Thursday, March 23rd, 2023
the Fourth Week of Lent
the Fourth Week of Lent
There are 17 days til Easter!
Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible Kelly Commentary
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Luke 13". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ wkc/ luke-13.html. 1860-1890.
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Luke 13". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
- Henry's Complete
- Clarke Commentary
- Bridgeway Bible Commentary
- Coffman's Commentaries
- Carroll's Biblical Interpretation
- Barnes' Notes
- Bullinger's Companion Notes
- Bell's Commentary
- College Press
- Smith's Commentary
- Dummelow on the Bible
- Constable's Expository Notes
- Ellicott's Commentary
- Expositor's Dictionary
- Hole's Commentary
- Meyer's Commentary
- Gaebelein's Annotated
- Morgan's Exposition
- Gill's Exposition
- Everett's Study Notes
- Geneva Study Bible
- Haydock's Catholic Commentary
- Commentary Critical
- Commentary Critical Unabridged
- Gray's Concise Commentary
- Parker's The People's Bible
- Sutcliffe's Commentary
- Trapp's Commentary
- Kretzmann's Commentary
- Lange's Commentary
- Grant's Commentary
- Henry's Complete
- Henry's Concise
- Poole's Annotations
- Pett's Commentary
- Peake's Commentary
- Preacher's Homiletical
- Poor Man's Commentary
- Benson's Commentary
- Sermon Bible Commentary
- Spurgeon's Verse Expositions
- The Biblical Illustrator
- Coke's Commentary
- The Pulpit Commentaries
- Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
- Wesley's Notes
- Whedon's Commentary
- Henry's Complete
- AEK Concordant NT Commentary
- Abbott's NT
- Orchard's Catholic Commentary
- Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary
- Daily Study Bible
- Expositor's Greek Testament
- Godbey's NT Commentary
- Alford's Greek Testament Commentary
- Meyer's Commentary
- Bible Study NT
- Bengel's Gnomon
- People's NT
- Robertson's Word Pictures
- Schaff's NT Commentary
- Burkitt's Expository Notes
- Daily Study Bible
- Golden Chain Commentary
- Lightfoot's Commentary
- McGarvey'S Commentaries
- Ryle's Exposiory Thougths
- Fourfold Gospel
- Box on Selected Books
- Lapide's Commentary
- Godet on Selected Books
- International Critical
- Ironside's Notes
- Restoration Commentary
- Watson's Expositions
- Utley Commentary
- Kelly Commentary
- Zerr's N.T. Commentary
The ninth chapter opens with the mission not the setting apart, but the circuit of the twelve sent out by the Lord, who therein was working after a fresh sort. He communicates power in grace to men, chosen men, who have to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick; for in this Gospel, although it be at first in Israel, it is the working of divine grace that is evidently destined for an incomparably larger sphere and yet deeper objects. This mission of the twelve in the Gospel of Matthew has a decidedly Jewish aspect, even to the very end, and contemplates the messengers of the kingdom occupied with their work till the Son of man come, and therefore entirely leaves out what God is now doing in the call of the Gentiles. Here we have clearly the same mission presented in a wholly different point of view. What is peculiarly Jewish, though all was then to the Jew, disappears; what makes known God, and this, too, in mercy and goodness towards needy man this we have fully in our Gospel. It is said here, "Preach the kingdom of God." Instead of leaving man to himself, the intervention of divine power is the central thought of God's kingdom; and instead of man being left to his resources and wisdom to take and keep the upper hand in the world by the providence of God, as if he had a certain vested right in the realm of nature, God will Himself take up this scene for the purpose of introducing His own power and goodness into it in the person of Christ, the Church being thus associated, and man thus exalted truly, and blessed more than ever. This will be displayed in what we commonly call the millennium. But meanwhile the twelve were to go out as Christ's messengers; for God always gives a testimony before He brings in the thing that is testified of. Attached to this apostolate was power over all demons, and the cure of diseases. But this was only accessory. The chief and evident aim was no display of deeds, though He did arm the messengers of the kingdom with such energy as that the powers of Satan should be defied, as it were, though this is more detailed in Matthew. Not, of course, that there is silence here as to the miraculous powers of healing. But we do not find in Luke the especial details of Jewish appeal up to the end of the age, nor the vacuum as to intermediate dealings with Gentiles. What the Holy Ghost singles out and brings into prominence here is all that manifests the goodness and compassion of God towards man in both soul and body.
We have along with this the solemnity of refusing, the testimony of Christ. Indeed, this is true even of the gospel now, where it is not merely the kingdom preached, but the grace of God; and, in my opinion, it is an accompaniment of the gospel that never can be severed from it without loss. To preach love alone is defective. Love is essential to the gospel, which assuredly is the very brightest manifestation of God's grace to man in Christ; for it is a message of love which not only gave the only begotten Son of God, but dealt with Him unsparingly on the cross in order to save sinners. To preach love alone is another and serious thing, a different gospel which is not another. Yea, to keep back the awful and ruinous consequences of indifference to the gospel, I do not mean absolutely rejecting it, but even making light of the gospel, is fatal. Never is it real love to keep back or hide that man is already lost and must be cast into hell, unless he be saved through believing the gospel. To occupy men with other things, however seemingly or really good in their place, is no proof of love to man, but insensibility to the grace of God, the glory of God, the evil of sin, the truest deepest need of man, the sureness of judgment, the blessedness of the gospel. This neglected, God in vain is otherwise shown out in His goodness. To return, however, we see that in this part of our Gospel the Lord is testifying to the Jews in view of His rejection, the disciples being invested with the powers of the world to come.
Then we have the working of conscience shown out in a bad man. Herod even, far removed as he was from such a testimony, still was so far moved by it as to enquire what it all meant, and whose power it was that thus wrought. He had known John the Baptist as a great personage, who struck the attention of all Israel in his day. But John was gone. Herod had good reason to know how it was an evil conscience that troubled him, particularly as he heard what was going on now, when men pretended, among various rumours, that John was risen from the dead. This did not satisfy Herod; he had no sense of the power of God, but, at least, he was disturbed and perplexed.
The apostles tell the Lord on their return what they had done, and He takes them into a desert place, where, on their failure to enter into the character of Christ, He displays Himself as not only a man who was the Son of God, but as God, Jehovah Himself. There is no Gospel where the Lord Jesus does not show Himself thus. He may have other objects, He may not always manifest Himself in the same elevation; but there is no gospel that does not present the Lord Jesus as the God of Israel upon earth. And hence this is a miracle found in all the Gospels. Even John, who ordinarily does not give the same sort of miracles as the others, presents this miracle along with the other evangelists. Hence, it is plain, that God was showing His presence in beneficence to His people on the earth. The very character of the miracle speaks it. He who once rained the manna is here; once more He feeds His poor with bread. It was the Jew particularly, but still the poor and despised, who were like sheep ready to perish in the wilderness. Thus we find that, while it is perfectly in harmony with the character of Luke, it nevertheless comes within the range of all the Gospels, some for one reason and some for another.
Matthew was given, I suppose, to illustrate the great dispensational change then imminent; because Christ is there shown us as dismissing the multitude, and going to pray on high, while the disciples toil on the troubled sea. There was no real faith in the poor Jews; they only wanted Jesus for what He could give them, not for His own sake. Whereas faith receives God in Jesus; faith sees the supreme glory of a rejected Jesus: no matter what the outward circumstances may be, still it owns Him; the multitude did not. They would have liked such a Messiah as their eyes saw in His power and beneficence; they would have liked such an One to provide and fight their battles for them; but there was no sense of God's glory in His person. The consequence is, the Lord, though He feeds them, goes away; the disciples are meanwhile exposed to toil and tempest, and the Lord Jesus rejoins them, calling out the energy of one who symbolises the bolder ones in the last days. For even the godly remnant in Israel will not then have precisely the same measure of faith. Peter appears to represent the more advanced, going forth out of the ship to meet the Lord, but like him, no doubt, ready to perish for their boldness. Although there was the work of affection, and so far of confidence, to abandon all for Jesus, still Peter was occupied with the troubles, as they undoubtedly will be in that day. As for him, so for them will the Lord mercifully interpose. Thus it is evident that Matthew has in view the complete change that has taken place: the Lord gone away and taking another character altogether above, and then rejoining His people, working in their hearts, and delivering them in the last days. Of this we have nothing in M Mark or Luke. The scope of neither admitted of such a sketch of circumstances as could become a type of the events of the last days in connection with Israel, any more than of the present separation of the Lord to be a Priest on high, before He returns to the earth and especially to Israel. We can easily understand how perfectly all this suits Matthew.
