them represents the vie manquee; the beautiful flower just spoiled as it was bursting into full bloom. These hear the Word, and, hearing it, grasp its deep solemn meaning, and for a part of each day honestly try to live the life which that Divine Word pressed home to them. But with these there is another life; side by side with the golden grain has grown up a crop of thorns, which, unless destroyed in time, will choke and utterly mar, as, alas, it often does, the true corn. Such men and women, the double-minded ones of St. James, try to serve two masters—God and the world. Dr. Morrison has a good note on the parallel passage in St. Mark, where, after suggesting that the cares, the riches, and the pleasures of this life in our time are such things as houses, land, works of art and virtue, posts of honour, gaiety of garments, grandeur of entertainments, and in general the myriad appliances of luxury, he goes on to say, "These come more or less in upon all men, but some men lay themselves peculiarly open to their influence, and allow them to twine and twist themselves like the serpents of Laocoon around every energy and susceptibility of their being." The rich young ruler whom Jesus loved is a fair instance of this not uncommon character, which perhaps is more often met with among the more cultured of society than among the poor and the artisan class. There must have been much that was really beautiful and true in that young man, or Jesus never had singled him out as one whom he especially loved, and yet in his case the thorns of riches and luxury had so twined themselves among the real corn that, as far as we know, it never brought fruit to perfection. Ananias and Sapphira may, too, be instanced. They had given up much for the Name's sake, associated themselves with a hated and persecuted sect, sacrificed a large portion of their property to help the poor of the flock, and yet these apparently devoted ones were living a double life; the thorns had so grown up and twined about the corn that in their field nothing ever ripened.
But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. In this portraiture of the fourth class of our Lord's great life-picture of hearers of and inquirers concerning religion, the Greek words rendered in the Authorized Version "honest" and "good" ("in an honest and good heart ") were words well known and in familiar use among the widely spread Greek-speaking peoples for whom especially St. Luke's Gospel was compiled. Professor Bruce ('Parabolic Teaching of Christ,' ch. 1.) remarks that "the man who united the two qualities expressed by the term 'honest' (better rendered 'noble') and 'good,' represented the beau-ideal of manhood. He was one whose aim was noble, and who was generously devoted to his aim. The expression rendered 'honest' (better translated 'noble,' καλός) has reference to aims or chief ends, and describes one whose mind is raised above moral vulgarity, and is bent, not on money-making and such low pursuits, but on the attainment of wisdom, holiness, and righteousness. The epithet rendered 'good' (ἀγαθός) denotes generous self-abandonment in the prosecution of lofty ends; large-heartedness, magnanimous, overflowing devotion." Mary of Bethany, with her devoted love and her generous friendship; the centurion Cornelius, with his fervent piety and his noble generosity towards a despised and hated race; Barnabas, with his splendid liberality, his utter absence of care for self, his bright, loving trust in human nature, his true charity, "bearing all things, hoping all things;"—are good examples, drawn from different sexes and from varied races, and out of diverse paths of life, of these true inquirers, who not only hear the Word, but keep it.
A solemn conclusion of the Lord's to his exposition of his first great parable.
No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. The meaning of the Lord's saying here is—the disciples must not look on this parable-method of teaching, which from henceforth he purposed frequently to adopt, as mysterious, or as containing anything beyond ordinary human comprehension. The explanation of "the sower," which he had just given them, showed them how really simple and adapted to everyday life his teaching was. "No man," said the Lord, "when he hath lighted the candle of the true knowledge, really wishes to hide it—he rather displays it that men may see the light; and that is what I have been doing for you in my careful explanation of my story."
For nothing is secret, that shall net be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. "All will gradually become clear to them. Whilst the night thickens over Israel on account of its unbelief, the disciples will advance into even fuller light, until there is nothing left in the plan of God which is obscure or hidden. The heart of Jesus is lifted up at this prospect. This accounts for the poetical rhythm which always appears at such moments" (Godet). This is very good, but Godet scarcely goes far enough. The Master's words surely promise that, as the ages advance, more and ever more light on the subject of God's dealings with men will be vouchsafed to the humble, patient searcher after the Divine wisdom. This apophthegm seems to have been a very favourite one of our Lord; he evidently used it on several occasions (see, for instance, Matthew 10:26, where the same words are reported to have been spoken in a different connection).
Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have. A grave warning to his disciples primarily, and then to all who take upon themselves any work, even the humblest, connected with teaching Divine truth. The real strident, patient, humble, and restlessly industrious, he shall be endowed with ever-increasing powers; while the make-believe, lazy, and self-sufficient one shall be punished by the gradual waning of the little light which once shone in his soul.
Interference of Christ's mother and his brethren.
Then came to him his mother and his brethren. St. Mark, in his third chapter, gives us the reasons which led to this scene. It had been bruited abroad that a species of frenzy had seized upon that strange Man who had been brought up in their midst, and who had lately aroused such enthusiasm in all the crowded lake-district of Galilee. It is difficult to estimate aright the feelings of his own family towards him; admiration and love seem to have struggled in their hearts with prejudice and jealousy—not in the case of Mary, but in the case of the so-called brothers. They seem ever to have been close to him during his public ministry, not among his "own," but still near him, watching him, and listening to him with a half-wondering, half-grudging admiration. But John tells us (John 7:5) that they did not believe in him. It needed the Resurrection to convert them. The crowd round the Master at this juncture was so great that they—his kinsmen—could not press through it to speak to him. They conveyed to him, however, a message. The Heart-reader knew well what were the motives which induced them to come to him just then; the brothers were so distrustful that they had suffered themselves to be carried away by the Pharisees' evil surmises, that Jesus was possessed by a devil. The mother, influenced by her earthly fears for her Son, was induced to accompany the brothers, no doubt hoping to induce him to withdraw himself from the scene of excitement, at all events for a season.
And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the Word of God, and do it. The Master used the opportunity to send home into the hearts of the many listeners the stern, grave lesson that there was something more solemn even than family ties, and that these, holy and binding though they were, must not be allowed to stand in the way of plain, unmistakable duty.
The lake-storm is stilled.
But as they sailed he fell asleep; and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. In the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this and the three following incidents are closely united—the lake-storm; the devils sent into the herd of swine; the raising of the little daughter of Jairus; the healing of the woman afflicted with the issue of blood. Although this cycle of acts is always united by the three, yet they do not occupy the same position chronologically in the three Gospels. The explanation of this probably is that in the primitive apostolic teaching it was usual to relate these four incidents of the Master's work together. In St. Matthew, between the recital of the healing of the demoniac and the raising of the daughter of Jairus, are intercalated the healing of the paralytic, and the call of Matthew, and the feast which followed. These incidents, in a more extended primitive discourse, were no doubt joined to the other four recitals. Had they used a common document, the three would surely have placed them in the same connection with other events. They most likely were worked, with many other signs, somewhere in this period of public work, and were chosen by the first preachers of "the Name" as specially illustrative acts, showing the Lord's power over the elements, over the unseen spirits of evil, over death, over wearying chronic sickness. On the sudden storm, travellers remark how, without warning, winds from the snowy summits of the neighbouring Hermon rush down the mountain gorges into the warm tropical air of the lake-basin, and in a short space of time the calm Galilee sea is lashed into storm and foam. The graphic description of Mark is, as usual, the most vivid, and gives us, in a few master-touches, the aspect of the scene. The weary Master sleeping in the stern of the fishing-boat; the pillow beneath his head; the disciples, terrified by the sudden uproar of the waves surging round their frail bark, as the wild winds rushed down on the lake, hastily awaking their tired Master. The danger must have been very real to have alarmed these Gennesaret fishermen; the storm must have been something more than the usual lake-tempests. The very words the Lord used when he lifted up his head and saw the danger, St. Mark preserves for us. With his "Hush!" he silenced the wild roar of the winds and waters; with his "Be still!" he quieted the heaving waves. Some commentators, reasoning from the Master's personal address to the elements—the winds and the waters—suppose that, in the midst of the storm, was some evil presence, who, taking advantage of our Lord's helpless condition—asleep in that frail fisher's boat—raised up the wild storm, hoping, perhaps, to cut short his life. The idea of spirits thus blending with the elements is one by no means unknown to Scripture. "Who maketh his angels winds [rather than the usual, better-known translation, 'spirits'], his ministers a flaming fire" (Psalms 104:4; Hebrews 1:7;. Job 1:12).
The evil spirit in the Gergesene demoniac is dismissed into the herd of swine.
And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes. There is a perplexing difference in the reading of the older manuscripts here, but it is simply a question of the precise name of the locality where the great miracle was worked. In the three narratives of Matthew, Mark, and Luke the older manuscripts vary between "Gergesenes," "Gerasenes," and" Gadarenes." Gatiara was a city of some importance, about three hours' journey distant from the southern end of the Lake of Gennesaret. Its ruins are well known, and are distinguished by the remains of two amphitheatres. Gerasa was also a place of mark, and was situate about fifty miles from the lake. These cities might in the days of our Lord have either given its name to a great district stretching to the borders of the lake. Gergesa was a small and very obscure town nearly opposite Capernaum. There are some ruins now on this spot still known by the very slight corruption of Kerzha. There is scarcely any doubt that the scene of the miracle on the poor demoniac, and of the subsequent possession of the swine, must be looked for on this spot. But it was an obscure, little-known spot, and in very early days the preachers who told the story of the great miracle may have often spoken of the country as the district of the well-known Gerasa or Gadara, rather than of the unknown village of Gergesa. Hence probably the variations in the name in the older manuscripts here.
There met him out of the city a certain man; better rendered, there met him a man of the city. He had been a dweller in Gergesa in old days before the terrible possession began. St. Matthew, in his account, tells us of two demoniacs. SS, Mark and Luke, however, both only mention one, the other for some reason or other had passed out of their thoughts—possibly the malady was much less severe, and the strange dialogue and its results had not taken place in his case. Which had devils long time; better, daemons (daimonia). One of the current Jewish traditions was that these evil spirits were not fallen angels, but the spirits of wicked men who were dead (see Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 7.6. 3). The plural form "devils"—bitterly referred to later by the sufferer, when he was asked his name—seems in his case to speak of a very aggravated form of the awful malady. And ware no clothes, neither abode in any house. These were no uncommon features of the soul-malady—the horror at any bodily restraint, either connected with clothes or dwellings; a similar shrinking is not unusual even in the comparatively modified modern phases of madness. But in the tombs. Until the teaching and spirit of Jesus had suggested, even among men who had no faith in his Name, some thought and consideration for the helpless sufferers of humanity, neither hospital, nor home, nor asylum existed where these unhappy ones could find a refuge. In these gloomy tombs hollowed out of the rock on the mountain-side—polluted spots for the living, according to the Jewish ritual—these maniacs found the utter solitude they craved for.
When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice ,aid, What have I to do with thee, Jesus? "The sight of Jesus appears to have produced an extraordinary impression upon him. The holy, calm, gentle majesty, the tender compassion, and the conscious sovereignty which were expressed in the aspect of our Lord, awakened in him, by force of contrast, the humbling consciousness of his own state of moral disorder" (Godet). Thou Son of God most high. There seems some probability that this expression was frequently used in cases of exorcism of evil spirits; for again in Acts 16:17 the poor slave-girl, who we read had a Pythoness-spirit, which brought in no small gain to her masters, speaks of Paul and his friends, just before the apostle in his Master's Name cast the spirit out, as servants of the most high God. I beseech thee, torment me not. In this form of possession one remarkable and very terrible feature seems to have been the divided consciousness; the sufferer identifies himself with the demons, and now one speaks, now the other. St. Matthew adds a dread detail to this petition to the Lord, "before the time:" the evil spirits thus recognizing a period when certain torment would be their hapless destiny. The expression "torment" meets us in the parable of Lazarus; the dwelling-place of the rich man after death is a place of torment. In Matthew 18:34 the ministers of judgment are the tormentors. One very solemn reason why this special case of exorcism on the part of our Lord is related with so much detail and repeated by the three evangelists, SS. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, seems to be the glimpse which the dialogue between the evil spirits and the Master opens to us of the dread realities hidden in the future for those who sin deliberately against the will of God. The existence of the place or state of torment is affirmed very pointedly by our Lord and his disciples; but having done this they dwell but little on it. There is a striking and solemn quotation in Dr. Morrison's 'Commentary on St. Mark' on this clear but guarded reference to the final sufferings of those who will not be submissive to the moral will of God, "Further curiosity as to the when, the where, and the how, does not become beings whose main business and greatest wisdom is to fly from, not to pry too close into, these terrible secrets of the dark kingdom."
