Luke 9

Luke 9:1-6.128

Matt. 10:1-7, 9-11, 14; Mark 6:7-13.

The last chapter showed Christ’s testimony to the change that was coming. This chapter gives us the twelve entrusted with the same testimony. They were to go forth representatives of Christ everywhere, invested with the power of the Kingdom. They had both “power and authority over all demons and to heal diseases,” as well as a mission “to proclaim 220 the kingdom of God.” The Lord gave them their authority. They were to be manifestly dependent on the King, and in a remarkable way the King’s power would open and none should shut, and shut and none could open. Nevertheless, this sovereign power of the King over the hearts of His people Israel was not without the maintenance of their responsibility. Whoever rejected Him must bear his burden. The word, however, is, “Take nothing for your journey, neither staff,129 nor wallet, nor bread, nor money.”221 It must be manifestly the resources of God, however He might work by men. They were not to care for themselves, not even to have two coats (vests) apiece. “And into whatsoever house ye may have entered, there abide, and thence go forth. And as many as may not receive you, going forth from that city, shake off even130 the dust from your feet for a witness against them.” Thus then they departed, “and passed through the villages, announcing the glad tidings, and healing everywhere.”

Luke 9:7-9.

Matt. 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-16.

Then we find the working of conscience in Herod. “And Herod the Tetrarch heard of all the things which were done [by him]:131 and was in perplexity, because it was said by some that John was risen from among the dead; and by some, that Elias had appeared; and by others, that one of the old prophets had risen again.” Herod’s conviction was that he had beheaded John: he knew this too well. “John,” he said, “I have beheaded: but who is this of whom I hear such things? And he sought222 to see him.” But desire in Divine things, unless it be accompanied by the action of conscience in the sense of sin on the one hand, and of grace on the other on God’s part, never comes to any good. Many a man has heard God’s testimony gladly, and given it all up. Many a man has had respect for the witnesses; but, as we see in Herod’s case, first as to John, it did not hinder him from beheading John; and next, as to Jesus, it did not hinder him from taking his part in the last scene of the uttermost humiliation of the Lord. There was nothing of Divine life in the action of his conscience. There was no working of grace, because there was no sense of his own sin and need in God’s sight, which might drive him to God.

Luke 9:10-17.

Matt. 14:13-21; Mark. 6:30-44; John 6:1-13.

The apostles return, telling the Lord of all that they had done. But it is evident that they knew not how to avail themselves of the power that was entrusted to them. So Jesus takes them, and goes aside “apart223 into224 [a desert place of]132 a city, called Bethsaida.” And now we see how perfectly Jesus wielded the power of which He was the vessel as man. For although He had turned aside privately, the people follow Him there; “and he received them, and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those that had need of healing.”224a No one ever came amiss to Jesus. No need ever was presented without drawing out His grace. No retirement led Him to treat those who came as intruders. But the difference between the Master and the servant appears. For “the day began to decline,225 and the twelve came and said to him, Send away the crowd, that they may go133 into the villages around, and the fields, and lodge, and find victuals: for here we are in a desert place.” But this would not suit Jesus. “He said to them, Give ye them to eat.” Unbelief begins at once to reckon. They counted the loaves and the fishes: there were but five loaves and two fishes, except they should go and buy meat for all this people. Thus those who ought to have been the witnesses of the power and grace of God are ignorant of the Lord’s present resources, and only think of what might be procured by money from man. The Lord says to His disciples — so great was His grace that He would put honour upon them even in their weakness and want of faith — “Make them sit down in companies by fifties. And they did so, and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fishes, looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave 226 to the disciples to set before the crowd.” Viewed as the Son of man, and the Son of God as man (and so Luke does view Him), God was with Him, not only when He went about doing good, but when men followed Him into the wilderness. There was no difference. Everywhere the grace of God was upon Him, the power of God with Him. So He blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. He fed His poor with bread. It was not the true Bread which came down from heaven, because He, and He alone, was this. But He Who was the true Bread loved to feed them even with the bread that perishes, though He would have loved still better to feed them with that Bread which is unto life eternal. The Lord Jesus alone knows, therefore, how to use all the resources of the kingdom of God. He waited for no special time and for no special circumstances. He is able to bring in the blessing according to need now; for God was with Him, and He was with God touching all circumstances. “And they all ate and were all filled; and there was taken up of what had remained over and above to them twelve hand-baskets.” There was more at the end than at the beginning, though five thousand men, besides women and children, had partaken. Such was Jesus; and such will Jesus be when the kingdom of God appears — the furnisher of all the nourishment,. and joy, and blessing of the kingdom. Nor is He less, or other, but the same now,227 though the manner of exhibiting, His gracious power is according to the present purpose of God in the Church. But He is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. Heb. 13:8.

