Mark 12

 

 

                        THE PARABLE OF THE VINEYARD

 

1 “And He began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man

planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the

winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far

country."  And He began to speak unto them in parables. This particular parable

which follows was specially directed against the scribes and Pharisees; but it was

uttered in the presence of a multitude of the people. "He began to speak... in parables."

He had not used this form of instruction till now in Jerusalem. A man planted a

vineyard. The imagery of the parable would be familiar to them from Isaiah

(Isaiah 5:1). But Palestine was eminently a land of "vineyards," as well as of

"oil olives." The man who planted the vineyard is no other than God Himself.

"Thou hast brought a vine" out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the heathen, and

planted it."  (Psalm 80:8)  The imagery is specially appropriate. No property

was considered to yield so rich a return as the vineyard, and none required such

unceasing care and attention. The vine represents the kingdom of God in its

idea and conception; not the Jewish Church in particular. The owner of this

vineyard had Himself made it. (He had "planted it." This planting took place

in the establishment of the Jewish polity in the land of Canaan, when the heathen

were cast out. He set a hedge about it. This and the following descriptions are not

mere ornaments of the parable. The "hedge" was an important protection to the

vineyard. It might be a wall or a "quick hedge," a living fence. The vineyards in

the East may now be seen often with a strong hedge planted round them. Such

hedges, made of the prickly cactus, are to be seen at this day in the neighborhood

of Joppa. Figuratively, this hedge would represent the middle wall of partition

which then existed between the Jew and the Gentile (Ephesians 2:14);  and in this,

their separation from the idolatrous nations around them, lay the security of the Jews

that they should enjoy the continued protection of God. It is well remarked by

Archbishop Trench that the geographical position of Judaea was figurative of this,

the spiritual separation of the people - guarded as Judaea was eastward by the river

Jordan and its chain of lakes, northward by Antilibanus, southward by the desert

and Idumaea, and westward by the Mediterranean Sea. Digged a place for the

winepress (ληνός laenoswine press-  torcular); the words are literally,

digged a pit for the winepress (ὤρυξεν ὑπολήνιονoruxen hupolaenionexcavates

vat); the digging could only apply to the pit, a place hollowed out and then fitted

with masonry. Sometimes these pits were formed out of the solid rock. Examples

of these are frequent in Palestine. There were usually two pits hollowed out of the

rock, one sloping to the other, and with openings between them. The grapes were

placed in the upper pit; and the juice, crushed out by the feet of men, flowed into

the lower pit, from whence it was taken out and put into wine-skins. "I have trodden

the winepress alone." (Isaiah 63:3)  And built a tower. The tower (πύργονpurgon)

was probably the watch-tower, where a watchman was placed to guard the vineyard

from plunderers. Particular directions are given in the rabbinical writings (see Lightfoot)

for the dimensions both of the winepress and of the tower. The tower was to be ten cubits

high and four cubits square. It is described as "a high place, where the vine-dresser

stands to overlook the vineyard." Such towers are still to be seen in Palestine, especially

in the neighborhood of Bethlehem, of Hebron, and in the vine-growing districts of

Lebanon. And let it out to husbandmen. The husbandmen would be the ordinary

stated teachers of the people, though not excluding the people themselves. The

Jewish nation in fact, both the teachers and the taught, represented the husbandmen,

each member of the Church, then as now, being required to seek the welfare of the

whole, body. And went into a far country (καὶ ἀπεδήμηδεkai apedaemaede

and travels; literally, and went into another country). Luke (Luke 20:9) adds

(χρόνους ἱκανούςchronous hikanoustime considerable;  for a long time).

 

 

2 “And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might

receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.  3  And they

caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.  4 And again he sent unto

them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the

head, and sent him away shamefully handled.  5 And again he sent another; and

him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.” And at the

season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the

husbandmen of the fruits of the vineyard. Matthew (Matthew 21:34) says He sent

"His servants." Mark mentions them in detail. These servants were the prophets,

as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others, whom the Jews persecuted and slew in different

ways, as the reprovers of their vices. But the mercy of God was long-suffering,

and still triumphed over their wickedness. In his account of this parable Mark is

very minute. The first servant that was sent received no fruit, and was beaten.

The second received much worse usage. According to the Authorized Version

the words are, At him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent

him away shamefully handled (κἀκεῖνον λιθοβολήσαντες ἐκεφαλαίωσαν καὶ

ἀπέστειλαν ἠτιμωμένονkakeinon lithobolaesantes ekephalaiosan kai

apesteilan aetimomenonand that one pelting with stones the hit his head

and dispatch him having dishonered him). The word λιθοβολήσαντες (casting stones)

is, however, not to be found in the best authorities; and the right reading of the next

word is apparently ἐκεφαλίωσαν (they hit his head) a very unusual word; but the

context makes it plain that it expresses some injury done to the head. The other

form of the word is usual enough; but it ordinarily signifies "a summing up,"

"a gathering up into a head." And handled shamefully ἠτιμωμένον); literally,

dishonored. The third messenger they killed outright. The words run. And him

they killed; and many others; beating some, and killing some. The construction

here is incomplete, although the meaning is plain. The complete sentence would be,

"And him they killed; and they did violence to many others, beating some and

killing some."

 

6 “Having yet  therefore one son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto

them, saying, They will reverence my son.  7 But those husbandmen said among

themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be

ours.  8 And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.” 

Having yet therefore one son, his well-beloved. There is strong evidence in favor

of a different reading here: namely (ἔτι ἕνα εἰχεν υἱὸν ἀγαπητὸν - eti hena eichen

huion agapaeton - he had yet one, a beloved son). There is something very touching

in this form of expression. Many messages had been sent; many means had been tried.

But one other resource remained. "There is one, a beloved on. I will send him; they

will, surely reverence him (ἐντραπήσονται τὸν υἰόν μου - entrapaesontai ton huion

mouthey shall be respecting the son of me). They will reflect, and reflection will

bring shame and submission and reverence." This was the last effort of Divine mercy

the sending of the Incarnate God, whom the Jews put to death without the city.

Mark's words seem rather to imply that they killed him within the vineyard, and

cast out the dead body. But it is possible that in his narrative he mentions the

climax first - they killed him, and then returns to a detail of the dreadful tragedy;

they cast him out of the vineyard, and there slew him (Matthew 21:39.)

 

9 “What shall therefore the Lord of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy

the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.”  What therefore will the

lord of the vineyard do? In Matthew's narrative the scribes answer this question.

Luke, as Mark here, assigns the answer to our Lord. It would seem probable that

the scribes first answered Him, and that then He Himself repeated their answer,

and confirmed it by His looks and gesture; so that from thence, as well as from what

followed, they might sufficiently understand that He spake these things of them.

Then, according to Luke (Luke 20:16), they subjoined the words, "God forbid!"

an expression wrung from their consciences, which accused them and told them

that the parable applied to them. Here, then, we have a distinct prediction of the

rejection of the Jews and the call of the Gentiles.

 

10 “And have ye not read  this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected

is become the head of the corner:  11 This was the Lord’s doing, and it is

marvelous in our eyes?  This quotation is from Psalm 118:22, where David

prophesies of Christ. The meaning is plainly this, that the chief priests and scribes,

as the builders of the Jewish Church, rejected Christ from the building as a useless

stone; yea, more - they condemned and crucified Him. They rejected Him

(ἀπεδοκίμασαν - apedokimasan - reject). The verb in the Greek implies that the

stone was first examined and then deliberately refused. But this stone, thus

disallowed and set at naught by the builders, was made the head of the corner.

The image here is different from that used in the Epistles, where Christ is spoken

of as the chief Corner-stone in the foundation. Here He is represented as the

Corner-stone in the cornice. In real truth He is both. He is the tried

Foundation-stone. But he is also the Head of the corner. In the great spiritual

building He is "all and in all," uniting and binding together all in one. This

was the Lord's doing (παρὰ Κυρίου ἐγένετο αὕτη - para Kuriou egeneto hautae - 

beside Lord became this; literally, this was from the Lord. The feminine (αὔτη)

refers apparently to κεφαλή - kephalaehead of v. 10. This lifting up of the

despised and rejected stone to be the Corner-stone of the cornice was God's work;

and was a fitting object for wonder and praise.

 

Foundations are not now laid as in olden times. Foundation stones are now

mere ornaments. There is no sense in which buildings now rest on them.

Memorial stones are taking the place of foundation stones. Probably the

figure of the “cornerstone” is taken from the corner of Mount Moriah,

which had to be built up from the valley, in order to make a square area for

the temple courts. Dean Plumptre says, “In the primary meaning of the

psalm, the illustration seems to have been drawn from one of the stones,

quarried, hewn, and marked, away from the site of the temple, which the

builders, ignorant of the head architect’s plans, had put on one side, as

having no place in the building, but which was found afterwards to be that

on which the completeness of the structure depended, that on which, as the

chief cornerstone, the two walls met, and were bonded together.”

 

12 ‘And they sought to lay hold on Him, but feared the people: for they knew

that He had spoken the parable against them: and they left Him, and went

their way.”  The scribes and Pharisees knew, partly from the words of this psalm,

and partly from the looks of Christ, that they were spoken against them. So they

sought in their rage and malice to lay hold on Him; but they feared the people,

with whom He was still popular. Thus, however, by His rebuke of the scribes and

Pharisees, He prepared the way for that death which, within three days, they

brought upon Him. And the counsel of God was fulfilled for the redemption of

men by THE BLOOD OF CHRIST!.

 

 

 

                                    Rebel Vine-dressers (vs. 1-12)

 

By this time there was no further prospect or possibility that the fate of

Jesus might be averted. His entry into Jerusalem in state, and his cleansing

of the temple, were acts that the priests, scribes, and Pharisees could not

pardon, for they were a claim to authority altogether incompatible with

their own. And the words of Jesus were as bold as His acts; their justice and

severity enraged the rulers beyond all degree. The enemies of truth and

righteousness were by this time fully resolved to strike down Him whose

character and ministry were the living embodiment of what they most

hated. It was only a question of time and manner and instrumentalities. All

this Jesus knew, and he knew that “his hour was come.” There was no

occasion now for reticence, and there was no longer any end to be

subserved by it. His speech was always plain and faithful, but now his

denunciations were unsparing, and His warnings terrible. On this Tuesday

morning of His last week, our Lord summed up in this parable of “the

wicked husbandmen,” “the rebel vine-dressers,” the rebellious history of

Israel in the past, and the approaching doom of Israel in the future. It was

in the temple precincts, and in the presence both of the people and of the

chief priests, that the great Teacher so boldly asserted His own special

mission and authority, and so emphatically foretold His own fate and the

judgment which should overtake the guilty nation. The immediate

application of the parable is clear enough. No word was needed to declare who

was represented by the vineyard. “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is

the house of Israel.”  (Isaiah 5:7)  And the details of the parable were minutely

historic.  How often had “a servant” been sent “that he might receive of the

fruits of the vineyard”! How often had he been “handled shamefully”! Now a

last chance is offered. “He had yet one, a beloved son: he sent him last unto

them.” The rest is prophecy ready to be fulfilled, and so soon to become

history also. But the appeal, “What therefore will the lord of the vineyard

do?” He does not leave them to answer, but supplies it in simple words and

in such manner as to make the reply an admonitory warning. Alas! our eyes

behold the precise fulfillment. And the rejected stone is now the

Foundation-stone, “the Head of the corner.”  (Psalm 118:23)  Israel was the

vineyard planted in the election of Abraham, and hedged about and provided with

all things needful, in the giving of the Law by Moses and in the settlement in

Canaan under Joshua. The Eternal, who had so favored the chosen people, had

sent prophets in three periods — that of Samuel, that of Elijah and Elisha, and

that of Isaiah and Jeremiah — to summon Israel to a life of spirituality and

obedience corresponding with their privileges. The Jews had not fulfilled

the Law of God, or rendered to Heaven the fruits meet for repentance. And

now He, the Son of God, was among them, the final Embassy from the

throne of the great King. (Hebrews 1:1-3)  It was but too plain to all eyes that

the unfruitfulness and rebellion of Israel reached the most awful height just

when their advantages were the greatest, and the mercy of the Eternal was

most conspicuous. (What about us today who are on the verge of the Second

Advent of Jesus Christ? – CY – 2010)  They, who had rejected and slain the

prophets, were now plotting against the very Son of God. They were about to

put Him to death, because He told them the truth and urged the rightful claims

and demands of His Father. They might think, and did think, that this would be

the end; but such an expectation was delusive: it was incompatible with the

righteous government of God. And the Lord plainly foretold them that, as

surely as God reigned in heaven and on earth, so surely should the rebellion

of Israel be awfully and signally chastised, their special privileges come to a

perpetual end, and the blessings which they were rejecting be conferred by

God’s sovereign favor upon others, who should render the fruits in their

seasons. (The difference, as I see it, the coming of Jesus the Second Time,

will be the “consummation of the age”.  [Daniel 9:27] – CY – 2010)  Forty

years afterwards Jerusalem was destroyed, the Jews were scattered, and their

national life came to an end; and the kingdom of God was established among the

Gentiles. The parable has lessons, not only for Israel, but for us; it embodies truth

spiritual, practical, and impressive.

 

 

  • OUR EARTHLY OCCUPATION: TO TILL THE VINEYARD OF GOD.

      The figure sets forth our vocation and responsibility. It represents our life as

      one of privilege. It is not a wilderness, but a vineyard, which we are called to        

      cultivate. God has done much for us, in appointing for us the circumstances

      and opportunities of our existence. Our life is one of work.  The most

      favorable situation and the most fruitful soil avail little if the plot be

      neglected; only faithful and diligent labor on our part can secure that the

            purposes of the Divine Lord shall be fulfilled. It is for us to “give diligence

            to make our calling and election sure.” (II Peter 1:10)  The greater our    

            privileges, the more need that we should be diligent, laborious, and prayerful.       

            Opportunities must be used, and not neglected or abused.

 

  • GOD’S RIGHTEOUS EXPECTATION: THAT WE SHALL YIELD

      HIM FRUIT. What is the crop, the produce, He desires to see? Holiness

            and obedience, love and praise, as far as He is concerned; and, as far as

            regards our fellow-men, justice and gentleness, benevolence and

            helpfulness. (Micah 6:8)  He looks for repentance from the sinner, for faith

            from the hearer of the gospel, for improvement in character and for usefulness

            in service from the Christian. Why He does this is obvious enough. He has

            given us the means of knowledge and the opportunities of devotion, and

            looks for a return. “What more,” He says, “could I have done than I have

            done?” (Isaiah 5:4)  And this expectation is for our sake as well as for His

            own. Our fruitfulness is our welfare and our happiness; it brings its own

            reward.

 

  • GOD’S REQUIREMENT AND DEMAND UPON MEN, BY HIS

      MESSENGERS AND BY HIS SON. Our Lord appeals to us both by the

            Law and by the gospel. The teaching of His Word brings before us His

            rightful claims, and shows us how much it is for our highest advantage that

            we should not be unmindful of them. He summons us by the lessons of His

            providence, and by the counsels of our Christian friends, to a religious life.

            Yet there is no appeal so powerful, so persuasive, as that which God

            makes to us by his own “dear Son.” (He sent Him last)  Christ comes to us

            with authority; He comes to us with grace. He comes from the Father, and He       

            comes with the deepest interest in our condition, anxious to overcome our

            rebelliousness, and to lead us to a holy and grateful obedience. The gospel of        

            Jesus Christ is the one great, Divine appeal to the hearts of men. It is the

            method which infinite Wisdom and Mercy have devised of winning our    

            confidence and love, (and that before the creation of the world – Revelation

            13:8 – CY – 2010) and securing our ready obedience and loyal service.

            Those who have rejected other messengers of Heaven may justly be enjoined

            to receive with reverence the Son of God.

 

  • THE PENALTIES OF FRUITLESSNESS AND REBELLION.

            These are described in this passage in the most affecting terms. Privileges

            are removed from the unfaithful. The negligent and rebellious are punished

            and cast out. The advantages which they have spurned are transferred to

            others.

 

  • THE REWARD OF FRUITFULNESS AND LOYALTY.

 

Ø      Christ is glorified, even though there may be those who reject and

      contemn Him.  Christ Himself quotes a passage of Scripture, in which

      this great truth is set forth, though by a change of figure. “The stone         

      which the builders rejected is become the Head of the corner.”

      (Psalm 118:22)  The purposes of God are accomplished, and cannot be      

      frustrated by the guilt of man.