But again, inJohn 6:1-71; John 6:1-71, the miracle furnished the occasion for the wonderful discourse of our Saviour, occupying the latter part of the chapter, which will be touched on another occasion. At present my point is simply to show, that while we have it in all, the setting, so to speak, of the jewel differs, and that particular phase is brought out which suits the object of God's Spirit in each Gospel.
After this, as indeed is found everywhere, our Lord calls out the disciples more distinctly into a separate place. He had shown what He was, and all the blessings reserved for Israel, but there was no real faith in the people. There was, to a certain extent, a sense of need; there was willingness enough to receive what was for the body and the present life, but there their desires stop; and the Lord proved this by His questions, because these revealed the agitation of men's minds, and their want of faith. Hence, therefore, the reply of the disciples to the Lord's question, "Whom say the people that I am? They answering, said, John the Baptist; but some say Elias; and others say that one of the old prophets is risen again." Whether it were Herod and his servants, or Christ with the disciples, the same tale meets the ear of varying uncertainty but constant unbelief.
But now we find a change. In that little group which surrounded the Lord, there were hearts to whom God had unveiled the glory of Christ; and Christ loved to hear the declaration, not for His own sake, but for God's, and for theirs too. In divine love He heard their confession of His person. No doubt it was His due; but in truth His love desired rather to give than to get, to seal the blessing that had been already given of God, and to pronounce a fresh blessing. What a moment in God's eyes! Jesus "said unto them, But whom say ye that I am?" Peter then answers, unequivocally, "The Christ of God." At first sight it might seem remarkable that, in the Jewish Gospel of Matthew, we have a far fuller acknowledgment. There he owns Him not only to be the Christ, but the "Son of the living God." This is left out here. Along with the acknowledgment of that deeper glory of Christ's person, the Lord is reported as saying, "Upon this rock I will build my Church." As the expression of the divine dignity of Christ is left out here, so the building the Church is not found. There is only the acknowledgment of Christ as the true Messiah, the anointed of God; not one anointed by human hands, but the Christ of God. The Lord, therefore, entirely omits all intimation of the Church, that new thing which was going to be builded, just as we have here the omission of Peter's brightest confession. "And He straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing." It was no use to proclaim Him as the Messiah. After prophecies, miracles, preaching, the people had been altogether at fault. As the disciples themselves told the Lord, some said one thing, some said another, and no matter what they said, it was all wrong. No doubt there was this handful of disciples who followed Him; and Peter, speaking for the rest, knows and confesses the truth. But it was in vain for the people, as a whole; and this was the question for the Messiah, as such. The Lord accordingly, at this point of time, introduces that most solemn change, not dispensational, not the cutting off of the Jewish system, and the Church building coming into view. That, we have seen, comes in the Gospel where we have ever found the question of dispensational crisis discussed. In Luke it is not so; for there is found the great moral root of the matter; and after such a full I would not say adequate, but abundant testimony had been rendered to Christ, not merely by His intrinsic energy, but even by communicated power to His servants, it was altogether in vain to proclaim Him any longer as the Messiah of Israel. The manner in which He had come as Messiah was foreign to their thoughts, their feelings, their preconceptions, their prepossessions; the lowliness, the grace, the path of suffering and contempt all this was so hateful to Israel, that such a Messiah, though He were the Christ of God, they would have nothing to do with. They wanted a Messiah to gratify their national ambition, and to meet their natural wants. Earthly glory, as a present thing too, they desired, being simply men of the world; and whatever struck a blow at this, whatever brought in God and His ways, His goodness, His grace, His necessary judgment of sin, His introduction of that for faith now, which would, and alone could, stand throughout eternity, was abhorrent to them. Of all this they had no sense of want, and One who came for these ends was altogether odious to them. Hence, then, our Lord acts upon this at once, and announces the grand truth that it was no longer a question of the Christ accomplishing what had been promised to the fathers, and which, no doubt, would yet be made good to the children in another day. Meanwhile He was going to take the place of a rejected, suffering man the Son of man; not only One whose person was despised, but who was going to the cross: His testimony thoroughly discredited, and Himself to die. This, then, He first announced. "The Son of man," says He, "must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes (it is not here the Gentiles, but the Jews), and be slain, and be raised the third day." On that, I need not say, hangs not merely the glorious building of the Church of God, but the ground on which any sinful soul can be brought to God. But here it is presented, not in the view of atonement, but as the rejection and suffering of the Son of man at the hands of His own people, that is, of their leaders.
One must carefully remember that the death of Christ, infinite in value, accomplishes many and most worthy ends. To reduce ourselves to a single particular view of Christ's death, is no better than voluntary poverty in the presence of the inexhaustible riches of the grace of God. The sight of other objects met there does not in the least degree detract from the all-importance of atonement. I can perfectly understand, that when a soul is not thoroughly free and happy in peace, the one thing desired is that which will set such an one at ease. Hence, even among saints, the tendency to shut oneself up to the atonement. The looking for nothing else in the death of Christ is the proof that the soul is not satisfied that there is still a void in the heart, which craves what has not yet been found. Hence, therefore, persons who are more or less under the law restrict the cross of Christ only to expiation, i.e., the means of pardon. When it is a question of righteousness, so thoroughly d Mark are they, that anything beyond the remission of sins they must look somewhere else for. What is it to them that the Son of man was glorified, or God glorified in Him? In every respect, save that there is a place left for atonement in the mercy of God, the system is false.
Our Saviour speaks not as putting away man's guilt, but as rejected and suffering to the utmost because of man's or Israel's unbelief. It is here not a revelation of the efficacious sacrifice on God's part. The heads of earthly religion kill Him; but He is raised the third day. Then comes in, not a development of the blessed results of the atonement, however surely this was what God was going to effect at that very time; but Luke, as his manner is, insists, in connection with Christ's rejection and death, on the great moral principle: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself." The Lord will have the cross true, not only for a man, but to him too. Blessed as it is to know what God has wrought in the cross of Christ for us, we must learn what it writes on the world and human nature. And that is what our Lord presses: "If any man will come after me, let him deny Himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels." We have here a remarkable fulness of glory spoken of in connection with that great day when eternal things begin to be displayed.
"But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God." Here, therefore, as in the first three Gospels, we have the scene of the transfiguration. The only difference is, that in Luke's Gospel it appears to come a great deal earlier than in the others. In Matthew's case there is the waiting, as it were, till the last. I need not say that the Spirit of God had the exact point of time just as clearly before His mind in one as in another; but the ruling, object necessarily brought in other topics in one Gospel, as it put them aside in another. In a word, the point in Matthew was to show the fulness of testimony before that which was so fatal for Israel. God, I may say, exhausted every means of warning and testimony to His ancient people, giving them proof upon proof, all spread out before them. Luke, on the contrary, brings in a special picture of His grace "to the Jew first" at an early time; and then, that rejected, turns to larger principles, because in point of fact, what ever might be the means through the responsibility of man, it was all a settled thing with God.
John does not introduce the details of the offer to the Jews at all. From the very first chapter of John's gospel the trial is closed, and all decided. From the first it was apparent that Christ was thoroughly rejected. Therefore most consistently the particulars of the testimony and the transfiguration itself find no place in John: they are not in the line of his object. What answers to the transfiguration, as far as anything can be said so to do in the Gospel of John, is given in the first chapter, where it is said, "We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Even if this be conceived to be an allusion to what was beheld on the holy mount, it is here mentioned only in a parenthetical way. The object was not to speak of the glory of the kingdom, but to show that there was a glory deeper far in His person: the kingdom is abundantly spoken of elsewhere. The theme of this Gospel is to show man completely worthless from the very first, the Son all that was blessed, not only from the beginning, but from everlasting. Hence it is that there is no room for the transfiguration in the Gospel of John.
But in Luke, the effect being that He displays the moral roots of things, we have it put much earlier as to its place. The reason is manifest. From the time of the transfiguration, or immediately before it, Christ made the announcement of His death. There was no question any longer about setting up the kingdom in Israel at that time; no object consequently in preaching Messiah as such or the kingdom now. The point was this: He was going to die; He was about shortly to be cast off by the chief priests, and elders, and scribes. What was the use then of talking, about reigning now? Hence there is gradually made known in prophetic parables another kind of manner in which the kingdom of God was to be meanwhile introduced. A sample of the kingdom as it will be was seen on the mount of transfiguration; for the system of glory is only postponed, and in no wise given up. Thus that mount discloses a picture of what God had in His counsels. Before this, as is manifest, the preaching even of Christ was of One presented on the footing of man's responsibility. That is, the Jews were responsible to receive Him and the kingdom that He came with title to set up. The end of this was what is seen uniformly in such moral tests man, when tried, always found wanting. In his hands all comes to nothing. Here, then, He shows that it was all known to Him. He was going to die. This, of course, closes all pretension of man to meet his obligation on the ground of the Messiah, as before on that of law. His duty was plain, but he failed miserably. Consequently we are at once brought here in view of the kingdom, not provisionally offered, but according to the counsels of God, who had of course before Him the end from the beginning.