Luke 9:18-27.228

Matt. 16:13-28; Mark 8:27-9:1.

The Lord is again praying alone, as we have found Him in previous parts of this Gospel, and indeed in others. So it was at His baptism, when the Holy Ghost descended on Him,. and afterwards in His ministry, when we are told that He withdrew Himself into the wilderness and prayed. This was. when multitudes came to hear and to be healed, when the power of the Lord was there to heal afresh. So also before He chose the twelve apostles, it is said, “He continued all night in prayer to God.” It was after men were communing to kill Him, and before the appointment of the apostles and the discourse on the mount.

Now He is about to disclose, His death. The sense of His entire rejection filled His soul, because of the unbelief of the people; and the Father was about to give the most direct personal witness of His glory, as well as to show what was reserved for Him in the Kingdom. He would own Him as Son of God now, He would display Him by and by as the Son of man. Accordingly “it came to pass, as he was praying alone, his disciples were with him; and he asked them, saying, Who do the crowd say that I am? But they answering said, John the Baptist; but others, Elias; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen again.” This elicited from Peter, in reply to the direct question of the Lord — ”But ye, who do ye say that I am?” — the confession that He was the Christ of God.134

It is remarkable how Luke here omits what Matthew records. In point of fact He owned Him to be the Son of God as well; but this is peculiar to Matthew. The reason why it is given in Matthew seems to me because that is the title of Christ’s personal glory, which is the joy of the Christian. The Church of God delights in Christ as the Son of the living God; Israel will hail the Christ as the Son of David. The world, all mankind, will be blest by Christ as the Son of man; but the Christian and the Church have their joy in Him as the Son of the living God. It is clearly the most elevated and properly Divine of His titles. It is intrinsic and personal. Along with this we find in Matthew, and in his Gospel alone, the revelation from the Lord Jesus that upon this rock He would build His Church — that is, on this confession of His name. Consequently as Matthew is the only one who gives us His name, and the confession of it by Peter, so the Lord is represented only there as about to build the Church.

All this disappears from Luke. Here Peter simply says “The Christ of God.” The Lord “earnestly charging them, enjoined [them] to say this to no man.” This is a remarkable word. Why withhold from people that He was the Christ of God? Why this reserve as to His Messiahship? It was useless to bring it forward. Some said one thing, and some another. No man had faith in Him except those who were born of God. Man, as man, rejected Him. The Jews rejected Him. The disciples confessed Him, Peter pre-eminently; but it was no use to go on preaching Him as the Christ or Messiah of Israel. He was the Anointed of God, but in truth He was going to suffer, and consequently the Lord introduces another title in connection with His cross. “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.” It was particularly this very title that the Lord habitually gives Himself. So in Matthew: “Who say ye that I the Son of man am?” Peter then confesses Him as really the Jewish Christ, but also “the son of the living God.” The Lord intimates that they must drop the first. It was useless to speak about it, it was too late. Had the people received Him, He would have reigned as Messiah. But, morally speaking, that could not be. On the one hand man was unbelieving, Wicked, and lost; on the other hand it was according to the counsels of God that Jesus was to be put to, death on the cross, and to rise into a new creation in which He would have men His fellows. If Jesus had not been crucified, it would have proved that man was not altogether so evil as God had said. But as man really is profoundly bad, according to the Word of God, it was a moral certainty that man would crucify the Lord Jesus, and so God predicted by His prophets. The Lord now reminds them that the old proclamation as the Christ must close. He was going to die as Son of man. He had His death always before Him. It was the settled counsel of God the Father, and the settled purpose of the Son. He came to die, not only knowing it, but with his heart fully devoted to the accomplishment of the will of God, cost what it might, as it did cost His own death and rejection. In His death He wrought atonement for our sins. Here, however, His death is simply viewed as rejection from man: “The Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected of the elders, and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and the third day be raised up.” God’s part in the matter, either in judgment of our wickedness or in introducing redemption, is not stated. Assuredly it was then and there, as it was always destined to be; but sometimes the one side of truth, sometimes the other, is presented in Scripture. He is rejected by the heads of the Jews. It was a sad and humbling fact that they should cast off their own Messiah, who was, adds He Himself, to “be raised up the third day.”

This suffering of the Son of man at once defines the path for the disciple. “He said to [them] all, If any one will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,135 and follow me.”229 It was in no way enjoyment of earthly things. That would be all suited and seasonable in the Kingdom when He reigns as the Christ, as well as Son of man, according to the hopes furnished by the prophets. There we find every kind of proof of God’s beneficence, and men’s hearts will be filled with gladness. But such is not the character of Christianity. The Cross shows us our true path. If Christ suffered, the Christian cannot expect to be above his Master. Christ was going to the cross; therefore if any man would come after Him, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever shall desire to save his life” shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, he shall save it. For what shall a man profit if he shall have gained the whole world, and have destroyed or come under the penalty of the loss of himself?”