And Jesus asked him; saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him The Master vouchsafed no reply to the demons' prayer, but puts a quiet suggestive question to their unhappy victim. The Lord's words, as Dean Plumptre suggests, would serve "to recall to the man's mind that he had once a human name, with all its memories of human fellowship. It was a stage, even in spite of the paroxysm that followed, in the process of recovery, in so far as it helped to disentangle him from the confusion between himself and the demons which caused his misery. But, at first, the question seems only to increase the evil. 'My name is Legion, for we are many.' The irresistible might, the full array of the Roman legion, with its six thousand soldiers, seemed to the demoniac the one adequate symbol of the wild, uncontrollable impulses of passion and of dread that were sweeping through his soul."
And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. This time the voice and the request apparently proceed from the terrible presence which had made the soul of the unhappy man their temporary habitation. The direful confusion in the state of the poor demoniac is shown by this request. By whom was it made? The bystanders could discern no difference between the possessed and the spirits dwelling in the afflicted human being. So St. Mark, in his relation, puts these words into the demoniac's mouth, "And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country;" apparently here partly conscious of his own personal being, and partly identifying himself with the demoniac forces which were afflicting him. The request is a strange one, and suggests much anxious thought. What is the abyss these rebel-spirits dreaded with so great a dread? It would seem as though, to use Godet's thought, that for beings alienated from God, the power of acting on the world is a temporary solace to their unrest, and that to be deprived of this power is for them just what a return to prison is for the captive. St. Mark's expression here is a curious one. He represents the spirits requesting Jesus "not to send them away out of the country." The two accounts put together tell us that these spirits were aware, if they were driven out of the country—whatever that expression signified, this earth possibly—they must go out into the deep, the abyss, what is called "the bottomless pit" in Revelation 9:1, Revelation 9:2, Revelation 9:11. Any doom seemed to these lost ones preferable to that. The whole train of thought suggested by the incident and the words of the Lord is very terrible. We see at least one reason why the first preachers of the Word have selected this exorcism. It indeed lifts a bit of the curtain which hangs between us and the night of endless woe!
And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. For what end was this request? Was it simply the way they chose to enter the abyss by? We know that the lives of the creatures, after the permission was given, lasted but a few minutes at most. Was it a desire to do more mischief during their brief sojourn on earth? Theophylact (eighth century) suggests that the purpose of the evil spirits, in their request, was to injure Jesus in that part of the country by arousing fears among the covetous inhabitants lest they too might lose, in a similar way, their herds. But to the writer of this note it seems best to confess that no satisfactory answer can ever be given here. We know so little of these dread spirits of evil. The reason of the Lord's permission is more obvious. Some such visible proof as the sight of the evil and unclean forces that had mastered him so long, transferred to the bodies of other creatures and working their wild will upon them, was probably a necessary element in his perfect cure. It is likely also that Jesus wished to show his indignation at the flagrant disregard of the Mosaic Law, at the open disobedience to the Divine injunctions respecting swine, which was shown by the presence of so vast a herd of these animals pronounced unclean by the Mosaic Law under which these people were professedly living. In this district the large majority of the inhabitants were Jews. The keeping or the rearing of swine was strictly forbidden by the Jewish canon law. Other Oriental peoples also held these animals as unclean. Herodotus (it. 47) tells us that in Egypt there was a special class of swineherds, who alone among the inhabitants of the country were forbidden to enter a temple. This degraded caste were only allowed to marry among themselves. The eating of swine's flesh is referred to by Isaiah (Isaiah 65:3, Isaiah 65:4)as among the acts of the people which continually provoked the Lord to anger.
And the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. Some exception has been taken at our Lord's action here in connection with the swine, but it has been well said "that the antedating of the death of a herd of unclean animals was as nothing compared with the deliverance of a human soul." But it seems better to see, in the permitted destruction of the herd, the Lord's grave rebuke to the open disregarders of the holy ritual law of Israel, for the sake of selfish lucre.
When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. The men who kept the swine had witnessed the whole transaction; and as the Master uttered the word "Go," they saw a change in a moment pass through the vast herd. A wild panic seemed to seize the creatures, something: had filled them with a great fear,—they would hurry from the unseen but felt presence; the cool blue waters of the lake, clearly seen from the upland down where they were feeding, seemed to premise the best refuge; they rushed from the plateau down a steep incline, which travellers since think they have identified, and the deep waters or' (Gennesaret put a quick end to the creatures' torments.
Luke 8:35, Luke 8:36
Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and. found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. The swineherds told their story, quickly the news spread; a great concourse from all the country-side soon gathered round the scene of the catastrophe. It was quiet then; the waters of the lake had closed over the tormented creatures, The demoniac, so long the terror of the neighbourhood, now sane, clothed, too, like one of them, was sitting peacefully full of deep, aweful gratitude at the Master's feet; the disciples were standing round; Jesus was no doubt teaching them the deep im—port of the scene they had lately witnessed.
Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. The recital had no effect upon. the headmen of the neighbouring towns and villages. They were probably for the most part owners of similar herds of swine, perhaps sharers in nameless sins, all specially hateful to the Rabbi Jesus, whom they no doubt knew well by repute. But he was, they saw, something more than a poor wandering moral Teacher; he possessed strange and awful powers: had they not had terribler experience of them? Which of them in that law-breaking, dissolute neighbourhood might not he the next victim whose unclean possessions were to be swept away? So they would have none of him: let him, as quickly as possible depart from their coasts. They felt they could not keep both the Saviour and their swine, and of the two they preferred their swine! And returned back again. The chance, as far as the Gadarene district was concerned, was gone for ever. Jesus probably returned thither no more. Within forty years this district was the scene of one of the terrible calamities of the great Roman war. The sack of Gadara, and the desolation and ruin which was the hapless lot of this once wealthy but evil-living district, is one of the many melancholy chapters of the hopeless Jewish revolt, (see Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 3. 7. 1; Luke 4:7. Luke 4:4). A modern traveller, Dr. Thomson, remarks, singularly enough, that the old district of Gadara at the present day is infested with wild, fierce hogs: "Everywhere," he writes, "the land is ploughed up by wild hogs in search of roots on which they live" ('The Land and the Book,' 2 Chronicles 25:0).
Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying. The restored man longed to remain with his Deliverer, but this was not permitted—the great Teacher bade him stay behind in his own country. Perhaps, thought the Redeemer, "some of these hardhearted Gadarenes will be won by his testimony—one of themselves, too, and so notorious a sufferer." His work, the Master told him, was there among his own people; so he stayed, and the next verse (Luke 8:39) tells us how he worked as a diligent evangelist. It is noteworthy how the Master referred the great act of deliverance to God. But to the restored, Jesus was at once his Deliverer and his God. The text of his preaching was "how great things Jesus had done unto him."
The healing of the woman with the issue of blood, and the raising of the daughter of Jairus.
When Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him. Allusion has already been made, in the notes which preceded the parable of the sower, to the enthusiasm for Jesus in the Galilee lake-cities and their neighbourhood. This, as the Master well knew, was only a temporary religious revival, but still while it lasted it gathered great crowds in every place where he visited. He had not been long in the Gadarene district, but his return was eagerly looked for in Galilee. This verse describes his reception on his return by the people, and introduces the recital of two famous miracles which he worked in this period of his ministry after his brief visit to the other shore of the lake. St. Matthew, before speaking of the request of Jairus that the Master would visit his dying child, relates the healing of the paralytic at Capernaum, and the calling of Matthew the apostle. It is scarcely possible now to arrange the events related, in their proper chronological order. The Gospel histories pretty faithfully represent the teaching of the first days, in which it was evidently the practice of apostles and apostolic men to group their accounts of particular incidents in the Lord's life with a view to teaching certain lessons connected with doctrine or with daily living, often disregarding the order in which these incidents really happened. Hence so many of the differences in detail in our Gospels.
And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. The public request, made too with intense earnestness, of one holding such a position, is a clear proof that the Galilee enthusiasm for Jesus was by no means confined to the poorer part of the population, or even to the more careless and thoughtless; such a man as Jairus is a fair representative of the well-to-do, perhaps wealthy, orthodox Jew; strict and rigid in his ritual observances, and held in high honour by his fellow Jewish citizens. The name is only a form of the Hebrew Jair (Judges 10:3).
One only daughter. This is not the only place where the same touching detail is recorded by this evangelist. Compare the story of the widow's son at Nain (Luke 7:12), and the healing of the lunatic boy (Luke 9:38). St. Luke's Gospel owes these and many similar touches of deep true sympathy to the great loving heart of the real author of the third Gospel, Paul.
Luke 8:43, Luke 8:44
And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment. It may be assumed that the disease from which she suffered made her, according to the Levitical Law, ceremonially unclean: this had separated her in a great measure for a very long period from all contact with the outer world. This would well account for her shrinking from any public appeal to the great Physician. The border of the Lord's garment which the woman touched was one of the four tassels which formed part of the Jewish tallith, or mantle; one of these was always arranged so as to hang down over the shoulder at the back; it was this one which the sufferer's fingers grasped. There was a certain sacredness about these tassels, as being part of the memorial dress enjoined by the Levitical Law, which, no doubt, induced the woman to touch this particular portion of the Saviour's dress. And immediately her issue of blood stanched. This is not the only instance of this kind of strange faith mingled with superstition being signally rewarded. The case of the miraculous efficacy of the handkerchiefs and aprons which had had contact with Paul's body (Acts 19:12) is an interesting example. A still more startling one exists in the healing influence of the shadow of Peter falling on the sick as he passed along the street (Acts 5:15). The lesson evidently intended to be left on the Church of Christ by this and similar incidents is a very instructive one. Faith in Christ is a broad inclusive term: it is accepted and blest by the Master, as we see from the gospel story, in all its many degrees of development, from the elementary shape which it assumed in the case of this poor loving superstitious soul, to the splendid proportions which it reached in the lives of a Stephen and a Paul. Faith in him, from its rudest form to its grandest development, the Master knew would ever purify and elevate the character. It would, as it grew, be the best teacher and the truest monitor of the noble, generous life he loved. Therefore he watched for it, encouraged it, helped it; and his Church, if it would imitate its Master, would do well to follow his wise and loving example by fostering in every form, however crude, faith m Jesus Christ; for this incident in the Divine and perfect life which we have just dwelt on, teaches us with striking clearness that he can and will bless the dimmest, most imperfect faith, the faith of the little child, and of the poorest untaught one.
Who touched me? The Master's words here and the statement of Luke 8:46, "For I perceive that virtue is gone out of me," tell us something of the earnestness and faith of the suppliant. Many, as Peter said, in that crowd were touching Jesus as they pressed round him to look on his face or to listen to his words, but of them all none save this poor sufferer "touched" him in the true deep sense of touching, with the fixed idea that contact with his blessed Person would benefit or heal them.
Daughter, be of good comfort. This is the only place in the Gospels where our Lord is reported to have used this loving word to any woman. Eusebius preserves a curious legend in connection with this act of healing. In his time (fourth century) the house of this happy one who met Jesus in her sad life-journey, was shown at Paneas, a town in the north of Palestine. At the entrance of the house, on a stone pedestal, stood two brazen statues—one represented a woman kneeling; the other, a man with his cloak over his shoulder and his hand stretched out toward the kneeling woman. Eusebius relates how he had seen the house and statues and heard the legend ('Hist. Eccl.,' 7.18). In the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, a very early writing, though not one possessing much critical value, the name of the woman is stated to be Veronica. It was she, goes on the story to re]ate, who, on the Via Dolorosa, when the Lord, on his way to Calvary, stumbled and fell, gave the handkerchief to wipe the blessed face.
While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master. This interruption, which must have occupied some time, was, no doubt, a sore trial to the ruler's faith. His little daughter was, he knew well, dying; and though he trusted that the famous Rabbi had power to arrest the progress of disease, he never seems for a moment to have contemplated his wrestling with death; indeed, the bare thought of recalling the spirit to the deserted clay tenement evidently never occurred to any of that sad household, while the hired mourners, too accustomed to the sight of death in all its forms to dream of any man, however great a physician, recalling the dead to life, transgressing all courtesy, positively laughed him to scorn. It seems to us strange now that this supreme miracle should have seemed so much harder a thing to accomplish than the healing of blindness or deafness, or the creation of wine and bread and fish, or the instantaneous quieting of the elements, the waves, and the wind. While sufferers and their friends and the Lord's disciples, in countless instances, asked him to put forth his power in cases of disease and sickness, neither friend nor disciple ever asked him to raise the dead to life. To the last, in spite of what they had seen, none, till after the Resurrection, could persuade themselves that he was, indeed, the Lord of death as well as of life.
