Luke 9

 

 

The Master Sends Out the Twelve on a Mission (vs. 1-6)

 

1 “Then He called His twelve disciples together,” - The Galilee ministry was

just over; outwardly it had been a triumphant success; vast crowds had been

gathered together. The Master was generally welcomed with a positive enthusiasm;

the people heard Him gladly. Here and there were visible, as in the cases of the

woman who touched Him and the synagogue ruler who prayed Him to heal his

little daughter, just related (ch. 8.), conspicuous examples of a strange or mighty

faith; but the success, the Master knew too well, was only on the surface. The

crowds who to-day shouted “Hosanna!” and greeted His appearance among

them with joy, on the morrow would fall away from Him, and on the day

following would reappear with the shout “Crucify him!” It was especially to

warn His Church in coming ages of this sure result of all earnest devoted

preaching and teaching, that He spoke that saddest of parables, “the sower

 (ch. 8.)  But before He finally brought this Galilaean ministry to a close, He

would gather in some few wavering souls, whose hearts He knew were

trembling in the balance between the choice of life and good, and death

and evil. To help these He sent out this last mission. The word rendered

“called together” indicates a solemn gathering -  “and gave them power

and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.”  This and the

further details in verse 2 roughly describe the work He intended them to do,

and the means bestowed on them for its accomplishment. Very extraordinary

powers were conferred on them — powers evidently intended to terminate

with the short mission on which He now dispatched them.

 

2 “And He sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.”

Mark 6:13 mentions the special instrument of their power over sickness — the

twelve anointed the sick with oil, and healed them. It is probable that the early

Christian custom alluded to in  James 5:14, of anointing the sick with oil, arose

from our Lord’s direction to His apostles on the occasion of this mission. The

practice was continued, or possibly was revived, long after the original

power connected with it had ceased to exist. It still survives in the Roman

Catholic Church in the sacrament of extreme unction, which, singularly

enough, is administered when all hope of the patient’s recovery from the

sickness is over. Anointing the sick with oil was a favorite practice among

the ancient Jews (see ch. 10:34 and Isaiah 1:6). It was to be used

by the twelve as an ordinary medicine, possessing, however, in their hands

an extraordinary effect, and was to be, during this mission, the visible

medium through which the Divine influence and power to heal took effect.

We never read of Jesus in His miracles using oil; His usual practice seems to

have been simply to have used words. At times He touched the sufferer; on

one occasion only we read how He mixed some clay with which He

anointed the sightless eyes.

 

3 “And He said unto them, Take nothing for your journey,” - The general

spirit of the instructions of Christ to these first missionaries merely is, Go forth

in the simplest, humblest manner, with no hindrances to your movements, and

in perfect faith; and this, as history shows, has always been the method of the

most successful missions. At the same time, we must remember that the wants

of the twelve were very small, and were secured by the free open hospitality

of the East - “neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money;

neither have two coats apiece.” 

 

4  “And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.”

On entering any new place they were to select, after due and careful inquiry

(Matthew 10:11), a family likely and able to assist them in their evangelistic work.

This “house” they were to endeavor to make the center of their efforts in that

locality. This rule we find continued in the early years of Christianity. In the history

of the first Churches, certain “houses” in the different cities were evidently the

centers of the mission work there. We gather this from such expressions in Paul’s

letters as “the Church which is in his house” (compare, too, Acts 16:40, where the

house of Lydia was evidently the head-quarters of all missionary work in Philippi

and its neighborhood).

 

5“And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off

the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.” It was the custom

of the Jews when they returned from foreign (Gentile) lands, as they crossed the

frontiers of the Holy Land, to shake the dust from off their feet. This was an act

symbolizing that they had broken, now on their return to their own land, all

communion with Gentile peoples which a residence among them had necessitated

for a season. The bitter hatred and loathing of the Jews, after their return from

the Captivity, for all Gentile races can only be understood by the student of the

Talmud.  So comprehensive and perfect a hatred, enduring, too, for centuries,

has never been witnessed in the case of any other peoples. This accounts in great

measure for the retaliative persecution which more or less has been carried

on all through the Christian era against this race. In our day — the day of a

liberalism possibly exaggerated and unreal — in many parts of Europe the

untrained sense of the masses strangely revolts against this spirit of toleration;

and wild excesses, massacres, and bitter persecution — the Judenhetz, hatred

of the Jews in Germany and in Russia (this written long before World War II)

are among the curious results of the liberality and universal toleration of the time.

 

6 “And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the

gospel, and healing every where.”

 

 

 

                                    Lessons from the First Commission (vs. 1-6)

 

We learn from this commission and these instructions:

 

·         THAT CHRIST HAS DIVINE RESOURCES FOR SPECIAL

NECESSITIES. He gave to the twelve “power and authority over all

devils,” etc. If He had such resources at His command then, when He was

stooping so low and laying aside so much of heavenly rank and authority,

of what is He not possessed now — now that He is enthroned, now that “all

power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth”? His Church may be very

bitterly assailed; it may fall very low in consequence of the slackness and

unfaithfulness of its own members; it has thus fallen more than once since

He ascended: but in His hand are great reserves; His Divine resources are

illimitable. He can equip and send forth men endowed with wonderful

power, with marvelous faculty of persuasion or of organization; He can

send forth those whose influence shall be felt even “where Satan’s seat is”

(Revelation 2:13), in the depths of spiritual evil and moral wrong, and thus

He can establish or reestablish His kingdom.

 

·         THAT WE MAY COMMIT OURSELVES TO WORKS OF

USEFULNESS though conscious of much insufficiency. We may be

surprised that our Lord should send out the twelve to “preach the kingdom

of God” (v. 2) at a time when they had so very imperfect an idea as they

then had of the character of that kingdom. Their views of it were very

elementary; they had yet to learn concerning it facts and truths which seem

to us of the first importance. But still He sent them; there was something,

and something of substantial value, they could teach; and they were (all of

them, at that time) genuinely attached to their Divine Master. If we wait

until we know everything it would be well to know before we begin our

ministry, we shall be postponing the time until our chance is gone. We

should begin the work of holy usefulness early, even when there is very

much to learn; we shall acquire knowledge, tact, wisdom, power, as we go

on our way of service. The one requisite thing is that we shall be

thoroughly sincere, and do all that we do out of a true and faithful heart.

                                                                                    

·         THAT CHRIST MAY CALL ON US TO CAST OURSELVES

ENTIRELY ON HIS PROVIDING AND PROTECTING CARE. This

He did with His apostles now (v. 3). Usually it is our duty to take every

precaution for our bodily necessities; not to expose ourselves to needless

perils or to injurious privations. But there are times when it becomes our

duty — especially that of the Christian minister, or evangelist, or

missionary — to cast aside all prudential considerations, to run all risks, to

commit himself absolutely to the care of the Divine Father.

 

·         THAT THERE IS A LIMIT WHICH EVEN HOLY PERSISTENCY

MAY NOT PASS. (v. 5.) It is well to work patiently on under

discouragement. It is our sacred duty to do this; we are quite unfitted for

the nobler spheres of service if we are not prepared to do so. We admire

and applaud those who cannot tear themselves away from work which they

have set their hearts on accomplishing. Let patient persistency have

abundant scope for its exercise, but there is a point where it must stop; to

exceed a certain measure is to be disregardful of those who would not

reject the Word of life, on whom Christian service would not be spent in

vain.

 

·         THAT PRACTICAL KINDNESS TO BODILY WANTS goes well

with earnest attention to spiritual necessities (v. 6).

 

 

Herods Terror (vs. 7-9)

 

7 “Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him:” - This was

Herod Antipas; he was a son of Herod the Great; his mother’s name was Malthace.

After his father’s death he became tetrareh or prince-ruler of Galilee, Peraea, and

of a fourth part of the Roman province of Syria. His first wife was daughter of

Aretas, a famous Arabian sheik spoken of by Paul as “king of the Damascenes”

(II Corinthians 11:32). This princess he divorced, and contracted a marriage at

once incestuous and adulterous with his niece Herodias, the beautiful wife of his

half-brother Philip. Philip was not a sovereign prince, and it was probably

from motives of ambition that she deserted Philip for the powerful tetrarch

Herod Antipas. It was owing to his fearless remonstrances against this

wicked marriage that John the Baptist incurred the enmity of Herodias,

who was only satisfied with the head of the daring preacher who presumed

to attack her brilliant wicked life. What Herod now heard was the report of

the widespread interest suddenly aroused by the mission of the twelve — a

mission, we know, supported by miraculous powers, following close upon

the Galilaean ministry of the Lord, which, as far as regarded the numbers

who thronged His meetings, and the outward interest His words and works

excited, had been so successful. Rumors of all this at last reached the

court circle, wrapped up in its own selfish and often wanton pleasures and

false excitement -  “and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some,

that John was risen from the dead;” - Herod Antipas was probably inclined

to the Sadducee creed, which believed in neither angel nor spirit. But

Sadduceeism and the easy doctrines of Epicurus, which no doubt found favor

in the luxurious palace of Herod, are but a flimsy protection at best against the

ghastly reminiscences and the weird forebodings of a guilty conscience. The

murder of John had been, Herod knew, strongly condemned by the public

voice. He would not believe it was his old monitor risen, but yet the prince

was anxious and perturbed in his mind. The murmur that the great prophet

was Elias (Elijah) disquieted him, too. Herod could not help recalling to his

mind the lifelong combat of that great and austere servant of God against

another wicked sovereign and his queen, Ahab and Jezebel, whose great

crime was that they, too, had slain the Lord’s prophets. That history,

Herod felt, had to some extent been reproduced by himself and Herodias.

There was a rooted expectation among the Jews that Elijah would reappear

again on earth, and that his appearance would herald the advent of the

Messiah. There are numberless references in the Talmud to this looked-for

return of the famous Elijah.

 

8 “And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the

old prophets was risen again.”  Jeremiah and also Isaiah, though to a

lesser degree than Elijah, were looked for as heralds of the coming Messiah.

It was expected that Jeremiah would reveal the hiding-place of the long-lost ark

and of the Urim.  (II Macabees 2:4-8)

 

9  “And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I

hear such things? And he desired to see Him.” - that is, Jesus. The desire of

Herod was gratified, but not then. He saw Him the day of the Crucifixion, when

Pilate sent Him to Herod for judgment; but the tetrarch, weak and wicked

though he was, declined the responsibility of shedding that blood, so he

sent him back to the Roman governor. Here, and in Matthew and Mark,

follows the dramatic and vivid account of the death of John the Baptist.

Luke probably omits it, as his Gospel, or rather Paul’s, was derived from

what they heard from eyewitnesses and hearers of the Lord. As regards

Matthew and Mark, the latter of whom was probably simply the

amanuensis of Peter, the awful event was woven into their life’s story.

It was most natural that, in their public preaching and teaching, they should

make constant mention of the tragedy which so personally affected Jesus

and His little company. Luke and his master, Paul, on the other hand,

who were not personally present with the Lord when these events took

place, would be likely to confine their memoirs as closely as possible to

those circumstances in which Jesus alone occupied the prominent place.

 

 

 

 

                                    The Tetrarch and the Teacher (vs. 7-9)

 

Our Lord had very little to do with the “kings and rulers of the earth,” but

they did occasionally cross His path. At such times He bore Himself as we

should expect He would — He who was so far below and yet so much

further above them. His relations with Herod, as suggested by the text,

were these:

 

·         THE TEACHER CAUSING TROUBLE TO THE TETRARCH. Herod

“was perplexed” by all that he heard concerning Christ: His own wonderful

works and those which He commissioned and enabled His apostles to

perform (vs. 1-6) made an impression which entered and disturbed the

palace. We have reason to think that in Herod’s case the fame of Jesus

brought not only mental perplexity, but moral perturbation also (see

Matthew 14:2; Mark 6:14). He could not understand who this new,

great prophet could be, and he consulted his court respecting him. But it

was his own apprehension, if not his conviction, that the man whom he had

so guiltily slain (John the Baptist)  “was risen from the dead.” His carefully

trained judgment told him that he had nothing more to fear from that faithful

spokesman of the Lord. But his conscience, that struck deeper than his

judgment, compelled him to fear that he had not seen the last of that

beheaded prisoner. It is a very easy thing to take a human life, but it is a

very difficult thing to escape from responsibility for a human death.

 

Ø      Christ’s coming to us has caused and will cause a large amount of

intellectual perplexity. The world has for twenty centuries been asking

who He is, and what is the true and full account of Him. In this mental

perplexity there is nothing to be regretted; there is no better subject on

which the human intelligence could be employed.

 

Ø      Christ’s coming to man has occasioned much trouble of soul. The truths

He taught, the life He lived, the claims He makes upon us, — these have

stirred the human conscience to its depth; they have awakened a sense

of sin and ill desert; they have turned a strong light upon the GUILTY

PAST and the PERILOUS FUTURE;  they have called forth much self-

condemnation and self-reproach.  It is well that they have done, it is right

that they should do so.

 

·         THE TETRARCH DESIRING TO SEE THE TEACHER. “He desired

to see Him,” perhaps to have his mental curiosity set at rest; perhaps to

have his conscientious fears appeased; perhaps for both these reasons.

Certainly not in the hope of hearing heavenly truth, of hearing that Divine

wisdom which would enable him to be a better man and to live a nobler

life. And his motive being low, it proved, as we might have expected, that

when he did see Him, the interview gave him no gratification, but only

added to his guilt (ch. 23:8-11). It is well, indeed, to wish to come

into the presence of Christ, but whether the fulfillment of our desire will end

in good or evil depends mainly upon our motive.

 

Ø      A selfish spirit is almost sure to be unblessed, is most likely to have its

guilt increased thereby.

Ø      A spirit of mere curiosity will probably return unrewarded, though it

may meet with a gracious benediction.

Ø      A spirit of devotion and inquiry will certainly gain a blessing from His

holy hand. We may look at:

 

·         THE TEACHER AND THE TETRARCH IN THEIR STRONG

CONTRASTS.

 

Ø      Of present position.

Ø      Of moral character and the purpose of their life.

Ø      Of their destiny.

 

 

The Lord Feeds the Five Thousand (vs. 10-17)

 

10 “And the apostles, when they were returned, told Him all that they had done.

And He took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the

city called Bethsaida.  11 “And the people, when they knew it, followed Him:

and He received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and

healed them that had need of healing.”  This, perhaps the most famous and

oftenest told of the Lord’s miracles, was worked directly after the return of the

twelve from their mission. He and they were no doubt very weary of the crowds

which continually now thronged them.  The excitement of the multitude about

Jesus was now at its height. Directly after the discourse at Capernaum (John 6),

which immediately followed the great miracle we are about to discuss, the popular

enthusiasm began to wane. Intensely weary, dispirited too at the story of the

murder of John the Baptist, which was told the Master by the disciples and the

friends of John on their return from their mission, Jesus determined for a brief

space to withdraw Himself from the public gaze. He crossed the Lake of

Gennesaret in one of His friends’ fishing-boats to a town lately identified by

modern research as Bethsaida Julias, a small city recently beautified by Herod

Philip, and named Bethsaida Julias, after the daughter of Augustus.

Bethsaida, “house of fish,” was a name attached evidently to several of

these fishing centers on the shores of the lake. Many of the multitude of

whom we read subsequently in the account of the miracle, had watched His

departure in the boat for the neighborhood of Bethsaida Julias, and had

gone on foot round the head of the lake to join the popular Teacher again.

The distance round the north end of the lake from the point of

embarkation, most likely Capernaum, to Bethsaida Julias is not very

considerable. The crowd which soon joined Him in retirement would be

considerably swelled by many of the Passover pilgrims just arrived at

Capernaum on their way to Jerusalem to keep the feast. These would be

anxious, too, to see and to hear the great Galilaean Prophet, whose name

just then was in every mouth. Not very far from Bethsaida Julias there is a

secluded plain, El Batihah; thither Jesus no doubt went after leaving His

fishing-boat, purposing to spend some time in perfect rest. Soon, however,

the usually quiet plain becomes populous with the crowds following after

the Galilaean Master. Though longing intensely for repose so necessary for

Himself and His disciples, He at once, moved by the eagerness of the

multitude to hear and see Him again, gives them His usual loving welcome,

and begins in His old fashion to teach them many things, and to heal their

sick.

 

 

                        The Healing Hand of Christ (v. 11)

 

“And healed them that had need of healing.’’ And who are they to whom

these words do not apply? In A WORLD as FULL OF SIN  as OURS IS, there

is nothing of which we have greater need than A DIVINE HEALER!  For sin

means sickness, disease, derangement, pain — both spiritual and corporeal. Every

human ear wants to hear those gracious words, “I am the Lord that healeth

thee” (Exodus 15:26); every human heart has occasion to plead, “Heal me,

O Lord, and I shall be healed (Jeremiah 17:14 - don’t leave out the next

clause of the verse - CY - 2021); every soul is again and again in need of the

great beneficent Physician.

 

·         AS THOSE LIABLE TO DISEASE AND PAIN. Considering the

extreme intricacy of our bodily structure, and considering also the

irregularities and evils of which we are guilty, it is wonderful that there is

as much health and as little sickness as we find. But he is an exception to

his fellows who goes for many years without ailment and, indeed, without

illness. And we have all of us reason to bless the Lord of our lives that He

heals us so readily and so often. He heals in two ways.

 

Ø      By conferring on us a nature which has recuperative powers, so that

without any medical aid the wound is healed, the organ recovers its

power and fulfils its functions.

 

Ø      By giving us medicinal herbs which our science can discover and apply,

the nature of which is to heal and to restore. In both these cases it is THE

LORD of our human body and of nature who “works” (John 5:17) for

our benefit. Our art, where it is exercised, only supplies one condition out

of many; it alone would be utterly insufficient. Whenever we are healed

of any malady, slight or serious, we should join in the exclamation of the

psalmist “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy

diseases.”  (Psalm 103:3), and feel that we have one reason more for

gratitude and devotion. Let those who have been brought back from the

gates of the grave by Christ’s pitiful and healing kindness consider

whether they are paying Him the vows which they made in the hour

of suffering and danger “Which my lips have uttered, and my mouth

hath spoken, when I was in trouble!” (ibid. ch. 66:14).

 

·         AS THE CHILDREN OF SORROW. Possibly we may know nothing

of serious sickness — there are those who escape it — but we all know

what sorrow means. Trouble is a visitor that knocks at every door, that

finds its way to every human heart. It may be some gradually approaching

evil, which at length culminates in disaster; or it may be some sudden blow,

which badly bruises if it does not break the heart. It may be the heavy,

entangling loss; or the grave, oppressive anxiety; or the lamentable failure;

or the sore and sad bereavement. How precious, then, beyond all price, the

healing of the Divine Healer! In these dark hours our Divine Lord comes to

us with ministering hand.

 

Ø      He impels all those who are dear to us to grant us their tenderest and

most sustaining love; and human kindness is a very healing thing.

 

Ø      He grants us His own most gracious sympathy; He is touched with a

feeling of our infirmity; we know and feel that He is with us, watching

over us,  In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of

His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed

them; And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.”

Isaiah 63:9) The sympathy of our Saviour is a precious balm to our

wounded spirit.

 

Ø      He comes to us in the office and the Person of the Divine Comforter

      (The Holy Spirit is the Greatest Blessing we have in the world!  CY -

2021), directly soothing and healing our torn and troubled hearts.

Thus He heals us according to the greatness of our need.

 

·         AS THOSE WHO SUFFER FROM A WOUNDED CHARACTER.

A wounded spirit is worse than a bodily infirmity (Proverbs 18:14); but

a wounded character is worse than a wounded spirit, for that is a spirit that

has injured itself. There are those who present to their friends and

neighbors the spectacle of bodily health and material prosperity; but what

their Master sees when He regards them is spiritual infirmity. They are

weak, sickly, inwardly deranged. Their hearts are very far from being as He

would like to see them; instead of:

 

Ø      ardent love is lukewarmness;

Ø      reverence is flippancy of spirit;

Ø      a holy scrupulousness and a wise restraint is laxity if not positive

      disobedience;

Ø      zeal is coldness and indifference to His cause and kingdom.