 

Ø      Other husbandmen are found who will deal more faithfully with the

      sacred trust. These shall offer the fruits of obedience, which shall be          

      acceptable to the Lord of the vineyard. They shall be confirmed in

      their occupation, shall be blessed in their work, shall enjoy the

      Master’s favor, and shall live in the light of their Master’s glory.

 

 

 

The Parable of the Vineyard (vs. 1-12)

 

The imagery adopted would at once address itself to the understanding of

the hearers. Palestine pre-eminently a land of the grape. The prophetic

writings are full of symbols and figures from the vine. This was spoken in

continuation of His dispute with the Sanhedrim, and in the presence of all

the people in the temple. The historical allusions to the prophets and the

personal one to Himself must have been only too clear. It was a detailed

and crescent indictment of the most solemn and awful character.

 

  • GOD’S LOVING PROVISION FOR THE SPIRITUAL INTERESTS

OF HIS PEOPLE INVOLVED CORRESPONDING OBLIGATION.

 

  • INSTEAD OF SERVING GOD, THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF

ISRAEL SOUGHT THEIR OWN ADVANTAGE.

 

  • SELFISHNESS AND UNBELIEF LED TO THE REJECTION OF

THE PROPHETS, AND EVEN OF THE SON OF GOD HIMSELF.

 

  • SUCH CONDUCT ENTAILS A JUDGMENT, WHICH,

ALTHOUGH DELAYED, IS NEVERTHELESS SURE AND

TERRIBLE.

 

  • THE LOVING PURPOSE OF GOD, ALTHOUGH HINDERED BY

SUCH MEANS, WILL PREVAIL!

 

 

 

                        THE QUESTION OF THE TRIBUTE MONEY

 

13 “And they send unto Him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians,

to catch Him in His words.  14 And when they were come, they say

unto Him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for

thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth:

Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?  Matthew (Matthew 22:15) tells us

that "the Pharisees took counsel how they might ensnare Him (ὅπως αὐτὸν

παγιδεύσωσιν - hopos auton pagideusosin - so that Him they should be trapping)

in His talk;" namely, by proposing to Him captious and insidious questions, which,

in whatever way He might answer them, might expose Him to danger. On this

occasion they enlisted the Herodians to join them in their attack upon Him. These

Herodians were a sect of the Jews who supported the house of Herod, and were in

favor of giving tribute to the Roman Caesar. They were so called at first from

Herod the Great, who was a great supporter of Caesar. Tertullian, St. Jerome, and

others say that these Herodians thought that Herod was the promised Messiah,

because they saw that in him the scepter had departed from Judah (Genesis 49:10).

Herod encouraged these flatterers, and so put to death the infants at Bethlehem,

that he might thus get rid of Christ, lest any other than himself might be regarded

as Christ. They said at it was on this account that he rebuilt the temple with so

much magnificence. The Pharisees took, of course, altogether the other side,

and stood forward as the supporters of the Law of Moses and of their national

freedom. So, in order that they might ensnare Him, they sent to Him their disciples

with the Herodians, and in the most artful manner proposed to Him, apparently in

good faith, a question which answer it how He might, would, as they hoped, throw

Him upon the horns of a dilemma. If He said that tribute ought to be given to Caesar,

He would expose Himself to the malice of the Jewish people, who prided themselves

upon their freedom. If, on the other hand, He said that tribute ought not to be given to

Caesar, He would incur the wrath of Caesar and of the Roman power.

 

15 "Shall we give, or shall we not give? But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said

unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.  And they

brought it. And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

And they said unto Him, Caesar’s." Matthew (Matthew 22:18) says, "But Jesus

perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?' You pretend

that you are approaching me with a good conscience, sincerely desirous to know how

you ought to act in this matter; when at the same time you are enemies alike of me

and of God, and are thirsting for my blood, and are doing all in your power to

torment me, and to entangle me by fraud. "The first virtue," says St. Jerome,

"of the respondent is to know the mind of the questioner, and to adapt his answer

accordingly." These Pharisees and Herodians flatter Christ that they may destroy

Him; but He rebukes them, that, if possible, He might save them. Bring me a penny,

that I may see it. The Roman denarius was equal to about eight-pence halfpenny.

This was the coin in which the tribute money was to be paid. It had stamped upon

it the image of Tiberius Caesar, the then reigning Roman emperor. The cognomen

of Caesar was first given to Julius Caesar, from whom it was devolved to his

successors. The current coin of the country proved the subjection of the country

to him whose image was upon it. Maimonides, quoted by Dr. John Lightfoot

(vol. 2 p. 230), says, "Wheresoever the money of any king is current, there the

inhabitants acknowledge that king for their lord."

 

17 "And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are

Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marveled at Him.” 

Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are

God's. It is as though our Lord said, "Since you Jews are now subject to Caesar -

and there is here this evidence of it, that his coin is current amongst you; you would

not use it were you not obliged, because all Gentile rites and symbols are an abhorrence

to you; - but since Caesar demands nothing of you but his tribute - the coin stamped

with his own image and name - it is your duty to render to him his own denarius for

tribute. But spiritual things, such as worship and obedience, give these to God; for

these He demands from you as His right, and by so doing you will offend neither

God nor yet Caesar." Our Lord, in His infinite wisdom, avoids the question altogether

whether the Jews were rightly in subjection to the Romans. This was a doubtful

question. But there could be no doubt as to the fact that they were tributary. This

was made plain by the evidence of the current coin. Now, this being so, it was

manifestly the duty of the Jewish people to give to Caesar the tribute money which

he demanded of them for the expenses of government, and especially of supporting

an army to defend them from their enemies. And it was no less their duty to give their

tribute to God, which He in His own right demanded of them as His creatures and

faithful subjects. The rights of Caesar are one thing, and those of God are another;

and there is nothing that need clash between them. State polity is not opposed to

religion, nor religion to state. Tertullian says, "'Render to Caesar the things that

are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's;' that is, give to Caesar his image

stamped upon his coin, and give to God His own image stamped upon you; so that

while you render to Caesar the coin which is his due, you may render your own self

to God." This wonderful answer of our Lord teaches us that we ought to try to speak

so wisely, and so to moderate our speech amongst those who are captious (fault finding),

that we may, if possible, offend neither side, but steer safely between Scylla and

Charybdis.  And they marveled at Him. The true Greek reading of the verb here is not

ἐθαύμασαν - ethaumasan - they marvel, but ἐξεθαύμαζον - exethaumazon -, they

marveled greatly at Him; they stood marveling greatly at Him. They marveled at His

wisdom and skill in extricating Himself so readily out of this net in which they had

hoped to entangle Him. Indeed, the words of the psalmist (Psalm 9:15) were verified

in them: "The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands." He vaulted over the

trap set for Him, leaving them entangled in it. He lifted up the question far above the

petty controversy of the hour, and affirmed a great principle of natural and religious

obligation which belongs alike to ALL TIMES and PERSONS and PLACES.

 

 

 

 

Caesar's Due (vs. 13-17)

 

There could not have been a more decisive proof of the duplicity and hypocrisy of the

Jewish leaders than that furnished by this incident. It is certain that they were opposed

to the Roman sway, that they nursed in their hearts hopes of Jewish independence, that

they would have eagerly welcomed such a Messiah as they looked for — one who

should deliver them from the yoke of foreign bondage. Yet, in their malignity, they

were ready to denounce Jesus to the Roman governor should He express an opinion

adverse to the paying of tribute, just as they were ready to deliver Him up to the fury

of the populace should He formally approve and sanction the rights of the empire over

the Jewish people.  Unable to take Him with their wicked hands, because they dared

not, they send selected men from the Pharisees and the Herodians. They have

instructions to lay a trap with a view “to catch Him in talk.” “In vain is the

net spread in the sight of any bird.” (Proverbs 1:17)  But these blind catchers

thought Him to be blind also. In specious words they ply Him with a question relating

to an oppressive tax. “If He held that payment should be refused, He would

compromise Himself with the Romans; if He sanctioned it, He would

embitter Himself both with the Herodians and the ultra-national party,” But

he who “knew what was in man” (John 2:25) knew their hypocrisy, and in a word,

and doubtless with a look, exposed it. “Why tempt ye me?” Then with the coin

before their eyes, which was at once the symbol of their unfaithfulness to

God and their subjection to man, He threw back upon them the onus of

answering themselves in their own conscience and by their own deeds. Ah!

“in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.” But Jesus does not only

evade the dilemma on which they had cast Him; nor does He merely utter a

word of condemnation to them who had failed to “render unto God the

things that are God’s,” and who would be only too glad to escape

rendering “to Caesar the things that” were “Caesar’s.” But He, in high

wisdom, teaches the great truth for all time, that fidelity to the demands of

God and fidelity to the constituted powers of earth need not clash. The

loyalty of the subject and the obedience of the saint are on the same plane.

So a just distribution is made of things pertaining to Caesar and of things

pertaining to God, and yet the true unity of the service rendered to both is

declared; and, moreover, as God is above all, the duty includes the

duty to Caesar.

 

When a conflict occurs between the allegiance due to the civil ruler and that due to

the supreme King, our Lord’s words warrant the preference of the Divine to the

human law. In times of persecution especially, the principle of our Lord’s words has

often guided the wavering and sustained the feeble. “Whether it be right to obey

God rather than man, judge ye!”  (Acts 4:19)   We may say that the modern

privilege of religious liberty has grown out of this incident in our Lord’s ministry,

these words from our Lord’s lips. And to the same source we may attribute the

growing tendency on the part of secular powers to withdraw from the province of

religion, and to allow free scope to the action of conscience and full liberty for the

profession and for the rites of religion. (At least, this is what our Founding Fathers

believed and from them came The United States Constitution of which British

Prime Minister Gladstone, of the time said, the Constitution was the most

wonderful work to ever come from the mind or pen of man.  Now, in the

last 50 years, those who espouse the non-constitutional phrase – Separation of

Church and State have basically attempted to neuter religion from the American scene –

we must remember that “There is a province into which no earthly authority

may intrude, and where the Creator reigns supreme and alone.” – CY –

2010)

 

 

                        JESUS REFUTES THE SADDUCEES

 

18 “Then come unto Him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and

they asked Him, saying, 19 Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die,

and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take

his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.  20 Now there were seven brethren:

and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.  21 And the second took her, and

died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.  22 And the seven had her,

and left no seed: last of all the woman died also.  23 "In the resurrection therefore,

when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife." 

And there come unto him Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection. Josephus

states that in the time of Judas Maceabaeus there were three sects of the Jews, differing

amongst themselves, namely"

 

Ø      the Pharisees,

Ø      the Sadducees, and

Ø      the Essenes.

 

The Hebrew word Zadoc, from which the Sadducees derive their name, means "just."

or" righteous." These Sadducees accepted the Pentateuch, and probably more than

the Pentateuch; but they rejected any oral tradition. They were known in the time

of our Lord as denying those doctrines which connect us more immediately with

another world, such as the existence of spirits and of angels, and the resurrection

of the body. They altogether denied fate, affirming that all things are in our own

power. They heard Christ preach the resurrection, and by means of it persuade

men to repentance and a holy life. They therefore proposed to him a question

which appeared to them to be fatal to the doctrine of a future state and a resurrection.

The case supposed is that of seven brethren, who, in compliance with the Law of

Moses, one after another, as each died in succession, took the same woman to wife.

It is probable that such a case may actually have occurred; at any rate, it was a

possible case. And the question founded upon it by the Sadducees was this -

Whose wife would she be of them in the resurrection? Here, then, they hoped to

entangle Him, and to show that the doctrine of the resurrection was absurd. For

if our Lord should say that in the resurrection she would be the wife of one only,

the other brethren would have been excited to envy and continual strife. Nor could

He have said that she would be common to the seven brothers. Such were the

absurdities which, as they intimated, would flow out of His doctrine of the

resurrection, if it could be proved. But our Lord scatters to the winds all

this foolish reasoning, by adding one clause omitted by them, and overlooked

by men of mere earthly minds, namely, that in the world to come this widow

would be the wife of none of the seven brethren.

 

24 "And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye

know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?'  These Sadducees erred in

two ways:

 

(1) They did not know or remember the Scriptures, such as Job 19:25-27, "I know that

my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:  And

though after my skin worms destroy this body, YET IN MY FLESH SHALL I SEE

GOD:  Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another;

though my reins be consumed within me."   Or in Isaiah (Isaiah 26:19), "Thy dead

men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise;" or in Daniel (Daniel

12:2), "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to

everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." 

 

(2) They did not know the power of God, namely, that He can raise the bodies of the

dead again to life, even as at first He created them out of nothing; for a greater power

is required to make that to be which was not, than to make that again to be which

once was. But then the resurrection life will be a new life, spiritual, glorious, eternal,

like that of the angels. So in these words our Lord struck at the double root of the

error of the Sadducees:

 

a.      ignorance of the Scriptures, which plainly teach the resurrection; and

b.      ignorance of the power of God, which led them to interpret these Scriptures,

which speak of the resurrection, to mean only a mystical resurrection from

vice to virtue.

 

25 "For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given

in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven."  But are as angels in

heaven - not "the angels;" the οἱ - hoi - the is omitted. The blessed, after the

resurrection, will be like angels:

 

Ø      as to purity,

Ø      as to a spiritual life,

Ø      as to immortality,

Ø      as to happiness and glory.

 

There will be no necessity for marriages in heaven. Here, on earth, the father dies,

but he lives on in his children after death. In heaven there is no death, but every

one will live and be blessed for ever; and therefore it is that Luke 20:36 adds here,

"Neither can they die any more." St. Augustine says, "Marriages are on account

of children; children on account of succession; succession on account of death.

But in heaven, as there is no death, neither is there any marriage."

 

26 "And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book

of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of

Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?"   Mark is here careful

to state that what Matthew describes as "the word spoken by God" was to be found

in the book of Moses (Exodus 3:5), in the place concerning the Bush (ἐπὶ τῆς βάτου -

epi taes batou on the thorn bush), as it is correctly rendered in the Revised Version.

Our Lord might have brought yet clearer proofs out of Job, Daniel, Ezekiel, etc.;

but in His wisdom He preferred to allege this out of Moses and the Pentateuch,

because, whatever the views of the Sadducees may have been as to other parts of

the Old Testament, these books of Moses they readily acknowledged. I am the

God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. The force of the

argument is this, that "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Their

souls are still alive; and if these patriarchs are still alive, THERE WILL BE A

RESURRECTION!  (God "……hath appointed a day, in which He will judge

the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He

hath given ASSURANCE TO ALL MEN, in that HE HATH RAISED HIM

FROM THE DEAD!"  (Acts 17:31 - I personally believe that “the zeal of the

Lord of hosts will perform this” [Isaiah 9:7] – CY – 2010) If men are to live for

ever, they will, sooner or later, live again in the completeness of their being, namely,

of body and soul and spirit. Our Lord would, therefore, say this: "In a few days you

will put me to death; but in three days I shall rise again from the dead. And after

that, in due time I shall raise them from the dead at the last day, and bring them in

triumph with me into heaven." The Sadducees and the Epicureans denied the

resurrection, because they denied the immortality of the soul; for these two doctrines

hang together. For if the soul is immortal, then, since it naturally depends upon the

body, it is necessary that the body should rise. Otherwise the soul would continue to

exist in a dislocated state, and would only obtain a divided life and an imperfect

existence. Hence our Lord here distinctly proves the resurrection of the body from

the immortality of the soul. When He speaks of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He does

not speak of their souls only, but of THEIR WHOLE BEING! Therefore, though

they are for a time dead to us, yet they live to God, and sleep, as it were, because

ere long God will raise them from death, as from a sleep, to a blessed and endless

life. For all, though they have passed out of our sight, still LIVE UNTO HIM!

(II Corinthians 5:15)

 

27 "He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore

do greatly err.”  Ye therefore do greatly err. The Greek is, omitting the οϋν - oun -

then, simply ὑμεῖς πολὺ πλανᾶσθε - humeis polu planasthe - ye are being much

deceived, ye greatly err. The omission is more consistent with Mark's usual style.

The Sadducees entirely misunderstood the meaning of their own Scriptures.