But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. No shadow of hesitation crossed the Redeemer's mind; with unruffled calmness he whispered his words of cheer to the grief-stricken father, and bade him fear nothing, for that all would yet be well with the child. Then follows the well-known, often-read story told in such few words, yet are they so vivid, so dramatic, that we seem to be looking on the scene. The grief-stricken household, the hired mourners, the still death-room, the white motionless form of the dead girl—the ruler's only child—lying on her little bed, the group of the six with tear-dimmed eyes standing round; the loving Master bending over the little dead, his smile as for a moment he took back the all-power he had laid aside a little season for our sakes; the far-off look in his eyes as for a moment his vision ranged over his old home of peace and grandeur; and then the two words spoken in the familiar Aramaic (Hebrew), which Mark, or rather Mark's master, Peter, remembered so well, "Talitha, kumi!" and the dead child rose up again, the spirit had returned to its frail tenement.
They laughed him to scorn. These were, no doubt, the hired mourners. Familiar as they were with death, they ridiculed the idea of one whom they knew had passed away, awaking again as from a sleep. These public mourners were customary figures in all Jewish homes, even in the poorest where a death had occurred. They are still usual throughout the Levant. The expression, "laughed him to scorn," is found in Shakespeare—
"Our castle's strength
Will laugh a siege to scorn."
('Macbeth,' Acts 5:0. sc. 5.)
The Aramaic words, Talitha, kumi! "Maid, arise!" were just homely words, spoken in the language which the little girl was in the habit of hearing and using. The Master's tender care for the child was shown not merely in the choice of the language and the words, but in his loving thought after her resurrection, for we read how—
He commanded to give her meat. She had been grievously ill, sick, we know, even to death; and now that the old strength and health had come back again, the Master felt she would at once, after her long abstinence, need food. Even the child's mother was not so motherly as Jesus.
He charged them that they should tell no man what was done. The enthusiasm in Galilee just then needed no extra spur. The crowds which followed him were increasing. The excitement, the Master felt, was unreal and evanescent; he wished rather to calm it than to increase it.
The evangelistic circuit.
I. THE PLAN OF CIRCUIT. (Luke 8:1.) "He went," or "went about," or "kept journeying." Hitherto Capernaum had been the centre from which short excursions were taken, the Lord always returning to it. Now he moves steadily on from place to place, "passing in patience until his work is done." "Through cities and villages." He will not omit any abode of man. If social influence and power had been the aim, this Prophet would have limited his operations to the chief centres of life; but his meat is to do the Father's will, and where there is even one soul waiting for the message, there is he. To the Father, to him, there is the same value in the soul of the. peasant as in that of the prince. "Preaching and bringing the good tidings of the kingdom of God." The distinction between the words, "preaching and showing the good tidings"—or, to give the exact English rendering, "evangelizing"—is not to be pressed too far; but the latter word seems to mark an advance of thought on the former. The "preaching" was the more general proclamation, and the "evangelizing" was the presentation of the gospel thus proclaimed to the diversities of experience and need, the opening up of its several aspects of blessing, so that men from their different standpoints might realize the great love of God and behold the glories of his kingdom. Kings grant pardons, but they only send them; this King comes himself with the pardon, and deals personally with the sinner. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him thus bringing good tidings, and publishing peace; bringing good tidings of good, publishing salvation, saying unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!"
II. A NEW STYLE OF DISCOURSE. One which thenceforth becomes a marked feature of the teaching. He had frequently used comparisons, traced likenesses between the natural and the spiritual. But what had been an occasional trait now became a characteristic mode of conveying truth, and for the reason given by himself (Luke 8:10). To us, familiar with the sound and meaning of the parable, nothing can seem more apposite and happy as a means of communicating thought. By it the highest and deepest mysteries of the kingdom are most gently infused into the apprehension of the mind, whilst there is always a reserve of meaning on which we can draw. But the gamble was not all this to those who heard it. It stimulated inquiry rather than imparted knowledge. It brought the disciples to Jesus, saying, "Expound to us;" "What might this story be?" Those who did not wish to learn were sent away with the feeling, "A dark saying has been uttered: who can hear it?" Jesus says that this defined his purpose in adopting it. He meant it to be a test of the spirit of the mind. Thus he laid his hearers in the balances. May we be of those "to whom it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven"!
III. THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER. This is the only one of the famous seven given in Matthew 13:1-58. which St. Luke places in our view. It falls more naturally to be considered at length in connection with the former of the accounts. Observe here—on this St. Luke is explicit—the point to which the discourse of Jesus looks (verse 18), "Take heed therefore how ye hear." In this connection recall the four kinds of place in which the seed is sown: the wayside, where the seed is trodden down and devoured by the fowls; the rock, or stony places, where the seed springs up, but soon withers through want of moisture; the thorny ground, where the seed and the thorns grow together, and the thorns choke the seed; and the good ground, where the seed springs up and bears a hundredfold. These places are identified (verses 12-15) with classes of hearers. There are the wayside hearers—those in whom there is no mental exercise on that which they hear, whose minds are thoroughfares for all sorts of thought. And what follows? As soon as they hear, the devil comes—some impish fancy or distracting influence, and takes away the word. "I never heard a sermon," said a man, who for years attended church, "I attended, but, whilst you were speaking, I reviewed the last week's task and arranged for the next." There are the rocky-place hearers—those who hear with interest, with emotion; you can see the response to the word in the animation of the countenance, in the tokens of lively feeling. But the message does not grasp the character, the centres of the life remain unchanged, and thus "in time of temptation they fall away." There are the thorny-ground hearers—those who have heard and yielded to the truth, but the busy, care-crowded, or pleasure-seeking world is waiting for them; the seed is not altogether lost, but the mind is choked with alien interests or pursuits. The poet Robert Burns compares himself to a lonely man walking where fragments of marble columns lie on the ground, overgrown by rank, tall weeds. There are the good-soil hearers—those in whom the earnest longing to know, to do, God's truth is a preparation for the word; who, having heard, hide the word in the heart, and patiently and habitually submit to it-, and, through the blessing of the Holy Spirit, bring forth fruit abundantly. To which of these types of hearers does each of us belong? Oh the responsibility of hearing! Note the distinction, in verse 18, between those who have and those who seem to have, or think they have. What is the warning? Whoso only thinks that he has, or is content with the appearance of having, is losing his possession. The life is really moving on other lines than those laid down in the word. The power of reception is diminishing: "Whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he thinketh he hath." "Take heed therefore how ye hear." It is the manner of hearing that is the main thing—the motive, the desire, the extent to which the heart and the soul are engaged whilst hearing. Persons are apt to blame the speaker, to lay the want of effect at his door. It may be so; no doubt it often is so. But what of these persons themselves? Let each examine himself. Eloquence, it has been said, is in the audience; and, undoubtedly, the sympathy of the audience has much to do with the power of the utterance. Christ reminds us that, where there is failure, the hearer at least divides the blame. He reminds us, too, that the life declares the quality of the hearing. Verses 16, 17, "For nothing is hid, that shall not be made manifest; nor anything secret, that shall not be known and come to light."
IV. THE HELPERS AND THE HINDERERS IN THE MINISTRY. The twelve are with him. It is their university curriculum. Would to God that all who pass through universities and seminaries realized this curriculum also—"Eye-witnesses first, and then ministers of the Word"! But he has other companions than the apostles; and the noteworthy thing as to these other companions is that they ministered to him of their substance. "The Son of God," says Godet, "lived by the love of those whom his love had made to live." Who are they? Women. Three names are singled out. Mary of Magdala," from whom seven devils had gone out" (vide previous section), once passionate, perhaps depraved, in her life; but henceforth the most loving and devoted; the one to whom the risen Saviour first appeared (John 20:1-31.). And with her are named the wife of Herod's steward, and Susanna, of whom nothing is known. "Many others," we are told. But we do not find, as Farrar has pointed out, the wives of Peter or of the married apostles; nor yet the mother of our Lord. The ministry of woman to Jesus! There is a deep sympathy between the true woman-heart and the Lord; the self-sacrificing love so pure and strong in the true woman-heart being the special attraction. Christianity has exalted woman, has raised her position, and purified her influence. But woman has more than paid back all that she owes to Christianity in respect of this. Who, indeed, that has been blessed by Christian mother, wife, sister, friend, does not know that God has created the ministry of his Word male and female?—giving to the female an even more winning beauty and a more spiritually educative service than the male. The apostles are with, Jesus; but certain women minister to him of their substance. These are the helpers: who are the hinderers? His mother and his brethren (verse 19). The Lord is compelled to say that, whilst the relation according to the flesh is respected, they are not at that moment connected with him by the affinities which alone are permanent. See how this bears on the idolatrous honour paid by the Roman Church to Mary. She has been prevailed on by her children, not to intercede with Jesus, but to join them in the effort—probably meant in kindness, but showing deficiency of insight—to prevent him from continuance in toils and prayers. And note, he distinctly declines to recognize any rights grounded on the motherhood with regard to his work; only spiritual relationships will he recognize. Even when he looks down from the cross and sees her standing, he says to the beloved disciple only, "Behold thy mother." But, apart from this, is it not suggestive, mournfully suggestive, that the hinderers are the nearest of relations—mother and brethren? So it has been often since. An unsympathetic home and circle of friends sometimes constitute the sorest trial which one must face who wills to have fellowship with the Son of God, "He goeth forth weeping, bearing the precious seed."
Storm and calm.
"He entered into a boat, himself and his disciples." The association of Christ with the beat, with which we are so familiar in the gospel history, has been preserved in much of the poetry, the literature, and the art of the Church. A very old seal-ring represents the Church as a ship struggling against the winds, supported by a great fish in the sea beneath, and with two doves sitting on its mast and prow. The shape often given to Christian places of worship in the early ages was that of a beat. And the idea has entered into all Christian song and thought, Keble catches up the tone of centuries when he inserts the verse in the evening hymn—
''Thou Framer of the light and dark,
Steer through the tempest thine own ark:
Amid the howling wintry sea
We are in port if we have thee."
The key-note to all this symbolism is given in the incident reported in these verses.
I. IT IS A PICTURE OF LIFE. The sea was at rest when the disciples took Jesus as he was. As they sailed on the smooth waters the weary Prophet fell asleep. On a sudden down comes the squall—one of those furious hurricanes which sweep across a lake six hundred feet lower than the ocean, with gigantic funnels supplied by deep ravines cut by the action of wild watercourses. All is changed; there is heard now only the despairing cry, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?' Such is lifo: changeful, now the smiling sunshine with the clear blue sky, again the driving cloud and rain, with angry waves breaking over the craft. Job was at rest; his sons and daughters feasting together; he himself, with abundance and peace, fearing God and eschewing evil, when the one terrible day came on which messenger chased messenger, completing a tale of destruction and bereavement. How often does destruction fall as in a moment! The fitful weather of the inland lake is a type of the fitful climate, followed by the rapidly dissolving scenery, of the present time. How foolish to set the affection on things below! How sad when there is no Christ in the ship! when there is no fixture, among the sundry and manifold changes of this world, where the only true joys are to be found!
II. IT IS A SIGN OF CHRIST. The stilling of the tempest is a miracle. We seem to see the sleeping Master quietly raising himself, looking around, meeting the gaze of the all but frantic men, standing erect in the boat, sending forth the majestic, "Peace; be still!" "What manner of man is this, for he commandeth even the winds and the water, and they obey him?" Yes; what manner of man! He is himself the miracle, the One "made of God to us Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption." The work is the sign of himself in that deeper work in which he is manifest as the Saviour of sinners. What is that work but the rebuking of the storm of passion, and all the influences which are adverse to peace of mind and holiness of life? "Be still," is the Christ-word; "Peace to you," is the Christ-breath. In the world of man, "he maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they are quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven" Is not this the experience of every truly converted life? Miss Havergal's verse expresses it.
"There were strange soul-depths, restless, vast and broad,
Unfathomed as the sea;
An infinite longing for an infinite stilling.
But now thy love is perfect filling:
Lord Jesus Christ, my Lord, my God,
Thou, thou art enough for me!"
And so for all the days. "Let Christ be awakened," writes Augustine, "Though the tempest beat into, yet it win not fill, thy ship; thy faith will now command the winds and the waves, and thy danger will be over." Oh, see to it, that thou take Christ into thy heart, even as he is. Blessed for thee, O needy sinner, when the Master is really the occupant of thy life, thy "present Help in trouble."