 

Of all men living, these are they who have most “need of healing.”

And Christ both can and will heal them.  To such as these He says:

 

Ø      “I will heal thy back-sliding;   (Hosea 14:4)

Ø      “Wilt thou be made whole?”  (John 5:6)

Ø      “I will: be thou clean.”  (ch. 5:13)

 

And if they will but go to him in a spirit of humility, of faith, of

reconsecration, they will receive power from His gracious touch, they will

rise renewed; and as they rise from the couch of spiritual langor and

indifference to walk, to run in the way of His commandments, to climb the

heights of close and holy fellowship with God, a deeper note of joy will

sound from the depth of their hearts than ever comes from the lips of

bodily convalescence, “I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up,

and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.”  (Psalm 30:1)

 

12 “And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said

unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and

country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a

desert place.”   Simple consideration for the crowds, among whom we know

were women and children, probably dictated this remark of the twelve, though

it has been with some ingenuity suggested that the advice of the disciples was

owing to their fear that, as darkness would soon creep over the scene, some

calamity might happen which would give a fresh handle against Jesus to His

many enemies.

 

13 “But He said unto them, Give ye them to eat.” - This reply, and the great

miracle that followed, was the result of a loving thought of the Redeemer.

John 6:4 has disclosed it to us. It was the time of the Passover. He could not

visit Jerusalem with His disciples, owing to the virulent hatred of which He had

become the object. In this unexpected gathering, resembling that of the nation at

Jerusalem, He discerns a signal from on high, and determines to celebrate a

feast in the desert as a compensation for the Passover Feast.”  “And they said,

We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go

and buy meat for all this people.”  The main lines of this story are the same in

each of the four accounts which we possess of this miracle; but each of the four

evangelists supplies some little detail wanting in the others. It is clear that

there was no original written tradition from which they all copied. John

tells us it was a little boy who had this small, rough provision. The boy

probably was in attendance on the apostles, and this was no doubt the little

stock of food they had provided for their own frugal meal. The barley

loaves were the ordinary food of the poorest in Palestine, and the two fish

were dried, as was the common custom of the country; and such dried fish

was usually eaten with the bread.

 

14 “They were about five thousand men.”  Matthew 14:21 adds,“besides

women and children.” The multitude generally had come from a

considerable distance, we know; there would not be, comparatively

speaking, many women and children among them. These were grouped

together apart, and, of course, fed, but were not counted among the five

thousand. “And He said to His disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in

a company.”  Jesus has no sooner ascertained that there are five loaves and

two fishes, than He is satisfied. He commands them to make the multitude

sit down. Just as though He had said, ‘I have what I want; the meal is

ready; let them be seated!’ But He takes care that His banquet shall be

conducted with an order worthy of the God who gives it. Everything must

be calm and solemn; it is a kind of Passover meal. By the help of the

apostles, He seats His guests in rows of fifty each, or in double rows of fifty,

by hundreds (Mark 6:40). This orderly arrangement allowed of the guests being

easily counted.  Mark describes in a dramatic manner the striking spectacle

presented by these regularly formed companies, each consisting of two equal

ranks, and all arranged upon the slope of the hill. The pastures at that time

were in all their spring glory. John and Mark both bring forward the beauty

of this natural carpet. ‘Much grass’ (John 6:10); ‘on the green grass’ (Mark 6:39).

Mark’s vivid picturesque details show the observant eye-witness. The words

rendered “in ranks” (“they sat down in ranks”) literally mean they were like

flower-beds set in the green grass. The bright-colored Eastern robes of

these men, as they sat in long rows, suggested the happy comparison.

 

15 “And they did so, and made them all sit down.”

 

16 “Then He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and

looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and brake, and gave to the

disciples to set before the multitude.” The blessing was the usual

introduction of a pious Jewish family to a meal. It was pronounced by the

head of the household. An ordinary formula was, “May God, the

Ever-blessed One, bless what He has given us!” The Jewish barley loaves

were broad, thin cakes; these were usually broken, not cut — hence the

expression, “and brake.” In Mark and Luke the tense of the verb

rendered “gave,” in the original Greek, is an imperfect, and signifies, “He

gave, and kept on giving.” This supplies a hint as to the way of working

the miracle. Each disciple kept coming to Him for a fresh supply of bread. It

was, however, as it has been well said, a miracle of the highest order

(I recommend Genesis 17 – El Shaddai – Names of God by Nathan Stone – #320 -

this web site – CY – 2012), one of creative power, and is to us inconceivable.

The evangelists make no attempt to explain it. They evidently did not care to ask.

They beheld it, and related it to us just as they saw it in its simple grandeur.

Neither disciples nor crowds seem at first to have grasped the stupendous nature

of the act.  John 6:15 tells us of its effect on the crowds, who, when they came

to see what had been done, wished to take Him by force and make Him

king. For a brief space they were convinced that in the poor Galilee Rabbi

they had found King Messiah — none but He could have done this great

thing. They were right.

 

17 “And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken

up of fragments that remained to them, twelve baskets.”  A very

impressive lesson from the Creator Himself against waste or extravagance.

John expressly tells us that this order to gather up the fragments of their

meal emanated from Jesus Himself (John 6:12).  Carefulness, thrift, and

economy in small things as in great, form part of the teaching of the loving

Master.  From such passages as Mark 6:37 and John 13:29, it seems

probable that the disciples, acting under their Master’s direction, were in

the habit of distributing, out of their comparative abundance, food to those

persons in the villages who were poorer than themselves. It was, no doubt,

for some such hallowed object as this that the careful collection of the

fragments which filled twelve baskets was made. The “baskets” (cophinus)

were usually carried by travelling Jews to keep their food from contracting

Levitical pollution in Gentile places. Juvenal, in a well-known passage

(‘Sat.,’ 3:14), writes of the Jews traveling about Italy with no baggage

save a little bundle of hay to serve as a pillow, and this cophinus, or basket,

for their food. So abundant had been the provision created by Jesus, that

the fragments collected far exceeded the original stock of food which the

disciples gave to Jesus to bless, to break, and to distribute among the five

thousand and upward who were fed that memorable afternoon. This

miracle is the only one in the entire Galilean ministry which is told by all

the four evangelists. It evidently had a very prominent place in the teaching

of the first days. Rationalizing interpretation in the case of this miracle is

singularly at fault. After twenty centuries of unremitting hostility to the

teaching of Jesus Christ, not even a plausible explanation of this miraculous

multiplication of the loaves and fishes has been found by adverse critics.

 

 

 

                                    The Mission of the Twelve (vs. 1-17)

 

After the group of miracles, we have our Lord next conferring the power

of working miracles upon the twelve. This was miraculous power in its

highest form. It is important to work well one’s self; but it is a still greater

feat to get all about one’s self into working order too. Jesus was training

His disciples to be workers like Himself. Let us, then, consider:

 

·         THE CONDITIONS OF THE MISSION OF THE TWELVE. (vs. 1-6.)

      And here we have to notice:

 

Ø      The power delegated was healing and exorcising power. That is to say,

their miraculous power was to change the sick and the insane into able-

bodied members of society. The aim of our Lord’s philanthropy and of

theirs was to enable men to become useful workers. When men can help

themselves, then are they in the happiest of all conditions. This is

infinitely better than spoon-feeding and pauperizing people.  (Consider

the effects of the Great Society of welfare in the United States - CY -

2021)

 

Ø      The disciples were not to use miracle to make themselves independent of

the hospitality of the people. Christ never used miracle to make life easier

for Himself; nor did He allow His delegates to do so. it would seem to

some a wiser arrangement to make them independent of random

hospitalities.  But it was better for all parties that hospitality should be

looked for. Rabbis were hospitably entertained, and so should these

disciples be. They were also to accept of hospitality as it came, and

not to be choosers of the grand and pretentious houses which might

be opened to them. There may be as much magnanimity in accepting

hospitality as in extending it.

 

Ø      In case of rejection, they were simply to symbolize their separation by

shaking off the dust of their feet against them. This was the symbol of

hostility and war; but there was no further outward act to be

undertaken.  The war was spiritual, and the judgment of the

rejectors must be left with God. Toleration was thus made

consistent with faithfulness to their convictions; and was freed

from all laxity.

 

Ø      Their career of preaching and of accompanying philanthropy was

continued throughout the towns of Galilee. The gospel they brought to

men was one of trust in the Saviour who had come and of devotion to

Him.  It was a gospel of work inspired by that faith which operates

through love. Hence it carried philanthropy with it, and this

philanthropy was of the most useful and stimulating character.

 

·         HEROD’S FEARS AND CURIOSITY. (vs. 7-9.) The mission of the

twelve had proved sufficiently influential to attract the notice of Herod. It

led him to consider his sin and danger in murdering the Baptist. The

miracles of which he heard, however, were merciful, and not wrathful; and

so, though he was perplexed about the Saviour, he was curious to see vim.

Most likely he thought he would get Jesus into his power, as he had got

John. But John’s ideas about the kingdom and its coming were essentially

different from those of Jesus. Hence Herod is left in isolation; his curiosity

and desire to see Jesus are alike unsatisfied.

 

·         THE RETIREMENT INTO WHICH JESUS TAKES THE

DISCIPLES AFTER THEIR CAREER OF SUCCESS. (v. 10.) The

disciples, as we learn from the other Gospels, returned with joy, highly

elated with their success. It was on this account doubtless that our Lord

deemed retirement so needful for them. There is nothing, so wholesome for

us when dangerously elated as solitude and prayer. In this way the true

character of success is appreciated, and all undue elation about it

overcome.

 

·         THE INCONVENIENCES OF POPULARITY. (v. 14.) The

seasons of retirement so beneficial for public men are apt to be invaded, and

more work forced upon them than they would themselves desire. The

disciples and Jesus had most likely secured some fellowship with God

before the popular invasion; for our Lord anticipated both friends and foes,

and wrought out vis beautiful plan in spite of interruption. So when the

people came crowding around Him, He was able to receive them with

unruffled spirit, and to give them the counsel and the healing they needed.

It was the same policy which the disciples had pursued by His directions

which He here pursues. Miracle is used to heal and render useful, but not to

minister to self-indulgence or render life easier to men. He made the

multitude hopeful through His preaching, and healthy through His

miraculous power.

 

·         THE FEEDING AND DISMISSAL OF THE PEOPLE. (vs. 12-17.)

This miracle is narrated by all the evangelists. The sending of the multitude

away is urged by the disciples. They have got the healing, and should

expect no more. As for hospitality, the five thousand should have

entertained Jesus and the disciples, rather than be entertained by them. But

our Lord would go beyond His previous limitations, and become the Host

instead of the Guest of men. For after all, He is really men’s Host, and we

all sit at His board, though He condescends to be our Guest and to take of

what we provide. Hence he shows by this miracle how all men really

depend upon His bounty and are fed from His hand. The multiplication of

the five loaves and two fishes, that is, of cooked food, cannot be assigned

to any natural law, and could only have been miraculous. It was not

quantitatively so great a miracle as the feeding of the Israelites with the

manna for forty years; yet it was a sufficient miracle to show that THE

SUSTAINER OF THE WORLD WAS AMONG THEM!  Upon Him they

should depend, and, if they fed by faith on Him, they would always be

strengthened. It was at the same time sufficiently moderate in its size and

duration to show that He was not going to keep lazy men in idleness by

spreading a gratuitous feast for them every day. They are dismissed by Him

that very evening, that they might not be able to go through the selfish

ceremony of making Him a king. He did not want to be a king over idlers,

over men who would like to eat without the trouble of working; and so He

defeated their worldly plans. His lesson of frugality also was most significant.

He wanted no waste in His kingdom. He would not prostitute miraculous

power to minister either to idleness or to wastefulness. Very clear light is

thus cast upon the economy of Jesus. He kept miracle in its place. It

ministered to usefulness; it was not allowed to minister to idleness or waste.

            It would be well if all learned the wholesome lesson which Christ thus conveys.

 

 

           

                        The Divine Provision for the World’s Need (vs. 12-17)

 

This miracle of our Lord, meeting as it did the present bodily necessities of the

multitude about Him, stands for ever as a picture and parable of the far more wonderful

and the gloriously bountiful provision which the Saviour of mankind has made for the

deeper necessities of our race.

 

·         OUR HOLY SOLICITUDE FOR THE SPIRITUALLY DESTITUTE.

There is a note of true sympathy in the language of the disciples (v. 12;

see Mark 6:35-36). They were concerned to think of that great number

of people, among whom were “women and children” (Matthew 14:21),

having gone so long without food, and being “in a desert place” where

none could be obtained. How strong and keen should be our sympathy

with those who are spiritually destitute; who have received from God a

nature with immeasurable capacities, with profound cravings for that which

is eternally true and divinely good, and who “have nothing to eat”! No

solicitude for hungering human hearts can be extravagant; it is only too

common to be guiltily and pitifully unconcerned. And if the stage of

spiritual hunger and thirst should have passed into that of spiritual

unconsciousness, that is one degree (and a large degree too) more

deplorable, for it is one stage nearer to spiritual death. We do well to pity

the multitudes at home and abroad who might be and who should be living

on Divine and everlasting truth, but who are pining and perishing on

miserable husks, — on errors, on superstitions, on morbid fancies, on low

ambitions, on unsatisfying and perhaps demoralizing pleasures.

 

·         THE APPARENT INADEQUACY OF THE DIVINE PROVISION.

Well may the disciples, not yet enlightened as to their Master’s purpose,

regard “five loaves and two fishes” as hopelessly inadequate to the

occasion. So to human judgment they seemed. Not less strikingly

disproportioned must the Divine provision for man’s higher necessities

have seemed to those who first regarded it. What was it? It was, in the

language of our Lord recorded a few verses on in this chapter (v. 22),

“the Son of man suffering many things, being rejected.., and slain, and

being raised the third day.” A crucified and restored Messiah was to be

offered as the Bread of life to a hungering world! Would this satisfy the

needs of all mankind — of Jew and Gentile, of barbarian and cultured, of

bond and free, of man and woman? Could One that seemed to fail, whose

cause was all but extinguished in obloquy and desertion, be the Redeemer

of mankind? It was unlikely in the last degree; speaking after the manner of

men, it was impossible! And the machinery, too, the instrumentality by

which this strange provision was to be CONVEYED TO ALL HUMAN

SOULS EVERWHERE AND TO ALL GENERATIONS  was that not

equally inadequate? A few “unlearned and ignorant men,” a few earnest

and true but obscure and uninfluential women, — could they establish and

perpetuate this new system? could they pass on these scanty provisions to

the waiting and perishing multitude? How hopeless! how impossible! Yet see:

 

·         ITS PROVED SUFFICIENCY. As those five loaves and two fishes,

under the multiplying hand of Christ, proved to be far more than enough

for the thousands who partook of them, so is the provision in the gospel of

Christ for the needs of man found to be all-sufficient. In a once-crucified

and now exalted Saviour we have One in whom is found:

 

1. Pardon for every sin and for every repentant sinner.

2. Admission, instant and full, to the presence and favor of God.

3. A source of purity of heart, and excellency, and even nobility, of

    life.

4. Comfort in all the sorrows and privations of our earthly course.

5. Peace and hope in death.

6. A glorious immortality.

 

Well does this great Benefactor say, “I am come that ye might have life,

and, have it more abundantly.  (John 10:10)  The provision is more than

            equal to the necessity; there is a marvelous overflow of truth and grace.

 

After the relation of the great miracle of feeding the five thousand,

Luke omits in his Gospel a variety of incidents and several discourses told

at greater or lesser length by the other evangelists. For instance:

 

  • the reverential amazement of the people when the nature of the

stupendous miracle in connection with the creation of the loaves and

fishes flashed upon them, — they wished to recognize Him as King

Messiah;

  • the walking on the sea;
  • the long and important discourse on the true Bread at Capernaum,

the text of which was the late great miracle of the loaves;

  • the journey among the heathen as far as Tyre and Sidon;
  • the meeting with the Syro-phoenician woman;
  • the feeding of the four thousand, etc.

 

These incidents are related in Matthew 14.-16:12; Mark 6:45 - 8:80; John 6.

No commentator has satisfactorily explained the reason of this omission of

important portions of our Lord’s public ministry. The reason for Luke’s

action here probably will never be guessed. We must, however, in all

theories which we may form of the composition of these Gospels, never

lose sight of this fact, that while Matthew and Peter (Mark) were

eyewitnesses of the events of the life, Luke, and his master, Paul,

simply reproduced what they had heard or read. We may, therefore,

suppose that Luke exercised larger discretionary powers in dealing with

materials derived from others than the other two, who desired, no doubt,

to reproduce a fairly general summary of their Divine Master’s acts. On

such a theory of composition, a gap in the story like the one we are now

alluding to, in the more eclectic Gospel of Luke, would seem scarcely

possible in the first two Gospels. We, of course, make no allusion here to

the Fourth Gospel; the whole plan and design of John was different to

that upon which the first three were modeled.

 

 

JesusQuestion to His Own:  Who did they think He was?

                          He tells them of a suffering Messiah,

             and describes the lot of His own true followers. (vs. 18-27)

 

18 “And it came to pass, as He was alone praying, His disciples were with Him:

and He asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?” With these abrupt

words, Luke changes for his readers the time and scene. Since the miracle of feeding

the five thousand at Bethsaida Julias, Jesus had preached at Capernaum the famous

sermon on the “Bread of life” (reported in John 6.); He had wandered to the north-east

as far as the maritime cities of Tyre and Sidon; had returned again to the Decapolis

region for a brief sojourn; and then once more had turned His footsteps north; and

it was in the extreme confines of the Holy Land, in the neighborhood of Caesarea

Philippi, and close to the great fountain, the source of the sacred Jordan, at the

foot of the southern ridge of Hermon, where He put the momentous question here

chronicled, to His listening disciples. Much had happened since the five thousand

were fed. The defection which the Master had foreseen when He commenced His

parable-teaching with the sad story of the sower,” had begun. After the great

Capernaum sermon (John 6.), many had fallen away from him (Ibid. v.66); the

enthusiasm for His words was rapidly waning; the end was already in sight.

“Well,” he asks His own, “what are men saying about me? Whom do they

think that I am?”

 

19 “They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others

say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.” It was a strange answer, this

report of the popular belief concerning Jesus.  There had been for a long period

among the people expectations more or less defined, that certain of the great

national heroes were to reappear again to take up their incomplete work, and

to play the part in Israel, of heralds of the looked-for glorious King Messiah.

The popular belief respecting Jesus was that He was one of these. Some thought

of Elijah. The two miracles of creating the loaves and fishes for a great famishing

crowd especially suggested this idea. There was a shadowy, but not an unreal

resemblance here to the well-remembered miracle of Elijah, worked for the

Sarepta widow and her son, with the cruse of oil and the barrel of meal

which failed not (I Kings 17:14). The words of Malachi 4:5 pointed in the same

direction. The image of the recently murdered Baptist was present with some.

Herod’s words, already commented on, point to this, perhaps, widespread belief.

Jeremiah would be a likely instance of “one of the old prophets.” Tradition had

already asserted that the spirit of that great one had passed into Zechariah; surely

another similar transmigration was possible. Jeremiah, popular tradition said, had

safely hidden the ark and the tabernacle and the altar of incense somewhere in the

mountain where Moses died by the “kiss of God.” Already had he appeared

to the brave and patriotic Judas Maccabaeus in a vision as a man gray-haired and

exceeding glorious, as one praying for the people as their guardian-prophet, and

had given the gallant Maeeabaean hero a golden sword from God. It was one of

these old heroic forms, so loved of Israel, once more in the flesh, that the people

believed Jesus to be.

 

20 “He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering

said, The Christ of God.”  And the Master listened, apparently without comment,

to this reply, which told Him what the people said of Him, and then went on,

“But you, my disciples, who have been ever with me, what say, what think

you about me?” Peter, as the representative of the others in that little

chosen company, answers, “We believe that thou art more than any

prophet or national hero or forerunner of the Messiah; we think that thou

art the Messiah Himself.”‘ No doubt the true light on the subject had often

gleamed through the darkness of their minds (see John 1:29, 33-34, 41, 45, 49).

