Father Give Me: Meditations on Luke

Table of Contents

1. Luke 1:1-4
2. Luke 1
3. Luke 2
4. Luke 3
5. Luke 4
6. Luke 4:38-44 - Luke 5
7. Luke 6
8. Luke 7 -8
9. Luke 9:1-17
10. Luke 9:18-50
11. Luke 9:51-62 - Luke 10:1-20
12. Luke 10: 21-42
13. Luke 11
14. Luke 12:1-53
15. Luke 12:54-59 - Luke 13
16. Luke 14
17. Luke 15
18. Luke 16:19-31
19. Luke 16:11-31 - Luke 17 - Luke 18:1-8
20. Luke 18:9-32
21. Luke 18:35-43 - Luke 19
22. Luke 20
23. Luke 21
24. Luke 22
25. Matthew 26:24
26. Luke 23
27. Luke 24
28. Luke - Notes and Bibliography

Luke 1:1-4

Luke opens his gospel with the following brief preface "since many have undertaken to draw up a narrative concerning the matters fully believed among us, as those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses of and attendants on the Word have delivered them to us, it has seemed good to me also, accurately acquainted from the origin with all things, to write to thee with method, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things in which thou hast been instructed." These four verses tell us a great deal about Luke's purpose in writing his gospel.
A Consideration of Luke's Claim to Accurate Knowledge of the Events Recorded in His Gospel—1:1-4
The question of when the other gospels were written in relation to the gospel of Luke is one for scholars to debate. It is too remote for our purpose to be considered, except to remark that Luke is not referring to the other gospels when he mentions the many accounts of eye-witnesses of the life of Christ which circulated among early Christians. He merely notes their existence good attempts no doubt to record the facts concerning the life of Christ and probably well intentioned, for Luke does not censure them. Since many of these histories were in circulation in early days, Luke explains why he should write another one.
Luke claims that he was "accurately acquainted from the origin with all things." This is a claim which most modern commentators seem to have ignored. Consequently they become involved in controversies as to the sources Luke "drew upon" and end up in confusion. But Luke plainly states that he did not rely on the accounts of eye-witnesses or the writings of others, for he was "accurately acquainted from the origin with all things." Scripture does not disclose the source of his accurate knowledge. It would have been given to us if it contributed to godliness 2 Peter 1:3. But Luke's claim sets aside the verdict of some commentators that he drew on the testimony of eye-witnesses for his gospel. On the contrary it was the other writers who were eye-witnesses and who delivered their testimony "to us" that is to the Christian community. No doubt their works, now lost, comprised all the instruction Theophilus had until Luke wrote to him. But the time had come to replace them with a book inspired by the Holy Spirit that Theophilus might know the certainty of the things in which he had been instructed (1) Need we add that the inspiration of Luke's gospel was accepted in the Church from earliest times.
Luke's Gospel Does Not Contradict the Other Gospels but Is in Harmony With Them
As we have seen, Luke claims authoritative knowledge of the events about which he writes. Why then do we find discrepancies in his gospel compared with the other gospels? As we shall see the answer revolves around Luke's "method" as he calls it. Of course Luke is not the only evangelist accused of inaccuracies. But Luke is the man whose gospel we are about to consider, and an understanding of his guiding principle will throw a shaft of light on the whole question. Furthermore it will help the reader understand why we have generally avoided comparisons with events in other gospels in writing this book. This was not a rigid policy but a flexible one the general thinking being that once Luke's "method" is understood the mind is freed of occupation on trivia and rises into the thoughts God wants to communicate to us through the inspired writer.
First we will consider the principle underlying the variations in the gospels, which are intentional and not random. To illustrate this let us suppose that four men witness a car accident and are each asked to write a report on it. Let us further suppose that one man is an insurance adjuster, another an engineer, another a physician, and still another a newspaper reporter. Although it is the same accident each man is reporting, the specialized viewpoint of the different writers will show through in the arrangement of the facts and emphasis on certain details. The insurance adjuster will be concerned with the costs of the accident, the engineer with how well the materials in the car absorbed the shock of impact, the physician with the injuries to the people in the car, the newspaper reporter with the human tragedy of interest to the paper's readers. It is the same accident, but reported four different ways. If man is permitted to write like this, why not the four inspired evangelists? When critics scorn the gospels for variations in the presentation of events, they forget this principle. John, for example, has arranged the incidents concerning Christ so as to portray Him as the Son of God, and so superior to all His circumstances. Of the synoptic writers, Matthew has arranged everything to present Christ in a Jewish light as the promised Messiah. Mark writes about Christ as the Perfect Servant (note how frequently he uses the word `immediately' for example) and the historical order of events is largely found in his gospel. But Luke takes up Christ as Son of Man with a universal moral presentation to Jew and Gentile. This is what we mean by calling Luke "the Son of Man gospel." "Son of Man" is Christ's title as the rejected One in this world but the Lord of the worlds to come. Luke's message, then, is universal. As a Greek, he writes to a Roman, but commences with things Jewish, for salvation is of the Jews.
Luke's "Method" Is the Moral Presentation of Events
Luke frequently records events out of their time setting. This is what Luke means by "with method." It is Luke's method. To Luke it is not chronological order but moral order which is paramount. He gives us a wide sphere of moral instruction not found in the other gospels. As to Christ, Luke presents Him as a divine character in the perfect sympathy of man, in personal human conflict and sufferings. He had all the tender feelings of a perfect Man, felt the insults and sufferings of sinners as a Man, but accepted all as from His Father's hand. As we read on in his gospel we appreciate more of Luke's method— an emphasis on moral things— the doing and teaching of Christ and the effect of all that on the lives of men. Luke also gives us the revelation of the Father's heart in an unique way in the story of the prodigal son at the same time exposing our own hearts, for that is the intent of divine moral instruction.
Luke Writes His Gospel to a Lone Individual— Theophilus
Christianity gives dignity to the individual. Christ journeyed to the well at Sychar to seek just one woman who was a sinner. Philip was called away from a great evangelical work to convert just one man— the Ethiopian Eunuch. But God does not end His work with us when we are converted. For Luke writes to just one man— Theophilus— to further his education in divine things. Again, the woman at Sychar's well told the men of the city about Christ and Samaria received a rich blessing; the Eunuch brought Christianity to Ethiopia, and Luke's communication to Theophilus interests us today while the civilizations which nurtured both of them have long since vanished.
Luke and Theophilus were both men of stature in the ancient world. Luke was a physician, and so almost by definition a man of compassion, eminently suited to pen the gospel of the Son of Man. He was a Greek and shared the Greek love of the sea and knowledge of nautical things as we see in his account of Paul's shipwreck. He was widely influenced by Paul and became his traveling companion, His writings, although inspired, mark him as a charming narrator of events. He constantly uses the phrase of a storyteller— "and it came to pass." Theophilus to whom he wrote both in his gospel and the Acts, was a Roman official of standing who had become a Christian. Luke addresses him by his official title "most excellent" in the gospel only. His Roman names are unknown— "Theophilus" —his baptismal name meaning "lover of God." Now picture Theophilus opening and reading this gospel. He finds that although Luke begins with Jewish things he progresses to things of greater interest to him as a Roman and the writer, a Greek. He would be impressed by the universal appeal of Luke's message— to Jew, Roman and Greek who comprised the ancient world in the Mediterranean basin. And he would be impressed by Luke's "method" of presenting the life of the Son of Man morally— so different from the histories of the eye-witnesses he had read before. They left him uncertain, no doubt, but not this manuscript from Luke.
Now let us, like Theophilus, turn to Luke for certain instruction on these matters.