The truth comes out. Everything now depends on eternal life. It is no longer a question of living long on the earth. This was, and will be, all very well for the Jew. But the Cross of Christ is the burial of all Jewish thoughts. Hence if a man is careful to save his life now, he will lose it. He may save it in a lower sense, but he will lose it in a deeper. He may save it in this world, but lose it for eternity. But if I am willing to lose it in the lower, I shall save it in the best — the eternal — sense. The death of Christ brings everything to a point: all then becomes the momentous question of eternal life and salvation. The Jews did not think of this. They panted for a great king that would raise them to the pinnacle of earthly greatness. Christianity shows us the One on Whom all turns, Himself crucified; and those who come after the Crucified cannot escape from the cross. Each Christian must deny himself, and that not merely once, but daily taking up His cross, and following Him. “For whosoever shall have been ashamed231 of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man232 be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and [in that] of the Father, and of the holy angels.”

There lies the solemnity of the issue. If ashamed of One rejected and of His words, He will be ashamed of us in glory. We have not Christ personally, but we have Him by faith, His name, and also, as a test of our truth of heart, His words. A man might plead the words of Moses and the prophets; but these would not avail now. A man who merely attached himself to the words of the law and the prophets, to the exclusion of the New Testament, could not be saved. When God brings out the full revelation of Christ, I must go forward and be subject to what God gives. The Jews hold on to the truth of the unity of God in order to deny the truth of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. True faith now values all that God lives. It is not real if it does not value what He gives for the present time. Hence the test is truth freshly used of God for the actual moment, and not merely what was known of old. Unbelief is always wrong; it takes advantage of what is traditional to deny what was newly revealed.

“Whosoever shall have been ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his glory.” There we find the proper glory of the Son of man. It is a rejected Man Who is exalted on high; but He will come in His own glory, and “[in that] of the Father, and of the holy angels.” His being a man did not at all touch His Divine rights. The angels were all subject to Him as man, He had a title above them because He was God; and He had won a title superior to them, because He had died on the cross. Thus by a double title the Lord Jesus has not only all mankind but angels subject to Him as man. “But I say unto you of a truth, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste death233 until they shall have seen the kingdom of God.”233a This was a bright witness calculated and intended to strengthen those who were meant to be forward and at the head of things in God’s testimony and in the Church. The reference is to Peter, James, and John, who were permitted a sight of the kingdom of God before it comes in power.

Luke 9:28-36.

Matt. 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-9.

Eight days after,234 when the glory was about to appear, the Lord prays. “And as he prayed, the fashion [aspect] of his countenance became different, and his raiment white235 [and] effulgent.” Luke is the only one of the Evangelists who mentions His prayer here, and that, as He prayed, He was transfigured. “And lo, two men with him, who were Moses and Elias,” the representatives of the saints dead and raised, living and changed. Moses died and is here seen as risen, and Elias as the pattern of those who shall be changed. “Who appearing in glory, spoke of his departure which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.236 This is the great topic of heavenly discourse. There can be no fact above so precious as the death of Jesus. It will be the grand theme throughout eternity. It is the foundation of all the ways of God in redemption, the highest moral glory of God as it is the fullest proof of ‘ His love. “They spoke with him of his departure which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.” On earth Jesus takes the highest place, as alas! the lowest also for us and our sins, yet He is, too, the highest in grace, as He will be in the ways of God. It will be so in the days of the Kingdom, when God’s counsels shall appear for the earth as well as the heavens.

“But Peter and those with him were oppressed with sleep.”237 They slept in the garden when Christ was going through His agony, and they were heavy with sleep when Christ’s glory was being revealed. Thus man is utterly worthless for communion, whether with suffering or glory, and this, not man without life from God, but the chosen disciples, the future pillars of the work, the most worthy and excellent of the earth. Yet these, as they could not watch one hour when it was a question of the sorrows of Jesus, so they were oppressed with sleep when His glory in His kingdom was revealed. So wholly incapable of answering in his soul to God’s display is man of the grace of Christ or of the glory He intends for him.

“But having fully woke up (or kept awake),238 they saw his glory, and the two men who stood with him. And it came to pass as they departed from him, Peter said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles,238a one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.” Indeed, he did not know. It was sheer forgetfulness of the personal dignity of Jesus. “Let us make three tabernacles,” one for his Master and the other two for His servants, Moses and Elias. Would he, then, put his Master, the Lord of all, on the same level with the head of the law and the chief of the prophets? Peter thought this would be great honour for Him! He was altogether astray. The root of all wrong is depreciation of Jesus. The power for all that is good is faith in His glory. Thus Peter, in a human way, seeking to honour Jesus, in reality lowers Him; and this God the Father would never allow, specially in a disciple. “But as he was saying these things there came a cloud and overshadowed them,” the well-known symbol of Jehovah’s presence in Israel: it was not a dark, but a bright, cloud, as we are told in another Gospel: “and they feared as they136 entered into the cloud,” meaning, I suppose, that the disciples feared as they saw Moses and Elias enter the cloud 219 They could not understand that men, even glorified, should be within the circle of the peculiar presence of Jehovah. The pavilion of His glory might tabernacle over man; but it seemed too much to them that men should thus be at home there, even though it were men in glory.