But, though gleam succeeded gleam, in flashes that revealed the Illimitable,

the darkness would ever, more or less, close in again. They could not altogether

help it. They were witnesses of a ‘humiliation’ which they could not reconcile

with the notions they had inherited in reference to the power and pomp of the

Messiah. And yet it was evident that He was entirely unlike all other rabbis.

He was the Master of masters, and a mystery over and above. An inner luster

was continually breaking through. It was glorious; it was unique. His character

was transcendently noble and pure. He had not, moreover, obtruded self-assertions

on them. He had left them, in a great measure, to observe for themselves; and they

had been observing.  It was, indeed, on the part of these feeble disciples a pure and

lofty expression of the effect produced on their hearts by Jesus Christ’s teaching.

But though these men, afterwards so great, had attained to this grand conception

of their adored Master, though they alone, among the crowds, through the sad

colored veil of His low estate, could see shining the glory of Divinity, yet they

could not grasp yet the conception of a suffering Messiah, and in spite of all the

teaching of the Master, the cross and the Passion made them unbelievers again.

It needed the Resurrection to complete the education of faith.

 

21 “And He straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing.”

It would have been no hard task for the disciples to have gone about with an

expression of their earnest conviction that the great Prophet was indeed the long

looked-for King Messiah, and thus to have raised the excitable crowds to any wild

pitch of enthusiasm. It was only a very short time back that, moved by the miracle

of the loaves, the multitudes wished to crown him King by force. That was not the

kind of homage Jesus sought; besides which, any such enthusiasm thus evoked

would quickly have died away, and a hostile reaction would have set in

when the high hopes excited by the idea of King Messiah were

contradicted by the life of suffering and self-denial which Jesus sternly set

Himself to live through to its bitter end. (“therefore have I set my face like a

flint” Isaiah 50:7; “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem(v. 52).

This life He sketched out for them in the severe language of the next verse.

 

22 “Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the

elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.”

Jesus was obliged, in the very moment of self-revelation, to veil Himself, when He

had lighted the fire to cover it again. This dark and terrible prediction came upon

the disciples evidently as something new. It was their Master’s reply to their

confession of faith in Him. It said in other words, “You are right in your conception

of me and my work. I am the promised King Messiah; but this part of my reign will

be made up of affliction and mourning and woe. The great council of the

people will reject me, and I shall only enter into my grand Messianic

kingdom through the gate of suffering and of death. But do you, my own,

be of good cheer. Three days after that death I shall rise again.” The

enumeration of “elders, chief priests, and scribes” is simply a popular way

of describing the great council of the Jewish nation, the Sanhedrin, which

was composed of these three important and influential sections of the people.

 

23 “And He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let

him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  Before

sketching out the life which the true disciples of a suffering King Messiah

must lead on earth, our Lord seems to have given notice of one of His

public discourses. Even though His great popularity was now on the wane,

to the last He was evidently listened to by crowds, if not with enthusiasm,

certainly with eager and impatient curiosity. The sermon, of which we have

the outline in the next five verses, and the subject-matter of which was,

“NO CROSS, NO CROWN!  was preached evidently to the masses. This is

plain from the opening words of v. 23. The sermon was evidently a hard

saying, and, no doubt, gave bitter offence to many of the hearers. “If any

man will,” that is, wishes to, “come after me, to follow me where I am

going” (Jesus was going to His kingdom), “let that man be prepared to give

up earthly ease and comfort, and be ready to bear the sufferings which will

be sure to fall on him if he struggle after holiness.” This readiness to give

up ease, this willingness to bear suffering, will be a matter, they must

remember, of everyday experience. The terrible simile with which the Lord

pressed His stern lesson home was, of course, suggested to Him by the clear

view He had of the fearful end of His own earthly life — an end then so near

at hand, though the disciples guessed it not. The cross was no unknown

image to the Jews who that day listened to the Master. The gloomy

procession of robbers and of rebels against Rome, each condemned one

bearing to the place of death the cross on which he was to suffer, was a

sadly familiar image then in their unhappy land.

 

24 “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life

for my sake, the same shall save it.” The Greek word here rendered “life” ψυχὴν -

psuche - heart; mind; soul; life - signifies the natural animal life, of which the main

interests are centered in the earth. If a man grasp at this shadowy, quickly

passing earthly life, he will assuredly lose the substantial enduring

HEAVEN-LIFE!  If, on the other hand, he consents, “for my sake,”

to sacrifice this quickly fading life of earth, he shall surely find it again

in heaven, no longer quickly fading, but a life fadeless, eternal, a life infinitely

higher than the one he has for righteousness’ sake consented to lose here. The

same beautiful and comforting truth we find in that fragment, as it is supposed,

of a very early Christian hymn, woven into the tapestry of Paul’s Second Epistle

to Timothy:

 

“If we be dead with him,

We shall also live with him:

If we suffer,

We shall also reign.”

 

(II Timothy 2:11-12.)

 

 

Life Gained by Losing It (vs. 23-24)

 

These strong and sententious words may teach us three truths which are of

vital importance to us.

 

  • THAT THE VOLUNTARY SURRENDER OF OUR LIFE TO GOD

IS OUR ENTRANCE UPON LIFE INDEED, What is it for a man to

live?  We speak truly but superficially when we say that any one is a living

man from whom the breath of life has not yet departed. But there is deep

truth in the objection of our English poet, “As though to breathe were life.”

Human life, as its Divine Author regards it, means very much more than

this. And, taught of Christ, we understand that we then attain to our true

life when we live unto God, in His holy service, and for the good of those

whom He has committed to our care. The thoughts of sinful men

concerning life are utterly false; they are the exact contrary of the truth.

Men imagine that just as they gain that which will minister to their own

enjoyment, and keep that which, if parted with, would benefit other

people, they make much of their life. This is not even a caricature of the

truth; it is its contradiction. The fact is that just as we lose ourselves in the

love of God, and just as we expend our powers and possessions in the

cause of mankind, we enter upon and enjoy that which is the “life indeed.”

For all that is best and highest lives, not to gain, but to give. As we pass

from the lowest of the brute creation up an ascending line until we reach

the Divine Father Himself, we find that the nobler being exists, not to

appropriate to himself, but to minister to others; when in our thought we

reach the Divine, we see that God Himself is receiving the least and is

giving the most. He finds His heavenly life in giving freely and constantly

of His resources to all beings in His universe. This is the supreme point

that we can attain; we surrender ourselves entirely to God, to be possessed

and employed by Him; we enter upon and we realize the noble, the angelic,

the true life.  Whosoever will save his life by retaining his own will and

withholding his powers from his Redeemer, by that very act loses it; but

whosoever will freely surrender his life to God and man will, by that very

act, find it. To live is not to get and to keep; it is to love and to lose

ourselves in loving service.

 

  • THAT THE FULL SERVICE OF CHRIST MEANS HABITUAL

SELF-DENIAL.

 

Ø      It means the abandonment of all that is vicious; i.e. of all that is

positively hurtful to ourselves or others, and treat, as such, is

condemned of God as sinful.

 

Ø      It means the avoidance of that which is not unlawful in itself, but

which would be a hindrance to usefulness and the service of love

(see Romans 14.). Of the rightness and desirableness of this, every

man must be a judge for himself, and no man may “judge his

brother.” That life must be a narrow one which does not afford

scope for the frequent forfeiture of good which might lawfully

be taken, but which, for Christ’s sake, is declined.

 

Ø      It involves struggle and sacrifice at the first, but the sense of

personal loss is continually declining, and the consciousness of

Divine approval is a counterbalancing gain.  (As John the

Baptist testified of Christ, so must we realize “He must increase

but I must decrease.” – John 3:30 – CY – 2012)

 

  • THAT TO SECURE ETERNAL BLESSEDNESS IT MAY BE

NECESSARY TO LAY DOWN OUR MORTAL LIFE. Many are

they who have been called upon to put the most literal interpretation

on the twenty-fourth verse; who have had to choose between parting

with everything human and earthly on the one hand, and sacrificing

their fidelity to Christ and their eternal hopes on the other hand. For

that hour of solemn crisis the Lord has granted abounding grace, and

from every land and age a noble army of martyrs have made the better

choice, and now wear the crown of life in the better land.

 

 

 

                        The Life Saved, and The Life Lost (v. 24)

 

The martyr, then, is the type of the true Christian. Christ (v. 22) predicts

His own fate. And immediately afterwards (v. 23) He announces to all that

whosoever will come after Him must, through the gate of suffering, pass

into glory; must “deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow him.”

This is the essence of martyrdom. The martyr is not necessarily one who is

burned at the stake, or slain by the sword, or left to rot in a damp prison cell;

he is one who, in will, surrenders the life to God, and daily bears the

cross of Jesus. Let not the variations of the meaning attached to the words

“save” and “lose” be overlooked. In the first clause, “Whosoever wills to

save shall lose;” i.e. whosoever is bent on preserving the life may in a sense

preserve it, but, in the nobler sense, he shall lose his real being, or as in the

verse following, “he shall lose himself. In the second clause, “Whosoever

wills to lose his life for Christ’s sake” — to subordinate all considerations

merely personal to the command of a supreme affection — may incur

shame, may suffer many things, but, in the nobler sense, he shall realize the

truth of his existence, he shall receive the crown of his life. Ah!

wonderfully suggestive are the sharp antitheses of Jesus’ saying. What,

then, is the abiding reality of the Christian type of manhood? of the true

martyr-life? Shall we say that the abiding reality is a capacity of self-forgetfulness?

Undoubtedly, there is this capacity. We recognize the man

of genuine goodness at once. With him there is no part-acting. He is not

one who stands before mirrors, studying attitudes and effects; in what he

does there is the absence of the feeling of self. “Whither the spirit that is in

him is to go, he goes straight forward.” A great enthusiasm always

removes the action, if not from the shadow, at least from “the corrosive

power,” of selfishness. Certainly, Christ looked forward to a love that

could hold the closest affections as only second to it; that could sacrifice all

in which the self is most bound up; that, as against the very pleadings of

nature, would close with a higher vision, “Here am I; send me.” And, more

or less, this is always a characteristic of the martyred soul. “If,” says

Thomas a Kempis, “a man should give all his substance, yet is it nothing.

And if he should practice great repentance, still it is little. And if he should

attain to all knowledge, he is still afar off. And if he should be of great

virtue, and of fervent devotion, yet there is much wanting; especially one

thing which is most necessary for him. And what is that? That leaving all,

he forsake himself, and go wholly from himself, and retain nothing out of

self-love.” But, when we speak of self-forgetfulness, we speak of only half

the truth. The question remains — Whence the inward pressure which

causes this self-forgetting spirit? We cannot be self-denying by the mere

resolution to be so. We may subject ourselves to the most rigid of

disciplines, and the result only be that we assert self in one aspect to deny

self in another aspect. There must be some force in the soul, some

obligation which, once discerned, becomes an irresistible spiritual power.

Take, e.g., one of the purest forms of self-devotion. The mother’s love is

not an affair of reasoning. There is no calculation of quantity in it. When

the child is stricken with sickness she watches by the bed and ministers to

the wants of the sufferer, denying herself by day and night, and never

stopping to ask what is the limit to be observed. The action is the

consequence of an obligation inlaid in the relation of mother to child. This

relation takes her out of self. She “goes wholly from herself, and retains

nothing out of self-love.” She loses her life in the child. And thus with self-

sacrifice, through its diversity of forms. Its root is, some relation into

which one mind enters with another, or with a higher and vaster issue

whose vision has dawned on it. The relation supplies at once the motive,

and the food which nourishes the motive. It is in the mind an omnipotent “I

must.” Remember, self-sacrifice may be a power for evil as well as good.

The devil’s martyrs far outnumber God’s martyrs. For what is evil, or for

ends that are “not of the Father, but of the world,” persons spend

themselves with a zeal and persistence which may well put Christians to

shame. Self-consecration is not necessarily a Christian virtue. It is the

character of the alliance into which the soul enters which makes the virtue.

“He that loseth his life for my sake the same shall save it.” This was the

new thing which came into the world through Jesus Christ. Truthfulness as

between man and man was no new thing. The sanctions of morality were

no new thing. Through the religions and philosophies of paganism there

came gleams of an ethic pure and spiritual. But an obligation to One

unseen, yet ever-present, One to whom the life was bound, and in whom

the life was hidden; an obligation that regulated all aims, that was

sovereign over all the action, to deny which, or be false to which, was the

soul’s damnation; — that was the new thing. And that new thing was the

secret of the Christian martyr-life. And it was this Christian martyr-life

which lifted the individual man from his obscurity, as a mere unit in the

mass of humanity, and invested him, be he bond or be he free, with the

inalienable glory of the calling — “an heir of God, and a joint-heir with

Christ.” And from that day to this there has echoed back, from a great

multitude which no man can number, the sweetly constraining “For my

sake.” The cross of Jesus has really gone before the ages. Its spirit has

entered into the conditions of human life, has influenced the minds and

hearts of men far more widely than we can estimate. We trace its witness

far outside the circle of His professing followers. But where the response to

Him is conscious, where there is a real personal relation to Him, where the

adoring cry of Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” is felt, — in this supreme

spiritual affiance we recognize the pressure which constrains to live not to

self, in Jesus’ love to lose the life for Jesus, sake. It is this pressure which

bestows a beauty quite unique on the career of a man who has a place in

the foremost rank of Christian heroes. Exploits brilliant and daring are

associated with the name of Gordon. And whether we think of him in

China, or in Egypt, or in the quiet garrison town, or speeding on the swift

dromedary across the desert, or shut up in Khartoum, waiting for the

succors that arrived too late, and facing death as one who had learned to

regard it without quailing, — there is always an unmistakable and lofty

individuality. But the crown of the glory is the spiritual elevation of the

soul, the enthusiasm for God and good which filled the heart. How he

believed in God! — not to him a mere sign of some unknown quantity, but

the Living One, the Father in heaven. ‘How he believed m Christ! — not a

mere “apotheosis of humanity,” but Jesus Christ who is today what He was

yesterday, and of whom he writes, “There would be no one so unwelcome

to come and reside in this world as our Saviour, while the world is in the

state it now is.” How he believed in the government of the world by a

loving and righteous will! To reveal this will; to work out its purpose with

all His might; to raise the down man; to strike the fetter from the slave; to

make God’s universe a little better, happier, wholesomer; — for this He

lived, for this He died. Died? Nay, verily, “the immortal dead live again in

minds made better by their presence.” He who loses his life for Jesus’ sake,

he only has saved it. Let this, then, be accepted as the lesson of Jesus’

saying: We find the true life, the great, wide, everlasting Christlife, only by

losing, for his sake, the narrow, small, merely self-life. Shall it be said by

any that to speak thus is to speak in parables? that heroics are not for

ordinary Christian people living in quiet, ordinary ways? There is no

parable. The words bear on all in all sorts and conditions. Every person is

called to settle on what plan his life shall be built, what manner of person

he shall be. He who has no ideal of conduct is little better than a creature

drifting through his days. The Christian ideal is sketched in this word of the

Lord. If any one will come after Christ, let him know this; and let him

know further that it is not the circumstances that make the man — he

makes his place, works his ideal out in different kinds of circumstances.

General Gordon, in an obscurer lot, in a humbler sphere, might not have

developed the same amount of force; but, given the grace of God with him,

he would have developed the same amount of force, he would have been the

same type of man. And it is faithfulness to this type in the place we occupy,

there not elsewhere, that Christ demands. Are we confessing Him before

men? Day by day, do we take His cross and follow Him? Then, no matter

what the scene of the life-work may be, we are losing our life for His sake.

This is the obligation of that life” which martyred men have made more

glorious for us who strive to follow.”

 

25 “For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world,

and lose himself, or be cast away?” Jesus supposes the act of saving ones

own life accomplished with the most complete success… amounting to a

gain of the whole world. But in this very moment, the master of this

magnificent domain finds himself condemned to perish! What gain to draw

in a lottery a gallery of pictures... and at the same time to become blind!”

(In this day of Mega-lotteries, this should be self-explanatory! – CY – 2012)

“O flesh,” writes Martin Luther “how mighty art thou, that thou canst still

throw darkness over those things, even to the minds of the holy!”

 

 

The Priceless (v. 25)

 

Our Lord has taught us as no other teacher ever has:

 

  • THE TRANSCENDENT WORTH OF OUR HUMAN NATURE.

When He came that was held in very small esteem. Men showed what

they thought of human nature by the use they made of it, and of human

life by the readiness with which they threw it away. There was no thought

of the inviolable sacredness of a human spirit. Jesus Christ has taught us

to think of it as precious beyond all price. Man’s body is only the vesture

of his mind; man, like God, is spirit, but he is spirit clothed in flesh. He is

a spirit

 

Ø      accountable to God for all he thinks and feels, as well as for all

he says and does;

Ø      capable of forming a beautiful and noble character resembling

that of the Divine Father Himself;

Ø      capable of living a life which, in its sphere, is a reproduction of

the life God is living in heaven;

Ø      coming into close contact and fellowship with God;

Ø      intended to share God’s own immortality.

 

·         THE TEMPTATION TO LOSE SIGHT OF THIS GREAT TRUTH.

There are two things that often have such a deteriorating effect upon us

that it is practically erased from the tablet of our soul.

 

Ø      The love of pleasure; whether this be indulgence in unholy pleasure,

or the practical surrender of ourselves to mere enjoyment, to the

neglect of all that is best and highest.

 

Ø      The eager pursuit of gain. Not that there is any radical inconsistency

between profitable trading and holy living; not that a Christian man

may not exemplify his piety by the way in which he conducts his

business; but that there are often found to be terribly strong

temptations to untruthfulness, or dishonesty, or hardness, or unjust

withholdment, or a culpable and injurious absorption in business.

And under the destructive influence of one of these two forces the

soul withers or dies.

 

 

  • THE CALAMITOUS MISTAKE THAT IS SOMETIMES MADE.

It is not only a grievous sin, but a disastrous error to gain worldly wealth,

and, in the act of gaining it, TO LOSE THE SOUL!   That is the worst

of all possible bargains. The man who makes many millions of dollars,

and who loses conscientiousness, truthfulness, spirituality, all care for

what God thinks of him and feels about him, sensitiveness of spirit —

in fact, himself, is a man over whom Heaven weeps; he has made a

supreme mistake. Gold, silver, precious stones, are of limited worth.

There are many of the most important services we want which they

have no power to render; and the hour is daily drawing near when

they will have no value to us whatever. But the soul is of

immeasurable worth; no sum of money that can be expressed in

figures will indicate its value; that is something which absolutely

transcends expression; and time, instead of diminishing, enhances its

importance — it becomes of more and more account “as our

days go by,” as our life draws toward its close. Jesus Christ not only put

this thought into words, — the words of the text — he put it into action.

He let us see that, in His estimation, the human soul WAS WORTH

SUFFERING AND DYING FORworth suffering for as He suffered

in Gethsemane, worth dying for as He died at Calvary. Then do we

wisely enter into His thought concerning it when we seek salvation at His

cross, when, by knowing Him as our Divine Redeemer, we enter into

eternal life.

 

26 “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him

shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own

glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.”  Here follows the

punishment in the world to come. It consists in the Judge’s solemn award

to the man who has succeeded in saving his life in this world. The award is,

“Depart from me: I know you not.” Of such a selfish soul, who here has

loved his own ease, and has declined all self-sacrifice, will the Son of man,

in THE DAY OF HIS GLORY be justly ashamed. The suffering Messiah thus

completed His vivid picture of Himself. Not always was He to suffer, or to

wear the robe of humiliation. The Despised and Rejected would assuredly

return with a glory indescribable, inconceivable. His assertion, advanced

here, that He will return as Almighty Judge, is very remarkable. In the

parallel passage in Matthew 16:13 it is put even more clearly. There Jesus asks

His disciples, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?”  Jesus goes

on to say, “The Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father, with

His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his works”

(Ibid. v. 27).  The lesson was very clear. His own might surely be content. Only

let them be patient. Lo! in the poor rejected Rabbi now before them, going to

His bitter suffering and His death, they were looking really on the awful form of

the ALMIGHTY JUDGE of quick and dead.  These words, very dimly

understood then, in days to come were often recalled by His hearers. They

formed the groundwork of many a primitive apostolic sermon.