Let us then look at the peculiar manner in which the Spirit of God presents the kingdom through our evangelist. "And it came to pass about an eight days after these saying's, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray." The very mode of presenting the time differs from the others. All may not be aware that some men have found a difficulty here: where will they not? It seems to me a small difficulty this, between "after six days" (in Matthew and Mark), and "about an eight days after" (in Luke). Clearly, the one is an exclusive statement of time as the other is inclusive: a person has only to think in order to see that both were perfectly true. But I do not believe that it is without a divine reason that the Spirit of God was pleased to use the one in Matthew and Mark, and the other only in Luke. There appears to be a connection between the form, "about an eight days after," with our Gospel rather than the others; and for this simple reason, that this notation of time brings in that which, spiritually understood, goes beyond the work-a-day world of time, or even the kingdom in its Jewish idea and measure. The eighth day brings in not only resurrection, but the glory proper to it. Now this is what connects itself with the glimpse of the kingdom we catch in Luke, more than any other. No doubt there is that understood in the others, but it is not so openly expressed as in our Gospel, and we shall find this confirmed as we pursue the subject.
"And as he prayed, (that is, when there was the expression of His human perfectness in dependence upon God, of which Luke often speaks,) the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering." The appearance set forth that which will be wrought in saints when they are changed at the coming of Christ. So even in our Lord's case; though Scripture is most guarded, and it becomes us to speak reverently of His person, yet surely was He sent in the likeness of sinful flesh; but could He be so described when it was no longer the days of His flesh when risen from the dead, when death has no more dominion over Him when received up in glory? What then was seen on the holy mount, I judge to be rather the anticipatory semblance of what He is as glorified the one being but temporary, while His present condition will endure for ever. "And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease [departure] which he should accomplish at Jerusalem." Other elements of the deepest interest crowd on us; companions of the Lord, men familiarly talking with Him, yet appearing in glory. Above all, note that when the full character of the change or resurrection is more clearly attested, and even beheld more distinctly than anywhere else, the all-importance of the death of Christ is invariably felt just as the value of the resurrection rises. Nor is there any better device of the enemy for weakening the grace of God in Christ's death than to hide the power of His resurrection. On the other hand, he who speculates on the glory of the resurrection, without feeling that the death of Christ was the only possible ground of it before God, and the only way open to us whereby we could have a share with Him in that glorious resurrection, is evidently one whose mind has taken in but a part of the truth. Such an one wants the simple, living faith of God's elect; for if he had it, his soul would be keenly alive to the claims of God's holiness and the necessities of our guilty condition, which the resurrection, blessed as it is, could in no way meet, nor righteously secure any blessing for us, save as founded upon that departure which He accomplished at Jerusalem
But here no such thoughts or language appear. Not only is the glorious result before our eyes, the veil taken away, that we might see (as it were in company with these chosen witnesses) the kingdom as it will be, shown us here in a little sample of it, but we are admitted to hear the converse of the glorified saints with Jesus on its yet more glorious cause. They talked with Him, and the subject was His departure, which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. How blessed to know that we have that same death, that same most precious truth, nearest of all for our hearts, because it is the perfect expression of His love, and of His suffering love; that we have it now; that it is the very centre of our worship; that it is what habitually calls us together; that no joy in hope, no present favour, no heavenly privilege can ever obscure, but only give a fuller expression to our sense of the grace of His death, as, in truth, they are its fruits. Peter, and they that were with him, were asleep even here; and Luke mentions the circumstance, as especially introducing to our notice the moral state. Such, then, was the condition of the disciples, yea, of those who seemed to be pillars; the glory was too bright for them-they had scanty relish for it. The same disciples, who afterwards slept in the garden of agony, then slept in the mount of glory. And I am persuaded that the two tendencies are very closely akin, insensibility indifference; he who is apt to go asleep in the presence of the one indicates too plainly that you cannot expect from him any adequate sense of the other.
But there is more for us to see, however passingly. "And when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias; not knowing what he said." How little human, natural honour for Christ can be trusted even in a saint! Peter meant to magnify his Master. Let us trust God for it. His word brings in not now glorified men, but the God of glory. The Father could not suffer such a speech to come from Peter without a rebuke. No doubt Peter sincerely meant by it to honour the Lord on the mount, as Matthew and M Mark relate how he failed similarly just before; it was the indulgence of traditional thoughts and human feeling in view both of the cross and the glory. So many now, too, like Peter, intend nothing but honour to the Lord by that which would really deprive Him of a special and blessed part of His glory. The word of God alone judges all things; but man, tradition, heeds it little. So it was with Peter; the same disciple who would not have the Lord to suffer, now proposes to put the Lord on a level with Elias or Moses. But God the Father speaks out of the cloud that well-known sign of Jehovah's presence, of which every Jew, at least understood the meaning. "There came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him." Hence, whatever might be the place of Moses and Elias in the presence of Christ, it is no question of giving signal and like dignity to them all three, but of hearing the Son of God. As witnesses, they vanish before His testimony who was the object testified of. They were of the earth, He of heaven, and above all. To the Christ as such had they borne witness, even as the disciples hitherto; but He was rejected; and this rejection, in God's grace and wisdom, opened the way and laid the ground for the higher dignity of His person to shine as the Father knew Him, the Son, for the Church to be built thereon, and for communion with the heavenly glory. The Son has His own sole claim as the One to be heard now. So God the Father decides. What, in effect, could they say? They could only speak about Him, whose own words best declare what He is, as they only reveal the Father; and He was here to speak without their aid; He was here Himself to make known the true God; for this He is, and eternal life. "This is my beloved Son: hear him." Such is what the Father would communicate to the disciples upon earth. And this is most precious. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." For it is not merely the glorified speaking with Jesus, but the Father communicating about Him, the Son, to saints on earth; not to saints glorified, but to saints in their natural bodies, giving them a taste of His own delight in His Son. He would not have them weaken the glory of His Son. No effulgence which shone out from the glorified men must be allowed for a moment to cause forgetfulness of the infinite difference between Him and them. "This is my beloved Son." They were but servants, their highest dignity at best to be witnesses of Him. "This is my beloved Son: hear him. And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close."
Yet have I omitted another point that ought not to be left without special notice. While Peter spake, even before the Father's voice was heard, there came a cloud and overshadowed them, and they feared as they entered the cloud. And no wonder; because this was something entirely distinct from and above the glory of the kingdom for which they waited. Blessed as the kingdom is, and glorious, they did not fear when they saw the glorified men, nor Jesus Himself, the centre of that glory; they did not fear when they beheld this witness and sample of the kingdom; for every Jew looked for the kingdom, and expected the Messiah to set it up gloriously; and they knew well enough that, somehow or another, the saints of the past will be there along with the Messiah when He reigns over His willing people. None of these things produced terror; but, when the excellent glory came, overshadowing with its brightness (for light was there, and no darkness at all) the Shechinah of Jehovah's presence, and when Peter, James, and John saw the men with the Lord Jesus entering that cloud, this was something entirely above all previous expectation. No person from the Old Testament would gather such a thought as man thus in the same glory with God. But this is precisely what the New Testament opens out; this is one large part of what was hidden in God from ages and generations before. Indeed, it could not be disclosed till the manifestation and rejection of Christ. Now, it is that which forms the peculiar joy and hope of the Christian in the Son of God. It is not at all the same as the promised blessing and power when the kingdom dawns upon this long benighted earth. As star differs from star, and there is a celestial glory as well as a terrestrial, so there is that which is far above the kingdom that which is founded upon the revealed person of the Son, and in communion with the Father and the Son, now enjoyed in the power of the Spirit sent down from heaven. Accordingly we have, immediately after this, the Father proclaiming the Son; because there is no key, as it were, to open that cloud for man, except His name no means to bring Him there save His work. It is not the Messiah as such. Had He been merely the Messiah, into that cloud man never could have entered. It is because He was and is the Son. As He therefore came, so to speak, out of the cloud, so it was His to introduce into the cloud, though for this His cross too is essential, man being a sinner. Thus the fear of Peter and James and John at this particular point, when they saw men entering into and environed by Jehovah's presence-cloud, is, to my own mind, most significant. Now, that is given us here; and this, one may see, is connected very intimately with, not the kingdom, but the heavenly glory the Father's house as entered in communion with the Son of God.