More follows: “There came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.” It is no longer a question of Moses and Elias. The law and the prophets were admirable forerunners, and not a tittle can fall unfulfilled to the ground; but the Son of God comes and necessarily takes precedence of all. “This is my beloved137 Son: hear him.” Do not put Moses and Elias on a level with Him. They were to be heard as the finger-posts which point to Christ; but when Jesus the Son of God is there, He is to be heard. This is Christianity. Almost every working of unbelief in Christianity now consists in lowering Jesus to the law and the prophets, or, at any rate, to man, the first man. No one born of God would slight the law and the prophets; but it is one thing to own them as having Divine authority, quite another to put them on a level with the Son of God. They were Divine witnesses, but the Son must have His own due supremacy. In all things He must have the pre-eminence. (Col. 1:18.) And so God the Father here insists upon it. “This is my beloved240 Son: hear him.”

“And as the voice was [heard] Jesus was found alone.” This is really the very strength of our souls — that we have but one Person who is or can be the full objective revelation of the mind of God to us. We honour most the Father and we show best the power of the Holy Ghost when we have Jesus before us, and we are following Him day by day. “This one thing I do,” says the apostle. (Phil. 3:13.) “And they kept silence and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen.”240a

Luke 9:37-45.

Matt. 17:14-23; Mark 9:14-32.

The next scene plunges us at once into the realities of the world as it is, the more painfully felt because of the bright vision of the age to come on the mount of transfiguration, whether in the sample of the kingdom of the Son of man or the inner scene of those who entered the cloud. Here, on the contrary, we have the world as it now is through the power of Satan. “It came to pass that on the following day241 when they came down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. And a man from the crowd cried out saying, Teacher, I beseech thee, look upon my son, for he is mine only child: and behold a spirit takes him and suddenly he cries out; and it tears him with foaming; and with difficulty departed from him after crushing him. And I besought thy disciples that they might cast him out, and they could not.” It was a picture, indeed, of Israel and we may say of man. Such was the power of the demon over him; and the fact most distressing was that the disciples were quite unable to meet the case. They were men of God; they were His most honoured servants, already sent out with power and authority by the Lord Jesus, as we saw in the beginning of this chapter: and yet they could not cope with this aggravated form of demoniacal possession.

“And Jesus answering said, O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and suffer you? bring hither thy son.” The Lord had thus before His mind the vivid feeling of His approaching departure: “how long shall I be with you and suffer you?” It was for want, not of power but of faith, that they could not cast the spirit out. Faith always supposes two things — sense of the weight and yoke of evil that presses on man, and confidence in God as always superior to evil in His gracious power and supreme. There may be failure, but never final defeat where room is left for God to come in, and the heart cleaves to the certainty of His glory concerned in the matter. The lack of this was what grieved the Lord Jesus; their inability was due to want of faith and of self-judgment.

“But as he was yet coming the demon tore him, and dragged him all together. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and gave him back to his father.” The Lord had thus before Him a fresh and, if possible, mightier effort of Satan; but His power, or rather the power of God, which He wielded as the self-emptied Son and obedient Man, rose above all the efforts of Satan. He rebukes the unclean spirit and heals the child. “And they were all astonished at the glorious greatness of God.” Yet why should they have been? Jesus was God Himself manifest in the flesh. But the blessedness of Jesus - was this, that He never did anything simply as God, but as the Man Who was dependent on God. Had He not preserved such a place and wrought by the power of the Holy Ghost as man, He would have failed to preserve the perfect place of man and of servant in the world. But this was His human perfection from the time He came born of woman. Nothing could be so powerful as either motive or example to us.

“And as all wondered at all the things which [Jesus]138 did139 he said to his disciples, Do ye let these words sink into your ears. For the Son of man is about to be delivered into men’s hands.” They were astonished with a wonder which, while it was a homage to what was done, was also an indication of a want of intelligence. The Lord now brings out a far deeper cause of amazement and of adoration, had they only felt it rightly. Alas! it is what unbelief always stumbles at. He who could rebuke all the power, not only of men but of Satan, was nevertheless to be delivered into the hands of men. Such was the purpose of God, such the perfect willingness of Jesus the servant of God and Lord of all! Whatever would demonstrate the truth of man’s state and of Satan’s power here below; whatever would evince the ruin of the people of God and the destruction of His glory through their ruin on earth; whatever would prove the vanity of all present hopes for man and the world — for this Jesus was willing to encounter all and to suffer from to the uttermost, that God might be first morally, then in power, glorified, and man be set in perfect peace outside it all, first by faith and at last in palpable fact and for ever. The work of atonement came within this most complete humiliation of the Son of man; but these words of Christ speak simply, it is evident, of His suffering at the hands of men.