 

 

                                               

Sadducees Confuted (vs. 18-27)

 

Of all the subjects which awaken the speculative curiosity and inquiry of men, none

approaches, in dignity and importance, the future life. The nobler spirits, in every

civilized and cultured community, have either held as an article of faith, or have

cherished with fondest hope, the prospect of immortality. Annihilation is a

prospect which none but the degraded and sinful can consent to accept without

shuddering horror. It has often been observed as very remarkable, though not

inexplicable, that the Pentateuch contains no express, explicit statement regarding

a future life. It appears that the revelation of immortality was progressive; for

expectations regarding a conscious existence of happiness after death are certainly

found with growing frequency in the later books of the Old Testament. The psalmists

and prophets rejoiced in the hope of a heavenly rest and an imperishable fellowship

with the Father of spirits. At the time of our Lord’s ministry there was a

division among the religious authorities of the Jewish people upon this all-important

subject; the Pharisees holding to the doctrines of immortality and resurrection, and the

Sadducees denying and apparently ridiculing both. Amongst the Sadducees were many

of the most intellectual of the upper classes of society.  (Is it not the same today among

the most liberal hedonists and free-thinkers? – CY – 2010)  They also retained in their

own leading families the office of high priest. Both our Lord Christ and His apostle

Paul took a very decided stand against the Sadducaic doctrine and party. During the

last week of our Lord’s ministry, when the conflict with His enemies was reaching

its height, many assaults were made from various quarters against Jesus and His claims

and teaching. This passage records the attack of the rationalistic party upon the

Divine Master, and His conclusive repulse of that attack.  They heard Christ preach

the resurrection, and by means of it persuade men to

 

  • THE REASONING OF THE SADDUCEES AGAINST THE TEACHING

OF OUR LORD UPON IMMORTALITY AND RESURRECTION.

 

Ø      It was indirect reasoning. Instead of attacking the doctrine, they simply

      attacked a supposed inference from it, viz. the continuance of physical

                        human relations in another life.

 

Ø      It was frivolous reasoning. They must have found it hard to state with

                        serious faces a case so absurd. It would have been childish had they

                        supposed the woman to have married twice; the supposition that she

                        should confront in the resurrection life the rival claims of seven

                        husbands was ridiculous.

 

Ø      Difficulties of belief are often idle luxuries of the mind. One cannot

suppose that these men were really troubled by such a question as they

raised. It was  sheer idleness, bred of useless school life. And so with

many theoretical questions pretended to be of serious importance:

pressing into what is inaccessible and kept in reserve by God.  They are

solved by walking.” Act — act rightly here and now, and the question

will solve itself, or cease to interest.

 

Ø      What else but childish is this confusion of earthly relations with the

      spiritual kingdom? Marriage, birth, and death are time-changes; belong

      to the idea of earth and time, not to eternity. And the least instructed       

      mind feels that this is so. There are enough mysteries in the present life

      to engage our attention without prying into those beyond.

 

  • THE GENERAL REPLY OF THE LORD JESUS TO THIS REASONING.

 

Ø      Jesus refutes the argument, if it can be so called, which they had

      adduced.  Marriage is an earthly institution, and is especially adapted

      to a mortal race, providing that generation shall succeed generation.

      Love is indeed imperishable, and shall be perfected in heaven; but  

      marriage shall no longer be necessary when men shall be equal to the          

      angels, and shall sin and die no more. Therefore no reasoning founded       

      upon the continuance of this physical relationship has place with

      reference to the life beyond the grave.

 

Ø      Christ bases the doctrine of the future life upon the power of God,

      which they strangely overlooked. It is the reasoning which was

      repeated by Paul, to Herod Agrippa,  “Why should it be thought a

      thing impossible with you that God should raise the dead?” (Acts

      26:8)  The omnipotence which first called human nature into being is         

      surely able to revive the spirit and perpetuate its consciousness and            

      activity. This is an unanswerable argument still against all dogmatic

      denial of the future life. It does not in itself establish the doctrine, but

      it is conclusive against those who deny it. It removes the presumption       

      from the opponents to the upholders of immortality.

 

Ø      Christ refers to the Scriptures for grounds for belief in a future life.

                        The one great historic Word, the basis of the national consciousness,

                        sheds its sufficient light upon the question. God does not claim dead        

                        objects for His own. Souls that He calls His, “do of His own dear life

                        partake,” and “never will he them forsake.” (Hebrews 13:5) 

                         “Those who are now dead to men still live in God.” (John 11:25-26)

 

           

·         THE SPECIAL ARGUMENT BY WHICH THE LORD JESUS

            ESTABLISHES FAITH IN IMMORTALITY AND A FUTURE LIFE.

 

Ø      Jesus refers to an authority which the Sadducees professed emphatically

                        to revere — the Pentateuch. “The Law” was their especial pride, and

                        they may have justified their scepticism by the absence of explicit

                        teaching upon this great doctrine from the books of Moses.  (Reader,

                         the oldest book in the Bible is supposed to be Job.  Genesis gives

                        the account of things much anterior to Job, but from Job we get

                        these words which give me hope and are an inspiration!  For I know

                        that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day

                        upon the earth:  And though after my skin worms destroy this

                        body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:  Whom I shall see for myself,

                        and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins

                        consumed within me.  [Job 19:25-27] -  CY – 2010)

 

Ø      Jesus quotes a familiar passage, in which He reads, or from which He

                        deduces, a new and striking and convincing argument. It is upon

                        record that God declared Himself to Moses as “the God of Abraham,

                        of Isaac, and of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6)  Now, what did this imply?

                        That God had been their God, but that, they having ceased to exist, He

                        was no longer? Or, that He was the God of their molding or dispersed

                        dust, which, upon the theory of annihilation, was all that remained of

                        them? Either those who had been wont to read this passage must have

                        passed it over without reflection, or they must have been satisfied with

                        an interpretation crude and empty. Or else they must have drawn the

                        inference which the great Master now drew:  “God is not the God of

                        the dead, but of the living.” Once He declares Himself His people’s

                        God, He remains such for ever; and they remain His, conscious

                        recipients of His favor, and responsive partakers of His Divine

                        and Fatherly love. He is a covenant God; His promises are never

                        broken, and His declarations never fail. An immortal God involves

                        the immortality of those whom He has created in His image, redeemed

                        by His grace, renewed by His Spirit. If He is what He has revealed

                        Himself as being, if His people are what He has declared them to be,

                        then death has no power over them; “Death is swallowed up in

                        victory.  O death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy

                        victory?.....thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through

                        our Lord Jesus Christ!:  (I Corinthians 15:54,55,57, Isaiah 25:6-9)

                        they are destined to “glory, honor, and immortality.” (Romans 2:7)

                        For “all live in Him.”

 

 

                                               

                                    THE GREAT COMMANDMENT

 

28 “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning

together, and perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, Which is

the first commandment of all?  29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the

commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:  30 And thou

shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all

thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment."    Matthew

(Matthew 22:34) says here that the Pharisees, when they heard that he had put the

Sadducees to silence, gathered themselves together, and that then one of them, who

was a lawyer (νομίνος - nominos - lawyer; one learned in the law), that is, "a scribe,"

asked Him this question, What commandment is the first of all? It appears here

from Mark that this scribe had been present at the discussion with the Sadducees,

and he had probably informed the others of what had taken place, and of the wisdom

and power of our Lord's answer; so he was naturally put forward to try our Lord with

another crucial question. It does not necessarily appear that he had an evil intention

in putting this question. He may, in his own mind (seeing the wisdom and skill of

our Lord), have desired to hear what Christ had to say to a very difficult question

on a matter deeply interesting to all true Hebrews. The question was one much

mooted amongst the Jews in the time of our Lord. "For many," says Bede, "thought

that the first commandment in the Law related to offerings and sacrifices, with

regard to which so much is said in Leviticus, and that the right worship of God

consisted in the due offering of these." On this account the Pharisees encouraged

children to say "Corban" to their parents; and hence this candid and truth-loving

scribe, when he heard our Lord's answer about the love of God and of our neighbor,

said that such obedience was worth "more than all whole burnt offerings and

sacrifices."  (v.33)  With regard to the love of God, St. Bernard says, "The measure

of our love to God is to love Him without measure; for THE IMMENSE

GOODNESS OF GOD deserves all the love that we can possibly give to Him."

 

The answer of Jesus –Love is the sum of the Divine commandments. “Thou shalt love

the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind

and with all thy strength” -  God is Himself love; Christ is the expression and proof

of that Divine love, thus it is natural that love should be the Divine law of the

kingdom.  We love Him because He first loved us!  The whole of our nature is expected

to combine in this exercise.  God demands first place in our heart and in Christ

one cannot find it hard to offer what He demands!  Love to man follows love to

God.  In the parable of the good Samaritan Jesus  laid a broad foundation for human

charity. Not our own family, or Church, or nation, but all mankind, are to be

regarded with good will, and treated, not only with justice, but with kindness.

Practically, those have a claim upon our kindly feeling and good offices whom

Providence brings into any contact with us in human society. “Own no man any

thing, but to love one another:  for he that loveth another hath fulfilled

the law” – (Romans 13:8)  Helpfulness, self-denial, liberality, forbearance,

are all fruits of love and are destructive of discord, malice, and envy, of jealousy,

hatred and persecution!  Remark the measure of this love: “As thyself.” It is,

then, right to love self; but in subordination to Divine love, and in accordance with

love to neighbors  It appears here from Mark that this scribe had been

present at the discussion with the Sadducees, and he had probably informed

the others of what had taken place, and of the wisdom and power of our Lord’s

answer; so he was naturally put forward to try our Lord with another crucial

question. It does not necessarily appear that he had an evil intention in putting

this question. He may, in his own mind (seeing the wisdom and skill of our Lord),

have desired to hear what Christ had to say to a very difficult question on a matter

deeply interesting to all true Hebrews. The question was one much mooted amongst

the Jews in the time of our Lord.

 

31 “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

There is none other commandment greater than these."   Thou shalt love thy

neighbor as thyself. God is to be loved above everything - above all angels, or

men, or any created thing. But after God, amongst created things, our neighbor

is above all to be loved. And we are to extend to our neighbor that kind of love

with which we love ourselves. Our love of ourselves is not a frigid love, but a

sincere and ardent love. In like manner we should love our neighbor, and desire for

him all those good things both for the body and for the soul that we desire for

ourselves. This is what our Lord Himself teaches us. "All things whatsoever ye

would that men should do to you, even so do unto them." (Matthew  7:12)  There is

none other commandment greater than these. Matthew (Matthew 22:40) says, "On

these two commandments hang the whole Law and the prophets." There is no

commandment greater than these, because all the precepts of the Divine Law are

included in them. So that our Lord here teaches us that we ought continually to

have these two precepts in our minds and before our eyes, and direct all our

thoughts and words and actions by them, and regulate our whole life according

to them.

 

32"And the scribe said unto Him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: 

for there is one God; and there is none other but He:"  The first words of this

verse should be rendered thus: Of a truth, Master, thou hast well said that He is one.

In the remainder of the scribe's answer we find a different word used in the Greek

for “mind," or "understanding," from that just used by our Lord. In our Lord's answer

the word is διανοίας  - dianoiasmind; comprehension. Here (v. 33) it is συνέσεως

suneseosunderstanding. Both words are well rendered by "understanding." It is an

act of understanding.  It is an act of understanding. It is the thought associating

itself with the object.  Men may travel a long distance in the right direction, and

still may leave out the last and most important stage of the journey.  THE

UNDERSTANDING MUST BE FOLLOWED BY THE CONSENT  OF THE

WILL.  Other Sadducees, when answered and silenced by Jesus, retired discomfited,

but unconvinced. This rabbi, with a mind candid and open to the truth, receives the

 Lord’s saying as sufficient and decisive, and renders his own consent and

approbation in the words, “Thou hast well said.”  Grand indeed was this scribe’s

confession, that love “is much more than whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

All religions — the true as well as the false — are corrupted by a  tendency in

human nature to substitute the sacrificial, the ceremonial, the verbal, for

the real, the spiritual. Men think that to comply with directions, instructive

and profitable in themselves, but having reference only to symbolical actions,

is all important, and they give diligent attention to these, and neglect the weightier

matters of the Law. It is presumed that bodily service is sufficient, in

forgetfulness of the fact that God is the Searcher of hearts, and that He

will be worshipped in spirit and in truth.   (John 4:23-24)  This is a lesson which

still needs to be inculcated, even in days of Christian light and evangelical fervor.

Never be it forgotten that character and conduct are of supreme importance, and that

the only sufficient, conclusive evidence that a man has received the benefits of

redemption, and has felt the renewing power of the Spirit of God, is to be found in the

reign of love within his soul, and the manifestation of love in his whole character

 and life.  (John 13:34-35)  “It is better to obey than sacrifice” – (I Samuel 15:22)

 

33 "And to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding,

and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor

as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." 

Is more (περισσότερόν - perissoteronmuch more) - according to the most

approved reading, much more - than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

This scribe was evidently emerging out of the bondage of ceremonial things,

and perceiving the supremacy of the moral law.

 

34 "And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, Thou art

not far from the kingdom of God.  And no man after that durst ask Him any

question.”  And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly (νουνεχῶς - nounechos

discreetly; apprehendingly), He said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom

of God. It would appear from this answer that our Lord regarded him as one who

approached Him with the sincere desire to know the truth, and so He encouraged him.

This shows how powerful an influence our Lord's teaching had already exercised

amongst all classes of the Jews. This scribe, notwithstanding the prejudices of his

class, had reached the border-land of the kingdom. He had learned that the true way

to the kingdom was by the love of God and of our neighbor. He was not far from

the kingdom - not far from "the Church militant here on earth," by which is the way

to the Church triumphant in heaven. He was not far from the kingdom, but still he

wanted that which in the true pathway to the kingdom - faith in Christ as the Savior

of the world. And no man after that durst ask Him any question. Matthew

(Matthew 22:46) places these words after the next occurrence. But there is no

inconsistency in the two narratives, because in this next incident our Lord puts

the question to them; and this silenced both their questioning and their answering.

All felt that there was such a vast reach of wisdom and knowledge in all that He

said, that it was in vain to contend with Him.

 

 

 

                                    The Great Commandments (vs. 28-34)

 

Here is a statement, upon the highest authority, as to what God requires of man, as to

what man owes to God and to his fellow-men. “Do this, and thou shalt live!”

(Luke 10:28).  It is a sublime view of the great purposes of our spiritual being.

Beyond this religion cannot go; for this is the end for which our nature was framed,

for which revelation was vouchsafed. Yet who can read these requirements of a holy

and benevolent Creator and Ruler without feeling that by himself they have not been

fulfilled? The man must be besotted by self-conceit, or must have silenced conscience,

who claims to have loved God with all his powers, or to have uniformly loved his

 neighbor as himself. The purer, the more stringent the Law, the deeper the humiliation

and contrition of the transgressor. What, then, more fitted to induce sinners to receive

the gospel with faith and gratitude than these words of Jesus? What can make so

welcome the tidings of Divine forgiveness secured through the redemption wrought

by the Savior on the cross? And, further, as we meditate upon this ideal of a beautiful

and acceptable moral life, how profoundly are we impressed with a sense of our own

weakness! And surely this must lead us to seek and to accept the aid of the Spirit

of God, who is the Spirit at once of power and of love! Here is a summons to a

spiritual, a self-denying, and a benevolent life.

 

·         THE QUESTION PROPOSED TO JESUS.

 

Ø      In itself it was a worthy, a noble question. Unlike the trifling and

                        ridiculous riddle propounded by the Pharisees, it was an inquiry

                        becoming on the part of the scribe who urged it, and fit for the

                        consideration and judgment of the holy Master Himself. It respected

                        commandments, and thus acknowledged the rule of a just God, and

                        the duty of man’s obedience and submission. It concerned morality —

the highest of all human interests. It evinced an evident desire to do

what was right, and to give precedence to what should be acknowledged

best. There can be no nobler inquiry than this:

 

o       What is the will of God?

o       What is the duty of man?

o       What shall I do?

 

Ø      In its spirit and purport, the question was commendable. The questioner

observed that Jesus had answered well; that He had solved with marvelous

wisdom the difficult question of the Pharisees; that He had dealt skillfully

and conclusively with the caviling of the Sadducees. The limits of civil

submission are an interesting branch of study; the future life is of all

speculative questions the most engrossing to the thoughtful; but of even

wider interest are the foundation, the character, the means, of human

goodness. The inquiry as to the first of commandments was put as a testing

question, but in no captious spirit; it was the expression of a desire to learn

— to learn from the highest authority, to learn the most sacred principles

of moral life. And not to learn only, but doubtless to practice the lesson

acquired.