III. IT IS A REPROOF OF LITTLE FAITH. "Why are ye so fearful?" is the part of Jesus' word reported by Matthew. Why, when you know who is with you; when you know that he is there, that it is not some enemy, some devil, that has the control of elements, of circumstances? Why are ye so easily cast down? Why do ye give way so readily? Why do ye fall into such despendencies, such paroxysms of grief? May we not, in many an hour of shrinking, if not of terror, hear this "why" sounding in our hearts? "Where is your faith?" is the part of the word reported by Luke. Assume that you have it, that you are really trusting in Christ as your Master: whither does the faith vanish when you are so fearful? Is it not the moment of trial that proves the readiness and serviceableness of the faith? Do we not often need to seek it when we have occasion for it? Verily a question most pertinent to us in the varying circumstances and demands of our life. Think, think over the adverb, so suggestive, "Where is your faith?.
The demoniac whose name was Legion.
Two miserable creatures are mentioned in Matthew. No sooner has Jesus come forth on the land than they rush towards him. Human, yet without the mental attributes of humanity, shunned by all, left in the lonely place, to rend the air with fearful cries, to clash themselves against stones, wretched beyond all names of wretchedness. One of the two is singled out by St. Luke, and described (verses 27, 29). Observe the effect of Jesus' presence. Instantly some long-silent chord was touched, some new sense of the awful misery into which the man had been plunged was awakened, some conflict between a mind made suddenly active, and the nameless power of darkness was originated. The maniac falls down, and with a loud voice cries, as if some other one were crying through him, "What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the Most High God? I beseech thee, torment me not." Marvellous confession! which, however, had been preceded by a word of authority (verse 29), and which is followed by a kind of confused perception. "What is thy name?" What name had he? What personality? The only word which seemed to describe the situation was the Roman name for a host, "My name is Legion; for we are many." Poor Legion! there is in thee a groaning which cannot be uttered; and that groaning, unawares to thyself, has the form of the old prayer, "Unite my heart to fear thy Name!" Lo! he who knows the mind of the Spirit has heard thee, and he has given a new song to thy mouth. Henceforth thou shalt say, "I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify thy Name for evermore. For great is thy mercy toward me, and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell" Thus far, all, though wonderful, is beautiful and Christ-like. But now comes the strange portion of the narrative. Jesus is described as giving the demons which had laid waste the son of Abraham leave to possess the herd of swine feeding on the mountain-side; the consequence being that the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and were choked. Against this destruction many objections have been brought; it is a stone of stumbling and offence even to believers. Even to faith it seems at variance with the mercifulness of the Lord, and the transference of the evil power from the man to the herd of swine bristles with things hard to be understood. Explanations offered, some of them ingenious, all unsatisfactory, are not here to be dwelt on. It is assumed that we take the evangelist to be a trustworthy guide as to events which are out of the plane of ordinary life. Somewhere, somehow, the work done is reconcilable with the true nature of things, with the mercy and the truth which are around all God's paths. Observe two points by way of practical improvement.
I. TO THE DEMONIAC HIMSELF THERE WAS GIVEN A TESTIMONY NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN OF THE SIN AND MISERY FROM WHICH THE STRONGER THAN THE STRONG ONE HAD DELIVERED HIM. The effect on character, the influence which some action or course of conduct would have in the establishment of trust in himself or in the education of the disciple, was always before the mind of Christ. Now, what an evidence—in a form which one whose shattered intellect was not yet fully restored could understand—was given of the awful waste of spiritual life, the awful force of an untrained, unsanctified nature, by the sight of that precipitate rush down the steep place into the sea! Recollect, too, that, according to the correspondences of Scripture, these swine represent the more bestial and corrupt propensities of our nature. Pascal, in one of his most cynical sayings, speaks of man as "half-beast, half-devil" There is something of the beast in men; and what happened that day is the token of what does happen when the lower animal is acted on by spirits of malignity or darkness—when, from some cause operating from without, that which is animal is acted on by that which is devilish. Is not that same violent rushing down steep places of poor animalized beings, their true life checked and destroyed, witnessed every day? Do we not constantly see infatuations similar to that portrayed in the herd of swine? In England more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons die every year directly in consequence of indulgence in strong drink. If, as has been asked, there was such a destruction of cattle or swine in the country, what attention would be called to it! what a host of remedies and measures with a view to its prevention would be propounded! But the matter passes with little notice. Undoubtedly, the event at Gergesa is a sign of what mere carnal appetite, when fed by some exciting cause, brings about; and, being so, it is a standing witness for the blessings of his salvation, whose gospel is a new order as well as a new life, who controls what is lawless by the law of liberty, and at whose feet the man from whom devils are departed sits clothed and in his right mind.
II. TO ALL OF US THERE IS A SAD SIGNIFICANCE IN THE CONDUCT OF THE GADARENES. The two facts before them were—the swine lost, and the man gained. Which of the two was the greater? The swine lost. That spoke to them of a fearful power in the Man who had landed on their shore. Perhaps their consciences were uneasy. If they were Jews, and some of them must have been, they knew that, for the purpose of gain, they had broken Moses' Law. Why should he continue in their midst whose glance burnt like an oven? Anyhow, instead of remembering what attracted and spoke of healing in the cure of the man, they remember only what had caused them loss in the destruction of the swine. "Away!" they cry, "thou holy and terrible One! We don't wish to be disturbed in our way. Trouble us no longer l" Fearful prayer! But do not more than the Gadarenes pray it? Are there not many whose secret heart protests, "Let us alone, Lord God! Let us make money as best we can; eat, drink, and enjoy ourselves. Away with the spiritual—with Church, with God! Give us our swine, and let heaven go!" Fearful prayer, and fearful answer! "God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers, and flings the thing we have asked for in our face—a ganutlet with a gift in it." "He entered into a boat, and returned." There is only one of another spirit in the multitude. He who a few minutes before had cried, "What have I to do with thee?" now beseeches, like Ruth of old, "Entreat me not to leave thee: where thou goest I will go, and where thou dwellest I will dwell." Nay, he must remain—Christ's missionary and witness to his unbelieving countrymen. Not to luxuriate in him, but to live and work for him, is the call to the redeemed. "And he went his way, publishing throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done for him."
Jarius and what happened on the way to his house.
A beautiful Scripture, whose beauty we feel all the more that, in this Gospel, it follows the rejection of Christ by the "witless Gadarenes." Its exact place in the history cannot with certainty be fixed; for the accounts of the three synoptists vary as to the time of the works. But whatever the precise period in the biography to which it belongs, the tale told is one which appeals to the more domestic affections of the heart; one too which gives a graciously full manifestation of Jesus the Resurrection and the Life. The transaction realized as he went illustrates chiefly Christ the Life; that which was done in answer to the ruler's pleading illustrates chiefly Christ the Resurrection—the two aspects of the incarnate I Am.
With regard to the former of these events, consider the touch of the Lord by the woman who had found her way to his presence, and what came of the touch.
I. The touch represents THE ONLY HOPE. She had nothing else to which to cling. For twelve long years she had been a sick and weary woman. There is something interesting in the circumstance which Luke the physician records, that all her means had been spent on physicians, but that she could not be healed of any. Mark adds that she rather grew worse. The physician-evangelist has no such addition; but "he knew what human skill could do, and, Still better, what it could not do, and he bowed himself humbly in the presence of Christ." Well, all the living has been spent. A little before the moment of Jesus passing, she might not have been so ready. A portion of her income would still have been left. The temptation would have been to try another doctor. But now there is only this chance. It is the energy of despair. "Thou must save, and thou alone." Ah! sinner, if thou wouldst know the virtue that there is in the Son of God for thee, thou must come to an end with self, with all strivings after a righteousness of thine own. Thy living, all that is thine, must be wholly removed from thy sight. Jesus wholly! Jesus only!
II. The touch represents AN IMMEDIATE ACT OF WILL. "When she had heard," says Mark, "the things concerning Jesus, she came." There is no delay over questions such as, "How can I reach his presence? How can I get through this multitude? Will he care for me?" All such self-inquiry is at once dismissed. The true faith is busied only with its Object. The mind is too much in earnest to stop over problems concerning the act or the manner of faith. "If thou wert sick for want of God, how swiftly wouldst thou move!" Two things are seen—the need, and Christ the only answer to the need; and, these things seen, the will is supreme over all that savours of intellectual doubt and difficulty. "If I may but get to him, I shall be whole."
III. The touch represents A PERSONAL CONTACT. "Only to put my hand on the clothes, or even the fringe of the garment." So she says to herself. Not, perhaps, a very lofty faith. A good deal in it, possibly, of the superstition to which she had been accustomed; of an idea of magical charm, and so forth. But the real thing in it was the conviction that he was able to save to the uttermost; that the cure was certain if she could get to him. The touch meant herself in her want laying hold of Christ himself, the Saviour and his salvation. And this is the vital force of faith. Notions may be confused, may be very poor and deficient; the Lord will rectify that. The saving grace is such a confidence as will bring into direct relation to the love of God in Christ. And this touch is at once distinguished. Every one who has to do with multitudes understands, so far, the secret of the quick "Who touched me?" He knows by intuition the souls that are really sympathetic with him. These touch; the others only press around. In the crowd surging about Jesus there is only one who touches. The people have welcomed him, and are following him; but their handling of him and her touch are quite different. Blessed among women! type of the souls blessed eternally: "I perceived that power had gone forth from me."
IV. The touch is the way to THE CURE BOTH OF BODY AND SOUL. "Immediately she was healed." "Straightway," says Mark, "she felt in her body that she was healed." What a sensation that instant bound of health! Observe that "immediately" or "straightway" in the reports of Jesus' works of healing in the Gospels. The health does not come as the end of a laborious discipline or regimen; it is not the end, but the beginning of a new life. We do not work to salvation; we work from it The moment a life is really surrendered to God and the affiance of the soul with the Redeemer is fulfilled, that moment it is healed, it is cleansed. There is a new life introduced—a ]ire which is henceforth the power of God to salvation. It is not perfect, but it is there. This Divine life is the health of the soul. It is then in a healthy condition before God. And henceforth, according to his power that worketh in us, he completes and perfects the life which himself has imparted. Was it not so with the woman? After she was healed he brought her into the spiritual knowledge of himself and his will. She had stolen to Jesus, but she must not steal from him. He searches her out. She sees that she is not hid; and trembling, fearing, she falls down and tells him all the truth. Precisely what he desired. And what he desires evermore is frankness, openness to him. There must be no guile and no concealment; there must be perfect truthfulness between the Lord and the soul. When any shadow comes in there, the cleansing of the conscience, the working out of the salvation, is hindered. Notice the word "daughter," the only woman who received this title from the Lord, and she the woman who was brought to tell all the truth. "For this let every one that is godly pray unto thee."
This interview, with its great work, is by the way. He who desires the opportunity of usefulness meets the opportunity even in travelling to the duty more immediately contemplated. All the while another work has been waiting. What parent does not enter into the feeling of the ruler of the synagogue? His only daughter, the darling, the desire of his eyes, is dying. And he must stand and listen to the talk which involves some delay. And then the message, "Thy daughter is dead: trouble not the Master!" We do not hear of any complaint or impatience, of any word of reproach like that which fell from the sisters of Bethany. Jesus meets a confidence such as this with loving frankness: "Fear not: only believe, and she shall be made whole." Look at the sign that is given of Christ the Resurrection.
I. IT HAS ITS SPECIALTY OF MEANING. Of the three acts of raising from the dead related by the evangelists, it is, adhering to the chronology of Luke, the second. The son of the widow of Nain was not only dead, but the body was being carried out to burial Lazarus had been four days dead. The girl of twelve had only expired. The attendants knew that she was dead; Luke the physician is careful to add this. It was no trance; she was undoubtedly dead, but Death had only a short time before put his stamp on the countenance. Trench, writing on the miracle, beautifully speaks of "the fresh-trodden way between the body and the soul which has just forsaken it, and which lingers for a season near the tabernacle where it has dwelt so long. Even science itself," he adds, "has arrived at the conclusion that the last echoes of life ring in the body much longer than is commonly supposed; that, for a while, it is fall of the reminiscences of life." Observe, when Christ says, "She is not dead, but sleepeth," the unbelieving mourners laugh; they have only scorn for such a saying. The sorrow is hard, cheerless sorrow, when there is no conception of death—as a sleep! "Asleep in Jesus;" "He fell on sleep;"—such words the Church has substituted for the cold, forbidding word "death." Look, O mourner in Zion, on the lifeless form of thy dear one, and as thou thinkest of "the fresh-trodden way between the body and the soul which has just forsaken it," remember the saying of him who is the Resurrection: "Not dead, but sleepeth." Believest thou this?
II. NOTE THE WITNESSES OF THE WORK. It is the first occasion on which the three of the apostolic band are singled out—Peter and James and John. None except they and the parents are allowed to enter. There is a sacredness in great grief which demands protection from the rude gaze of mere curiosity. The hired mourners, with their shouts and cries, their ostentation and display, are abhorrent to the Lord. Simplicity and genuineness of emotion befit the house of the dead, and all connected with death and burial.