 

27  “But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall

not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.” This magnificent

promise has always been more or less a difficulty to expositors.  Two favorite

explanations which:

 

o       in the Transfiguration mystery, and

o       in the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Jewish state,

 

see the fulfillment of this great prediction, must be put aside as inadequate,

as failing utterly to satisfy any idea of the kingdom of God. Concerning (1),

it must be borne in mind that the words were addressed, not only to the

disciples, but to a mixed multitude; the expression then, “there be some

standing here,” etc., would seem to point to more than three (Peter, James,

and John were alone present at the Transfiguration) who should, while

living, see the kingdom of God. Concerning (2), those who were witnesses

of the great catastrophe which resulted in the sack of Jerusalem and the

ruin of the Jewish polity, can scarcely be said to have looked on the

kingdom of God. It was rather a great and terrible judgment; in no way can

it fairly be termed the kingdom, or even its herald; it was simply an awful

event in the world’s story. But surely the Lord’s disciples, the holy women,

the still larger outer circle of loving followers of Jesus, who were changed

by what happened during the forty days which immediately succeeded the

Resurrection morning — changed from simple, loving, fearful, doubting

men and women, into the brave resistless preachers and teachers of the

new faith — the five hundred who gazed on the risen Lord in the Galilaean

mountain, these may in good earnest be said to have seen, while in life,

“the kingdom of God.” These five hundred, or at all events many of them,

after the Resurrection, not only looked on God, but grasped the meaning

of the presence and work of God on earth. The secret of the strange

resistless power of these men in a hostile world was that their eyes had

gazed on some of the sublime glories, and their ears had heard some of the

tremendous secrets of the kingdom of God.

 

 

The Transfiguration (vs. 28-36)

 

28 “And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, He took

Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.”  Some

eight days after this question asked in the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, and

its reply, and the sermon to the people on the subject of “No cross, no crown,”

 which immediately followed, our Lord summoned the three leading disciples and

took them up into a mountain to pray. They had spent the last few days apparently in

quiet converse together. Matthew and Mark speak only of six days. Luke gives the

period in round numbers, counting portions of the first and last days as whole days.

We may well imagine that this was a period of intense depression in the little company

of Jesus. Their Master’s popularity was fast waning among the people. His powerful

enemies seemed gathering closer and closer round the Teacher whom they were

determined to crush.  The late utterances of Jesus, too, whether spoken to them alone,

or publicly to the people, all foreshadowed a time of danger and suffering in

the immediate future for Him and for them — a time which, as far as He was

concerned, would close with a violent death. To raise the fainting spirits of His

own, to inspire them with greater confidence in Himself, seems to have been

the immediate purpose of that grand vision of glory known as the Transfiguration.

It is true that to only three was vouchsafed the vision, and silence was enjoined

on these, but the three were the leading spirits of the twelve. If Peter, James, and

John were brave, earnest, and hopeful, there was little doubt that their tone of

mind would be quickly reflected in their companions. Tradition, based on the fairly

early authority of Cyril of Jerusalem, and of Jerome (fourth century), speaks of the

mountain as Tabor, but the solitude evidently necessary for the manifestation would

have been sought for in vain on Mount Tabor, a hill which rises abruptly from the

Plain of Esdraelon, not very far from Nazareth to the south-east, for the summit of

Tabor at that time was crowned with a fortress. The mount,in most probably was

one of the lower peaks of Hermon, at no great distance from the fountain source

of the Jordan and Caesarea Philippi, in which district we know Jesus and His

companions had been teaching only a few days before.

 

29 “And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered,”

The marvelous change evidently passed over Jesus while He was in prayer,

probably because of His intense prayer. Real, close communion with God

ever imparts to the countenance of the one who has thus entered into communion

with the High and Holy One, a new and strange beauty. Very many have

noticed at times this peculiar and lovely change pass over the faces of God’s true

saints as they prayed — faces perhaps old and withered, grey with years and

wrinkled with care. A yet higher degree of transfiguration through communion

with God is recorded in the case of Moses, whose face, after he had been with

God on the Mount Sinai, shone with so bright a glory that mortal eye could not

bear to gaze on it until the radiance began to fade away (Exodus 34:29-35;

II Corinthians 3:13).  A similar change is recorded to have taken place in the

case of Stephen when he pleaded his Divine Master’s cause in the Sanhedrin

hall at Jerusalem with such rapt eloquence that to the by-standers his face then,

we read, “was as the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). Stephen told his audience

later on, in the course of that earnest and impassioned pleading, that to him the

very heavens were opened, and that his eyes were positively gazing on the beatific

vision (Ibid. 7:55-56).  Yet a step higher still was this transfiguration of our Lord.

Luke tells us simply that, “as He prayed, the fashion of his countenance was

altered.” Matthew tells us how it was altered when he writes that “his countenance

shone as the sun”“and His raiment was white and glistering.” -  literally,

lightening forth, as if from some inward source of glorious light. The earthly robes

were so beautified by contact with this Divine light that human language is

 exhausted by the evangelists to find terms and metaphors to picture them.

 

o       Matthew compares these garments of the Blessed One to light;

o       Mark, to the snow;

o       Luke, to the flashing lightning.

 

30 “And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias:”

literally, there were talking. Evidently these two glorified beings had been conversing

with Jesus some time before the three apostles, heavy with sleep, had noticed their

presence; wearied and tired, slumber had overtaken them; we are not told how long

they slept. The glorious light which environed them and the murmur of voices probably

roused them, and in after-days they recounted what, after they were awake, they saw,

and something of what they heard.

 

31 “Who appeared in glory,”  Why were these two chosen as the Lord’s

companions on that solemn night? Probably:

 

  • because they were what may be termed the two great representative

men of the chosen race of Israel. The one was the human author of the

Divine Law which for so many centuries had been the guide and teacher of

the covenant people. The other had been the most illustrious of that great

order of prophets who, during the centuries of their eventful history as a

nation, had, under the commission of the Most Highest, kept alight the

torch of the knowledge of the one true God. And

 

  • because these men alone of the race of Israel apparently had kept their

earthly bodies as the shrines of their immortal spirits. Elijah, we know, was

translated alive into the other and the grander world; and as for Moses,

God, his heavenly Friend, closed his eyes, and then hid his body from

mortal sight, and, the mysterious words of Jude (1:9) would seem to tell

us, from mortal corruption.

 

“and spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” 

Why was this the chosen subject of the august conference between the Lord and

the heavenly pair?

 

  • In all reverence we may feel that one reason for the visit of these

blessed spirits on that solemn night was the strengthening the sinless

Sufferer Himself. The vista which lay immediately before Jesus, of rejection,

desertion, the death of agony, and the dreadful sufferings which

preceded it, — all this had been very present before Him lately. He had

dwelt upon these things, we know, to His own. He had pondered over

them, no doubt, often when alone. It was not only in Gethsemane that His

“soul was sorrowful even unto death” (Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34).

As in the garden-agony “appeared to Him an angel from heaven

strengthening Him” (ch. 22:43), so here on the mount came to Him

these glorified spirits for the same blessed purpose of ministering. And

 

  • it was to help the three disciples. Their wavering faith would surely be

strengthened if the words which they heard from those heavenly visitants

dwelt with reverent awe and admiration on the circumstances of their

Master’s self-sacrificing career of agony and suffering. It must be

remembered that a few days earlier they had listened to Him, when He

spoke to them of these things, with shrinking terror and incredulous

amazement. They would now know what was thought of all this IN THE

COURTS OF HEAVEN!

 

32 “But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when

they were awake, they saw His glory, and the two men that stood with Him.”

It has been asked, How did the disciples know the names which those glorified

ones had once borne? Three replies are at least probable:

 

  • They may have heard their Master address them by their old earthly names.
  • In subsequent conversations the Lord may have disclosed them to the three.
  • Is it not a very thinkable thought that the blessed bear upon their spirit-forms

their old individuality transfigured and glorified? Were such a vision

vouchsafed to us, should we not in a moment recognize a Peter, a Mary, or

a Paul?  (Dear Reader, I wish for us to ponder Jesus’ teaching  “But He

shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me,

all ye workers of iniquity.  There shall be weeping and gnashing

of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all

 the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the

north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of

God. (ch. 13:27-29 – We then would be in a similar position as the

three disciples were on this occasion!  Notice, there will be people in

heaven from all over the world, will your testimony then be, everyone here

“BUT ME!” – If you do not know Jesus today, I urge you to look at

How to Be Saved - # 5 – this web site – CY - 2012).

 

33 “And it came to pass, as they departed from Him, Peter said unto Jesus,

Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one

for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias’ not knowing what he said.”  

The three evangelists who relate the Transfiguration scene, with trifling

variations repeat this remark of Peter’s.  It is valuable to us when we remember

that the tradition of the marvelous event comes from Peter, James, and John; and

that they repeat the strange inconsequent words uttered by one of themselves —

their acknowledged spokesman. No thought of self-glorification evidently tinged

this strange memory of theirs. They simply wished to record the plain truth just

as it happened, and in the course of the narrative they had to repeat their own

poor, babbling, meaningless words — for the remark of Peter is nothing

else. Their own remark, which immediately follows, is the best comment

upon them, “not knowing what he said.” There was a deep feeling that in

such a company, bathed, too, in that glorious and unearthly light, it was

well with them. But they saw the heavenly visitants preparing to leave

them. They would stay their departure if they could, so they stammered,

“Let us build some shelter; let us erect some temple, however humble, to

do honour, Lord, to thee and thy companions.”

 

34 “While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them:

and they feared as they entered into the cloud.”  This luminous cloud, bright

though it was, yet veiled the more intolerable brightness within. That such a bright

cloud had the power of overshadowing and concealing, is not strange, for light in

its utmost intensity hides as effectually as the darkness would do. God dwells in

light inaccessible, whom therefore no man hath seen, nor can see” (I Timothy

6:16); God told Moses, “Thou canst not see my face:  for there shall no

Man see me, and live.”  (Exodus 33:20)  Milton writes:

 

“Dark with excess of light.”

 

Philo speaks of the highest light as identical with darkness. Anselm thus

understands the cloud here, quoting the words of I Timothy 6:16,

referred to above, and then the words of Moses, “And Moses drew near

unto the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:21), and then this

passage from the Transfiguration.  The fear which these eye-witnesses remember

as one of their experiences that memorable night was a very natural feeling. As

the cloud stole over the mountain ridge, and the glory-light gradually paled and

waned, the sensation of intense pleasure and satisfaction, which we may assume

to be the natural accompaniment of such a blessed scene, would give place to

awe and amazement.

 

35 “And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my

beloved Son: hear Him.” The reading here of the older authorities must be

adopted. Instead of the voice out of the cloud saying, “This is my beloved

Son,” we must substitute, “This is my Elect” (Compare Isaiah 42:1). As

Matthew and Mark both read, “my beloved Son,” we have here another

of the many proofs that each of the three records of the Transfiguration is a

distinct and separate memory of itself. The voice was evidently for the disciples

— one more help for them in their present and future struggle against the cold

and chilling doubts which ever and again would be suggested to them by the

enemy of human souls, with a view to marring their present training, their

future mighty missionary work.

 

 

The Wisdom of Hearing Christ (v. 35)

 

Three things are clear to us, preliminarily.

 

o       Jesus Christ is addressing us. From His home and throne on high

our Saviour stoops to call us, to instruct us, to bless us. He is saying

to us, Come unto me;” “Abide in me;” “Follow me.

 

o       We need not hear Him if we choose not to do so. As in a room

where many groups of people are conversing, we only hear the

voice of that company to which we join ourselves and listen,

so in the large room of this world there are many voices speaking

and it rests with each of us to determine which we will regard.

Shall it be the voice of ambition? or that of appetite? or that of

 human learning? or that of Christ?

 

o       Our heavenly Father urges us to give our best attention to

Jesus Christ.  “This is my beloved Son: hear Him. We shall see,

if we consider, how and why God presses on us this act of hearing.

 

  • BECAUSE OF OUR URGENT NEED OF A VOICE THAT IS

DIVINE. There are two things we urgently require, but which, apart from

Jesus Christ, we cannot have.

 

Ø      One is a knowledge of what is true. We are “strangers on the

earth,” and know but very little. Like the little bird (of the

ancient story) that flew from the darkness into the dimly lighted

room and out into the darkness on the other side, so from the

darkness of the past we enter and stay for a brief time in the

dimly lighted present, and forth we pass into the darkness of the

future.

 

Ø      The other is the power to do what we know to be right. Truly

pathetic is the Roman’s confession, “I see the better course, and

approve; 1 follow the worse.” What men everywhere have wanted

is the inspiration and the power to be and to do that which they

perceive to be good and right. Whence shall we gain this? Only

from a Divine Saviour, from One who has lived and died for us,

to whom we offer our hearts and our lives, the love of whom

will constrain us toward all that is good and pure, and restrain us

from all that is bad and wrong.

 

  • BECAUSE OF HIS INTIMATE RELATION TO HIS DIVINE

FATHER. “This is my beloved Son,” therefore should we “hear him.”

For one of the deepest and most practical questions we can ask is —

What is God’s thought, feeling, purpose, toward us? If there were

any human being who sustained toward us a relation which at all

approached in intimacy and importance that which God sustains to us,

we should be eager indeed to know what was his feeling and intention

concerning us. How eagerly, then, should we inquire of Him “in whom

we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28), “with whom we

have everything to do” (Hebrews 4:13), on whose will we are absolutely

dependent for our future here and hereafter! What does God think about

us? On what conditions will He receive and bless us? Christ,

“the beloved Son,” who came forth from God, and who knows His mind

as none other can (Matthew 11:27), can answer this supreme question for

us.

 

  • BECAUSE OF HIS CLOSE AND INTIMATE RELATION TO

OURSELVES. We want some one to speak to us who knows us well,

who understands us altogether; one about whom we can feel that this is

true. To whom, then, should we listen, if not to the Son of God, our

Maker; to the Son of man, our Brother? “He knew what was in man,”

(as the evangelist testified, and again and again He showed that He knew

His disciples far better than they knew themselves. Such is His knowledge

of us. We may think that we know ourselves and what is best for ourselves.

But we may be utterly mistaken. We find that our neighbors display

lamentable and ruinous ignorance on these great matters. Who are we

that we should be full of wisdom where others err? Let us distrust

ourselves: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the

end thereof are the ways of death”  (Proverbs 14:12).  Ignorant

presumption is a foe that “hath slain its ten thousands.” The truly wise

will seek the great Teacher’s feet, and say, as did Saul of Tarsus,

 “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6)

 

36 “And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it

close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.”

The reasons of this silence for the present have been already discussed. The scene,

doubtless, had done its work in the education of the three. Without telling their

companions what they had seen and heard on the mount, we may assume that the

sight of the serene confidence and renewed trust on the part of Peter, James, and

John did its effectual work in strengthening their brethren. No doubt directly

after the Resurrection, possibly during the days of darkness and gloom

which followed the day of the cross, the chosen three related at length their

experience of the Transfiguration mystery. The narrative of the

Transfiguration and its attendant circumstances, as might have been

expected, has been a favorite subject for hostile criticism. It does not,

however, lend itself to any probable, or even possible, explanation which

refers the story to some exaggerated report of a mistaken natural

phenomenon. The whole story, as we have it thrice — with very slight

variation in the details — repeated in the synoptical Gospels, must stand as

we have it, or else must be wholly rejected as a myth. But, if a myth,

whence did it spring? for nothing in the Jewish expectation of Messiah

could possibly have suggested the “legend.” The strange and even childish

interruption of Peter could never have been invented. No one friendly to

the apostle would have chronicled such a saying had there been any doubt

resting on its authenticity; and a writer hostile to the apostle would

scarcely have invented a narrative which treated of the Divine glory of the

apostle’s adored Master. If it be an invention, whence comes it? in whose

interest was it composed? and how did it find its way into the very heart of

the three synoptical Gospels? for there we find it woven into that

marvelous tapestry of revelation and teaching which has at once charmed

and influenced so many millions of men and women now for more than

two thousand years. Just at this period of His public ministry, Jesus had reached

the zenith of His power. This is indicated by the grandeur of His recent miracles.

There was nothing higher and more sublime to be reached by Him. From this

moment, therefore, earthly existence became too narrow a sphere. There only

remained death; but death is, as Paul says, the wages of sin. For the

sinless Man the issue of life is not the somber passage of the tomb, rather is

it the royal road of a glorious transformation. Had the hour of this glorification

struck for Jesus and was the Transfiguration the beginning of the heavenly renewal?

This event (the Transfiguration) indicates the ripe preparation of Jesus for immediate

entrance upon eternity.  Had not Jesus Himself voluntarily suspended this change

which was on the point of being wrought in Him, this moment, the moment of His

glorious transfiguration would have become the moment of His ascension.”

 

 

 

                                                The Transfiguration (v. 28)

 

This incident is one that stands quite by itself; it is wholly unlike everything

else in our Lord’s history. It was miraculous enough, yet we do not count

it amongst the miracles of Christ. It may be viewed in many lights; it may

illustrate:

 

·         THE CLOSE RELATION BETWEEN OUR SPIRITUAL AND OUR

BODILY NATURE. This manifested glory was not altogether outward; it

was more than a radiance thrown around or imposed upon Him, which

might just as readily have occurred to any Jewish rabbi. It does not

correspond with the illumination or’ the wall of a building or the face of a

cathedral. It was the glory of His Divine nature, usually hidden, now shining

through and revealing itself in his form and countenance. We are sure that

the appearance of our Lord at all times answered to His character and His

spirit. We gather this from the charm which He exerted over His disciples

and over little children; from the confidence which He inspired in the social

outcasts of His day; in the occasional flashings forth of his Divine

sovereignty (John 2:15; Mark 10:32; John 18:6). The Transfiguration was by

far the most striking instance of His bodily nature being lighted up and

irradiated by His indwelling glory; there was as much of the spiritual as

of the material about it; it could not have happened to any other than to

our Lord. And this opens the question how far our spiritual experiences may

and should glorify our personal appearance. The spirit does act powerfully

upon and manifest itself through the body which is its organ. We know how

love gleams, how indignation flashes, how scorn and hatred lower, how hope

shines, how disappointment pales, how all the passions that breathe and burn

in the human breast come forth and make themselves felt in the eye, the lip,

the countenance of man. We may and should see a kind or a pure heart in a

kind or pure countenance, as we do see avarice or indulgence in a keen or

a bloated visage. We bear about in our body the marks of our association

with the Lord Jesus, and other marks also which are not derived from such

fellowship as that. Holiness has its transfiguring influence, as sin has its

debasing effect, upon the human form and figure — the one refines and

glorifies, as the other disfigures and degrades. There are two things to be

heeded here.

 

1. We must not draw hasty and unjust inferences; there are those who, so

far as appearance goes, are victims of misfortune or are vicarious sufferers.

 

2. We must endeavor to let a holy character be visible in our bodily

persons. Inward excellence is the source of outward beauty. No tailoring or

millinery, no cosmetics or perfumery, will make beautiful the face and form

behind which is an ugly heart (but we try anyway), selfishness and pride and

envy will never look anything but unsightly and forbidding. The thoughts

that breathe, the feelings that glow, the spirit that animates, the character that

shines through — it is this which beautifies, which adorns, which makes

attractive, which wins confidence and love. These are the things to care

for, to cultivate, to cherish; it is thence that our influence for good will

spring.

