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We heard before, Luke 6:13 of our Saviour's choosing his twelve apostles, and their several names; they were first chosen disciples to be with Christ, to learn of him, and be instructed by him, and to be witnesses of what he said and did. Now after some time thus spent in preparing and fitting them for public service, our Saviour sends them forth to preach the gospel, and gives them a power to confirm their doctrine by miracles.
Observe here, 1. The person that sends the apostles forth to preach the gospel: it is Christ himself.
Learn thence, that none ought to take upon them the office of preaching, or any other ministerial function of the church, till thereunto called by Christ himself. The apostles were called by Christ, and immediately sent forth by himself. The ministers of the gospel are now called mediately, and receive authority from Christ by the hand of the governors of the church.
Observe, 2. The power given to the apostles by our Saviour to work miracles, for confirming that doctrine which they preached: He gave them power over unclean spirits, etc. Now this miraculous power given to the apostles was necessary, partly to procure reverence to their persons, being poor and unlearned men; but principally to gain credit and authority to their doctrine; for the doctrine of faith in the Messiah as now come, and exhibited in the flesh, being a strange and new doctrine to the Jews, the truth and certainty of it was to be extraordinarily ratified by miracles, which are the broad seal of heaven, to testify that such doctrine comes from God.
Observe,3. The charge here given by Christ to his apostles at the time of their sending forth; and this is three-fold.
First, touching their preparation for the journey: he forbids them to take much care, or to spend much time, in furnishing themselves with victuals, money, or clothes; because they were to finish their journey speedily, and to return again to Christ their Master. This command of our Saviour to his apostles not to encumber themselves, when going forth to preach the gospel, teaches his ministers their duty, to free themselves as much as possibly they can from worldy incumbrances, which may hinder them in their ministerial services. No man that warreth, entangleth himself with the affairs of this life. 2 Timothy 2:4
Secondly, touching their lodging in their journey: Christ advises them not to change it, during their stay in one place; but into whatsoever house they entered, they should there continue till they departed out of the place, that so they might avoid all show of lightness and inconstancy, and testify all gravity and stayedness in their behavior; this being a special mean to gain reverence to their persons, and authority to their doctrine.
Thirdly, Christ gives a special charge to his apostles concerning their carriage toward such as should refuse to give entertainment to them and their doctrine: they were to denounce the judgments of God against such contemners, by shaking off the dust off their feet for a testimony against them. This action was emblematical, signifying that Almighty God would in like manner shake them off, as the vilest dust; for wherever the word is preached, it is for a testimony, either a testimony for, or against, a people; for if the dust of a minister's feet while alive, and the ashes of his grave when dead, do bear witness against the despisers of his gospel, their sermons much more.
The history of the holy Baptist's beheading by Herod, is briefly here hinted at, by St. Luke, but not so largely set forth by him as we find it by St. Matthew, Matthew 14:10 and St. Mark Mark 6:27. See the notes there. That which St. Luke takes particular notice of is, that great perplexity of mind which Herod's guilty conscience did occasion; he had murdered John, and now is afraid his Ghost haunted him; Herod was perplexed.
Learn hence, that guilt is naturally troublesome and uneasy: it disturbs the peace and serenity of the mind, and fills the soul with storms and thunder. Guilt is always full of fear; every thing affrights the guilty. A bad man is a terror to himself, and needs no farther disquietment than what his own guilty conscience does occasion him.
St. Luke here gives a short account of several material passages, as,
1. Concerning the apostles' return to Christ after their mission and sending forth; they acquaint their Master how they had executed their office, and discharged the trust he had reposed in them.
2. He withdraws privately into a desert place from the multitude, that he might enjoy himself and his disciples, but there the people find him out, and flock after him; and Christ, whose meat it was by day, and sleep by night, to do good, embraces the opportunity, bestowing upon their souls instruction, reproof and counsel: upon their bodies, health and healing: teaching us by the example to mix spiritual alms with bodily relief. We must be in fee with the body sometimes, that we may come at the soul.
Happy is that Christian whom God has made both able and willing to intermix spiritual alms with corporeal, and knows how to feed two at once, soul and body both! This is the duty of all, but especially of spiritual persons. The Lord gives us wisdom and grace to manage it to advantage!