The Lord comes down from the mountain, and we have a picture, morally, of the world. "A man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child. And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him." It is a picture of man as now the object of Satan's continual assault and possession; or, as elsewhere described, led captive of the devil at his will. "And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not." It grieves the Lord deeply, that though there was faith in the disciples, that faith was so dormant before difficulties, that it so feebly knew how to avail itself of the power of Christ on the one hand, for the deep distress of man on the other. Oh, what a sight this was to Christ! what feeling to His heart, that those who possessed faith should at the same time so little estimate the power of Him who was its object and resource! It is exactly what will be the ruin of Christendom, as it was the ground of the Lord closing all His dealings with His ancient people. And when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth? Look at all now, even at the present aspect of that which bears His name. There is the recognition of Christ and of His power, no doubt. Men are baptized in His name. Nominally His glory is owned by everybody but open infidels; but where is the faith He looks for? The comfort is this, however, that Christ never fails to carry on His own work; and, therefore, though we find the very gospel itself made merchandise of in the world, though you may see it prostituted in every way to minister to the vanity or pride of men, God does not therefore abandon His own purposes. Thus He does not forego the conversion of souls by it, even though grievously fettered and perverted. Nothing is more simple. It is not that the Lord approves of the actual state of things, but that the grace of the Lord never can fail, and the work of Christ must be done. God will gather out of the world; yea, out of its worst. In short, the Lord shews here that the unbelief of the disciples was manifested by their little power to draw upon the grace that was in Him, to apply it to the case in hand. "And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither." And so after a manifestation of Satan's power, the Lord delivers him again to his father.
"And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God." But Jesus at once speaks about His death. Nothing can be sweeter. There was that done which might well make Jesus appear great in their eyes as a matter of power. At once He tells them that He was going to be rejected, to die, to be put to death. "Let those sayings sink down into your ears; for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men." He was the Deliverer from Satan's power. The disciples were as nothing in the presence of the enemy: this was natural enough; but what shall we say when we hear that the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men? Here unbelief is ever at fault never knows how to put these two things together; it does seem such a moral and mental contradiction, that the mightiest of deliverers should be apparently the weakest of all beings, delivered into the hands of men, His own creatures! But so it must be. If a sinner was to be saved for eternity if the grace of God was to make a righteous basis for justifying the ungodly, Jesus, the Son of man, must be delivered into the hands of man; and then an infinitely fiercer fire must burn the divine judgment when God made Him sin for us; for all that men, Satan, even God Himself could do, comes upon Him to the uttermost.
The Lord, then, having Himself shown what He was, not only in His power which vanquished Satan but also in that weakness in which He was crucified of men, now reads a lesson to the disciples on the score of their reasoning; for the Spirit of God brings this in now, their discussion which of them should be greatest a vain, unworthy contest at any time, but how much more so in the presence of such a Son of man! It is thus, one can see, that Luke brings facts and principles together in his Gospel. He makes a child, despised of those who would be great, to be a rebuke to the self exalting disciples. They had been little enough against Satan's power: would they be great in spite of their Master's humiliation? Again, He lays bare what manner of spirit was in John, though not giving it in the point of view of service, as we saw in Mark. It may not have been forgotten, that there we had it very particularly as the vehicle for instructing us in the weighty duty that we are to acknowledge the power of God in the service of others, though they may not be "with us." But that point does not appear in Luke at least not its details, but simply the moral principle. "Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."
Then, again, we have His censure of the spirit of James and John in consequence of the affront the Samaritans put on our Lord. It was the same egotism in another form, and the Lord turns and rebukes them, telling them that they knew not what manner of spirit they were of; for the Son of man was not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. All these lessons are plainly impressions, so to speak, of the cross its shame, rejection, anguish, whatever men chose to put on the name of Jesus, or on those that belong to Jesus Jesus who was on His way to the cross; for so it is expressly written here. He was steadfastly setting His face to go to Jerusalem, where His departure was to be accomplished.
Accordingly we have given here another set of lessons closing the chapter, but still connected with what went before the judgment of what should not work, and the indication of that which ought to work, in the hearts of those that profess to follow the Lord. These are brought together after a notable manner. First, "A certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest." Here it is the detection of what was cloked under an apparent frankness and devotedness; but these seemingly fine fruits were entirely after the flesh, utterly worthless, and offensive to the Lord, who at once puts His finger upon the point. Who is the man that is really ready to follow the Lord whithersoever He goes? The man that has found all in Him, and wants not earthly glory from Him. Jesus was going to die Himself; here He had not a place where to lay His head. How could He give anything to him? "And he said to another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto Him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." Now, here is real faith; and where this exists, it is more than a theory difficulties are felt. Thus the man begins to make excuse, because he feels, on the one side, the attraction of the word of Jesus; but at the same time he is not freed from the force that drags him into nature; he is alive to the seriousness of the matter in conscience, but realises the obstacles in the way. Hence, he pleads the strongest natural claim upon his heart, a son's duty to a dead father. But the Lord would have him leave that to those who had no such call of the Lord. "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." To another, who says, "Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home in my house." The Lord replies that the kingdom of God is necessarily paramount, and its service all-engrossing; so that if a man has put his hand to the plough, woe to him if he look back! He is unfit for the kingdom of God. Throughout who can fail to see the judgment of the heart, man's nature proved, however fair the form? What death to self the service of Christ implies! Otherwise, what personal faithlessness, even if one escape the evil of bringing in rubbish into God's house and, it may be, of defiling His temple! Such is the fruit of self-confidence where Satan acquires a footing.
Luke 10:1-42. Next comes before us the remarkable mission of the seventy, which is peculiar to Luke. This has, indeed, a solemn and final character, with an urgency beyond that of the twelve, in chapter 9. It is an errand of grace, sent out as they were by One whose heart yearned over a great harvest of blessing; but it is clothed with a certain last warning, and with woes here pronounced on the cities where He had wrought in vain. "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me." This gives it, therefore, a serious and peculiar force, yet withal suitable to our Gospel. Without dwelling upon the particulars, I would simply remark that, when the seventy returned, saying, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name," the Lord (while he saw in clear vista before Him Satan fallen from heaven, the casting out of devils by the disciples being but the first blow, according to that power which will utterly put down Satan at the end) at the same time states that this is not the better thing, the proper subject for their joy. No power over evil, however true now, however in the end displaying in full the glory of God, is to be compared to the joy of His grace, the joy of not merely seeing Satan turned out, but of God brought in; and meanwhile of themselves, in the communion of the Father and of the Son, leaving their portion and their names enrolled in heaven. It is a heavenly blessedness, as it becomes more and more manifest that is to be the place of the disciples, and that in Luke's Gospel more than in any other of the synoptists. "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven." Not that it is the Church which is here revealed, but at the least a very characteristic feature of the Christian place which is breaking through the clouds. In that hour Jesus accordingly rejoiced in spirit, and said, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight."
Here you will observe it is not, as in Matthew, in connection with the break up of Judaism. Not only was the total destruction of Satan's power before Him, the woman's Seed, by man, for man; but, diving deeper than the kingdom, He explains those counsels of the Father in the Son, to whom all things are delivered, and whose glory was inscrutable to man, the key to His present rejection, and the secret and best blessing for His saints. It is not so much here the Christ rejected and suffering Son of man: but the Son, the revealer of the Father, whom the Father alone knows. And with what delight He congratulates the disciples privately on that which they saw and heard (ver. 3, 4), though we find some declarations coming out more emphatically afterwards; but still it was all clear before Him. Here it is the satisfaction of the Lord in the bright side of the subject, not merely the contrast with the dead body of Judaism, as it were, which was completely judged and left behind.
What we find after this is an unfolding of the Sabbath-days, in which the Lord demonstrated to the unwilling Jews that the bond between God and Israel was broken (seeMatthew 11:1-30; Matthew 11:1-30; Matthew 12:1-50): for this was the meaning of the apparent breach of the Sabbaths, when He vindicated the disciples in eating of the corn on the one, and healed the withered hand publicly on the other. But here we meet with another line of things; we have, according to Luke's manner, one who was instructed in the law weighed and found wanting morally. A lawyer comes and says, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?"
This sets forth, then, the difficulties of the legal mind; it is a technicality: he cannot understand what is meant by his "neighbour." Intellectually it was no such feat to penetrate the meaning of that word, "neighbour." But the consequences morally were grave; if it meant what it said, had he ever in his life felt and acted as if he had a neighbour? He gave it up, therefore. It was a mysterious something that the elders had nowhere solved, a case that was not yet ruled in the Sanhedrim, what was meant by this inscrutable "neighbour." Alas! it was the fallen heart of man that wanted to get out of a plain duty, but a duty which demanded love, the last thing in the world he possessed. The great difficulty was himself; and so he sought to justify himself an utter impossibility! For in truth he was a sinner; and the thing for him is to confess his sins. Where one has not been brought to own himself, and to justify God against himself, all is wrong and false; everything of God is misunderstood, and His word seems darkness, instead of light.