 

  • THE ANSWER OF JESUS TO THE SCRIBE. There was no

hesitation in the Master’s reply to the question proposed; the challenge was

at once taken up. And consummate wisdom was shown in the reference to

the Mosaic Law, the very words of which were quoted. Thus the right-minded

were conciliated, yet at no expense, but rather by the manifestation,

of truth. And the hostile were silenced; for who of the Jewish rabbis could

call in question the authority of their own sacred books? When we look

into the substance of the response, several remarkable facts become

apparent.

 

Ø      Love is represented as the sum of the Divine commandments. The

Pentateuch contained the injunctions our Lord repeated, but they were

included in a vast body of precepts and prohibitions. It could scarcely be

said with justice that love was the most prominent of the Mosaic

commandments. Christ’s independence, discernment, and legislative

authority were shown in His fixing upon the two requirements which occur

in different books and in different connections, and in bringing them out

into the light of day, and exhibiting them as in His view of surpassing

importance, and so promulgating them as the laws of His spiritual kingdom

through all time. God Himself is love; Christ is the expression and proof of

the Divine love; and it is therefore natural and reasonable that love should

be the law of the Divine kingdom, the badge of the spiritual family.

 

Ø      The Object of supreme love is God Himself. The personality of God is

assumed, for we cannot love an abstraction, a power; only a living being,

who thinks, feels, and purposes. The unity of God is asserted; for although,

when Jesus lived on earth, the Jews were no longer subject to the

temptation to idolatry, such temptation had beset them when the Law was

originally given, and for a long period subsequently. The relationship

between God and man is presumed — “thy God;” for He is ours and we are

His. The claims of God are implied; His character, His treatment of men, His

redeeming love in Christ. “We love Him, because He first loved us.”

(I John 4:19)

 

Ø      The description and degree of love demanded are very fully stated in the

text. The expression is a very strong one: “With all thy heart, soul, mind,

and strength.” Attempts have been made accurately to discriminate among

these. But it seems sufficient to say that the love required in such language

is cordial and fervent; cordial, as distinguished from mere profession, and

fervent, as distinguished from luke-warmness and indifference. The whole

of our nature is expected to combine, so to speak, in this exercise. Not

only so, but God is to be regarded as the supreme Object of affection and

devotion. He demands the first place in our heart; and those who see His

grace in Christ cannot find it hard to offer what He demands.

 

Ø      Love to man follows upon love to God. It may, indeed, in order of time,

in some measure precede and prepare for it. But in the moral order, in the

order of obligation, love to God comes first, and, indeed, furnishes the one

sound and safe basis for human love. The designation of the objects of this

love deserves notice; they are our “neighbors.” We must interpret this term

in the light of our Lord’s answer to an earlier question put to Him by a

certain lawyer: “Who is my neighbor?” In the parable of the good

Samaritan Jesus then laid a broad foundation for human charity. Not our

own family, or Church, or nation, but all mankind, are to be regarded with

good will, and treated, not only with justice, but with kindness. Practically,

those have a claim upon our kindly feeling and good offices whom

Providence brings into any contact with us in human society. Remark the

measure of this love: “As thyself.” It is, then, right to love self; but in

subordination to Divine love, and in accordance with love to neighbors.

The test is an effective one, and can always be applied; the Law is parallel

with the golden rule, “Do unto others as ye would they should do unto

you.” The dependence of this law upon the preceding is obvious.

Christianity bases morality upon religion; we love our fellow-men as the

children of God, because He loves them and for His sake.

 

Ø      Love, to be acceptable, must display itself in practical forms. The love

we cherish toward God should lead to worship and to obedience — in a

word, to a religious life. The love we entertain to our fellow-men will

reveal itself in the demeanor, the language, and still more in the conduct.

Helpfulness, self-denial, liberality, forbearance, are all fruits of love;

which is destructive of discord, malice, and envy, of jealousy, hatred, and

persecution. Here is the power to banish the vices, and the remedy to heal

the spiritual maladies which afflict mankind!

 

  • THE SCRIBE’S APPROVING CONSENT TO CHRIST’S REPLY.

 

Ø      He thus proved His independence of judgment. Others, when answered

and silenced by Jesus, retired discomfited, but unconvinced. This rabbi,

with a mind candid and open to the truth, receives the Lord’s saying as

sufficient and decisive, and renders his own consent and approbation in the

words, “Thou hast well said.”

 

Ø      He shows His pleasure in the grand utterances of inspiration by repeating

the language which Jesus had quoted — language evidently both familiar to

him and congenial to his character.

 

Ø      His boldness and spirituality are apparent in his stating, what Jesus had

implied, the superiority of the heart’s affection to all service of the hands.

 

  • THE COMMENDATION EXPRESSED BY JESUS.

 

Ø      The position of the lawyer was very different from that of others. There

were many who were “far” from God’s kingdom.

 

o        The Pharisees for the most part by their formality,

o        the Sadducees by their skepticism and arrogance,

o        the publicans and sinners by their vices,

o        the multitude by their ignorance,

 

these were far from the kingdom. Amongst those who may

justly be so described are always some who are outwardly numbered

among the religious, as well as multitudes who are without God, and

manifestly have no hope.

 

Ø      There were several respects in which this scribe approached the spiritual

kingdom of the Savior.

 

o        He was acquainted with God’s Word, and was interested in it; he

explored and studied it. He appreciated the grandeur and beauty of

the Divine Law, and he was bold and earnest in speaking of it. In all

this he displayed sympathy with Him who came to magnify and to

fulfill the Law, and who bade the people search the Scriptures.

(John 5:39)

 

o        He thoroughly agreed with the dictum of the great Master, with regard

to the first and most binding and comprehensive ordinances of the

inspired Word. Whether or not he was prepared with this answer to the

question he proposed, it is evident that the answer commended itself to

his judgment and conscience, and that the Divine Respondent was

regarded by him with reverential admiration. It is well to find the truth;

but it is also well, when others have found it, to recognize and to

accept it.

 

o        Grand indeed was this scribe’s confession, that love “is much more

than whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” All religions — the true

as well as the false — are corrupted by a tendency in human nature

to substitute the sacrificial, the ceremonial, the verbal, for the real,

the spiritual. Men think that to comply with directions, instructive

and profitable in themselves, but having reference only to symbolical

actions, is all important, and they give diligent attention to these, and

neglect the weightier matters of the Law. (Luke 11:42)  It is presumed

that bodily service is sufficient, in forgetfulness of the fact that

God is the Searcher of hearts, and that He will be worshipped in

spirit and in truth. This is a lesson which still needs to be inculcated,

even in days of Christian light and evangelical fervor. Never be it

forgotten that character and conduct are of supreme importance,

and that the only sufficient, conclusive evidence that a man has

received the benefits of redemption, and has felt the renewing power

of the Spirit of God, is to be found in the reign of love within his soul,

and the manifestation of love in his whole character and life.

 

  • THE RESERVATION AND QUALIFICATION IN OUR LORD’S

APPROVAL. If there was so much that was admirable in the spirit and the

language of this student and expositor of the Law, what was lacking? If he

was near the kingdom, what separated him from it, and prevented him from

entering in? This question we cannot answer with certainty; we can only

surmise. There may have been an inadequate sense of sin; his admiration of

Jesus may have come short of true faith in Him; and he may have been

unready to make a complete surrender of himself to the Lord Jesus. At all

events, we have no difficulty in enumerating various hindrances which, as a

matter of fact, do keep outside of the kingdom those who are very near its

confines. Christ’s dominion is one which cannot be entered except through

the door of repentance and of faith. True subjects come in sincere and

childlike humility, and receive the welcome promised; by the new birth they

enter the new life of the kingdom. The laws of the kingdom are spiritual,

and demand SPIRITUAL CONFORMITY! And the King is enthroned in

the HEART as well as in SOCIETY. You must become as little children

in order that you may enter the kingdom of God.

 

  • APPLICATION.

 

Ø      Let faith work by love in Christian natures; and let those who love

Christ prove by their spirit and their actions the sincerity of their love.

 

Ø      Let those who are near the kingdom, instead of resting in their nearness,

regard this as a reason why they should, without delay, enter the gates

before which they stand.

 

 

 

                        Not Far from the Kingdom of God (v. 34)

 

  • THE HIGHEST INTERPRETATION OF HUMAN DUTY

APPROACHES THE GOSPEL, BUT FALLS SHORT OF IT.

 

  • THE CONDITIONS OF ENTRANCE INTO CHRIST’S KINGDOM

ARE MORAL, AND NOT MERELY INTELLECTUAL.

 

Ø      Faith;

Ø      obedience;

Ø      love.

 

The heart, or central being.

 

  • NO MAN OUGHT TO BE SATISFIED WITH MERELY BEING

“NOT FAR” FROM THE KINGDOM.

 

Ø      To stop there is to stultify our highest spiritual instincts and tendencies.

Ø      To stop there is to fail of salvation.

To stop there is to aggravate our misery and sin.

 

 

                        JESUS TEACHES ABOUT THE SCRIBES

 

35 And Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, How say the

scribes that Christ is the son of David?”   Our Lord was now in the temple, and He

took the opportunity for instructing the scribes and Pharisees concerning His person

and His dignity. Thus, as ever, He returned good for evil. He here taught them that

the Messiah was not a mere man, as they supposed, but that He was both God and man,

and that therefore they ought not to wonder or to be offended because He called Himself

the Son of God. Matthew (Matthew 22:42) more fully gives their answer first, namely,

that "Christ is the Son of David." They should have said that, as God, He was the

Son of God, according to those words, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten

thee;"  (Psalm 2:7); but that, as man, He was the Son of David. Their answer was

very different from that of Peter: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

(Matthew 16:16)  But they lacked the Divine knowledge which the disciples had

gained.

 

36 “For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, 

Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.  37 David

therefore himself calleth Him Lord; and whence is He then his son? And the

common people heard Him gladly.”  The Lord said unto my Lord. From this

verse (Psalm 110:1) our Lord shows that the Messiah, such as He was, was not a

mere man, as the Pharisees thought, but that He was God, and therefore David's

Lord. The meaning, therefore, is this, "The Lord God said to my Lord," that is,

Christ, "Sit thou at my right hand," that is, when, after His cross, His death,

and His resurrection, He will exalt Him far above all principality and power,

and place Him next to Him in heaven, that He may reign with supreme happiness

and power and glory over all creatures. These words show that THIS IS A DIVINE

DECREE fixed and irrevocable. Till I make thine enemies thy footstool (ὑποπόδιον

τῶν ποδῶν σου - hupopodion - ton podon soufootstool of your feet); literally,

the footstool of thy feet; that is, reign with me in glory until the day of judgment,

when I will make the wicked, all opposing powers, subject to thee. The word "till"

does not imply that Christ will then cease to reign. "Of His kingdom there shall

be no end." (Isaiah 9:7)  But He will then formally deliver up the kingdom to God,

even the Father (I Corinthians 15:24); only that He may receive it again as the

second Person of the Godhead. 

 

 

David’s Son (vs. 35-37)

 

  • David’s prophetic spirit. “He was moved by the spirit of truth when he

foretold that his son would rule over all, and when he owned Him as Lord.”

The psalm had originally another bearing. But as all true poesy “smacks of

something greater than it seems,” and has deeper meanings than meet the

eye, so did the words of the psalmist reach forth into remoter times and

higher relations.

 

  • Christ’s identification. “He declared that he was the Son of David, and

that his priesthood and kingdom were universal and everlasting.”

 

38 “And He said unto them in His doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which

love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,

39 And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:”

These verses are a condensation of the woes recorded at length by Matthew (ch. 23).

And he said unto them in His doctrine (ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὑτοῦ - en tae didachae autou

in the teaching of Him) - literally, in His teaching - Beware of the scribes which

desire (τῶν θελόντων - ton thelontonthe ones willing) to walk in long robes

(ἐν στολαῖς - en stolaisin robes). The στόλη - stole was a rich robe which

reached down to the ankles, and was adorned with fringes. The scribes took

pleasure in this kind of display. The salient points in their character were:

 

Ø      ostentation,

Ø      avarice, and

Ø      religious hypocrisy.

 

40 “Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers:

these shall receive greater damnation.”  There is a change in the construction here,

which is not marked in the Authorized Version. The sentence in this verse should

stand alone, and be read thus: They which devour (οἱ κατεσθίοντες - hoi katesthiontes

the ones devouring) widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers; these shall

receive greater condemnation. The sentence thus read is far more graphic. The statement

thus becomes indeed more general, but the reference is still to the scribes who through

their avarice swallowed up the property of helpless widows, and through their hypocrisy,

in the hope of thus more effectually imposing upon their victims, lengthened out their

prayers. Greater condemnation. The word in the Greek is κρίμα - krima -, that is,

"judgment." A severer sentence would fall upon them in the day of judgment and

a heavier condemnation, because, under the semblance of piety, they practiced

iniquity, and indulged their avarice under the mask of religion.

 

 

 

                                                The Scribes (vs. 35-40)

 

The profession of scribes, which had existed among the Jews ever since the Captivity,

was in itself an honorable and useful profession. And there were members of this

learned body who came into contact with the Lord Jesus who showed a candid

disposition, a love of the truth, and who evinced respect and admiration for the great

Rabbi. Yet some of the most bitter and virulent of our Lord’s enemies were of this

class. Their superiority to the people was a snare as well as an advantage. Many of

them hid beneath the cloak of learning an evil heart, selfishness, arrogance, and

unspirituality. In the discourse of Jesus here recorded, we find a protest against the

general teaching, and a protest against the too common character, of these

adversaries of His ministry and doctrine.

 

·         CHRIST’S CORRECTION OF THE SCRIBES’ TEACHING REGARDING

      THE MESSIAH.  Our Lord was now in the temple, (v. 35) and He took the

      opportunity for instructing the scribes and Pharisees concerning His person

      and His dignity. Thus, as ever, He returned good for evil. He here taught them      

      that the Messiah was not a mere man, as they supposed, but that He was

      both God and man, and that therefore they ought not to wonder or to be

            offended because He called Himself the Son of God. Matthew 22:42 more

            fully gives their answer first, namely, that “Christ is the Son of David.”

            They should have said that, as God, He was the Son of God, according to

            those words, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee;”  (Psalm

            2:7) but that, as man, He was the Son of David. Their answer was very

            different from that of Peter: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living

            God.” (Matthew 16:16)  But they lacked the Divine knowledge which the            

            disciples had gained.

 

Ø      What was this teaching? It was the simple statement, that the

      Messiah should be a descendant of David. This was Scriptural truth,

      and the Gospels exhibit its application to Jesus. But it was only part of

      the truth.

 

Ø      In what respects did Jesus add to this conception of the Messiah? He

                        quoted from the Scriptures, and He attributed their declarations to

                        the inspiration of the Holy Spirit!   And thus He transmuted the bald                                 

                        doctrine of the scribes into a doctrine full of spiritual significance

                        and dignity. These points especially are brought out:

 

Ø      Preeminence is assigned to the Messiah over even His

      illustrious ancestor, David.

 

Ø      The Messiah is represented as the Assessor of the Most High

      Himself.

 

Ø      The Messiah is depicted as the Conqueror of His foes. In all

      these respects the truly Scriptural representation of the Christ is

      an immense advance upon the customary teaching of the

      Jewish scribes. Thus Christ teaches concerning Himself.

 

·         CHRIST’S DENUNCIATION OF THE CHARACTER AND CONDUCT

      OF THE SCRIBES. 

 

Ø      Their loud professions of sanctity, and their ostentatious devotions,

      are censured. Long prayers may sometimes be the outcome of deep

      feeling and many needs; they may, as in the case of these scribes, be

      a cloak for sin.  Long robes, like long prayers, may be a profession

      with which nothing spiritual corresponds. Hypocrisy was a crying evil

      of the times. There is no vice that is more hateful to God; and it may be     

      questioned whether it often imposes upon men.

 

Ø      Their love of pre-eminence is blamed. Both in “Church and State”

      they loved to be supreme, and in all social relations they sought the

      honor which cometh from man. In the synagogues, in the market,

      places, and at festive gatherings the scribes would fain be first.

 

Ø      Their cruel rapacity is held up to abuse. The bereaved and the

                        defenseless were their victims. On some pretext or other they gained

                        possession or management of the property of widows, and were not

                        satisfied until they appropriated the whole. There are those in our

                        own days, and in Christian lands, who grow rich by similar practices,

                        and who incur by such infamous cruelty “the wrath of the Lamb.”