This miracle of our Saviour's feeding five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, is recorded by all the evangelists, and in the history of it we have these observable particulars:
1. The seasonable expression of the disciples' pity towards the multitude, who had long fasted, and wanted now the ordinary comforts and supports of life; it well becomes the ministers of Christ to have respect to the bodily wants as well as to the spiritual necessities of their people.
Observe, 2. The motion which the disciples make to Christ on behalf of the multitude: Send them away, that they may go into the towns and country, and get victuals. Here was a strong charity, but a weak faith; a strong charity in desiring the people's relief, but a weak faith in supposing that they could no other way be relieved, but by sending them away; forgetting that Christ, who had healed the multitude miraculously, could also feed them miraculously whenever he pleased; all things being equally easy to an almighty power.
Observe, 3. Our Saviour's strange reply to the disciples' request: They need not depart, give ye them to eat. Need not depart, why? The people must either feed or famish; victuals they must have, and a dry desert will afford none; yet says Christ to his disciples, Give ye them to eat. Alas poor disciples! They had nothing for themselves to eat, how then should they give the multitude to eat?
When Christ requires of us what we of ourselves are unable to perform, it is to discover to us our own impotency and weakness, to provoke us to look up to him, and to depend by faith on his almighty power.
Observe, 4. What a poor and slender provision the Lord of the whole earth has for himself and his family: five barley loaves, and two fishes: teaching us, that these bodies of ours must be fed, but not pampered. Our belly must not be our master, much less our god. The end of food is to sustain nature; we must not stifle her with a gluttonous variety. And as the quality of the victuals was plain, so the quantity of it was small; five loaves, and two fishes: well might the disciples say, What are they among so many? The eye of sense and reason sees an utter impossibility of those effects which faith can easily apprehend, and a divine power more easily reproduce.
Observe, 5. How Christ, the great master of the feast does marshal his guests: He commands them all to sit down by fifties in a company. None of them reply, "Sit down! But to what? Here are the mouths, but where's the meat? We may soon be set, but what shall we be served?" Not a word like this, but they obey and expect.
Lord! How easy it is to trust thy providence, and rely upon thy power, when there is corn in the barn, bread in the cupboard, money in the purse; but when our stores are empty, when we have nothing in hand, then to depend upon an invisible bounty, is a noble act of faith indeed.
Observe, 6. The actions performed by our blessed Saviour: He blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to the disciples, and they to the multitude.
1. He blessed them teaching us by his example never to use or receive the good creatures of God, without prayer and praise; never to sit down to our food as a beast to his fodder.
2. Christ brake the loaves: he could have multiplied them whole. Why then would he rather do it in the breaking? Perhaps to teach us that we may rather expect his blessing in the distribution of his bounty than in the reservation of it. Scattering is the way to increasing, liberality is the way to riches.
3. Christ gave the loaves thus broken to the disciples, that they might distribute to the multitude. But why did Christ distribute by the disciples' hands? Doubtless to gain respect to his disciples from the people: and the same course does our Lord take in a spiritual distribution. He that could feed the world by his own immediate hand, chooses rather by the hand of his ministers to divide the bread of life amongst his people.
Observe, 7. The certainty and greatness of this miracle: They did all eat, and were filled, they did all eat, not a crumb or a bit, but a satiety and fullness; all that were hungry did eat, and all that did eat were satisifed; and yet twelve baskets of fragments remain: more is left than was at first set on.
It is hard to say which was the greatest miracle; the miraculous eating or the miraculous leaving. If we consider what they left, we may wonder that they ate anything; if what they ate, that they left anything.
Observe lastly, these fragments, though of barley loaves and fish-bones, must not be lost, but at our Saviour's command gathered up: the great Housekeeper of the world will not allow the loss of his leftovers.
Lord! How tremendous will their accounts be, who having large and plentiful estates, do consume them upon their lust! How will they wish they had been born to poverty and want, when they appear to make up their account before God!
These verses relate to us a private conference which our Saviour had with his disciples, touching their own, and others' opinion concerning himself.