Luke 1

God Begins His Work With Those Who Fear Him and so the Angel of the Lord Speaks to Zacharias— 1:5-12
The birth of Christ was such a momentous event in the history of man that Luke does not commence his gospel with the event itself but with the history of what led up to it. This is an important consideration because there are certain parallels between the times preceding the first coming of Christ and His second coming.
Then as now, godliness was at a low ebb and the people of God were despised by the world. Joseph, the direct descendant of King David, for example, was a carpenter. The heavens too, had been silent for four hundred years and the canon of the Old Testament closed with a godly remnant clinging to divine things. In days when none among God's people would even shut the doors of His Temple or kindle the fire on His altar unless paid to do so Mal. 1:10— we find a godly remnant in whom the Lord took pleasure. "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His Name."— Mal. 3:16. Of this godly remnant was Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, who was of course of Abia Abijah in the Old Testament. King David had divided the priesthood into twenty-four courses —1 Chron. 24— so that in effect the duties of the priesthood were rotated. The incident we are about to consider finds Zacharias present before God in the order of his course. But he was not the only priest present, and in accordance with Jewish custom lots were drawn to see which priest should enter the temple to burn incense. The lot fell on Zacharias. Wedged in between this choice and the introduction of Zacharias in the text is a small comment that Zacharias and his wife were old and childless. To the Jew this was a mark of divine disfavor and he had been praying to the Lord about it.
Zacharias was at the golden altar where incense was burned when an angel of the Lord appeared to him. Incense is fragrant and it was fitting that it should be burned before the story of Christ's birth. In Scripture too it speaks of prayer— "let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice," the Psalmist cried. Psa. 141:2. So as the people prayed outside at the hour of incense the angel assured Zacharias that his private prayer— actually supplication which is stronger— had been heard. His wife Elizabeth should bear him a son whose name should be called John. The angel commenced this assurance with the first of the seven "fear not" utterances in Luke's gospel.
Zacharias Does Not Believe the Angel's Message—1:13-22
How wondrous to receive a son from the Lord with the assurance that he will fear the Lord and with a blessing in advance of his birth! John should be a Nazarite— read Num. 6— the meaning of "he shall drink no wine nor strong drink." Instead he should be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb. Also he should "go before him in the spirit and power of Elias"— that is he should have a burning zeal for the Lord's glory and for turning the people back to the Lord through repentance. This message was too much for Zacharias' faith. He thought of the difficulties in nature and forgot the power of nature's God. So the angel pronounces a judgment of dumbness on him until his words should be fulfilled. There are many dumb priests like Zacharias today, unable to pray publicly or serve the Lord. We do not have far to search for the reason either. Like Zacharias they suffer from unbelief. "Take heed brethren lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God."— Heb. 3:12. Departure ceases when the unbelieving heart is judged and the backslider restored to usefulness. Well, everybody soon knew that Zacharias was dumb. He continued that way during his period of duty as a priest and returned dumb to his own house. Then his wife Elizabeth conceived. At this point, Luke suspends the story of Zacharias and Elizabeth to bring before us the story of the virgin birth of our Savior.
Mary Believes the Angel's Message—1:26-56
There was a proverb among the Jews— "can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" But here was a good thing— a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph and the Scripture says, “whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing"— Prov. 18:22. The virgin's name was Mary and she was of the house of David as Joseph also was. When the angel Gabriel visits her he implies knowledge of her great ancestor saying of the child that she should conceive in her womb— "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David." Joseph is ignored in all this. Indeed Mary's question as to how this should take place seeing she knew not a man is inserted to let us know that in no way could the birth of Christ be traced to Joseph. Joseph was a descendant of David through Coniah, so that his seed was barred from the throne by divine fiat. But Mary, though a descendant of David, did not descend through Coniah, so that the child she should bear would be the true and only heir to David's throne. But how could she have such a son, contrary to nature? The angel supplied the answer— "the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore also that holy thing which shall be born [of thee] shall be called the Son of God.”
The writer once wrote a gospel tract on the virgin birth of Christ and sent one with a covering letter to a liberal minister of the gospel who was in jail for allegedly committing an offense against public morality. He indignantly returned it saying that the dogma of the virgin birth formed no part of his beliefs and was completely irrelevant in his proclaiming the message that God is love. Later, stricken with a disease from which he died, he said in an interview that he had no hope beyond the grave. The man who denies the virgin birth of Christ denies all that is fundamental to Christianity. And "what shall the end be of those who obey not the gospel of God?" 1 Peter 4:17. But to make the point clear, let me quote from the tract to which I referred: “God's plan for man's salvation can never be understood by a man who denies the virgin birth of Christ. The reason is simple. Every other man except Christ was born into the world with a fallen nature and our lives demonstrate that we are sinners.
“Christ lived a sinless life because God is without sin and His human life came from God Himself, not Joseph. When false teachers state that Christ's human life came from Joseph, they are really teaching that Christ was a sinner. Why? Because Joseph was no different from other men. 'All have sinned and come short of the glory of God'— Rom. 3:23. When the Bible says that 'all have sinned' it means all except Christ who is THE GLORY OF GOD —Heb. 1:3. 'Which of you convinceth Me of sin?' that blessed Man said in John 8:46. 'Thou art My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,' God the Father said in Mark 1:11. The Apostle John said concerning Him 'And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin!— 1 John 3:5.
“This last scripture really explains why the virgin birth of Christ is so important. The sinless Man, the Man whose life was of God the Holy Spirit, was made sin at the cross that believers might be made the righteousness of God in Him— see 2 Cor. 5:21. In that way the worst sinner ever born can, if he believes on Christ, get forgiveness of his sins because Christ died for them on the cross. But only a sinless Man could be made sin. Anyone can see that a sinner can't be made sin— he is sin already. That is why John insists— 'and in Him is no sin.'”
The doctrine of the virgin birth then, is a bed-rock foundation truth of Christianity. It ties together— as well as other things we shall not consider here the truth that Christ is the Messiah (king) and the heir to the kingdom, the ruler over the kingdom of God to which we obtain entrance by the new birth— read John 3—AND the gospel of our salvation, for the sinless Man born of the virgin was made sin for us at the cross and so made it possible for us, after receiving the forgiveness of our sins, to enter "the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who filleth all in all"— Eph. 1:22, 23. The kingdom and the Church are alike based upon the virgin birth of our Lord. It is the duty of every Christian to defend this doctrine, and to believe it in simple faith without reasoning. Zacharias reasoned and became dumb because of his unbelief; Mary believed and is called blessed by Elizabeth for that reason— 1:45, for Elizabeth recognized the contrast with the unbelief of her husband. So Mary enters the house of Zacharias, still dumb under the angel's sentence, and bursts forth into what men rightly term "The Magnificat." If men have given her a place higher than God intended for her let us not fall into the opposite error of slighting her on that account for "from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."— 1:48. Her song, if we may call it that, is much like that of Hannah's long before her. It is full of the delivering grace of Jehovah to be realized through the child she was to bear. Yet she herself, holy woman that she was, remains strikingly humble. She admits that she herself is a sinner or she would not call God her Savior— 1:47 —which confirms Gabriel's word that she had found favor with God.
Gabriel had appeared to both Zacharias— 1:19 —and to Mary— 1:26. In the Old Testament he had appeared to Daniel to explain the vision he had seen of the ram and the he-goat, and to reveal to him the prophecy of the seventy weeks. The measure of Zacharias' unbelief was that, although the heavens had been silent for four hundred years and God broke this silence by sending Gabriel to him personally he said "whereby shall I know this?"— that is he demanded a second sign. He got it in being made dumb, not exactly the kind of sign he had hoped for, but designed by God for his later blessing.
The Birth of John the Baptist—1:57-80
Now let us return to the house of Zacharias, for it is reasonable to assume that the events which close the first chapter took place there. First Elizabeth bears a son and her neighbors and cousins celebrate with her. They want to call the boy after his father's name but the mother intervenes saying that he is to be called John. Zacharias his father confirms this in writing. He writes "his name is John." Immediately his tongue is freed and he breaks forth in praise to God. Everything God has said through Gabriel had come to pass.
Much of what Zacharias spoke by the Spirit is still future and we will pass it by except to acknowledge that it will all be fulfilled in Christ "for all the promises of God in Him are yea and in Him Amen"— 2 Cor. 1:20. Zacharias opened with blessing and ended with peace. He spoke of his son as the prophet of the Highest as the angel spoke of Christ as the Son of the Highest. Everything here is Jewish and because the Jews rejected Christ, the blessing spoken of has been deferred. Still God, in faithfulness, had to start with the Jew first. Yet we see signs even here that Israel could not come into the rest of God on the ground of law. When Moses the lawgiver was born, "behold the babe wept" —Ex. 2:6. What else could we expect from a law we cannot keep? But "when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary the babe leaped in her womb"— 1:41— and again in 1:44 we read "the babe leaped in my womb for joy." True joy has been deferred for Israel until they too leap for joy at the name of Jesus. They will come into God's blessing later not so much on the ground of grace like the Gentiles although true also but largely on the ground of mercy for they crucified the One God sent to them. It is for this reason that "mercy" is mentioned five times here. God knew the end from the beginning.