                        (Revelation 6:16)

 

Ø      Christ predicts the condemnation of such sinners, and at the same

      time puts the people on their guard against them. His threat of        

      condemnation was authoritative; and His warning was one which

      was needed and timely.  Against the wrongs and cruelties, the

      assumptions and the errors of such pretenders, the Good Shepherd

      would fain protect His feeble and defenseless sheep.

 

·         WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE?  -  “the common heard Him gladly”

 

Ø      This shows that the deepest instincts of humanity are on the side of

                        religion and Divine truth.

 

Ø      It also suggest that the hearing did not always involve discipleship.

      There was admiration, intellectual assent, even some wonder at what

      was truly Divine; but no moral conviction. There are many to whom

      the gospel is a thing gladly heard, but soon dismissed from the thoughts.

      It is in obedience and faith that the “glad tidings” are practically and        

      permanently experienced by the human heart.

 

 

 

Warning Against the Scribes and Pharisees (vs. 38-40)

                             Parallel passages: Matthew 23:13-39; Luke 20:45-47

 

Jesus warns His disciples against:

 

(1) their ambitious

(2) against their avaricious greed, and

(3) against their hypocrisy.

 

We need daily to pray for preservation from all these.

 

 

                                    THE WIDOW’S TWO MITES

 

41 “And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people

cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.”

He sat down over against the treasury (γαζοφυλάκιον - gazophulakion - treasury,

from γάζα - gaza, a Persian word meaning "treasure," and φυλάττειν - phulattein,

to guard). This was the receptacle into which the offerings of the people were cast,

for the uses of the temple and for the benefit of the priests and of the poor. Hence

that part of the temple in which these gifts were kept was called the treasury.

He beheld (ἐθεώρει - etheorei - literally, He was beholding; He was observing

how the multitude πῶς ὄχλος - pos ho ochloshow the throng;  that is, in what

manner, with what motives (for He was the heart-searcher) the crowd of givers –

cast money (βάλλει χαλκόν - ballei chalkonis casting copper); literally, is casting·

Luke 21:1 uses the term (τὰ δῶρα - ta dora - their gifts). Many that were rich cast

in much (πολλά - polla - much, that is, many pieces. There were several apertures

in the treasury, which from their shape were called trumpets. Some of these had

special inscriptions, marking the destination of the offerings.

 

42 “And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites,

which make a farthing.”  A poor widow (μία χήρα πτωχὴ - mia chaera ptochae

one poor widow); one specially singled out for notice. Luke says, εῖδε δὲ καί τινα

χήραν πενιχρὰν - eide de kai tina chaeran penichranand He saw also a certain

poor widow: literally, a widow who supported herself by her own little labor.

And she cast in two mites (λεπτὰ - lepta - mites), which make a farthing. The

farthing was the fourth part of an as, and ten of these made a denarius. The Greek

word (λεπτὰ) means literally "thin pieces."

 

43 “And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto

you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into

the treasury:  44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want

did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”  This poor widow hath cast in more.

The right reading of the verb here is ἔβαλε - ebale - not βέβληκε -                                                                                                                                                                                                       beblaeke ; this aoristic rendering has very good authority - this poor widow cast in

more. Her act is completed, and has gone up for a memorial before God . She "gave"

more than all the others who are casting (τῶν βαλλόντων - ton ballonton), not

"have cast in (τῶν βαλόντων - ton balonton). She gave more, when she threw

in those two mites, than all the others were giving - more, that is, in the estimation

of Him who sees not as man sees. God does not weigh the gift so much as the mind

of the giver. That gift is really the greater in His sight, not which is actually of

greater value, but which is greater in respect of the giver. Therefore this poor widow,

when she gave her farthing, gave more than they all, because she gave all her living

all, that is, that she had beforehand for that day, trusting that the Lord would give

her her bread for that day. And so she carried off the palm for liberality, Christ

Himself being the Judge. St. Ambrose says, "That which God esteems is not that

which you proudly present, but what you offer with humility and devotion.

It has often been remarked that God has regard, not merely to what a man gives,

but to what he keeps!God has said “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse,

that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith the

Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you

out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it”.  [Malachi 3:10] 

(Someone has said that what God shovels in, I shovel out and God has a bigger

shovel than I have! – CY – 2010) “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also

sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not

grudgingly, or of necessity, for  God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians

9:6-7) and a gift is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to

what he hath not.  (II Corinthians 8:12) “they cast in of their abundance.”

What they gave was, therefore, a mere superfluity. Their

comforts were not decreased, their luxuries still abounded. The need — the absolute

poverty — of the widow rendered her gift a sacrifice, and a heroic act of faith. It was

prophetic of the Divine charities that were to be awakened in the breasts of

regenerate men, when His own great sacrifice should have borne its fruit.

(Thus America, under the influence of Christianity, has been very generous to the world –

CY – 2010) - The Macedonian Churches (and many a one since) gave not only to

their power, but beyond it, their deep poverty abounding to the riches of their

liberality (II Corinthians 8:1-2.  Our Savior commends the widow, and therefore we

are sure that she did very well and wisely”.  THIS WAS CHRIST’S LAST ACT

BEFORE QUITTING THE TEMPLE FOR EVER!

 

 

 

 

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The Widow’s Mite (vs. 41-44)

 

The presence of this poor widow, among unspiritual and ostentatious

worshippers and offerers, is as a sunbeam amidst the gloom, a rose in the

wilderness. It is a touching picture, this of the lonely woman, who had lost

her husband, and whose heart was sad, whose means were scanty, and

whose life was obscure and cheerless. But she had found strength and

consolation in waiting upon God. And the temple, the appointed place for

worship, with its services, so helpful to devotion, and associated with holy

gatherings, and with opportunities for Divine communion, was dear to her

heart. She could not be absent when the sacred services were proceeding,

nor could she withhold her little gift in passing the treasury, as she left the

scene of worship and of fellowship. And thus she was noticed by the

Master, and her memory was immortalized, and her action has become a

model and an inspiration to Christ’s people through all time. We may learn

from this incident, —

 

  • WHAT IN GIFTS AND ALMS IS, IN GOD’S SIGHT, INCONSIDERABLE.

The view taken by men is different. But we are, as Christians,

bound by the judgment of our Lord, who here teaches us that:

 

Ø      The actual amount is in itself of little moment. With reference to the

material ends to be obtained by money, this is of course not the case. When

a spacious, durable, and handsome church is to be built, when an expensive

missionary expedition to some distant land is to be undertaken, there is

need of large pecuniary contributions; and it is only where there is large

wealth that such enterprises are possible. But as far as the spiritual value

and acceptableness of alms and benefactions are concerned, the mere

pecuniary amount is unimportant. The mite of the widow is as much

approved by God as the gold of the wealthy.

 

Ø      The comparative amount which is contributed is in this regard

unimportant. The offering which is less than that presented by a neighbor is

not, therefore, necessarily bad; not is the offering which exceeds that of a

neighbor, therefore, necessarily good. It is too common among givers to

ask — What is customary? What is the amount contributed by others? The

relative sum is disregarded by the Observer of all donations and the

Searcher of all hearts. If one gives largely from his superfluity, he may

nevertheless give less than his neighbor, who out of his poverty gives what

seems a trifling sum.

 

  • WHAT IN GIFTS AND ALMS IS VALUABLE IN GOD’S SIGHT.

 

Ø      The relation they bear to the giver’s means. This is brought out very

effectively in this narrative. The poor widow “of her want” gave “all that

she had,” even “all her living,” i.e. perhaps what she had in hand for that

day’s sustenance. It has often been remarked that God has regard, not

merely to what a man gives, but to what he keeps. The gifts of the opulent

are acceptable, but “dearer to God are the gifts of the poor.”

 

Ø      The purpose and intent for which they are given. Money, which is

bestowed merely with a view to secure the good opinion of men, to attain a

certain position socially or in the religious community, is not regarded by

the Omniscient as given to his cause. If the motive be the relief of human

suffering, the enlightenment of human ignorance, the diffusion of religious

knowledge and privileges, then doubtless gifts are acceptable, even though

there may be some deficiency in the worldly wisdom according to which

the means are directed to the ends in view.

 

Ø      The spirit in which they are given. An unostentatious act of charity, an

ungrudging devotion of property, a disposition to forego some luxury,

some personal comfort or pleasure, in order to do good, a pious reference

of the act of giving to him who gives alike the means and the inclination for

liberality, — these are qualities which render beneficence acceptable to the

Lord and Judge of all. “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver. He who thus

bestows his charity shall indeed receive again from him who acknowledges

all true service. A gift is accepted according to what a man hath, and not

according to what he hath not.

 

 

 

 

Not Far from the Kingdom. (v. 34)

 

That this scribe should have shown so deep an admiration for the Divine

Law, so clear a perception of the superiority of the spiritual to the

ceremonial, so discerning an appreciation of the Divine Master, — all this

was to his credit, and awakened the approval and elicited the

commendation of our Lord. In the language Jesus addressed to him, a

description is given of not a few hearers of the gospel, who present in their

character much that is admirable, but who come short of true consecration

to Christ, who are “not far from the kingdom of God.” Of this class we

may ask:

 

  • HOW NEAR HAVE THEY COME TO THE KINGDOM?

 

Ø      They have been, in many cases, brought near by the action of others. A

Christian education and Christian influence have moulded their habits

and improved a naturally well-inclined disposition.

Ø      They are well acquainted with the truths of religion, have studied the

Scriptures, and have mastered the doctrines as well as the facts they

contain.

Ø      They assent to the revelation contained in the Bible, either unreflectingly

or after inquiry and doubt.

Ø      They admire Christ’s moral character and beneficent life, his pure

teaching, and his purposes of compassion towards mankind.

Ø      They conform to the practices of Christian worship, and even make use

of the language of praise and prayer.

Ø      They obey many of the laws of Christ, either from habit or from a

conviction of their justice and expediency.

Ø      They have had many desires, and may even have formed resolutions, to

go further than this — to yield all to the Savior. Of such it may indeed be

said, they are “not far from the kingdom of God.”

 

  • HOW FAR ARE THEY STILL FROM THE KINGDOM? Men may

travel a long distance in the right direction, and yet may leave untraversed

the last and most important stage of the journey. So is it with many hearers

of the gospel.

 

Ø      They may yet have to receive the gospel of Christ with their whole

nature. The assent of the understanding must be followed by the consent

of the will.

Ø      They may yet have to surrender themselves and their all to Jesus. Men

may give much, but withhold more. The test which our Lord proposes

is a readiness to offer the heart, and with it all powers and possessions,

unto himself. Less is not acceptable to him who claims, and has a right

to, all.

Ø      They may need to overcome much self-righteousness, self-confidence,

self-seeking, before their state of mind is such as to enable them to

accept the terms of Heaven: “Except ye become as little children,” etc.

 

  • HOW SHOULD THOSE SO SITUATED NOW ACT?

 

Ø      They should reflect how vain is past progress except it lead to future

consecration.

Ø      They should rejoice at the thought that their approach to the kingdom

makes it easier for them to enter in. All their knowledge, good feelings, and

partial obedience are so many steps upon the road, leaving the fewer to be

taken in order to salvation.

Ø      They should remind themselves how unwise and dangerous and sinful it

is to pause where they are. “It is the first step which costs;” and it is the

last step which pays! Why should not that last step be taken at once? True

repentance, sincere faith, cordial surrender, the new birth, — such are the

descriptions given of the change yet to pass over those who are not far

from the kingdom, in order that they may enter it. Illustrations: The builder

rears the arch of a bridge; the keystone has yet to be placed; if that be left

undone a storm may rise, the river may swell, his work may be swept

away, and all that has been done may count for nothing. The traveler

exploring a continent may endure many hardships and perils, may come

within a day’s march of the vast lake of which he hopes to be the

discoverer: shall he turn back? The manslayer, pursued by the avenger of

blood, may be within sight of the city of refuge: to pause is to be slain; to

summon up all his strength and to bound forward is to find himself safely

within the protecting walls. The captain, the adventurous explorer, after a

long voyage over unknown seas, sights the land of which he has dreamed:

shall he give orders to put about the ship, and abandon the glorious

discovery within its reach, and all the honor, wealth, and fame which now

at length await him?

 

 

 

Various Effects of Christ’s Ministry (vs. 34-37)

 

There was a vigor and directness, an unsparing boldness and fidelity,

peculiar to the ministry of our Lord in Jerusalem during the last week of his

life. This no doubt precipitated the crisis, enraging his enemies at the same

time that it silenced their reasonings. Two remarks are made by the

evangelist which show us what was the effect of Christ’s discourses and

conversations both upon his foes and upon the multitude.

 

  • HIS ENEMIES WERE SILENCED. These included most of the

members of the more prominent classes, who occupied positions of

influence and authority in Jerusalem.

 

Ø      Their varied efforts to entrap Christ in his speech are recorded at length.

The Pharisees, the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the scribes, all

questioned Jesus and reasoned with him, largely with the hope of either

weakening his influence or taking some advantage of his replies. There was

much craft in the way in which they sought thus to injure him and his work.

 

Ø      Their uniform confutation by his wisdom and moral authority. All their

efforts, from whatever quarter, and however conducted, proved in vain.

None were able to withstand him. He either put them to shame, or

convinced them by the wisdom of his answers. The evangelist sums up the

impression produced by our Lord’s demeanour and language in these

several interviews in the words, “And no man after that durst ask him any

question.” Christ’s wisdom is flawless; Christ’s authority is irresistible.

Now, as then, it is true that none can dispute with him except to be

discomfited. “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain

thing?”

 

  • THE MULTITUDE WERE ATTRACTED AND DELIGHTED.

Whilst the self-confident and the self-righteous were put to shame and

confusion, the common people, or rather the multitude, “the people” (as

we say), heard him gladly. There were several sufficient reasons for this.

 

Ø      He spoke to them as one of themselves. Not from a height of official

distance and superiority, but in their own language, with illustrations drawn

from their own daily life, and as one who knew them and their ways.

 

Ø      His personal interest and sympathy were very marked. He did not break

the bruised reed. Often brought into contact with the suffering, he pitied

and healed them. Often meeting with sinners contrite and penitent, he

pardoned and cheered them.

 

Ø      His fearless exposure and denunciation of the wickedness of the

religious leaders of the Jews. The selfishness and hypocrisy of Pharisees

and lawyers were well known; but such was the mental bondage of the

people, that they dared not speak of the iniquities of the rulers save with

bated breath. Jesus, however, who regarded not the person of any man,

boldly upbraided the iniquitous rulers for their misdeeds. And those who

suffered from the extortion and oppression which they endured, rejoiced in

the Lord Jesus as in a Champion of the down-trodden, and an Upholder of

the right.

 

Ø      His direct appeal to the conscience and heart of the people. It is thus,

indeed, that masses of men are ever to be moved. Whilst in the preaching

of Jesus statement of Divine truth and exhibitions of Divine love formed

the substance of his addresses, he so spoke as to reach the moral nature of

his hearers. No raving, no exaggeration, no vulgarity; but simplicity, vigor,

earnestness, moral authority, were manifest in all his utterances.

 

Ø      He brought the fatherly grace of God home to the erring and helpless.

This was what the religious leaders of the time did not. The hearts of men

responded to the revelation of the heart of God. How could the people do

otherwise than hear him gladly, when he said, “Come unto me, all ye that

labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”?

 

 

 

 

The Politics of Christianity (vs. 13-17)

 

Christ, in his visits to the temple, met with the various representatives of

religious, ecclesiastical, and political opinion in Palestine. He is the center

and touchstone of all. Their very attacks and dishonest questions were so

many confessions of his moral and intellectual supremacy. To Christ do the

different schools of thought and life amongst men still come, and the

problems they raise can never be satisfactorily settled until he solves them.

 

  • A TRAP LAID FOR CHRIST.