Where observe, 1. Our Saviour's enquiry, what the generality of the people thought and said of him: Whom do men say that I am? Not as if Christ were ignorant, or did vain gloriously enquire after the opinion of the multitude; but his intention and design was to settle and more firmly establish his disciples in the belief of his being the true and promised Messiah. The disciples tell him, some took him to be John the Baptist: some, Elias; some one of the prophets. It is no new thing, it seems to find diversity of judgments and opinions concerning Christ and the affairs of his kingdom.
Observe, 2. Peter, as the mouth of all the apostles, and in their names, makes a full and open profession of Christ, acknowledging him to be the true and promised Messiah: Thou art the Christ of God.
Learn thence, that the veil of Christ's human nature did not keep the eye of his disciples' faith from discerning him to be truly and really God: Thou are the Christ of God.
Observe, 3. The charge and special injunction given by Christ to tell no man of him: that is, not commonly to publish, and openly to declare him to be the Son of God, because being in his state of humiliation, the glory of his divinity was to be concealed until his resurrection; he was then declared to be the Son of God with power, Romans 1:4
Observe lastly, the great wisdom of our Saviour in acquainting his disciples with the near approach of his death and sufferings: The Son of man must suffer many things, etc.
This our Saviour did,
1. To prevent that scandal and offence which otherwise they might have taken at his sufferings.
2. The better to fit and prepare them to bear that great trial when it did come.
3. To correct the error which they had entertained concerning the temporal kingdom of the Messiah, and that he was to be a great and mighty prince here upon earth; for these reasons did Christ frequently acquaint his disciples with his sufferings.
Observe here, 1. How our Saviour recommends his religion to every person's election and choice, not compelling any one by force and violence to embrace or entertian it: If any man will be my disciple: that is, if any man chooses and resolves to be a Christian.
Observe, 2. Our Saviour's terms propounded: namely, self-denial, gospel-suffering, and gospel-service.
1. Self-denial: Let him deny himself: by which we are not to understand either the denying of our sense in matters of faith, or in the renouncing of our reason in matters of religion, but a willingness to part with all our earthly comforts and temporal enjoyments for the sake of Christ, when called thereunto.
They to whom we bear the greatest natural affection, even the wife of our bosom, and the offspring of our bowels, and those to whom we yield the highest reverence, and to whose commands we owe most entire obedience, as our fathers and mothers; if the authority of natural, civil, or ecclesiastical superiors should combine to tempt us to do what Christ forbids, yet Christ must be loved more than these, and obeyed before all these; yea all these must be comparatively hated in respect of him.
Farther, this precept requires us to deny our honor and reputation, our wealth and outward estate, our whole subsistence, and all our temporal good things, even life itself, when the interest of Christ and religion calls for it; otherwise we cannot be his disciples.
2. Gospel-sufferings: he must take up his cross daily; an allusion to a Roman custom; when a malefactor was to be crucified, he took his cross upon his shoulder, and carried it to the place of execution.
Here note, that not the taking of the cross, but patient bearing of it, when God has made it, and laid it upon our shoulder, is the duty enjoined: let him take up his cross.
3. Gospel-service: let him follow me, says Christ; that is, obey my commands, and imitate my example. He must set my life and doctrine continually before him, and be daily correcting and reforming of his life by that rule and pattern.
Observe 3. The arguments urged by our Saviour to induce men to a willingness to lay down their lives for the sake of Christ and his holy religion: He that will save his life shall lose it, and he that is willing to lose his life for the sake of the gospel, shall find it: intimating to us,
1. That the love of this temporal life is a great temptation to men to deny Christ, and to renounce his holy religion.
2. That the surest way to attain eternal life, is cheerfully to lay down our temporal life, when the glory of Christ, and the honor of religion require it at our hands.
Here our Saviour goes on to show the folly of those that for saving their temporal lives will expose their eternal life, or the life of their souls, to hazard and danger; yea, sometimes by refusing to lay down our temporal life for Christ, we lose thay also; which renders it the greatest folly in the world to refuse to part with any enjoyment, even life itself, at the call and command of Christ.
That is, whosoever shall deny and disown me, either in my person, in my doctrine, or my members, for any fear or favor of man, he shall with shame be disowned by me, and rejected of me, at the great day.
There are two passions which cause men to disown Christ in the day of temptation; namely, fear and shame.