Mark how our Lord puts the case in the beautiful parable of the good Samaritan. It was, if I may so say of Him as a man, the single eye and the heart that perfectly understood what God was, and enjoyed it; that never, therefore, had difficulty in finding out who was his neighbour. For, in truth, grace finds a neighbour in every one that needs love. The man that needs human sympathy, that needs divine goodness and its clear testimony, though it be through a man upon the earth, he is my neighbour. Now, Jesus was the only man who was walking in the whole power of divine love, though, I need not say, this was but a little part of His glory. As such, therefore, He found no riddle to solve in the question, Who is my neighbour?
Evidently it is not the mere dispensational setting aside of the ancient people of God, but the proving of the heart, the will of man detected where it used the law to justify itself, and to get rid of the plain demand of duty to one's fellows. Where in all this was love maintained, that necessary answer in man to the character of God in an evil world? Certainly not in the lawyer's question, which betrayed the duty unknown; as surely was it in Him whose parabolic reply most aptly imaged His own feelings and life, the sole perfect exhibition of God's will in love to a neighbour, which this poor world has ever had before it.
The rest of the chapter belongs to the eleventh, properly and naturally following up this truth. What a mercy that, through us then, in Jesus, there is active goodness here below, which, after all, is the only thing that ever accomplishes the law! It is very important to see that grace really does fulfil God's will in this: "That the righteousness of the law," as it is said, "might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The lawyer was walking after the flesh; there was no perception of grace, and consequently no truth in him. what a miserable life he must have been living, and he a teacher of God's law, without even knowing who was his neighbour! At least, so he pretended.
On the other hand, as we are next taught, where there is grace, everything is put in its place, and it shows itself in two forms. The first is the value for the word of Jesus. Grace prizes it above all things. Even if you look at two persons who may both be objects of Christ's love, what a difference it makes for the one whose heart delights most in grace! And where there is the opportunity of hearing the word of God from Jesus, or of Jesus, this is the chief jewel at the feet of Jesus. Such is the true moral posture of the one who knows grace best. Here it was Mary who was found sitting, at the feet of Jesus, to hear His word. She had decided rightly, as faith (I say not the believer) always does. As for Martha, she was distracted with bustle. Her one thought was what she could do for Jesus, as One known after the flesh, not without a certain thought, as ever, of what was due to herself. No doubt it was meant for, and after a certain style was, honour to Him; but still it was honour of a Jewish, carnal, worldly sort. It was paid to His bodily presence there, as a man, and the Messiah, with a little bit of honour to herself; no doubt, and to the family. This naturally comes out in Luke, the delineator of such moral traits. Still as for Mary's conduct, it seemed to Martha no better than indifference to her many anxious preparations. Vexed at this, she goes to the Lord with a complaint against Mary, and would have liked the Lord to have joined her, and set His seal to its justice. The Lord, however, at once vindicates the hearer of His word. "But one thing is needful." Not Martha, but Mary, had chosen that good part which should not he taken away from her. When grace works in this world it is not to bring in what suits a moment of passing time, but that which ensures eternal blessing. As part of God's grace, therefore, we have the word of Jesus revealing and communicating what is eternal, what shall not be taken away.
Remark another thing next. It is not only the all-importance of the word of Jesus, not man's misuse of the law (which we have seen but too clearly in the lawyer, who ought to have taught, instead of asked, who my neighbour is), but now we have the place and value of prayer. This is equally needful in its season, and is found here in its true place. Clearly I must receive from God before there can be the going out of my heart to God. There must first be what is imparted by God His revelation of Jesus. There is no faith without His word. (Romans 10:1-21) My thoughts of Jesus may be ruin to me; indeed, I am very sure, if they were only my thoughts of Jesus, they must deceive and destroy my soul, and be injurious to everybody else. But here we find the weighty intimation, that it is not enough that there should be the reception of the word of Jesus, and even at the feet of Jesus. He looks at the disciples need of the exercise of heart with God. And this is shown in more ways than one.
Luke 11:1-54. First of all we have prayer, according to the mind of Jesus, for the disciples in their actual wants and state; and a most blessed prayer it is, leaving out the millennial allusions ofMatthew 6:1-34; Matthew 6:1-34, but retaining all the general and moral petitions. The Lord next insists on the importunity or perseverance of prayer, with the blessing attached to earnestness with God. Thirdly, it may be added, that the Lord touches on the gift of the Spirit, and in connection with this only in our Gospel "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give [not merely good things, but] the Holy Spirit [the best gift] to them that ask him?" Thus the great characteristic blessing to the Gentiles (compare Galatians 3:1-29), and of course to the believing Jew also, was this gift which the Lord here instructs the disciples to ask for. For the Holy Ghost was not yet given. There was exercise of heart Godward. They were really disciples; they were born of God, yet had they to pray for the Holy Spirit to be given them. Such was the state going on while the Lord Jesus was here below. It was not only (as in John 14:1-31) that He would ask the Father, and the Father would send; but they too were to ask the Father, who would assuredly, as He did, give the Holy Spirit to them that asked Him. And I am far from denying that there might be cases at this present time, of what some might call an abnormal kind, where persons were really convinced of sin, but without the settled peace which the gift of the Holy Ghost imparts. Here, at the very least, the principle of this would apply; and for this it might be of moment, therefore, that we should have it plainly in the Gospel of Luke; because this was not the dispensational instruction as to the great change that was coming in, but rather filled with profound moral principles of larger import, though to be influenced, no doubt, by the development of the great facts of divine grace. Thus the sending down of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost brought in an immense modification of this truth. His presence from that moment undoubtedly involved greater things than the heavenly Father giving the Spirit to the individuals who sought it of Him. And there was the grand point of the Father's estimate of the work of Jesus, to which the Spirit's descent was an answer. Therefore, a person might be brought in, so to speak, all at once; he might be converted and rest upon the redemption of Jesus, and receive the Holy Ghost, practically, all at once. Here, however, it is the case of the disciples taught to ask before the blessing had ever been given. Certainly, at that time, we see the two things distinctly. They were born of the Spirit already, but were waiting for the further blessing the gift of the Spirit: a privilege given them in answer to prayer. Nothing can be plainer. There is no good in enfeebling Scripture. Evangelical tradition is as false to the Spirit, as popish is to Christ work and its glorious results for the believer even now on earth. What we need is, to understand the Scriptures in the power of God.
After this, the Lord cast out a dumb devil from one who, when delivered, spoke. This kindles into a flame the hatred of the Jews. They could not deny the power, but wickedly impute it to Satan. In their eyes or lips it was not God, but Beelzebub, the chief of the devils, who cast them out. Others, tempting Him, sought for a sign from heaven. The Lord thereon spreads out the awful consequence of this unbelief and imputation of God's power in Him to the Evil One. In Matthew, it is a sentence on that generation of the Jews; here on wider grounds for man, whoever and wherever he may be; for all here is moral, and not merely the question of the Jew. It was folly and suicidal for Satan to cast out his own. Their own sons condemned them. The truth was, the kingdom of God was come upon them; and they knew it not, but rejected it with blasphemy. Finally He adds, When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first." There is no application specially to the Jew, as in Matthew; it is left general to man. Hence, "So shall it be with this wicked generation , disappears.
Thus, although the Lord was as yet dealing with a remnant, and was here in view of the doom of that Christ-rejecting generation of the Jews, for this very reason the Spirit of God makes His special design by Luke the more apparent and undeniable. It would have been natural to have left these instructions within those precincts. Not so: Luke was inspired to enlarge their bearing, or rather record what would deal with any soul in any place or time. It is made a question here of man, and of the last state of him whom the unclean spirit has somehow left for a season, but without salvation, or the positive new work of divine grace. He may be a changed character, as men say; he may become moral, or even religious; but is he born again? If not, so much the more sorrowful so much the worse is his last state than the first. Supposing you have that which is ever so fair, if it be not the Holy Ghost's revelation to, and the life of Christ in, your soul, every privilege or blessing short of this will surely be proved to fail. And this the Lord follows up afterwards, when a woman, hearing Him, lifts up her voice and says, " Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked." Immediately He answers, "Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." It is evidently the same great moral lesson: no natural link with Him is to be compared with hearing and keeping God's word; and so our Lord pursues next. Were they asking for a sign? They proved their condition, and lowered themselves morally beneath the Ninevites, who repented at Jonah's preaching. Did not the report of Solomon's wisdom draw from the utmost parts of the earth a queen of the south? Jonah is here a sign, not of death and resurrection, but by his preaching. What sign had the queen of Sheba? What sign had the men of Nineveh? Jonah preached; but was not Christ preaching? That queen came from afar to hear the wisdom of Solomon; but what was the wisdom of the wisest to compare with Christ's wisdom? Was He not the wisdom and the power of God? Yet, after all they had seen and heard, they could ask a sign! It was evident that there was no such guilt of old; but, on the contrary, these Gentiles, whether in or from the ends of the earth, spite of their gross darkness, repulsed the unbelief of Israel, and proved how just would be their doom in the judgment.