Luke 2

John was the prophet of the Highest, but Jesus the Son of the Highest. Yet there was little about His actual birth to let men know that "that holy thing which shall be born [of thee]" was the Son of God. But the machinery of the Roman Empire was, unconscious to its rulers, divinely manipulated so that the birth of Christ the King of the Jews would occur at Bethlehem, the city of David 2:11. This was to fulfill the prophecy of His birth in Mic. 5:2 "but thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
The Savior Is Born in a Manger—2:6-20
Nothing about the birth of Christ suggested that He was to be ruler in Israel, that Great David's greater Son had come to His people. "Mary brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." The manger and the inn are full of teaching. In the manger we see the Lord surrounded by animals as the first man Adam was in the Genesis record of creation. But the first Adam entered the world in full manhood fresh from the creatorial hand of God and the animals passed before him to be named. The last Adam entered the world in weakness as a babe surrounded by animals. The inn on the other hand tells us that at the very beginning of Christ's life, man had no room for Him. The inn is the world, which after all is but the material reflection of the heart of man. It is temporary and will pass away. "The things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Cor. 4:18. The Scripture says of Christ, "Thy years are throughout all generations. Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands." Psa. 102:24, 25.
So it was fitting that heaven and earth should join together to acclaim the entrance of the Savior into this world. Here we have the praise of heaven. The angel of the Lord came upon the shepherds in the field, watching over their flock by night. This pastoral scene is a reminder to us of the purpose of the Lord's coming to the earth. Psa. 22 is a forecast of the cross— Psa. 23 of the benefits to us of the cross— "The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want." No wonder that the glory of the Lord shone round about the shepherds— a glory long since absent from Israel. Why had it returned? The angel says, "for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord." The angel continues "and this is the sign to you"— pointing them to a babe in a manger. Now in Scripture a sign is something greater than a miracle. Though it is a miracle it contains a depth of teaching also. The angel was drawing their attention to the ancient prophecy "the Lord Himself shall give you a sign, behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Isa. 7:14. Immanuel means "God with us." Clearly there was no miracle in a young woman bearing a son, but there was in a virgin bearing one. Men will tell you that a virgin birth is a biological impossibility. To man, yes. This was the sign, for to God all things are possible. It is a sign that God is intervening in the affairs of earth too. But what a sign, contrary to all human expectations.
God comes into this world as a babe, which speaks of extreme weakness. But His strength is made perfect in weakness; man looks at what is outwardly strong, but must pass away in weakness. Well, Isaiah continues on in his ninth chapter to give us more particulars of the Son to be born of the virgin previously mentioned "for unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever."— Isa. 9:6, 7. Notice how this prophecy agrees with Gabriel's message to Mary— "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David."— 1:32.
The angel of the Lord has no sooner finished his pronouncement when suddenly he is joined by a crowd of these heavenly beings praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good pleasure in men." Since the Lord Jesus is the Son of the Highest, they are praising Him, predicting that His entrance to this world will eventually bring peace to it, and announcing a message of hope from heaven to all men.
"Burst of heavenly glory
Peace on earth the story.”
The shepherds verified the prediction of the angel of the Lord and blazoned it abroad, but Mary "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart"— 2:19. "All these things?" Yes, not only the message of the angel of the Lord. Like Mary we too can ponder them in our hearts. Did Mary connect the praise of the heavenly host with her visit to Elizabeth? Elizabeth had told her, "blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy." Thus God honored Christ even in Mary's womb— "I was cast upon Thee from the womb, Thou art My God from My mother's belly." Psa. 22:10. Even then God anticipates the birth of Jesus by causing the babe who would later be John the Baptist to leap in her mother Elizabeth's womb for joy. Then as to His birth— "Thou didst make Me hope when I was upon My mother's breasts." Psa. 22:9. Here the angels come in, as we have just seen, to praise God for His birth. Notice how God has in this way united the extremes in His creation to glorify Him in the birth of His Son. An unborn babe speaks of extreme weakness; an angel of extreme strength Psa. 103:20. Again a babe becomes a man and lives on the earth; angels are creatures of the heavens. But both unite to praise the Lord and have a common message of happiness and joy at the great event made possible by the hand of God.
The Parents of the Lord Bring Him Into the Temple— 2:21-24
The next event shows us that the Lord came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. "And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord." 2:22. Notice how Luke, a Greek, understands the requirements of the law of Moses. He opens his gospel on a Jewish note, for salvation is of the Jews. Through them and the Jewish Scriptures, salvation went to the Gentiles. So Luke's gospel, at the close, tells us that "beginning at Moses and all the prophets He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." 24:27. The Lord is now brought into the Temple by His parents as the law required.
In our second chapter Luke gives us two Temple scenes— one involving Simeon and Anna— the other the doctors of the law. Both scenes give us a glimpse of the Lord's childhood, while still subject to His earthly parents.
The Story of Simeon and Anna 2:25-38
The Holy Spirit comes upon Simeon. It had been revealed to Simeon by that same Spirit that he should not see death until he had seen the Lord's Christ. Next he came by the Spirit into the Temple. So we have three references to the Spirit concerning what was about to take place. Simeon takes up the child Jesus in his arms and blesses God first, and afterward the parents of Jesus. Note that he does not bless Jesus, for he sees Him as the Christ and he himself merely His servant. Simeon prays first, acknowledging God's salvation which his eyes had seen, and what was to characterize Christ— a light to lighten the Gentiles (first) and the glory of Israel (after). Thus what he said was divinely ordered. Apart from the Spirit, he could not know that the Gentiles would be enlightened first with the gospel and Israel would come into earthly glory after the Church period. Then he speaks to Mary, prophesying how Christ should divide Israel, the end of this being Mary's soul pierced by a sword— her anguish at the cross. His prayer and his word encompass the entire life of Christ from His entrance into the world until He should leave it.
Anna then comes into the Temple. Her words are not given us. Instead we are told the tenor of them. She gave thanks to the Lord like Simeon and spoke about Christ to the godly remnant in Jerusalem.
Simeon and Anna are also pictures of the conditions prevailing before the second coming of Christ as they themselves represented what God was looking for in His saints at Christ's first coming. Simeon is a picture of the sleeping saints— those who are dead in Christ; Anna of the living saints— those alive on the earth at the second coming of Christ. This is because Simeon, having seen Christ, was looking forward to departing in peace. Anna was very old as the Church is now after nearly 2000 years of Christianity. Simeon and Anna are also patterns of worship and service the two ways eternal life is expressed in believers.
The Lord Remains in the Temple With the Doctors of the Law 2:41-51
Joseph and Mary as godly Jewish parents, were not content merely to fulfill the requirements of the law by bringing Jesus to Jerusalem. No, every year they went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. But nothing is told us about these annual pilgrimages until Jesus was twelve years old. After the feast, His parents returned to Nazareth. Thinking Jesus was with the other pilgrims, they did not notice His absence until they had traveled a full day's journey. Unable to find Him, they returned to Jerusalem and searched for Him there. They found Him in the Temple.
This story affords us also a moral picture of believers taking the Lord's presence among them for granted and only becoming alarmed when they find Him not there. Worse still, we may get like Samson who did not know that the Lord had departed from him. We must go to the sanctuary if we are to find Him. Well, in the actual story He was sitting in the midst of the doctors of the law, and discoursing with them.
Jerusalem was noted for its rabbinical schools, and the doctors would be, in modern terms, doctors of divinity. But in the presence of Jesus, they could only be like beginning students. He gave the law, the Scriptures— even more, as we learn elsewhere, He was the Temple itself— the Holy of Holies. No wonder that "all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers." Would to God all succeeding "doctors of the law" had bowed at His feet and surrounded Him for instruction. Only a fool vaunts himself above his teacher. I have an unpleasant memory which illustrates how those who should be learning from Him, set themselves up instead to oppose His written Word. One evening an old friend, in the United Church ministry, phoned me. He said he had heard I was a fundamentalist and would like me to visit him and discuss the Scriptures. I readily assented for we had much in common. We had grown up together, were educated together, had both enlisted in the Air Force and served overseas in heavy bomber squadrons, had been demobilized and returned home. At first we had a pleasant time as we discussed generalities and as his charming wife served coffee and refreshments. But then, alas, he departed to attack the inspiration of the Scriptures which I as vigorously defended. When he saw that all his efforts had been beaten, he finally exclaimed, "God hardened Pharaoh's heart! How can I stand up in my pulpit and tell the people that God is love, when it says that in the Bible too?" My reply was that I had preached on both texts with equal liberty because I believed that what God said was true. God didn't harden Pharaoh's heart until Pharaoh first hardened his own heart. The end result was that he exclaimed, "who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go." Ex. 5:2. He would have been better had he done what these doctors of the law did and taken his instruction from the fountain of living waters.
Returning now to our story in Luke, the parents of the Lord were amazed at what they saw going on. Nature is always amazed that Christ should instruct the learned of this world. "Son why hast Thou thus dealt with us? Behold Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing." To this the Lord replied, "How is it that ye sought Me? Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" His reply was not understood, although Mary "kept all these sayings" —that is the things about His birth "and pondered them in her heart.”
Yet we who have the Holy Spirit can do more than ponder these things in our hearts. We can understand them, which the Lord's earthly parents could not. Luke has recorded for our instruction the two returns to Nazareth. On the first return we read, "and the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him." —2:40. On the second return we read, "and Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." 2:52. The Lord's parents did not understand that He was a Nazarite wholly devoted to God from His mother's womb. Neither did Israel, which called Him alternately Joseph's son and the carpenter's son. But the prophet Isaiah looked forward to this day when he wrote, "He [that is, Jesus] shall grow up before Him [God the Father] as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground [the Hearts of Israel] ... there is no beauty that we should desire Him." —Isa. 53:2. So it is they understood not that He must be about His Father's business.

