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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Jesus, the Christ; Jesus Continued; Miracles; Prayer; Scofield Reference Index - Parables; Thompson Chain Reference - Association-Separation; Christ; Prayer; Secret Prayer; Solitude;
Verse Luke 5:16. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness — Or rather, He frequently withdrew into the desert. This I believe to be the import of the original words, ην υποχωρων. He made it a frequent custom to withdraw from the multitudes for a time, and pray, teaching hereby the ministers of the Gospel that they are to receive fresh supplies of light and power from God by prayer, that they may be the more successful in their work; and that they ought to seek frequent opportunities of being in private with God and their books. A man can give nothing unless he first receive it; and no man can be successful in the ministry who does not constantly depend upon God, for the excellence of the power is all from him. Why is there so much preaching, and so little good done? Is it not because the preachers mix too much with the world, keep too long in the crowd, and are so seldom in private with God? Reader! Art thou a herald for the Lord of hosts? Make full proof of thy ministry! Let it never be said of thee, "He forsook all to follow Christ, and to preach his Gospel, but there was little or no fruit of his labour; for he ceased to be a man of prayer, and got into the spirit of the world." Alas! alas! is this luminous star, that was once held in the right hand of Jesus, fallen from the firmament of heaven, down to the EARTH!
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Luke 5:16". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/luke-5.html. 1832.
30. Jesus cleanses a leper (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16)
People with leprosy and other skin diseases were considered unclean and a danger to public health. They were outcasts from society (Leviticus 13:45-46). If they were healed they had to offer sacrifices to symbolize their cleansing and express their thanks (Leviticus 14:1-20).
On the first recorded occasion when Jesus healed a leper, he did what anyone else would normally avoid doing; he touched the man. He then told the man to present himself to the priest (whose duty was to examine him and confirm that he had been healed; Leviticus 14:3) and to offer the sacrifices required by the law. He also told the man, clearly and firmly, not to broadcast what had happened, as he did not want to attract people who were curious to see a miracle-worker but had no sense of spiritual need (Mark 1:40-44).
The man disobeyed and as a result Jesus’ work was hindered. So many people came to see him that he was unable to teach in the towns as he wished. He continued to help the needy, but the pressures upon him caused him all the more to seek his Father’s will through prayer (Mark 1:45; Luke 5:16).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Luke 5:16". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/luke-5.html. 2005.
But he withdrew himself into the deserts and prayed.
Deserts ... In Biblical times, these were merely uninhabited places, not arid desolations in the same sense the word is used today.
And prayed ... The reliance of Jesus upon God, and his constant dependence upon the Father's will appear throughout the New Testament in the vigorous pursuit of prayer which marked his holy life.
THE HEALING OF THE MAN CARRIED BY FOUR MEN
A fuller treatment of this wonder is given in my Commentary on Mark, Mark 2:1-12. It is mentioned only briefly in Matthew 9:2, Luke's account being the most graphic.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Luke 5:16". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/luke-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
See the notes at Matthew 8:2-4.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 5:16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/luke-5.html. 1870.
Shall we turn now in our Bibles to Luke's gospel chapter 5.
The popularity of the ministry of Jesus is growing. Word is being spread around of the miracles that are being wrought by Him, and now wherever He goes people are beginning to jostle and shove in order that they might get close to Him. It made it difficult for Jesus to travel to get around because of the multitudes that, according to Mark's gospel, at this point were thronging Him wherever He went.
And so here in Luke's gospel,
It came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God ( Luke 5:1 ),
And that to me is always an exciting situation, when people are pressing to hear the word of God. When this becomes such a priority in the life of people, to just hear the word of God, they pressed to hear it. But,
he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret ( Luke 5:1 ),
Also known as the Sea of Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galilee. Whenever you are talking about a sea, somehow in my mind you get a vision of a sort of a salt body of water, but the lake of Gennesaret, or it's to me more of a lake than it is the sea. It's not salty water, but is fresh water, drinkable. So yet, it is known as the Sea of Galilee.
There were two ships that were standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and he prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship ( Luke 5:2-3 ).
So in order to escape a little from the crowd that was thronging Him, He commandeered Simon's ship. He got in it, and He said, "Pull on out a little ways," in order that He might be able to teach the people without them pressing so close that He loses the sight of those that were behind. Now here in the area by Capernaum there is sort of a good slope where the Sea of Galilee comes down, where the banks come down into the Sea of Galilee there, so that just pulling out just a little ways from shore, you're sort of an amphitheater type of a situation, which made it very conducive to teach the multitude of people who were thronging to hear the word of God.
Now when he was finished speaking to them, he then said to Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught ( Luke 5:4 ).
For a load, you're going to be pulling in a large catch.
And so Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net ( Luke 5:5 ).
Simon is objecting to the command in a polite sort of a way. "Lord, I am the fisherman, I know how to fish, and I know the time to fish, and I know that the time isn't now." As the day gets warmer the fish go to the deeper areas of the lake. And these nets were not really deep-water nets, they were sort of surface nets. They had the floats on the top, and they just cast them out as they are rolling around in a circle in the boat. And then as they complete the circle with the boat having cast the nets around in a circle, then they pull the nets on into the boat, and they are not deep-water type nets. They would catch the fish in the shallower areas in the cooler part of the day. Or in the evening which was usually the best time for fishing. So they've been fishing all night, caught nothing, so you assume that this just isn't the time. "Yet, nevertheless at thy word, I will let down the net."
Now this to me is interesting, because here we find men laboring all night with no results. Now suddenly Jesus directs them to labor in the same area, and they have phenomenal results. And to me this marks the contrast that usually exists in those efforts that are on our own, and those efforts that are directed by the Lord. I think of all of the time and energy and money that is wasted by man-inspired efforts. We see a task that needs to be done. We sit down and figure out what would be the best way to accomplish this task. We develop our programs, and then we develop the financing in order that we might fund the programs that we have devised. And then we set up the committees, then we set up the ways by which we might implement that program. And certainly in the church of Jesus Christ we have seen some remarkably phenomenal programs established by man.
We have some friends who were pastoring a church in the same denomination that we served for so many years, where we got packaged programs from the denomination. Quick, convenient, you didn't even have to think of one, they thought of them for you. All you had to do is get your committees and inaugurate them. And, of course, every year you get two of them. You get your spring enlargement program, and that you get the one to beat the summer slump program. And so this church was going to go all out. I mean they had everything all lined out. You take a telephone book, and you go up the pages and each person takes a page of the telephone book, and they call all the people on that page, and invite them to the church. And then, of course, you have a person over that, that calls everybody whose supposed to be calling all the people to make sure they call the people they were supposed to call. And then they filled helium balloons with numbers, and you turn them lose upwind from the city, so that the balloons sort of drop down, and so the numbers are then put in a barrel, and the person that draws the number. And if you bring the number out of your helium, there is a little note telling you there is going to be a drawing, special prize if you there and get the number. So you get the people coming with their numbers so that they might get into the drawing, and perhaps win this special prize that will be given away when the number is drawn out of the barrel. And then, of course, you organize your transportation committees. If a person needs transportation, they'll drive out, and pick them up, and bring them to church. And I mean it goes on, and on, and on. I mean so many gimmicks, you can't believe.
And so this particular church thought, "Well, we're going to really go into this big program, we're going to go full into it." And so I was talking to the pastors some six months after the program, and I said, "Well, now it's been six months since the program was concluded, as you evaluate the results of the program, how many of you have been able to add permanently to your church?" And they said, "Well, there is an eighty-five year old man that we have to drive twenty-five miles to pick up, and he really can't hear, but he doesn't get to see people very much, so he just loves to sit around where people are, and he is the only one we were able to add to the membership."
You know, after spending thousands of dollars on all of these programs to add to the church. There is man's way of doing it, and then there is the Lord's way. None directed service can be very unfruitful. But directed service can be exciting.
Now Jesus is directing Peter. Just launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draft. And Peter semi-arguing says, "Lord, we've been fishing all night and we've caught nothing, nevertheless, at thy word. (If you insist on it, we'll do it)," not really expecting anything.
How many times I've met people who are discouraged because of bad experiences. How many times when we've suggested a solution to a person's problem, they'll immediately respond, "Oh, I've tried that." But did you try it at the Lord's direction, or did you try it on your own initiative? It makes a difference when the Lord directs you to do a thing. You can be sure when the Lord is directing your service, that your service for the Lord will not be in vain.
So when they had done this, they enclosed a great multitude of fish: and their net began to brake. So they signaled to their partners, [which were James and John] who were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and they filled both of the ships, so that they began to sink ( Luke 5:6-7 ).
Success beyond their wildest dreams by simple obedience to the command of Jesus. Now the result of the success to me is significant. When we have devised programs, and we put in all of the human energy, and the human effort, and we begin by the human effort to gain a response. You've got something that is working, you've got something that is attracting people. What do you do with it? You franchise it. You carry it out other places. You develop your success seminars. And you invite others to come and learn how to bait your hook, to make your lure more attractive. So you can gather more fish. But when it is the Lord doing the work, rather than developing your success seminars, and being all puffed up over what's been accomplished, like Peter you just sort of fall at the feet of Jesus and say, "Lord, I am not worthy, depart from me Lord, I am a sinful man."
Suddenly you're aware of God's work. You're aware of God's power. You're aware of the presence of God, and that is always a humbling experience. No man who has stood in the presence of God can be proud. Standing in the presence of the Lord, conscious presence of the Lord, is always a very humbling experience.
Depart from me, Lord, [Peter said,] I am a sinful man. And he was astonished, and all of those that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so also was James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; for from now on you're going to catch men. So when they brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him ( Luke 5:8-11 ).
The Lord brought them to the peak, to the ultimate of success in their chosen profession, and then called them to leave it, to follow Him. Their little ships rowing to shore, weighted down in the water by the load of fish. The dream of every Galilean fishermen, and from that point of success the Lord said, "From now on you're going to catch men." And they left all to follow Jesus.
Now in the other gospels they do not give us the background to the call of Peter and John. And it would appear from the other gospels that Jesus was just walking by the Sea of Galilee and He saw some fishermen mending their nets, and He said, "Come, take up your cross and follow me." Or, "Come leave your nets and follow me." And they dropped their nets and followed Jesus without even knowing Him or seeing Him. That is not so. These men had already experienced the Lord, they knew the Lord. Jesus wasn't a stranger to them. They knew Him. Now He is calling them to a complete commitment in following Him.
Now it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man was full of leprosy; who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and begged him, saying, Lord, if you will, you can make me clean. And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him ( Luke 5:12-13 ).
He is going to give us a list of some of the miracles that Jesus was accomplishing. Sort of a variety of miracles. The one directing them and catching the fish, sort of a miracle in nature. Now the miracle of the curing of an incurable disease. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded and loathed diseases in the aged world. If a person had leprosy he was to be ostracized from the community. Nobody could touch him. If they touched him, you would be unclean. Jesus touched him.
Now in another case when Jesus healed lepers, He did not touch them. Jesus did not confine Himself to a particular pattern in doing His work. And I am glad for that. Because we so often are trying to find the formula as though it existed within a formula. Jesus said, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, you hear the sound thereof, but you can't really tell from whence it is coming, or where it is going. And so is he that is born of the Spirit" ( John 3:8 ).
God does not confine Himself to our patterns, to our methods, to our ways. In seminary we had a class in methodology. As always, men is seeking to develop the methods or to learn the methods by which God works. But the interesting thing is that God doesn't work by any particular method. There are diversities of gifts, and diversities of operations. Yet, it's the same Lord. So there are different gifts, but even with the same gift, there are different ways by which that gift operates within the individual. The Holy Spirit dividing to each man severally as He wills. And so He always maintains the control of method and the work which is to be done. At best I can only be an instrument through which God does work.
So here we find Jesus touching the man. And the interesting question is, "If thou wilt Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean." So often when we pray we say, "Now, Lord, if it is your will," and I am not putting that down. I feel that we should, that whether I say it or not is an underlying fact in every prayer that I ever offer to God. I don't want my will to be done above God's. "Now, God, You set Your will aside, because this is what I want You to do." The purpose of prayer is never the accomplishing of my will. Except as my will has been molded and shaped and conformed to His will. Always the purpose of prayer, the thrust of prayer is the will of God, the accomplishing of the will of God upon the earth. And we need to remember that. Jesus said, "Nevertheless, not what I will, but thy will be done" ( Mark 14:36 ). And that was at the end of the prayer, after He had offered His request, then He made that statement. And that's not a bad statement for us to make. After laying out to God the things that we desire, I think it is always wise to just say, "Lord, not what I will, but Your will be done."
Now quite often the Lord is willing to do those things that we desire. When He said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus said, "I am willing, be thou made clean." And He touched him, and he was cured of his leprosy immediately. Now in the case of the ten lepers that came to Jesus, He didn't touch them, and they were healed as they went. In the case of this fellow, he was healed immediately. Again, diversities of operations. He doesn't always work the same way.
Now the problem that would develop if He worked the same way is that, it didn't happen to me the way it happened to you, then I think, "Oh, God is not doing it for me." So God keeps His ways diverse, so that when I relate to you what God has done in my life, you then don't look for my experience that I've got, but you look for your own personal experience. For God does not pattern Himself in His work in our lives. And He may work in you in a totally different way, and your reaction may be completely different than my reaction to the work of God.
There is a value to testimony meetings, but there is always a problem with testimony meetings. Because through testimony meetings so oftentimes we seek then to have a similar experience to someone else. And the emphasis in the testimony meetings seems always to be experiential, or this is the way I experienced it, this is how God did it for me, this is what God did for me, and then I begin to think, "Oh, God didn't do it for me that way, there must be something wrong with me, because I didn't feel that. I didn't see the lights flashing. I didn't get the tingling down my spine. I guess maybe I don't have it, because I didn't experience it like someone else." So God keeps working in a variety of ways so that we don't try to pattern God after our methods.
So he was healed immediately. Now Jesus said to him,
Don't tell anybody: but just go, and show yourself to the priest ( Luke 5:14 ),
A marvelous thing about the law of God, the book of Leviticus, is that God in the law provided the way by which a person of an incurable disease could be returned into society and into fellowship in the worship of God when he was cured of the incurable disease. Now that I really like that, because God left Himself space to work. And this is the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. This is the method by which he is to be restored into the full fellowship of the family. And yet, leprosy is incurable. Even to the present day leprosy is incurable, it can be arrested, and they can be brought to an arrested state now in what the call the Hanson's disease, but it is still incurable. And it was incurable then, and yet God made provision for Him to work sovereignly, even in incurable situations. God always left Himself that space, to inapt, to put into operation His higher laws that supersede the natural laws as we know them. So Jesus said, "Follow the law, go show yourself to the priest." And, of course, the priest would examine him, and see no white flesh, and see the area where the leprosy was all pink, and new flesh. And so he would set him in the house where he would have to be for seven days, and then he comes back and shows himself to the priest again. He examines him, doesn't find anything, and then the fellow brings two doves. And the one dove is killed, and the blood is poured with water into a basin. And the second dove is taken and immersed in this bloody water, and set free. And the second dove flying off, the bloody water dripping off his wings, as he takes off, is a symbol of the disease being taken from the man, and his full restoration now into the community. Can you imagine the emotions that a leper must have felt when he saw that dove flying away, and suddenly he realized that he could be restored completely and fully into society? Here he was hopelessly ostracized because of this loathsome, incurable disease, and yet, he always knew, God has wrought a work.
So Jesus told him, "Do what the law tells you to do, show yourself to the priest." But Jesus could not hide. More and more people were hearing of the miracles that were being accomplished, and the crowds were coming and thronging. And He healed them, and they came actually to be healed from their infirmities. Verse Luke 5:16 :
And Jesus withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed ( Luke 5:16 ).
As we pointed out last week, as we were studying the gospel of Luke, or the week before. The humanity of Jesus is the thing that Luke points out. The Son of man, the human side. And because this is the particular emphasis of Luke's gospel, Luke makes more mention of the prayer life of Christ than any of the other gospels. Luke gives us insight into the prayer life of Christ. So here again, he shows us, he gives us a little insight into that prayer life of Jesus our Lord. Now all I can say is that, if Jesus as the Son of God felt the necessity of prayer, who do you think you are that you can get by without prayer? If He, being the Son of God, felt it such a necessary part of His life, surely it ought to be a very necessary and considered to be a very necessary part of all of our lives.
Again, the mystery of heaven, I am certain, is that men pray so little. I am sure the angels discuss this all the time. When they watch and observe us going through all of our calamities, all of our troubles, and they are just waiting to be dispatched to help us. And they watch, and we get knocked down and bloodied, and we stand up, and get knocked over again. And I am sure the angels say, "When is that nut going to call? How long is he going to go on until he cries out for help? If he only knew what God has made available to him." The mystery of the prayerlessness of infirmed man.
Now it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees the doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem: [and I like this,] and the power of the Lord was present to heal them ( Luke 5:17 ).
Now Jesus had began to attract the notice and the attention of a hostile crowd, the Pharisees, the doctors of the law, and they were coming all the way from Jerusalem up to the area of Galilee because they heard of Him. And their purpose of coming was really of being more critical than accepting. Here is a rising movement, a spiritual movement among the people. Now they have pretty well set themselves in a comfortable position as religious leaders. Here is a threat to them. They must come up and listen carefully, and examine Him, so that they can contradict Him, and show where He is at fault, and to dispel any idea that this man might truly be of God, and possibly the Messiah. But while they were there, the power of the Lord was present to heal.
And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with palsy: and they sought a means to bring him in, and lay him before Jesus. But when they could not find a way that they might bring him in because of the multitude, they climbed up on the roof, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus ( Luke 5:18-19 ).
And so you can get the picture. Jesus is sitting there in the house, and the people are all gathered, the multitude is gathered around, and suddenly there is a noise upon the roof, and the tiles are being pulled back, and then the ropes, and here is this guy being let down right in front of Jesus. These guys are ingenious, I admire them, I really do. They are determined. They've got a friend, they want help for him, and they are determined to get help. Now I tell you, those are the kind of buddies you need. And so they come with him to the house, carrying him in his bed. They can't get in, and so they are not to be stopped. And so they let him down right in front of Jesus.