Our Lord here adds an appeal to conscience. The light (set in Himself) was not secret, but in the right place: God had failed in nothing as to this. But another condition was requisite to see the state of the eye. Was it simple, or evil? If evil, how hopeless the darkness before that light! If received with simplicity, not only is light enjoyed, but shines all around, with no part dark. To the Pharisees, who wondered that the Lord washed not His hands before dining, He pronounces a most withering rebuke upon their care for exterior cleanness, and indifference to their inward corruption, their jealousy for details of observance, and forgetfulness of the great moral obligations, their pride, and their hypocrisy. To one of the lawyers, who complained that thereby He reproached them, the Lord utters woe upon woe for them also. Tampering with the law and holy things of God, where there is no faith, is the direct road to ruin, the sure occasion of divine judgment. A like doom awaits Babylon as then was about to fall on Jerusalem. (Revelation 18:1-24)
In Luke 12:1-59 the Lord furnishes the disciples with the path of faith in the midst of men's secret evil, open hatred, and worldliness. On His rejection their testimony must go on. First, they were to beware of the Pharisees' leaven, which is hypocrisy, and to cherish the consciousness of the light of God to which the believer belongs (ver. Luke 12:1-3; Luke 12:1-3). This, then, is the preservative power. Satan works by deceit as well as by violence. (ver. Luke 12:4). God works not only in light, as we have seen, but by love (Luke 12:5-7), and the confidence He invites to in Himself. "But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear Him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him." Then immediately guarding against the abuse of this, which is always true, and true for a believer, although it be, so to speak, the lower end of the truth the Lord brings in the love of the Father, asking, "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows."
He shows next the all-importance of the confession of His name, with the consequence of denying Him; then, the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which would not be forgiven, whatever grace is shown to those who blasphemed the Son of man; and in contrast with this the promised succour of the Spirit in presence of a hostile world-church (ver. Luke 12:8-12; Luke 12:8-12). Then a person appeals to the Lord to settle a question of this world. This, however, is not His work now. Of course, as Messiah, He will have to do with the earth, and will set the world right when He comes to reign; but His actual task was dealing with souls. For Him, and for men too, did not unbelief shroud their eyes, it was a question of heaven or hell, of what is eternal and of another world. Hence He absolutely refuses to be a judge and divider of what appertained to the earth. It is that which many a Christian has not learned of his Master.
Next the Lord exposes the folly of man in his covetous desire after present things. In the midst of prosperity, suddenly, that very night, God requires of the rich fool his soul. "So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." The Lord then shows the disciples where their true riches should lie. Faith is meant to deliver from anxiety and lust. It is not food and raiment. He who fed the uncareful ravens would not fail His children, who were far more to Him than the birds. Such care, on the contrary, is the plain evidence of poverty Godward. Why are you so busy providing? It is the confession that you are not satisfied with what you have got. And what does it all come to? The lilies outshine Solomon in all his glory: how much does God interest Himself in His children? What occupies the nations who know Him not is unworthy of the saint who is called to seek God's kingdom, sure that all these thing's shall be added. "Your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things."
Again, this leads me to notice briefly the way in which this ineffable love is shown, not only by the Father, but by the Son, and that in two forms the Son's love to those that wait for Him, and to those that work for Him. The waiting for Him we have in verses 35, 36: "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately." It is the heart filled with Christ; and the consequence is, Christ's heart goes out towards them. When He comes, He seats them, so to speak, at table, does everything for them even in glory. But then there is working for the Lord: this comes in afterwards. "Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath." It is not "so watching," but "so doing." It is a question of working for Him. and this has its own sweet and needed place. Still remark that it is secondary to watching: Christ Himself always, even before His work. Nevertheless He is pleased to associate the Gospel with Himself; very graciously, as we know in the Gospel of Mark; and it is exact]y there we might expect it, if we knew its character: He binds up the work, so to speak, with Himself. But when we come in Luke to moral analogies, if I may so term it, instead of giving it all together, like the Gospel devoted to the workman and the work, here we listen to One who unfolds to us distinction of heart and hand in relation to His coming. Blessed he who shall be found working for the Lord when He comes: surely he shall be made ruler over all that the Son of man has. Yet mark the difference. This is exaltation over His inheritance. As for those that are found watching for Him, it will be association -joy, rest, glory, love with Himself.
Observe another thing in this part of Luke, and strikingly characteristic too. Blessed as all we have heard is for those that are His, what will it be for those that believe not? Accordingly, and in a form that commends itself to the conscience, we see the difference between the servant who knew his master's will and did it not, and the servant who knew not his master's will (ver. 47, 48). Neither Matthew, nor Mark, nor John, of course, say anything like this. Luke here sheds the light of Christ on the respective responsibility of the Gentile graffed into the olive tree and of the Pagan world. As there is in Christendom the servant cognizant of his Master's will, but indifferent or rebellious, so on the other hand, outside Christendom there is the servant wholly ignorant of His will, and, of course, lawless and evil. They are both of them beaten; but he that knew his Master's will and did it not shall be beaten with more stripes. To be baptized, and to call on the Lord's name in outward profession, instead of lightening the burden in the day of judgment for the hypocrites, will, on the contrary, bring on them so much more severity. The righteousness and the wisdom of this dealing, is so much the more remarkable, as it is the exact opposite of the early doctrine of Christendom. A notion prevailed, perhaps universally after the first century or two, that while all persons dying in sin would be judged, the baptized would have a far better portion in hell than the unbaptized. Such was the doctrine of the fathers; Scripture is dead against it. In what we have just had before us, Luke gives the Lord Jesus not only anticipating but completely and for ever excluding, the folly.
Next, whatever may be the fulness of Christ's love, the effect would now be to kindle a fire. For that love came with divine light which judged man; and man would not bear it. The consequence is, that the fire was already kindled. It did not merely await another day or execution from God, but even then was it at work. Assuredly the love of Christ was not produced by His sufferings, any more than God's love. Ever was it there only awaiting the full expression of man's hatred before it would burst all bounds, and flow out freely in every direction of need and misery. Such is our Lord's wonderful opening out of great moral principles in this chapter. Men, professors, heathen, saints, in their love for Christ, and service too, all have their portion.
The state, then, was the worst possible utter, hopeless, social ruin. which His coming and presence had brought to light. How was it they had not discerned this time? Why even of themselves did they not judge aright? It was from no lack of evil in His adversaries, or of trace in Him. The close of the chapter takes up the Jew, showing that they then were in imminent danger, that a great question pressed on them. In their suit with God, the Lord advised them, as it were, to use arbitration while He was in the way: the result of despising this would be their committal to prison till the uttermost farthing was paid. Such was the admonition to Israel, who are now, as all know, under the consequence of neglecting the word of the Lord.
Luke 13:1-35 insists on this, and shows how vain it was to talk of the objects of signal judgments. Except they repented, they must likewise perish. Judgments thus misused lead men to forget their own guilty and ruined condition in the sight of God. He urges, therefore, repentance strongly. He admits, no doubt, that there was a term of respite. Indeed, it was Himself; the Lord Jesus, who had pleaded for a further trial. If; after this the fig tree should be unfruitful, it must be cut down. And so it was: judgment came after grace, not law. How little they felt that it was a most true picture of themselves, Christ and God Himself so dealing with them because of Him. But the Lord subsequently lets us see that grace could act in the midst of such a state. Accordingly, in His healing, of the woman bowed down with the spirit of infirmity, he displays the goodness of God even in such a day when judgment was at the doors, and rebuked the hypocritical wickedness of the heart that found fault with His goodness, because it was the sabbath day. "Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him." As ever, the heart is made manifest in Luke the adversaries of the truth on the one hand, and those on the other whom grace made the friends of Christ or the objects of His bounty. But the Lord also shows the form that the kingdom of God would take. It would not have power now, but rather from a little beginning become great in the earth, with noiseless progress, as of leaven conforming to itself till the three measures were leavened. And such, in point of fact, has been the character of the kingdom of God presented here below. It is here no question of seed, good or bad, but of the spread of doctrine nominally, at least, Christian. How far such a progress meets the mind of God, we must compare facts with Scripture in order to judge aright. If Israel was then in danger of a judgment which would surely come, what would be the case with the kingdom of God outwardly in the world? In truth, instead of occupying themselves with the question whether those destined to salvation (or the godly Jews) were few, it would be well to think of the only way in which any one could be put morally right before God; it was by striving to enter in at the strait gate: without the new birth none can enter. Many might seek to enter in, but would not be able. What is here meant? Is it a difference between striving and seeking? I doubt that this covers the true bearing of our Lord's language; for thus he who throws the stress upon striving or seeking, makes it a question of energy, greater or less. This does not seem to me what our Lord meant; but that many would seek to enter into the, kingdom, not at the strait gate, but by some other way. They might seek to enter in by baptism, by law-keeping, by prayer, or some vain plea of God's mercy: all these unbelieving resources dishonour Christ and His work.