III. SEE THE GENTLE THOUGHTFULNESS OF CHRIST. When the maid arises, he commands that meat be given her. The life restored must be supported. He is sparing of the supernatural and extraordinary. Where the ordinary and natural come into play, there the call is to use them. The Church, in her spiritual work, must learn of her Lord. "Keep life living," said Bunsen. When the Divine life is bestowed, it must be nourished by the appropriate means of grace; it must be fed by food convenient to it, nourished through the Word, sacraments, and prayer, unto everlasting life.
IV. CONTEMPLATE THE WHOLE ACTION. How simple! how quiet I The touch of the hand, the head bent over the child; the voice soft yet clear in the familiar Aramaic, "Talitha cumi!"—these are the features of the action. Thus simple and quiet was the way of the Lord when, in the beginning, he "said, Let there be light! And there was light." Thus simple and quiet is his way when he comes to the human soul "as the rain, as the former and latter rain on the earth." The wind bloweth, indeed, where it listeth, sometimes with the fury of the hurricane tearing up the old refuges and joys of the life. But the hurricane prepares for the Lord. The Lord is in the still small voice which comes after. Wherefore he saith, in tones of imperial authority, but of thriling tenderness, to thee, little maid, to thee, young man rejoicing in thy youth, to thee on whom the weight of years is resting, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light!"
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
The gospel of the kingdom.
In a parallel passage in Matthew (Matthew 4:23) we read that Jesus went about all Galilee, "preaching the gospel of the kingdom;" here we read of the same thing in a very slightly different form—"showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God." It will clear away all possible confusion of thought respecting "the gospel" and "the kingdom" if we dwell upon the gospel (or the glad tidings) of the kingdom.
I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD. This kingdom of God, or of heaven, or of Christ (for our Lord sometimes spoke of it as his own), is something transcendently nobler than anything which the most pious or the most sanguine Jew ever hoped for in his heart or pictured in his imagination (see homily on Luke 1:31-33). As Jesus Christ conceived it, and as it will be when it has been fully and finally established, this glorious kingdom is or is to be:
1. A kingdom of God; one in which God himself will be the one Sovereign, all men everywhere being his subjects, owning his sway and loyal to his will
2. An essentially spiritual kingdom; all the obedience and submission rendered being that of the heart and the will, as well as of the tongue and the hand.
3. A righteous kingdom; in which every citizen will act in accordance with "the golden rule" (Luke 6:31).
4. A beneficent kingdom; the spirit of kindness, of practical helpfulness, animating every subject.
5. A universal kingdom; coextensive with the human race.
6. An everlasting kingdom; going down to the remotest generation. Such, in its purity, its nobility, its inherent greatness, its absolute uniqueness, is the "kingdom of God."
II. THE GOSPEL (THE GLAD TIDINGS) OF THE KINGDOM. The features of this kingdom which so much commend it to the hearts of erring, sinful, dying men, constituting "the glad tidings of the kingdom," are:
1. That entrance into it is open to every child of man. This is now so familiar to us as to be quite commonplace. But lock at it in the light of the doctrine of Divine favouritism once prevalent; in the light of the incident recorded in the fourth chapter of this Gospel (verses 23-29);—then we cannot be too thankful that the gates of this blessed kingdom are open, stand wide open, to every comer—to the poor, to the despised, to the neglected, to the barbarous, to those whom men may consider irrecoverable or not worth redeeming.
2. That its Divine Sovereign is actively seeking all souls, that they may enter. It is not only that no one is excluded; the good news, the glad tidings, is more and better than that—it is that every one is being individually, lovingly invited, nay, pressed and urged to enter; it is that out into the "far country" of forgetfulness and dislike the heavenly Father goes in parental yearning, and bids each wandering child "Return;" it is that away over hill and mountain of estrangement and guilt the good Shepherd goes, seeking and finding and bringing back the sheep which was lost; it is that long and lovingly, at the door of each human soul, the patient Saviour stands and knocks, and cries, "If any man will open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him."
3. That admission is open to every humble and trustful soul at once. If we have grieved some human friend and become estranged from him, and if there be a proposal to seek reconciliation, our decision will probably be determined by the consideration whether we shall be at once fully restored or whether there will be a long interval before full reconciliation is effected. It is the gospel (the glad tidings) of the kingdom of God that every penitent and believing soul is immediately and without any delay whatever taken into the favour of God. As soon as the submissive spirit of the man says, "Father, I have sinned," so soon is grace bestowed, so soon is the name entered on the roll of the heavenly citizenship.
4. That citizenship now means citizenship for ever. It is a large part of the gospel of Jesus Christ that this earth is only an antechamber of the Father's house, or only a small outlying province of his boundless empire. To be a faithful citizen here and now means being a happy citizen somewhere for evermore. Life under the benign sway of this heavenly King is not counted by years or decades; it is without a bound; it is continued, perpetuated, in other regions of his glorious domain. This is the "glorious gospel" of the kingdom. Is it well to wait for a better? Dare we hope that, if we reject these glad tidings, we shall over hear any that we shall accept? "Behold, now is the accepted time."—C.
Luke 8:2, Luke 8:3
Christianity and woman.
We have seen (Luke 2:36-38) that woman, in the person of Anna, welcomed the infant Saviour to the world; it was most fitting that she should do so, for Christianity and womanhood have had a very 'close relationship, and undoubtedly will have even to the end.
I. WHAT CHRISTIANITY OWES TO WOMAN.
1. Its Divine Author and the Object of its worship was, "as concerning the flesh," born of a woman (Galatians 4:4). The Son of God was, in a true and important sense, the "Son of Mary."
2. He owed the care and the training of his childhood to a human mother.
3. He received, during his active life, the generous provision of ministering women (see text); these, out of" their substance," supplied his necessities.
4. He found some of his best disciples and of his most faithful attendants in women (Matthew 27:65).
5. He had the comfort of the near presence of three devoted women in his last agonies (John 19:25). Closer to him in that awful hour than the ruthless soldier and the taunting enemy, rendering him a silent and sorrowful but not unvalued sympathy, stood three women who loved him for all that he was in himself and for all he had been to them.
6. Last at the cross, women were first at the sepulchre (Luke 23:55, Luke 23:56; Luke 24:1).
7. Women were united with the apostles in the upper room, waiting and praying for the further manifestation of the Lord after his ascension (Acts 1:14).
8. The apostle of the Gentiles owed much to women in his abundant and fruitful labours (Philippians 4:3).
9. From that time to this, women have been rendering valuable service to the cause of Jesus Christ: the mother of Augustine, the mother of the Wesleys, and many hundreds more have, by their holy and faithful motherhood, done signal service to the gospel. In these later days, moved by the Spirit of God, women have, by their writings and by their "prophesyings," effected great things for the furtherance of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. And it is right that it should be so; for we have to consider—
II. WHAT WOMAN OWES TO CHRISTIANITY.
1. We know what barbarism does, and fails to do, for woman.
2. We know also what Greek and Roman civilization did, and failed to do, for her; in how unsatisfactory a condition it left her; how completely it failed to raise her. to her true spiritual dignity. We know what Christianity has done and is doing for her.
(1) Jesus Christ taught and enforced the transcendent value of every human soul.
(2) He admitted women into his kingdom on the same terms on which he received men: "In him is neither male nor female."
(3) He gave to women a sphere of honorable service in his kingdom; not only (as above) accepting their loving ministry for himself, but for his disciples also.
(4) Influenced increasingly by these ideas, the Church of Christ has been giving to woman a place of growing honour and usefulness; it has made her the full helpmeet and equal companion of man; it has opened for her the gateway of knowledge and influence; it has placed her on the highest seat to receive its respect, its affection, its service. We may look at—
III. THE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTIONS WHICH WOMAN MAY RENDER.
1. When not bound by domestic ties, she can offer, as these women did, of her worldly substance.
2. She can minister, as man cannot, to the sick and suffering; she has a gentle touch of hand and a tenderness and patience of spirit for which we look to man in vain.
3. She can train the child in the home, and, by giving to him or her the earliest and deepest impressions concerning Divine love, prepare for noblest work in after-years in various fields of holy service.—C.
Failure and success in hearing.
The produce of our spiritual fields does not always answer to our hopes or reward our labours; there is much sowing, but little reaping. How do we account for it?
I. THE ACCOUNT OF THE FAILURE.
1. Inattention on the part of the bearer. The truth is spoken faithfully, but so little heed is given to it that it is no sooner uttered and beard than it has disappeared from view. Sown on the hard wayside (Luke 8:5), it does not enter into the soil, and is readily borne away. They who do not know how to listen when God speaks to them, need not be surprised if they are of those who are "ever learning, and never coming to a knowledge of the truth." "Give earnest heed" as the Word is being spoken.
2. Want of reflection. (Luke 8:6.) Many listen with delight, and consider themselves the better for their present gladness. But they do not reflect on what they have heard; there is nothing to nourish the feeble life—no "moisture," no "earth," no thoughtfulness and prayer; and the end is that the emotion that was aroused as the hearer listened withers away.
3. Incapacity to stand tests. (Luke 8:7.) There may be earnest attention, and this may be followed by some consideration and even prayer; but the root of conviction does not go down far enough to become resolute consecration, and the result is that the "thorns" choke the corn as it is growing. There are two kinds of thorn which are of a deadly influence in the spiritual field—one is that of worldly cares, and the other that of unspiritual pleasure. These are not evil things in themselves, but, just as the weeds in the field draw up and into themselves the nourishment which should be given to the useful plant, so do these lower anxieties and gratifications absorb the time, the thought, the energy, which should go to the maintenance of the new spiritual life, and, being unfed and unsustained, it languishes and perishes.
II. THE CONDITIONS OF SUCCESS. What is the good ground? What is the honest and good heart (Luke 8:8-15)? It is that of:
1. Sincere inquiry. The hearer goes to learn what is the will of God concerning him—to "inquire in his temple." The question of his heart is, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Hence he listens eagerly and continuously.
2. Devout meditation. He ponders, he dwells upon, he prays over, the truth he has been receiving.
3. Intelligent, deliberate dedication. The man takes all things into his mind that must be taken; he counts the cost; he considers what the service of Christ means, and how much it involves in the way of surrender and of activity, and he solemnly devotes himself to the service, or, as the case may be, to the work of the Lord.
Jesus cried, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." He spoke that word in a striking, impressive, emphatic voice. He would say to us:
1. Your privilege in having access to the gospel is very great, and as is your privilege so also is your responsibility.
2. Many are the children of opportunity who are not heirs of the kingdom of God; many go into the "house of God" who remain outside the Church of Christ; who hear but do not heed, or who listen but do not ponder and pray, or who pray but do not determine and devote; who at some point or other fall short of the kingdom. It is a sad thing to be "in the way of salvation," and yet to be unsaved.
3. Very blessed are the children of wisdom. When the Word of God takes deep root and brings 'forth fruit, its fertility is great indeed; the increase may be "an hundredfold" (Luke 8:8). In the heart itself in which it is sown, it may produce all the graces of the Spirit of God; and in the better life thus called forth there may shine all the excellences which are in Christ Jesus our Lord and Exemplar; and/tom that life there may flow forth influences for good, of which the number and the nature and the duration only God can tell.—C.
If we have a large object immediately before us in the daytime, and yet are unable to see it, we are driven to the conclusion that, if we are not blind, there must be something opaque between the object and our eye. Now:
1. There is much of solid goodness in Christian men. All who name the name of Christ are under bond to depart from all iniquity; their life is a life of holy endeavour after the character of their Lord; they are seeking daily the aid and inspiration of the Divine Spirit; they must be wiser and worthier than those who are living for themselves.
2. This light of Christian character is shining straight before the eyes of unholy men. In the great field of the human world the wheat and the tares grow together. Here we meet together, good and bad, the irreverent and the profane, under the same roof, at the same table and hearth, in the same shop and warehouse. We witness one another's lives. Christian character is near enough to be seen by all.
3. We are sometimes asked to be shown the light of Christian worth. Men say, "Where is this excellency, this supposed superiority of spirit and conduct, these fruits? we should like to see them." What shall we say to this challenge? That they who thus complain do not see what they look for because there is something the matter with their vision, because it is distorted by prejudice? Or shall we say that where no goodness is seen it is because there is none to see; that piety, being popular, is simulated, and they are looking at those who are only pretending to be Christian men, and that godliness is no more accountable for hypocrisy than the good coin is answerable for the counterfeit? We might often make one of these two replies, with right and reason on our side. But that would not meet the case; it would leave the question partially unanswered. The fact is that goodness is often unseen in consequence of the intervening of some surface faults which hide it from view. There is—
I. THE COVERING OF RETICENCE. Many a man is right at heart, sound in faith, well fitted by his knowledge and intelligence to render essential service; but he is so reserved, so self-contained, so inaccessible, lives so much in the inner circle of his own familiar friends, that he is far less forcible and influential than he is capable of being;—he is hiding the light of his character under the covering of reserve, instead of setting it on the candlestick of open-heartedness and expressiveness.