And when he saw their faith ( Luke 5:20 ),
Not the faith of the fellow that was let down, the faith of his friends that brought him. That's great to be surrounded by friends who believe. And He saw their faith,
and he said to them, Man, your sins are forgiven ( Luke 5:20 ).
Now I imagine the guys upon on the roof said, "No, no, no, Lord, that's not what we want, we want him to walk home."
So often in their minds, illness was related to sin. You remember when the disciples were with Jesus, and they saw the blind man, they said, "Lord, who did sin that this man was born blind?" Now they even believed in prenatal sins. While you were in the womb you could sin. I don't know how, but they believed that you could. "So was it his parents, or was it him? Did he do some sin in the womb that he was born blind? Or was it his parents?" And Jesus said, "No, no, no, this man . . . ." He didn't really answer why he was born blind, He just said, "That God may be glorified, I must do the works of God while I am with you." And He healed the man. He never told them why the man was born blind.
People misinterpret that saying, "Well, he was born blind for the glory of God to be revealed." No, Jesus just said that He must work to glorify God, and thus, He healed the man. He never answered the question. Except that He affirmed that neither he nor his parents sinned. He affirmed that it wasn't their sin. But they so often related illnesses to sin. Which we haven't really divorced ourselves from that completely yet. And it's tragic, that when we see a person who is suffering, we say, "Oh, you must have really done something wrong."
We were pastoring a church in Tucson years ago, and one of the fellows in the church said, "Would you please pray for my wife tonight that God will help her to confess whatever sin she has been committing? She has been sick for over a month." And so that idea that somehow illness is related to sin is not completely divorced from the minds of people. If illnesses were directly related to sin, none of us would be strong enough to be here tonight. And it is extremely wrong, and extremely cruel to say to a person, "Well, if you just had enough faith, you would be alright."
I was talking with Joni Erickson, and she was saying one of the most difficult things about her condition is that there are so many people who feel that they have a special anointing for her healing. And these evangelists, and whatever, who come up and lay hands on her, and then say, "Now stand up." And then sort of say, "Well, if you only had enough faith, you could get out of that wheelchair." And that's one of the most difficult problems that she faces with her condition. That's cruel. It makes a hardship on her. She is already in a difficult position. But that only increases the hardship. Making a person feel guilty because they are in the condition that they are in. Because surely you must have done something wrong or you don't have enough faith to change your condition.
Some of the greatest saints of God have had great physical maladies, and actually it was the physical malady that created that depth of character, and that depth of their walk, and relationship with the Lord.
Jesus took care of the most important thing first. You know, it's more important that your sins are forgiven than that you be healed. It's better to go into heaven maimed than to go into hell. So Jesus took care of the most important thing first, with the man's sins. "Man, your sins are forgiven." Of course He knew that the Pharisees and all were there watching and listening. He was baiting them. I mean, He was looking for a big blowup, which He got. And He was deliberately just baiting them. He knew what their response would be. He anticipated it. And He was deliberately creating it.
And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? ( Luke 5:21 )
Now, they were right in their assumption. Only God can forgive sins. Jesus wanted them to make that assumption. They were falling right into His trap. They were wrong in thinking that Jesus was speaking blasphemous. What Jesus was actually demonstrating to them was that He was God. So in saying, "Man, your sins are forgiven you," He is exercising His divine prerogative of forgiving sins, knowing that only God can forgive sins. David said unto God, "Lord, against thee, and thee only have I sinned, and done this great sin in thy sight" ( Psalms 51:4 ). Thus, if sin is against God, then only God can forgive sin. And Jesus was deliberately seeking to get this response and reaction, which He did get. And then He closed the trap.
He said unto them, What are you reasoning in your hearts? What is easier, to say, Your sins are forgiven you; or, Rise up and walk? ( Luke 5:22-23 )
Well, it would be easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven you." If you say, your sins are forgiven, who can look in a guys heart and really see? Well, you can say that, but how do you know it's really happened? How can you prove that the sins were really forgiven? How can you prove that your words really have authority? You can't prove it. There is nothing that you can see that can prove the authority of that. However, if you say to a fellow who is lame, "Rise up and walk," it's very easy to quickly see how much authority you have in your words.
So Jesus said unto them,
But that you may know that the Son of man has the authority upon earth to forgive sins, (he said to the man who was sick of a palsy,) I say unto you, Arise, take up your couch, and go home. And immediately he rose up before them, he took up that whereon he was laying, and he departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen some weird things today ( Luke 5:24-26 ).
Now Jesus was here demonstrating to them His divinity. Doing it in a very clever way, saying first to the man, "Your sins are forgiven," creating that response, "How can you do that, only God can do that?" Only God has that authority. And thus, by showing that His word did have authority by saying, "Rise up and walk," He is demonstrating to them that He is God.
Now after these things he went forth, and he saw a publican ( Luke 5:27 ),
Now a publican was a tax collector. The Roman government assessed an area with an certain assessment, and then they auctioned off the job of tax collector. And the tax collector only had to pay to the Roman government that assessment. Anything he could collect above the assessment was his. So they were constantly looking for things to tax. Constantly grabbing people and taxing them for many things. Actually, you had to pay a tax just to be alive under the Roman government. They taxed 10% of the fruit of your crop, and 20% of your oil and wine. They had taxes on just about everything. And you think that our government has been shrewd. All they had to do is read what the Roman government taxed, we'd really be crying even more than we are. The people in those days classified tax collectors with murders and thieves. They probably weren't so far off, thieves to be sure. In fact, it was extremely rare to find an honest tax collector. They were notoriously crooked. In fact, there was a monument that was raised. They've found records of a monument extolling a man because he was an honest tax collector. About the only one I guess in the Roman Empire. So much so, that they made a special monument. This man was an honest tax collector. But that was a rarity indeed. And so the Jews considered tax collectors, quislings, because they were really working for the Roman government. And they made a law that a tax collector could not enter the synagogue. I mean, he was a rank sinner. There was no way he could come into the synagogue. Ranking him with the murders and the thieves, they would not allow him to worship God in the synagogue.
Now here was a tax collector,
named Levi, and he was sitting at his little custom house [where he received his taxes]: and Jesus said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi had a big feast [of course he could afford it] in his own house: and there was a great number ( Luke 5:27-29 )
He invited all of his tax collector friends to come and listen to Jesus. All of the publicans, he invited them to gather together, and Jesus sat down with them.
It's interesting how that when a person comes to a real relationship with Jesus Christ, the first thing they do is they grab their associates to tell them about it. The only associates he had were tax collectors. So in gathering his associates, he had to gather the tax collectors. They only had fellowship with each other, no one else would fellowship with them. And so he gathered together all of these tax collectors, and the scribes and the Pharisees murmured against it. And they came to His disciples and they said, "Why are you eating and drinking with publicans and sinners?"
You see, a Pharisee if he came near a tax collector would grab his robe and hold it tied around him, because he wouldn't want his robe to flip out and touch a tax collector, because they were considered unclean. And if he did that he would have to go home and bathe, and change, and wash his cloak, and he couldn't go to the synagogue for a day, because he was unclean, because his cloak touched the tax collector.
Now here is Jesus eating with them, that's even worse in their mind, because when you're eating with someone, you are touching the same bread. And you're eating bread that that guy touched. "How is it you're eating with this publicans and sinners?" Eating together was identifying with one another in a very intimate way.
They were murmuring to the disciples, [they were bringing their complaints to the disciples,] but Jesus answered them and said, They that are whole need not a physician; but those that are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance ( Luke 5:30-32 ).
Jesus went out where they were, meet them on their own territory. He ministered to the sick. Those who were sick spiritually. I think that oftentimes in the church we begin to make ourselves sort of sterilized hospitals. And we create almost a sterile environment, where if a sinner would come in he feels so totally uncomfortable, because we are all sitting here in our sterile robes of righteousness.
In England we have a good friend Jim, who pastors a Calvary Chapel affiliate in the area of the northern part near Manchester. And Jim's ministry is in the pubs. He goes down to the pubs three or four nights a week. And has a tremendous ministry there in the pubs witnessing to the people who are getting drunk. And he is an outstanding witness for Christ.
Oh, he gets a lot of flak from the other ministers in town because he spends so much time in the pub. But he is following the example of the Lord, going where they are at to reach them, and to bring them out.
And so they then brought up the question, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and they make their prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but yours eat and drink? And he said unto them, Can you make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days ( Luke 5:33-35 ).
In those days when a couple got married, it was a two week party. A week before, and a week after. The week before everybody would gather together and they have this big weeklong party, and then they would have the marriage and the consummation of the marriage. And then they would have open house for a week, where they would party for a week. And the bride and the bridegroom would be the host of a party for a week, and their special friends were invited to party with them for a whole week. Now their lives were extremely difficult in heart, and this was probably the only time in their lives where they just have a week off with doing nothing. Because they had to work so hard. And so it was that one week of their life of real partying, now that they are married, then after that it was to work and to the treachery, as life as it was in those days.
Now those special friends that they invited to celebrate that week and party with them and all were called the children of the bridechambers. And so Jesus called his disciples the children of the bridechamber. The bridegroom is with them, they are here to party. "We are here to enjoy and celebrate the fact that I am with them. Now when I am gone, then it will be time for them to fast, but as long as the bridegroom is with them, they are not going to fast, they are just going to enjoy the presence of the bridegroom."
And then he spake a parable unto them; No man puts a piece of a new garment on an old; if otherwise, then both the new makes a tear, and the piece that was taken out of the new does not agree with the old ( Luke 5:36 ).
They didn't have preshrunk in those days. So if you took a new patch and sew it into an old garment, the first time you washed it, the new patch not being preshrunk would shrink. Of course, the garment had already been washed enough that all of the shrinkage was out of it. But if you put a new cloth into an old garment, the new cloth as soon as you wash it would shrink, and it just make the tear worse. So Jesus said, "You just don't put a new patch on an old garment. It's only going to rip it up more."
And also he said, No man puts new wine into old bottles ( Luke 5:37 );
Now when they poured the new wine into the wineskins, there was a chemical reaction that created a gas. So if you would pour the new wine into old wineskins, it would cause it to immediately ferment, and this gas would be formed, and the old wineskins, of course, were stiff, because they were old. And being stiff, no give to them, the gas would develop and they just pop. And so you just didn't put new wine into the old skins, but you put it into new skins that were still soft and pliable. The gas had developed, but they would just expand with the gas, because there was a pliability in the leather. And the wineskins were made of leather. And so Jesus said, "You don't take the new wine and pour it into the old skins, they're going to burst on you."
You put the new wine into new skins; and both then are preserved. And no man having drunk the old wine immediately desires the new; for he says, The old is better ( Luke 5:38-39 ).
Now He is talking about the old religious systems that He was coming up against. He is bringing a new breath of air into the religious scene that had become so stodgy that no one could hardly stand it. Now, rather than coming in to reform that system, putting the new cloth in the old garment, or putting the new wine in the old skins, He is developing a whole new skin for this new work of God.
Now those who are used to the old traditional ways are always upset when something new comes along. They say, "Oh, the old is better." And we see this demonstrated so often. New ideas, new thoughts are so often immediately rejected. People get caught in their old traditional ways, and they get upset if anything should come along. Well, the old wineskins burst.
Chuck Luke 1:1 ,"Blessed are the flexible, they shall not be broken."
May God keep us flexible. As I grow older I know the tenancy is to get set in your ways. And I pray, "God don't let me grow old in that regards, help me to always be open to what You might want to be doing." I have observed in the history of the church how many times when God wanted to do a fresh work upon the earth, He had to go outside of the organized systems. Because the old skin couldn't handle the new wine. And so we see this glorious fresh work of God, but he had to create a new skin in order to do it. And those who come from the old systems so often are shocked and appalled at what they see. Kids sitting on the floor. And they just can't handle what God is doing, because it doesn't follow our structure. It doesn't fit into our pattern. And yet, God develops the new skins for His new wine.
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Luke 5:16". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/luke-5.html. 2014.
1. Jesus’ cleansing of a leprous Jew 5:12-16 (cf. Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45)
This miracle was to be a "testimony" to others about Jesus’ person (Luke 5:14). It authenticated His person and His teaching. It also shows the blessings that Jesus brought to people, specifically the spiritual cleansing of those whom sin has polluted (cf. Luke 4:18).
"Like sin, leprosy ["a defiling skin disease" TNIV] is deeper than the skin (Leviticus 13:3) and cannot be helped by mere ’surface’ measures (see Jeremiah 6:14). Like sin, leprosy spreads (Leviticus 13:7-8); and as it spreads, it defiles (Leviticus 13:44-45). Because of his defilement, a leprous person had to be isolated outside the camp (Leviticus 13:46), and lost sinners one day will be isolated in hell. People with leprosy were looked on as ’dead’ (Numbers 12:12), and garments infected with leprosy were fit only for the fire (Leviticus 13:52)." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:186.]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 5:16". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/luke-5.html. 2012.
Luke omitted the fact that the man disobeyed Jesus (Mark 1:45) perhaps because this would have undermined his emphasis on Jesus’ authority. Instead he stressed the spread of the story (lit. "word," Gr. logos) concerning Jesus. The spread of the gospel concerning Jesus is a major theme of both this Gospel and the Book of Acts. This healing increased Jesus’ popularity. However, His response was not to rest on popular approval but to renew His dependence on His Father by praying in a solitary place.
". . . the mainspring of his life was his communion with God, and in such communion he found both strength and guidance to avoid submitting to temptation." [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 210.]
Luke did not mention the fact that increased popularity hampered Jesus’ activities (Mark 1:45). He also listed hearing Jesus before experiencing healing in Luke 5:15, reflecting the priority of Jesus’ preaching over His miracles.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 5:16". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/luke-5.html. 2012.
THE CONDITIONS OF A MIRACLE ( Luke 5:1-11 )
5:1-11 Jesus was standing on the shore of the Lake of Gennesaret while the crowds pressed in upon him to listen to the word of God. He saw two boats riding close to the shore. the fishermen had disembarked from them and were washing their nets. He embarked on one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to push out a little from the land. He sat down and continued to teach the crowds from the boat. When he stopped speaking, he said to Simon, "Push out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we have toiled all night long and we caught nothing; but, if you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done so they enclosed a great crowd of fishes; their nets were torn with the numbers; so they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and they rifled both the boats so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this he fell at Jesus' knees. "Leave me, Lord," he said, "because I am a sinful man." Wonder gripped him and all who were with him at the number of fishes they had caught. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee's sons, who were partners with Simon. Jesus said to Simon, "From now on you will be catching men." So they brought the boats to land and they left everything and followed him.
The famous sheet of water in Galilee is called by three names--the Sea of Galilee, the Sea of Tiberias and the Lake of Gennesaret. It is thirteen miles long by eight miles wide. It lies in a dip in the earth's surface and is 680 feet below sea level. That fact gives it an almost tropical climate. Nowadays it is not very populous but in the days of Jesus it had nine townships clustered round its shores, none of fewer than 15,000 people.
Gennesaret is really the name of the lovely plain on the west side of the lake, a most fertile piece of land. The Jews loved to play with derivations, and they had three derivations for Gennesaret all of which show how beautiful it was.
(i) From kinnowr ( H3658) , which means a harp, either because "its fruit is as sweet as the sound of a harp" or because "the voice of its waves is pleasant as the voice of the harp,"
We are here confronted with a turning point in the career of Jesus. Last time we heard him preach he was in the synagogue; now he is at the lakeside. True, he will be back in the synagogue again; but the time is coming when the door of the synagogue will be shut to him and his church will be the lakeside and the open road, and his pulpit a boat. He would go anywhere where men would listen to him. "Our societies," said John Wesley, "were formed from those who were wandering upon the dark mountains, that belonged to no Christian church; but were awakened by the preaching of the Methodists, who had pursued them through the wilderness of this world to the High-ways and the Hedges--to the Markets and the Fairs--to the Hills and the Dales--who set up the Standard of the Cross in the Streets and Lanes of the Cities, in the Villages, in the Barns, and Farmers' Kitchens, etc.--and all this done in such a way, and to such an extent, as never had been done before since the Apostolic age." "I love a commodious room," said Wesley, "a soft cushion and a handsome pulpit, but field preaching saves souls." When the synagogue was shut Jesus took to the open road.
There is in this story what we might call a list of the conditions of a miracle.
(i) There is the eye that sees. There is no need to think that Jesus created a shoal of fishes for the occasion. In the Sea of Galilee there were phenomenal shoals which covered the sea as if it was solid for as much as an acre. Most likely Jesus' keen eye saw just such a shoal and his keen sight made it look like a miracle. We need the eye that really sees. Many people saw steam raise the lid of a kettle; only James Watt went on to think of a steam engine. Many people saw an apple fall; only Isaac Newton went on to think out the law of gravity. The earth is full of miracles for the eye that sees.
(ii) There is the spirit that will make an effort. If Jesus said it, tired as he was Peter was prepared to try again. For most people the disaster of life is that they give up just one effort too soon.
(iii) There is the spirit which will attempt what seems hopeless. The night was past and that was the time for fishing. All the circumstances were unfavourable, but Peter said, "Let circumstances be what they may, if you say so, we will try again." Too often we wait because the time is not opportune. If we wait for a perfect set of circumstances, we will never begin at all. If we want a miracle, we must take Jesus at his word when he bids us attempt the impossible.
TOUCHING THE UNTOUCHABLE ( Luke 5:12-15 )
5:12-15 While Jesus was in one of the towns--look you--a man who was a severe case of leprosy saw him. He fell before him and besought him, "Lord, if you are willing to do so you are able to cleanse me." Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. "I am willing," he said. "Be cleansed." Immediately the leprosy left him. Jesus enjoined him to tell no one. "But," he said, "go and show yourself to the priest, and bring the offering for cleansing, as Moses's law laid it down, to prove to them that you are cured." Talk about him spread all the more; and many crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their illnesses.