Luke 3

So far everything we have been considering in Luke's gospel has been Jewish. The third chapter continues this theme up to verse 20. The Jew had a great advantage over the Gentile in that God had committed the Holy Scriptures unto them Rom. 3:1,2, —which told them of the coming of a suffering Messiah— if they would read them. Instead they sinned against God so that when their Messiah came they were under Gentile rule and the priesthood was in disorder. Herod ruled over Judaea as king at the pleasure of the Roman Empire. As to the priesthood, we find that Annas and Caiaphas are together mentioned as the high priest. Actually the Romans had deposed Annas leaving Caiaphas his son-in-law as high priest. But Annas continued to share the duties of the office. In the midst of these troubled conditions we find that God still has a remnant— a hard core of godly people in Israel who refused to give up because of the difficulties. In God's eyes this remnant really represented the nation. If you are a Christian today and distressed about things, take courage from this truth. The opening events in Luke center around the godly in Israel. Those who opposed them, directly or indirectly, are also noted— Tiberias Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Tyranias, Annas and Caiaphas— seven men. But there are seven on God's side too— of whom the world was not worthy— Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, Simeon, Anna, and John the Baptist. Christ always divides men.
John the Baptist is a grown man now, with the span between his birth and maturity passed over. His father Zacharias had been a priest and his mother was of the daughters of Aaron; Joseph and Mary, of King David's royal line, are in poverty at Nazareth. Since both the priesthood and kingdom are in ruins, John is not found in Jerusalem, where all is moral ruin, but in the wilderness. Here the Word of God comes upon him for nobody will listen to it at Jerusalem.
The Ministry of John the Baptist—3:1-20
John the Baptist's ministry began in the fifteenth year of Tiberias Caesar. Luke adds the names of important public figures here to give us a chronological fix. But again he emphasizes what is moral rather than historical. The beginning of John's ministry is important only because it is an indication that the Messiah must soon appear, for John was to go before His face. It was because of the imminence of the Messiah's coming that John preached to the Jews the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. To call upon Jews rather than Gentile proselytes to be baptized was an unheard of thing and implied what he later taught— that the privileges conferred on the Jews were of little value unless accompanied by holiness of life. Thus was John the prophet of the Most High. At a time when Israel was expecting the Messiah, John denied that he himself was the Messiah. He came to fulfill Scripture and was only a voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord and make straight His paths. This is clearly proved in Acts 19:3-5 where the disciples who had been baptized "to the baptism of John" also had to submit to Christian baptism. John's baptism was a public recognition of the need for repentance in Israel, in view of two things— their low state, and the coming of their Messiah. Personal change and a giving up of the spirit of selfishness, disregard for others, covetousness, and opulence— these were the points John was making. Repentance reaches the conscience by judging the springs of self will and its evil fruit. John made this call because the people had utterly failed to keep the law by ignoring its grand principle manwards: "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" and they had rejected the prophets. God therefore had sent His Son. Now they should confess their sins in view of the coming of the Christ who alone could forgive them. The baptism of repentance for the remission of sins looked forward to the death of their Messiah on the cross. On no other ground could God offer man the remission of sins. At this point some might wonder why the Lord Jesus allowed John to baptize Him. It is an important point because we must clearly understand that He did no sin 1 Peter 2:22— He knew no sin 2 Cor. 5:21— and in Him sin is not 1 John 3:5. The Lord Jesus submitted to John's baptism simply to identify Himself with the godly in Israel who were rallying around John. It was an act of pure grace on His part.
In Luke's account of the imprisonment of John the Baptist, we are given another insight into the "method" he wrote about in his preface. Obviously, Luke has reversed the historical order in order to emphasize the moral order. The proof of this statement is that John's baptism of Jesus— verses 21, 22— had to precede John's imprisonment. For the same reason, Luke does not tell us here that John baptized Jesus, nor the story— of John's death. Instead he rounds out the history of John's ministry by telling us how it came to an end by imprisonment. It is a fitting end to his testimony. Fearless, he testifies to a man in authority of the need for repentance as he had earlier done to his subjects, for he represents a God who is no respecter of persons.
The fate of John the Baptist at Herod's hands is typical of what those who followed the Christ he preached were to suffer later. Even men of the world know that there is a penalty attached to following Christ. This was strikingly brought home to the writer in a conversation with an Englishman who held several responsible positions in his lifetime. Our conversation commenced by a stray remark he made about "our ape-man ancestors." "You won't find that in the Word of God," I replied. "Oh," he said, "do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?" When I replied in the affirmative, he said he would like to go over these matters with me later. At a mutually agreed on time, I presented the gospel to him privately. When I finished, his only remark was that Christianity had always been a minority religion in the world, and persecuted. Translated, what he meant was that fear of the world's frown was keeping him back from Christ. Then he added, "my wife is a believer." This man eventually confessed Christ to me. In later life we became fast friends and he often remarked that he could now go to Church without feeling that he was a hypocrite. But the great lesson from this story must not be lost— Satan would anchor us to this world by its favor or its wrath. John the Baptist ignored its smiles and incurred its displeasure. He secured what was of lasting value— a personal commendation from the Lord Himself that of those born of women there was not a greater than John the Baptist.
The Teaching of John the Baptist
John's teaching is given to us in principle in verses 5-6; in detail later. "Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low" indicates a common leveling of both base and exalted men in the presence of the coming Messiah, and of Jew and Gentile. The exalted Jews could no more boast that Abraham was their father, for God was able of these stones— the lifeless Gentiles— to raise up children unto Abraham. Through grace, God has done just this, for Abraham is the father of those justified on the principle of faith— Rom. 4. "The crooked shall be made straight" applied to the publicans who came to John to be baptized verses 12, 13. "The rough ways shall be made smooth" applied to the soldiers who were normally not satisfied with their pay but did violence to other men. They were not to make false accusations either. Thus John denounced sin, which always manifests itself in one of these three forms— corruption, violence and lying, although the root of it is the will.
Then John pointed ahead to Christ— "He will thoroughly purge His floor"— Israel was His threshing floor. The wheat should be gathered into the barn, but the chaff burned. Needless to say, this is future, for John carefully distinguishes the effects of the first and second comings of Christ. The effect of His first coming was the baptism of the Holy Spirit; of His second coming— fire —that is judgment, the burning of chaff. While the baptism of the Holy Spirit looked forward to the Church, everything else here is Jewish.
The Connection Between the Lord's Baptism and His Genealogy—3:21-38
Luke alone gives us Jesus praying at His baptism, for he is painting a moral picture of a truly dependent Man. Luke often describes Christ as praying— here when He receives the Holy Spirit like a dove, all night before choosing the twelve Apostles, and when He was transfigured.
In the second chapter we saw that Jesus was a Nazarite as to His Person 2:49; here as to His office, He is shown to be the Christ. The Father declares His infinite delight in His Son as Man. The Spirit alights on Jesus in the form of a dove as a witness that He is the Christ. Thus the Spirit anoints Him for service as Samuel had once anointed David. He is great David's greater Son. His genealogy follows— with words which confirm the commencement of His service— "Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years of age." This was the age for beginning divine service with the Jews. The Father had owned Him as His divine Son at His baptism— now His humanity must also be demonstrated, for this is the gospel of the Son of Man. That is why Luke reserves Christ's genealogy for this moment, unlike Matthew who starts with it. Just as Christ's genealogy begins with a statement implying that He was at the age to commence divine service, so it ends by tracing Him back to Adam. But, while doing this, it carefully guards against any thought that He inherited anything of Adam's fallen nature.
At once the divine wisdom of inserting the genealogy here becomes apparent. The first man Adam was tempted by Satan and —as we all know— failed. Now Christ has come into the world as Son of Man. He must be tempted by Satan too, for He has been shown by His genealogy to be a Man also, although God's Son. That is why the Lord's temptation by Satan is the subject which commences the next chapter. But when Adam failed, God promised a Deliverer to crush the serpent's head. This great Deliverer was to be not the seed of the man, but the seed of the woman Gen. 3:15. This Christ was, being conceived in the womb of the virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son made of a woman." Gal. 4:4. In the next chapter we will see how Christ, the woman's seed, and the Last Adam, overcame the wicked one who through the power of death held the Adam race in bondage. Luke's order is beautiful. The proof that the Lord was a real Man was His genealogy. This is then connected with His temptation by Satan. Here is another Adam, but One whom Satan cannot overcome. All His associations with man, now that He has been proved Man— although of another order— will be based not on law, but on the new principle of grace which from now on will characterize Luke's gospel.