II. THE COVERING OF RESENTFULNESS. Other men are warm-hearted, good-natured, diligent, and devoted in every good work, capable of rendering admirable service; but they are quick-tempered, irascible, ready to take offence; so hasty and resentful that they are shunned when they would otherwise be approached;—they hide the light of their character under the vessel of ill temper.
III. THE COVERING OF SELF-ASSERTION. Some men are upright, honourable, zealous, resolute, forcible, well fitted to effect great things, but they hide their light under the bushel of self-assertion; they insist on everything being done in the way they prefer; they make co-operation impossible; they cut their influence in twain by their want of conciliation and concession.
IV. THE COVERING OF DISCOURTESY. There are those who are honest, and even earnest and hardworking Christian men, acting along the lines of holy usefulness; but they cover their character with the vessel of bluntness, or ignorance, or positive rudeness, instead of putting the light of piety and zeal on the candlestick of courtesy.
Now, it has to be remembered that our children and our neighbours, all with whom we have to do, judge of our character not only by its solid and essential elements, but also (and rather) by its superficial features; they will be affected and influenced, not more by that in us which is deep and decisive than by those outside qualities which are visible to them just because they are outside. Hence, if we care, as we are bound to do, that our character should be telling on those with whom we are connected, and for whom we are responsible, we shall strive and pray to be not only pure and just and true, but also frank and amiable and courteous. If we would not go through our life with our Christian character covered over and lost by some superficial failing, if we would have it fixed on the candlestick on which it will "give light to all that are in the house,"—we must not only think on the things which are true, honest, just, and pure, but also on those things which are "lovely and of good report;"—C,
Revelation—a duty, a fact, a certainty.
These words of our Lord may have been a familiar aphorism of his time, or they may have been a sententious saying of his own, having many applications. Certainly they are significant of many things. They may be regarded as expressing for us—
I. A SACRED DUTY WE ARE CALLED UPON TO DISCHARGE. It is in this sense our Lord used them on the occasion reported by Matthew (Matthew 10:25-27). What was then hidden in the minds of the disciples they were to reveal to the world in due time; the truth which the Master was making known to them "in the darkness" they were to "speak in the light." And this duty is of universal obligation. What God reveals to us and what is, at first, hidden in our own soul we are bound to bring forth into the light of day. It may be any kind of truth—medical, agricultural, commercial, economical, moral, or directly and positively religious; whatever we have learned that is of value to the world we have no right to retain for our own private benefit, Truth is common property; it should be open to all men, like the air and the sunshine. When God, in any way, says to us, "Know;" he also says, "Teach; pass on to your brethren what I have revealed to you; 'there is nothing secret that shall not be made manifest, nor hid that shall not be known.'"
II. A SERIOUS FACT WE DO WELL TO CONSIDER. Guilt loves secrecy. "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light.., lest his deeds should be reproved." Men that sin against God and their own conscience would be only too glad to know that their deeds were finally buried and would never reappear. But no man may take this consolation to his soul. Secret things are disclosed; there is an instinctive feeling expressed in the common Belief that "murder will out," that flagrant wrong will sooner or later be exposed. We may not say that no crimes have ever been successfully concealed; but we may safely say that no man, however careful and ingenious he may be in the art of concealing, can be at all sure that his iniquity will not be laid bare. And this will apply to lesser as well as larger evils. Habits of secret drinking, of impurity, of dishonesty, of vindictive passion, will sooner or later betray themselves and bring shame on their victim. Indeed, so closely allied are the body and the spirit, so constantly does the former receive impressions from the latter, that there is no emotion, however deep it may be within the soul, which will not, after a time, reveal itself in the countenance, or write its signature in some way on "the flesh." If illegible to the many, it is still there, to he read by those who have eyes to see, and to be seen of God. There is a very true sense in which "nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest" even here. But this is more perfectly and strikingly true of the future.
III. A CERTAINTY IN THE FUTURE WE SHALL WISELY ANTICIPATE. There is a "day when God shall judge the secrets of men" Romans 2:16). when he "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts" (1 Corinthians 4:5). Then shall these words be indeed fulfilled. Then may we know how:
1. This language will prove a terrible prediction; our buried and forgotten iniquities being Brought back to us, God "reproving us, and setting them [our sins] before our face" (Psalms 50:21).
2. This warning may be met and modified; our sins, having been repented of and forgiven, will be buried in those depths of Divine mercy whence they will never be brought back (Psalms 103:11, Psalms 103:12; Micah 7:18, Micah 7:19).
3. These words may constitute a blessed promise—all acts of pity, of patience, of kindness, of mercy, of magnanimity, of self-sacrifice, reappearing for Divine approval and award. "Then shall every man have praise of God."—C.
Christ's one relationship.
How is Christ related to us? And is he related to us in a way other than that in which he was related to men and women during his life on earth? The answer to this question is that there is only one way in which he has been or will be permanently related to mankind. We look at—
I. THE VERY TEMPORARY CHARACTER OF HIS FLESHLY RELATIONSHIP. He was, of course, most intimately associated, in purely human bends, with "his mother and his brethren." But he gave the clearest intimation that this was only to last during his sojourn on the earth, and that it was not to be relied upon as a source of life even then.
1. He checked his mother in her eagerness at the very first miracle he wrought (John 2:4).
2. He intimated in the text that his human connections were already merging in those of a higher, a spiritual hind.
3. He disengaged himself, tenderly but decidedly, from his human, filial obligations as he was about to consummate his redemptive work (John 19:26).
4. He declined the demonstrativeness of his warm-hearted disciple as partaking too much of the fleshly, and intimated that all approach thenceforward must be of a heavenly and spiritual character (John 20:16, John 20:17).
5. He instructed his apostle to declare that all further knowledge of Jesus Christ must not be "after the flesh," but spiritual (2 Corinthians 5:16).
6. He gave no position in his Church to his mother or his brethren because they had been such. They cud not derive anything, in their after-relation to him, from the fact of their motherhood or brotherhood; they stood related to him just as all other souls did, by their reverence, their trust, their love, their service, and by these alone.
II. THE PERMANENT AND INTIMATE CHARACTER OF HIS SPIRITUAL RELATIONS WITH US. "My mother and my brethren are these which hear the Word of God and do it." "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Matthew 12:50). From these words of truth and grace we gather:
1. That what unites us to Christ is practical godliness. It is reverent attention followed by obedient life; hearing and doing the will of God. It is well to place ourselves where the will of God is made known; better to listen attentively when it is revealed; better still to be excited to solemn and earnest feeling concerning it; but we do not become Christ's, we are not numbered amongst his own, until we so hear and heed and feel that we resolve to be and strive to do what we know is his holy will concerning us. We may fail frequently to realize our own intention; we may strive upwards and Godwards with many a stumble on our way; but if there be an honest and earnest effort towards the good and the true, animated and inspired By the fear and the love of God, then Christ acknowledges us as his, we are citizens of his kingdom. We are something more than that; for we learn from the text:
2. That those who are truly united to Christ are in very close affinity with him. So much are they to him that the nearest and dearest human relationships are called in to express it. Dear as the mother is to her child, as the sister to her brother, so dear are all true and earnest souls to their Divine Lord. With filial, with brotherly love will he watch and guard them, will he provide for their necessities, will he sympathize with them in their sorrows, will he attend their steps, will he secure their lasting interest in the Father's home.—C.
Christ the Lord of nature.
We shall find two things concerning the miracles of Jesus Christ—that he never refused to put forth his power if by its exercise he could do an act of pure pity and kindness; and that he never consented to do so for the mere purpose of display. Hence there is a most marked difference between his "works' and the pretences of the impostor. The perfect suitableness of the occasion and the moral character of the action are the signature of Divinity. Yet it was fitting that the strong desire on the part of the Jews to see a miracle wrought "in the heavens' should, if occasion offered, have at least one fulfilment. And such it certainly had in this stilling of the storm. And in this incident we have—
I. AN IMPRESSIVE ILLUSTRATION OF CHRIST'S DIVINE COMMAND. It would only be right, we may argue, that our Lord should give to his disciples one illustration of his Divine power that would be exceedingly impressive, and therefore convincing and permanently effective. There was no more virtue or force in the stilling of the storm on the lake than in the expulsion of the demon on the other side of the water; to control the elements of nature did not require more Divine power than to control the will of an evil spirit; perhaps less. But the moral effect upon the observer's mind was much greater in the former instance than in the latter. It appealed most influentially to the imagination as well as to the reason. And considering all that these disciples would be called upon to pass through in his cause, remembering the severity of the trial of their faith, it was surely well that, in addition to many other proofs of their Lord's Divinity, they should be able to recall this scene upon the lake, and be assured that he whom the winds and the waves obeyed was the Christ of God indeed.
II. AN ASSURANCE THAT HE IS LORD OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF OUR LIFE. AS we ply our little bark across the lake of our life, we shall find storm as well as calm, rough adverse winds as well as favourable breezes. It will help us to think that the Divine will which subdued that tempest is the will that is ruling wind and wave beneath every sky; that Christ is Lord of the circumstances of our life; and that if only we have him on board as our chief Passenger, we may count on his controlling power in the time of danger or of trouble. But we must be sure that Christ/s with us; for the promises of gracious guidance and merciful interposition can only be pleaded by those who are loyal to him and to his cause.
III. A PICTURE OF THE PRESENT CHRIST IN THE TRIAL-HOUR OF HIS CHURCH. In that little boat was the Christian Church: if that vessel had sunk, the Church would have perished with it. But the Church that has Christ with it cannot sink. The question of questions, therefore, is this—Is Christ with us or not? And the answer to that question will be found, not in the shape of the vessel, but in the character of the crew; not in the peculiarity of the ecclesiastical structure, but in the spirit and character of those who compose and who direct the Church. Is his truth, is he himself, preached and taught in our sanctuaries and our schools? Are his principles inculcated in our homes and illustrated in our lives? Is his spirit breathed by us in our intercourse with one another, and with "them that are without"? These are the questions we must answer satisfactorily if we would reply in the affirmative to that one vital question—Is Christ with us or not?
IV. A. REMINDER OF THE DIVINE PEACE-BRINGER TO THE HUMAN SOUL. There is something unspeakably grand in a storm in nature; we are affected, awed, subdued, by it. But in the estimate of Divine wisdom there is something of profounder interest in the unrest and perturbation of a human soul. Jesus Christ cares more to speak peace to one troubled human heart than to produce the most striking change in the whole face of nature. There are many sources of spiritual disquietude; but the most constant and the worst of all is guilt, the sin with which we have sinned against the Lord and the sense of his condemnation we carry in our hearts. It is that which takes the light out of our skies, the joy out of our homes, the beauty and the brightness out of our lives. The deepest question that wells from the human soul is this—
"Oh! where shall rest Be found—
Rest for the weary soul?"
And in reply—
"The voice of Jesus sounds o'er land and sea;"
a voice which has brought and will ever bring peace to the aching, burdened, stricken heart; "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'—C.
The sleep of Christ.
"As they sailed he fell asleep" Christ asleep! Christ asleep in the daytime! Christ asleep in the storm! Christ asleep with his disciples in danger and distress! What have we here?
I. THE SON OF MAN ASLEEP IN THE HOUR OF HIS OWN BODILY WEARINESS. A hard and long day's work had the Master that day. He had thought much, taught much, wrought much; and each one of these had been laborious and exhausting to One who was what he was and felt as he felt. He was completely spent with his strenuous and sustained exertion. And as they sailed he fell asleep; so fast asleep that, though the winds raged round him and the spray fell upon him, he did not awake. The incident points to:
1. The devoted diligence of his life. Other things might have accounted for this simple fact of being overcome, but that was the true account of it. How laboriously he must have worked to do all that he did in the few months at his command! we might well argue; how devotedly he did labour the memoirs of the evangelists assure us.
2. The generous impulse which he allowed himself in the conduct of his life. That life was not without plan, arrangement. But our Lord permitted himself to be guided by the conduct and attitude of others; he went back when repelled (Luke 8:37), he went on when invited (Luke 8:41). On this occasion he allowed the importunity of the people to hold him longer in teaching and healing than he would otherwise have remained; thus he left room in his life for the play of generous impulse. By all means let us be methodical, laying out our time intelligently and wisely; but let us leave room also for an unselfish responsiveness in the structure of our life, even as our Lord did.