In Palestine there were two kinds of leprosy. There was one which was rather like a very bad skin disease, and it was the less serious of the two. There was one in which the disease, starting from a small spot, ate away the flesh until the wretched sufferer was left with only the stump of a hand or a leg. It was literally a living death.
The regulations concerning leprosy are in Leviticus 13:1-59; Leviticus 14:1-57. The most terrible thing about it was the isolation it bought. The leper was to cry "Unclean! Unclean!" wherever he went; he was to dwell alone; "in a habitation outside the camp" ( Leviticus 13:45-46). He was banished from the society of men and exiled from home. The result was, and still is, that the psychological consequences of leprosy were as serious as the physical.
Dr. A. B. MacDonald, in an article on the leper colony in Itu, of which he was in charge, wrote, "The leper is sick in mind as well as body. For some reason there is an attitude to leprosy different from the attitude to any other disfiguring disease. It is associated with shame and horror, and carries, in some mysterious way, a sense of guilt, although innocently acquired like most contagious troubles. Shunned and despised, frequently do lepers consider taking their own lives and some do."
The leper was hated by others until he came to hate himself. That is the kind of man who came to Jesus; he was unclean; and Jesus touched him.
(i) Jesus touched the untouchable. His hand went out to the man from whom everyone else would have shrunk away. Two things emerge. First, when we despise ourselves, when our hearts are filled with bitter shame, let us remember, that, in spite of all, Christ's hand is still stretched out. Mark Rutherford wished to add a new beatitude, "Blessed are those who heal us of our self-despisings." That is what Jesus did and does. Second, it is of the very essence of Christianity to touch the untouchable, to love the unlovable, to forgive the unforgivable. Jesus did--and so must we.
(ii) Jesus sent the man to carry out the normal, prescribed routine for cleansing. The regulations are described in Leviticus 14:1-57. That is to say a miracle did not dispense with what medical science of the time could do. It did not absolve the man from carrying out the prescribed rules. We will never get miracles by neglecting the gifts and the wisdom God has given us. It is when man's skill combines with God's grace that wonder happens.
(iii) Luke 5:15 tells us of the popularity Jesus enjoyed. But it was only because people wanted something out of him. Many desire the gifts of God but repudiate the demands of God--and, there could be nothing more dishonourable.
THE OPPOSITION INTENSIFIES ( Luke 5:16-17 )
5:16-17 Jesus withdrew into the desert places and he continued in prayer. On a certain day he was teaching and, sitting listening, there were Pharisees and experts in the law who had come from every village in Galilee and from Judaea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was there to enable him to heal.
There are only two verses here; but as we read them we must pause, for this indeed is a milestone. The scribes and the Pharisees had arrived on the scene. The opposition which would never be satisfied until it had killed Jesus had emerged into the open.
If we are to understand what happened to Jesus we must understand something about the Law, and the relationship of the scribes and the Pharisees to it. When the Jews returned from Babylon about 440 B.C. they knew well that, humanly speaking, their hopes of national greatness were gone. They therefore deliberately decided that they would find their greatness in being a people of the law. They would bend all their energies to knowing and keeping God's law.
The basis of the law was the Ten Commandments. These commandments are principles for life. They are not rules and regulations; they do not legislate for each event and for every circumstance. For a certain section of the Jews that was not enough. They desired not great principles but a rule to cover every conceivable situation. From the Ten Commandments they proceeded to develop and elaborate these rules.
Let us take an example. The commandment says, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy"; and then goes on to lay it down that on the Sabbath no work must be done ( Exodus 20:8-11). But the Jews asked, "What is work?" and went on to define it under thirty-nine different heads which they called "Fathers of Work." Even that was not enough. Each of these heads was greatly sub-divided. Thousands of rules and regulations began to emerge. These were called the Oral Law, and they began to be set even above the Ten Commandments.
Again, let us take an actual example. One of the works forbidden on the Sabbath was carrying a burden. Jeremiah 17:21-24 says, "Take heed for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day." But, the legalists insisted, a burden must be defined. So definition was given. A burden is "food equal in weight to a dried fig, enough wine for mixing in a goblet, milk enough for one swallow, oil enough to anoint a small member, water enough to moisten an eye-salve, paper enough to write a custom-house notice upon, ink enough to write two letters, reed enough to make a pen" . . . and so on endlessly. So for a tailor to leave a pin or needle in his robe on the Sabbath was to break the law and to sin; to pick up a stone big enough to fling at a bird on the Sabbath was to sin. Goodness became identified with these endless rules and regulations.
Let us take another example. To heal on the Sabbath was to work. It was laid down that only if life was in actual danger could healing be done; and then steps could be taken only to keep the sufferer from getting worse, not to improve his condition. A plain bandage could be put on a wound, but not any ointment; plain wadding could be put into a sore ear, but not medicated. It is easy to see that there was no limit to this.
The scribes were the experts in the law who knew all these rules and regulations, and who deduced them from the law. The name Pharisee means "The Separated One"; and the Pharisees were those who had separated themselves from ordinary people and ordinary life in order to keep these rules and regulations. Note two things. First, for the scribes and Pharisees these rules were a matter of life and death; to break one of them was deadly sin. Second, only people desperately in earnest would ever have tried to keep them, for they must have made life supremely uncomfortable. It was only the best people who would even make the attempt.
Jesus had no use for rules and regulations like that. For him, the cry of human need superseded all such things. But to the scribes and Pharisees he was a law-breaker, a bad man who broke the law and taught others to do the same. That is why they hated him and in the end killed him. The tragedy of the life of Jesus was that those who were most in earnest about their religion drove him to the Cross. It was the irony of things that the best people of the day ultimately crucified him.
From this time on there was to be no rest for him. Always he was to be under the scrutiny of hostile and critical eyes. The opposition had crystallized and there was but one end.
Jesus knew this and before he met the opposition he withdrew to pray. The love in the eyes of God compensated him for the hate in the eyes of men. The approval of God nerved him to meet the criticism of men. He drew strength for the battle of life from the peace of God--and it is enough for the disciple that he should be as his Lord.
FORGIVEN AND HEALED ( Luke 5:18-26 )
5:18-26 Now--look you--there came men bearing on a bed a man who was paralysed, and they were trying to carry him in and to lay him before Jesus. When they could find no way to carry him in because of the crowd they climbed up on to the roof and they let him down, bed and all, through the tiles right into the middle of them in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Man, your sins are forgiven you." The scribes and Pharisees began to raise questions. "Who," they said, "is this who insults God? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Jesus was well aware of what they were thinking. He answered, "What are you thinking about in your hearts? Which is easier--to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins (he said to the paralysed man), I tell you rise, take up your bed, and go to your own house." And immediately he stood up in front of them and lifted up the bedding on which he was lying and went away to his house, glorifying God. Astonishment gripped them all and they glorified God and were filled with awe. "To-day," they said, "we have seen amazing things."
Here we have a vivid story. Jesus was in a house teaching. The Palestinian house was flat-roofed. The roof had only the slightest tilt, sufficient to make the rain water run off. It was composed of beams laid from wall to wall and quite a short distance apart. The space between the beams was filled with close packed twigs, compacted together with mortar and then marled over. It was the easiest thing in the world to take out the packing between two beams. In fact coffins were very often taken in and out of a house via the roof.
What does the passage about forgiving sins mean? We must remember that sin and suffering were in Palestine inextricably connected. It was implicitly believed that if a man was suffering he had sinned. And therefore the sufferer very often had an even morbid sense of sin. That is why Jesus began by telling the man that his sins were forgiven. Without that the man would never believe that he could be cured. This shows how in debate the scribes and Pharisees were completely routed. They objected to Jesus claiming to extend forgiveness to the man. But on their own arguments and assumptions the man was ill because he had sinned; and if he was cured that was proof that his sins were forgiven. The complaint of the Pharisees recoiled on them and left them speechless.
The wonderful thing is that here is a man who was saved by the faith of his friends. When Jesus saw their faith--the eager faith of those who stopped at nothing to bring their friend to Jesus won his cure. It still happens.
(i) There are those who are saved by the faith of their parents. Carlyle used to say that still across the years there came his mother's voice to him, "Trust in God and do the right." When Augustine was living a reckless and immoral life his devout mother came to ask the help of a Christian bishop. "It is impossible," he said, "that the child of such prayers and tears should perish." Many of us would gladly witness that we owe all that we are and ever will be to the faith of godly parents.
(ii) There are those who are daily saved by the faith of those who love them. When H. G. Wells was newly married and success was bringing new temptations to him, he said, "It was as well for me that behind the folding doors at 12 Mornington Road there slept one so sweet and clean that it was unthinkable that I should appear before her squalid or drunken or base." Many of us would do the shameful thing but for the fact that we could not meet the pain and sorrow in someone's eyes.
In the very structure of life and love--blessed be God--there are precious influences which save men's souls.
THE GUEST OF AN OUTCAST ( Luke 5:27-32 )
5:27-32 After that Jesus went out, and he saw a tax-collector, called Levi, sitting at his tax-collector's table. He said to him, "Follow me!" He left everything and rose and followed him. And Levi made a great feast for him in his house; and a great crowd of tax-collectors and others who were their friends sat down at table with them. The Pharisees and scribes complained at this, and said to the disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?" Jesus answered, "Those who are healthy have no need of a doctor but those who are ill have. I did not come to invite the righteous but sinners to repentance."
Here we have the call of Matthew (compare Matthew 9:9-13). Of all people in Palestine the tax-collectors were the most hated. Palestine was a country subject to the Romans; tax-collectors had taken service under the Roman government; therefore they were regarded as renegades and traitors.
The taxation system lent itself to abuse. The Roman custom had been to farm out the taxes. They assessed a district at a certain figure and then sold the right to collect that figure to the highest bidder. So long as the buyer handed over the assessed figure at the end of the year he was entitled to retain whatever else he could extract from the people; and since there were no newspapers, radio or television, and no ways of making public announcements that would reach everyone, the common people had no real idea of what they had to pay.
This particular system had led to such gross abuses that by New Testament times it had been discontinued. There were, however, still taxes to be paid, still quisling tax-collectors working for the Romans, and still abuses and exploitation.
There were two types of taxes. First, there were stated taxes. There was a poll tax which all men from 14 to 65, and all women from 12 to 65, had to pay simply for the privilege of existing. There was a ground tax which consisted of one-tenth of all grain grown, and one-fifth of wine and oil. This could be paid in kind or commuted into money. There was income tax, which was one per cent. of a man's income. In these taxes there was not a great deal of room for extortion.
Second, there were all kinds of duties. A tax was payable for using the main roads, the harbours, the markets. A tax was payable on a cart, on each wheel of it, and on the animal which drew it. There was purchase tax on certain articles, and there were import and export duties. A tax-collector could bid a man stop on the road and unpack his bundles and charge him well nigh what he liked. If a man could not pay, sometimes the tax-collector would offer to lend him money at an exorbitant rate of interest and so get him further into his clutches.
Robbers, murderers and tax-collectors were classed together. A tax-collector was barred from the synagogue. A Roman writer tells us that he once saw a monument to an honest tax-collector. An honest specimen of this renegade profession was so rare that he received a monument.
Yet Jesus chose Matthew the tax-collector to be an apostle.
(i) The first thing Matthew did was to invite Jesus to a feast--he could well afford it--and to invite his fellow tax-collectors and their outcast friends to meet him. Matthew's first instinct was to share the wonder he had found. John Wesley once said, "No man ever went to Heaven alone; he must either find friends or make them." It is a Christian duty to share the blessedness that we have found.
(ii) The scribes and Pharisees objected. The Pharisees--the separated ones--would not even let the skirt of their robe touch the like of Matthew. Jesus made the perfect answer. Once Epictetus called his teaching "the medicine of salvation." Jesus pointed out that it is only sick people who need doctors; and people like Matthew and his friends were the very people who needed him most. It would be well if we were to regard the sinner not as a criminal but as a sick man; and if we were to look on the man who has made a mistake not as someone deserving contempt and condemnation but as someone needing love and help to find the right way.
THE HAPPY COMPANY ( Luke 5:33-35 )
5:33-35 They said to him, "John's disciples fast frequently and pray. So do the disciples of the Pharisees; but your disciples eat and drink." Jesus said to them, "You cannot make the children of the bridechamber fast while the bridegroom is with them. But the days will come--and when the bridegroom is taken away from them in those days they will fast."
What amazed and shocked the scribes and the Pharisees was the normality of the followers of Jesus. Collie Knox tells how once a well-loved chaplain said to him, "Young Knox, don't make an agony of your religion." It was said of Burns that he was haunted rather than helped by his religion. The orthodox Jews had an idea--not yet altogether dead--that a man was not being religious unless he was being uncomfortable.
They had systematised their religious observances. They fasted on Mondays and Thursdays; and often they whitened their faces so that no one could fail to see that they were fasting. True, fasting was not so very serious because it lasted only from sunrise to sunset and after that ordinary food could be taken. The idea was to call God's attention to the faster. Sometimes they even thought of it in terms of sacrifice. By fasting a man was in essence offering nothing less than his own flesh to God. Even prayer was systematised. Prayer was to be offered at 12 midday, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Jesus was opposed radically to religion by rule. He used a vivid picture. When two young people married in Palestine they did not go away for a honeymoon; they stayed at home, and for a week kept open house. They dressed in their best; sometimes they even wore crowns; for that week they were king and queen and their word was law. They would never have a week like that again in their hard-wrought lives. And the favoured guests who shared this festive week were called the children of the bride-chamber.
(i) It is extremely significant that more than once Jesus likened the Christian life to a wedding feast. Joy is a primary Christian characteristic. It was said of a famous American teacher by one of her students, "She made me feel as if I was bathed in sunshine." Far too many people think of Christianity as something which compels them to do all the things they do not want to do and hinders them from doing all the things they do want to do. Laughter has become a sin, instead of--as a famous philosopher called it--"a sudden glory." Robert Louis Stevenson was right, when he wrote in The Celestial Surgeon:
If I have faltered more or less
In my great task of happiness;
If I have moved among my race
And shown no glorious morning face;
If beams from happy human eyes
Have moved me not; if morning skies,
Books, and my food, and summer rain
Knocked on my sullen heart in vain:
Lord, thy most pointed pleasure take
And stab my spirit broad awake;
Or, Lord, if too obdurate I,
Choose thou, before that spirit die,
A piercing pain, a killing sin,
And to my dead heart run them in!
(ii) At the same time Jesus knew there would come a day when the bridegroom would be taken away. He was not caught unawares by death. Ahead he saw the cross; but even on the way to the cross he knew the joy that no man can take away, because it is the joy of the presence of God.
THE NEW IDEA ( Luke 5:36-39 )
5:36-39 He spoke a parable to them like this: "Nobody puts a patch from a new garment on an old garment. If he does the new will tear it and the patch from the new will not match the old. No one puts new wine into old skins. If he does the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new skins, and no one who drinks old wine wishes for new for he says, 'The old is good.'"
There is in religious people a kind of passion for the old. Nothing moves more slowly than a church. The trouble with the Pharisees was that the whole religious outlook of Jesus was so startlingly new they simply could not adjust to it.
The mind soon loses the quality of elasticity and will not accept new ideas. Jesus used two illustrations. "You cannot put a new patch on an old garment," he said, "The strong new cloth will only rip the rent in the old cloth wider." Bottles in Palestine were made of skin. When new wine was put into them it fermented and gave off gas. If the bottle was new, there was a certain elasticity in the skin and it gave with the pressure; but if it was old, the skin was dry and hard and it would burst. "Don't," says Jesus, "let your mind become like an old wineskin. People say of wine, 'The old is better.' It may be at the moment, but they forget that it is a mistake to despise the new wine, for the day will come when it has matured and it will be best of all."
The whole passage is Jesus' condemnation of the shut mind and a plea that men should not reject new ideas.
(i) We should never be afraid of adventurous thought. If there is such a person as the Holy Spirit, God must ever be leading us into new truth. Fosdick somewhere asks, "How would medicine fare if doctors were restricted to drugs and methods and techniques three hundred years old?" And yet our standards of orthodoxy are far older than that. The man with something new has always to fight. Galileo was branded a heretic when he held that the earth moved round the sun. Lister had to fight for antiseptic technique in surgical operations. Simpson had to battle against opposition in the merciful use of chloroform. Let us have a care that when we resent new ideas we are not simply demonstrating that our minds are grown old and inelastic; and let us never shirk the adventure of thought.
(ii) We should never be afraid of new methods. That a thing has always been done may very well be the best reason for stopping doing it. That a thing has never been done may very well be the best reason for trying it. No business could exist on outworn methods--and yet the church tries to. Any business which had lost as many customers as the church has would have tried new ways long ago--but the church tends to resent all that is new.
Once on a world tour Rudyard Kipling saw General Booth come aboard the ship. He came aboard to the beating of tambourines which Kipling's orthodox soul resented. Kipling got to know the General and told him how he disliked tambourines and all their kindred. Booth looked at him. "Young man," he said, "if I thought I could win one more soul for Christ by standing on my head and beating a tambourine with my feet I would learn how to do it."
There is a wise and an unwise conservatism. Let us have a care that in thought and in action we are not hidebound reactionaries when we ought, as Christians, to be gallant adventurers.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Luke 5:16". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/luke-5.html. 1956-1959.