 

·         THE CARE WHICH GOD TAKES OF HIS OWN IN THEIR TIME

OF SPECIAL NEED. What was the purpose of this wonderful scene? It

was to prepare the disciples (and perhaps the Master) for the last scenes of

all. Those two celestial visitants spake of “the decease which He should

accomplish,” etc. A terrible ordeal was that through which He and they

would pass. Therefore it seemed well to the Father to give to Him and to

them the most imposing, the most impressive, the most convincing proof

that He was well pleased with His Son, and that HE WAS, INDEED,

THE MESSIAH OF THEIR HOPES!  We know from Peter’s Epistle

(II Peter 1:16-17) how strong a confirmation of their faith it was and

continued to be. Thus God cared for His own, and thus HE STILL CARES!

Our lives glide on like peaceful rivers; but most human lives prove to be rivers

with cataracts in their course. (See Thomas Cole’s paintings on the Voyage

of Life in your web browser - CY - 2021)  Times of grave trial and peril come,

when there is a great strain on our faith and patience; when we have to draw

on our last resources; critical trial-hours they are, like those which came to the

Master and to His faithful band. How shall we be assured of calmness, fortitude,

fidelity, when we pass through them? If we are loyal to our Lord in the days

of sunshine and prosperity, if we “abide in Him” now, HE WILL NOT

FAIL US THEN!   As our day His grace will be. (Deuteronomy 33:25)

He will prepare us for the trial-hour; HE WILL BE WITH US IN OUR

DARKEST MOMENTS; HE WILL LEAD US OUT INTO THE SUNSHINE

            ON THE OTHER SIDE! 

 

 

                                    The Transfiguration (vs. 28-36)

 

“When, in the desert, he was girding himself for the work of life, angels of

life came and ministered to Him. Now, in the fair world, when He is girding

himself for the work of death, the ministrants come to Him from the grave,

but from the grave conquered — one from that tomb under Abarim which

his own hand had sealed long ago, the other from the rest into which he

had entered without seeing corruption. ‘There stood by him Moses and

Elias, and spake of His decease.’ And when the prayer is ended, the task

accepted, then first since the star passed over Him at Bethlehem the full

glory falls on Him from heaven, and the testimony is borne to His

everlasting Sonship and power ‘Hear him!’” Thus beautifully and truly

writes Ruskin of the solemn transaction in Jesus’ history recorded by the

synoptical evangelists. It is a new anointing of Jesus as the Christ of God,

His installation into the last part of His ministry on the earth. At the baptism,

the Spirit descended, and the voice came from heaven, “My beloved Son,

in whom I am well pleased.” This was the general inauguration of the

Messiahship. Now there comes the special inauguration of Christ as “the

End of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” “Moses and

Elias appear to hold converse on that sublime event which had been the

great central subject of all their teaching, and solemnly to consign into His

hands, once and for all, in a symbolical and glorious representation, their

delegated and expiring power.” Now the voice is, “Hear” not Moses and

Elias, but “my beloved Son!” A wondrous, awe-striking hour! The hush

over nature, the darkness illumined by an inexpressible radiance, the face of

the Man of sorrows then and there shining as the sun, the raiment

penetrated by the glory white and glistering as the light, and the

conversation of the three shining ones, — these, the features of the scene,

left an indelible impression on the chosen witnesses. Peter, ever ready,

though not ever wise, has some foolish speech about erecting three booths.

But by-and-by they realize the significance of that which they saw. “We

were eye-witnesses of his majesty,” cries the same Peter. “This voice we

heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” Not, indeed, that such a

momentary illumination of Christ is to be held as a proof of first authority.

He proceeds, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye

do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.”

(II Peter 1:16-19)  But it was a hint as to the “power and coming of the Lord Jesus,”

confirming the “more sure word,” and helping into the understanding of the truth

that, with the decease at Jerusalem, the old was finished and the new began.

“God had reconciled all things to Himself.” Now, with regard to the vision,

observe:

 

·         IT WAS ON A MOUNTAIN. The hill or upland scene occupies a

prominent place in the history of our Lord. It seems to have been a craving

of His human heart to get “where beyond the voices there is peace.” There

He could breathe more freely; there He found a nourishment and

invigoration which were welcome. On the high ground He preached His

famous sermon. To the mountain He was wont to retire for prayer. When

all went to their own homes, He went to the Mount of Olives. On the hill of

Golgotha He died. The mountain in Galilee was the meeting-place with His

apostles after the Resurrection. From the slope of Olivet He ascended to

heaven. Now, for this brief moment of glory, the place chosen is “the high

mountain apart.” Do we not need an upland scene in our life? No hill, no

transfiguration. The face never shines. It is a dull, dreary toil. The holy

mount, on whose top one can leave the carking care and the weary plod,

where the air is always pure — the hill that is commanded only by the

heights of God’s presence — ah! this is the secret worth possessing.

 

·         IT IS AS HE PRAYS THAT THE FASHION OF THE

COUNTENANCE IS ALTERED. He goes up to the mountain, not to

meet Moses and Elias, nor to have a seance with spirits, but to pray — to

meet His Father, that, out of the Father’s heart, He might fill the fountains

of His spirit. As He prays He passes into that blessed light of God which

“enwrapped Him in such an aureole of glistering brilliance, his whole

presence breathed so Divine a radiance, that the light, the snow, the

lightning, are the only things to which the evangelist can compare that

celestial lustre.” Christian! the lesson thereby suggested thou needst not

that any teach thee. It is the same lesson, but in a higher form, that was

shadowed forth in Jacob’s Peniel, in the wrestling by the brook Jabbok.

Through the wrestling of the angel the heart of the supplanter was plucked

out of him; in his prayer which prevailed he found the new name — the

Israel, the prince with God and man. Hast thou never found it so? Hast

thou never, in some great sorrow, poured out thy heart before God, and

realized that, when thou didst kneel, thou wast only the worm, and no man

— weak and spiritless; when thou didst rise from thy knees, thou wast the

man, and no worm — the fashion of thy countenance had been altered? Let

the sons of pride speak as they choose, the children of quietness know that

“more things are wrought by prayer than the world dreams of.”

 

·         THERE IS CONFERENCE WITH THE DEPARTED. The two

shining presences are spoken of as invested with the properties and

functions of life. “Two men, which were Moses and Elias.” We know little

about the world of the dead, about the possibilities of intercommunion —

they with us, and we with them. There is a feeling, widely diffused, that

some kind of intercourse there is. Even the black man, in his African platoon,

lays aside a little rice each day as the share of his departed kindred.

Through all times, everywhere, the human heart is found asking,

speculating over the question, “Is there no bridge between the dead and the

living’? Is all speech, all fellowship, for ever broken?” Well, in this

Scripture we read of two men, who for long generations had been removed

from this earthly scene, profoundly interested in events to be transacted on

this globe of ours on which depended the salvation of the world. May not

this be a glimpse into the hidden economy? May not that which we see in

them during this moment of sight into the unseen, be the picture of what is

going on even now in the home of the blessed and holy dead? Is not the

talk on Hermon an illustration of the communion of saints; reminding us

that heaven and earth are nearer than we think of, that it is given to us in

prayer to

 

                                    “... join hands

With those who went before,

And greet the blood-besprinkled bands

On the eternal shore”?

 

“Ye are cometo the spirits of just men made perfect.”

 

·         THE GLORY IS TRANSIENT. A brief moment, and then the vision

fades into the light of common day. Moses was forty days and forty nights

on the mount. Jesus is on the Mount for only a short hour. Even while the

foolish apostle spoke, there came a cloud that overshadowed them. The

Lord cannot afford to luxuriate on the mountaintop. There is a universe to

be reclaimed; there are shapes of disease and sin and want waiting for Him

below. More than ever is He straitened until His bloody baptism is done.

And so with the disciple. It is good to have the retreat, the mountain, the

sabbatical hour each day, the sabbatical day each week. But the purpose of

the rest is to refit for the labor. And, after all, the highest transfiguration is

not that of the dazzling outward light, but that of the beauty shining

through the common ordinary things, and investing them with a heavenly

grace and truth. The teaching given the apostles next after the transaction

on the mountain is the taking of a little child, and saying, “Whosoever shall

            receive this child in my Name receiveth me.”

 

 

 

                        The Saviour’s Secret Revelations (vs. 18-36)

 

After the miracle of the loaves Jesus resumes His season of devotion, and in

the course of it He asks the disciples who had just returned from their

mission-tour what reports are being circulated about Him. They tell Him

that some say He is John Baptist, some Elias, some one of the prophets

risen again. This shows that they regarded His present life as preliminary

only. The idea of His being the real Messiah, “the Christ of God,” was not

entertained by any of the outsiders at all. It is then He asks them what their

idea is, when Peter answers unhesitatingly, “The Christ of God.” And now

we must inquire:

 

·         THE REASON FOR THIS SECRECY ABOUT THE MESSIAHSHIP.

(vs. 18-22.) Though the disciples believed in His Messiahship, they are

directed not to make it known. Now, we must remember how different the

Jewish ideas of the Messiahship were from the reality presented by Christ.

Even such a noble-minded man as John Baptist had doubted the propriety

of the course Jesus took. How much more liable to mistake would the

common people be, if it had been blazed abroad that He was Messiah! It

was needful, therefore, to wait till the picture was nearer completion before

people were asked to look upon it. In fact, it was only His intimates who

could at such a stage realize His magnificence at all.  To give the people

time to form a proper opinion, to prevent them from rising into premature

opposition, to allow them no valid excuse if they rejected Him at last, was

the purpose of His secrecy and patience. He saw clearly that He “must suffer

many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and

be slain,” but He would not provoke the crisis by publishing His Messianic

claims. His modesty and secrecy in this matter are in striking contrast to

the manners and methods of the world.

 

·         PERSONAL SALVATION THROUGH SELF-SACRIFICE. (vs. 23-27.)

      While predicting His death, He also predicts His resurrection. This is

salvation through self-sacrifice. He immediately indicates that we are under

the same law. The man alone saves himself who dedicates himself even

unto death to Jesus. There are two policies pursued.

 

Ø      The selfish policy. People think they are so very valuable that they must

save themselves at every turn. Hence they give the strength of their time

and attention to self-preservation.  (Without searching for this,

COVID - 19 comes to mind and the way the world has reacted to it in

2020 - CY - 2021) This is their first law of nature. In doing so,

they think that if they can only gain as much of the world and worldly

things as possible, the better. They think it wise to win the world. But

now Jesus shows that such a course only ends in utter loss of self. What

does the self-centered, self-preserving soul become? What is the fate of

the grasping, worldly mind? Such a soul shrivels up, becomes a nonentity,

a mere derelict or castaway on the sea of existence. Such a life is

“not worth living.”

 

Ø      Notice the self-sacrificing policy. This is the policy pursued by the soul

which is devoted to Jesus as supreme. It is no trial to carry the cross; such

a soul is ready to die any day for Jesus. He cannot be ashamed or’ Jesus,

or of His words, but prizes Him and them as beyond all price. And what

is such a soul’s experience? He feels that he is self-possessed and the

subject of a grand development. He really has gained himself. His

powers of mind and of heart grow into luxuriance, and he feels enriched

in all the elements of being as he goes onward. And if perchance he

becomes a martyr for the faith and lays down, as these disciples did,

his life for Jesus, he finds in an immortal future of further dedication

all his best being carried forward.  Death may cripple him in working

powers here, but promotion awaits him beyond the shadows, and he

finds that “he is himself again” after the death experience is over.

Jesus thus presents the case in the proper light — self-sacrifice

is real salvation of self if our self-sacrifice is for the sake of Jesus.

 

·         THE PRIVATE GLIMPSE OF GLORY. (vs. 28-36.) Eight days

after the noble confession of Christ by the disciples, Jesus takes Peter,

James, and John up to a mountain-top, that He might have another season

of prayer. Though so busy, He never became prayerless. A most useful

lesson! And here we have to note:

 

Ø      That transfiguration came through prayer. (v. 29.) There is nothing

changes people’s appearance so suddenly and so satisfactorily as being

on the mountain-top of prayer. Jesus in transfiguration-glory is but a

type of His people who come radiant from the secret places too. If

there were more prayer on the part of God’s people, there would be

more transfiguration and less skepticism about its efficacy.

 

Ø      Transfigured ones are attractive to the heavenly world. (vs. 30-31.)

Moses and Elias from their abodes of bliss are but indications of a

perpetual interest in transfigured men. A new star is not more attractive to

the astronomer than is a transfigured and radiant soul to the inhabitants of

heaven. And further, the decease to be accomplished at Jerusalem is the

supreme topic with the men from the heavenly city. For to this did the

Law and the prophets point, and in the abodes of bliss other interests

have not superseded this. If the cherubim were represented as gazing

rapturously upon the mercy-seat and its baptism with blood, so may we

believe the whole society out of which Moses and Elias came concentrate

their interest upon the salvation which comes through the death of Jesus.

 

Ø      Transfigured ones attract attention from the inhabitants of earth. (v. 32.)

      The disciples had fallen asleep, but the glory awoke them, as a candle

will when brought before a sleeper. They saw the Master’s glory, and

Moses and Elias at His side, and they regarded the Messianic kingdom as

having in this triple glory dawned.

 

Ø      There is a natural desire to retain the rapturous vision. (v. 33.) As

soon as the disciples became watchful witnesses, Moses and Elias appear

to have moved away. Their converse has now been interrupted by

unspiritual auditors, and so they prepare for their departure. It is in these

circumstances that Peter proposes to retain the visitors by making

tabernacles in the mount. With such a reinforcement, he thinks, as

Moses and Elias, in radiance bright, the victory of Messiah will be

assured. We read the history of the heroes who are gone, and

we imagine that if we were only reinforced from the past we should be

triumphant all along the line. Their spirit and their history may well

inspire us, but they cannot take our burden.

 

Ø      The rapture may pass away in cloud, but Jesus abides with us for ever.

(vs. 34-36.) There can be little doubt about this bright cloud being the

Shechinah.  It came to indicate the true manifestation of God in the

incarnate Son, and to withdraw the possible competitors. The disciples

feared as they entered the cloud. But a gracious paternal voice assured

them, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.” And when the cloud cleared

away, they saw no man, but JESUS ONLY! To the teaching of Jesus,

consequently, they would yield more intense attention. Besides, they kept

it secret what they had seen. It was one of those glorious visions which

could not wisely be yet revealed. Let us enjoy Jesus, no matter how

rapturous associations may fade away.

 

 

 

 

The Scene at the Foot of the Hill of Transfiguration

and

                 The Healing of the Demoniac Boy (vs. 37-45)

 

37 And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down

from the hill,” –The Transfiguration had taken place in the  late evening or night.

It probably lasted for a much longer period than the brief account,  preserved by

the eye-witnesses, seems to speak of. How long the three disciples slept

is not mentioned. Wearied and exhausted, deep slumber overtook them

while the Master was praying. When they awoke, Jesus was bathed in

glory, and the two heavenly spirits were conversing with Him. They only

tell us generally that the subject which occupied the blessed ones was their

Master’s speedy departure from earth; no mention is made of the time all

this consumed. It was morning when they rejoined their company -“much people

met Him.”  Mark, whose account here is more detailed — evidently Peter

preserved a very vivid memory of these events — tells us that the crowds,

“when they beheld him, were greatly amazed” (Mark 9:15).  Without

concluding that any lingering radiance of the last night’s glory was still

playing about His Person, we may well imagine that a holy joy just then lit

up that face over which for some time past a cloud of deep sadness had

brooded. The heavenly visitants; the words He had been listening to, which

told Him of His home of grandeur and of peace, voluntarily left by Him that

He might work His mighty earthwork; — had no doubt strengthened with a

strange strength the Man of sorrows; and when the crowds gazed on His

face they marveled, as Mark tells us, at what they saw there.

 

38 “And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I

beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child.” The tender

sympathy of Luke is shown in this little detail. He is the only evangelist who

mentions that the poor tormented boy was an only child.  39  “And, lo, a spirit

taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth

again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him.”

 

40 “And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not.”  This

appears to have been a case of the deadliest kind of epileptic lunacy. Our Lord

distinctly assumes here that the disease in this case was occasioned by an unclean

spirit who had taken possession of the suffering child. The whole question of

demoniacal possession, its extent, its cause, whether or no it still survives in some

of the many mysterious phases of madness, is very difficult. It has been discussed

elsewhere (see notes on ch.4:33 and following verses).

 

41 “And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long

shall I be with you, and suffer you?”  This grave and mournful expression of the

loving but just Master was addressed to the entire crowd, in whose midst He now

found Himself. The people, swayed hither and thither, now enthusiastic in His favor,

when some sweet promise, or noble sentiment, or marvelous work touched their

hearts, now’ coldly indifferent or even hostile, when His teaching seemed to exact

some painful sacrifice of self at their hands. — these were looking on with

quiet indifference at His disciples’ failure in the case of the poor possessed

child, and listened to their scribes as they wrangled with the Lord’s

dismayed and perplexed followers. These followers, trying to imitate their

Master in His wonder-works, but failing because, after all, their faith in Him

wavered. The father of the child, confessing his unbelief, but utterly

wretched at the sight of the suffering of his boy. The ghastly spectacle of

the insane boy writhing and foaming on the ground, and then lying all

bruised and disheveled, with the pallor of death on the poor, pain-wrung

face, and this sorely afflicted one a child, one of those little ones whom

Jesus loved so well. Poor child-sufferer, on whose comparatively innocent

life the sin of mother and father weighed so heavily! What a contrast for

the Lord between the heavenly hours He had just been spending on the

mount, and this sad sight of pain and suffering, of jealousy and wrangling,

of doubts and indecision, in the midst of which He now stood!  “O faithless

and perverse,” cried the pitiful Lord with a burst of intense sorrow, “how

long shall I be with you, and suffer you?” One word, He knew, and for

Him all this might be exchanged for the scenes of heaven, for the company of

angels and of blessed spirits, for the old home of grandeur and of peace;

only it was just to heal this bitter curse that He had left His heaven-home.

But the contrast between the glory of the Transfiguration mount and the

memories which they evoked, and the present scene of pain and woe

unutterable, of human passions and weakness, called forth from the Lord

this bitter, sorrowful expression – “Bring thy son hither.”

 

42 “And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare

him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and

delivered him again to his father.”  A word of the great Master

was sufficient, and the spirit which had brought the cruel curse of disease

and madness into the boy was cast out, and the strange cure was complete.

Peter supplied Mark with fuller details here, and especially adds one

priceless gem of instruction in the Christian life. The Lord told the father of

the suffering child that the granting of the boon he craved for his son

depended on his own faith. Then the poor father, won by the Divine

goodness manifest in every act and word of Jesus, stammered out that

pitiful, loving expression, re-echoed since in so many thousand hearts,

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).  If He accepted

and rewarded that trembling, wavering faith in Him, will He reject mine?

 

 

 

 

                        The Healing of the Lunatic Child (vs. 37-42)

 

From this most interesting story we may gather the truths:

 

·         THAT FROM THE VERY FANGS OF DEFEAT A GREAT

VICTORY MAY BE SECURED. More than once in the history of war

there has occurred such an incident as that which is related concerning the

great struggle in the United States (1860-1864). A severe and successful

attack is made by one army on the other; the enemy is driven back, his guns

and his camp captured. As his regiments are in full retreat, the general of

the defeated force, who has been unfortunately absent, arrives on the

scene; he arrests the tide of retreat, gathers his soldiers about him, stops

the pursuing host in their career, leads a triumphant attack upon them,

drives them beyond his own camp, recaptures his guns, and chases the

once-conquering but now defeated army for miles to the rear of its first

position. Such a victory snatched from the jaws of humbling defeat took

place on this occasion. The returning Saviour found His disciples driven

before the hostile attack of His enemies, but His presence soon availed “to

restore the day,” and before long transformed humiliating failure into

joyous triumph. In the Master’s actual, spiritual absence the cause of the

Church may be brought very low indeed, and a complete and crushing

disaster may impend; but let the Lord return, let His presence and His power

be felt, and from the very teeth of threatened calamity there shall be

secured a glorious victory. Let no heart despond so long as there is a

present Captain; failure is never irretrievable when he is “on the field;”

under his leadership even “death is swallowed up in victory.”