Luke 4

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 4:1-37)
Chapter 4 introduces the Lord's ministry as Son of Man the previous three chapters were all Jewish. These are now left behind. The pulse of the gospel quickens as we move from the godly remnant in Israel under the Roman Empire to Christ, the new center of hope. He is the Son of Man. This title of Christ's stands for the rejected One in this world but the Lord of the worlds to come. It gives us God come out to meet us in grace because we are sinners and could not go to meet Him.
The close of the introductory chapters gave us the union of God and Man in the Person of Christ. In Luke 3:22, the Father had declared Him to be God; at the end of that chapter He is shown to be Man— 3:38. But He is a Man of a new order, unlike Adam. Adam was overcome when tempted by the devil; this Man overcame the devil. The contrast of the two Adams under temptation is the next subject to occupy our attention.
"How wondrous the glories that meet
In Jesus, and from His face shine
His love is eternal and sweet
'Tis human, 'tis also divine.
“His glory— not only God's Son
In manhood He had His full part.
And the union of both joined in one
Form the fountain of love in His heart.”
The Temptation of Christ by Satan— General Thoughts
The Lord, as Man, was tempted in all things like us— apart from sin. There was nothing in Him to respond to sin as there is in us. His temptation only proved His sinless perfection and His dependence on His Father's Will which He had been sent to fulfill. Even so, we have shown that His baptism was an act of grace by Him, for no sin, and so no repentance, could ever be imputed or required of the sinless One. It is important for every believer to understand these things and to guard the Person and work of Christ with a drawn sword.
Next we should understand that Luke's presentation of the temptation is moral in contrast to Matthew's, which gives the historical order of events and the dispensational teaching. Thus in Matthew, Satan's urging Christ to turn the stones into bread is an allusion to the beginning of Israel's history in the wilderness when they murmured against the manna— the bread from heaven. Again in Matthew setting Christ on the pinnacle of the Temple is an allusion to when Satan will do this to the Antichrist. In the third temptation there is an allusion to the time when Israel shall worship Satan through the Antichrist in exchange for the kingdom, the power and the glory. All this is because Matthew's presentation of Christ is Jewish— he depicts Christ as the rejected Messiah. Luke, on the other hand, gives us the great moral lessons of the temptation. One of these is that faithfulness in trial shows the power of the Spirit as much as the energy of service. The Christian should apply this lesson by standing fast under temptation, as in Eph. 6. His only weapon is the Word of God— the weapon Christ used against Satan in His temptation. Only Christ could use this perfectly, for He Himself was perfect. We can only wield the Sword of the Spirit against Satan if we are in a good state of soul —which is the great thought behind the defensive armor described in Eph. 6.
Satan's first temptation was to the natural needs of the body —bread. It is remarkable how Satan attacked the Lord this way twice— at the temptation and at the cross. The natural needs of the body are two food and drink. In the temptation Satan appealed to the Lord's manifest need of food; at the cross to His need of drink, for there He cried, "I thirst." Secondly, Satan tempted Christ as to His soul by offering Him the world. The Lord Himself linked the love of the world with the soul of every man— "for what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Mark 8:36, 7. The third temptation was a religious one, at the Temple and based (partially) on Scripture. This was the trial of the spirit. Just as the soul is linked closely to our body and our aspirations, desires, etc., in the body, even so the spirit in man is that part of his being which is his link with God (if he has a link of course— the spirit in an unsaved man is like a lamp without oil). "I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the understanding also." 1 Cor. 14:15. The Lord being a perfect Man, had a body, soul and spirit— all in holy obedience to His Father's will.
How Christ Overcame Satan—4:1-13
Anyone who has meditated on the story of David and Goliath would surely have seen in it the foreshadowing of Christ's conflict with Satan. David was the only man able to fight Goliath; Christ, who was David's Son, was the only Man able to fight Satan. David overcame Goliath with only one of the five stones chosen from the brook; Christ overcame Satan with quotations from only one of the five books of Moses, for all His quotations in the temptation were from Deuteronomy, the book of obedience. By obeying the Word of God, the last Adam overcame Satan in contrast to the first Adam who disobeyed the Word of God and fell. Through disobedience Adam exalted himself and was humbled. Notice how Satan tried that with the Lord, too. The devil took Him to a high mountain and set Him on a pinnacle of the Temple. But in both cases, the last Adam refused to be exalted at Satan's hand. In due time His Father would exalt Him and He was content to await His Father's time.
The devil's first temptation was to persuade Christ to satisfy His hunger by commanding the stones to be made bread. But Christ did not come to command, but to obey His Father. Had not the Spirit led Him into the wilderness? Then why should He distrust His Father's care of Him? The Spirit had led Him there. The Father would provide for His bodily needs in His own time. Man should not live only for what goes into his mouth— bread— but by every word that comes out of God's mouth— the Word of God.
Foiled, the devil tests Him on that very truth. He shows Christ the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. These belong to him, he says. This is a half truth because they really belong to Christ. Still, because man follows his own lusts and becomes the slave of the devil, in practice the world is his kingdom although he is subject to overall restraint, for the Lord "is the governor among the nations." Psa. 22:28. But "every Word of God" by which Christ the last Adam walked, said, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve." Thus Christ foiled the worldly temptation. This intermediate temptation is usually the one in which Satan attacks the believer most successfully today. He holds the world before us like a lure before a fish. This is especially true if we are young and what the world offers seems so tempting. I remember marching in public behind a military band in the distant years of World War 2. The band struck up "after the ball" and the words "many a heart was broken after the ball" truly reflected the light spirits of the airmen and the admiring glances they drew from the fair sex at the time. Nothing of this human vanity remains but old photographs and almost forgotten memories. Yet it is with such baubles Satan lures the soul away from Christ. They perish. He alone remains— "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today and forever."— Heb. 13:8. "The world passeth away and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." 1 John 2:17. It passes away like a dream and the reality of following Christ abides. The believer's marching songs will echo through the courts of glory— "where sin, nor want, nor woe, nor death, can come.”
"That rest secure from ill
No cloud of grief e'er stains
Unfailing praise each heart Both fill
And love eternal reigns.”
The third and culminating temptation— for each one ascends in severity— is religious in character. Satan now applies to the Lord His own saying that man should live by every word of God. He quotes Scripture to Him, urging Him to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple because the angels would take care of Him if He did. Cunningly he half quotes the Scripture, omitting "in all Thy ways" Psa. 91:11. It was not in the ways of God that Christ should use His power independently of His Father any more than that He should command stones to be made bread when His Father hadn't told Him to do so. So Jesus closes the record of the temptation here by quoting Scripture— "thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." This beautiful reply also answers Satan's opening and closing thrust— "if Thou be the Son of God." There was nothing in Jesus' circumstances to suggest that He was, so great was His humiliation. But the Father had publicly declared that He was— 3:22— and that was enough.
The Lord triumphed in each of the three scenes in which Satan tempted Him before He began His public ministry. As we have just seen, these were the temptations in the wilderness, the mountain, and the pinnacle of the temple. Defeated, Satan departed from Him for a season— 4:13. When he returned, he would try Christ in a fourth scene— a garden the garden— of Gethsemane. The garden is a pleasant place. But death had come into the garden when our first parents listened to Satan. In the garden of Gethsemane, the Lord agonized at the cost of doing His Father's will the death of the cross. But He obeyed His Father's will, and dying set us free.
Much nonsense has been written on the temptation— for example, on the form Satan took when he appeared to the Lord— how he showed the Lord the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, etc. Such speculations remind the writer of the time when as a young man he attended a lecture on the temptation given by the celebrated Dutch Bible teacher, August Van Ryn. Van Ryn told the story of a Bible Reading on the temptation. Someone asked J. N. Darby how the devil managed to get the Lord to the pinnacle of the temple. Darby's reply was "to give you a wise answer to a foolish question, I don't know." We might add that nobody else does either and that the lessons from the temptation are moral. For the first time in this world a Man has appeared who has overcome the wicked one. The next lesson is how the Overcomer uses that strength to deliver our race, bound by Satan's chains, up to this point.
The Lord Teaches in the Synagogue at Nazareth—4:16-30
Without going into details, Luke tells us of the beginning of our Lord's Galilean ministry, which ends at 9:50. The fame of the Lord went out "through all the region round about." He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. Then He returns to Nazareth where He was brought up. He goes into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. The custom in Jewish synagogues at this time differed markedly from ours today and we need some explanation to help understand the text. When Jesus stood up, it was public notification that He wished to address the people. This liberty was extended to visiting rabbis, and the public was no doubt anxious to hear Him whose fame had spread abroad. So He was handed the Scripture roll by the servant of the ruler of the synagogue. The Scriptures were always read standing up as a mark of respect for the Word of God. After reading the Scriptures, the Lord rolled up the parchment scroll, returned it to the servant, and sat down. Then we are told that "the eyes of all those who were in the synagogue were fastened on Him." In other words, they were eagerly awaiting His message. Rabbis in those days delivered their messages seated, from a small platform provided for the purpose. They dilated on the Word rather than preached from it so that the seating posture was preferable. Later we find Paul in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch— Acts 13— standing up to preach and beckoning with his hand. Whether this typically Christian mode of addressing people publicly arose with Paul or whether both styles were permitted, we do not know. This digression is only inserted to give our readers an insight into the circumstances surrounding the Lord's address to the people.