And he withdrew himself into the wilderness,.... Into a desert place, that he might have rest from the fatigues of preaching and healing diseases; and being alone, and free from company, might have an opportunity for private prayer to God, for so it lows:
and prayed; this is to be understood of Christ, as man: as God, he is the object of prayer, and petitions are often addressed unto him; and as mediator, he offers up the prayers of all saints, and presents them to his Father; which are acceptable to him, through the incense of his mediation; and as man, he prayed himself: what he now prayed for, is not known; sometimes he prayed for his disciples, and for all that should believe; for their conversion, sanctification, union, perseverance, and glorification; and sometimes for himself, that the cup might pass from him, and he be saved from death; but always with submission to the will of his Father.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Luke 5:16". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/luke-5.html. 1999.
|A Leper Cleansed.|
12 And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 13 And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him. 14 And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 15 But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. 16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
Here is, I. The cleansing of a leper, Luke 5:12-14; Luke 5:12-14. This narrative we had both in Matthew and Mark. It is here said to have been in a certain city (Luke 5:12; Luke 5:12); it was in Capernaum, but the evangelist would not name it, perhaps because it was a reflection upon the government of the city that a leper was suffered to be in it. This man is said to be full of leprosy; he had that distemper in a high degree, which the more fitly represents our natural pollution by sin; we are full of that leprosy, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is no soundness in us. Now let us learn here,
1. What we must do in the sense of our spiritual leprosy. (1.) We must seek Jesus, enquire after him, acquaint ourselves with him, and reckon the discoveries made to us of Christ by the gospel the most acceptable and welcome discoveries that could be made to us. (2.) We must humble ourselves before him, as this leper, seeing Jesus, fell on his face. We must be ashamed of our pollution, and, in the sense of it, blush to lift up our faces before the holy Jesus. (3.) We must earnestly desire to be cleansed from the defilement, and cured of the disease, of sin, which renders us unfit for communion with God. (4.) We must firmly believe Christ's ability and sufficiency to cleanse us: Lord, thou canst make me clean, though I be full of leprosy. No doubt is to be made of the merit and grace of Christ. (5.) We must be importunate in prayer for pardoning mercy and renewing grace: He fell on his face and besought him; they that would be cleansed must reckon it a favour worth wrestling for. (6.) We must refer ourselves to the good-will of Christ: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst. This is not so much the language of his diffidence, or distrust of the good-will of Christ, as of his submission and reference of himself and his case to the will, to the good-will, of Jesus Christ.
2. What we may expect from Christ, if we thus apply ourselves to him. (1.) We shall find him very condescending and forward to take cognizance of our case (Luke 5:13; Luke 5:13): He put forth his hand and touched him. When Christ visited this leprous world, unasked, unsought unto, he showed how low he could stoop, to do good. His touching the leper was wonderful condescension; but it is much greater to us when he is himself touched with the feeling of our infirmities. (2.) We shall find him very compassionate, and ready to relieve us; he said, "I will, never doubt of that; whosoever comes to me to be healed, I will in no wise cast him out." He is as willing to cleanse leprous souls as they can be to be cleansed. (3.) We shall find him all-sufficient, and able to heal and cleanse us, though we be ever so full of this loathsome leprosy. One word, one touch, from Christ, did the business: Immediately the leprosy departed from him. If Christ saith, "I will, be thou justified, be thou sanctified," it is done; for he has power on earth to forgive sin, and power to give the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 6:11.
3. What he requires from those that are cleansed, Luke 5:14; Luke 5:14. Has Christ sent his word and healed us? (1.) We must be very humble (Luke 5:14; Luke 5:14): He charged him to tell no man. This, it should seem, did not forbid him telling it to the honour of Christ, but he must not tell it to his own honour. Those whom Christ hath healed and cleansed must know that he hath done it in such a way as for ever excludes boasting. (2.) We must be very thankful, and make a grateful acknowledgment of the divine grace: Go, and offer for thy cleansing. Christ did not require him to give him a fee, but to bring the sacrifice of praise to God; so far was he from using his power to the prejudice of the law of Moses. (3.) We must keep close to our duty; go to the priest, and those that attend him. The man whom Christ had made whole he found in the temple,John 5:14. Those who by any affliction have been detained from public ordinances should, when the affliction is removed, attend on them the more diligently, and adhere to them the more constantly.
4. Christ's public serviceableness to men and his private communion with God; these are put together here, to give lustre to each other.
(1.) Though never any had so much pleasure in his retirements as Christ had, yet he was much in a crowd, to do good, Luke 5:15; Luke 5:15. Though the leper should altogether hold his peace, yet the thing could not be hid, so much the more went there a fame abroad of him. The more he sought to conceal himself under a veil of humility, the more notice did people take of him; for honour is like a shadow, which flees from those that pursue it (for a man to seek his own glory is not glory), but follows those that decline it, and draw from it. The less good men say of themselves, the more will others say of them. But Christ reckoned it a small honour to him that his fame went abroad; it was much more so that hereby multitudes were brought to receive benefit by him. [1.] By his preaching. They came together to hear him, and to receive instruction from him concerning the kingdom of God. [2.] By his miracles. They came to be healed by him of their infirmities; that invited them to come to hear him, confirmed his doctrine, and recommended it.
(2.) Though never any did so much good in public, yet he found time for pious and devout retirements (Luke 5:16; Luke 5:16): He withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed; not that he needed to avoid either distraction or ostentation, but he would set us an example, who need to order the circumstances of our devotion so as to guard against both. It is likewise our wisdom so to order our affairs as that our public work and our secret work may not intrench upon, nor interfere with, one another. Note, Secret prayer must be performed secretly; and those that have ever so much to do of the best business in this world must keep up constant stated times for it.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Luke 5:16". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/luke-5.html. 1706.
Carried by Four
March 19, 1871 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed. And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins (he said unto the sick of the palsy), I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to-day." Luke 5:16-26 .
You have this same narrative in the ninth chapter of Matthew, and in the second chapter of Mark. What is three times recorded by inspired pens must be regarded as trebly important, and well worthy of our earnest consideration. Observe the instructive fact, that our Savior retired and spent a special time in prayer when he saw unusual crowd assembling. He withdrew into the wilderness to hold communion with his Father, and, as a consequence, to come forth clothed with an abundance of healing and saving power. Not but that in himself as God he always had that power without measure; but for our sakes he did it, that we might learn that the power of God will only rest upon us in proportion as we draw near to God. Neglect of private prayer is the locust which devours the strength of the church. When our Lord left his retirement he found the crowd around him exceeding great, and it was as motley as it was great; for while here were many sincere believers, there were still more skeptical observers; some were anxious to receive his healing power, others equally desirous to find occasion against him. So in all congregations, however the preacher may be clothed with his Master's spirit and his Master's might, there will be a mixed gathering; there will come together your Pharisees and doctors of the law, your sharp critics ready to pick holes, your cold-blooded cavilers searching for faults; at the same time, chosen of God and drawn by his grace, there will be present some devout believers who rejoice in the power that is revealed among men, and earnest seekers who wish to feel in themselves the healing energy. It seems to have been a rule with our Savior to supply each hearer with food after his kind. The Pharisees soon found the matters to cavil at for which they were looking; the Savior so worded his expressions that they caught at them eagerly, and charged him with blasphemy; the enmity of their hearts was thus thrown out upon the surface that the Lord might have an opportunity of rebuking it; and had they been but willing, the power of the Lord was present to heal even them. Meanwhile, those poor tremblers who were praying for healing were not disappointed; the Good Physician passed not by a single case, and at the same time his disciples who were looking for opportunities of praising him anew, were also fully gratified, for with glad eyes they saw the paralytic restored, and heard sins forgiven. The case which the narrative brings before us, is that of a man stricken down with paralysis. This sad disease may have been of long continuance. There is a paralysis which gradually kills the body, binding it more and more surely in utter helplessness. The nerve power is almost destroyed; the power of motion is entirely suspended; and yet the faculties of the mind remain, though greatly weakened, and some of them almost extinguished. Some have thought that this man may have been stricken with what is called the universal paralysis, which very speedily brings on death, which may account for the extreme haste of the four bearers to bring him near the Savior. We do not know the details of his case, but certain is it that he was paralyzed; and, as I look at the case, and study the three records, I think I perceive with equal clearness that this paralysis was in some way or other, at least in the man's own judgment, connected with his sin. He was evidently penitent, as well as paralytic. His mind was as much oppressed as his bodily frame. I do not know that he could be altogether called a believer, but it is most probable that being burdened with a sense of sin he had a feeble hope in divine mercy, which, like a spark in smoking flax, had hard work to exist, but yet was truly there. The affliction for which his friends pitied him was in his body, but he himself felt a far severer trouble in his soul, and probably it was not so much with the view of being healed bodily, as in the hope of spiritual blessing, that he was willing to be subjected to any process by which he might come under the Savior's eye. I gather that from the fact that our Savior addressed him in these words, "Be of good cheer;" intimating that he was desponding, that his spirit sunk within him, and, therefore, instead of saying to him at once, "Rise, take up thy bed," our tender-hearted Lord said, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." He gave him at the outset a blessing for which the patient's friends had not asked, but which the man, though speechless, was seeking for in the silence of his soul. He was a "son," though an afflicted one: he was ready to obey the Lord's bidding when power was given, though as yet he could neither lift hand nor foot. He was longing for the pardon of sin, yet could not stretch out his hand to lay hold upon the Savior. I intend to use this narrative for practical purposes; may the Holy Spirit make it really useful. Our first remark will be this: I. THERE ARE CASES WHICH WILL NEED THE AID OF A LITTLE BAND OF WORKERS BEFORE THEY WILL BE FULLY SAVED. This man must needs be borne of four, so the evangelist, Mark, tells us; there must be a bearer at each corner of the couch whereon he lay. The great mass of persons who are brought into the kingdom of Christ are converted through the general prayers of the church by the means of her ministry. Probably three out of four of the members of any church will owe their conversion to the church's regular teaching in some form or other; her school, her pulpit, her press have been the nets in which they were taken. Private personal prayer has, of course, in many instances been mingled with all this; but still the most of cases could not be so distinctly traced out as to be attributable mainly to individual prayers or exertions. This is the rule, I think, that the Lord will have the many brought to himself by the sounding of the great trumpet of jubilee in the dispensation of the gospel by his ministers. There are some, again, who are led to Jesus by the individual efforts of one person; just as Andrew found his own brother Simon, so one believer by his private communication of the truth to another person becomes instrumental, by the power of God's Spirit, in his conversion. One convert will bring another, and that other a third. But this narrative seems to show that there are cases which will neither be brought by the general preaching of the word, nor yet by the instrumentality of one; they require that there should be two, or three, or four in holy combination, who, with one consent, feeling one common agony of soul, shall resolve to band themselves together as a company for this one object, and never to cease from their holy confederation until this object is gained and their friend is saved. This man could not be brought to Christ by one, he must have four to lend their strength for his carrying, or he cannot reach the place of healing. Let us apply the principle. Yonder is a householder as yet unsaved: his wife has prayed for him long; her prayers are yet unanswered. Good wife, God has blessed thee with a son who with thee rejoices in the fear of God. Hast thou not two Christian daughters also? O ye four, take each a corner of this sick man's coach and bring your husband, bring your father, to the Savior. A husband and a wife are here, both happily brought to Christ; you are praying for your children; never cease from that supplication: pray on. Perhaps one of your beloved family is unusually stubborn. Extra help is needed. Well, to you the Sabbath school teacher will make a third; he will take one corner of the bed; and happy shall I be if I may join the blessed quaternion, and make the fourth. Perhaps, when home discipline, the school's teaching, and the minister's preaching shall go together, the Lord will look down in love and save your child. Dear brother, you are thinking of one whom you have long prayed for; you have spoken to him also, and used all proper means, but as yet without effect. Perhaps you speak too comfortingly to him: it may be you have not brought that precise truth to bear upon him which his conscience requires. Seek yet more help. It may possibly be that a second brother will speak instructively, where you have only spoken consolingly; perhaps the instruction may be the means of grace. Yet may it possibly happen that even instruction will not suffice any more than consolation, and it may be needful for you to call in a third, who perhaps will speak impressively with exhortation, and with warning, which may possibly be the great requisite. You two, already in the field, may balance his exhortation, which might have been too pungent by itself, and might have raised prejudice in the person's mind if it had come alone. All three of you together may prove the fit instruments in the Lord's hand. Yet when you three have happily combined, it may be the poor paralyzed one is not yet affected savingly; a fourth may be needed, who, with deeper affection than ail three of you, and perhaps with an experience more suited to the case than yours, may come in, and working with you, the result may be secured. The four fellow-helpers together may accomplish, by the power of the Spirit, what neither one, nor two, nor three were competent to have done. It may sometimes happen that a man has heard Paul preach, but his clear doctrine, though it has enlightened his intellect, has not yet convinced his conscience. He has heard Apollos, and the glow of the orator's eloquent appeals has warmed his heart, but not humbled his pride. He has later still listened to Cephas, whose rough cutting sentences have hewn him down, and convinced him of sin; but ere he can find joy and peace in believing, he will require to hear the sweet affectionate words of John. Only when the fourth shall grasp the bed and give a hearty lift will the paralyzed person he laid in mercy's path. I anxiously desire to see in this church little bands of men and women bound to each other by zealous love to souls. I would have you say to one another, "This is a case in which we feel a common interest: we will pledge each other to pray for this person; we will unitedly seek his salvation." It may be that one of our seatholders, after listening to my voice these ten or fifteen years, is not impressed; it may be that another has left the Sabbath-school unsaved. Let brotherly quaternions look after these by God's help. Moved by one impulse, form a square about these persons, beset them behind and before, and let them not say, "No man careth for my soul." Meet together in prayer with the definite object before you, and then seek that object by the most likely ways. I do not know, my brethren, how much of blessing might come to us through this, but I feel certain that until we have tried it we cannot pronounce a verdict upon it; nor can we be quite sure that we are free from all responsibility to men's souls until we have tested every possible and probable method for doing them good. I am afraid that there are not many, even in a large church, who will become sick-bearers. Many will say the plan is admirable, but they will leave it to others to carry it out. Remember that the four persons who join in such a labor of love ought all of them to be filled with intense affection to the persons whose salvation they seek. They must be men who will not shrink because of difficulty; who will put forth their whole strength to shoulder the beloved burden, and will persevere until they succeed. They need be strong, for the burden is heavy; they need be resolute, for the work will try their faith; they need be prayerful, for otherwise they labor in vain; they must be believing, or they will be utterly useless, Jesus saw their faith, and therefore accepted their service; but without faith it is impossible to please him. Where shall we find quartettes such as these? May the Lord find them, and may he send them to some of you poor dying sinners who lie paralysed here to-day. II. We now pass on to the second observation, that SOME CASES THUS TAKEN UP WILL NEED MUCH THOUGHT BEFORE THE DESIGN IS ACCOMPLISHED. The essential means by which a soul is saved is clear enough. The four bearers had no question with each other as to what was the way to effect this man's cure: they were unanimous in this that they must bring him to Jesus; by some means or other, by hook or by crook, they must place him in the Savior's way. That was undoubted fact. The question was, how to do this? There is an old worldly proverb, that "where there's a will there's a way;" and that proverb, I believe, may be safely imported into spiritual things, almost without a caution or grain of salt. "Where there's a will there's a way;" and if men be called of God's grace to a deep anxiety for any particular soul, there is a way by which that soul may be brought to Jesus; but that way may not suggest itself till after much consideration. In some cases the way to impress the heart may be an out-of-the-way way, an extraordinary way a way which ordinarily should not be used and would not be successful. I dare say the four bearers in the narrative thought early in the morning, "We will carry this poor paralytic to the Savior, passing into the house by the ordinary door;" but when they attempted to do so the multitudes so blocked up the road that they could not even reach the threshold. "Make way; make way for the sick! Stand aside there, and give room for a poor paralyzed man. For mercy's sake, give a little space, and let the sick man reach the healing prophet!" In vain their entreaties and commands. Here and there a few compassionate persons back out of the crowd, but the many neither can nor will remove; besides, many of them are engaged upon a similar business, and have equal reasons for pressing in. "See," cries one of the four, "I will make way;" and he pushes and elbows himself a little distance into the passage. "Come on you three!" he cries: "follow up, and fight for it, inch by inch." But they cannot do it; it is impossible; the poor patient is ready to die for fear; the bed is tossed about by the throng like a cockleshell boat on the sea-waves, the patient's alarm increases, the bearers are distressed, and they are quite glad to get outside again and consider. It is evidently quite impossible by ordinary means to get him in. What then? "We cannot burrow under the ground: can we not go over the heads of the people, and let the man down from above? Where is the staircase?" Frequently there is an external staircase to the top of an eastern house; we cannot be sure that there was one in this case; but if not, the next door house may have had such a convenience, and so the resolute bearers reached the top and passed from one roof to another. Where we have no definite information much may he left to conjecture; but this much is clear: by some means they elevated their unhappy burden to the housetop, and provided themselves with the necessary tackle with which to let him down. The Savior was probably preaching in one of the upper rooms, unless the house was a poor one without an upper story. Perhaps the room was open to the courtyard, which was crowded. At any rate, the Lord Jesus was under cover of a roof, and a substantial roof too. No one who carefully reads the original will fail to see that there was real roofing to be broken through. It has been suggested as a difficulty, that the breaking up of a roof might involve danger to those below, and would probably make a great smother of dust; and to avoid this, there have been various suppositions such as that the Savior was standing under an awning, and the men rolled up the canvas; or that our Lord stood under a verandah with a very light covering, which the men could readily uncover; others have even invented a trap-door for the occasion. But with all due deference to eminent travelers, the words of the evangelists cannot be so readily disposed of. According to our text, the man was let down through "tiling," not canvas, or any light material; whatever sort of tiling it was, it was certainly made of burnt clay, for that enters into the essence of the word. Moreover, according to Mark, after they had uncovered the roof, which, I suppose, means the removal of the "tiling," they broke it up, which looks exceedingly like breaking through a ceiling. The Greek word used by Mark, which is interpreted "breaking up," is a very emphatic word, and signifies digging through, or scooping up, which evidently conveys the idea of considerable labor for the removal of material. We are told that the roofs of Oriental houses are often made of big stones; that may be true as a general rule, but not in this case, for the house was covered with tiles; and as to the dust and falling rubbish, that may or may not be a necessary conclusion; but as clear as noonday is it that a substantial housetop, which required untiring and digging through, had a hole made in it, and through the aperture the man in his bed was let down. Perhaps there was dust, and possibly there was danger too, but the bearers were prepared to accomplish their purpose at all risks. They must get the sick man in somehow. There is no need, however, to suppose either, for no doubt the four men would be careful not to incommode the Savior or his hearers. The tiles or plaster might be removed to another part of the flat roof, and the boards likewise, as they were broken up; and as for the spars, they might be sufficiently wide to admit the narrow couch of the sick man without moving any of them from their places. Mr. Hartley, in his Travels, says: "When I lived at AEgina I used to look up not infrequently at the roof above my head, and contemplate how easily the whole transaction of the paralytic might take place. The roof was made in the following manner: A layer of reeds, of a large species, was placed upon the rafters, on these a quantity of heather was strewed; on the heather earth was deposited, and beaten down into a solid mass. Now, what difficulty would there be in removing first the earth, next the heather, and then the reeds? Nor would the difficulty be increased, if the earth had a pavement of tiling laid upon it. No inconvenience could result to the persons in the house, from the removal of the tiles and earth; for the heather and reeds would stop anything that might otherwise fall down, and would be removed last of all." To let a man down through the roof was a device most strange and striking, but it only gives point to the remark which we have now to make here. If we want to have souls saved, we must not be too squeamish and delicate about conventionalities, rules, and proprieties, for the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence. We must make up our minds to this: "Smash or crash, everything shall go to pieces which stands between the soul and its God: it matters not what tiles are to be taken off, what plaster is to be digged up, or what boards are to be torn away, or what labor, or trouble, or expense we may be at; the soul is too precious for us to stand upon nice questions. If by any means we may save some, is our policy. Skin for skin, yea, all that we have is nothing comparable to a man's soul." When four true hearts are set upon the spiritual good of a sinner, their holy hunger will break through stone walls or house roofs. I have no doubt it was a difficult task to carry the paralyzed man upstairs; the breaking up of the roof, the removing the tiling with all due care, must have been a laborious task, and have required much skill, but the work was done, and the end was gained. We must never stop at difficulties; however stern the task, it must always be more difficult to us to let a soul perish than to labor in the most self-denying form for its deliverance. It was a very singular action which the bearers performed. Who would have thought of breaking up a roof? Nobody but those who loved much, and much desired to benefit the sick. O that God would make us attempt singular things to save souls. May a holy ingenuity be excited in the church; a sacred inventiveness set at work for winning men's hearts. It appeared to his generation a singular thing when John Wesley stood on his father's tombstone and preached at Epworth. Glory be to God that he had the courage to preach in the open air. It seemed an extraordinary thing when certain ministers delivered sermons in the theatres; but it is matter of joy that sinners have been reached by such irregularities who might have escaped all other means. Let us but feel our hearts full of zeal for God, and love for souls, and we shall soon be led to adopt means which others may criticize, but which Jesus Christ will accept. After all, the method which the four friends followed was one most suitable to their abilities. They were, I suppose, four strong fellows, to whom the load was no great weight, and the work of digging was comparatively easy. The method suited their capacity exactly. And what did they do when they had let the sick man down? Look at the scene and admire? I do not read that they said a single word, yet what they did was enough: abilities for lifting and carrying did the needful work. Some of you say, "Ah, we cannot be of any use; we wish we could preach." These men could not preach: they did not need to preach. They lowered the paralytic, and their work was done. They could not preach, but they could hold a rope. We want in the Christian church not only preachers, but soul-winners, who can bear souls on their hearts, and feel the solemn burden; men who, it may be, cannot talk, but who can weep; men who cannot break other men's hearts with their language, but who break their own hearts with their compassion. In the case before us there was no need to plead "Jesus, thou son of David, look up, for a man is coming down who needs thee." There was no need to urge that the patient had been so many years sick. We do not know that the man himself uttered a word. Helpless and paralyzed, he had not the vigor to become a suppliant. They placed his almost lifeless form before the Savior's eye, and that was appeal enough; his sad condition was more eloquent than words. O hearts that love sinners lay their lost estate before Jesus; bring their cases as they are before the Savior; if your tongues stammer, your hearts will prevail; if you cannot speak even to Christ himself, as you would desire, because you have not the gift of prayer, yet if your strong desires spring from the spirit of prayer you cannot fail. God help us to make use of such means as are within our power, and not to sit down idly to regret the powers we do not possess. Perhaps it would be dangerous for us to possess the abilities we covet; it is always safe to consecrate those we have. III. Now we must pass on to an important truth. We may safely gather from the narrative THAT THE ROOT OF SPIRITUAL PARALYSIS GENERALLY LIES IN UNPARDONED SIN. Jesus intended to heal the paralyzed man, but he did so by first of all saying, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." There are some in this house of prayer this morning who are spiritually paralyzed; they have eyes and they see the gospel; they have ears and they have heard it, and heard it attentively too; but they are so paralyzed that they will tell you, and honestly tell you, that they cannot lay hold upon the promise of God; they cannot believe in Jesus to the saving of their souls. If you urge them to pray, they say: "We try to pray, but it is not acceptable prayer." If you bid them have confidence, they will tell you, though not in so many words perhaps, that they are given up to despair. Their mournful ditty is:
"I would, but cannot sing; I would, but cannot pray For Satan meets me when I try, And frights my soul away.