 

·         THAT HUMAN AFFECTION IS MEANT TO LEAD TO

SPIRITUAL ATTACHMENTS. It was his sons sickness that led this man

to seek Jesus; but for that he would not have sought and found Him. It was

his strong parental love that would not be denied, that led him to urge his

plea, that enabled him to overcome his fears and to gain that valuable

victory. God employs many instrumentalities to lead Hhis children into His

kingdom. We ought to be influenced by our sense of what is right and of

what is wise in the matter; but, if not won by these, let the consideration of

the deep and tender interests of those who are dear to us convince and

determine us. For the sake of those children of ours, whom we love so

profoundly, and who have such a vital interest in Christian truth, let us sit

at the feet of Christ, and be subject to His sway.

 

·         THAT THE VERY WORST CASE WILL YIELD TO THE TOUCH

OF THE DIVINE HAND. There could not well be a worse case of

possession than this (see vs. 39, 42). If the malignant forces could have

triumphed over the benevolent Spirit, they would have triumphed here. But

everything was accomplished when “Jesus took him by the hand”

(Mark 9:27). So is it with the worst spiritual maladies. They may seem

so bad as to be incurable; it may be the general opinion that the case is

utterly hopeless. But there is a power in reserve against which the most

virulent and the most violent evils are not able to stand. For

 

“...many of whom all men said,

‘They’ve fallen, never more to stand,’

have risen, though they seemed as dead

When Jesus took them by the hand.”

 

The most stricken souls will be healed, the most sorrowing ones

comforted, the most despondent filled with a new and blessed hope, the

most fallen and sunk in sin lifted up to purity and even to beauty and

nobility of spirit and of life, when the Divine voice is heard bidding to be

comforted, when the Divine hand is laid on the broken heart or the defiled

and guilty soul.

 

·         THAT THE EARNEST SOUL NEED NOT LET ANYTHING

KEEP HIM BACK FROM CHRIST AND HIS SALVATION. This father

had much to overcome — the natural reluctance he would have to bring

the poor demoniac into such publicity; the failure of the disciples to effect a

cure, well calculated as that was to discourage and dishearten him; his own

imperfect faith (Mark 9:22, 24). But he overcame all these, and gained

his plea. Many may be the obstacles in the way of our salvation; they may

be circumstantial, or they may be inward and spiritual; but if there be a

thoroughly earnest spirit, they will not prevail over us; we shall triumph

over them, and go on our way with our cause gained and our hearts

gladdened.

 

43 “And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God.  But while

they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, He said unto His

disciples.”  Once more were kindled the disciples’ hopes of an earthly royalty in

the Person of that strange Messiah. For was He not Messiah after all, who with a

word worked such stupendous works as the miracle they had just witnessed? But

Jesus read their thoughts, and again tells them in the next verse of the terrible doom

which awaited Him. They must remember there was no earthly crown or human

sovereignty for Him.  44 “Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the

Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.”

 

45 “But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that

they perceived it not: and they feared to ask Him of that saying.”

The “saying” was to them so utterly distasteful, perhaps inconceivable. It is

possible that they thought this betrayal and death simply veiled for them some bit of

teaching to be explained hereafter; it is possible they at once dismissed it

from their minds, as men often do painful and mournful forebodings. At all

events, they dreaded asking Him any questions about this dark future of

suffering which He said lay before Him.

 

 

How the Lord Answered the Question Which Arose Among

  the Disciples as to Which Was the Greatest (vs, 46-48)

 

46 “Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be

greatest.  47  And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart,” -  Somewhere

on their journey back to the south, between the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi

and the old scene of his labors, Capernaum, this dispute must have taken place.

Shortly after their arrival at Capernaum, the Master called them together, and gave

them the following lesson on human greatness -“took a child, and set him by Him,”

Mark mentions that this teaching was “in the house” (Mark 9:33), and commentators

Have suggested, with some probability, that the house was Peter’s, and the child

one of his. Clement of Alexandria (‘Stromata,’ 3:448, B) especially mentions that this

apostle had children. Matthew relates this incident at greater length, and, still dwelling

upon the text of the little one,” gives us another and different sketch of the Masters

 teaching on this occasion (Matthew 18:1-6).  Mark tells us how Jesus folded His

arms round the little creature in loving fondness (Mark 9:36).  If the child, as above

suggested, was Peter’s own, such an incident as that embrace would never have

been forgotten by the father, and would, of course, find a place in the memoir of

his faithful disciple Mark. A (late) tradition of the Eastern Church identifies this child

with him who afterwards became the famous Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, a martyr.

Ignatius styled himself Theophoros; this, understood in a passive sense,

would signify “one who had been carried by God.” But in this Father’s

own writings we find the name used by himself in an active sense, as “one

who carries God within himself.” And Jesus, perceiving the thought of

their heart, took a child. The dispute “which of them should be greatest,”

which no doubt had taken place among themselves in their last journey

from the north of the Holy Land to Capernaum, was still a leading thought

in the hearts of the twelve, so little had they really understood their

Master’s teaching, and especially His later solemn words which pointed the

way of the cross as the only way to heaven and to real greatness. The Lord

reads these poor sinful hearts; then, calling them together, He takes a child

in His arms, and sets him by Him. By this action the Lord answers the silent

questioning thought of the worldly twelve. “The child stands as the type of

the humble and childlike disciple, and (the dispute having been about the

comparative greatness of the disciples) such a disciple is the greatest; he is

so honored by God that he stands on earth as the representative of Christ,

and of God Himself (v. 47), since “he that is [willingly] least among you

all, the same shall be [truly] great’ (v. 48).

 

48 “And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name

receiveth me:” -  The general lesson here — and it is one that has gone to the heart

more or less of all professing Christians — is that all the followers of Jesus

should practice humility before, and show tenderness to, the weak. It is one

of the great sayings of the Master which has stirred that practical charity

which has ever been one of the great characteristic features of Christianity.

But while the general lesson is clear, the particular reminder still claims

attention. Singular and touching was the affection of Jesus for children.

Several marked instances of this are noted in the Gospels. To this passage,

however, and to the sequel as reported in Mark 9:42, may be especially

referred the thought which has founded the countless children’s homes,

schools, and hospitals in all lands in different ages, and in our own

time the institution of the Sunday school, not the least beautiful of

Christian works done in the Master’s Name - “and whosoever shall receive

me receiveth Him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the

same shall be great.”

 

 

                                    The Church and the Child (vs. 46-48)

 

The scene is well worthy the genius of the artist: the disciples together, but

still at variance with one another, with cold or averted look; the Master

with a little child in His arms (Mark 9:36), either turning a reproachful

glance on His, disciples, or a look of tenderness upon that little one; the

child himself with a trustful but wondering expression in his countenance.

The scene is suggestive of the thought — What’s the child to the Church?

(For homily on the contention between the apostles, see Luke 22:24.)

We may consider:

 

·         WHAT THE CHILD WAS TO THE DISCIPLES. The answer to this

question is — not much. They were devout and worthy men; but they were

Jews, and they shared the mental habits of their countrymen. To them the

little child was of small account — one to be kept carefully out of sight;

one to be taken charge of by parent or teacher, but superfluous in society;

one too many when a great man was present, when a great prophet was

speaking, or a great healer was healing. This we know from their conduct

on a memorable occasion (ch. 18:15).

 

·         WHAT THE CHILD IS TO THE CHURCH. The poor, our Lord said,

we have “always with us.” So is it with the children. Whoever are absent,

they are present; whoever fail, they abound. The child is in the midst of us,

and we have to decide what he shall be to us. Taught by our Lord’s

teaching, led by His example, imbued with His Spirit, we have to take up a

very different attitude from that of the disciples. The Christian Church no

longer regards the child as one that has to be carefully kept out of the way

lest he should be troublesome. It welcomes him cordially; like its Master, it

takes him into the embrace of its affection and its care.

 

Ø      It regards the children as the Church of the future. It remembers that

“death and change are busy ever,” that the fathers and mothers are

passing on and away, and that others will soon be needed to take

their place. When a few more years have come, the place which knows

us now will know us no more (Psalm 103:16); who then, but the children

about our feet, will bear the flag we bear, will speak the truth we

speak, and will do the work we do?

 

Ø      It regards the children as a present valuable heritage. For the little child:

 

o       can be a recipient of Divine truth, and not only can he be this,

but his natural open-mindedness and trustfulness make him a

peculiarly apt learner in Christ’s great school;

 

o       can be a true follower of the Divine Master — to him also Jesus

says, “Follow me,” and not only can he “rise and follow” Him,

but his disposition to trust and love and obey makes Him to be a

close and a very acceptable follower of his Lord;

 

o       can illustrate in his own way the excellences of the Christian life,

by the exhibition of those virtues and graces which most become

childhood and youth. The Church of Christ should find in the little

child its most interesting and its most valuable disciple. And this

a great deal the more because of:

 

·         WHAT THE CHILD IS TO THE SAVIOUR HIMSELF. This is very

much indeed. For Christ knows, as we do not, all the possibilities of the

little child:

 

Ø      the height to which he may rise, or the depth to which he may sink;

Ø      the good he may live to do, or  the evil he may live to work;

Ø      the blessedness to which he may attain, or the shame and woe

      which may be his end.

 

He is more deeply interested in the young than we are, and however earnest

and eloquent our voice of invitation or of warning may be, more earnest far

is the voice of the Lord Himself, as He says, “Come unto me, take my yoke

upon you,… my yoke is easy, my burden is light.”

 

 

 

A Question Put by John (vs. 49-50)

 

49 “And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils

in thy Name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.” The

character of John is a strangely interesting one. With the exception of his forming

one of the chosen three who were in a peculiar manner received into their Master’s

confidence, John seldom appears, during the public ministry of Christ, to

have played a prominent part. Many years had to elapse before he attained

that unique position of influence in the early Church which no one seems to

have disputed. In the mean time, his character was slowly forming. Fiery

and impetuous, although reserved and retiring, it seemed in these first days

scarcely probable that such a nature would ever deepen or ripen into that

John who became the world-teacher of his Master’s love. Luke here

records two circumstances which suggested some of the Master’s

important teaching, in both of which John plays the prominent part. The

question of John was evidently suggested by Jesus’ words spoken in

connection with His teaching respecting little ones. “Whosoever,” said the

Master, “shall receive this child in my Name. But John and others had just

been sternly rebuking some one not of their company, who had been using,

to some effect evidently, that same Master’s Name, which possessed, as

John saw, wondrous power. Had he and his friends been doing right in

rebuking the comparative stranger for using a Name which Jesus, in His

words just spoken, seemed to regard as the common property of kindly

devout men?  Apparently,  outside the company of disciples of

Jesus there were, even then, men in whose hearts, His teaching and acts had

evoked a higher and even a supernatural power. Certain sparks which had

fallen here and there beyond the little circle of His own, kindled flames

occasionally away from the central fire.” Those who were ever close to the

Master seemed to dread lest, if these were allowed unchecked to teach and

to work in the Name, grave error might be disseminated. Some natural

jealousy of these outsiders no doubt influenced men like John in their wish

to confine the work in the limits of their own circle.

 

50 “And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is

for us.”   The older authorities, manuscripts, and the more venerable versions here

read for the last clause, “He that is not against you is for you.” Exegetically as well

as critically this amended reading is to be preferred. The offence of the stranger, if it

were an offence, was not against Jesus, whose Name had evidently been used

reverently and with faith, but against the disciples, whose rights and privileges were

presumably infringed upon. The Master’s reply contained a broad and far-reaching

truth. No earthly society, however holy, would be able exclusively

to claim the Divine powers inseparably connected with a true and faithful

use of His Name. This is the grand and massive answer which stretches

over a history of twenty centuries, and which will possibly extend over

many yet to come; the answer which gives an ample reason why noble

Christian work is done whether emanating from Churches bearing the name

 of Protestant, or Roman, or Greek.

 

 

Humility and Charity (vs. 46-50)

 

Were these apostles sinners above all ecclesiastics because of this reasoning

which arose among them? Were their controversies about precedence one whit

more foolish and unseemly than the controversies with which the air of councils

and courts is laden, and by which passions are often enkindled to fever heat?

Alas! is it not the earthenness of the vessel in which the heavenly treasure is

deposited which is made manifest in the strife, “Who shall be greatest”? Jesus’

action is a symbol to be read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested by all.

“He took a little child, and set him by his side,” as if to say, “See, there is the

greatness of the kingdom of heaven;” nay, as may be gathered from Matthew,

as if to say more strongly still, “ there is no other greatness recognized in the

heavenly kingdom than that of character. Except you are fashioned according

to the character delineated in childhood, you cannot even enter the kingdom.’’

Reflect on the import of this saying, this symbol. Does it seem strange that

(Matthew 18:4) Christ should distinguish humility as the characteristic

of the child? But is not the essence of humility unconsciousness of self?

And is not this unconsciousness the trait conspicuous in a truly childlike

child? The little one has a will, a temper, but there is not much of the

feeling of self. Watch the caresses and endearments; they are less love

seeking to be loved, than love merely loving, absorbed in loving. Observe

the play; the costly toy is seldom the most prized; the pleasure found in toy

or romp is the outgoing of self. Nature is spontaneous, free. Therein, says

Jesus, we have a revelation of heaven, a sign of the real greatness. The

image likest God, the fact, in this universe, nearest God, with most in it of

the stamp of the high and holy One, is the little child whom Christ has

called. The everlasting love humbles itself as the little child. It loves, it is

absorbed in loving. The Incarnation only makes us see what is hidden in the

very being of God — self-emptying, making self of no reputation. (See

Philippians 2:3-8).  The King of kings is the Servant of servants. He is among

us the one that serveth. “Be ye therefore imitators of God as the children of

His love.” For it is pride that stands between us and the true greatness. We are

great only in the measure in which we lose ourselves, in which we find our life,

in a cause or truth which is higher than ourselves. The world has three chief

patterns of greatness:

 

o       Culture the development, through science and art,

of a certain inward sweetness and light.

o       Power the ability to use men as pawns on a chess-board,

to project far and near the image of self.

o       Luxury imbedding the years in the voluptuous comfort

which money commands.

 

That which is common to all these forms, from the most gross to the most

refined, is that the supreme reference of the mind is to having rather than

being, getting rather than giving, being served rather than serving. Christ’s

idea is in sharp antagonism to this. To be of use, to be free from that self-love

which is always akin to self-idolatry, to be men in understanding but

children in heart and spirit, — this is the mark which He presents when, in

answer to the reasoning in the heart, He says, pointing to the child, “He that

is least among you all, the same shall be great.” A sentence ever to be

pondered, implying (Matthew 18:3) that the soul has been turned to the

right law of its being. With this lesson of humility there is joined at this

time a lesson of charity and forbearance. How this lesson was occasioned is

explained in v. 49. The expression used by the Lord, “in my Name,” seems to

have suggested to John an incident, perhaps the circumstance which somehow

gave rise to the reasoning, “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy Name,

and we forbade him, because he followeth not with us.” Interdict honestly enough

meant! But one wholly foreign to the law of the spirit of Christ’s life. His greatness

is that He is not confined to any circle; His gospel is “the presence of a good

diffused.”  There is a virtue in even the hem of His garment. The communion of

God with men is always wider than the communion of men with God. He is in

contact with minds which do not even consciously surrender to Him.  Beware

of identifying the bestowment of spiritual grace with the acknowledgments of

belief according to any set of words, or with adherence to any particular

company of believers. “The Spirit divideth to every man severally as He wills”

 (I Corinthians 12:11).  It is not for any to forbid another “because he followeth

not with us.” No; in the next chapter we shall find Christ protesting, “He that is

not with me is against me.” That is the one side of His mind. But it is balanced

by the other (v. 50), “He that is not against us is for us.” The two sentences are

not mutually contradictory.  The one establishes that there is no middle course

between Christ and Satan; that those who will not join Christ in His warfare

against Satan must, directly or indirectly, aid Satan against Christ. In the other it

is shown that the man whom John and his brethren forbade was really with Christ

in His warfare, and had received from Him the faith which was mighty against

the kingdom of darkness. The miracle in Christ’s Name was the proof that he

was really on Christ’s side, gathering with Him. Try the spirits” (I John 4:1),

such is practically the rejoinder of Jesus; “do not forbid simply because one has

not complied with what you consider necessary or right; look at the

character of the deed, at the motive present to him; if that bear the mark of

my Name, account him with me, although he follows not with you.” John

would have been justified in going to the man who cast out devils, and

expounding the way of God more perfectly to him; he was not justified in

prohibiting. Most difficult of graces is the grace of charity; charity as

distinguished from the toleration which is the outcome of a mind that has

no positive conviction of its own, and regards all views as alike to it;

charity which has its hand firm in definite truth, but recognizes that Christ,

not any man or any system, is the Truth; “Thou, O Lord, art more than

they; “and because of this reverence, this feeling of the infiniteness of truth,

allows for many forms of apprehension, welcoming the Name of the Lord,

howsoever it is revealed in character and life, and, when there cannot be

fellowship, sorrowing rather than denouncing. Humility and charity God

has joined together. They are the two inseparable features of the childlike

character. Where humility reigns, there is always the desire to be fair, to

acknowledge the excellences even of doctrines and opinions to which the

mind is opposed; most of all, of persons from whom it may differ. “O Lord,

who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth;

send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of

charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever

liveth is counted dead before thee.”

 

 

 

Exclusiveness and Neutrality — The Forbidden and the Impossible Thing

                                                (vs. 49-50)

 

We do well to take together this passage and that of ch. 11:23. For

one is the complement of the other. “He that is not against us is for us;”

“He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me

scattereth.” There is not the slightest inconsistency between these two

declarations of our Lord. One states one truth, and the other a different

one. They teach successively:

 

·         THAT WE ARE IN DANGER OF COUNTING AMONG OUR

OPPONENTS THOSE WHOM WE SHOULD RECKON AS ALLIES.

It did not seem to be a service of any particular account that a man should

use the name of Jesus to exorcise demons, even though he may have had a

measure of success in his attempts. But Christ said he was not to be

“forbidden” as an outsider, but rather hailed as a friend and as an ally.

What, then, would He not say now of those who go so far towards the

fullest declaration of His truth as many thousands do, but who remain

outside the particular Church with which we may be connected? Would He

have us blame and brand these because they “follow not with us”? The

spirit of persecution is cruel, foolish, and emphatically unchristian. Rather

let us rejoice that there are found so many who, while not feeling it right to

connect themselves with our organization, are yet loving the same Lord

and serving the same cause. These are not our enemies; they are our allies.

 

·         THAT WE CANNOT WITHHOLD OUR EARNEST THOUGHT

AND DELIBERATE CHOICE FROM CHRIST without being counted by

Him as His enemies. “He that is not with me is against me,” etc. There is no

neutrality in the great campaign now being fought out between sin and

righteousness. In great European wars it is customary for generals and

correspondents from other countries, not involved in the strife, to attend

the movements and watch the operations of the armies; they, of course, are

strictly neutral. But in this great spiritual campaign we cannot be mere

spectators; we must be soldiers fighting on one side or on the other. For

we are all deeply involved; we are implicated in what is past; we are

interested in the issue; we have GREAT RESPONSIBILITIES resting on

us; we GREAT THINGS AT STAKE!  God is addressing Himself to every

one of us, and it is not open to any of us to refuse to take up a decisive

attitude in regard to the subjects of His address.

 

Ø      He speaks to us of Himself. He makes Himself known to us as our

Creator, our Preserver, our generous Benefactor; He makes His appeal to us

as our Divine Father, who earnestly desires our return to His home that He

may bless us with His parental love. Can we possibly remain unaffected by

this? Is not our very silence a most grievous offence and injury? Not to

respond to Him is to sin grievously against Him.

 

Ø      He comes to us in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. And He offers

Himself to us as the Redeemer who at the greatest possible price has

wrought out our redemption, as the Divine Friend in the shelter of whose

love and power we may spend our days, as the Source of our eternal life.