The Lord spoke from Isaiah, the most evangelical of the prophets, and from a portion of that prophet's writings which strikingly refer to the mission of Christ. This is the first verse of Isa. 61 and part of the second verse, ending with "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." Jesus stopped reading the Scriptures at this verse, for this was His mission at the time. The remainder of the verse, which He did not read is "and the day of vengeance of our God." That day is still future as we write and could not have been quoted at the introduction of the Lord's ministry of grace. The verses the Lord read were descriptive of His ministry among men soon to be given to us in this gospel. They commence with the Spirit of the Lord God being upon Christ because the Lord had anointed Him for various characters of divine service. Here we have an allusion to the Spirit of God alighting on Christ at the Jordan. He was to preach good tidings to the poor. He had been sent to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who were bound. The only part of the Lord's discourse given to us in these verses is "this day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears." By saying this, the Lord made it clear that He was personally the Fulfiller of promise. It was the day of God's favor and mercy to man in the person of Jesus. The result was that they all "bare Him witness and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.”
Why did they wonder? Was it not His claim that He was the One of whom Isaiah wrote— on whom the Spirit of God rested? How could this be, they reasoned, seeing that He was but Joseph's son, a man of no account even in their despised city? The Lord's reply was that no prophet was accepted in his own country. This statement is universally true. Great men do not find honor in the place of their birth or recognition among their immediate associates, since people take them for granted and, if anything, are merely jealous of them. The Lord read their thoughts. If He was what He claimed to be from the Scripture He had read, let Him show His power in Nazareth as He had apparently done in Capernaum. But the Lord had refused to use His power when Satan had challenged Him to do the same thing in the temptation. Would He then permit man to swerve Him from the path of obedience when He had received no direction from His Father to use His power this way? Man could not succeed any more than Satan. Instead He would rebuke them for their unbelief as He had rebuked Satan for tempting the Lord God. He is the Man in whom the Spirit is, and cannot therefore confine Himself to Israel.
So He takes up the case of two prophets who had to turn to the Gentiles because Israel would not hear them. Elias was sent to a widow in distress. A widow is a figure of helplessness since the natural means of her support are cut off. The widow is cast upon God. So should the Gentiles be and God would take care of them as He did the widow of Sarepta. Again Naaman the Syrian— a Gentile man as the widow was a Gentile woman— was cleansed of his leprosy, but the lepers of Israel were not. Now leprosy in Scripture is a distinct type of sin. What the Lord was teaching by the two illustrations was that what God had done before He could do again. If the Jews would not receive Him as the One on whom the Spirit of God rested and rejected His mission, then the Gentiles should receive God's salvation and the Jews would remain in their sins. God would not fail the Gentiles who trusted in Him like the widow of Sarepta and would cleanse them from their sins like Naaman. The Jews understood the illustrations perfectly for they were versed in the Old Testament Scriptures. They were filled with wrath at the thought of God blessing the Gentiles and sought to destroy the One who would do it. They "rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong." Now note the fulfillment of the Scriptures Satan had partially quoted to the Lord in the temptation— "for He shall give His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee in all Thy ways, They shall bear Thee up in their hands, lest Thou dash Thy foot against a stone." Psa. 91:11, 12. Satan did not quote "in all Thy ways" but here was a Man whose ways were entirely of God and so the Lord passed through the midst of them and went on His way. He had not departed from His Father's ways when they sought to have Him demonstrate His power independently of His Father— now His Father demonstrates that power to them in an astonishing deliverance just as He had fed Him after the temptation by Satan. Here was a power as great, or greater, than that shown in Capernaum which they wanted to see. But it was not exhibited on their terms, but on God's. So the Lord goes down to Capernaum. Here the people are teachable, but they are astonished at His doctrine, for His Word is with power. The mission of healing which the Lord so freely offered to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth and which was rejected, will now be just as freely offered to the people in the synagogue in Capernaum. Here it will be received and the blessing will flow out.
The Demon in the Synagogue at Capernaum—4:31-37—Proclaims Christ As the Holy One of God of Psa. 89
In the synagogue at Nazareth, Satan did not need a man with an unclean demon to represent him, for unbelief was at work and the congregation asleep to the need of a Savior. Here, because Jesus taught the people on the Sabbath days, Satan's representative trembles— "hast Thou come to destroy us?" But the demon testifies to who Christ is— "Jesus of Nazareth, the holy One of God." This testimony gives us an insight into the knowledge of the Scriptures possessed by the powers of darkness. We have already seen how Satan knew Scripture so well that he could select passages which he thought would be most useful in swerving the Lord from the pathway of obedience. In this account we see that his servants, the demons, knew Scripture too— and shall we say it to our shame?— perhaps better than most believers. For the demon acknowledges the Lord as "the holy One"— a prophetic title of Jesus given to us in Psa. 89 and which sums up the mercies of God. In that psalm we read, "then Thou spakest in vision of Thy Holy One and saidst I have laid help upon a mighty One; I have exalted One chosen out of the people" verse 19. How many Christians would have such an understanding of Scripture as this wicked one possessed? Indeed, it is this very knowledge they use to subvert divine principles in the world in these present evil days. The Apostle does not write in vain of "seducing spirits and doctrines of demons"— 1 Tim. 4:1— or that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" Eph. 6:12.
While the Lord could not accept testimony from a demon, and rebuked him, it is instructive to see that both Satan and his representative, the unclean demon, fully understand who the Lord is, which was not the case with man, who only saw Him as Joseph's son.
And now we find that the Word the Lord spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth is fulfilled in the synagogue in Capernaum. Surely He had come to set at liberty those who were bruised. For the last time the demon bruises the man, comes out of him, and hurts him no more, for the man's Deliverer has spoken. Thus Jesus, who overcame Satan in the temptation, overcomes his power in the unclean demon. His victory is the amazement of the people, who discuss it among themselves, saying, "what a word is this! for with authority and power He commandeth the unclean demons and they come out." The incident closes at Capernaum as it opened at Nazareth with His fame spreading abroad.
The Secret of Power
Since the Christian belongs to Christ and is to serve Christ, we need to know the secret of His power, for He Himself has said— "without Me ye can do nothing." It is complete dependence upon the Word of God— the Holy Scriptures— and doing the Will of God. This, of course, costs us something. The Word of God came to John the Baptist in the wilderness for the rulers of this world had no use for it. From our earliest days we should memorize Scripture and cause our children to memorize Scripture so that the Word of God becomes part of us— embedded in our everyday thinking. Christ knew it perfectly and when Satan omitted "in all Thy ways," instantly He recognized his guile. But knowledge of the Word is not enough. It must guide and control our lives as It did Christ's. In obedience to His Father, He took a place so lowly that we cannot understand it. But Luke has shown us how the Creator of the universe came into the world His hands had made as a homeless stranger— a babe in a manger. As a child of twelve He who wrote the Holy Scriptures is found in the Temple, not teaching the doctors— because He accepted His childhood as part of His humiliation, but hearing them and asking them questions. For an occupation He chose to be a carpenter, not an architect. So complete was His humiliation that Satan twice said to Him in the temptation, "if Thou be the Son of God" inferring that it could not be, in view of His lowly circumstances.
Applying these lessons to ourselves, grace should teach us to be humble that we might be more Christ-like and so serviceable to God. If we do not take this place willingly, God will break us, like Gideon's pitchers Judg. 7:19, 20, so the light of Christ can shine out of these earthen vessels, for that is all our present bodies are. "We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us." 2 Cor. 4:7. For this reason, God broke the two great Apostles. Peter, the Apostle to the Jews, was broken by his denial of Christ. Peter went out and wept bitterly. Paul was broken by persecuting the Church of God. The thought of this was anguish to Paul at a later date. But, together with his vision of Christ on the road to Damascus who forgave him, he became truly the bond-slave of Jesus Christ. The man who preaches or teaches Jesus Christ must practically apply the cross to himself. He must hide himself, his qualifications, and his ability, so that he becomes nothing more than a voice crying in the wilderness. Oh to be a voice for Christ in such a world, and nothing more. The Lord called John "the greatest born of women.”
God's principles do not change with the passing of time. The life of Brownlow North strikingly illustrates how God works through a broken vessel. North was a very wicked sinner. He himself once said that he had committed every sin a man could commit except murder, yet he became the outstanding evangelist in the great awakening of 1859 which added to the churches of Northern Ireland some 100,000 saved souls. But when his sins first troubled him, he thought that he could relieve himself of their burden by theological studies. As he was nearing completion of his course, he was called in to the Presiding Bishop's study and confronted with a letter from a man who insisted he should not be allowed to graduate because of his life. He was asked if the letter was true. When he replied affirmatively, the bishop said, "Mr. North, if our positions were reversed, would you ordain me?" Being honest, North replied, "No," and walked out. But later, when he was truly saved and confronted with a similar situation, he met it in the Lord's power, for he had humbled himself under the mighty hand of God. The latter incident arose when he was handed a slip of paper as he was getting ready to preach. He read it. It contained a list of his sins and a warning that if he dared to go into the pulpit, he would be exposed then and there. North accepted the challenge, outlined the message he had received, acknowledged the truth of its contents, but spoke from the text, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again" Rom. 8:33, 34. Truly, if we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, He may exalt us in due time— see 1 Peter 5:6.