I would, but can't repeat, Though I endeavor oft; This stony heart can never relent Till Jesus makes it soft.
I would, but cannot love, Though wooed by love divine; No arguments have power to move A soul so base as mine.
O could I but believe! Then all would easy be; I would, but cannot Lord, relieve: My help must come from thee."
The bottom of this paralysis is sin upon the conscience, working death in them. They are sensible of their guilt, but powerless to believe that the crimson fountain can remove it: they are alive only to sorrow, despondency, and agony. Sin paralyses them with despair. I grant you that into this despair there enters largely the element of unbelief, which is sinful; but I hope there is also in it a measure of sincere repentance, which bears in it the hope of something better. Our poor, awakened paralytics sometimes hope that they may be forgiven, but they cannot believe it; they cannot rejoice; they cannot cast themselves on Jesus; they are utterly without strength. Now, the bottom of it, I say again, lies in unpardoned sin, and I earnestly entreat you who love the Savior to be earnest in seeking the pardon of these paralyzed persons. You tell me that I should be earnest; so I should; and so I desire to be: but, brethren, their cases appear to be beyond the minister's sphere of action; the Holy Spirit determines to use other agencies in their salvation. They have heard the public word; they now need private consolation and aid, and that from three or four. Lend us your help, ye earnest brethren; form your parties of four; grasp the couches of these who wish to be saved, but who feel they cannot believe. The Lord, the Holy Spirit, make you the means of leading them into forgiveness and eternal salvation. They have been lying a long time waiting; their sin, however, still keeps them where they are; their guilt prevents their laying hold on Christ; there is the point, and it is for such cases that I earnestly invoke my brethren's aid. IV. Let us proceed to notice, fourthly, that JESUS CAN REMOVE BOTH THE SIN AND THE PARALYSIS IN A SINGLE MOMENT. It was the business of the four bearers to bring the man to Christ; but there their power ended. It is our part to bring the guilty sinner to the Savior: there our power ends. Thank God, when we end, Christ begins, and works right gloriously. Observe that he began by saying: "Thy sins be forgiven thee." He laid the axe at the root; he did not desire that the man's sins might be forgiven, or express a good wish in that direction, but he pronounced an absolution by virtue of that authority with which he was clothed as the Savior. The poor man's sins there and then ceased to be, and he was justified in the sight of God. Believest thou this, my hearer, that Christ did thus for the paralytic man? Then I charge you believe something more, that if on earth Christ had power to forgive sins before he had offered an atonement, much more hath he power to do this, now that he hath poured out his blood, and hath said, "It is finished," and hath gone into his glory, and is at the right hand of the Father. He is exalted on high, to give repentance and remission of sin. Should he send his Spirit into thy soul to reveal himself in thee, thou wouldst in an instant be entirely absolved. Does blasphemy blacken thee? Does a long life of infidelity pollute thee? Hast thou been licentious? Hast thou been abominably wicked? A word can absolve thee a word from those dear lips which said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." I charge thee ask for that absolving word. No earthly priest can give it thee; but the great High Priest, the Lord Jesus, can utter it at once. Ye twos and fours who are seeking the salvation of men, here is encouragement for you. Pray for them now, while the gospel is being preached in their hearing; pray for them day and night, and bring the glad tidings constantly before them, for Jesus is still able "to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him." After our blessed Lord had taken away the root of the evil, you observe he then took away the paralysis itself. It was gone in a single moment. Every limb in the man's body was restored to a healthy state; he could stand, could walk, could lift his bed, both nerve and muscle were restored to vigor. One moment will suffice, if Jesus speaks, to make the despairing happy, and the unbelieving full of confidence. What we cannot do with our reasonings, persuadings, and entreaties, nor even with the letter of God's promise, Christ can do in a single instant by his Holy Spirit, and it has been our joy to see it done. This is the standing miracle of the church, performed by Christ to-day even as aforetime. Paralysed souls who could neither do nor will, have been able to do valiantly, and to will with solemn resolution. The Lord has poured power into the faint, and to them that had no might he hath increased strength. He can do it still. I say again to loving spirits who are seeking the good of others, let this encourage you. You may not have to wait long for the conversions you aim at; it may be ere another Sabbath ends, the person you pray for may be brought to Jesus; or if you have to wait a little, the waiting shall well repay you, and meanwhile remember he has never spoken in secret in the dark places of the earth; he has not said to the seed of Jacob, "Seek ye my face in vain." V. Passing on, and drawing to a conclusion: WHEREVER OUR LORD WORKS THE DOUBLE MIRACLE IT WILL BE APPARENT. He forgave the man's sin and took away his disease at the same time. How was this apparent? I have no doubt the pardon of the man's sin was best known to himself; but possibly those who saw that gleaming countenance which had been so sad before, might have noticed that the word of absolution sunk into his soul as the rain into the thirsty earth. "Thy sins be forgiven thee," fell on him as a dew from heaven; he believed the sacred declaration, and his eyes sparkled. He might almost have felt indifferent whether he remained paralyzed or not, it was such joy to be forgiven, forgiven by the Lord himself. That was enough, quite enough for him; but it was not enough for the Savior, and therefore he bade him take up his couch and walk, for he had given him strength to do so. The man's healing was proved by his obedience. Openly to all onlookers an active obedience became indisputable proof of the poor creature's restoration. Notice, our Lord bade him rise he rose; he had no power to do so except that power which comes with divine commands. He rose, for Christ said "Rise." Then he folded up that miserable palliasse the Greek word used shows us that it was a very poor, mean, miserable affair he rolled it up as the Savior bade him, he shouldered it, and went to his home. His first impulse must have been to throw himself down at the Savior's feet, and say, "Blessed be thy name;" but the Master said, "Go to thy house;" and I do not find that he stayed to make one grateful obeisance, but elbowing the crowd, jostling the throng with his load on his back, he proceeded to his house just as he was told, and that without deliberation, or questioning. He did his Lord's bidding, and he did it accurately, in detail, at once, and most cheerfully. Oh! how cheerfully; none can tell but those in like case restored. So, the true sign of pardoned sin, and of paralysis removed from the heart, is obedience. If thou art really saved thou wilt do what Jesus bids thee; thy request will be, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" and that once ascertained, thou wilt be sure to do it. You tell me Christ has forgiven you, and yet you live in rebellion to his commands; how can I believe you? You say you are a saved man, and yet you willfully set up your own will against Christ's will; what evidence have I of what you say? Have I not, rather, clear evidence that you speak not the truth? Open, careful, prompt, cheerful obedience to Christ, becomes the test of the wonderful work which Jesus works in the soul. VI. Lastly, ALL THIS TENDS TO GLORIFY GOD. Those four men had been the indirect means of bringing much honor to God and much glory to Jesus, and they, I doubt not, glorified God in their very hearts on the housetop. Happy men to have been of so much service to their bedridden friend! Who else united in glorifying God? Why, first the man who was restored. Did not every part of his body glorify God? I think I see him! He sets one foot down to God's glory, he plants the other to the same note, he walks to God's glory, he carries his bed to God's glory, he moves his whole body to the glory of God, he speaks, he shouts, he sings, he leaps to the glory of God. When a man is saved his whole manhood glorifies God; he becomes instinct with a new-born life which glows in every part of him, spirit, soul and body. As an heir of heaven, he brings glory to the Great Father who has adopted him into the family, he breathes and eats and drinks to God's praise. When a sinner is brought into the church of God we are all glad, but we are none of us so joyous and thankful as he; we would all praise God, but he must praise him the loudest, and he will. But who next glorified God! The text does not say so, but we feel sure that his family did, for he went to his own house. We will suppose that he had a wife. That morning when the four friends came and put him on the bed, and carried him out, it may be she shook her head in loving anxiety, and I dare say she said, "I am half afraid to trust him with you. Poor, poor creature, I dread his encountering the throng. I am afraid it is madness to hope for success. I wish you Godspeed in it, but I tremble. Hold well the bed; be sure you do not let him fall. If you do let him down through the roof hold fast the ropes, be careful that no accident occurs to my poor bedridden husband; he is bad enough as he is, do not cause him more misery." But when she saw him coming home, walking with the bed on his back, can you picture her delight? How she would begin to sing, and praise and bless the Lord Jehovah Rophi, who had healed her beloved one. If there were little children about, playing before the house, how they would shout for glee, "Here's father; here's father walking again, and come home with the bed on his back; he is made whole again, as he used to be when we were very little." What a glad house! They would gather round him, all of them, wife and children, and friends and neighbors, and they would begin to sing, "Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities: who healeth all thy diseases." How the man would sing those verses, rejoicing in the forgiveness first, and the healing next, and wondering how it was that David knew so much about it, and had put his case into such fit words. Well, but it did not end there. A wife and family utter but a part of the glad chorus of praise, though a very melodious part. There are other adoring hearts who unite in glorifying the healing Lord. The disciples who were around the Savior, they glorified God, too. They rejoiced, and said one to another, "We have seen strange things to-day." The whole Christian church is full of sacred praise when a sinner is saved; even heaven itself is glad. But there was glory brought to God, even by the common people who stood around. They had not yet entered into that sympathy with Christ which the disciples felt, but they were struck by the sight of this great wonder, and they, too, could not help saying that God had wrought great marvels. I pray that onlookers, strangers from the commonwealth of Israel, when they see the desponding comforted, and lost ones brought in, may be compelled to bear their witness to the power of divine grace, and be led themselves to be partakers in it. There is "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men," when a paralyzed soul is filled with gracious strength. Now, shall I need to stand here, and entreat for the four to carry poor souls to Jesus? Shall I need to appeal to my brethren who love their Lord, and say, band yourselves together to win souls? Your humanity to the paralytic soul claims it, but your desire to bring glory to God compels it. If you are indeed what you profess to be, to glorify God must be the fondest wish and the loftiest ambition of your souls. Unless ye be traitors to my Lord as well as inhuman to your fellow-men, you will catch the practical thought which I have striven to bring before you, and you will seek out some fellow Christians, and say, "Come, let us pray together, for such an one," and if you know a desperate case you will make up a sacred quaternion, to resolve upon its salvation. May the power of the Highest abide upon you, and who knoweth what glory the Lord may gain through you? Never forget this strange story of the bed which carried the man, and the man who carried his bed. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Luke 5:16". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/luke-5.html. 2011.
The preface of Luke's gospel is as instructive as the introduction of either of the two preceding gospels. It is obvious to any serious reader that we enter a totally different province, though all be equally divine; but here we have a stronger prominence given to human motive and feeling. To one who needed to learn more of Jesus, writes another godly man, inspired of God, but without drawing particular attention to the fact of inspiration, as if this were a doubtful matter; but, on the contrary, assuming, as all Scripture does, without express statement, that the written word is the word of God. The purpose is, to set before a fellow Christian a man of rank, but a disciple an account, full, accurate, and orderly, of the Lord Jesus, such as one might give that had thorough acquaintance with all the truth of the matter, but in fact such as none could give who was not inspired of God for the purpose. He lets us know that there were many of these memoirs formed on the tradition of those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. These works have departed; they were human. They were, no doubt, well-intentioned; at least there is here no question of heretics perverting the truth, but of men attempting in their own wisdom to set forth that which only God was competent rightly to make known.
At the same time Luke, the writer of this gospel, apprises us of his motives, instead of presenting a bare and needless statement of the revelation he had received. "It seemed good to me also," etc., is in contrast with these many that had taken it in hand. They had done the work in their fashion, he after another sort, as he proceeds next to explain. Clearly he does not refer to Matthew or Mark, but to accounts that were then handed about among Christians. It could not be otherwise than that many would essay to publish a relation of facts so weighty and engrossing, which, if they had not themselves seen, They had gathered from eye-witnesses conversant with the Lord. These memoirs were floating about. The Holy Ghost distinguishes the writer of this Gospel from these men quite as much as joins him with them. He states that they depended upon those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word. He says nothing of the kind about himself, as has been rashly inferred from the phrase "to me also," etc., but, as is evident, proceeds to give a wholly different source for his own handling of the matter. In short, he does not intimate that his account of these things was derived from eye-witnesses, yet speaks of his thorough acquaintance with all from the very first, without telling us how he came by it. As for the others, they had taken in hand to "set forth in order a declaration of these things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye-witnesses." He does not impute falsehood; he affirms that their histories were derived from the traditions of men who saw, heard, and waited on Christ here below; but he attributes no divine character to these numerous writers, and intimates the need of a surer warrant for the faith and instruction of disciples. This he claims to give in his gospel. His own qualification for the task was, as one that had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto Theophilus in order that he "might know the certainty of those things wherein he had been instructed."
In that expression, "from the very first," he lets us into a difference between his own gospel and the memoirs current among Christians. "From the very first", means that it was an account from the origin or outset, and is fairly rendered in our version. So it is that we find in Luke that he traces things with great fulness, and lays before the reader the circumstances that preceded and that accompanied the whole life of our Lord Jesus Christ up to His ascension to heaven.