“But they understood not this saying.” Yet Scripture was full of it; but the will of man blinds him to what he does not like, and nowhere so much as in Scripture. The Jews greedily caught at the vision of glory and the promises for the people - the exaltation of their nation and the downfall of their haughty Gentile oppressors. And so the words of God, which described the humiliation of the Messiah, were quite overlooked in general and always misunderstood. Even when our Lord here told them, not in prophetic form, nor with any obscurity of figure, but in the simplest terms possible, they understood not His saying. How little the understanding of Scripture has to do with its language! The true cause of darkness lies in the heart. The only real power of intelligence is in the Holy Spirit, who makes us willing to bow to Christ sensible of our own need of such a Saviour and really in earnest that God should save us on His own terms.

Luke 9:46-50

Matt. 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-40.

This was not the case with the disciples — “They understood not this saying.” They had not confidence fully in His love. Confidence in Him has much to do with intelligence of His Word; and even if we do not understand, confidence in Him leads us not to cavil nor to hurry, but to wait and count upon Him that He will surely clear up what we do not understand. He will reveal even this unto us. The disciples merely dropped the matter. “They feared to ask him concerning this saying.” The real state of their hearts is brought before us in the next account: “And a reasoning came in amongst them, who should be [the] greatest of them. And Jesus, seeing140 the reasoning of their heart, having taken a little child, set it by him, and said to them, Whosoever shall receive this little child in my name receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me. For he who is the least among you all, he is141 great.” This was what they wanted — to become as little children. It is not here presented as in Matthew, in order to enter the Kingdom, but in relation to Christ and to God Himself. They wished each to be greatest; there was consequently a discussion which of them should have the higher place. A little child does not think about this, but is content with its parents’ love and with that which comes before it. It is not occupied with thoughts of itself, nor should it be. Indeed, this is just what is wrought in the heart by conversion; and especially by the subsequent power of the indwelling Spirit of God giving us to see Another’s greatness and goodness, in the enjoyment of which we forget ourselves. “Whosoever shall receive this little child in my name receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me.” The reception of Jesus is the reception of God Himself and thus the root of real greatness. But practically, flowing from this, to be least is the true greatness of the believer now. Such was Christ Himself. He was willing to take, and did take, the place of the most despised of all.242

“And John answered and said, Master, we saw some one casting out demons in thy name; and we forbad him, because he follows not with us. And Jesus said to him, Forbid [him] not; for he that is not against you is for you.”142 Here comes a considerably subtler form of self. The grossest form was in the question which of them should be greatest; but now comes a certain disguise of self, which consists in apparent zeal for the Master’s honour. “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.” What a reason! It was well, it was an immense honour, to follow Jesus; but John betrayed himself by his very language “he followeth not with us.” Had he kept Jesus before his eye, he never would have uttered the complaint. He would have seen that it was for Jesus to call, as they had been chosen by Him in pure grace unto this honour. It was evident that John looked at it as an interference with the apostles, and a failure in acknowledging their importance. But Jesus, superior to everything of a fleshly nature, answers, “Forbid him not; for he that is not against you is for you.”143 Jesus, in the sense of His humiliation and looking for it even unto death, owns whatever is of God. It was not Satan that cast out Satan. It was the power of God that cast out the demons. Nay, more than this. The demons were cast out in the name of Jesus; why, then, should John have a jealousy so narrow and unworthy? Why should he not own the power that answered to his Master’s name. Ah! was it really his Master and not himself that he was thinking of? “He that is not against you is for you.” Where it was a question of the unbelief of the nation, Where Jesus was utterly despised, the word then was, “He that is not with me is against me.” The converse principle is true, no doubt; but where there was a simple-hearted man, serving God according to the measure of his faith, the Lord vindicates his action in His name. By John’s own account the power was there which answered to the name of Jesus. There was one who resisted the demons, using the name of Jesus against them. And there was power; for he did cast them out, and this through the name of Jesus. Had there, therefore, been a true care for the glory of the Lord Jesus, John would rather have rejoiced than have sought his prejudice. “Forbid him not,” says the Lord, “for he that is not against you is for you.”243