Many good men have been overcome by the former, as St. Peter and others; but we find not any good man in scripture guilty of the latter, namely, that denied Christ out of shame: this argues a rotten, unsound, and corrupt heart. If any man think it beneath his honor and quality to own the opposed truths, and despised members of Christ, Christ will think it beneath him to own such persons at the great day.
Learn hence, 1. That such as are ashamed of Christ's doctrine, or members, are in God's account ashamed of Christ himself.
2. That such as either for fear dare not, or for shame will not, own the doctrine and members of Christ now, shall certainly find Christ ashamed to own and confess them at the great day.
There is a three-fold sense and interpretation of these words given by expositors.
1. Some refer the words to the times of the gospel after Christ's resurrection and ascension, when the gospel was propagated far and near, and the kingdom of God came with power.
Learn thence, that where the gospel is powerfully preached, and cheerfully obeyed, there Christ comes most gloriously in his kingdom.
2. Others understand these words of Christ's coming and exercising his kingly power in the destruction of Jerusalem, which some of the apostles then standing by lived to see.
3. Others (as most agreeable to the context) understand the words with reference to our Saviour's transfiguration; as if he had said, "Some of you, (meaning Peter, James, and John,) shall shortly see me upon Mount Tabor, and that in such splendor and glory, as shall be a preludium, a shadow and representation, of that glory which I shall appear in, when I shall come with power to judge the world at the great day."
And whereas our Saviour said not, there are some standing here which shall not die, but which shall not taste of death, until they have seen this glorious sight; this implies two things.
1. That after they had seen this transfiguration, they must taste of death as well as others.
2. That they should but taste of it, and no more.
From whence learn, 1. That the most renowned servants of Christ, for faith, holiness, and service, must at length, in God's appointed time, taste and have experience of death, as well as others.
3. That although they must taste, yet they shall but taste of death; they shall not drink of the dregs of that bitter cup; though they fall by the hand of death, yet shall they not be hurt by it, but in the very fall be victorious over it.
Here we have recorded the history of our holy Saviour's transfiguration; when he laid, as it were the garments of our frail humanity aside for a little season; and put on the robes of his divine glory to demonstrate and testify the truth of his divinity; for his divine glory was an evidence of his divine nature, and also an emblem of that glory which he and his disciples, and all his faithful servants and followers, shall enjoy together in heaven.
Observe, 1. The design of our Saviour in this his transfiguration, namely, to confirm his disciples' faith in the truth of his divine nature: he was therefore pleased to suffer the rays of his divinity to dart forth before their eyes, so far as they were able to bear it; his face shined with a pleasing brightness, and his raiment with such a glorious lustre, as did at once both delight and dazzle the eyes of his disciples.
Observe, 2. The choice which our Saviour makes of the witnesses of his transfiguration: his three disciples, Peter, James, and John. But why disciples? Why three disciples, and why these three?
1. Why disciples? Because his transfiguration was a type of heaven: Christ vouchsafes therefore the earnest and first fruits of that glory only to saints upon earth, on whom he intended to bestow the full crop in due time.
2. Why three disciples? Because these were sufficient to witness the truth of this miracle. Judas was unworthy of this favor, yet, lest he should murmur or be discontented, others are left out as well as he.
3. But why these three rather than others?
Probably 1. Because these three were more eminent for great zeal and love towards Christ: now the most eminent manifestations of glory are made to those that are most excelling in grace.
2. Because these three disciples were to be witnesses of Christ's agony and passion, to prepare them for which, they are here made witnesses of his transfiguration. This glorious vision upon Mount Tabor fitted them to abide the terror of Mount Calvary.
Observe 3. The glorious attendants upon our Saviuor at his transfiguration: they were two; those two men, Moses and Elias. This being but a glimpse of heaven's glory, and not a full manifestation of it, only two of the glorified saints attended it, and these two attendants are not two angels, but two men; because men were more nearly concerned than angels in what was done. But why Moses and Elias, rather than any other men?
1. Because Moses was the giver of the law, and Elias the chief of the prophets; now both these attending upon Christ, did show the consent of the law and the prophets with Christ, and their accomplishment and fulfilling in him.