Now, he does not enter more than other inspired writers do into an assertion or explanation of his inspired character, which Scripture assumes everywhere. He does not tell us how it was he acquired his perfect understanding of all he communicates. It is not the way of inspired writers to do either. They speak "with authority," even as our Lord taught "with authority;" "not as the scribes" or tradition-mongers. He claims indeed the fullest acquaintance with the subject, and the statement of which would not suit any other evangelist but Luke. It is one who, though inspired like the rest, was drawing his friend and brother with the cords of a man. Inspiration does not as a rule in the least degree interfere with the individuality of the man; still less would it here where Luke is writing of the Son of God as man, born of a woman, and this to another man. Hence he brings out in the preface his own thoughts, feelings, materials for the work, and the blessed aim contemplated. This is the only gospel addressed to a man. This naturally fits, and lets us into the character of the gospel. We are here about to see our Lord Jesus preeminently set forth as man, man most really as such not so much the Messiah, though, of course, that He is; nor even the minister; but the man. Undoubtedly, even as man He is the Son of God, and so He is called in the very first chapter of this gospel. The Son of God He was, as born into the world; not only Son of God before He entered the world, but Son of God from everlasting. That holy thing which should be born of the virgin was to be called the Son of God. Such was His title in that point of view, as having, a body prepared Him, born of a woman, even of the Virgin Mary. Clearly, therefore, this indicates, from the beginning of the gospel, the predominance given to the human side of the Lord Jesus here. What was manifest in Jesus, in every work and in every word of His, displayed what was divine; but He was none the less man; and He is here viewed as such in everything. Hence, therefore, it was of the deepest interest to have the circumstances unerringly marked out in which this wondrous man entered the world, and walked up and down here. The Spirit of God deigns by Luke to open the whole scene, from those that surrounded the Lord with the various occasions that appealed to His heart, till His ascension. But there is another reason also for the peculiar beginning of St. Luke. Thus, as he of the evangelists most of all approaches the great apostle of the Gentiles, of whom to a certain extent he was the companion, as we know from the Acts of the Apostles, counted by the apostle one of his fellow-labourers, too, we find him acting, by the Holy Ghost's guidance, upon that which was the great distinguishing character of the apostle Paul's service and testimony "To the Jew first, and also to the Gentile."
Accordingly our gospel, although it is essentially Gentile, as it was addressed to a Gentile and written by a Gentile, begins with an announcement that is more Jewish than any other of the four gospels. It was precisely so with Paul in his service. He began with the Jew. Very soon the Jews proceeded to reject the word, and prove themselves unworthy of eternal life. Paul turned to the Gentiles. The same thing is true of our gospel, so akin to the apostle's writings, that some of the early Christian writers imagined that this was the meaning of an expression of the apostle Paul, far better understood of late. I refer to it now, not because of any truth in that notion, for the remark is totally false; but at the same time, it shows that there was a kind of feeling of the truth underneath the error. They used to imagine that Paul meant the gospel of Luke when he said, " My [or our] Gospel." Happily most of my hearers understand the true bearing of the phrase enough to detect so singular an error; but still it does show that even the dullest of men could not avoid perceiving that there was a tone of thought, and current of feeling, in the gospel of Luke which harmonized very largely with the apostle Paul's testimony. Yet it was not at all as bringing out what the apostle Paul calls his gospel, or "the mystery of the gospel," etc.; but certainly it was the great moral groundwork through which it lay at any rate, which most thoroughly accorded with, and prepared for it. Hence it is, after presenting Christ in the richest grace to the godly Jewish remnant, that we have first and fully given by Luke the account of God's bringing the first-begotten Son into this world, having it in His purpose to put in relation with Him the whole human race, and most especially preparing the way for His grand designs. and counsels with regard to the Gentiles. Nevertheless, first of all, He justifies Himself in His ways, and shows that He was ready to accomplish every promise that He had made to the Jews.
What we have, therefore, in the first two chapters of Luke, is God's vindication in the Lord Jesus presented as the One in whom He was ready to make good all His old pledges to Israel. Hence the whole scene agrees with this feeling on God's part towards Israel. A priest is seen righteous according to the law, bus his wife without that offspring which the Jews looked for as the mark of God's favour towards them. Now God was visiting the earth in grace; and, as Zechariah ministered in the priest's office, an angel, even there a stranger, except for purposes of pity towards the miserable betimes (John 5:1-47), but long unseen as the witness of the glorious ways of God, announced to him the birth of a son, the forerunner of the Messiah. The unbelief even of the godly in Israel was apparent in the conduct of Zacharias; and God reproved it with inflicted dumbness, but failed not in His own grace. This, however, was but the harbinger of better things; and the angel of the Lord was despatched on a second errand, and re-announces that most ancient revelation of a fallen paradise, that mightiest promise of God, which stands out from all others to the fathers and in the prophets, and which, indeed, was to compass within itself the accomplishment of all the promises of God. He makes known to the virgin Mary a birth no way connected with nature, and yet the birth of a real man; for that man was the Son of the Highest a man to sit upon the throne, so long vacant, of His father David.
Such was the word. I need not say that there were truths still more blessed and profounder than this of the throne of Israel, accompanying that announcement, on which it is impossible to dwell now, if we are tonight to traverse any considerable part of our gospel. Suffice it to say, we have thus all the proofs of God's favour to Israel, and faithfulness to His promises, both in the forerunner of the Messiah, and in the birth of the Messiah Himself. Then follows the lovely burst of praise from the mother of our Lord, and soon after, when the tongue of him that was smitten dumb was loosed, Zacharias speaks, first of all to praise the Lord for His infinite grace.
Luke 2:1-52 pursues the same grand truths: only there is more at hand. The opening verses bring this before us. God was good to Israel, and was displaying His faithfulness accordingly to, not the law, but His promises. How truly the people were in bondage. Hostile Gentiles had the upper hand. The last great empire predicted in Daniel was then in power. "It came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed [or enrolled]. (And this taxing [or enrolment] was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one to his own city." Such was the thought of the world, of the imperial power of that day, the great Roman beast or empire. But if there was a decree from Caesar, there was a most gracious purpose in God. Caesar might indulge his pride, and count the world his own, in the exaggerated style of human ambition and self-complacency; but God was now manifesting what He was, and oh, what a contrast. The Son of God, by this very deed, providentially enters the world at the promised place, Bethlehem. He enters it after a different sort from what we could have ever drawn from the first gospel, where we have Bethlehem still more significant]y mentioned: at any rate, prophecy is cited on the occasion as to the necessity of its being there. That information even the scribes could render to the Magi who came to adore. Here there is nothing of the sort. The Son of God is found not even in an inn, but in the manger, where the poor parents of the Saviour laid him. Every mark follows of the reality of a human birth, and of a human being; but it was Christ the Lord, the witness of the saving, healing, forgiving, blessing grace of God. Not only is His cross thus significant, but His birth, the very place and circumstances being all most evidently prepared. Nor this only; for although we see not here Magi from the East, with their royal gifts, their gold, and frankincense, and myrrh, laid at the feet of the infant king of the Jews, here we have, what I am persuaded was yet more beautiful morally, angelic converse; and suddenly, with the angel (for heaven is not so far off), the choirs of heaven praising God, while the shepherds of earth kept their flocks in the path of humble duty.
Impossible, without ruining, to invert these things! Thus you could not transplant the scene of the Magi into Luke, neither would the introduction of the shepherds, thus visited by the grace of God by night, be so proper in Matthew. What a tale this last told of where God's heart is! How evident from the very first it was, that to the poor the gospel was preached, and how thoroughly in keeping with this Gospel! and we might truly affirm the same I will not say of the glory that Saul saw and taught but most certainly of the grace of God which Paul preached also. This does not hinder that still there is a testimony to Israel; although sundry signs and tokens, the very introduction of the Gentile power, and the moral features of the case, also make it evident that there is something more than a question of Israel and their King. Nevertheless, there meets us here the fullest witness of grace to Israel. So even in the words, somewhat weakened in our version, where it is said, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be," not to all people, but "to all the people." This passage does not go beyond Israel. Manifestly this is entirely confirmed by the context, even if one did not know a word of that language, which, of course, proves what I am now advancing. In the next verse it is, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." It is evident that, as far as this goes, He is introduced strictly as the One who was to bring in His own person the accomplishment of the promises to Israel.
The angels go farther when they say, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will in men." It is not exactly good will toward men, which is here the point. The word expresses God's good will and complacency in men; it does not say exact]y in man, as if it were only in Christ, though surely this was true in the very highest sense. For the Son of God became, not an angel, but really a man, according to Hebrews ii. It was not the cause of angels that He undertook, or was interested about: it was men He took up. But here appears a good deal more: it is God's delight in man now that His Son is become a man, and witnessed by that astonishing truth. His delight in men, because His Son becoming a man was the first immediate personal step in that which was to introduce His righteousness in justifying sinful men by the cross and resurrection of Christ, which is at hand. Thereby in virtue of that ever-accepted person, and the efficacy of His work of redemption, He could have also the selfsame delight in those that were once guilty sinners, now the objects of His grace for ever. But here, at any rate, the person, and the condition of the person too, by whom all this blessing was to be procured and given, were before His eyes. By the condition of the person is meant, of course, that the Son of God was now incarnate, which even in itself was no small proof, as well as pledge, of the complacency of God in man.
Afterwards Jesus is shown us circumcised, the very offering that accompanied the act proving also still more the earthly circumstances of His parents their deep poverty.
Then comes the affecting scene in the temple, where the aged Simon lifts up the child in his arms; for it had been "revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ." So he goes by the Spirit into the temple at this very time. "And when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." It is evident that the whole tone is not what we may call formal; it was not that the work was done; but undoubtedly there was virtually in Christ "God's salvation" a most suitable truth and phrase for the companion of him whose fundamental point was "God's righteousness." The Spirit might not yet say "God's righteousness", but He could say "God's salvation." It was the person of the Saviour, viewed according to the prophetic Spirit, who would, in due time, make good everything as to God and man. "Thy salvation which thou hast prepared before the face of all people: a light to lighten", or rather to reveal "the Gentiles;" a light for the revelation of the Gentiles- "and the glory of thy people Israel." I do not regard the former as a millennial description. In the millennium the order would be exactly inverse; for then God will assuredly assign to Israel the first place, and to the Gentiles the second. The Spirit gives Simeon a little advance upon the terms of the prophetic testimony in the Old Testament. The babe, Christ, was a light, he says, for the revelation of the Gentiles, and for the glory of His people Israel. The revelation of the Gentiles, that which was about to follow full soon, would be the effect of the rejection of Christ. The Gentiles, instead of lying hidden as they had been in the Old Testament times, unnoticed in the dealings of God, and instead of being put into a subordinate place to that of Israel, as they will be by and by in the millennium, were, quite distinctly from both, now to come into prominence, as no doubt the glory of the people Israel will follow in that day. Here, indeed, we see the millennial state; But the light to lighten the Gentiles far more fully finds its answer in the remarkable place which the Gentiles enter now by the excision of the Jewish branches of the olive tree. This, I think, is confirmed by what we find afterwards. Simeon does not pretend to bless the child; but when he blesses the parents, he says to Mary, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel." It is plain that the Spirit gave him to set forth the Messiah cut off, and the effect of it, "for a sign," he adds, "that shall be spoken against. Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also" a word that was accomplished in the feelings to Mary at the cross of the Lord Jesus. But there is more: Christ's shame acts as a moral probe, as it is said here- "That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." May I not ask, where could we find such language, except in Luke? Tell me, if you can, any other of the evangelists, whom it would suit for a moment?
Nor is it only to these words I would call your attention, as eminently characteristic of our gospel. Take the mighty grace of God revealed in Christ, on the one hand; on the other, take the dealing with the hearts of men as the result of the cross morally. These are the two main peculiarities which distinguish the writings of Luke. Accordingly also we find that, the note of grace being once struck in the heart of Simeon, as well as of those immediately connected with our Lord Jesus in His birth, it extends itself widely, for joy cannot be stifled or hid. So the good news must flow from one to another, and God takes care that Anna the prophetess should come in; for here we have the revival, not only of angel visits, but of the prophetic Spirit in Israel. "And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age," and had waited long in faith, but, as ever, was not disappointed. "She was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant," etc. How good the Lord is in thus ordering circumstances, no less than preparing the heart! "She, coming in that instant, gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem."
Nor is this all the Spirit gives here. The chapter closes with a picture of our Saviour that is admirably consonant to this gospel, and to no other; for what gospel would it suit to speak of our Lord as a youth? to give us a moral sketch of this wondrous One, now no longer the babe of Bethlehem, but in the lowly company of Mary and Joseph, grown up to the age of twelve years? He is found, according to the order of the law, duly with His parents in Jerusalem for the great feast; but He is there as one to whom the word of God was most precious, and who had more understanding than His teachers. For Him, viewed as man, there was not only the growth of the body, but also development in every other way that became man, always expanding, yet always perfect, as truly man as God. "He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." But there is more than this; for the inspired writer lets us know how He was reproached by His parents, who could but little understand what it was for Him even then to find His meat in doing the will of God. As they journeyed from Jerusalem, missing Him, they return, and find Him in the midst of the doctors. A delicate place it might seem for a youth, but in Him how beautiful was all! and what propriety! "Both hearing them", it is said, "and asking them questions." Even the Saviour, though full of divine knowledge, does not take the place now of teaching with authority never, of course, as the scribes. But even though consciously Son and the Lord God, still was He the child Jesus; and as became One who deigned to be such, in the midst of those older in years, though they knew infinitely less than Himself, there was the sweetest and most comely lowliness. "Both hearing them, and asking them questions." What grace there was in the questions of Jesus! what infinite wisdom in the presence of the darkness of these famous teachers! Still, which of these jealous rabbis could discern the smallest departure from exquisite and absolute propriety? Nor this only; for we are told that "his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" The secret thus early comes out. He waited for nothing. He needed no voice from heaven to tell Him that He was the Son of God; He needed no sign of the Holy Ghost descending to assure Him of His glory or mission. These were, no doubt, seen and heard; and it was all right in its season, and important in its place; but I repeat that He needed nothing to impart the consciousness that He was the Son of the Father. He knew it intrinsically, and entirely independent of a revelation from another.
There was, no doubt, that divine gift imparted to Him afterwards, when the Holy Ghost sealed the man Christ Jesus. "Him hath God the Father sealed," as it is said, and surely quite right. But the notable fact here is, that at this early age, when a youth twelve years old, He has the distinct consciousness that He was the Son, as no one else was or could be. At the same time He returns with His parents, and is as dutiful in obedience to them as if He were only an unblemished child of man their child. The Son of the Father He was, as really as the Son of man. "He came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them." It is the divine person, but the perfect man, perfect in every relation suitable for such a person. Both these truths, therefore, prove themselves to be true, not more in doctrine than in fact.
Then a new scene opens in Luke 3:1-38. "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar" (for men soon pass away, and slight is the trace left by the course of earth's great ones), "Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." How strange is this state of things! Not only have we the chief power of the world passed into another hand; not only do we see the Edomite a political confusion in the land, but a religious Babel too. What a departure from all divine order! Who ever heard of two high priests before? Such were the facts when the manifestation of the Christ drew near, "Annas and Caiaphas being, the high priests." No changes in the world, nor abasement in the people of the Lord, nor strange conjunction of the priests, nor mapping, out of the land by the stranger, would interfere with the purposes of grace; which, on the contrary, loves to take up men and things at their worst, and shows what God is towards the needy. So John the Baptist goes forth here, not as we traced him in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, but with a special character stamped upon him akin to the design of Luke. "He came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." Here we see the remarkable largeness of his testimony. "Every valley shall be filled," he says, "and every mountain and hill shall be brought low." Such a quotation puts him virtually in connection with the Gentiles, and not merely with the Jew or Jewish purposes. "All flesh," it is therefore added, "shall see the salvation of God."
It is evident that the terms intimate the widening of divine grace in its sphere. This is apparent in the manner in which John the Baptist speaks. When he addresses the multitude, observe how he deals with them. It is not a question now of reproving Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, as in Matthew, but while he here solemnly warns the multitude, the evangelist records his words to each class. They were the same as in the days of the prophets; they were no better after all. Man was far from God: he was a sinner; and, without repentance and faith, what could avail their religious privileges? To what corruption had they not been led through unbelief? "O generation of vipers," he says, "who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father." This, again, accounts for the details of the different classes that come before John the Baptist, and the practical dealing with the duties of each an important thing, I believe, for us to bear in mind; for God thinks of souls; and whenever we have real moral discipline according to His mind, there is a dealing with men as they are, taking them up in the circumstances of their every-day life. Publicans, soldiers, people they each hear respective]y their own proper word. So in that repentance, which the gospel supposes as its invariable accompaniment, it is of moment to bear in mind that, while all have gone astray, each has also followed his own way.
But, again, we have his testimony to the Messiah. "And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people." . And here, too, you will observe an evident and striking illustration of Luke's manner. Having introduced John, he finishes his history before he turns to the subject of the Lord Jesus. Therefore he adds the fact, that "Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him, added yet this above all the evil that he had done, that he shut up John in prison." Hence it is clear that the order of Luke is not here, at any rate, that of historic fact. This is nothing peculiar. Any one who is at all acquainted with historians, either ancient or modern, must know that they do the same thing. It is common and almost inevitable. Not that they all do so, any more than all the evangelists; but still it is the way of many historians, who are reckoned amongst the most exact, not to arrange facts like the mere chroniclers of an annual register, which confessedly is rather a dull, rude way of giving us information. They prefer to group the facts into classes, so as to bring out the latent springs, and the consequences even though unsuspected, and, in short, all they desire of moment in the most distinct and powerful manner. Thus Luke, having introduced John here, does not care to interrupt the subsequent account of our Lord, till the embassy of John's messengers fell into the illustration of another theme. There is no room left for misunderstanding this brief summary of the Baptist's faithful conduct from first to last, and its consequences. So true is this, that he records the baptism of our Lord by John immediately after the mention that John was put in prison. Chronological sequence here manifestly yields to graver demands.