Can we possibly take up a position toward Him in which we are neither one

thing nor another — neither enemy nor subject? Can we do other than

either ACCEPT HIM or REJECT HIM?

 

Ø      He summons us to His service, and to the service of our kind. We are to be

      “living epistles,” making known His truth, revealing to men the goodness

of God, the grace of Christ, the excellency of His service. We are to bear

witness unto Him. Either our life is witnessing for Him and for His truth, or

our influence is thrown into the other scale. Those who know us are either

being attracted toward Christ through all they see and know about us, or

they are being repelled. We cannot be cyphers, try how we may. Our lives

are telling on one side or on the other. Either we gather with Christ or we

                        scatter abroad. WE MUST MAKE OUR CHOICE!

 

 

 

   THE SO-CALLED JOURNEYINGS TOWARDS JERUSALEM.

 

The great characteristic feature in Luke’s Gospel, distinguishing it especially

from the other two synoptical Gospels of Matthew and Mark, are the

events in the public ministry of Jesus dwelt on in the next ten chapters of

this Gospel. Many incidents in the succeeding chapters are recorded by this

evangelist alone.  Three questions suggest themselves.

 

  • To what period of the Lord’s public work does this large and important

section of our Gospel refer?  Commentators frequently, and with some

accuracy, speak of this great section of Luke’s work as “the journeyings

towards Jerusalem.” Three times does this writer especially tell us that

this was the object and end of the journeys he was describing:

 

Ø       “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem;” ch. 9:51;

Ø       He went through the cities and villages… journeying toward

 Jerusalem;” ch. 13:22

Ø       “And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem.ch. 17:11;

 

These journeyings to Jerusalem were evidently just before the end. They

were the close of the public life. They immediately preceded the last

Passover Feast, which all the four evangelists tell us the Lord kept at

Jerusalem, and in the course of which He was crucified. They fill up, then,

the last six or seven months of his earth-life — that period, roughly

speaking, from the Feast of Tabernacles (alluded to in John 7.), which falls

in October, until the Passover Feast in the following spring. These last

months were occupied by the Master in a slow progress from Capernaum,

through those parts of Galilee hitherto generally unvisited by Him, gradually

making His way toward the capital, which we know He reached in time for

the Passover Feast, during which He was crucified. In the course of this

period it seems, however, likely that, in Luke’s account of Mary and Martha

(ch. 10:38-42), we have an allusion to a short visit to Jerusalem of the Lord,

undertaken in the course of these journeyings, at the Dedication Feast (John

10:22).

 

 

  • Why is this period, comparatively speaking, so little dwelt on by the

other two synoptists Matthew and Mark?  In these last journeyings it appears

that the Lord was in the habit of constantly sending out by themselves small

companies of His disciples as missionaries in the neighboring districts, thus

accustoming His followers, in view of His own approaching death, to act

alone and to think alone. It is, therefore, extremely probable that Matthew and

Peter (the real author of Mark’s Gospel) were, during this period of our Lord’s

work, constantly absent from their Master’s immediate neighborhood. These

apostles would naturally choose, as the special subjects of their own

teaching and preaching, those events at which they personally had been

present. Much of what was done and said by the Master during these last

six months was done during the temporary absence, on special mission

duty, of these two evangelists.

 

  • Where did Luke probably derive his information here?  When we consider

the probable sources whence Luke derived his detailed information concerning

this period, we are, of course, landed in conjecture. We know, however, that

the whole of his narrative was composed after careful research into well-sifted

evidence, supplied generally by eyewitnesses, of the events described.

Thus, in the earlier chapters, we have already discussed the high probability

of the virgin-mother herself having furnished the information; so here there

is little doubt that Paul and Luke, in their researches during the

composition of the Third Gospel, met with men and women who had

formed part of that larger company which had been with Jesus, we know,

during those last months of His ministry among us. Nor is it, surely, an

unreasonable thought for us to see, in connection with this important

portion of our Gospel, the hand of the Holy Spirit, who, unseen, guided the

pen of the four evangelists, especially throwing Luke and his master, Paul,

into the society of men who had watched the great Teacher closely during

that period of His work, when the other two synoptists, Matthew and

Peter (Mark), were frequently absent.  From the language employed in this

portion of the Gospel, there seems a high probability that many of the notes

or documents supplied to Luke and Paul were written or dictated in Aramaic

(Hebrew).

 

 

The Samaritan’s Insult to the Lord

and

                              The Masters Reception of It (vs. 51-56)

 

51 “And it came to pass, when the time was come that He should be received

up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”  This is a very solemn

introduction to this great section of Luke’s writing. It at once marks off all that now

follows as a winding-up of the earthly ministry. The expression, “that He should be

received up,” is simply the rendering of one Greek word - ἀναλήμψεως -

analaempseos - received up; up-getting; taken up which signifies “ascension.” 

The Passion, the cross, and the grave are passed over here, and the glorious goal

alone is spoken of. What a lesson of comfort is here suggested!  The words in the

Greek original, “He steadfastly set His face”-  καὶ αὐτὸς τὸ πρόσωπον ἐστήρισεν 

τοῦ πορεύεσθαι εἰς Ἱερουσαλήμ - kai autos to prosopon estaerisen tou poreuesthai

eis Ierousalaem - and He the face of Him fixes steadfastly of the to be going to

Jerusalem - are evidently literally translated from a well-known Aramaic (Hebrew)

expression.

 

Very pathetic and sublime is the announcement of this fifty-first verse. The

bright, joyous spring-time has gone. The cornfields and gardens, the hill

and dale, the “lake’s still face sleeping sweetly in the embrace of mountains

terraced high with mossy stone” — all the scenery which the Son of man

so dearly loved, must now be left behind. No more for Him the crowds of

simple fisher-folk hanging on His words; no more for Him the circuits from

village to village, returning to the quiet Capernaum home; no more for Him

the happy work which marked the earlier years of the Prophet of Nazareth.

Now there are only the deepening opposition of scribe and Pharisee, and

the lengthening shadow of the cross. He is the Man of men. Not without

pain must He have left Nazareth in the distance, and taken His way through

the Plain of Esdraelon, past Nain and Shunem, bound for Jerusalem. But

this is sublime: “He steadfastly set his face.” It implies that there were

solicitations, temptations in another direction. The Christ of God needed to

gird up all His energies. Flesh and blood cried, “Stay a little longer at least.”

The mind of the Son made answer, “Nay, how am I straitened until the

baptism be accomplished!” (ch. 12:50)  It is of an hour in this journey that

Mark 10:32 says that “Jesus went before the disciples: and they were

amazed; and, as they followed, they were afraid.” Why they were afraid,

we are not told; but we may well conceive that there was the print of a

secret agony on His brow, that there was something in His aspect, as He

walked a little way ahead of them, which awed and silenced. His face was

“steadfastly set.” And would that we better knew the secret of this

steadfast face! How we shrink from the duty which our Father lays on us!

How we withdraw our gaze from the cups of suffering, from the cross-bearing,

which our Father assigns us! How we run away from what is irksome! or,

when we must do it, how often we meet it with a countenance awry! Lord,

we cannot penetrate the mystery of thy way. At times even thy presence seems

dreadful. But lead us in the truth of thy steadfastness, and keep us following

thee, even although amazed and afraid!

 

52 “And sent messengers before His face:” -  Probably, as the sequel shows,

these were John and James. This was necessary at this period of the Lord’s life.

A numerous company now usually followed the Lord; it is probable that many of

those most devoted to Him, both men and women, scarcely ever left Him, now

that the popular enthusiasm was waning, and the number of His deadly enemies

increasing - “and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans,

to make ready for Him.”  These Samaritans were the descendants of a, mixed

race brought by Esarhaddon (eighth century B.C.) from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava,

Hamath, and Sepharvaim, to replace the ten tribes carried captive to the East.

These became worshippers of Jehovah, and, on the return of Judah and Benjamin

from captivity, sought to be allowed to share in the rebuilding of the

temple, and then to be admitted as Jews to share in the religious privileges

of the chosen race. Their wishes, however, were not complied with. They

subsequently erected a rival temple on Mount Gerizim, and henceforward

were known as a schismatical sect, and continued in a state of deadly

enmity with the orthodox Jews. This bitter hatred is noticed in the New

Testament (see John 4:9), where it is stated that the Jews “had no

dealings with the Samaritans,” whom they looked on as worse than

heathen. In the synagogues these Samaritans were cursed. The Son of

Sirach named them as a people that they abhorred (Ecclesiasticus 1:25-26);

And in the Talmud we read this terrible passage, “Let not the Samaritans have

part in the resurrection!” This hatred, however, we know, was not shared

in by our Lord, and on more than one occasion we find Him dealing gently

and lovingly with this race.

 

53 “And they did not receive him, because His face was as though

He would go to Jerusalem.”  Here the kindly overtures were

rejected by the inhabitants of the Samaritan village in question. The reason

alleged by them was that this Teacher, who wished to come among them,

was on His way up to worship at the rival temple at Jerusalem.

 

54 “And when His disciples James and John saw this, they

said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from

heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?”  The natural fiery temper

and burning zeal of these highly favored and loved brethren — who, we

know, received, perhaps in half-playful rebuke from their Master, the

epithet Boanerges, sons of thunder-flamed forth at this insult offered to

their adored Master in return for His tender, loving consideration for this

hated people. Possibly, what these two had lately witnessed on the

Transfiguration mount had deepened their veneration for their Lord, and

caused them the more bitterly to resent an insult leveled at Him. So they

prayed Him — Him whom they had so lately seen radiant with the awful fire

of heaven — prayed Him to call that fire down, and so wither in a moment

those impious despisers of His gracious goodness. The words, “even as

Elias did,” form a very appropriate historical instance, but they are of

doubtful authenticity — the older authorities have them not.

 

55 “But He turned, and rebuked them,” -  Christ wrought miracles

in every element except fire. Fire is reserved for the consummation of the

age!  - “and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.”

 

56 “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but

to save them.”  This entire clause is absent in a large majority of the elder

authorities. On every principle of criticism it must be, if not struck out, at

least marked as of doubtful authenticity. Commentators are, however, vary

loath to part with the words, which breathe, as has been remarked, “a spirit

far purer, loftier, and rarer than is usually discernible in ecclesiastical

interpolations.” They are certainly very old, as old almost as the apostolic

age, being found in the Italic and Peshito, the most venerable of versions.

Many, therefore, of the contemporaries of apostolic men must have read

these words as a genuine utterance of our Lord. “And they went to

another village.”  The Greek word ἑτέραν  - haeteran another;

different - suggests that our Lord, after the insult offered by the Samaritans,

quietly turned His steps to a Jewish community.

 

 

 

 

                                    Wisdom, Duty, Danger (vs. 51-55)

 

Among the various difficulties in this passage that have been the subject of

exegetical debate, we may clearly discern three important lessons.

 

·         OUR WISDOM IN FRONT OF APPARENT EVIL. At this time our

Lord had before Him the dark days which would bring His ministry to a

close. The contemplation of them had evidently gone down deep into His

own mind, but He found none to share the thought or to sympathize with

Him in the prospect. He asked His disciples to let these things “sink down

into their ears” (v. 44), but they understood Him not. He was the sole

possessor of the great secret of His coming sorrow, struggle, and death.

How did He face it? With an immovable resoluteness of soul. “He

steadfastly set his face to go up to Jerusalem.” What reason have we to be

thankful for that holy and noble tenacity of spirit! Could anything less

strong than that have carried Him, unscathed, through all that followed?

And if there had been any, even the slightest failure, what would have been

the consequences to our race? When we have to face a future of pain, or of

separation and attendant loneliness and single-handedness of struggle, or

of strong and sustained temptation, in what spirit shall we face that? In the

temper of calm and devout resoluteness; with a full and fixed determination

to go bravely and unfalteringly through, shrinking from no suffering,

enduring the worst that man can inflict, yielding nothing to the enemy of

our soul. An unflinching resoluteness will do great things for us.

 

Ø      It will save us from much suffering; for cowardice and apprehension do

not simply add to human wretchedness; they multiply it.

 

Ø      It will save us from the chief peril and go far to secure us the victory.

The greatest of all perils before us is that of fearful unfaithfulness to

our own convictions. An unstable mind is only too likely to be guilty

of it. A resolute spirit is almost certain to escape it.

 

Ø      It will place us by the side of our Divine Leader and of the noblest of

His followers. We shall be treading in the footsteps of Him who said

“I set my face like a flint” (Isaiah 50:7) and who went up to that city

of martyrs and gloriously triumphed there.

 

·         OUR DUTY IN THE PRESENCE OF A PROFESSED PROPHET.

“They did not receive him;… They went to another village.” How much is

contained, in these simple words, of HUMAN FOLLY  and PRIVATION!

These villagers were profoundly prejudiced against Christ, and declined

absolutely to see what He could do, to hear what He would say. They would

not “judge for themselves” on the evidence ready to be furnished. And

consequently they suffered a great privation. The great Healer and Teacher

of mankind went another way; their sick went unhealed, their souls went

unenlightened, while Divine tenderness and truth found other hearts and

homes. Often since then has Christ gone, in the person of some one of His

prophets or spokesmen, to the city, to the village, to the home, to the

individual heart, and offered His truth, His grace, His salvation. But deep-

seated prejudice, or strong material interests, or keen love of pleasure,

has barred the way. He has not been received. And as He does not force an

entrance anywhere, He has gone elsewhere; He has passed by, and all the

treasure of His truth has been unpossessed, all the blessedness of His

salvation unknown. Of what unimaginable good, of what highest heritage,

DOES HUMAN FOLLY DEPRIVE ITSELF?

 

·         OUR DANGER OF MISTAKING THE LOWER FOR THE

HIGHER FEELING. The apostles, James and John, gave vent to a burst of

strong resentment, and proposed to have a severe punishment inflicted.

They supposed themselves to be actuated by an honorable and acceptable

indignation. But Jesus “turned, and rebuked them;” they were entirely

mistaken; their feeling was not that of pure indignation, it was tainted by an

unholy irritation against men who would not receive them and their

Master; moreover, the desire for immediate punishment was to give place,

under Christian teaching, to a determination to win to a better way. Not

extinction but reformation, not the infliction of the death which is due but

the conferring of the life which is undeserved, not rigorous exaction but

patient pity, not the folded fist of law but the open and extended hand of

helpfulness, is the Christian thing. When we find ourselves giving way to

wrath and proposing punishment, we do well to ask ourselves whether we

are sure we know the “spirit we are of,” and whether there is not a “more

            excellent way” for Christian feet to tread (I Corinthians 12:31-13:13).

 

 

  Jesus Tells Three-Would-Be Disciples

        the Requirements for Those Who Seek His Service (vs. 57-62)

 

The first two of these incidents in the life of Jesus are related by Matthew 8:19-22),

but he places them in an earlier period. They evidently did not occur together, but

most probably they took place about this time in the ministry. They are placed in

one group as examples of the way in which the Master replied to numerous offers

of service made to Him under different conditions.

 

57 “And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man

said unto Him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

58 “And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air

have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.”

Matthew 8:19 tells us that the “certain man” who made this offer of service was

a scribe. This detail is useful, as showing that those who were attracted by our

Lord’s teaching were by no means confined to the peasant and artisan class. If we

look a little below the surface of the gospel story, we find numberless

indications of this. In the Master’s reply it is probable that the depression,

naturally the result of the churlish refusal of the Samaritan villagers to

receive Him (v. 53), colored the sad but true reflection. The wise Master

distrusted the too-ready enthusiasm of His would-be disciple. He saw it

would never stand the test of the severe privation or the painful self-sacrifice

which would be the sure lot of any one, especially at that juncture, really

faithful to Him.

 

59 “And He said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me

first to go and bury my father.   60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury

their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”  In this case the

Master was the Summoner. Something He read in this man’s heart, or words He

had heard him speak, moved the Redeemer’s great love, so He gave him a

special call. This was a very different character from the last. Whereas that

 seeker for work from Jesus was impulsive, and even thoughtless in his enthusiasm,

one who would begin to act without counting the cost, this one was overcautious,

cold and calculating to an ungenerous excess; yet there was evidently sterling stuff

in the character, for Jesus argues and remonstrates with him; there was, too, much

gold mingled with the earth of that man’s disposition, for the Lord lightly to let

it go. It is thus that the Spirit pleads still with the selfishness which

disfigures many a noble and devoted servant of high God. He seems to say,

“My call is too imperative to yield to any home duties, however orderly

and respectable.” During the official days of mourning (in the case of a

funeral, these were seven) the impression now made by His summoning

words would have worn off. It is noticeable that the home duties, which

Jesus suggested should give place to other and more imperative claims,

were in connection with the dead. It was not the living father who was to

be left to hirelings, only the inanimate corpse. It was rather a society call

than a home or family duty which was to give place to work for the

Master. St. Chrysostom makes some quaint, but strikingly practical,

remarks here. “He might need, if he went to the funeral, to proceed, after

the burial, to make inquiry about the will, and then about the distribution of

the inheritance, and all the other things that followed thereupon; and thus

waves after waves of things coming in upon him in succession might bear

him very far away from the harbor of truth. For this cause, doubtless, the

Saviour draws him, and fastens him to Himself.”

 

61 “And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid

them farewell, which are at home at my house.  62 And Jesus said unto him,

No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the

kingdom of God.”  There is an implied reproach in our Lord s reply to what,

on first thoughts, would seem a reasonable request. The offer in this case came

from the man himself. It would appear that this would-be disciple, on thinking the

matter over, considered it might be desirable to hear what his family and friends

thought about his project.  At all events, one thing is clear his first ardor was cooled,

his first love left (Revelation 2:4),  The Master, in His pithy but striking comment,

shows when such is the case, that there is little or no hope of any real noble work

being carried out.  The simile is drawn from agricultural imagery. Jesus was evidently

very familiar with all the little details of rural life.

 

 

 

 

                        The Secret of Successful Work (vs. 37-62)

 

We saw that the Transfiguration was the result of prayer; but it was not the

end of the prayer. This was preparation for further service. The glory is not

the end, but only an incidental accompaniment, of devotedness of spirit. It

is work for God, further service in His kingdom, which is the aim of all

means of grace. And now these verses bring out in different aspects the

secret of successful work. Let us notice:

 

·         SUCCESSFUL WORK MUST BE PRAYERFUL. (vs. 37-42.) We

have here a case of failure on the part of the nine disciples, and of success

on the part of the descended Christ. The difference between the two cases

was that Christ had been praying on the mountain while they had been

prayerless in the valley. Prayerlessness and powerlessness go hand-in-hand.

Work done in a prayerless spirit cannot succeed as it ought to do. The

transfigured ones alone can meet the emergencies of Christian work, and

succeed where others fail. Some cases are doubtless more difficult than

others, and some demons make a harder fight of it than others; but there

are none of them who can stand a prayerful Christian who faithfully follows

Jesus in his line of attack.

 

·         SUCCESSFUL WORK MUST BE IN SPITE OF MALIGNANT

OPPOSITION. (vs. 43-45.) Our Lord, as the crowd are wondering at

His success, tells the disciples plainly that He is destined to be delivered into

the hands of men. This is a sufficient set-off to His success. Men will take

and kill him, notwithstanding all His philanthropy and exorcising power.

This crucifixion of Jesus is but the type of the world’s recognition of the

best work done by human hands. A long line of noble workers have

followed Jesus along the path of martyrdom. Let no worker, then, be

surprised at THE WORLD’S MALIGNITY!