2. Because these two men were the most laborious servants of Christ: both adventured their lives in God's cause, and therefore were highly honored by him; for those that honor him he will honor.
Observe, 4. The carriage and behavior of the disciples upon this great occasion:
1. They supplicate Jesus: they do not pray to Moses or Elias, but to Christ: Master, it is good being here.
O what a ravishing comfort and satisfaction is the communion and fellowship of the saints! But the presence of Christ amongst them, renders their joys transporting.
2. They proffer their service to further the continuance of what they did enjoy: Let us make three tabernacles; saints will stick at no cost or pains for the enjoyment of Christ's presence and his people's company.
Learn hence, 1. That a glimpse of heaven's glory is sufficient to raise a soul into ecstacy and to make it out of love with worldly company.
2. That we are apt to desire more of heaven upon earth than God will allow us; we would have the heavenly glory come down to us, but are not willing by death to go up to that.
Observe, 5. How a cloud was put before the disciples' eyes, when the divine glory was manifested to them, partly to allay the lustre and resplendency of that glory which they were swallowed up with: the glory of heaven is insupportable in this imperfect state, we cannot bear it unveiled; and partly did this cloud come to hinder their looking and prying farther into this glory. We must be content to behold God through a cloud darkly here: before long we shall see him face to face.
Observe, 6. The testimony given out of the cloud by God the Father, concerning Jesus Christ his Son: This is my beloved Son, hear him.
Where note, 1. The dignity of his person; he is my Son, for nature coessential, and for duration co-eternal with his Father.
2. The endearedness of his relation; He is my beloved Son, because of his conformity to me, and compliance with me: likeness is the cause of love, and an union or harmony of wills causes a mutual endearing of affection.
3. The authority of his doctrine; Hear ye him; "not Moses and Elias, who were servants, but Christ my Son, whom I have authorized and appointed to be the great prophet and teacher of my church; therefore adore him as my Son, and believe in him as your Saviour, and hear him as your lawgiver." The obedient ear honors Christ more than either the gazing eye, the adoring knee, or the applauding tongue.
Observe here, 1. The person brought to Christ for help and healing; one bodily possessed by Satan, who rent and tore him, but rather to torment than to despatch him. Oh how does Satan delight to do hurt to the bodies, as well as the souls, of mankind! Lord, abate his power, since his malice will not be abated.
Observe, 2. The person who represented his sad condition to our Saviour; his compassionate father, who kneeled down and cried out. Need will make a person both humble and eloquent; every one has a tongue to speak for himself, happy is he that keeps a tongue for others.
Observe, 3. The physicians which this distressed person is brought unto: first to the disciples, and then to Jesus. We never apply ourselves importunately to the God of power, until we despair of the creature's help. But what hindered the disciples that they could not cast out this evil spirit? Why, it was their unbelief; O faithless generation.
Learn thence, that the great obstacle and obstruction of all blessings, both spiritual and temporal, coming to us, is our wretched infidelity and unbelief.
Observe, 4. The sovereign power and absolute authority which Christ had when on earth over the devil and his angels: Jesus rebuked him, cast him out, and charged him to return no more into him. This was a proof and demonstration of the Godhead of our Saviour, that, in his own name, that, by his own power and authority, he could and did cast the devils out.
Observable it is how frequently our Saviour forewarned his disciples of his approaching sufferings, and as the time of his suffering drew nearer, he did more frequently warn them of his death. But all this was little enough to arm them against the scandal of the cross; and to reconcile them to the thoughts of his suffering condition; how an ordinary prophet should be delivered into the hands of men they could easily understand, but how the Messiah should be so treated they could not apprehend; for the disciples had taken up the common opinion, that the Messiah was to be a temporal prince, and should conquer and reign here upon earth; and how to reconcile this with being killed, they could no ways apprehend; and they were afraid to be too particular in their enquiries about it.
Now, from Christ's so frequently warning his disciples of his approaching sufferings, we may gather that we can never hear, either too often or too much, of the doctrine of the cross, nor be too frequently instructed in our duty to prepare for a suffering state; as Christ went from his cross to his crown, from a state of abasement to a state of exaltation, so must all his disciples and followers expect likewise.