Next comes the baptism of those who resorted to John, and above all of Christ. "And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph," etc. Now, at first sight, the insertion of a pedigree at this point seems irregular enough; but Scripture is always right, and wisdom is justified of her children. It is the expression of a weighty truth, and in the most fitting, place. The Jewish scene closes. The Lord has been fully shown to the righteous remnant, i.e. what He was to Israel. God's grace and faithfulness to His promises had presented to them an admirable testimony; and the more so, as it was in the face of the last great or Roman empire. We have had the priest fulfilling his function in the sanctuary; then the angel's visits to Zechariah, to Mary, and, final]y, to the shepherds. We have had also the great prophetic sign of Immanuel born of the virgin, and now the forerunner, greater than any prophet, John the Baptist, the precursor of the Christ. It was all vain. They were a generation of vipers even as John himself testified about them. Nevertheless, on the part of Christ, there was ineffable grace wherever any heeded the call of John albeit the faintest working of divine life in the soul. The confession of the truth of God against themselves, the acknowledgment that they were sinners, drew the heart of Jesus to them. In Him was no sin, no, not the smallest taint of it, nor connection with it: nevertheless, Jesus was with those who repaired to the baptism of John. It was of God. No necessity of sin brought Him there; but, on the contrary, grace the pure fruit of divine grace in Him. He who had nothing to confess or repent was none the less the One that was the very expression of the grace of God. He would not be separated from those in whom there was the smallest response to the grace of God. Jesus, therefore does not for the present take people out of Israel, so to speak, any more than from among men severally into association with Himself; He associates Himself with those who were thus owning the reality of their moral condition in the sight of God. He would be with them in that recognition, not of course for Himself, as if He personally needed, but their companion in His grace. Depend upon it, that this same truth connects itself with the whole career of the Lord Jesus. Whatever the changes may have been before or at His death, they only illustrated increasingly this mighty and fruitful principle.
Who, then, was the baptised man on whom, as He prayed, heaven opened, and the Holy Ghost descended, and a voice from heaven said, "Thou art my beloved Son: in thee I am well pleased"? It was One whom the inspiring Spirit here loves to trace finally up thus: "Which was the Son of Adam, which was the Son of God." One that was going to be tried as Adam was tried yea, as Adam never was tried; for it was in no Paradise that this Second Adam was going to meet the tempter, but in the wilderness. It was in the wreck of this world; it was in the scene of death over which God's judgment hung; it was under such circumstances where it was no question of innocence but of divine power in holiness surrounded by evil, where One who was fully man depended on God, and, where no food, no water was, lived by the word of God. Such, and far far more, was this man Christ Jesus. And hence it is that the genealogy of Jesus seems to me precisely where it ought to be in Luke, as indeed it must be whether we see it or not. In Matthew its insertion would have been strange and inappropriate had it there come after His baptism. It would have no suitableness there, because what a Jew wanted first of all to know was the birth of Jesus according to the Old Testament prophecies. That was everything, we may say, to the Jew in the first place, to know the Son that was given, and the child that was born, as Isaiah and Micah predicted. Here we see the Lord as a man, and manifesting this perfect grace in man a total absence of sin; and yet the very One who was found with those who were confessing sin! "The Son of Adam, who was the Son of God." That means, that He was One who, though man, proved that He was God's Son.
Luke 4:1-44 is grounded upon this; and here it is not merely after the dispensational style of Matthew that we find the quotation given, but thoroughly in a moral point of view. In the gospel of Matthew, in the first temptation, our Lord owns Himself to be man, living not by mere natural resource, but by the word of God; in the second He confesses and denies not Himself further to be Messiah, the temptation being addressed to Him as in this capacity; the last clearly contemplates the glory of the "Son of man." This I clearly call dispensational. No doubt it was exactly the way in which the temptation occurred. The first temptation was to leave the position of man. This Christ would not do. "Man", He says, "shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." It is much more important to keep God's word than to live; and, at any rate, the only living He valued was living as man by God's word. This is perfection. Faith holds it for certain that God knows how to take care of man. It was man's business to keep God's word: God would not fail to watch over and protect him. Satan, therefore, was foiled. Then Satan tempted by a quotation from Psalms 91:1-16, which clearly describes the Messiah; assuredly Jesus was not going to deny that. He believed and acted upon it. If He were the Messiah, why not, according to this word, prove God? But the Lord Jesus equally refuted him here, though I need not enter now into the particulars of that which we have already looked at. Then came the last temptation addressed to Him, not as Messiah according to a psalm that refers to it, but rather in His quality of the Son of man about to have all the kingdoms of the world. Here Satan's temptation was, "Why do you not come into their possession and enjoyment now?" Jesus would take them only from God, as the rejected of man, and the sufferer for sin, too; not as the living Messiah here below, as if in a hurry to have the promises fulfilled to Him. In vain was the snare spread in His sight; God alone could give, whoever might actually hold, the kingdoms of the world. The price was too dear to pay, the price of worshipping the devil. Jesus thereon denounces the tempter as Satan.
But this is not what we have in our gospel. Here there is no dispensational order of the temptation suitable to the gospel of Matthew. Such an order, which is here that of the facts also, is exactly according to the design of the Holy Spirit in Matthew. But it suits no other gospel. Mark was not called to furnish more than the record of the temptation, with a graphic touch which reveals its dreary scene, and passes on to the active ministry of our blessed Lord. On the other hand, Luke purposely changes the order a bold step, in appearance, to take, and the more if he knew, as I suppose, what was given by the evangelists who preceded him. But it was necessary to his design, and God, I hope to show, puts His own seal upon this deviation from mere time. For, first of all, we have Jesus tried here as man. This must be in every account of the temptation. It is, of course, as man that even the Son of God was tempted of Satan. Here, however, we have, in the second place, the offer of the kingdoms of the world. This, it will be perceived, does not give prominence, like Matthew, to that momentous change of dispensation which ensued on His rejection by the Jew; it does illustrate what the Holy Ghost here puts forward the temptations rising one above the other in moral weight and import. Such I believe to be the key to the changed order of Luke. The first was a temptation to His personal wants Hath God said you shall not eat of any thing? Surely you are at liberty to make the stones bread! Faith vindicates God, remains dependent on Him, and is sure of His appearing for us in due time. Then comes the offer of the kingdoms of the world. If a good man wants to do good, what an offer! But Jesus was here to glorify God. Him He would worship, Him only would He serve. Obedience, obeying God's will, worshipping Him such is the shield against all such overtures of the enemy. Lastly comes the third temptation, through the word of God, on the pinnacle of the temple. This is not the worldly appeal, but one addressed to His spiritual feeling. Need I remark, that a spiritual temptation is to a holy person far subtler and deeper than anything which connected itself with either our wants or our wishes as to the world? Thus there was a personal or bodily, a worldly, and a spiritual temptation. To attain this moral order Luke abandons the sequence of time. Occasionally Matthew, and indeed no one more than he, deserts the simple order of fact whenever it is required by the Spirit's purpose; but in this case Matthew preserves that order; for it so is that by this means he gives prominence to dispensational truth; while Luke, by arranging the acts of temptation otherwise, brings out their moral bearing in the most admirable and instructive way. Accordingly, from Luke 4:8, "Get thee behind me, Satan: for" disappears in the best authorities. The change of order necessitates the omission. The copyists as often added to Luke what is really the language of Matthew; and even some critics have been so undiscerning as not to detect the imposition. As it stands in the received Greek text and the English version, Satan is told to go, and seems to stand his ground and again tempt the Lord, stultifying His command. But the clause I have named (and not merely the word "for," as Bloomfield imagines) is well known to have no claim to stand, as being destitute of adequate authority. There are good manuscripts that contain the clause, but the weight, for antiquity and character of MSS., and for variety of the old versions, is on the other side, not to speak of the internal evidence, which would be decisive with much inferior external evidence. Hence, too, Satan could hardly be spoken of here as going away like one driven off by indignation, as in Matthew. "And when the devil had ended all the [every] temptation, he departed from him for a season." This lets us into another very material truth, that Satan only went off till another season, when he should return. And this he did for a yet severer character of trial at the end of the Lord's life, the account of which is given us with peculiar elaborateness by Luke; for it is his province above all to show the moral import of the agony in the garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus then returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee. Man was victor over Satan. Unlike the first Adam, the Second Man comes off with energy proved triumphant in obedience. How does He use this power? He repairs to His despised quarters. " And there went out a fame of him to all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up." The fact that follows is mentioned here, and here only, with any detail; whatever allusion there may be to it elsewhere, it is here only we have, by the Spirit of God, this most living and characteristic portrait of our Lord Jesus entering upon His ministry among men according to the purpose and ways of divine grace. Deeds of power are but the skirts of His glory. It is not, as Mark opens it out to us, teaching as nobody ever taught, and then dealing with the unclean spirit before them all. This is not the inauguration we have in Luke, any more than a crowd of miracles, at once the herald and the seal of His doctrine, as in Matthew. Neither is it individual dealing with souls, as in John, who shows Him attracting the hearts of those that were with the Baptist or at their lawful occupations, and calling them to follow Him. Here He goes into the synagogue, as His custom was, and stands up to read.
"And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias." What a moment! He who is God was become man, and deigns to act as such among men. "And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it is written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor." It is the man Christ Jesus. The Spirit of the Lord was not upon Him as God, but as man, and so anointed Him to preach the gospel to the poor. How thoroughly suitable to what we have already seen. "He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in you ears." A real man was there and then the vessel of the grace of God upon the earth, and the Scripture designates this most fully. But where could we find this most apt application of the prophet except in Luke, to whom in point of fact it is peculiar? The entire gospel develops or, at least, accords with it.
"They all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth," but immediately they turn to unbelief, saying, "Is not this Joseph's son?" "And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country." He had been already at work in what Matthew calls "his city;", but the Spirit of God here passes over entirely what had been done there. He would thus ensure the fullest lustre to the "grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we, through his poverty, night be made rich." This is what we have in Luke. Our Lord then shows the moral root of the difficulty in their minds. "Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow." Our Lord does not yet call a publican or receive a Gentile, as inLuke 5:1-39; Luke 5:1-39; Luke 7:1-50; but He tells of the grace of God in that word which they read and heard, but understood not. It was His answer to the incredulity of the Jews, His brethren after the flesh. How solemn are the warnings of grace! It was a Gentile, and not a Jewish widow, who during the days of Israel's apostacy became the marked object of God's mercy. So, too, "many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet, and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian." At once the hostile rage of the natural man is roused, and his jealousy of divine goodness to the stranger. Those that wondered the moment before at His gracious words are now filled with fury, ready to rend Him. "And they rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he, passing through the midst of them, went his way, and came down to Capernaum, and taught them on the Sabbath days. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power." It is the word that has especial prominence in Luke; and justly so, because the word is the expression of what God is to man, even as it is the word which tries him.
These are the two qualities, therefore, of the gospel: what God is towards man; and what man is, now revealed and proclaimed and brought home by the word of God. Thereby God's grace shines out; thereby, too, the evil of man is morally proved not merely by the law, but yet more by the word that comes in, and by the person of Christ. Man, however, hates it, and no wonder; for, however full of mercy, it leaves no room for the pride, the vanity, the self-righteousness, in short, the importance of man in any way. There is one good, even God.
But this is not all the truth; for the power of Satan is active on the earth. It was then too plain, too universal, to be overlooked; and if man was so unbelieving as to the glory of Jesus, Satan at least felt the power. So it was with the man who had an unclean spirit. "He cried out with a loud voice, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God." Remark here how Jesus, the fulfilment and fulfiller of God's word, accomplishes law and promise, the prophets and the Psalms. Devils own Him as the Holy One of God and again, we shall see presently, as the Anointed (Christ), the Son of God. In Luke 5:1-39 He is seen acting rather as Jehovah. "And Jesus rebuked him, saying hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not." This proves, therefore, that there was in Christ not only grace towards man's necessities, but power over Satan. He had vanquished Satan, and proceeds to use His power in behalf of man.
He then enters into Simon's house, and heals his wife's mother. "Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ." Here we coalesce with the earlier gospels. When this attracted the attention of men He departs. Instead of using what people call "influence", He will not hear of the people's desire to retain Him in their midst. He walks in faith, the Holy One of God, content with nothing that made man an object to obscure His glory. If followed into a desert place, away from the crowd that admired Him, He lets them know that He must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also; for therefore was He sent. "And he was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee."
And now we have, in the beginning, of the fifth chapter, a fact taken entirely out of its historical place. It is the call of the earlier apostles, more particularly of Simon, who is singled out, just as we have seen one blind man, or one demoniac, brought into relief, even though there might be more. So the son of Jonas is the great object of the Lord's grace here, although others were called at the same time. There were companions of his leaving all for Christ; but we have his case, not theirs, dealt with in detail. Now, from elsewhere, we know that this call of Peter preceded the Lord's entrance into Simon's house, and the healing of Simon's wife's mother. We also know that John's gospel has preserved for us the first occasion when Simon ever saw the Lord Jesus, as Mark's gospel shows when it was that Simon was called away from his ship and occupation. Luke had given us the Lord's grace with and towards man, from the synagogue at Nazareth down to His preaching everywhere in Galilee, casting out devils, and healing diseases by the way. This is essentially a display in Him of the power of God by the word, and this over Satan and all the afflictions of men. A complete picture of all this is given first; and in order to leave it unbroken, the particulars of Simon's call are left out of its time. But as the way of the Lord on that occasion was of the deepest value as well as interest to be given, it was reserved for this place. This illustrates the method of classifying facts morally, instead of merely recording them as they came to pass, which is characteristic of Luke.
"It came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that be would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering, said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net." It is plain that the word of Jesus was the first great trial. Simon had already and long, toiled; but the word of Jesus is enough. "And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink." Next, we have the moral effect. "When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus, knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." It was the most natural thing possible for a soul arrested, not merely by the mighty deed which the Lord had wrought, but by such a proof that His word could be trusted implicitly that divine power answered to the word of the man Christ Jesus. His sinfulness glared on his conscience. Christ's word let the light of God into his soul: "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man." There was real sense of sin and confession; yet the attitude of Peter at the feet of Jesus shows that nothing was farther from his heart than that the Lord should leave him, though his conscience felt that so it ought to be. He was convicted more deeply of his sinful state than he had ever been before. Already a real attraction had knit Simon's heart to Christ. He was born of God, as far as we can judge, before this. He had really for some while known and heard the voice of Jesus. This was not the first time, as John gives us to see. But now the word so penetrated and searched him out, that this utterance was the feeling of his soul an apparent contradiction to draw near to the feet of Jesus, saying, Depart from me, but not in the root of things an inconsistency only on the surface of his words; for his innermost feeling, was one of desire after and delight in Jesus, clinging to Him with all his soul, but with the strongest conviction that he had not the slightest claim to be there that he could even pronounce condemnation on himself otherwise in a certain sense, though quite contrary to all his wishes. The more he saw what Jesus was, the less fit company he felt himself to be for such an One as He. This is precisely what grace does produce in its earlier workings. I say not, in its earliest, but in its earlier workings; for we must not be in too great a hurry with the ways of God in the soul. Astonished at this miracle, Peter thus speaks to the Lord; but the gracious answer sets him at ease. "Fear not," says Christ; "from henceforth thou shalt catch men." My object in referring to the passage is for the purpose of pointing out the moral force of our Gospel. It was a divine person who, if He displayed the knowledge and power of God, revealed Himself in grace, but also morally to the conscience, though it cast out fear.
Then follows the cure of the leper, and subsequently the forgiveness of the palsied man: again the exhibition that Jehovah was there, and fulfilling the Spirit ofPsalms 103:1-22; Psalms 103:1-22; but He was the Son of man too. Such was the mystery of His person present in grace, which was proved by the power of God in one wholly dependent on God. Finally, there is the call of Levi the publican; the Lord showing, also, how well aware He was of the effect on man of introducing among those accustomed to law the reality of grace. In truth, it is impossible to mingle the new wine of grace with the old bottles of human ordinances. The Lord adds what is found in no gospel but Luke's, that man prefers, in presence of the new thing from God, the old religious feelings, thoughts, ways, doctrines, habits, and customs. "No man", He says, "having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better." Man prefers the dealing of law with all its dimness, uncertainty, and distance from God, to that divine grace infinitely more blessed, which in Christ displays God to man, and brings man, by the blood of His cross, to God.
In Luke 6:1-49 this is followed up. We see the Lord on the two Sabbath days: the defence of the disciples for plucking the ears of corn, and the well-nigh defiant cure of the withered hand in the synagogue. The Lord does not pluck the ears of corn Himself; but He defends the guiltless, and this on moral ground. We do not here meet with the particulars set forth dispensationally as in Matthew's gospel: though the reference is to the same facts, they are not so reasoned upon. There the subject is much more the approaching change of economy: here it is more moral. A similar remark applies to the ease of healing the withered hand. The Sabbath, or seal of the old covenant, was never given of God, thou, abused by man, to hinder His goodness to the needy and wretched. But the Son of man was Lord of the Sabbath: and grace is free to bless man and glorify God. Immediately after this, clouds gather over the devoted head of our Lord; "They were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus."
The Lord retires to a mountain, continuing all night in prayer to God. On the next day, out of the disciples He chooses twelve who were pre-eminently to represent Him after His departure. That is, He nominates the twelve apostles. At the same time He delivers what is commonly called the sermon on the mount. But there are striking differences between the manner of Luke and Matthew, in conveying that sermon to us; for Luke brings two contrasts together; one of which was dropped by Matthew at any rate in this, the beginning of his gospel. Luke couples the blessings and the woes; Matthew reserves his woes for another occasion, for that one would affirm that the Lord did not proclaim the woes of Matthew 13:1-58 on another and later occasion; but it may be safely said, that the first evangelist passed by all questions of woes for the discourse on the mount. Luke, on the contrary, furnishes both. Who can fail to recognize in this circumstance a striking mark; both of the evangelists, and of the special designs of Him who inspired them? Luke does not confine himself to the bright side, but adds also the solemn. There is a warning for conscience, as much as there is grace which appeals to the heart It is Luke that gives it and most gloriously. Besides, there is another difference. Matthew presents Christ alone as the lawgiver. No doubt greater than Moses He was; He was Jehovah, Emmanuel. Therefore He takes the place of deepening, enlarging, and ever bringing in principles so infinitely better as to eclipse what was said to them of old. Thus, while the authority of the law and prophets is maintained, there is now an incalculable change, in advance of all before, suitably to the presence of His glory who then spoke, and to the revelation of the Father's name More even was yet to be; but this was reserved for the presence in power of the Holy Ghost, as we are told inJohn 16:1-33; John 16:1-33.
