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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Rebuke

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REBUKE.1. In restoring the man with the unclean spirit in the synagogue at Capernaum (Mark 1:25, Luke 4:35), and the demoniac boy at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:18, Mark 9:25, Luke 9:42), Jesus is said to have rebuked (ἐπετίμησεν) the unclean spirit. The rebuke would help to calm the nerves and strengthen the will of the sufferer. But that was only incidental. It is clear to the present writer that Jesus recognized, in such cases, the presence of a personal evil spirit (cf. Matthew 12:25-28, Luke 11:17-20). He rebuked the spirit (1) because, being personal, he was susceptible of rebuke; and (2) because of his malevolence in torturing the human patient (Matthew 17:15), or because of his testimony to Him as Messiah, which testimony, seeing it tended towards a faith founded upon marvels and not upon a simple love of goodness and joy in His revelation of the Father, really opposed His work (Mark 1:24-25; Mark 1:34, Luke 4:41). St. Luke also says that Jesus, when healing Peter’s wife’s mother, rebuked the fever (Luke 4:39). This may be more figurative. Sickness was, undoubtedly, regarded as due in most cases to evil agencies (Luke 13:16); but even popular opinion then did not class fevers with cases of demoniacal possession. Neither St. Matthew nor St. Mark speaks of any rebuke here; it is therefore most probable that this is only the Evangelist’s vivid description of Jesus’ authoritative tone and manner of healing. On the sea of Galilee, Jesus is said to have rebuked the wind (Matthew 8:26, Mark 4:39, Luke 8:24). It is a needless literalism to infer that He believed that the wind was demonic. It is a poetic account of His attitude (cf. Psalms 106:9, Nahum 1:4). His faith that God would guard Him till His work was done, was absolute; and on His rising up in the dignity and calm of such a faith and bidding sea and wind be still, the disciples beheld the threatening wind die down as if rebuked.

2. Jesus had frequent need to reprove His disciples; but only on two occasions were His reproofs so severe that it is written that He rebuked them. These were in the case of Peter (Mark 8:33), and James and John (Luke 9:55). The severity of His rebuke of Peter, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’ was not because Peter was, though unconsciously, acting the part of a tempter to Him. That would be contrary to the spirit of Jesus, who always forgot His own things in the presence of others’ needs. It was His disciple’s danger that moved Him. The test of a leader’s sympathy and insight is his rebukes, whether they are addressed to mere casual faults or to those tendencies which spring from the roots of character. In. these two cases, Jesus rebuked the most fatal tendencies of the two types of saintliness. ‘St. John is the saint of purity, and St. Peter is the saint of love’ (Newman’s Sermon on ‘Purity and Love’ in Discourses to Mixed Congregations). The most dangerous temptation to loving souls is to smooth the path for those they love and reverence even at the cost of duty or of loyalty to their highest vision. Jesus here rebuked in Peter, this, love’s subtlest disloyalty to righteousness. In the case of James and John, types of intensest purity, Jesus condemned that severity of judgment which is the temptation of men of integrity, and by which they may make shipwreck of their spirits, becoming narrow-minded and unbrotherly.

3. Various instances of rebukes by other persons are reported, whose value lies in their revealing by contrast the mind of Jesus. (1) The disciples’ rebuke of those who brought little children to Jesus’, serves to contrast their thought of the parents as inconsiderate and selfish, and of the children as beneath His notice because of their incapacity to understand His words, with His sympathy with the parents’ desire to give their children a prophet’s blessing, His warm love for the children simply as children (Mark 9:36), and His delight in the child-spirit as manifesting the true heavenly temper (Mark 10:14). (2) The crowd’s rebuke of Bartimaeus brings into stronger relief the simplicity and brotherliness of Jesus’ helpfulness (Matthew 20:31). (3) The repentant thief rightly rebuking his comrade for railing on Jesus (Luke 23:40), brings out strongly Jesus’ silent endurance of contumely. It sets in a clearer light His prayer, ‘Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do.’ (4) The Pharisees’ request that Jesus would rebuke His followers for hailing Him as Messiah, only served to make more clear and definite His acceptance of that homage with all it meant (Luke 19:39).

4. Jesus bids His disciples rebuke a brother who sins (Luke 17:3). The following verse shows that the sin to be rebuked is a personal wrong. This resentment of wrong seems opposed to His blessing on the meek (Matthew 5:5) and His exhortation to turn the other cheek to the smiter (Matthew 5:39-44). The context, however, shows that this rebuke is regarded only as the first step to forgiveness and reconciliation (Luke 17:4). Repentance is necessary before forgiveness and reconciliation can be perfected; and the rebuke is to be the act of brotherly love, showing the wrongdoer his fault to win him to that repentance.

Richard Glaister.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Rebuke'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/r/rebuke.html. 1906-1918.

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Friday, May 29th, 2020
the Seventh Week after Easter
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