Luke 9:51-56.244

“It came to pass when the days of his being received up were fulfilled he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers before his face. And having gone they entered into a village of the Samaritans that they might make ready for him. And they did not receive him,245 because his face was [turned as] going to Jerusalem.” There was no readiness for the Lord. Their dislike of favoured Jerusalem made them utterly forget the glory of Jesus and the testimony of His gracious power which these very Samaritans had every reason to know and to feel grateful for. But, “they did not receive him, because his face was [turned as] going to Jerusalem.” How often circumstances bring out the state of our hearts! What they would not dare to do, were it simply a question of Jesus, some paltry selfish feeling arouses some latent jealousy and brings all to light. These same men stumble over the personal glory of Jesus; others, attracted by the world, prove that they have no heart for a Saviour, by seeking what it has of present things to bestow. Others, again disliking the inevitable shame of the Cross of Christ, shrink from the trial it, brings them into, and prove that they have no faith because wherever this is real, it looks fixedly and simply to Jesus. Where other objects come in, there is a turning aside; but where real faith is, it welcomes the Cross and receive.. Himself, and to such God gives title to become His children.

What was the effect of Samaritan party-feeling now on the disciples? “And his disciples James and John seeing [it], said, Lord, wilt thou that we speak [that] fire come down from heaven and consume them, as also144 Elias did?” Now it was not contrary to the principles of the disciples that Elias should thus be the instrument of Divine judgment; but how painfully did James and John (for now John was not alone), two that afterwards were of great weight and value in the Church of God,246 show their little perception of the grace of Jesus! The Lord of glory passes on, accepting His rejection, and bows to the ungrateful unbelief of the Samaritans. But His two servants, deriving everything of which they could boast, the only One that could take away their evil and bestow the goodness of God on them, under pretence of honouring Jesus, would command fire to come down from heaven and consume them like a Jewish prophet. flow little love had they for souls! As little was it a true regard for Jesus. It was honest Jewish nature, though in apostles. It was no doubt indignation, but this far more springing from themselves than for Jesus. Jesus turned therefore and rebuked them. It was not now simply a correction of what they were saying, but a rebuke to themselves.

“Ye know not of what spirit ye are.”246a The next verse would seem to be — the first part at least — an interpolation.145 It was not a question of saving souls in this place. If inserted here, It would make man the reason and end; whereas the suggestion was contrary to the display of what God is, and inconsistent with His grace, which does not merely save the soul but fills the heart with the moral glory of the Lord Jesus. “And they went to another village.”

Luke 9:57-60.

Matt. 8:19-22.

In all this context, since the transfiguration, human flesh is judged in its various forms. Indeed, even there the flesh was shown quite incompetent to appreciate the glory of God, or the new things of His kingdom. Thenceforward disciples and man manifest their unbelief and consequent powerlessness before Satan their unintelligence as to the sufferings of the “on of man their worldly ambition, cloaking itself under the Lord’s name, though so utterly inconsistent with Him; the party-spirit that overlooks the Spirit of God Who deigns to work sovereignly; and the spirit of grace that God was now showing in Christ as contrasted with all that even an Elias did.

But now we have not the failure of the apostles themselves, but the judgment of those who either were or wanted to be disciples. This is brought before us in the close of the chapter in three different forms successively. “It came to pass,146 as they went in the way, one247 said to him, I will follow thee wheresoever thou goest, Lord.147 It was apparently a good confession, as it was a zealous resolution; but man never can go before the Lord. No one ever did give himself up to God — he must be called. He who says “I will follow thee” knows not his weakness. When we think what man is and what Jesus is, for man to say “I will follow thee wheresoever thou goest” is manifestly the grossest presumption, yet man sees no presumption in it. So ignorant is man, so besotted in unbelief, that to his eyes real faith seems presumptuous, whereas there is nothing so humble; for faith forgets itself in the goodness and might of Him on Whom it leans. It was the expression of self-confidence to say to Jesus, “I will follow thee wheresoever thou goest, Lord.” Now he who does this always miscalculates. He overlooks the glory of Christ and the depth of His grace. He overlooks also his own total want of power and perhaps even his need of forgiveness. No man is competent till he is called by grace to follow the Lord. And when we are called, the Lord does not send us forth at our own charges. He gives liberally the needed wisdom and ability to those who ask Him; but He goes before us. To follow the Lord whithersoever He went, before His death (as in this case), was beyond man. When even Peter, at a later date, said something like it, it was just before he denied the Lord. Such is flesh. “I will follow thee to prison and to death,” said Peter; but, in fact, the very shadow of what was coming frightened him. A servant-girl was enough to terrify the chief of the apostles. It made him tell lies with oaths; whereas the same Peter, after the death and resurrection of Christ, when his own conscience had been purified by faith according to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, became bold as a lion, as he finally followed the Lord, not only to prison but to the death of the cross. But this was altogether the strength-giving effect of God’s grace, not of his own power, which utterly failed. When his natural energy was gone, he was stronger than ever: he was only truly strong when he had no strength of his own. The Lord answers the scribe (for such we know him to be from another Gospel): “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven roosting-places, but the Son of man hath not where he may lay his head.” The man was judged. He came for what he could get, and the Lord had nothing to give him — nothing but shame, and suffering, and destitution. The foxes might have holes, and the birds of the air nests, but the rejected Messiah had not an earthly resting-place. There was to be found in Israel no man so poor as the Lord Jesus. When He wanted to teach them a lesson of subjection to Caesar, whom their sins had set over them, He had to ask for a penny to be shown Him. We do not know that the Lord ever possessed a fraction. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have roosting-places; but the Son of man hath not where he may lay his head.” It was no use therefore for this man to follow Him in hopes of gaining by it. What could be gained by it on earth, but a share of His rejection? “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Cor. 15:19.)