 

Ø      By whom? Ultimately and originally by the Pharisees, the leaders of

ultra-Judaism and advocates of a restored theocracy and national

independence. But that this view, having its root at first in profound

spirituality of aim and motive, had been subsidized by baser considerations,

is only too evident. Their hatred for Christ on the present occasion led

them to throw away all scruples they might have felt, and to assume a

disingenuous position of inquiry. But they could do this the more

effectively in concert with others, with whom, although somewhat

disagreeing on the solution to be accepted of the theory of national

independence, they yet agreed upon the general question itself. The

Herodians were a recent party, attached to the fortunes and politics of the

Herods, and accepting their rule as a satisfactory compromise of the

difficulty arising from the theocratic views of the Jews and the actual

supremacy of the Roman empire. They are supposed to have originated

with the Pharisees, with whom they still retained general relations, and with

whom they for the most part co-operated. Menahem the Essene, who was

a Pharisee, being captivated, it is said, by the predicted ascendency of the

house of Herod, attached himself to Herod the Great, and brought over

many of his co-religionists. They believed that in the monarchy of Herod

the national aspirations of the Jews were reasonably met, and at the same

time the demands of Rome, whose creature he was. They were as a party,

as might be expected, less scrupulous than the original Pharisees. The latter

imagined, as many like them have done since, that by suborning others to

do a dishonorable action they avoided the disgrace of it themselves.

 

Ø      In what did the snare consist? In an attempt to get Christ to commit

himself to the tenets of one or other of the political parties of the day. This

was not with the view of strengthening the influence of either, but simply

to compromise him, according to his answer, either with the Roman

government on the one hand, or with the national party of Judaism on the

other.

 

Ø      How was it halted? With flattery: yet flattery which unwillingly

witnessed to the “openness” and uprightness of Christ’s character, his

Divine impartiality, his fearless truthfulness.

 

  • THE TRAP EVADED. The simplicity of Christ, upon which they had

calculated for the success of their scheme, was the very cause of its failure.

“Wise as serpents, but harmless as doves,” is a principle which has its root

in the nature of the Divine life. The inquiry is answered:

 

Ø      By an appeal to matter of fact. “Show me a penny,” etc. The existence

of such a coin (the denarius, which was the standard silver coin of the

Romans, value about eightpence or ninepence), with its “image and

superscription,” proved beyond question the subject condition of Palestine.

The actual situation being, therefore, what it was, and, so far as they could

do anything, irreversible, it was not right for them to ignore it. If the

privileges attending it were freely made use of, the duties involved should

also be discharged.

 

Ø      By enunciating a dealer and wider principle than they recognized. As

things were, the practice of their own religion was freely permitted to the

Jews, toleration being a principle of imperial policy. There was, therefore,

no really spiritual difficulty involved. The political nostrums of Pharisee

and Herodian alike were, therefore, party cries and nothing more. They

were thus convicted of unreality, of hypocrisy, or acting a part. It was not

religion they cared for, but their own personal or party ends. Yet at the

same time, for such as then or at any future time might have their religious

scruples affected by political conditions, Christ laid down a general

principle of action. When human government is not opposed to Divine,

submission may be conscientiously made to both. Only where they differ is

there any room for doubt; but even such a doubt will be satisfactorily dealt

with by beginning from the Divine side of obligation. This principle, which

stands good for all times, is essentially a spiritual one. Under all

circumstances, therefore, the duty of the Christian, or conscientious

religionist, is shown to be fundamentally a moral one. Actually existent

authority imposes obligations which have to be recognized in the spirit of

submission and piety, when not conflicting with Divine prerogatives.

Christianity has only indirectly a bearing on politics; its direct and

immediate concern is with morals.

 

 

 

 

Bring Me a Penny (v. 15)

 

  • CHRIST WILL HAVE ACCOUNT OF THE SMALLEST THINGS.

The denarius was a small coin in common use. The spirit of Christ, sunlike,

discovers even the “motes.” In all things there is duty. Christ’s

attitude to the Law not only general but particular. “Not one jot or tittle

was to pass away unfulfilled because of the influence of Christianity. “Ye

are my disciples, if ye do whatsoever I have commanded you.” We shall

have to give account of smallest things at last — idle words, false shame,

“the cup of cold water,” etc. The parable of the pounds has for its moral,

“He that is faithful in that which is least,” etc. There is no slurring over of

little things because of a general disposition and amiable intention.

 

  • SMALL THINGS OFTEN REPRESENT GREAT PRINCIPLES,

AND BECOME THE VEHICLES OF GREAT DUTIES. Coins are often

of value, apart from their intrinsic worth, in witnessing to conquests,

political influences, the progress of civilization, etc.; and numismatists have

made many important contributions to history through their testimony. In

this case the witness was even more pregnant and precious. It proved what

actually existed, and represented the claim of earthly powers. The duty to

God was shown thereby to be something quite distinct, and the general

relation of the human and the Divine in human obligations was thereby

permanently settled and set forth. It is equally so in regard to other things.

“A straw will show which way the wind blows, or the water flows.”

Illustrated in such instances as the Massacre of St. Bartholomew;

watchwords and flag of truce in time of war; the potty dealings of common

life; the “minor moralities” of the Christian, etc.

 

  • WE ARE ENCOURAGED AND COMMANDED TO BRING

SMALL THINGS TO CHRIST Do not say he has no interest in them. See

how he looks at that widow with her two mites. Hear how he calls the little

children. We need a more thorough Christianity, and if we follow this rule

of bringing our daily concerns, our griefs, our moral difficulties, our sins,

to the throne of grace, we shall become “Israelites indeed, in whom is no

guile.” He will interpret the minutest uncertainty or perplexity, and show us

the great in the little. Erasmus Darwin wrote (April 13, 1789): “I have just

heard that there are muzzles or gags made at Birmingham for the slaves in

our islands. If this be true, and such an instrument could be exhibited by a

speaker in the House of Commons, it might have a great effect. Could not

one of their long whips or wire-tails be also procured and exhibited? But an

instrument of torture of our own manufacture would have a greater effect,

I dare say” (‘Life,’ p. 46).

 

 

 

 

The Puzzle of the Sadducees (vs. 18-27)

 

  • THE CASE STATED. An extreme one; and probably a locus classicus

in the works of the rabbins. It was supposed to be a reductio ad absurdum

of all theories of resurrection or immortality. “In the resurrection” is used

apparently in a pregnant sense, as including the judgment, when all

questions would be decided, and the conditions of the future state settled.

The case as stated referred only to legal and external conditions, questions

of sentiment or spiritual attachment being ignored. The only case in

Scripture of Christ coming into direct collision with the Sadducees. That

the questioners were not maliciously disposed in presenting these

difficulties may be inferred from the manner in which they are answered:

not indignantly, or with an epithet expressing moral condemnation; but in a

straightforward, matter-of-fact way, although censure is also expressed —

a kind of censure peculiarly distasteful to such men, who generally pretend

to grit originality and critical acumen. They are accused of ignorance and

spiritual inexperience.

 

  • HOW CHRIST DISPOSED OF IT.

 

Ø      By reference to the possibilities of Divine power. “In the resurrection

state there will not be a repetition, pure and simple, of present conditions;

there will be advance of inward and outward development. Love will

continue; but in the case of the holy it will be sublimed. ‘The power of

God’ is adequate, not only to the re-formative, but also to the

transformative changes that may be requisite; and his wisdom will see to it

that they be in harmony with the perfectibility of individual personality and

the general procession of the ages. Even on earth there are loftier loves

than those that are merely marital” (Morison). “They neither marry, nor are

given in marriage.” “His words teach absolutely the absence from the

resurrection life of the definite relations on which marriage rests in this, and

they suggest an answer to the yearning questions which rise up in our

minds as we ponder the things behind the veil… The old relations may

subsist under new conditions. Things that are incompatible here may there

be found to coexist. The saintly wife of two saintly husbands may love both

with an angelic, and therefore a pure and unimpaired, affection. The

contrast between our Lord’s teaching and the sensual paradise of

Mahomet, or Swedenberg’s dream of the marriage state perpetuated under

its earthly conditions, is so obvious as hardly to call for notice” (Plumptre).

“The present life is but a partial revelation of the Divine power. All the

relations of earthly families do not continue in heaven” (Godwin).”

 

Ø      By interpretation of Scripture. Not the letter of Scripture is appealed to,

but the underlying truth involved in the statement of Scripture, “I am the

God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not

the God of the dead, but of the living.” The copula connecting the first

clause of the quotation is not in the original, so that no argument can be

founded upon it. Professor Plumptre’s explanation — “The principle

implied in the reasoning is, that the union of the Divine Name with that of a

man, as in “I am the God of Abraham,’ involved a relation existing, not in

the past only, but when the words were uttered. They meant something

more than “I am the God whom Abraham worshipped in the past” — is,

therefore, manifestly inadequate. That of Dr. Morison is more explicit and

profound: “It amounted to this: If there was at all a patriarchal

dispensation, embracing a Messianic, or redemptive scheme, and thus

involving a Divinely commissioned Messiah or Redeemer, who was to be

in due time incarnated, then there must be a life to come. But there was

such a dispensation, if it be the case that God became the God of

Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,’ in any distinctive

sense whatever. And then, moreover, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob took

personal advantage of the Messianic covenant into which God entered with

them, they ‘live’ They have ‘life,’ ‘everlasting life,’ in the intense

acceptation of the term” (in loc.). Compare Hebrews 11:13-14,16. A more

direct proof might have been obtained in other portions of the Old

Testament, but the skill of this argument lay in the reference to a book

received by the Sadducees, and in the unexpected interpretation of familiar

words. Thus their liberalism and narrowness were rebuked, and the popular

longing of the Jews confirmed. The line of evidence led by Christ not only

meets the objection to resurrection, but includes the proof of that of which

resurrection is only a portion, viz. immortality. If such depth of meaning

lay in the words of an old pre-Christian revelation, what may not the

gospel itself unfold, when spiritually interpretated in the light of new

conditions and experiences

 

 

 

Sources of Heresy (v. 24)

 

  • PRINCIPAL CAUSES OF RELIGIOUS ERROR.

 

Ø      Ignorance of Holy Scripture.

 

o        Unaided human nature is prone to error. Rather might it be said that of

itself human nature cannot possibly know the truth. We have but to

remember the idola of which philosophy warns us, to perceive how

much there is in the circumstances and very constitution of the human

mind to interfere with the attainment of intellectual truth. Difficulties

of this nature, however, may be practically overcome by diligence,

candor, and careful study; and the phenomena of the senses will yield

up the secret of their working to the educated thinker. But there are

things beyond sense concerning which the methods of intellectual

research can give us no information. The agnosticism of science

concerning these things is therefore, as a whole, to be accepted as

real. Were it not that there are moral as well as purely intellectual

and constitutional causes for this ignorance, no fault need be found

with it. But any view of mental error which omitted consideration

of the fact of human depravity could not be considered adequate.

The natural mind “loves darkness rather than light.”

 

o        Scripture is intended to correct human error. “The entrance of thy

words giveth light” (Psalm 119:130). They reveal the existence, works,

character, and purpose of God. By so doing they solve the mysteries

attaching to human life and duty. They are the Word of God,

anticipating and transcending the findings of the world’s experience.

This is done, not only by communicating what is above sensible

perception, but by affording a discipline to the spiritual nature. “For

the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any

two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and

spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the

thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). “Every Scripture

inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for

correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the

man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good

work” (II Timothy 3:16). “Ye search the Scriptures, because ye think

that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear

witness of me” (John 5:39).

 

o        Lack of spiritual experience. “Nor the power of God.” This ignorance

may consist partly in ignorance of the facts of the Divine history of

mankind as recorded in Scripture; but it is chiefly due to absence of

personal, experimental consciousness of God in the spiritual nature.

It is the “darkness of the heart” which exaggerates and intensifies the

effects of general ignorance. “The power of God” works its miracles

in the inward as well as the outward life; in conversion, sanctification,

communion, and providential grace.

 

  • IN WHOM THESE MAY EXIST. The Sadducees were, according to

the standards of their day, educated men. With the letter of the books of

Moses they were familiar (ver. 26); and they were most careful to preserve

them from addition or intermixture.

 

Ø      Highly educated men may err in Divine things. “Thou didst hide these

things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes”

(Matthew 11:25). Secular culture has not furnished an atom of the

transcendental knowledge upon which religion is based; the Bible is not its

product, nor can it be interpreted by it. Yet is not literature, art, or science

to be discarded as a secondary aid to the interpretation of Scripture. If God

does not require our knowledge, neither does he, as it has been finely said,

require our ignorance.

 

Ø      There are many who know the letter of Gods Word without knowing its

spirit. Religious training may bestow an acquaintance with Scriptural

history and doctrine and the chief outlines of moral duty, but it cannot

ensure the inward knowledge of the heart. The interpretation of Scripture

is only possible to those who are spiritually enlightened. Knowing the Bible

externally may actually prove a hindrance to an inward knowledge of it, if

it be made too much of, or imagined sufficient in itself. Superficial

acquaintance with Biblical literature, doctrine, etc., “puffeth up;” and it

requires the sternest and most frequent assaults ere its true character is

exposed to itself.

 

  • HOW THEY ARE TO BE REMOVED.

 

Ø      The teaching of Christ; awakening a sense of inward need and

repentance, and revealing the correspondence of the Word of God to

the expanding and maturing spiritual consciousness.

 

Ø      The gift of the Holy Spirit; which takes of the things of God and reveals

them to us. “Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, and which

entered not into the heart of man, whatsoever things God prepared for

them that love him. But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit:

for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God”

(I Corinthians 2:9). Not least of the enlightening influence of the

Holy Ghost is due to the purification of the heart.

 

 

 

 

The Law Akin to the Gospel, but Inferior to It (vs. 28-34)

 

  • TRUE RELIGIOUS INQUIRY IS ENCOURAGED BY CANDOR

AND SPIRITUAL INSIGHT ON THE PART OF RELIGIOUS

TEACHERS. Matthew tells us that the Pharisees came together top the

same place.” when they saw the discomfiture of the Sadducees; and “then

one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying.”

Mark introduces him as one of the scribes. In the one Gospel the motive

and encouragement are represented as experienced by the Pharisaic party in

general; in the other they are represented as individually felt and acted

upon. There were, therefore, elements of earnestness and spirituality

amongst the Pharisees, and these were called forth by our Saviours

teaching. They were now in a more favorable attitude for receiving the

truth than they had ever been before. As to the idea expressed by

“tempting,” it need not be understood in a sinister sense, but generally as

proving, testing, etc. Our Lord did not crush the spirit of inquiry, but

courted it. They felt that there was more in him than they could explain,

and that his knowledge of Scripture was spiritual and profound, and

therefore they wished to discover what he could possibly have to tell them

that was not already taught by Moses or his prophetic exponents. He had

all but converted his enemies and critics into his disciples. He had infected

them with his own spirit of religious earnestness. Of this mood the

“lawyer” was the mouthpiece. He pushes inquiry to its highest point, and

desires to know the chief duties of religion.

 

  • THE BEST MODE OF ANSWERING SUCH INQUIRY IS THAT

WHICH PRESENTS THE SPIRIT AND SUBSTANCE OF DUTY, OR

TRUE RELIGION IN ITS UNITY AND UNIVERSALITY.

“Deuteronomy 6:4. This is not given as a part of the Law of Moses, but

as the principle of all service. Leviticus 19:18 contains a similar

principle for all social duties” (Godwin). Passing over all matters of mere

ceremonial, and questions of less or more, he lays hold of the spirit of the

Law and presents it to his inquirer. It is out of the very heart of the hook of

ceremonies (Leviticus) that the duty to neighbors is extracted. He declares

“the three unities of religion:

 

Ø      the one God;

Ø      the one faith;

Ø      the one commandment” (Lunge);

 

and compels the agreement and admiration of his questioner. “Note also

the real reverence shown in the form of address, ‘Master,’ i.e. ‘Teacher,

Rabbi.’ He recognized the speaker as one of his own order” (Plumptre).

All religion is summed up by him in a “great commandment,” viz. the love

of God, and that is shown in its earthward aspect to involve loving our

neighbor as ourselves. That true religion is not ceremonial but spiritual is

thus demonstrated; and in quoting the highest utterances of the prophets,

the scribe but endorses and restates the same doctrine. Teacher and

inquirer are therefore theoretically one. But more is needed; and towards

the attainment of this the stimulus is given, “Thou art not far from the

kingdom of God.” This meant that —

 

  • SUCH INQUIRY CAN ONLY BE SATISFIED AND CROWNED

BY ACTING UPON ITS HIGHEST SPIRITUAL CONVICTIONS. “The

words are significant as showing the unity of our Lord’s teaching. Now, as

when he spoke the sermon on the mount, the righteousness which fulfils

the Law is the condition of the entrance into the kingdom of God

(Matthew 5:19-20). Even the recognition of that righteousness as

consisting in the fulfillment of the two commandments that were exceeding

broad, brought a man as to the very threshold of the kingdom. It is

instructive to compare our Lord’s different method of dealing, in Luke

10:25-37, with one who had the same theoretical knowledge, but who

obviously, consciously or unconsciously, minimized the force of the

commandments by his narrowing definitions” (Plumptre). “The kingdom of

heaven is, for the moment, pictorially represented as localized, like the

ordinary kingdoms of the world. The scribe, walking in the way of

conscientious inquiry, and thus making religious pilgrimage, had nearly

reached its borderland. He was bordering on the great reality of true

religion, subjection of spirit to the sovereign will of God” (Morison). This

state can only be attained to by conversion, the identification of the sinner

through faith with the righteousness of the Savior, and the indwelling of

the Spirit of God. It is thus scientific conviction becomes moral, and we are

able to carry into effect what we know to be true and right.