It may justly seem a wonder, that when our blessed Saviour discoursed so frequently with his disciples about his sufferings, that they should at the same time be disputing among themselves about precedency and pre-eminency, which of them should be the greatest, the first in place, and the highest in dignity and honor.
But from this instance we may learn, that the holiest and best of men are too prone to ambition, ready to catch at the bait of honor, to affect a precedency before, and superiority over others. Here the apostles themselves were touched with the itch of ambition; to cure this, our Saviour sets before them a little child, as the proper emblem of humility; showing that they ought to be as free from pride and ambition as a young child, which affects nothing of precedency.
Such as are of the highest eminency in the church, ought to be singularly adorned with the grace of humility, looking upon themselves as lying under the greatest obligation to be most eminently useful and serviceable to the church's good.
Observe here, 1. St. John's relation of a matter of fact to our Saviour; namely, his forbidding one to cast out devils in Christ's name, that did not follow Christ as they did; for though only the disciples which followed Christ had a commission to work miracles, yet were there others, no enemies to Christ, who, in imitation of his disciples, did attempt to do the like; and God was pleased, for the honor of his Son, in whose name they cast out devils, to give them sometimes success.
Observe, 2. The action of the disciples towards this person: We forbade him, because he followed not with us.
Where is observable, their rashness in forbidding him of their own heads, before they had consulted Christ about it; and their envy, and emulation, in that they were grieved and discontented that good was done, because they did not do it. It is as hard a matter to look upon the gifts of others without envy, as it is to look upon our own without pride.
Observe, 3. Our Saviour's reply: Forbid him not. Because our Saviour knew, that this action of casting out devils in his name would some ways redound to his glory, although he undertook the matter without direction from Christ. We ought not to censure and condemn those, who do that which is good in itself, though they fail in the manner of their doing it.
The time now drew on, wherein our Saviour was to be received up into heaven, and accordingly he sets his face to go to Jerusalem, that he might there suffer, and from thence ascend.
Now here we have observable, 1. That although Jerusalem was the nest of his enemies, the stage upon which his bloody sufferings were to be acted, the fatal place of his death, yet nothing terrified with danger, he sets his face for Jerusalem, that is, come what will, he will go with an invincible courage and resolution.
Learn thence, that although Christ had a perfect and exact knowledge of all the bitter sufferings he was to undergo, for and on the behalf of his members, yet did it not in the least dishearten him in, or discourage him from, that great and glorious undertaking.
Observe, 2. That although Christ was first to suffer before he did ascend, and to be lifted up upon the cross, before received up into heaven, yet is there no mention of his death here, but of his ascension only; as if all thoughts of death were swallowed up in his victory over death; teaching us, by his example, to overlook our sufferings and death, as not worthy to be named or mentioned with that glory which we are received into after death. The evangelist does not say the time was come when he should suffer, but when he should be received up.
Our Saviour was now going from Galilee to Jerusalem, and being to pass through a village of Samaria, he sent messengers before him to prepare entertainment for him. The Son of God, who was heir of all things, sends to, and sues for a lodging in, a Samaritan cottage.
Oh blessed Saviour, how can we be abased enough for thee, who thus neglected thyself fo us! It was thy pleasure to appear, not in the figure of a prince, but in the form of a servant, yet the people in the Samaritan village would not receive him!
Strange! To hear the Son of God sue for a lodging, and be denied; but the reason was, the difference of religion which was between the Jews and the Samaritans: the Jews worshipped at the temple of their own, built upon Mount Gerizim. Upon the building of this new temple there arose so great a feud between the Jews and the Samaritans, and in the process of time such an implacable hatred, that they would not show a common civility to one another. A Samaritan's bread to a Jew, was no better than swine's flesh; they would rather thirst than drink a draught of Samaritan water.
Hence we learn, that no enmity is so desperate as that which arises from matters of religion.
Here observe, 1. The crime which these men were guilty of: no affront must be accounted little, no indignity light, that is offered to the Son of God. But these Samaritans did not revile Christ, nor any of his retinue, that we read of; they did not violently assault him, they did not follow him with stones in their hands, or blasphemies in their mouths, but the wrong and injury was only negative: They received him not. They denied him a night's lodging, and this is not out of any dislike of his person, but from an antipathy against his nation.