But now comes another case, considerably different, where the Lord takes the initiative.

“He said to another, Follow me.” The flesh, so bold in its offers to go after Jesus, is really slow to follow when He calls; as this man, though called, instantly feels the difficulties, and says, “Lord,148 allow me to go first and bury my father.” You find this in true believers. When a person has Christianity before his mind as a theory, all seems easy. He thinks he can do anything. Ordinarily, where the faith is genuine, difficulties are felt; and this man pleads the very first of all human duties. What would seem not only reasonable, but so, incumbent on him, as first to go and bury his father? Did not the law command the child to honour father and mother? To be sure; but One was there greater than the law. The, God who gave the law was calling, and if He says, Follow Me, faith gives up everything, even be it father, or mother, or wife, or children, for Christ’s sake. Believers must come to, this sooner or later; generally in the long run, every one who thoroughly follows Christ. It is not felt at every moment; but the principle of Christianity is the sovereign call of God in Christ that takes one clean out of the world. Whilst still in the world one belongs to another — absolutely and only to. Christ, to do the will of God. Hence all natural ties must be in comparison like the green withs with which Samson was bound, and which were no more than tow before his all-overcoming strength. The most intimate of natural ties are after all but of flesh; whereas flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The link with Christ is of the Spirit; and the Spirit is mightier than the flesh. Therefore, whatever might be the claim of a dead father, or of what was due to the feelings of a Jew — for the Jew regarded him who did not bury his father with suitable care and affection as lost to all that was proper and as unworthy of any association with them — yet if the distinct person and call of Christ come in, at that moment, surely He must be followed.

This was a test; Christ knew all, and not without moral motive had called him at that point precisely rather than any other; and the question for him was whether Christ was more to his soul than any one or thing in the world besides. Was it really so, that standing well with the Jews and with his family was of more consequence to him than Christ, than heaven or hell, than eternity itself? This man may have honestly desired to follow Christ, yet he pleads for a delay on the road. But the Lord’s answer to him is “Suffer the dead to bury their own dead,248 but do thou go and announce the kingdom of God” — a perplexing answer to a person whose eye was not single. Thus the Lord tries faith. He does not put things in the simplest possible form to faith or to unbelief — above all, where there is something allowed that hinders. The Lord will be inquired of. So He says here, “Suffer the dead to bury their own dead” — that is, let the dead spiritually bury their natural dead — “but do thou go and announce the kingdom of God.” It was not only that this man was called to follow Jesus, but to be a witness for Him, to be a proclaimer of God’s kingdom. How could it fare with others, if there was not faith in him to give up all for Christ? One of the reasons why there is so little power in the testimony of Christ is because there is so little faith in those who testify it. Mohammedans, etc., constantly tax Christian missionaries with this: “You profess to have a revelation from God in the Bible; but you yourselves evidently do not act according to that book. How can you seriously ask us to believe? How can we think that you believe it? We believe our books, and if we accept loyally the Koran, with its system of prayers and ablutions, we follow it. We scrupulously conform to the prescriptions of the Prophet. You affirm that Christ preached the sermon on the mount, for instance. Yet you constantly get out of the difficulty of not following it by the plea that the times are changed. We stick to the Koran every day and at all costs. God is the unchangeable God, and He has a constant claim upon the faithful.” Thus one of the main obstacles to the conversion of other religionists is the way in which ministers of Christ expose themselves by their want of faith to the mockery of their adversaries. This increases the heart’s unbelief, because for the most part professing Christendom does not even pretend to adhere inflexibly to Scripture. They say that times have so altered that they can take only such parts as suit the present day. They think nothing of seeking the world and its glory and everything that will attract flesh. They think to draw some by this means and some by that; whereas the truth is, they are themselves drawn away by the world from the truth and will of God. To court the countenance of man, to seek what the world values, is practically to abandon Christianity for the will of man. It is the living mingling with the dead, instead of leaving the dead to bury their dead. The Lord’s call must set aside every other.

Luke 9:61f.