 

·         SUCCESSFUL WORK MUST BE DIVESTED OF BASE

AMBITIONS. (vs. 46-48.) Notwithstanding recent failure through want

of prayer, the disciples are soon selfishly contending about the first places,

and who is to be greatest. It is sad how soon we forget our failures

and betake ourselves to our ambitions. Now, one characteristic of base

ambition is pride about work. Certain lines of work are thought to be

beneath our dignity and worth. To correct this in the disciples, our Lord

sets a little child before them, and shows that such a child might be

received in such a spirit as would be recognized by GOD HIMSELF! The

nursing of a little child may be done for the sake of Jesus Christ, and in

such a case it is such a work as He will regard, and the Father who sent Him

also. It is not a great work, therefore, that is needed, but a great heart

carried into the smallest work. We think of quantity; Christ thinks of

quality. We will not “take our coats off,” so to speak, unless it is some

work eminently creditable; Christ could throw His great spirit into the

fondling of a little child, and do the little one everlasting good. Hence we

must do any work clearly laid to our hand with large-heartedness, and we

shall find it successful in the best sense. It is the meek ones who are ready

to put their hand to anything who are great in the kingdom of God.

 

·         SUCCESSFUL WORK DEMANDS, BESIDES, A TOLERANT

SPIRIT. (vs. 49-56.) John and James, after the Transfiguration

privileges, seem to have got very excited and ardent in Christ’s service.

Two cases in particular show how heated and hasty they were.

 

Ø      The first was a case of exorcism through Christs Name. Some Jew had

      witnessed the exorcisms of Christ, and, abandoning the Jewish methods

      and traditions, had tried the new plan, and proved the power of “the Name

which is above every name.” But because he did not join the disciples, and

so preserve their monopoly of delegated power, he is forbidden by them to

do such work. This was intolerance misplaced. The worker, though not

uniting with the disciples, was promoting the Master’s glory by showing

the power of his Name. He was an ally, though not a disciple of the same

set. Hence Jesus instructs them always to act on the tolerant principle that

“he that is not against us is for us.”

 

Ø      The second case in which the sons of Zebedee exhibited unholy zeal was in a

      certain Samaritan village, during Jesus’ journeys to Jerusalem. The last journey

has begun (v. 51), and nothing will keep Him from accomplishing it. The

Samaritans would have liked Him to linger with them, and avoid His enemies

and theirs. But He would not listen to their siren voice, but insisted on going

up to Jerusalem. Taking umbrage at this, one Samaritan village denied Him

the usual hospitalities when His forerunners sought it. Incensed at this, John

and James inquire if they should not call down fire from heaven to consume

the inhospitable Samaritans, as Elijah had done. Samaria was the scene of that

fiery ministry. But Elijah’s spirit would not suit the Saviour’s times. Had

the prophet descended from the Mount of Transfiguration, he would not

have insisted on any such policy as this. He had doubtless got less fiery in

the peaceful abodes above! As a destructive force, he had served his

generation, but the disciples were to remember that saving men, not

destroying them, was to be their mission. From both these cases we learn

that the true evangelical spirit must reject all intolerance if it is to secure

the highest success.

 

·         SUCCESSFUL WORK REQUIRES FAITHFUL DEALING WITH

INDIVIDUAL CASES. (vs. 57-62.) As Jesus was moving upwards to

the capital, the people perceived that a crisis was at hand. Hence the desire

of some on insufficient grounds to cast in their lot with Him who is to be

the conquering King. Here is a case in point. A man comes and professes

his willingness to be a follower of Jesus wheresoever He goeth. But Jesus

undeceives him by indicating that he is not going to be sure of any lodging

in this world. Perhaps the man was hoping to reach a palace by following

Him; but Jesus shows that the birds and beasts have more certain lodgings

than He. He thus laid bare the man’s danger, and prevented a rash decision.

The second case is an invitation to the individual by Jesus Himself. It is a

case of bereavement, and Jesus seizes on it to secure a disciple. He knew

that the best thing this broken-heart could do would be to become a herald

of His kingdom. The bereaved one naturally enough asks leave to go and

bury his father, but Jesus assures him that there are sufficient dead hearts at

home to pay due respect to his father’s remains, and the formalities of the

funeral may only change his promptitude into delay and neglect; and so He

urges him to become a preacher at once. A third case is that of one who is

ready to follow Christ, but wishes to bid those at home farewell. Our Lord

tells him the danger of looking back. The farewells at home might have

resulted in a farewell for ever to Jesus. It is thus Jesus shows the

importance of dealing faithfully with individual souls. We have the secret

            of successful work laid clearly before us.

 

 

 

                                    The Face Steadfastly Set (vs. 51-62)

 

Very pathetic and sublime is the announcement of the fifty-first verse. The

bright, joyous spring-time has gone. The cornfields and gardens, the hill

and dale, the “lake’s still face sleeping sweetly in the embrace of mountains

terraced high with mossy stone” — all the scenery which the Son of man

so dearly loved, must now be left behind. No more for Him the crowds of

simple fisher-folk hanging on His words; no more for Him the circuits from

village to village, returning to the quiet Capernaum home; no more for Him

the happy work which marked the earlier years of the Prophet of Nazareth.

Now there are only the deepening opposition of scribe and Pharisee, and

the lengthening shadow of the cross. He is the Man of men. Not without

pain must He have left Nazareth in the distance, and taken His way through

the Plain of Esdraelon, past Nain and Shunem, bound for Jerusalem. But

this is sublime: “He steadfastly set His face.” It implies that there were

solicitations, temptations in another direction. The Christ of God needed to

gird up all His energies. Flesh and blood cried, “Stay a little longer at least.”

The mind of the Son made answer, “Nay, how am I straitened until the

baptism be accomplished!” (ch. 12:50)  It is of an hour in this journey that Mark

speaks, when he says that “Jesus went before the disciples: and they were

amazed; and, as they followed, they were afraid.” (Mark 10:32)  Why they were

afraid, we are not told; but we may well conceive that there was the print of a

secret agony on His brow, that there was something in His aspect, as He

walked a little way ahead of them, which awed and silenced. His face was

“steadfastly set.” And would that we better knew the secret of this

steadfast face! How we shrink from the duty which our Father lays on us!

How we withdraw our gaze from the cups of suffering, from the cross-bearing,

which our Father assigns us! How we run away from what is

irksome! or, when we must do it, how often we meet it with a countenance

awry! Lord, we cannot penetrate the mystery of thy way. At times even thy

presence seems dreadful. But lead us in the truth of thy steadfastness, and

keep us following thee, even although amazed and afraid! Two features of

the beginning of the journey are set before us in the passage under review.

 

·         THE ONE, THE REJECTION OF THE LORD BY A VILLAGE OF

THE SAMARITANS. And this for a reason which suggests to us many

similar mistakes and misjudgments. Bigotry dethrones reason, and stirs up

what is worst against what is best in the heart. To these rude villagers, the

one condemning circumstance is that His face is towards Jerusalem. If He

had been only going in the other direction, they would have been forward

with welcomes, and in return would have received unspeakable blessings.

Let us not be too ready to cast the stone. We are all apt to be carried away

by the appearance of a person or thing, and, in advance of rational

considerations, to judge, sentence, or condemn. Thus many a time the

messengers of the Lord, with blessings in their hand, seeking to make ready

for Him a place in human charities and kindnesses, are repelled. “What

wonder,” says an old Latin Father, “that the sons of thunder wished to

flash lightning!” (v. 54). There have been many such Boanerges since the

days of James and John. They are the exponents of a tendency too

frequently illustrated in the ecclesiastical world, to meet Samaritan disdain

and rebuke by the terrors of the Lord, by the mere force of authority, in

mistaken zeal to denounce and excommunicate. Ah! how often has the

voice of the Gentlest repeated the rebuke in the ears of His followers, “Ye

know not what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of man is not come

to destroy men’s lives, BUT TO SAVE THEM!”

 

·         THE OTHER FEATURE (though it does not seem clear when it

occurred) is, THE WORD BEARING ON DISCIPLESHIP GIVEN IN

REPLY TO THE THREE MEN WHO ARE INTRODUCED TO US AT

THE CLOSE OF THE CHAPTER. These three men are types of classes

whose representatives we need not go far to seek.

 

Ø      There is the hasty disciple. (v. 57.) “Lord, I will follow thee

whithersoever thou goest.” There is no discernment of what is implied in

the “whithersoever.” There is no counting of the cost. He is the man of

impulse and fresh warm feeling, who has “received some word of Jesus

with joy, yet has no root in himself.” The” I will” stands forth in its

own strength, which is but weakness. Observe how the Lord deals with

him. He does not reject the offer made; only He sends the man to prayer

and self-review, giving him, in one far-reaching sentence, to see what in

his rashness he had been undertaking. “Follow me whither soever I go?

Knowest thou not that I am the poorest of all; that, in my Father’s world,

I am the One despised and rejected. No throne, no royalties, no kingdom

as thou conceivest of a kingdom? The fox has its hole, the bird has its

nest, the Son of man hath not where to lay His head. Think, then, on

that to which thou wouldst pledge thyself.” A word still called for! The

will which is eager to follow is sometimes slow to receive the Law of

the spirit of the life which is in Christ Jesus.

 

Ø      As the hasty disciple passes out of sight, lo! Another appears, he who

may be called the dilatory. Notice the difference between the two. In the

former, the initiative is taken by the man; in the latter, the initiative is

taken by Jesus, with the short, peremptory “Follow me.” The one has no

misgivings; the other desires to follow but has not courage enough to

express his convictions. And the mind is not decided. Secretly there is the

attraction to the Lord, but there is also the home, the aged father, the

circle in the quiet village. No; he is nearly, but not quite, ready. It is

on him that the Lord looks. He sees him trembling at the word that is

working in his soul, and forth comes the calling, empowering, “Follow!”

Was it not so natural (v. 59), “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my

father”? And will not He whose commandment is, Honour thy father

and mother,” at once consent? No; the Lord’s need, the Lord’s call,

sets the private and domestic claims aside. Hence the enigmatical reply

of v. 60. “Thou hast neighbors, brethren, who have not received the life

that is pulsing in thee; to them may be left such a charge as that which

thou hast named. But thou, with that life in thee, hast something else to

do. Life must live; go thou, the living, and fulfill the living man’s charge

Preach the kingdom of God.”

 

Ø      Finally, there comes into view the tender-hearted disciple. (v. 61.) “I

will follow thee” — only first let me say farewell at home; a last look,

a last adieu is all. Ah! this may not be. The rejoinder is somewhat stern

(v. 62).  Now, what is the lesson? It is this. On the rocks and reef of the

seashore we find creatures rooted to them. Scarcely can we separate the

anemone from its reef. How terrible it would be for a human being, with

a human soul, to be doomed, like that zoophyte, to cleave to that rock,

with no variety except what is caused by the ebb and flow of the sea!

Yet, is the life actually lived by many much better? Day following day,

and always the monotone of a mere worldly life; no higher end, no

higher reference; all of the earth, earthy! O piteous sight — a soul

cleaving to the dust! Have we not seen a nobler truth? Looking into

the face of Christ, is there not a voice bidding us higher? What but

death and darkness could be if this earth of ours moved only in its

own little diameter, around its own axis? Is it not the recipient of life

and light because of its higher orbit as a member of the great solar system?

And have we not spiritual life and light because the center of our being

is God? Then, disciple of Jesus, as he who has put his hand to the plough

is intent on guiding it to the end of the furrow, ploughing on though the

clod be hard and the work severe, be thou steadfast, thy face set with thy

Lord toward His Jerusalem; no looking back, precursor of going back;

this the prayer of all thy praying, “Lord, unite my heart, that I may

                        love and fear thy Name.”  (Psalm 86:11)

 

 

 

 

Decision and Indecision (v. 61)

 

“Lord, I will follow thee; but,” etc. Two trains may leave the same

platform and travel for a while along the same lines, and they may look as

if they would reach the same terminus; ‘but one of them diverges slightly to

the right and the other to the left, and then the further they go the greater is

the distance that separates them. Two children born under the same roof,

brought up under the same religious conditions, are baptized into the same

faith, receive the same doctrines, are affected by the same influences; —

they should reach the same home. But they do not. One makes a resolution

to serve God outright, unconditional, without reserve; he says simply,

deliberately, “I will follow thee;” but the other makes a resolution under

reserve, with conditions attached — he says, “Lord, I will follow thee;

but,” etc. The one of these two goes on, goes up, in the direction of piety,

zeal, devotedness, sacred joy, holy usefulness; the other goes down in that

of hesitation, oscillation between wisdom and folly, and finally of

impenitence and spiritual failure. We will look at:

 

  • THE MAN OF INDECISION ALONG THE LINE COMMON TO

HIMSELF AND THE MAN OF RELIGIOUS EARNESTNESS.

 

Ø      They both receive instruction in the common faith; they learn and

admit the great fundamental truths of the gospel — the life, death,

resurrection, teaching of Jesus Christ.

 

Ø      They are both impressed by the surpassing excellence of Christ; for

there is in Him now, as there was when He lived among men, that

which constrains admiration, reverence, attraction.

 

Ø      They both feel the desirableness of availing themselves of the

blessings of the gospel of grace — of the pardon, peace, joy,

worth, hope, immortality, which it offers to the faithful. And

when Christ’s voice is heard, as it is in many ways, each of

these men is prepared to say, “Never man spake, Lord, as thou

speakest to me; no one else will give me what thou art offering;

evermore give me this living bread, this living water.  Lord, I

will follow thee.”

 

  • THE MAN OF INDECISION AT THE POINT OF DIVERGENCE.

He says not, simply and absolutely, “I will;” he says, “I will follow thee;

but,” etc. One word more, but how much less in fact and in truth? What

is in that qualifying word?

 

Ø      But I am young, and there is plenty of time. I am a long way off

the “three score and ten years” (Psalm 90:10); and all along the

road of life there are paths leading into the kingdom; let me go

on unburdened by such serious claims as these of thine. “I will,”

 but not yet.

 

Ø      But I have a bodily as well as a spiritual nature, and I must satisfy

its claims. These hungerings and thirstings of the sense are very

strong and imperious; let me drink of this cup, let me lay by those

treasures first.

 

Ø      I am waiting for some decisive intimation from Heaven that my time

has come. I do not wish to act precipitately or presumptuously; I am

looking for the prompting of the Divine Spirit, the direction of the

Divine hand; when the Master says distinctly, “Follow thou me,”

I will arise at once.

 

Ø      I am in embarrassed circumstances, and am waiting until they clear

away. The claims of the business or the home are so urgent, so near,

so practical, that they consume my time, and I have none to spare for

thee; there are bonds I have formed which I do not know how to

break, but which must be broken if thy friendship is to be made

and kept.

 

Ø      But I am old and unable. I have heard thy voice in my ear in earlier

days; but I am old and spiritually blind; old and deaf; old and

insensitive. I do not expect thee to come this way again; I would

follow thee if I felt once more the touch of thy hand upon me.

 

  • THE GREATNESS AND SADNESS OF HIS MISTAKE. A

grievous thing it is for a man to buoy himself up with such false

imaginations, to build his house of hope on such shifting sands, to rest

the weight of his destiny on such a sapless, strengthless reed.

 

Ø      Does death never lay his cold and hard hand on youth? and

does not Christ command our strength and our beauty as well

as our feebleness and our unsightliness?

 

Ø      Does Christ ask us to give up one rightful pleasure? and had

we not better sacrifice all wrongful ones? And has He not

promised all we need if we do but take the one true step into

His kingdom (Matthew 6:33)?

 

Ø      No man is waiting for God; but God is waiting for many halting

and hesitating human souls. Behold, He stands at the door and

knocks!  (Revelation 3:20)

 

Ø      We are not more embarrassed than thousands have been, or more

than we shall continue to be. If it is hard to find time, then for a

purpose so supreme as this time must be made; if evil friendships

are in the way, they must be made to stand out of the way. The

voice that speaks from heaven is commanding; the case of OUR

ETERNAL DESTINY IS CRITICAL in the very last degree.

 

Ø      It is true that long disuse is dangerously disabling (atrophy), and

spiritual capacity wanes with neglect; but men are not too deaf

to hear the sovereign voice of Christ, not too blind to find their

way to His cross, His table, His kingdom.

 

 

                        The Workman’s Qualification (vs. 61-62)

 

What more natural, we are inclined to say, than that, before setting out on

an unknown future, a man should wish to say farewell at home? How do

we account for this strictness, this disallowance of our Lord? First,

however, let us remark:

 

·         WHAT CONSCIOUSNESS OF POWER AND OF ULTIMATE

SUCCESS THE SAVIOUR SHOWS! How eager we are to secure followers,

how pleased and proud to add to our ranks! Especially when a cause is yet

young are we desirous of making converts and counting new disciples. At

this time the cause of Christianity was very far from being an assured

success; yet Jesus did not hurry to be successful, to crowd His Church. He

said to the scribe — not an ordinary disciple — “Foxes have holes,”

(Matthew 8:19-20; v. 58). He risked the attachment of another (v. 60);

and again of this man (text). How was this? It was that He had such

absolute confidence in the rectitude of His cause, in the support of His

Divine Father, and therefore in the triumph of His truth and grace. It is

never well to hurry even good issues; we should only work with right

instruments, content to wait for the result. “He that believeth will not make

haste.” (Isaiah 28:16)  To the too-anxious workman there needs to come the

remembrance of his Master’s holy confidence; it says to such a one, “Be still,

and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)  We shall better understand our

Lord’s reply if we consider:

·         WHAT SUPERHUMAN KNOWLEDGE OF INDIVIDUAL HEARTS T

      HE SAVIOUR SHOWS! He did not commit Himself to men; “for He

knew what was in man.  (John 2:25)  This is the key which unlocks the

difficulty in many instances. It is this which explains how it was that He

encouraged or accepted, how it was that He tested or declined, the services

of men. And it is this which explains the differences in His treatment of us

now; how it is that to one man He sends so many more trials and sufferings

than to another; how it is that He withholds from one man so many bounties

or privileges which He gives to another. He knows both perfectly; He knows

their nature and their need, and He treats them accordingly.

 

·         THE FACT THAT CHRIST REQUIRES SPECIAL

QUALIFICATIONS FOR SPECIAL WORK, There is a faith that

“removes mountains” of difficulty; but there is also a faith, much more

common, which will do good work, though it will not accomplish such

great things. Christ had work for the contemplative John which that man of

speech and action, Peter, could not have done; work for the many-sided

and devoted Paul which John could not have done. To “follow Christ” as

this scribe (of our text) proposed to do was work which meant many and

great things:

 

Ø      the severance of old and strong ties,

Ø      the endurance of privation,

Ø      exposure to hatred and violence,

Ø      readiness to look death in the face,

Ø      self-on the altar of a sacred cause.

 

Jesus knew that this man had not the spiritual qualifications for such a sacrificial

post as this. Even the common laborer must have concentration of mind; he

must not have his hand on the plough while his eye is off the field. And the

workman in his field of holy service must be a man of unflinching

steadfastness, of unwavering resoluteness of soul. No other would be fit

for such work as he had on hand. Surely it is far kinder of the Master to

keep back, even by strong and apparently hard words, the unfit servant

from the sphere in which he would fail miserably, than to let him go on and

reap all the bitter fruits of failure; and surely it is wiser far, on our part, to

reckon well beforehand, and see whether our mental and spiritual resources

will carry us through a proposed service and to retire if we find ourselves

unequal to it, than to go blindly forward and to have to come back with

something else upon our brows than the crown of honor and success. We

may also learn:

 

·         WHAT ARE THE PRESENT, CONSTANT REQUIREMENTS

which Jesus Christ makes of those who work for Him. He is saying to us,

“Follow me into the vineyard of holy usefulness.” It is in our hearts to say,

“Lord, I will follow thee.” What must we have in order that He will readily

engage us in His active service? We must have that spirit of self-surrender

which will make us willing to give up to our Lord all that He asks us to part

with; we must be whole-hearted, single-eyed. We must be workmen that

have the hand on the plough and the eye on the field. We must be thorough

in all that we do for Him, contributing all our strength and energy in his

cause. And there is every reason why we should be.

 

Ø      Our Master is worthy of the very best we can bring to Him.

Ø      The sinful, suffering world around us is crying for our pity and our help.

Ø      It is well worth our while to do our utmost. In full-hearted service is the

      present recompense of sacred joy as we warm to our work and spend

      ourselves in it, while in the future there await us those “many cities,”

that enlarged sphere of influence which will reward the faithful

followers of their Lord.

 

 

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