Luke 4:38-44 - Luke 5

(Suggested Reading: Chapters 4:38-44 and 5:1-26)
It has often been said that the key thoughts of any book in the Bible will be found in the opening portions of that book. So in Luke, when Zacharias' dumbness ended, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, "blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people." 1:68. In the early part of Luke, the Lord's visiting His people was centered around the Temple. Following His temptation, He visits the synagogues. But now we find Him moving from the House of God— the Temple and the synagogue— to the houses of man. If God would truly visit His people, He must go into their dwelling places. In this chapter we will consider the Lord's dealings with three houses. The important point is that it is Jehovah Himself who is present. He alone could heal the leper and fill the net with fish. But that is the God who became Man that He might dwell with us.
The Lord Visits Simon Peter's House— 4:38-44
It is astonishing to find that the first Pope, as men call Peter, had a mother-in-law and was therefore a married man. But Peter did not know about his promotion at this time and so did not consciously violate the canon law of his Church.
The scene in Simon Peter's house is a remarkable one. It is the first house the Lord enters. And what does He find but Peter's mother-in-law sick with a great fever. He does nothing until those in the house ask Him to take her case in hand. Then He rebukes the fever as He had previously rebuked the unclean demon. Disease, since it is the causative agent of death, is as much a weapon in Satan's army as is an unclean demon. Each is a separate manifestation of Satan's power, and the Lord had overcome Satan in the temptation. So He relieves man of the consequences of Satan's power— a foreshadowing of that blessed day when sin, disease, and death, will be banished from the universe of God. So Peter's wife's mother stands up and serves them.
This first visit of the Lord to a house is full of instruction. The great fever which raged in the body of Peter's mother-in-law is a picture of man's feverish natural state— his excited riotous condition until Christ comes in to cure him. I recall an incident in the days just before the Second World War which brought this home vividly to me. A car was parked in front of the Toronto Stock Exchange. A crowd surrounded it, for it had a long-range radio on, tuned into a Nazi rally in Germany. Hitler was speaking. His followers were completely feverish, punctuating his remarks with thunderous shouts of "Heil Hitler" and "Seig Heil." It was sheer frenzy. That mob no doubt contained many educated men, but education only polishes the outside of the apple, leaving the core rotten inside. Only Christ can still the feverish state of "Peter's wife's mother" a state which can be seen everywhere today, in student riots, street demonstrations, strikes, even in organized sports. "Thou shalt not follow a mob to do evil" Ex. 23:2, is God's warning to us to keep away from this riotous way of life and come aside to the still waters where Christ tends His sheep. But let us not forget our friends and relatives outside of Christ in the feverishness of nature. Beseech Christ for them. Only He can rebuke the fever and cause it to go. It was not the faith of Peter's mother-in-law that raised her up, but the faith of those who implored Christ to heal her. But once she is healed, she arises like the Prodigal Son later. She serves them. Service for Christ is not a yoke He puts on us. When He relieves us of our natural feverishness, the instant desire of the new man is to stand up and serve Him. Once we know Christ, we cannot confine Him in our own house, so to speak, but the blessing overflows from our house to those outside it. So, though the sun goes down here and the natural man rests, the Lord continues to heal the sick.
The Demons Own Christ According to His Dual Character in Psa. 2
We have already pointed out the amazing knowledge of Scripture possessed by the powers of darkness— how they understood Christ to be "the holy One" of Psa. 89. Here, they confess Him in His dual character given in Psa. 2— the Son of God— but also the rejected One. Jesus rebukes them for this as He had previously rebuked them for testifying to Him as "the holy One.”
It is striking that following this incident the Lord adopts the title "Son of Man" 5:24. This title always assumes His rejection here, but His Lordship over the world to come. It is this Psa. 2 Character of which the demons were perfectly aware, but of which man was willingly ignorant. We find the title "Son of Man" in 5:24, 6:5, 6:22 and 7:34, after which the unseen world once again grudgingly affirms that He is the Son of God 8:28.
It is a shocking commentary on the fall and depravity of man that the powers of darkness would confess who Christ is but man would not. Dread and fear of the greatness of His power and a desire to avoid it characterized their actions. Man has been a beneficiary of that power, but has gradually hated the source of it.
When I was a young man, I received a salutary lesson of man's willfulness against the Son of God come in grace. I was driving my car along the lake-front beside some factories, when I noticed a shabbily-dressed middle-aged woman soliciting a ride from passing cars. Thinking she was probably a poor widow working hard in the nearby factories, I let her in. After a few remarks as to her destination, she said "I'm a businesswoman. Do you know what that means?" I saw at once that I had misjudged her character for the slang expression stood for a wicked woman of the street. I responded instantly, saying, "Certainly I know what that means. It means that if you were to die right now you would go straight to hell." I began to preach the gospel to her, but she interrupted, shouting, "Not the Son of God, but the sun-god." The evil creature worshipped Baal. My father had once preached to a sun worshipper and he had reacted just as this woman did. She demanded to be let out of the car, for she would not listen to anything about the Son of God. I told her I would let her out as soon as it was practical to do so, but if I let her out in that thick traffic and she got killed, I would be responsible for sending her to hell before her time. When we parted, there was no misunderstanding as to where we both stood. "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" 1 Cor. 14:8.
The Call of Peter 5:1-11
The Lord had gone into a desert place and the people sought Him. But He must announce the glad tidings of the kingdom of God to other cities also. And so we find Him preaching anew in the synagogues of Galilee. He visits the houses of men to bless them, but returns to the synagogue to preach. Then the fifth chapter opens with a most blessed statement— "And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed around Him to hear the Word of God, He stood by the lake of Gennesaret." How privileged those people were, not to hear the words of a rabbi like other men, but the words of God Himself. Blessing always flows from listening to and obeying the Word of God— barrenness from despising it. As a young student, I had an ancient history master who despised the Scriptures. In those days it was compulsory to open classes with the reading of the Scriptures; today the reading of secular prose or poetry has replaced this custom. In those days law and order characterized the land; now we have strife, strikes, and riots in the universities. Well, this man always read from Solomon's writings. He prefaced his remarks every morning by saying, "Well, let's see what the old fool has to say today?" and closed them by saying, "Well, that's what the old fool said today." The following summer he was drowned, although a strong swimmer. Not content to lose his own soul, he deluded others into thinking that divine wisdom was folly. Where he now is he will realize that it was he who was the fool.
Well, the Lord, knowing the people's need and longing for the Word of God, preaches from a ready-made pulpit— an empty fishing boat. In the synagogue at Nazareth, He had a full house, but empty hearts; here He has full hearts, but an empty boat to speak from. The Lord fully recognized the Temple first in this gospel, then the synagogue, but neither recognized Him. So, because He is the Son of Man, He reaches out to the people where they are in their daily occupations. A century or more ago, God raised up preachers who followed Christ's example, preaching to coal miners at the pit head as fishers of men. Dr. W. T. P. Wolston was once asked why he preached in public buildings he rented at his own expense, instead of where Christians met. His reply was, "you don't catch fish in a fish shop." Well, Peter was the first fish the Lord caught and He did it in a most unusual way. First of all, let's remember that the Lord really rented Peter's boat. Peter earned his living from catching fish, but hadn't been able to catch any all night. For the use of his boat, the Lord paid Peter a bountiful rent for He will be no man's debtor. Peter demonstrates his faith in Christ by obeying Him against all his instincts as a fisherman. When Peter saw that the catch was so great that the ships began to sink, he fell down at Jesus' knees. Here was the last Adam who had dominion over the fish of the sea— Gen. 1:28— in contrast to Peter, who belonged to the sinful race of the first Adam and could catch nothing. "Depart from me," he cries in his anguish, "for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
But the Scripture says, "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered." Joel 2:32. Well, Peter did that. He really admitted that he was a sinner and deserved only to be banished from God's presence. That is the fate of sinners who are unrepentant. Such must hear the Lord's words— "depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." Matt. 25:41. But the Lord meets Peter's need because he trusted in Him and His word of grace was "fear not." Following this, He gave Peter a call as an evangelist— to catch men from now on, not fish. This story brings to mind the Scripture, "whom He called, them He also justified and whom He justified, them He also glorified." Rom. 8:30. We have seen how the Lord called Peter here, and justified him, too. Later we shall see how He also glorified him. What God did for Peter, He does for us, too, for Peter's God is ours. This is a new feature of the Lord's work, associating sinful men like Peter in His dealings with men.
The Cleansing of the Leper 5:12-15
In the Bible there is much teaching on leprosy, which is regarded as a type of sin. It is a loathsome disease. In Old Testament days, lepers were to stay outside the camp and cry "Unclean, unclean," to warn others away from them. Those who touched a leper were defiled. The reason leprosy is such a distinct figure of sin is that the leper is generally without feeling as to his condition, although the ravages of the disease in his body are apparent to all. So it is with sin. A good story illustrating this concerns the late Sir William Osler, who was an outstanding Canadian physician. An old friend paid a social call on Osler, together with his son. It was the days of the British occupation of India. This man's son had come home on leave from a British regiment stationed in India. The three men chatted for some time and smoked cigarettes. Suddenly Osler turned to his friend's son and exclaimed, "Young man, you have leprosy!" How did he know without an examination? Was it suspicion that he had caught an Eastern disease? No, Osler had observed that the young man had not extinguished his cigarette like the others. Instead, he held it while it burned his flesh and he felt no pain. So it is with sin. The Bible never exaggerates, and its use of leprosy as a type of sin fits the case exactly.
But, unlike other men who were defiled by touching the leper, Christ was undefiled, for He was the sinless Man. The leper knew the power was in Christ. Would He use that power on a poor leper? Many a sinner has asked the same question. "I will, be thou clean" is the ready answer. The Lord still works within the framework of Jewish ordinances though, and commands the leper to conform to them while He, the God who gave them, receives no testimony from the leper. The priest will know that it is God who cleansed him. He withdraws into the wilderness and prays in dependence now as ever on His Father. For forty days He had been in the wilderness, tempted alone by the devil; now, having shown His power over Satan's triumph the sin of man, leprosy He retires for fresh communion with His Father before going on with His work.
The House Where the Palsied Man Is Healed—5:17-26
Now He is to be shown, not only as the God who "forgiveth all thine iniquities" —the leper in the preceding verses— but who also "healeth all thy diseases." Psa. 103:3. Should not all the people then have exclaimed, "bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy Name"? Undoubtedly many did— those for example who pressed upon Him to hear the Word of God by the lake of Gennesaret. But not all. A class of people emerge here who are opposed to Christ— "and it came to pass on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, who were come out of every town of Galilee and Judaea and Jerusalem." The reason we know they were opposed to Christ is that we read "and the power of the Lord was present to heal them." In this quiet remark, Luke unveils their true condition before God— in need of healing— the power of the Lord present for the healing— but no willingness to receive it on their part. So God blesses instead a man who felt his need. A man who is in bed, paralyzed, does not need to be reminded that he can do nothing for himself. Here is an illustration of a sinner and his helplessness. "When we were yet without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly." Rom. 5:6. He is powerless to come to Christ himself. "They sought means to bring him in and to lay him before Him." This is a picture of those who preach the gospel. They know the man's hopeless state and seek to bring him to Christ, who alone can help him. But they are unable to bring him to Christ. Why? Because there are too many people barring the way. This is the external barrier to the salvation of a sinner— the crowd (the world) which keeps us from Christ. But even if this were not so, there is an internal difficulty: pride. Our lofty thoughts of self are offensive to God. Those who would help a sinner must do what these men did— they lowered the paralytic through the roof to where Jesus was. Only if we are humbled and become like little children, can we be saved. Note, too, the faith of these men. Their boldness reminds us of the Lord's own words— "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force." Matt. 11:12. It is not when the Lord sees the man's faith, but "their faith" that He says, "man, thy sins are forgiven thee." What an encouragement this is to the preacher of the gospel.
But you say that wasn't the man's immediate need. He still remained paralyzed. For the moment, yes. God is a God of patience and expects us to be patient, too. The lesson the Lord was teaching was that the root of all disease is sin. Men go to surface manifestations— God to the root. Immediately He does that, reason takes over— always the enemy of faith, for the two principles are opposite ones in the spiritual realm. Who is this that speaketh blasphemies?" the Scribes and Pharisees say— "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Thus, they failed to recognize God manifest in the flesh, and the power of the Lord which was present to heal them must be used on another. Reading their thoughts and the reasoning of their hearts, He says, "Whether is easier to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee, or to say Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power upon earth to forgive sins [He said to the paralyzed man] I say unto thee arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house." Immediately the man arose, took up his couch, and went home glorifying God.
Note the contrast between what took place in Simon Peter's house and this house. Peter's mother-in-law and this man were both confined to bed. The Lord entered Peter's house; the paralyzed man was brought to this house. The fever in Peter's house speaks of the activity of the flesh in sin— man's feverish nature; the paralysis of the man here, his powerless state Godward, because of pride which the gospel preacher brings to the Lord's attention for salvation. Blessing followed both miracles.
The House of Levi (Matthew), the Publican—5:27-35
The Lord called Peter away from his fishing, Levi (Matthew) from collecting taxes. He simply said, "follow Me." Levi abandoned a lucrative occupation to do this— "he left all." Should he then be mournful at the loss of his once great income? If he was, he behaved strangely, for he made a great feast for Christ in his own house. This incident ties together the three houses we have been considering. In the first two, the Lord healed and blessed. In this house, there is rejoicing because the bridegroom of Israel has come and all who acknowledge Him should feast because He is present. To fast would be to deny His presence among His people.
Now Levi wasn't content to have the Lord alone with him at the great feast he spread in his house. He invited all his former friends, wicked as they were. In some way it would appear that he invited the scribes and Pharisees too— that they were part of the "others that sat down with them." No doubt they enjoyed Levi's hospitality too, but they resented Christ. Not directly, of course, but by implication— "Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?" The Lord makes it clear that the publicans and sinners need Him— He came to call them. Rebuffed, they attack from another angle, reproaching the Lord for not disciplining His disciples like those of John and the Pharisees. The Lord makes it clear that this is a joyous time in Israel for God has visited His people. This being so, it is a time to eat and drink— that is, to rejoice openly at God's grace. To fast and mourn when God has come to them would be to deny the joy that was to characterize this moment more than any other time. Levi was right in making a great feast in his house.
The Parable of the Old and New Wine—5:36-39
In the old days wine was stored in "bottles" made from the skins of animals. This is only mentioned so the Lord's parable can be readily understood at the present time. Nobody would sew a piece of new cloth onto old cloth, He said, or put new wine into old bottles. The first would tear, the second would spill the wine. What is the force of these illustrations? What are we to learn from them?
In Chapter 5, we have the new wine the divine power of God operating in man. Previous to Christ's coming, old bottles contained the wine— that is, God's ways with man were confined in Judaism. But those bottles had grown old and brittle. God was about to discard this system. He had new wine ready. This new wine was seen in Simon Peter's house, in the house where the paralyzed man was healed, in the joy over God's ways with sinners in Levi's house. But the largeness of these new ways could not be confined in the old bottles of Judaism. New bottles were needed now, for God intended to bless the Gentiles. Alas, "no man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new, for he saith the old is better." That was how the scribes and Pharisees reacted to the new wine Christ brought— "the old is better." They preferred the old wine of Judaism with its dead ceremonies, even if under it a woman's fever remained, a leper's leprosy, a paralyzed man's paralysis. Such is man. Only grace has enabled the believer to drink new wine from new bottles. The unfolding of delivering grace to this world in the Son of Man cannot be confined to the narrow system of Judaism.
In spite of man's natural preference for anything and everything but Christ, God has seen to it that His Son is honored in this world. We are told that 60,000 books were written on the life of Jesus in the last century alone. (2) How true are the words on which John closes his gospel— "and there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that not even the world itself would contain the books written." John 21:25