The striving to enter in at the strait gate implies, to my mid, a man brought to a true sense of sin, and casting, himself upon God's grace in Christ repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ Himself is the strait gate at least, Christ Himself received thus by faith and repentance. So our Lord, in opening out this, proclaims the judgment of Israel indeed, of any who should like well the blessing, but refuse God's way, even Christ. He presents, accordingly, the Jewish people cast aside, the Gentiles coming, from east, west, north, and south, and brought into the kingdom of God. "Behold, there are last which shall be first, and first which shall be last." And then the chapter closes with the Pharisees pretending zeal for Him: "Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee." But the Lord proclaims in their ears that He would not be hindered in His service till His hour was come; and that it was not a question of Herod and Galilee, but of Jerusalem, the proud city of solemnities; it was there the prophet of God must fall. No prophet should be cut off except at Jerusalem; such is its painful, fatal peculiarity, the honour of providing a grave for God's rejected and slain witness. Men might say, as they did, that no prophet arose out of Galilee; and it was false; but certainly this was true, that if a prophet fell, he fell in Jerusalem. Yet the Lord then mourned over such a Jerusalem, and does not leave the Jews absolutely desolate, except for a time, but holds out the hope that the day should come when their heart should turn to Him (2 Corinthians 3:1-18), saying) "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." This closes, then, the Lord's dealings in reference to Jerusalem, in contrast with the heavenly light in the disciples' portion. He depicts grace from first to last, save only in those that had no faith in Him; and on the other hand, he lets us know, that whatever might be the yearnings of grace over Jerusalem, this is the end of it all in man's hands.
The Lord is seen, in Luke 14:1-35 resuming the ways of grace. Once more He shows that, spite of those who preferred the sign of the Old covenant to Messiah in the grace of the New, the sabbath day furnished Him an opportunity for illustrating the goodness of God. In chapter 13. it was the spirit of infirmity the power of Satan; Here it was a simple case of human malady. The lawyers and Pharisees were then watching Him, but Jesus openly raises the question; and as they held their peace, He takes and heals the man with the dropsy, and lets him go, answering their thought by an irresistible appeal to their own ways and conscience. Man who seeks to do good to what belongs to himself, is not entitled to dispute God's right to act in love to the miserable objects that He deigns to count His.
Then the Lord takes notice of another thing, not man's hypocritical selfishness, which would not have God to gratify His love to suffering wretchedness, but man's love of being somebody in this world. The Lord brings into evidence another great principle of His own action self-abasement in contrast with self-exaltation. If a man desires to be exalted, the only ways according to God, is to be lowly, to abase himself; it is the spirit that suits the kingdom of God. So He tells the disciples that, in making a feast, they were not to act on the principle of asking friends, or men who could return it, but as saints called to reflect the character and will of God. Therefore it should be rather those that could make no present requital, looking to the day of recompense, on God's part, at the resurrection of the just.
On some one crying, out, What a blessed thing it must be to eat bread in the kingdom of God! the Lord shews the fact to be quite the contrary. For what is it that the Lord has been doing ever since? He is inviting men to eat bread, as it were, in His kingdom. But how do they treat the invitation of grace in the gospel? "A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse." Difference is observable. In Luke there is the omission of Matthew's first message. But, besides that, the excuses are gone into individually. One person says, "I have bought a piece of ground," which he must go and see; another man says he has bought five yoke of oxen, which he has to prove; another says he has married a wife, and on this account he cannot come. That is, we have the various decent plausible reasons that man gives for not submitting to the righteousness of God, for delaying his acceptance of the grace of God. So the servant comes and reports to his lord, who thereupon, being angry, says, "Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room." Thus the persistence of grace, spite of just displeasure, is a characteristic and beautiful feature of this Gospel. The lord sent his servant thereupon to the highways and hedges (or enclosures), compelling them to come in, that, as it is said, "my house may be filled." Of this we hear nothing in Mark and Matthew. Indeed, Matthew gives us quite a different aspect from that which we have here. There the king is seen sending forth his armies, and burning up the city. How marvellous the wisdom of God, both in what He inserts, and in what He leaves out! Matthew adds also the judgment of the robeless guest at the end the man who had intruded, trusting to his work, or to any or all ordinances, or to both, but who had not put on Christ. This was peculiarly in its place, because this Gospel attests the dealings of grace which would take the place of Judaism, both externally and internally.
After this the Lord turns to the multitude. As He had shown the hindrance on man's part to coming, so He gravely warns those that were following Him in great numbers, and says, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." The moral difficulties are most earnestly pressed upon those who were so ready to follow Him. Would it not be well and wise to sit down first and count the cost of building the tower completely? to consider whether, with the strength they had, they could cope with the vastly greater forces against them? Yet is it no question of mustering resources after a human way, but of forsaking all one's own, and so being Christ's disciple. There is such a thing as persons beginning well, and turning out good-for-nothing. "Salt is good;" but what if it becomes savourless? Wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is fit neither for land nor dunghill. They cast it out (or, it is cast out). "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
Then follows a profound and lovely unfolding of grace in Luke 15:1-32. In the close of the preceding chapter, the impossibility for man in flesh to be a disciple was made evident. Such was the great lesson there. But now we have the other side of grace. If man failed in attempting to be a disciple, how is it that God makes disciples? Thus we have the goodness of God to sinners brought out in three forms. First, the shepherd goes after the wandering sheep. This is very clearly grace as shown in Christ the Son of man, who came so seek and to save that which was lost.
The next parable is not of the Son who bears the burden; for there is but one Saviour, even Christ. Nevertheless the Spirit of God has a part, and a very blessed part, in the salvation of every soul brought to God. It is not as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life, nor as the Great Shepherd brought again from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant, laying the sheep once lost, now found, on His shoulders rejoicing, as it is presented in Luke only. What we have here is the figure of a woman that lights a candle, sweeps the house, and uses the most diligent exertion till the lost thing is found. Is not this in beautiful harmony with the function of the Spirit as to the sinner's soul? I cannot doubt this is seen in the woman's part (not, if I may so say, the prominent public actor, who is ever Christ the Son). The Spirit of God has rather the energetic agency, comparatively a hidden power, however visible the effects. It is not One that acts as a person outside; and this therefore was most fitly set forth by the woman inside the house. It is the Spirit of God working within, His private and searching operation in secret with the soul however truly also the candle of the word is made to shine. Need I remark that it is the Spirit of God's part to cause the word to bear on men as a shining light? It is not the Shepherd who lights the candle, but He bears the stray sheep on His shoulders. We know very well that the Word of God, the Shepherd, is looked at elsewhere as the true light Himself; but here it is a candle which is lit, and therefore quite inapplicable to the person of Christ. But it is precisely that which the Spirit of God does. The word of God preached, the Scripture, may have been read a hundred times before; but at the critical moment it is light to the lost one. Diligence is used in every way; and we know how the Spirit of God condescends to this, what painstaking He uses in pressing the word home upon the soul, and causing the light to shine exactly at the right moment where all before was dark. In this second parable, accordingly, it is not active going away from God which is seen; a condition worse than this appears a dead thing. It is the only parable of the three which presents the lost one not as a living creature, but as dead. From elsewhere we know that both are true; and the Spirit of God describes the sinner both as one alive in the world going away from God (Romans 3:1-31), and as dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1-22) We could not have a proper conception of the sinner's condition unless we had these two things. One parable was needed to shew us a sinner in the activities of life departing from God, and another to represent the sinner as dead in trespasses and sins. Here exactly these two things are seen, the lost sheep shewing the one, and the lost piece of money the other.