Observe, 2. The carriage of the disciples upon this occasion: it was thus far commendable, that from the endeared love which they bore to their Master, they did highly resent the churlish denial of an act of kindness towards him.
A gracious heart is holily impatient at the sight of an indignity offered to Christ; but their fault was, that they were too far transported with passion and revenge, even to desire the death and destruction of the uncivil Samaritans: Wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them? They do not say, Master, will it please thee, who art Lord of the creature, to command fire to come down? Nor did they say, if it be thy pleasure command us to call down fire; but, Wilt thou that we command fire? This savours too much of pride, cruelty, and revenge; so dangerous is a misguided zeal.
Here we have our Saviour's censure of the rash and hot motion of his disciples, which proceeded first from ignorance of themselves, Ye know not what spirit ye are of; you are not now under the rough and sour dispensation of the law, but under the calm and gentle institution of the gospel, which designs universal love, peace, and good-will, to all mankind.
Hence learn, first, that a cruel and revengeful spirit is directly contrary to the design and temper of Christianity.
Secondly, that no difference in religion, no pretence of zeal to God, can warrant and justify such a spirit and temper.
Again, this rashness in the disciples proceeded from their ignorance of Christ their Lord and Master, as well as of themselves: the Son of man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them; that is, the proper intent and design of my coming was to save, and not to destroy, though the accidental event of it may be otherwise, through the malice and perverseness of men.
Learn, that it is the design of Christ and his holy religion to discountenance all fierceness, rage, and cruelty, in men, one towards another, and to inspire them universally with a spirit of love and unity. Christ is so far from allowing us to persecute them that hate us, that he forbids us to hate them that persecute us.
Observe here, 1. A person resolving to follow Christ, a good resolution if made deliberately and wisely, not for sinister ends, or secular advantages, which it is to be feared was the case here, by our Saviour's answer; for, says he, Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
As if Christ had said, "My condition in the world is very poor, I have no house of residence that I call my own; the birds of the air have their fixed nests, and the beasts of the earth have their dens and holes, but I have no fixed habitation; therefore if you think to follow me for the sake of worldly advantage, you will find yourself greatly disappointed."
Learn hence, that such men will find themselves miserably mistaken, and greatly disappointed, who expect to gain any thing by following of Christ, but their souls' salvation. It was a common opinion among the Jews, that the disciples of the Messiah should get wealth and honor by following him.
It is likely what this person said proceeded from this opinion; accordingly Christ discourages him from such expectation, by laying before him his mean, poor, and low condition, in which he was to be followed by his disciples; as if Christ had said, "If you expect temporal advantages by following of me, you will be much mistaken, for I have nothing I can call my own."
We are not to suppose by this prohibition, that Christ disallows or disapproves of any civil office from one person to another, much less of a child to a parent, either living or dying; but he lets us know,
1. That no office of love and service to man must be preferred before our duty to God, to whom we owe our first and chief obedience.
2. That lawful and decent offices become sinful, when they hinder greater duties.
3. That such as are called by Christ to preach the gospel, must mind that alone, and leave inferior persons; as if Christ had said, "Others will serve well enough to bury the dead, but thou that art called to minister unto God, must do that unto which thou art called." Under the law the priests might not come near a dead corpse; nor meddle with the interment of their own parents, unto which our Saviour here probably alludes.
Here we have another person that promised to follow Christ, but desired leave first to settle the affairs of his family, and take leave of his friends.
Our Saviour tells him if he would be one of his ministers, he must be like a ploughman, who looks forward, and not backward, or he will never make his furrows right, they will either be too deep or too narrow, he must mind his plough and nothing else.
Thus must they that are called to the work of the ministry, mind it wholly, attend to that alone; their whole time, their whole strength, must be devoted to it; the things of the world are things behind them, they must not look back upon them.
Nothing can justify a minister concerning himself with the encumbrances of worldly business, but only perfect necessity for the support of himself and family.
Again, ploughing work is hard work, a strong and steady hand is required for it; he that ploughs must keep on, and make no balks of the hardest ground he meets with: verily no difficulties must discourage either ministers or people in the way of their duty.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Luke 9". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29