The third case again differs somewhat. “I will follow thee, Lord; but first allow me to bid adieu to those at my house.” There we have one who allows the amenities of life to be “first.” It was no such serious detention. It was merely to pay them ordinary courtesy. But the Lord insists upon the absolute renunciation of every hindrance: “No one, having laid his hand249 on [the] plough and looking back is fit250 for the kingdom of God.” If Christianity is anything, it is and must be everything. It admits of no rivals and of no delays. It could not be the kingdom of the true God if it tolerated the turning aside of His servants for ever so little. Christ is the first and the last, and must be all to the heart or He becomes nothing through the wiles of the devil.

128 Cf. “Introductory Lectures,” pp. 292-316.

129 “Staff”: so Edd., after BCpmDL Ξ, 1, 33, 69 Old Lat. Syrcu, Sah. Aeth. Arm. — “Staves” (Meyer) is found in ACcorr Δ, and other later uncials, many cursives, Syrsin, Goth.

130 “Even (the very)”: so Tisch., after ACcorrE Δ, etc., Syrr (including sin.), Amiat.; but other Edd. omit, following BCpmDLX Ξ, 1, 33.

131 [“By him”]: so AE and most later uncials, nearly all cursives (1, 33), Syrpesch, Amiat. Edd. reject, after BCL, 69, Syrrsincu, Vulg. Sah. Memph. Aeth. Goth. Arm.

132 [“A desert place of”]: so AC Δ and other uncials, most cursives, Goth. Aeth. Arm. Edd. adopt “(into) a city called Bethsaida,” with BD (“village”) LXX, 33, Sah. Memph. — Amiat. and Old Latin have “a d. p. which is B.”

133 “Go”: so Edd., after ABCDL, etc., Syrsin. 33, 69, — Δ, etc., “go away” (which is in Mark).

134 Syrsin omits “of God,” as also the Curetonian, and Old Latin, Codex Vercellensis.

135 “Daily”: so Edd., following ABKL, and later uncials, 1, 33, 69, Syrrpesch cu, Amiat. Goth. Memph. Arm., CDEX Δ, etc., many cursives, Syrsin and most Old Latin omit.

136 “They” ( αὐτοὐς): so Edd., with BCL, Memph. Blass, “those” ( ἐκείνους), as AD Δ, 1, 33, 69, Sah.

137 “Beloved”: so ACD Δ and most later uncials, all cursives, Syrrcu pesch, most Old Lat. and Amiat. Edd. adopt “chosen,” after BL Ξ, Syrsin, Sah. Memph. Arm.

138 [“Jesus”]: so AC, etc., Syrrpesch hcl. Edd. omit, after BDL Ξ, 1, Syrrsincu, Amiat. Memph. Arm.

139 “Did”: so Edd., after ABCDL, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrr. Old Lat. “Had done,” EX Δ, etc.

140 “Seeing”: so ACDL ΔΞ, etc. Edd. adopt “knowing,” as in B, etc.

141 “Is”: so Edd., with BCL, etc., 1, 33, Syrr” sin, most old Lat., Amiat., Memph. “Shall be” (Blass); AD, etc., nearly all cursives (69), Syrr. Arm.

142 “Against you is for you”: so Edd., following BCDL Ξ, 33, Old Lat., Syrrcu sin, Memph. Goth. Aeth. Arm. “Against you is for us,” pmA Δ. E (T.R.), etc., have “against us is for us” (Mark).

143 “Against you is for you”: so Edd., following BCDL Ξ, 33, Old Lat., Syrrcu sin, Memph. Goth. Aeth. Arm. “Against you is for us,” pm A Δ. E (T.R.), etc., have “against us is for us” (Mark).

144 “As also Elias did”: so Blass, with ACD, all later uncials, 1, 33, 69, Syrrpesch hcl, Memph. Aeth. Other Edd. omit, after BL Ξ, and Syrrcu sin, Amiat. and Arm.

145 [“And said, Ye know not of what spirit ye are”]: so Blass, after D (in part) F, and later uncials, most cursives (1, 69), Syrr, Amiat., etc., Other Edd. reject, following ABCL, etc., 33, Syrsin. See W. H., App., p. 59f. After “are,” FKM, more than sixty cursives (1, 69), Syrrcu sin, several Old Lat., and Amiat. have “For the Son of man has not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save [them].” Edd. omit, in accordance with ABCDL, etc., many cursives (33).

146 “It came to pass”: so AD Δ, etc., Syrpesch, Goth. Edd. omit, after BCL, etc., 33, 69, Syrrcu sin, Memph. Aeth. Arm.

147 “Lord”: so AC Δ and later uncials, nearly all cursives, Goth. Edd. omit, after BDL Ξ, 1, Syrsin, Amiat. Memph.

148 “Lord”: so ACL, later uncials, nearly all cursives, Old Lat, Goth. Memph. Edd. omit, after BpmDV, Syrsin.