3. The thoroughness of his humanity. Who but the Son of God could, of his own will and in his own name, command the mighty elements of nature? Who but a veritable Son of man could be overcome by weariness, and sleep in the midst of the raging of the storm? He was one of ourselves—walking wearied him, teaching tired him, healing exhausted him; he expended himself as he wrought day by day; his manhood was real and true.
II. THE MASTER ASLEEP IN THE HOUR OF THE DISCIPLES' DANGER AND DISTRESS. Christ sleeping when the boat was sinking I It looked like negligence! "Carest thou not that we perish?" That negligence was only apparent; there was no real danger. As it was right for him to sleep under such exhaustion, he could with perfect safety commit himself and his cause to the care of the unsleeping Father. As it was, the greatness of the apparent peril brought about an illustration of Divine power which otherwise they would have missed. That was not the last time that the Master seemed negligent of his own. To his Church in its storm of terrible persecution, to his people (in their individual lives) in the tempests of temptation or adversity through which they have passed, Christ may often, indeed has often, seemed to be heedless and indifferent. But he has always been at hand, always ready for action at the right moment. We have but to make our earnest appeal to him, and if the right time has come for the manifestation of his power—though on this point we may be mistaken (see John 2:4; Acts 2:6, Acts 2:7)—he will most effectually respond; he will say to the mightiest forces with which we are in conflict, "Peace, be still!" and there will be "a great calm."—C.
Luke 8:38, Luke 8:39
Our return for God's greater kindnesses.
The outcasting of a demon from a man was certainly one of the greater miracles Christ wrought, and the greater benefits he bestowed. It required special power, and it conferred a boon of the highest order. We look at—
I. THE GREATER KINDNESSES WE RECEIVE FROM GOD. It might be argued that all God's mercies are great, inasmuch as
(1) coming from his heart, all his kindnesses are loving-kindnesses; and
(2) they are all so thoroughly undeserved. God sends us a gift when he might send us a blow, a blessing when we deserve a rebuke (Genesis 32:10). Yet some of God's gifts to us are greater than others, and we may ask which they are that might fairly draw such words as these from Christ concerning them, "how great things God hath done for thee." And it is worthy of remark:
1. That some of them are little marked by us. Among these are:
(1) Our being itself, our intelligent, immortal nature, with all its illimitable capacities. We so gradually awaken to the realization of this, that the boundless value of the gift does not impress us as it should.
(2) Our health. We accept this as a matter of course, little affected by it until we lose it.
(3) Our kindred. So does the mantle of parental, filial, fraternal love wrap us round from our infancy, that its beauty and its blessedness do not strike us as they might well do, and we live on for years, failing to appreciate all the mercies which are associated with the one word "home."
(4) Our education; all those educational influences and privileges which build and shape our mind and character. But it is clear:
2. That there are special kindnesses we cannot fail to note. Of these are
(1) deliverance from sudden peril, from the railway accident, from death by drowning, etc.;
(2) recovery from dangerous sickness;
(3) rescue from the grasp of some fell temptation;
(4) special Divine influences, those which make the truth of God clear to our understanding, and bring it home to our heart and conscience, thus placing eternal life within our reach.
II. THE RETURN WHICH WE MAKE TO GOD for these greater kindnesses. Jesus Christ bade this man to whom he rendered such signal service return and show his friends what great things he had received; and he did so freely and fully. What is our response to our heavenly Father, our Divine Saviour?
1. What are we being to him? What is the measure of our thought concerning him who never for one moment forgets us, and who, in so full and deep a sense, "remembered us in our low estate"? of our feeling toward him who has spent on us such generous, such self-sacrificing love? of our service of him whose we are and to whom we owe everything we are and have?
2. What testimony are we bearing to him—what testimony concerning the goodness, the patience, the faithfulness of God are we bearing in the home in which we live? Are parents impressing on their children by their whole bearing and demeanour that, in their deliberate judgment, the service of Christ and likeness to Christ are things of immeasurably greater concern to them than the making of money or the gaining of position? Are elder brothers and sisters doing their best to commend the truth they have come to appreciate to the understanding and the affection of those who are younger, and who are taking their cue from them? What testimony are we bearing in the shop and the factory, to our fellow-workers, to those whom we are employing? What testimony in the Church? Are we avowing our faith, our love, our hope, our joy? Are we, who have received greater kindness by far than even this poor demoniac, so acting that as much is ascribed to us in God's book of account as is here recorded of him, that "he published throughout the whole city how great things," etc.?—C.
Luke 8:37, Luke 8:40
Jesus Christ: rejection and welcome.
We have in these two passages a very striking contrast; we have in the one a very deliberate and consentaneous dismissal, and in the other a very cordial and unanimous reception of our Lord,—it is illustrative of the treatment he is now receiving at the hands of men.
I. THE REJECTION OF JESUS CHRIST.
1. It may be deliberate and determined. In the case of the Gadarenes it was emphatically so. They all came together to seek him and to entreat of him that he would leave their neighbourhood. Their request was unqualified with any condition; it was decisive, absolute. It is not often that men suddenly arrive at the conclusion that 'they will not have the Son of man to reign over them; but the long postponement of his claims leads on and down to a decisive rejection; at length the mind is fully made up, the soul resolved that it will seek its good elsewhere, that the patient Saviour may knock but he will wait in vain.
2. It may proceed from motives that are distinctly unworthy. It was a procedure on the part of these Gadarenes that was simply shameful; they preferred their swine to a Divine Restorer; they would rather keep their property than entertain One who would bring health to their homes and wisdom to their hearts. When men reject Christ, they seldom put before their minds the alternative as it really is in the sight of God; but traced far enough, seen in the light of truth, viewed as it will have to be one day regarded, it is an unholy and an unworthy preference of the human to the Divine, or of the present to the future, or of the fleshly to the spiritual; it is a preference which God condemns, and for making which the soul will one day reproach itself.
3. It may be only too successful. It was so here. Jesus did not contest the point; he did not assert his fight to go where he pleased and labour where he liked. He yielded to their urgency; "He went up into the ship, and returned back again," Man has a power which may well make him tremble, of resisting and rejecting the Divine; of sending away the messenger and the message which come from God himself; of silencing the voice which speaks from heaven "How often would I!… but ye would not;" "Ye shall not see me until," etc. (Luke 13:1-35.). This is the record of many a soul's history in its relation to Christ. We send away from our hearts and homes the Lord that would heal and save and enrich us.
II. THE WELCOME OF CHRIST. "The people gladly received him" (Luke 8:40); they welcomed him, "for they were all waiting for him"—were in expectation of his coming.
1. The spirit in which it is offered. We cannot suppose that every one then present had the same feeling about our Lord's return. Probably there were those who were influenced by a legitimate but unspiritual curiosity; others by a desire to be healed, or to secure his services as Healer of sickness for their friends; others by a wish to learn more of his wondrous wisdom; others by a reverent thankfulness and a desire to manifest their gratitude to him. Many motives take men into the presence of Christ. Some are low and very near the ground, that may or may not go unblessed. Others are higher and more hopeful. And yet others are certain to be recompensed. They who receive Christ's word in the love of it, who go to him to learn of him and to be healed by him, or who want to be employed by him in his cause, may make sure of a full-handed welcome by him.
2. Its reception by our Lord. We know that this is cordial and full of blessing. "If any man … open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" If, when Jesus Christ offers himself to us as our Teacher and Saviour, we heartily welcome him as such, there will be for us an enrichment of soul surpassing all that we can imagine—reconciliation to the living God; his own blessed and unfailing friendship; a life of sacred service, holy usefulness, and abiding joy; a death of peace and hope; an immortality of glory.—C.
Luke 8:45, Luke 8:46
Christ's discriminating notice.
Who can help being interested in the woman who is the subject of this sacred story? She has suffered long; she has wasted her substance in vain endeavours to be healed. Now a new hope springs up in her heart; though excited by this hope she shrinks from the publicity which she fears is necessary for its fulfilment. At last faith and hope triumph over timidity, and she comes into the presence of Christ. We are sympathetically present in that crowd; we see her stealing into it, pushing her way nearer and nearer to the Master, at length timidly stretching out her hand and touching the sacred fringe of his garment. We almost pity this trembling woman, albeit we know that she is healed, as Jesus turns and says, "Who touched me?" We know that it is only by a great spiritual effort that she tells her story to the Master in the presence of the people, and our hearts draw yet nearer in trust and love to that Divine Healer, to our Divine Lord, as we hear him say, "Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace." The incident may speak to us of—
I. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BODILY AND REAL SPIRITUAL CONTACT, "There are times when hands touch ours, but only send an icy chill of unsympathizing indifference to the heart; when eyes gaze into ours, but with a glazed look that cannot read our souls; when the multitude throng and press us, but we cannot say, ' Somebody hath touched me,' for the contact has not been between soul and soul, but only between form and form." We are very much thronged in this modern life we live, but we are not very often touched to newness of thought and feeling; and except we live a life of prayer and genuine human sympathy, we must not expect to "touch" other souls so as to quicken and inspire them.
II. THE USELESSNESS OF ANY REMEDY BUT THE GOSPEL FOR OUR SPIRITUAL NEED. This woman in her helplessness is a picture of humanity. It is sick with the worst of all maladies—sin. It is suffering all the wretched consequences of guilt—weariness, restlessness, misery, remorse. It often spends its resources on things which have no healing virtue, and which leave it ill as ever. At length it repairs unto him in whom is no disappointment, in the shelter of whose cross, and in the shadow of whose love, and in the sunshine of whose service is pardon for every sin, comfort for every sorrow, rest for every soul.
III. THE DUTY OF DECLARING WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US. That sensitive heart, trying to screen herself from the observation of the crowd, and wishing to come and go unnoticed, was not rejected. Nevertheless, the Lord, by his repeated questioning, constrained her to come forward and acknowledge the blessing she had received. Christ does not wish for an ostentatious piety; he hates all pretence; but he approves and desires a suitable and grateful avowal of our indebtedness to him. Though we come with a trembling heart, yet we are to come and tell our friends what great things the Lord has done for us.
IV. THE DISTINGUISHING NOTICE CHRIST TAKES OF US. "Who touched me?" asked the Lord. "Master, the multitude throng thee; is it wonderful that somebody should touch thee? Anybody might chance to touch thee in such a crowd; can it matter who it was?" urges Peter. "Ah! but that is not enough. Somebody, some one, hath touched me; there is one individual, whom I distinguish from the others, that has laid an appealing hand upon me. You see nothing in that touch but an accidental encounter. I see much more than that—the approach of a human mind, the appeal of a human heart, the contact of a human soul with mine." This is the spirit of our Lord's reply. And it conveys to us the important truth that we are not lost in the crowd. It is not so true to say, "God loves man," as to say, "God loves men." "He tasted death for every man;" "He loved me, and gave himself for me." There are no limitations in the Infinite One. The fact that he controls the universe is no reason why he should not watch the workings of each humblest human soul The vastness of the range of his observation does not diminish the fulness of his knowledge of every member of his family. Disciples see only a pressing, pushing throng; but the Master singles out the woman who has come to see whether her last chance will fail her. The crowd may hide us from one another, but not from our Lord. God sees us, every one; follows us; pursues us with his watchful and redeeming love; guides us with his hand; leads us into his kingdom. But we must see that our touch is one that will call forth such a response as this. Christ discriminates between the touch of this woman and that of the unmannerly crowd. It is not necessary for us to have a full and perfect understanding of his nature, or even a perfect, unwavering assurance of the success of our appeal. This woman had neither of these. It is necessary that we should have what she had—earnestness of spirit, and a measure of genuine faith in him. Then will he say to us, as to her, "Be of good comfort … go in peace."—C.
A needless anxiety concerning Christ.
"Trouble not the Master." This ruler of the synagogue showed a commendable desire not to give useless trouble to the Prophet of Nazareth; he could not expect that his power would extend so far as to raise the dead, and he wished to save him fruitless trouble. Equally creditable was the behaviour of the centurion whose action is recorded in a previous chapter (Luke 7:6). He felt that the Lord could accomplish in the distance the object of his perhaps toilsome journey, and he sent to say, "Trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof." It was right that, by considerate kindness, the Son of man should be saved all that those who loved and honoured him could save him from. And the same is true enough to-day of the Son of God. There are—
I. WISE AND RIGHT SOLICITUDES CONCERNING HIM. We are bound to refrain most carefully and conscientiously from troubling the Master by:
1. Doing in his name that which he would disown; e.g. carrying on a cruel, though it may be a refined, persecution of those who "follow not with us" in the mode of our worship, or the method of our Christian work.