 

 

       

 

Great David’s Greater Son (vs. 35-37)

 

  • UNSPIRITUAL INTERPRETERS OF SCRIPTURE ARE

INVOLVED IN INCONSISTENCY AND SELF-CONTRADICTION,

 

Ø      In the present instance they proved to be so with respect to the most

important truths. It is only the spiritual mind that can harmonize the

apparent discrepancies of revelation (I Corinthians 2:14; compare

Hebrews 5:12, seq.).

 

Ø      This results in their cure loss and injury (I Peter 3:16). They failed

to recognize the Messiah when he did come, because of their false

conceptions of what he was.

 

  • THE GLORY OF THE MESSIAH IS SEEK FROM PROPHETIC

SCRIPTURE TO BE MORE THAN ROYAL —TO BE, IN FACT,

DIVINE. The hundred and tenth psalm is rightly called “a psalm of David.”

Merely to apply it to David is to destroy its Messianic character. “The

psalm is not only quoted by our Lord as Messianic in the passages already

referred to (viz. this and Matthew 22:41-46); it is more frequently cited by

the New Testament writers than any other single portion of the ancient

Scriptures. (Compare, besides these passages in the Gospels, Acts 2:34-35;

I Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:13; 5:6; 7:17, 21; 10:13.) In

later Jewish writings, in the Talmud and the rabbis, nearly every verse of

the psalm is quoted as referring to the Messiah” (Perowne). The majority

of ancient Jewish intereters apply the psalm to the Messiah (Strauss,

Leben Jesu,’ 2:6, 79). If, then, it is David’s own composition, and is

Messianic, the language used with respect to the Royal One who is to

come is only to be explained as involving divinity: “Jehovah said to my

Lord.”

 

  • IN APPLYING THE PSALM TO HIMSELF, CHRIST

SUGGESTED THE TRUE SOLUTION OF THE APPARENT

CONTRADICTION. The psalm is deliberately and by implication adopted

by Christ. He testifies to the Divine inspiration of its author. His own

person and work are the key to its meaning. As he was Son of David on

the human side, so was he David’s Lord by virtue of his Divine Sonship.

 

 

 

The Common People Heard Him Gladly (v. 37)

 

  • THE PERSONS THUS AFFECTED The reference of the words

common people misunderstood Literally the expression is, “the great

multitude” It was in temple, and must have comprehended all classes,

especially the middle and upper; the very lowest being but sparsely

represented. It was also nationally homogeneous — Jewish.

 

  • REASONS FOR THEIR BEING SO. Not on account of eloquence, or

So-called popularity” of address. That the highest qualities were exhibited

“goes without saying.” The full splendor and majesty of Messianic

teaching were exhibited. The Man himself was more, and felt to be more,

than his words. Two circumstances lent a passing interest to his teaching:

he exposed and defeated the religious pretenders of the day, Pharisees,

Sadducees, lawyers, whose true character the people’s instinct felt had

been revealed; and he appealed to the national religious spirit, in setting

forth the true doctrine of the Messiah.

 

  • THE MORAL VALUE OF THIS RECEPTION OF CHRIST.

 

Ø      It showed that the deepest instincts of humanity are on the side of

religion and Divine truth.

 

Ø      But it did not involve discipleship. Admiration, intellectual assent, even

some wonder at what was truly Divine; but no moral conviction. There

are many to whom the gospel is a thing gladly heard, but soon dismissed

from the thoughts. It is in obedience and faith that the “glad tidings” are

practically and permanently experienced by the human heart.

 

 

 

The Widow’s Two Mites (vs. 41-44)

 

The treasury, “in front of the sanctuary,” consisted of thirteen brazen

chests, called trumpets” from their peculiar, shape, “swelling out beneath,

and tapering upward into a narrow mouth or opening, into which the

contributions were put.” The contributions given were towards the

sacrifice fund, and they were voluntary. This incident has a deep,

permanent interest for all Christians.

 

  • CHRIST’S OBSERVATION OF RELIGIOUS GIVING. He “sat over

against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the

treasury.” This has been felt to be typical of his eternal attitude: he still sits

“over against the treasury” of his Church.

 

Ø      It was deliberate. He did it as one who had purposed to do it; and he

was not in any hurry. The position was chosen, and was well suited to

carry out his intention.

 

Ø      It was careful and discriminating. The different classes of people were

noted — rich and poor, ostentatious and retiring, mean and generous. He

beheld how the people cast in.

 

Ø      It was comprehensive. No individual seems to have escaped his

attention. Even the poor widow is observed.

 

Ø      It was His last act ere quitting the temple for ever.

 

  • HIS KNOWLEDGE OF ITS MOTIVES AND CIRCUMSTANCES.

 

Ø      How penetrating! The outward actions and bearing of the donors would

doubtless reveal to his eye, who “knew what was in man,” their real

characters. Now he looks directly upon our secret thoughts and feelings,

and is acquainted with all the conditions of mind and heart through which

we pass. Be knows the history of the gift, as well as its actual bestowal.

 

Ø      How complete! The domestic circumstances of the widow were well

known to him. No tax-surveyor could have reckoned the income of the

people more accurately.

 

Ø      How minute! The exact nature and number of the widow’s coins are

noted.

 

  • His judgment AS TO ITS WORTH. His attitude now, as on the day

when “he looked round about upon all things,” was authoritative and

judicial He sat as one who had a right to be there. It is from a supreme

elevation of moral sentiment that he looks, for already clearly visible to his

spirit is his own great gift — of himself.

 

Ø      Given from a spiritual point of view. Not the objective amount, but the

motives and feelings of the givers. The spirit of sacrifice, the religious

enthusiasm of each, is measured and declared.

 

Ø      The standard indicated is not how much is given, but from how much it

is given. They all cast in “of their abundance.” What they gave was,

therefore, a mere superfluity. Their comforts were not decreased, their

luxuries still abounded. The need — the absolute poverty — of the widow

rendered her gift a sacrifice, and a heroic act of faith. It was prophetic of

the Divine charities that were to be awakened in the breasts of regenerate

men, when his own great sacrifice should have borne its fruit. The

Macedonian Churches (and many a one since) gave not only to their

power, but beyond it, their deep poverty abounding to the fiches of their

liberality (II Corinthians 8:1, 2). “Now, many would have been ready to

censure this poor widow, and to think she did ill. Why should she give to

others when she had little enough for herself?… It is so rare a thing to find

any that would not blame this widow, that we cannot expect to find any

that will imitate her! And yet our Savior commends her, and therefore we

are sure that she did very well and wisely” (Matthew Henry).

 

 

 

Jesus Lingering in the Temple (v. 41)

 

This is one of the best-known incidents in the life of our Lord. It is strange

that it should be so. If we consider the greatness of his work, we should

hardly expect that room would be found in a brief record of it for so trivial

an event. It was an every-day occurrence for the worshippers who entered

the temple to cast their offerings into the treasury, and not a few widows

would be found among them. Yet an evangelist, who was inspired of God

to select or reject any of the multitudinous facts of Christ’s ministry, did

not leave untold the story of the widow’s mite; and it is repeated with

equal emphasis by Luke. Evidently God judges not as man does. We think

much of a philanthropic scheme which loudly asserts itself; but he probably

estimates more highly the scheme of some obscure Christian worker, who

gathers together the poor and wretched, telling them of a nobler, purer life,

and lifting them up towards the light of God’s love. In trivial incidents

great principles are found, and we should dig in them as for hid treasure.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is naturally the Center of this scene, and we will see

what we may of his characteristics as exhibited in it.

 

  • THE GENTLENESS OF CHRIST. For the last time our Lord had

appeared in the temple as a public Teacher. Before crowds of people he

had once more strongly denounced the hypocrisy of the scribes and

Pharisees. They were convicted by their own consciences, and incapable of

reply, so “they answered not a word;” but, in their desperation and

malignity, they resolved the more speedily to put him to death. Be knew it

perfectly welt. Yet, after speaking as the righteous Rebuker of sin, he

gladly turns aside to discover and commend a hidden act of goodness.

Indeed, he seemed eager to see something which would redeem his

Father’s house from the wickedness which dishonored it. Hence “he sat

over against the treasury,” and watched tilt he saw one worshipper whose

sacrifice he could rejoice over — that of a poor widow, who cast in all the

living that she had. That act of hers came to him like a streak of sunshine

through the clouds. How tenderly and patiently does he still watch for any

glimmer of faith and love in human hearts!

 

  • THE SERENITY OF CHRIST. His calmness was like the blue of the

heavens, unruffled and unchanged by storms that stir the lower

atmosphere. An ordinary man, after uttering a rebuke which enraged his

foes to madness, would put himself out of reach. He would not linger in

their stronghold, which was full of perils to him. But in patience Jesus

Christ possessed his soul. He knew his hour had not yet come. He would

not hasten away. It might be that some of his hearers would repent, and

come to him, confessing and forsaking their sins. So, while many passed

him whose beetling brows were black with hatred, he in the court of the

women quietly sat and waited. Such serenity was habitual with him. When

there was haste and agony and terror in Bethany, Jesus abode throe days in

the same place where he was. When the warning came, “Depart hence, for

Herod will kill thee,” he calmly continued his works of mercy. When the

armed band followed him into Gethsemane, he confronted them with a

calmness that paralyzed them. When he conquered death and rose from the

grave, there was no sign of haste — the linen clothes were laid orderly, and

the napkin was folded in a place by itself. Too often our hearts are

perturbed. We are fussy, anxious, fretful; but. if we will but receive it, this

is his legacy: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the

world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it

be afraid.”

 

  • THE CONDESCENSION OF CHRIST. Our Lord was full of great

thoughts, not only respecting this world, but that other world from which

he came, with its vivid realities and awful mysteries. He looked on to the

future of the work he had begun, and which in a few days would be

consummated on the cross — a work which would, not only stir Jerusalem,

but shake the Roman empire, and go onward through distant ages with

growing force, till all nations would call him blessed. Yet here he was,

watching a few Jewish worshippers go into their temple; and he notices

each one. He sees even this poor widow, whom others brush past with

haste or contempt. He knows her struggle and sacrifice and singleheartedness,

as she brings that tiny offering, with a blush of shame that it is

so little, and secretly lets it fall into the treasury of her God. His

condescension is still displayed to the meanest and the humblest

worshippers, and broken words, paltry gifts, and feeble efforts will not be

without his notice and recompense. May he see, in all Christian assemblies,

not the outward formalism which he must rebuke, but prayer and praise,

gift and work, which loyal hearts are offering to the Lord their God!

 

 

 

 

The Widow’s Mite (vs. 42-44)

 

If we get a single ray of light, decompose and analyze it, we may argue

from it to all the light that floods the world; to its nature, its source, and its

effects. So this act of generosity and devotion, simple and slight though it

is in itself, contains in it elements of truth which are world-wide in

application. Amongst the many lessons it teaches, we select the following:

 

  • THAT GOD’S PEOPLE ARE EXPECTED TO BE GIVERS. Many

have a singular objection to insistence upon that. They willingly listen to

words of solace; they rejoice in descriptions of heaven; they are not

reluctant to hear the errors of their theological antagonists exposed and

rebuked: but the duty of Christian giving is scarcely so popular with them

However. “It is enough for the servant that he be as his Master;” and we

find that he who taught in the temple also “beheld how the people cast

money into the treasury.” That treasury was a Divine institution. In spite of

abuses, it was for many generations a witness of what God expects; as a

recognition of his claims, and of the claims of others, on the part of rich

and poor. If God is our Creator and Preserver, if every day we live and

every power we have is his gift, we must honor him “with our substance,

and with the first-fruits of all our increase.” If he has redeemed us by his

Son, if “we are not our own, but bought with a price,” any sacrifice we

make in gift or work should be a source of joy. If we be members of one

brotherhood, we are bound to have the same care one for another. We are

to do this, not in the way which is easiest to ourselves, most accordant

with our tastes, or most likely to bring us credit; but as those who are

seeking to become like him, who is kind to the unthankful and to the

unworthy.

 

  • THAT SOME KINDS OF GIVING ARE OF HIGHER WORTH

THAN OTHERS. Our Lord did not blame or despise the gifts which the

rich made when they cast in much. They were doing what was right.

Whether their offerings went to support the temple, or as a substitute for

sacrifices, or for distribution to the poor, they were given towards what

was regarded as the work of God. But there was nothing in the offering of

the rich which called for the special praise bestowed on the widow.

 

Ø      It is to be observed here that Christ commended what most people

would blame. You would probably argue thus: “Two mites were of little

importance to the treasury, but of great importance to her. If she had given

one and kept the ether, she would have showed not only piety, but good

sense. As it was her gift was insignificant, and at the same time it was rash

and needless.” Yet, in the eyes of our Lord, the gift was right; and it was

commended for this very reason — that she had cast in all the living that

she had. We cannot but be reminded here of an incident in the house of

Simon. When Mary broke the alabaster box, and poured the spikenard on

her Savior’s head, the disciples said that it was a foolish impulse — that if

sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor, it would have been of

real utility; now a waste of the ointment had been made. In reply, Jesus

taught them that nothing given to God was wasted; that the aroma of such

an offering went beyond the world of sense. On both occasions our Lord

commended what others blamed.

 

Ø      Further, the reason for his commendation was not what many would

expect. It was not the value of the gift; for two mites was a smaller sum

than we could give if we tried to find our smallest coin. Nor was it the

object to which the money was given which Christ approved. He knew

how much there was of what was false under the glitter of the ceremonial

worship of the temple. He had just rebuked the very men who would

manipulate these funds. He looked on to the day when the temple would

perish, and a nobler Church would arise on its ruins. Hence, in

commending the widow’s gift, which supported this ritual, he condemned

those who withhold their help till an organization is exactly what they wish

who refuse to support what does not accord precisely with their tastes

and views. Those who habitually do this crush in their hearts the germ from

which gift and sacrifice spring.

 

Ø      The widows gift was approved because it was the offering of a simple

heart, full of love to God. She wished to show gratitude, and to give a

deliberate expression of her confidence in God; and therefore she gave up

her living, and threw herself on him who feeds the birds, and never forgets

his children.

 

Ø      Most of all the gift was valued because it represented self-sacrifice.

They gave of their abundance she gave all her living; in other words,

herself. Too often we lose the highest blessedness because we do not cross

the border-line which lies between self-indulgence and Christ-likeness.

When we begin to feel that some service is a burden, and demands a strain,

we give it up to some one else to whom the effort would be less! Let us

seek the spirit of the poor widow, who knew that God could do without

her gift, but felt that her love could not be satisfied without her sacrifice.

 

  • THAT OUR LORD QUIETLY WATCHES OUR GIFTS AND

SERVICES. We may put into the treasury wealth, talents, prayers, tears,

etc. None are unnoticed by him. And he looks in order to approve, not to

condemn. His disciples might have said, “She is imprudent to give her all;

she is priest-ridden; she .is supporting a formal worship which is a barrier

to the kingdom of Christ.” But the Lord looked beneath the surface. He

saw the pious intention, the pure purpose, and out of all the chaff on that

threshing-floor he found one grain of purity and reality, and rejoiced over it

as one finding great spoil.

 

  • THAT OUR LORD APPROVES ALL THAT IS DONE IN A

RIGHT SPIRIT. He did not praise her to her face, nor in her hearing.

When the delicate flower of devotion is taken in the hot hand of popular

applause, it withers; but, left in the cool shadow of secrecy, it lives. Hence

the widow heard no flattery or approval, though she went home with

inward satisfaction because she had done what she could. It is a pleasure to

make a sacrifice for one we love. The young girl gives up her money, her

position, her future, herself, to the man she loves, and rejoices in doing it.