Here, in the gospel of Luke, another course is pursued. It is not as One who lays down principles or describes the classes that can have part in the kingdom, as "Blessed the poor" etc.: but the Lord views, and speaks to, His disciples, as those immediately concerned; "Blessed ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God." It is all personal, in view of the godly company that then surrounded Him. So He says, "Blessed ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed ye that weep now"' etc. It was sorrow and suffering now; for He who fulfilled the promises, and psalms, and prophets was rejected; and the kingdom could not yet come in power and glory. "He must first suffer many things."
Thus all through it is not description alone, but a direct address to the heart In Matthew it was most appropriately a general discourse. Here it is made immediately applicable. That is, He looks at the persons then before Him, and pronounces a blessing upon them distinctly and personally.
For that reason, as also for others, He says nothing about suffering for righteousness' sake here In Matthew there are the two characters those blessed when persecuted for righteousness' sake, and yet more those who were persecuted for His name's sake. Luke omits the righteousness: all persecution here noticed is on account of the Son of man. How blessed it is in Luke to find that the great witness of grace acts Himself in the spirit of that grace, and makes this to be the one distinguishing feature. Both sufferers are surely blessed; each is in his own season precious; but the least portion is not that which characterizes the word of the Lord in his gospel who has mainly in view us who were poor sinners of the Gentiles.
In Luke the points pressed are not detailed contrasts with the law, nor the value of righteousness in secret with the Father, nor trust in His loving care without anxiety, but practical grace in loving our enemies, merciful as our Father is merciful, and so children of the Highest, with the assurance of corresponding recompence. Then comes the warning parable of the blindness of the religious world's leaders and the value of personal reality and obedience, instead of moralising for others, which would end in ruin. In the chapter that follows (Luke 7:1-50) we shall see the Lord still more evidently proving that grace cannot be tied to Jewish limits, that His was a power which the Gentile owns to be absolute over all yea, over death as well as nature.
But before we pass on, let me observe that there is another feature also that strikes us in Luke, though it does not call for many words now. It appears that various portions of the sermon on the mount were reserved for insertion here and there, where they would it in best for comment on or connection with facts. The reason is, that moral grouping of conversations which has been already shown to be according to the method of Luke. Here there is not at all the same kind of formal order of discourse as in Matthew. There were, I doubt not, questions asked during its course; and the Holy Ghost has been pleased to give us specimens of this in the gospel of Luke. I may show on another occasion, that this which occurs not infrequently throughout the whole central part of Luke is found in him only. It is for the most part made up of this association of facts, with remarks either growing out of what has occurred, or suitable to them, and therefore transplanted from elsewhere.
In chapter 7 the healing of the centurion's servant is recounted, with very striking differences from the form in which he had it in Matthew. Here we are told that the centurion, when he heard of Jesus, sent unto Him the elders of the Jews. The man who does not understand the design of the gospel, and has only heard that Luke wrote especially for the Gentiles, is at once arrested by this. He objects to the hypothesis that this fact is irreconcilable with a Gentile bearing, and is, on the contrary, rather in favour of a Jewish aim, at least here; because in Matthew you find nothing about the embassy of the Jews, while here it is in Luke. His conclusion is, that one gospel is as much Jewish or Gentile as another, and that the notion of special design is baseless. All this may sound plausible to a superficial reader; but in truth the twofold fact, when duly stated, remarkably confirms the different scope of the gospels, instead of neutralizing it; for the centurion in Luke was led, both being Gentiles, to honour the Jews in the special place God has put them in. He therefore sets a value on this embassy to the Jews. The precise contrast of this we have inRomans 11:1-36; Romans 11:1-36, where the Gentiles are warned against high-mindedness and conceit. It was because of Jewish unbelief, no doubt, that certain branches were broken off; but the Gentiles were to see that they abode in God's goodness, not falling into similar and worse evil, or else they also should be cut off. This was most wholesome admonition from the apostle of the uncircumcision to the saints in the great capital of the Gentile world. Here the Gentile centurion shows both his faith and his humility by manifesting the place which God's people had in his eyes. He did not arrogantly talk of looking only to God.
Allow me to say, brethren, that this is a principle of no small value, and in more ways than one. There is often a good deal of unbelief not open, of course, but covert which cloaks itself under the profession of superior and sole dependence on God, and boasts itself aloud of its leaving any and every man out of account. Nor do I deny that there are, and ought to be, cases where God alone must act, convince, and satisfy. But the other side is true also; and this is precisely what we see in the case of the centurion. There was no proud panacea of having to do only with God, and not man. On the contrary, he shows, by his appeal to and use of the Jewish elders, how truly he bowed to the ways and will of God. For God had a people, and the Gentile owned the people as of His choice, spite of their unworthiness; and if he wanted the blessing for his servant, he would send for the elders of the Jews that they might plead for him with Jesus. To me there seems far more of faith, and of the lowliness which faith produces, than if he had gone personally and alone. The secret of his action was, that he was a man not only of faith, but of faith-wrought humility; and this is a most precious fruit, wherever it grows and blooms. Certainly the good Gentile centurion sends his ambassadors of Israel, who go and tell what was most true and proper (yet I can hardly think it what the centurion ever put in their mouth). "And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue." He was a godly man; and it was no new thing, this love for the Jews, and the practical proof of it.
It will be observed, again, that Matthew has not a word about this fact; and cannot but feel how blessed is the omission there. Had Matthew been writing merely as a man for the Jews, it was just the thing he would have surely fastened on; but the inspiring power of the Spirit wrought, and grace, I do not doubt, also, in Matthew as well as in Luke, and thus only have we the fruit now apparent in their accounts. It was fitting that the evangelist for the Jews should both leave out the (Gentile's strong expression of respect for Israel, and dwell upon the warning to the proud children of the kingdom. Equally fitting was it that Luke, in writing for Gentile instruction, should especially let us see the love and esteem for God's sake which a godly Gentile had for the Jews. Here was no scorn for their low estate, but so much the more compassion; yea, more than compassion, for his desire after their mediation proved the reality of his respect for the chosen nation. It was not a new feeling; he had long low loved them, and built them a synagogue in days when he sought nothing at their hands; and they remember it now. The faith of this Gentile was such, that the Lord avows He had not seen the like in Israel. Not only does Matthew report this a weighty admonition even for the believers of Israel but also Luke, for the encouragement of the Gentiles. This common point was most worthy of record, and attached to the new creation, not to the old. How beautiful the scene is in both gospels' how much is that beauty increased when we more closely inspect the wisdom and grace of God shown out in Matthew's presentation of Gentile blessing and Jewish warning for the Israelites; and withal, in Luke's presentation of respect for the Jews, and the absence here of all notice of Jewish excision, which might so easily be perverted to Gentile self-complacency!
The next scene (verses 11-17) is peculiar to Luke. The Lord not only heals, but with a grace and majesty altogether proper to Himself, brings in life for the dead, yet with remarkable consideration for human woe and affection. Not only did He, in His own quickening power, cause the dead to live, but He sees in him, whom they were even then carrying out to burial, the only son of his widowed mother; and so He stays the bier, bids the deceased to arise, and delivers him to his mother. No sketch can be conceived more consonant with the spirit and aim of our gospel.
Then we have the disciples of John introduced, for the special purpose of noting the great crisis that was at hand, if not come. So severe was the shock to antecedent feeling and expectation, that even the very forerunner of the Messiah was himself shaken and offended, it would seem, because the Messiah did not use His power on behalf of Himself and His own followers did not protect every godly soul in the land did not shed around light and liberty for Israel far and wide. Yet who could gainsay the character of what was being done? A Gentile had confessed the supremacy of Jesus over all things: disease must obey Him absent or present! If not the working of God's own gracious power, what could it be? After all, John the Baptist was a man; and what is he to be accounted of? What a lesson, and how much needed at all times. The Lord Jesus not only answers with His wonted dignity, but at the same time with the grace that could not but yearn over the questioning and stumbled mind of His forerunner no doubt meeting, too, the unbelief of John's followers; for there need be little doubt, that if there was weakness in John, there was far more in his disciples.
Thereupon our Lord introduces His own moral judgment of the whole generation. At the close of this is the most remarkable exemplification of divine wisdom conferred by grace where one might least look for it, in contrast with the perverse folly of those who thought themselves wise. "But wisdom is justified of all her children," no matter who or what they may have been, as surely as it will be justified in the condemnation of all who have rejected the counsel of God against themselves. Indeed, the evil side as well as the good are almost equally salient at the house of Simon the Pharisee; and the Holy Ghost led Luke to furnish here the most striking possible commentary on the folly of self-righteousness, and the wisdom of faith. He adduces exactly a case in point. The worth of man's wisdom appears in the Pharisee, as the true wisdom of God, which comes down from above, appears where His own grace alone created it; for what depositary seemed more remote than a woman of ruined and depraved character? yea, a sinner whose very name God withholds? On the other hand, this silence, to my mind, is an evidence of His wonderful grace. If no worthy end could be reached by publishing the name of her who was but too notorious in that city of old, it was no less worthy of God that He should make manifest in her the riches of His grace. Again, another thing: not only is grace best proved where there is most need of it, but its transforming power appears to the greatest advantage in the grossest and most hopeless cases.
"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." Such is the operation of grace, a new creating, no mere change or bettering of the old man according to Christ, but a real life with a new character altogether. See it in this woman, who was the object of grace. It was to the house of the Pharisee who had invited Jesus that this woman repaired attracted by the Saviour's grace, and truly penitent, full of love to His person, but not yet with the knowledge of her sins forgiven; for this was what she needed, and what He meant her to have and know. It is not the exhibition of a soul starting upon the knowledge of forgiveness, but the ways of grace leading one into it.
What drew her heart was not the acceptance of the gospel message, nor the knowledge of the believer's privilege That was what Christ was about to give; but what won her, and drew her so powerfully even to that Pharisee's house, was something deeper than any acquaintance with conferred blessings: it was the grace of God in Christ Himself. She felt instinctively that in Him was not more truly all that purity and love of God Himself, than the mercy she needed for herself. The predominant feeling in her soul, what riveted her was, that, spite of the sense she had of her sins, she was sure she might cast herself on that boundless grace she saw in the Lord Jesus. Hence she could not stay away from the house where He was, though she well knew she was the last person in the town the master of it would welcome there. What excuse could she make? Nay, that sort of thing was over now; she was in the truth. What business, then, had she in Simon's house? Yes, her business was with Jesus, the Lord of glory for eternity, albeit there; and so complete was the mastery of His grace over her soul, that nothing could keep her back. Without asking for Simon's leave, without a Peter or a John to introduce her, she goes where Jesus was, taking with her an alabaster box of ointment, "and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment."
This drew out the religious reasoning, of Simon's heart, which, like all other reasoning of the natural mind on divine things, is only infidelity. "He spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet." How hollow the fair-looking Pharisee was! He had asked the Lord there; but what was the value of the Lord in Simon's eyes? "This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner." Indeed, she was a sinner. This was not wrong but that. The root of the worst wrong is just that depreciation of Jesus. Simon within himself doubted that He was even a prophet. Oh, how little thought he that it was God Himself in the person of that lowly man, the Son of the Highest! Herein was the starting-point of this most fatal error. Jesus, however, proves that He was a prophet, yea, the God of the prophets; and reading the thoughts of his heart, He answers his unuttered question by the parable of the two debtors.
I will not dwell now on that which is familiar to all. Suffice it to say, that this is a scene peculiar to our gospel. Might I not ask, where possibly could it be found harmoniously except here? How admirable the choice of the Holy Ghost, thus shown in displaying Jesus according, to all we have seen from the beginning of this gospel! The Lord here pronounces her sins to be forgiven; but it is well to observe, that this was at the close of the interview, and not the occasion of it. There is no ground to suppose that she knew that her sins were forgiven before. On the contrary, the point of the story appears to me lost where this is assumed. What confidence His grace gives the one that goes straight to Himself! He speaks authoritatively, and warrants forgiveness. Till Jesus said so, it would have been presumption for any soul at this time to have acted upon the certainty that his sins were forgiven. Such seems to me the express object of this history a poor sinner truly repenting, and attracted by His grace, which draws her to Himself, and hears from Him His own direct word, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." Her sins, which were many, were forgiven. There was no hiding, therefore, the extent of her need; for she loved much. Not that I would explain this away. Her loving much was true before, as well as after, she heard the forgiveness. There was real love in her heart already. She was transported by the divine grace in His person, which inspired her by the Spirit's teaching with love through His love; but the effect of knowing from His own lips that her sins were forgiven must have been to increase that love. The Lord is here before us as One that thoroughly sounded the evil heart of unbelief, that appreciated, as truly as He had effected, the work of grace in the believer's heart, and speaks out before all the answer of peace with which He entitled such an one to depart.
In the last chapter (Luke 8:1-56) on which I am to speak tonight, the Lord is seen not only going forth now to preach, but with a number of men and women in His train, children of wisdom surely, the poor but real witnesses of His own rich grace, and thus devoted to Him here below. "And the twelve were with him. And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance." Here, too, is it not a wonderfully characteristic picture of our Lord Jesus, and so only found in Luke? Entirely above the evil of men, He could and did walk in the perfect calm of His Father's presence, but withal according to the activity, in this world, of God's grace.
Hence, He is here presented in our gospel as speaking of the sower, even as He was then scattering the seed of "the word of God;" for so it is called here. In the gospel of Matthew, where the same parable appears as introducing the kingdom of heaven, it is called "the word of the kingdom." Here, when the parable is explained, the seed is "the word of God." Thus it is not a question of the kingdom in Luke; in Matthew it is. Nothing can be more simple than the reason of the difference. Remark that the Spirit of God in recording does not limit Himself to the bare words that Jesus spoke. This I hold to be a matter of no little importance in forming a sound judgment of the Scriptures. The notion to which orthodox men sometimes shut themselves up, in zeal for plenary inspiration, is, to my mind, altogether mechanical: they think that inspiration necessarily and only gives the exact words that Christ uttered. There seems to me not the slightest necessity for this. Assuredly the Holy Spirit gives the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The differences are owing to no infirmity, but to His design; and what He has given us is incomparably better than a bare report by so many hands, all meaning to give the same words and facts. Take the chapter before us to illustrate what I mean. Matthew and Luke alike give us the same parable of the sower; but Matthew calls it "the word of the kingdom;" while Luke calls it "the word of God." The Lord Jesus may have employed both in His discourse at this time. I am not contending that He did not; but what I affirm is, that, whether He did or did not employ both, the Spirit of God did not give us to have both in the same gospel, but acts with divine sovereignty. He does not lower the evangelists into mere literal reporters, such as may be found by dint of skill among men. No doubt their object is to get the precise words which a man utters, because there is no such power or person to effect the will of God in the world. But the Spirit of God can act with more freedom, and can drive this part of the utterance to one evangelist, and that part to another. Hence, then, the mere mechanical system can never explain inspiration. It finds itself entirely baffled by the fact that the same words are not given in all the gospels. Take Matthew, as we have just seen, sating, "Blessed are the poor," and Luke, saying, "Blessed are ye poor." This is at once an embarrassing difficulty for the mechanical scheme of inspiration; it is none at all for those who hold to the Holy Ghost's supremacy in employing different men as the vessels of its various objects. There is no attempt in any of the gospels to furnish a reproduction of all the words and works of the Lord Jesus. I have no doubt, therefore, that although in each gospel we have nothing but the truth, we have not all the facts in any Gospel, or in all of them. Hence, the richest fulness results from the method of the Spirit. Having the absolute command of all truth, He just gives the needed word in the right place, and by the due person, so as the better to display the Lord's glory.
After this parable we have another, like Matthew's, but not relating to the kingdom, because this is not the point here; for dispensation is not the topic before us as in Matthew. Indeed, this parable is one not found in Matthew at all. What Matthew gives is complete for the purposes of his gospel. But in Luke it was of great importance to give this parable; for when a man has been laid hold of by the word of God, the next thing is testimony. The disciples, not the nation, were given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Enlightened themselves, the next thing was to give light to others. "No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter may see the light. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have." Thus responsibility in the use of light is enforced.
What follows here is the slight of natural ties in divine things, the approval of nothing but a relationship founded on the word of God heard and done. Flesh is valueless; it profits nothing. So when people said unto Him, "Thy mother and thy brethren stand without desiring to see thee; he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it." Still it is the word of God. It is not as Matthew puts it after the formal giving up the nation to apostacy and a new relationship brought in; here it is simply God's approval of those who keep and value His word. The place that the word of God has morally meets the mind of Christ.
But Christ does not exempt His witnesses from troubles here below. The next is the scene on the lake, and the disciples manifesting their unbelief and the Lord His grace and power. Passing, to the other side me see Legion who spite of this awful evil has a deep divine work wrought in his soul. It is not so much a question of making him a servant of God. That we have in Mark and much detailed. Here we have Him rather as a man of God; first the object of the delivering power and favour of the Lord; then, delighting in Him who thus made God known to him. No wonder when the devils were cast out the man besought that he might be with Jesus. It was a feeling natural so to speak, to grace and to the new relationship with God into which he had entered. "But Jesus sent him away saying, Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way and published throughout the whole city how great thing's Jesus had done unto him."
The account of Jairus's appeal for his daughter follows. While the Lord is on His way to heal the daughter of Israel, who meanwhile dies He is interrupted by the touch of faith; for whoever went to Him found healing. The Lord however while He perfectly meets the case of any needy soul at the present time does not fail in the long run to accomplish the purposes of God for the revival of Israel. He will restore Israel; for in God's mind they are not dead but sleep.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Luke 5:16". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/luke-5.html. 1860-1890.
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20