But in addition to these, there is a third parable necessary: not only a strayed sheep and a lost inanimate piece of money, but, besides, the moral history of man away from the presence of God, but coming to Him again. Hence the parable of the lost son takes man from the very first, traces the beginning of his departure, and the course and character of the misery of a sinner on the earth, his repentance, and his final peace and joy in the presence of God, who Himself rejoices as truly as man objects. Practically this is true of every sinner. In other words, there is a little yielding to sin, or desire to be independent of God a farther and farther depth of evil in every person's history. I do not believe that the chapter discusses the question of a backsliding child of God, though a common principle of course, here and there, would apply to the restoration of a soul. This is a favourite idea with some who are more familiar with doctrine than with Scripture. But there are objections, plain, stronger, and decisive, against understanding the chapter thus. First, it does not suit, in the smallest degree, what we have just seen in the parables of the lost sheep and the lost piece of money. Indeed it seems to me impossible to reconcile such an hypothesis even with the simple and repeated expression "lost." For who will affirm that, when a believer slips away from the Lord, he is lost? The most opposed to this, singular to say, is the very school most prone to that misinterpretation. When a man believes, he is a lost sheep found; he may not run well, no doubt; but never does Scripture view him afterwards as a lost sheep. Just so is it with the lost drachma; and so, finally, with the lost son. The prodigal was not, in the first instance, an unfaithful saint; he was not a backslider merely, but "lost" and "dead." Are these strong figures ever true of him who is a child of God by faith? They are precisely true, if we look at Adam and his sons, viewed as children of God in a certain sense. So the apostle Paul told the Athenians, that "we are also his offspring." Men are God's offspring, as having souls and moral responsibility to God, made after His similitude and His image here below. In these and other respects men differ from the beast, which is merely a living creature that perishes in death. A beast, of course, has a spirit (else it could not live); but still, when it dies, the spirit goes down to the earth, even as its body; whereas a man's spirit, when he dies (no matter as to this whether lost or saved), goes to God, as it came directly from God. There is that which, either for good or evil, is immortal in the spirit of man, as being breathed directly and immediately from God in the nostrils of man. Of the evangelists, Luke is the one who most speaks of man in this solemn light; and this, not only in his Gospel, but in the Acts of the Apostles. It connects itself with the large moral place he gives man, and as the object of divine grace. "A certain man had two sons;" so that man is looked at from his very origin. Then we have this son going farther and farther away from God, till he comes to the worst. There lay the opportunity of grace; and God brought him to a sense, not perhaps deep but most real, of his distance from God Himself as well as his degradation, sin, and ruin. It was by the pinch of want he was brought to himself by intense personal misery; for God deigns to use any and every method in His grace. It was shame, and suffering, and wretchedness, which led him to feel he was perishing; and wherefore? He looks back to Him from whom he departed, and grace puts into his heart the conviction of goodness in God as of badness in himself. This was really wrought in him; it was repentance repentance towards God; for it was not a mere conscientious judgment upon himself and his past conduct, but self-judgment from God, to which His goodness led Him led him by faith back to Himself "I will arise"' then he says, "and go to my father, and say, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight."
However there is no need at present to dwell on this, which no doubt, is familiar to most here. This only it may be well to add, that we have here evidently a moral history; but then there is another side, and that is, the ways of Christ, and the Father's grace with the returned prodigal. Accordingly we have this in two parts: first, the reception of the prodigal; next, the joy and love of God the Father, and the prodigal's communion with it when he had been received. The father receives him with open arms, ordering the best robe, everything worthy of himself, to be brought out in honour of the prodigal. Afterwards, we see the son in the father's presence. It sets forth the joy of God reproducing itself in all that are there. It is not a sketch of what we shall taste when we go to heaven, but rather the spirit of heaven made good now on earth in the worship of those who are brought to God. It is not at all a question of what we were, save only to enhance that which grace gives and makes us. All turns on the excellent efficacy of Christ and the Father's own joy. This forms the material and the character of the communion, which is in principle Christian worship.
On the other hand, it was too true that the joy of grace is intolerable to the self-righteous man; he has no heart for God's goodness to the lost; and the scene of joyful communion with the Father provokes in him outrageous opposition to God's way and will. For he is not a self-righteous Christian, any more than the prodigal represents a believer overtaken in a fault. No Christian is contemplated as cherishing such feeling as these though I deny not that legalism involves the principle. But here it is one who would not come in. Every Christian is brought to God. He may not fully enjoy or understand his privileges, but he has a keen sense of his short-comings, and feels the need of divine mercy, and rejoices in it for others. Would the Lord describe the Christian as outside the presence of God? Accordingly, the elder brother here, I have no doubt, represents such as condemned Jesus for eating with sinners; the self-righteousness more particularly of the Jew, as indeed of any denier of grace.
The next chapter (Luke 16:1-31) opens out distinct and weighty instruction for the disciples, and this in reference to earthly things. First of all, our Lord explains here that the tenure of earthly things is now gone. It was no longer a question of holding a stewardship, but of giving it up. The steward was judged. Such was the truth manifest in Israel. Continuance in his old earthly position was now closed for the unjust steward; and for him it was simply a question of his prudence in present opportunities, with a view to the future. The unjust steward is made the vehicle of divine teaching to us how to make the future our aim. He, being, a prudent man, thinks of what is to become of him when he loses his stewardship; he looks before him; he thinks of the future; he is not engrossed in the present; he weighs and considers how he is to get on when he is no longer steward. So he makes a wise use of his master's goods. With people indebted to his master, he strikes off a great deal from this bill and a great deal from that, in order to make friends for himself. The Lord says this is the way we are to treat earthly things. Instead of tenaciously clutching at what you have not yet got, and keeping what you have not yet got, and keeping what you have, on the contrary, regard them as your master's goods, and treat them as the unjust steward in the parable. Rise above the unbelief which looks at money, or other present possessions, as if they were your own things. It is not so. What you have after an earthly sort now belongs to God. Show that you are above a Jewish, earthly, or human feeling about it. Act on the ground that all belongs to God, and thus secure the future.
This is the grand point of our Gospel, from the transfiguration more particularly, but indeed all through. It is the slight of present treasure on earth, because we look on to the unseen, eternal, and heavenly things. It is the faith of disciples acting on the prudence of the far-seeing steward, though of course hating his injustice. The principle to act on is this, that what nature calls my own is not my own, but God's. The best use to make of it is, treating it as His, to be as generous as may be, looking out against the future. It is easy to be generous with another's goods. This is the way of faith with what flesh counts its own things. Do not count them your own, but look at and treat them as God's. Be as generous as you please: He will not take it amiss. This is evidently what our Lord insists on; and here is the application to the disciples: "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail [or, it fails], they may receive you into everlasting habitations." You are not going to be on the earth long Other habitations are for ever. Sacrifice what nature calls its own, and would always hold fast if it could. Faith counts these things God's; freely sacrifice them, in view of what shall never pass away. Then he adds the pregnant lesson "He that is faithful in that which is least (after all it is only the least things now) is faithful also in much." Indeed there is more than this. It is not only the littleness of the present compared with the greatness of the future, but besides "If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another's (I leave out the word "man's", it is really God who is meant by it), who shall give you that which is your own?" What can be of its kind a more wonderfully divine touch than this? Exactly where man counts things his own, faith admits God's claim, another's; exactly where we might count things only God's, it sees one's own. Our own things are in heaven. He that is faithful in the little now will have much entrusted then; he that knows how to use the unrighteous mammon now, whose heart is not in it, who does not value it as his treasure, on the contrary, will have then the true riches. Such is the Lord's remarkable teaching in this parable.
Next, He gives us the rich man and Lazarus; which brings all out to view, the bright and dark side, in appearance and in reality, of the future as well as of the present. See one sumptuously faring every day, attired in fine linen and purple, a man living for self; near whose door lies another, suffering, loathsome, so abjectly in want and so friendless that the dogs do the service which man had no heart for. The scene changes suddenly. The beggar dies, and angels carry him into Abraham's bosom. The rich man died, and was buried (we hear not that Lazarus was); his funeral was as grand as his life; but in hell he lifted up his eyes, being tormented. There and then he sees the blessedness of him he had despised in presence of his own grandeur. It is the solemn light of eternity let into the world; it is God's estimate underneath outward appearances. The truth is for souls now. It is given not to think of in hades, but here; and yet we have, as most fitly winding up the tale, the earnest pleadings of the man who never before thought in his life seriously of eternal things. Hear now his anxiety for his brothers. There was no real love for souls, but a certain anxious desire for his brothers. At least one learns how real a thing his anguish was. But the Lord's comment is decisive. They had Moses and the prophets; if they heard not them, neither would they hear if one rose from the dead. What a truth, and how thoroughly about to be verified in His own rising from the dead, not to speak of another Lazarus raised in witness of His glory as the Son of God! Those who believed not Moses rejected Christ's resurrection, as they consulted to put Lazarus also to death, and sunk themselves under their own base lie (Matthew 28:11-15). even to this day.