2. Asking his blessing on that which he disapproves; e.g. on the war which is an unrighteous one, on the cause which is an unsound one, on the business which is not conducted on principles he can acknowledge as his own.
3. Misrepresenting him by the spirit which we manifest; instead of breathing the spirit of graciousness and self-sacrifice toward those who are weaker or younger or less cultured or less privileged than ourselves, adopting a tone of haughty superiority, or doing that which "causes them to offend."
4. Failing to approach him in prayer, to seek his aid and his influence, to apply for his redeeming touch. Christ may be much troubled by our distance and neglect; he is not likely to be burdened by our earnest approaches and appeals.
II. NEEDLESS ANXIETIES CONCERNING HIM.
1. Inviting him to stay too long with us. The centurion, modestly and properly enough, felt that he was not worthy that Christ should come under his roof. We may feel that also, and especially that we are not worthy that he should make our hearts his home, as he has promised us. But we must not refrain from inviting him to come and to stay with us. We must ask him earnestly to "abide with us from morn till eve," not "to sojourn, but abide with us." He will not count that a trouble; he will honour our faith and appreciate our welcome. "Abide in me, and I [will abide] in you."
2. Going to him too often. He places no limit on our spiritual approach to him. He says ever to us, "Come unto me;" "Draw nigh unto me;" "Seek ye my face?' We shall not burden him by our fellowship; we may grieve him by our absence and by our preference of the society of those who are his enemies.
3. Asking too much of him—either for ourselves or for others. There is no magnitude or multitude of sins we may not ask him to forgive; no depth of evil we may not ask him to eradicate; no severity of disease we may not ask him to undertake. The maiden may be dead (text), the cause may be very low, the heart may be very cold, the character may be very corrupt, the life may be very base, the case may seem very hopeless; but do not shrink from "troubling the Master;" his touch "has still its ancient power;" to the lifeless form he can say, "Arise!" and into the cause that seems wholly gone, and the soul that seems utterly lost, he can infuse newness of life.
4. Doing too much in his cause for him to watch and bless. The more often we ask him to crown our holy labours with his energizing touch, the better we shall please his yearning and loving spirit.—C.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
Incidents in evangelistic work.
We have now to contemplate Jesus as fairly loosed from Capernaum as the centre of his mission work, and as making systematically the tour of the province of Galilee. The "beloved physician" gives to us here just such an insight into the material conditions of Christ's evangelistic work as we naturally desire. Let us, then, notice—
I. THE SPIRITUAL AND TEMPORAL SIDES OF OUR LORD'S EVANGELISTIC WORK. (Luke 8:1-3.) Twelve men and a number of holy women form Christ's band—a choir, so to speak, of joyful evangelists. The substance of the message was "the glad tidings of the kingdom of God." Christ himself was Preacher. None of the others could enter into the nature of this coming kingdom. But it was to be a kingdom of peace and of joy to all who became members of it. Hence the preaching was "glad tidings." The spiritual side of the work was, therefore, joy-inspiring. The temporal conditions of the work are here revealed. Our Lord lived on charity, or, as we should put it, on love. Hospitality, especially to every one who professed to be a rabbi, would supply Christ with much; but it could not cover the whole case; consequently, certain women, who had been delivered from demoniacal possessions, and who were correspondingly grateful to their Deliverer, were proud to follow him and minister to him of their substance. Joanna, whose husband seems to have looked after Herod's housekeeping, transfers her attentions to a greater King,. and becomes chief minister, we may believe, to her Master's wants. The twelve disciples were candidates for the ministry under training; the holy women were the caterers for the college; and so our Lord, as President, received the help of men and women in their respective spheres.
II. THE ELEMENT OF JUDGMENT IN PARABOLIC TEACHING. Before noticing briefly the parable of the sower, we must ask attention to the change m our Lord's method of ministration. It would seem that up to this time he had preached less figuratively, but as the Pharisees had taken up their position of hostility, it was absolutely necessary for him to exercise what may be called intermediate judgment (cf. Godet, in loc.). This was by taking to parabolic teaching. While to a docile and childlike spirit a parable sets truth in its most attractive aspect, to a proud, self-sufficient spirit it veils and hides the truth. It is light or darkness according to our spiritual attitude. Hence the change in the Preacher's method heralded a new stage in his work. The common people would still hear him gladly, but the proud would be kept at a convenient distance through the veiled character of the truth presented in parables.
III. THE PARABLE OF WARNING. (Luke 8:4-8, Luke 8:11-15.) This, according to all the evangelists, was the first parable. It was breaking ground in the delivery of parables. Hence its character as a warning. Its subject is the hearing of the Word. Its warning is that there are three bad ways of hearing as against one good way. These are:
1. Careless hearing—represented by wayside seed devoured by the birds before it can fall into the earth and bear any fruit. The devil visits careless hearers, and takes the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
2. Rapturous hearing—represented by seed failing into rocky soil and springing up suddenly, only to wither away. Hence the danger of hearing with rapture and resting in the rapture. It is the religion of feeling, of happy times, and such superficialities. Something deeper is needed than this.
3. Careworn and preoccupied hearing—represented by seed falling into soil that is not cleansed of roots and thorns, and where the seed is choked. We cannot hear to advantage if we put anything before the Word. Unless it is put before worldly concerns, there will not be much fruit.
4. Honest and good-hearted hearing—represented by the seed falling into good and cleansed ground. In this ease there is knit-bearing, in some cases up to an hundredfold. Hence the warning voice, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Unless the multitude hearing Jesus, unless in particular the disciples, took the Word of God ministered by Jesus patiently and honestly into their consideration, they could not bring forth fruit unto perfection.
IV. THE APPLICATION TO THE TWELVE. (Luke 8:16-18.) The disciples had received Jesus' explanation of the first parable. And now he further applies it to their case. They are intended, he tells them, to be lights in the world; and he has no intention of putting them under a bushel or bed, where the light would be lost and useless, but on a candlestick to illuminate all who enter the house. In this beautiful and figurative way our Lord indicates the position he means to give them in his Church. Consequently, they must remember that every secret thing is on its way to manifestation (Luke 8:17), and so their lives, no matter how secret and apparently insignificant, are public lives. By this thought all hearing will be intensified with a new sense of responsibility. Besides, he tells them that the law of capital obtains in hearing as well as in everything else This is the law by which the person, who has something to start with, gets something more. For example, if we bring to the contemplation of the truth a "good and honest heart," then its goodness and honesty will be intensified and increased by the truth; whereas, if we bring a vacant heart, an inattentive mind, then our heart will be still more vacant, and our mind still more inattentive. We lose power by indifferent hearing, just as we gain power by attentive and honest hearing. This was a most important lesson for the candidates about him. Doubtless they profited by it.
V. BLOOD-RELATIONSHIP VERSUS SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP. (Luke 8:19-21.) We learn from the parallel passages that this incident occurred in consequence of our Lord's enthusiasm. His relatives thought him mad, and that he ought to be put under restraint. His reply to their message is most significant. As Gess says, "He draws his true disciples the more closely around him as the hostility of his own relatives increases, and calls them his family." £ We have thus, as Sanrin puts it, the family of Jesus Christ according to the flesh contrasted with the family of Jesus Christ according to the Spirit. The spiritual relationship is put before the blood-relationship, other things being equal. £ It is not that Jesus loved his brothers and mother less, but that he regarded the Father's will and those who obeyed it as more to him than they can be. His conduct on this occasion most likely conduced to the conversion of his kindred to believe upon him. It enabled them to see exactly the principle of his work. And in this loyalty to members of God's family we must follow our Lord. We must not allow others to usurp their rights under any pretence of relationship or authority.—R.M.E.
A group of miracles.
The mother and brethren of Jesus had tried in vain to interfere with the important work in which he was engaged; he clung to his disciples as the real members of his Father's family. And so we find his career as a merciful Miracle-worker continuing. We have here a group of notable miracles; it was, as Godet suggests, the culmination of his miraculous work. Nature, human nature, and death yield to his authority in their order.
I. SAFETY IN THE SOCIETY OF JESUS. (Luke 8:22-25.) The disciples and Jesus had embarked to visit the country of the Gadarenes. His object in doing so, as we shall presently see, was to rescue from diabolical possession a single soul. But to rescue this soul they had all to pass through storms in crossing. It was surely worth all the risk they ran! The weary Saviour fell asleep soon after embarking, and it was while he was sleeping the storm arose in nature, and the storm of fear in the souls of the disciples. It argued little faith on their part to suppose that they were in danger when beside them is the sleeping Christ. Yet so it was. Jesus may lead his people into danger, but he always shares it with them, and leads them in due time out of it. No sooner do they appeal to him to save them from perishing, than he arises, rebukes the wind and the wave, so that, contrary to custom, there is an immediate calm; and then proceeds to rebuke the storm within their souls, and make all these also to be peace. In this way our Lord showed his sovereignty over nature, and his sovereignty over man. He can rebuke "the noise of their seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people" (Psalms 65:7). No wonder that the strangers who were in the beat with the disciples were astonished at One who could command wind and wave, and they obeyed him!
II. JESUS THE MINISTER TO MINDS DISEASED. (Luke 8:26-40.) In the greatest peace the disciples and their Master approached the shore. But here a more terrible storm confronted him—the mania of the poor possessed one. "The beloved physician," who writes this Gospel, brings out the characteristics of the mania as a physician would. £ No sooner does the case present itself to Jesus, than he commands the devil to depart from him. No protest on the part of the unclean tenant avails; the spirit and his companions are compelled to prepare for departure. They bargain hard not to be sent "into the abyss" (εἰς τὴν ἄβυσσον), where their final doom awaits them, and, as an alternative, ask to be permitted to enter into an adjoining herd of swine. This association of evil spirits with animals is illustrated in the Edenic temptation, and it may account for the reign of terror in the geologic times. £ The possession of the animals may be different from that of a moral being like man, as Godet suggests; yet it shows surely the sensualism into which evil spirits can descend. The prodigal son only desired to satisfy himself with the swinish life; but these demons actually made the experiment (cf. Luke 15:16). But now the swine, reinforced by the devils, rush madly onwards to the sea, and perish in the waters. The result is that one human being is delivered from his mania, while a herd of swine are sacrificed. If such an alternative is presented, there can be no doubt as to the decision. Better that all the swine in the world should perish, if as the result a single human soul is delivered from his mental disease. Hence the wretched souls, who came from the city and lamented the loss of the swine instead of rejoicing in the cure of the demoniac, show thereby that they deserved the judgment which had overtaken them. Jesus can "minister to minds diseased;" he can bring the maniac to his right mind again; and he can cure us of the insanity of sin and have us sitting clothed at his feet and anxious to be with him evermore. When, besides, the Gadarenes desire his departure, he can make arrangements for witness-bearing, so that when he returns after a time, the unwilling people shall be found to have renounced their unwillingness and to gladly welcome him. So may we all witness among our friends to the power of our Lord.
III. THE TOUCH OF FAITH. (Luke 8:43-48.) We have next to notice the healing of the woman with the issue of blood. This was the solitary miracle where faith anticipates our Lord's consent, and finds healing through the touch of his garment. Having presented herself so often to the physicians, she in this case refuses to obtrude upon his notice, but thinks she will escape in the crowd. But our Lord, perceiving that from his sacred Person healing power had flowed, inquires for the patient, who in due season comes and confesses all. But she has been brought before him that he might convey to her the lesson that it was her faith, and not a mere physical touch, which had saved her. That is to say, the process was moral, and not merely physical. And surely this case of the issue of blood is to represent certain aspects of sin. It is a drain upon the moral system which man cannot staunch. But once we look to Jesus by faith and touch the hem of his garment, we are instantly healed, and power begins again to rise within us. We ought not to let our vital power be undermined when such a Saviour is at hand to heal us!
IV. THE AWAKENING OF THE DEAD. (Luke 8:41, Luke 8:42, Luke 8:49-56.) This case of resurrection-power presents Jesus in the culmination of his miraculous work. The command of nature and of human nature is important, but still more magnificent is the command of death, the power to enter into the gloomy realm, and there assert one's authority. This is what Jesus does. He is humbly asked by Jairus to come to his dying daughter. He finds that he has to face the little daughter already dead. The father, ready to despair, is told to "believe only, and she shall be made whole." He believed, and lo! he found in Jesus One who could awake the dead! The resurrection is witnessed by the parents and three disciples—chosen witnesses. And after she is raised, he gives directions that she should be fed, and then that they should be silent about the miracle. He did not desire to be overwhelmed by the miraculous part of his work, but that he might be able to give a due proportion of his attention to teaching, £ Similarly may each of us experience Christ's resurrection-power in our souls now, and in our bodies afterwards.—R.M.E.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Luke 8". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28