The father will not begrudge it when he looks at his children’s faces,

though for their sakes he goes off in a shabby coat to his daily duty. Love

longs for sacrifice, and glories in making it. Now, it is a sacrifice so

inspired which our God approves and commends. In the day when the

secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, when nothing will be overlooked,

services which the doer had forgotten, which the Church thought trivial

and the world laughs to scorn, will be recompensed, and even “a cup of

cold water, given in the name of a disciple, will not lose its reward”

 

 

 

The Parable of the Vineyard

or

Unfaithfulness and Its Reward (vs. 1-12)

 

A rude demand upon Jesus for His authority led him to ask in reply “one

question” which awakened the consciences of his interrogators and threw

them into confusion and difficulty. They were hurrying him on to his final

hour, and he must needs take advantage of every opportunity of finishing

the work given him to do. Therefore “in parables” he spake both “unto

them” and “against them,” which but roused their ire, and sent them away

to plot and plan for his destruction. No word was needed to’ declare who

was represented by the vineyard. “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is

the house of Israel.” And the details of the parable were minutely historic.

How often had “a servant” been sent “that he might receive of the fruits of

the vineyard”! How often had he been “handled shamefully”! Now a last

chance is offered. “He had yet one, a beloved son: he sent him last unto

them.” The rest is prophecy ready to be fulfilled, and so soon to become

history also. But the appeal, “What therefore will the lord of the vineyard

do?” he does not leave them to answer, but supplies it in simple words and

in such manner as to make the reply an admonitory warning. Alas! our eyes

behold the precise fulfillment. And the rejected stone is now the

Foundation-stone, “the Head of the corner.” The parable reveals:

 

  • A GRACIOUS EXAMPLE OF THE DIVINE GOODNESS AND

PATIENCE. It was a direct dealing with Israel, but it was an indirect

dealing with all men. The comment is found in the historic development of

the history of Israel.

 

  • A PAINFUL INSTANCE OF HUMAN UNFAITHFULNESS. This, as

in all instances of a want of fidelity to important trusts, was sadly

disastrous. But not only to them to whom the trust was committed, for all

men expiate the sins of every unfaithful one. The condition of society is

lowered; good fruits are blighted and cannot be gathered; pains and

penalties are incurred which fall heavily upon all. Had every man been

faithful to his trust, what a paradise this hard earth would have presented!

But the world walks on a lower plane for every unholy life passed upon it.

Had that vineyard brought forth its due fruits, all nations would have been

made partakers. Of the few small patches which bore, the world has the

fruit in those holy records which are as the salt of the earth. But how much

of the corn and the oil and the wine is wanting! On this account is

presented:

 

  • A SAD ILLUSTRATION OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT. Israel is

deposed. The sacred trust is withdrawn. The vineyard is in other hands.

The unfaithful husbandmen, as such, are destroyed. Alas for Israel! Her

crown is in the dust, her harps upon the willows. She does not with her

voice sing the pleasant songs of Zion. She is not the great spiritual power

in the earth for which she was designed. Her calling and election she did

not make sure. True, for the fathers’ sakes she remains a testimony in the

earth. But it is as a broken-off branch. The world gains nothing by Israel’s

rejection. The Gentiles are wise to weep and mourn on her behalf; and,

knowing that “God is able to graft them in again, they are wise to pray

earnestly for their recovery. “The receiving of them” would be “life from

the dead.” So let every Gentile believer pitifully behold the nation sitting in

the dust, having become the uncircumcision in the spirit: and at this time,

alas! “separate from Christ” and really “alienated from the commonwealth

of” the true “Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no

hope.” Nor can it be otherwise till they who now are “far off are made nigh

in the blood of Christ.”

 

 

 

The Tribute Money (vs. 13-17)

 

Unable to take him with their wicked hands, because they dared not, they

send selected men from the Pharisees and the Herodians. They have

instructions to lay a trap with a view “to catch him in talk.” “In vain is the

net spread in the sight of any bird.” But these blind catchers thought him to

be blind also. In specious words they ply him with a question relating to an

oppressive tax. “If he held that payment should be refused, he would

compromise himself with the Romans; if he sanctioned it, he would

embitter himself both with the Herodians and the ultra-national party,” But

he who “knew what was in man” knew their hypocrisy, and in a word, and

doubtless with a look, exposed it. “Why tempt ye me?” Then with the coin

before their eyes, which was at once the symbol of their unfaithfulness to

God and their subjection to man, he threw back upon them the onus of

answering themselves in their own conscience and by their own deeds. Ah!

“in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.” But Jesus does not only

evade the dilemma on which they had cast him; nor does he merely utter a

word of condemnation to them who had failed to “render unto God the

things that are God’s,” and who would be only too glad to escape

rendering “to Caesar the things that” were “Caesar’s.” But he, in high

wisdom, teaches the great truth for all time, that fidelity to the demands of

God and fidelity to the constituted powers of earth need not clash. The

loyalty of the subject and the obedience of the saint are on the same plane.

So a just distribution is made of things pertaining to Caesar and of things

pertaining to God, and yet the true unity of the service rendered to both is

declared; and, moreover, as God is above all, the duty to him includes the

duty to Caesar. For our learning we may see —

 

  • THAT CHRIST BEARS HIS TESTIMONY TO THE

RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE CLAIMS OF EARTHLY AUTHORITY.

The Christian need be under no apprehension of following this principle

out to its extremest limits. For if the earthly government be oppressive and

unjust, he knows full well that the King of kings has his own methods of

deposing; for he believes that “he putteth down one and setteth up

another.” He has learned to submit even to oppression for conscience’

sake. But these questions respect the extreme, the occasional, the

exceptional conditions of political life. Fidelity to the constituted head of

authority would, according to Christian principles, secure the divinely

appointed Head.

 

  • CHRIST UTTERS HIS EVER-REITERATED DEMAND FOR

FIDELITY TO THE INALIENABLE CLAIMS OF GOD. “Render unto

God the things that are God’s.” Is anything not God’s? If in truth all is first

rendered to him in an honest consecration to his will, then may that which

he ordains for the neighbor be given to the neighbor; that which is for the

poor to the poor; or that for the family, or for self even, so given; and

therefore that which is for “the king, as supreme,” to the king may be

rendered.

 

  • LET THE MAN HIMSELF, WHO TRULY IS GOD’S, BE

RENDERED UNTO GOD. One has beautifully taught thus: “That which

bears Caesar’s image is, as belonging to Caesar, to be given to him; but

that which has God’s image belongs to God.” Had Israel been faithful to

“render” themselves “to God” they would not in those late days have been

given up to the Romans, as in earlier days fidelity to God would have kept

back the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. The great principle to guide nations

and individuals alike is truly to be the Lord’s. Then, when he is the God of

the nation, all other service and all other obligations fall into their proper

order and degree of importance. And he who serves his God in humility

will serve his king in fidelity. He who is obedient to the Lord’s claims will

know how to render the claims of masters, and lords, and rulers, and

sovereigns. Not more truly is the Law one,” Thou shalt love the Lord thy

God,” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor,” than is “Render unto Caesar the

things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

 

 

 

The Resurrection from the Dead  (vs. 18-27)

 

A new class of antagonists now assail the great “Master” with a case of

casuistry, designed evidently to bring the doctrine of the resurrection into

contempt. “In the resurrection whose wife shall she be of them?” Was this

one of the flimsy, difficulties on which they relied for a defense of their

position, as so often men screen their scepticism behind a mere veil of

difficulty? And did they depend in any real degree upon an imaginary

inconsistency to warrant them in denying the grandest hopes of the human

heart? Be it so or not, they gave opportunity for the most precious defense

of the common faith. The Church to-day is rich in an inheritance of

defensive writing drawn from the pens of holy apostles and righteous men.

But though it is of unspeakable value to her to read the inestimable words

of the great Apostle to the Gentiles, yet to them who have wholly

committed themselves to Jesus, who truly own him as “Master,” and no

other, it is most comforting to find him entering the lists against all

Sadducean unbelief for all ages. It is enough: Jesus is the defender of the

faith. We want no more. In one sentence we read both an answer to the

difficulty and a confirmation of the truth: “For when they shall rise from

the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as angels in

heaven.” Thus is clearly revealed:

 

(1) The fact of the resurrection; and

(2) the conditions of the resurrection life.

 

  • The first clear teaching is, THE DEAD LIVE. “That the dead are raised

even Moses showed;” so little had these sons of Moses understood his

words. And now Jesus shows it more clearly, and points to the life as an

immortal life: “Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the

angels; and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” True, this is

affirmed of them “that are accounted worthy to attain to that world, and

the resurrection from the dead.” But that “the dead” — that is, all the dead

— “are raised Moses showed, as touching the dead that they are raised.”

Oh, precious words! Thanks be to God, life does not end in a tomb I

Abraham and Isaac and Jacob live; yea, “all live unto him,” if unto us they

die. Jesus points to the source of all error on this as on so many subjects:

“Ye know not the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” On these two hang

all the true faith of men. No one can read “the Scriptures” and deny the

resurrection. In Jesus’ view the old Scriptures sufficiently affirmed the

great truth. And he who in these days would defend himself against the

assaults of unbelief must sit at the feet of Jesus. No one can doubt his belief

in the resurrection. “And why is it judged incredible?” All difficulties vanish

in presence of “the power of God.” If the question of the “foolish one” be

urged, “How? — How are the dead raised?” the only answer faith should

vouchsafe is, “The power of God.” And if the further demand is pressed,

but “with what manner of body do they come?” it must still be replied,

“God giveth it a body.” Let the true believer stand by the Word of God.

The resurrection rests not for its certainty on a foundation of human

ratiocination or scientific deduction, neither is it by them to be overturned.

The one impregnable wall of defense for this most precious article of

human faith and this most precious condition of human life is in the

combined words, “The Scriptures: the power of God.”

 

  • As to the CONDITION OF THE RESURRECTION LIFE. We wait to

know this. One only truth is enough to carry with us, an earnest of all —

“as angels in heaven.” The truths are almost antiphonal: “Neither can they

die any more; as angels in heaven.”

 

 

 

The Great Command (vs. 28--34)

 

One more question ere it could be said, “No man after that durst ask him

any question.” Alas! on the human side it, like the others, is a mere quibble,

or based on one. But though man asks in his folly Jesus never answers

according to it, but always according to his supreme wisdom, in a manner

so high, so far-reaching, so seriously. He trifled not with the perplexities of

men. He knew nations and tribes of men would feed on his words to the

end of time, and he gladly bore witness to all those truths against which the

human errors in that erring age stood out in humiliating contrast. The

Christian teaching grows up out of the Mosaic. The later development of

the one system does not set aside a single moral principle of the earlier.

The solution of the difficulty which beset a few amidst the many

commandments for which priority was urged laid down a permanent

principle for all time, and took up into Christianity the essential teaching of

Mosaism. We read:

 

  • THE SIMPLICITY OF THE CHRISTIAN TEACHING. One word

embodies it — the word “love.” To this Christ gave the utmost prominence

and the most beautiful illustration. This simple rule engages the devotion of

the central energy of the entire life. It describes the first effort of feeble

infancy and the ripest experience of the mature Christian age. It is at once

the point from which all pure and active obedience takes its departure, and

it is the end towards which all spiritual growth and culture tends. It is the

alpha and the omega of the Christian spirit. To love, to love God first and

supremely, and in that love to love the neighbor, is so complete a

dedication of the entire inner man to the service of the Most High, that all

commands requiring the details of that service are anticipated. From these

branches hang all the rich, ripe clusters of fruitful obedience.

 

  • THE ELEVATING TENDENCY OF THAT TEACHING, WHICH

SETS FORTH THE LOVE OF THE INFINITE EXCELLENCE AS THE

HIGHEST AND MOST OBLIGATORY OF ALL ITS

REQUIREMENTS. That holy system of spiritual morality first called

Mosaism, or Judaism, and now called Christianity, is for ever raised to the

highest pitch of excellence and worthiness by making this its central, its

almost solitary, command. All that is good in morals, all that is pure in

aspiration, all that is beneficent in action, flows from this fountain.

Theperpetual aim to reach to the most entire love of the most exalted

Object of human thought must insensibly raise the moral and spiritual

character of every one who is controlled by so worthy an endeavor. It

ensures the recognition of the soul’s subjection to the authority of God; it

makes the Divine excellences objects of ceaseless contemplation; it

subordinates all the aims and activities of life to the holiest purposes; and,

while withdrawing the life from the degradations of low and unworthy

motives and pursuits, it regulates the whole by an ever-present, powerful,

and satisfying principle of life, at the same time preserving the simplicity

and moral cohesion — the unity — of the character. Never was a holier

law uttered; never were the feet of men directed to a purer, safer path;

never was a firmer, truer basis laid on which to found a kingdom of truth,

of peace, and of well-being.

 

  • THE PRACTICAL CHARACTER OF THE CHRISTIAN

TEACHING — “Thou shalt love thy neighbor.” To present rules for the

government of every hour and the regulation of every transaction of life

would be far less effective than to seize upon a principle like this, which

underlies all conduct. It may be entrusted with the guidance of the life in

the absence of controlling regulations and minute details of obligatory

observance. It leaves the spirit free to act according to its own generous

impulses or prudent caution. Such a rule prevents the necessity for “Thou

shalt not steal;” “Thou shalt not kill.” Love embraces all virtues; it fulfils all

righteousness. The regulating principle, “as thyself,” points to the due

estimate of one’s own life; such a love for it as would prevent its exposure

to evil, and such a discernment of the true interests of life, and the common

participation in those interests, as would lead to right adjustment of the

relative claims of self and the apparently conflicting claims of others. Truly,

“there is none other commandment greater than these.” This, indeed, is

“much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And he who has

come to appreciate the truth and beauty of this is “not far from the

kingdom of God;” while be who keeps this commandment already dwells

within the security and shares the blessedness of that kingdom.

 

 

 

The Widow’s Gift (vs. 41-44)

 

How many lessons cluster around this unique incident! The watchful eye

which is ever over the treasury of the Lord’s temple; the discernment

between the gifts that come of “superfluity” large turbans in themselves but

small in comparison with the abundance left untouched; and the gifts that

betoken the penury of the giver, but at the same time declare the entireness

with which all his living is devoted to the service of God; and the great

Master’s principle of judgment. “Many that were rich cast in much;” one

that was “poor” cast in little; yet the one “cast in more than all.” Let not

our thoughts leave the Lord’s treasury, and let that treasury denote to us

whatever ‘is employed for the right ordering of the Lord’s worship in his

own holy house; all that is expended in charitable works for the benefit of

men, whether in ministering to their spiritual or temporal necessities. The

good Lord has himself chosen to represent works of benevolence shown to

the suffering and poor to be works done unto himself. All that is thrown

into their treasury is thrown into his. “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of

these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me.” So it comes to pass

that both the Lord and the poor — the Lord in heaven and the suffering

and needy on earth — make their appeal to our charity for such help as we

may be able to render. In responding to this double appeal let us measure

our gifts:

 

1. By the claims of our Lord upon us.

2. By the necessities of our neighbor.

3. By the measure of our sympathy with Him and them.

 

  • IF THE CLAIMS OF OUR LORD guide us, what limit shall we put

upon our “gifts”? To him we owe more than our all. To him we are

indebted for life and breath, and all things; for the bright light of the morn

and the cooling shades of eventide; for reason and affection and friendship.

The good and perfect gifts of righteousness, of holy hope, of calm faith, of

heavenly love, come down from him. All that is beauteous and bright in

life; all that raises us from degradation and need. Ah! the sands on the seashore

are as little likely to be numbered as the gifts of the Lord’s bounty,

which lay us under tribute from sheer thankfulness to him.

 

  • But our NEIGHBOUR’S NEED presents little less impressive claims

upon us. How multiplied! How various! How imperative! Christian charity

needs little labor to find out the suitable channels of its activity. How

greatly has that charity grown and multiplied since the Lord cast the first

handful of seed into the warm heart of man! Many ages have been

characterized by large gifts for the comfort, the physical need, the spiritual

help of man. This present age is not a whir behind the chief in the largeness

and variety of its gifts and efforts. To the Lord be praise!

 

  • But the true spring of all charity and the true quality of it is to be

found in a PERFECT UNITY OF INTEREST WITH MEN, AND A

PERFECT SYMPATHY WITH THE LORD. True charity is the outflow

of the love of God and love of man. It is one of the highest reaches of

wisdom to discern the perfect community of interest which every man has

with every other. This the Lord saw: this, alas! is but little seen by us. tie

who can once become possessed of the belief that he has no true and