Luke 6

Chapter 5 ended with the Lord's observation that men preferred old wine— in old bottles. They said the old is better." Now the Sabbath was the real "old bottle" of the Jewish system. It was the old wine as well. For it celebrated the rest of God in creation as given to us in Gen. 1. This was Israel's great link with God. So the sixth chapter opens with an incident on a Sabbath day.
Christ As the Lord of the Sabbath—6:1-12
On the Sabbath day the Lord's disciples are hungry. Going through the cornfields, they pluck the ears and eat them. This brings upon them the wrath of some— not all— of the Pharisees who ask them for an explanation of their unlawful action. The Lord, who is not recorded as eating the ears of corn, defends His disciples who did. He reminds them how David ate the show-bread which the law only permitted the priests to eat. Why did David do it? Because he was God's anointed and his rights were not recognized in Israel. So he fed his followers with the show-bread since the nation would not feed them. Here was David's son— yes— and David's Lord too. So "the Son of Man"— the rejected Man— is "Lord of the Sabbath also." God gave the Sabbath to Israel. They were to be refreshed by it as sharing God's rest in creation. If some in Israel subverted its use to put man into bondage, the One who gave it and was present as Son of Man would assert His lordship of the Sabbath to bring it back to its original purpose. All the Lord's miracles on Sabbath days have this underlying principle behind them— that Christ as Lord of the Sabbath would work the works of God to bless man on the Sabbath day.
Having established the principle, the Lord now carries it out. On another Sabbath day He heals a man in the synagogue whose right hand was withered— a figure of Israel, incapable of working for God apart from Christ. The scribes and Pharisees respond with evil intent for "they were filled with madness, and they spoke together among themselves what they should do to Jesus." The Lord retires into a mountain to pray. His response to man's evil is good. He is about to choose the twelve apostles, but would first be in communion with God about it. The latter part of verse 12 is easy to read but impossible to fathom— "and He spent the night in prayer to God.”
The Sermon on the Mount—6:20-38
Before preaching the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord chose His twelve apostles. The Lord had preached in the synagogue, the fishing boat, and now the mountain. He had shown the power of goodness in undoing Satan's work on man. But He would do more. The mountain speaks of what is exalted. We find the Lord so preaching as to draw the heart to God. In Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount is presented to unfold the principles of Christ's coming earthly kingdom. Not so here where the teaching is moral, the heart is to be reached so that both good and evil considerations are brought before us.
The Lord lifted up His eyes and said to His disciples, "blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." He did not bless the poor generally in this statement. Rather He said, "blessed are ye poor." They were blessed in a way not true of the other poor, because they had left everything to follow Christ and seek the kingdom of God. This was what made them poor. Peter had left his fishing, Levi his tax-gathering. The loss of income from their secular occupations left them poor. No matter, when the kingdom of God shall be manifested in the coming day, they shall be rich. But, for the present, like David's followers who ate the show-bread, they are identified with a rejected King so that the Kingdom of God becomes moral in character rather than visible. This being the case, those who would bow to the authority of Christ, the rejected King, must acknowledge the sway of His divine principles in their lives while He is presently rejected. What are these principles then?
The great sweeping principle is first of all that men must make a choice— for or against Christ. If you hunger or weep now, it is because you have chosen to obey a rejected Christ. The time will come to be filled or to laugh. Hunger is the need of the body, weeping or laughter the emotions. But it does not stop there. Persecution follows— v. 22— and, has this not been the story of the faithful from the beginning? A reward is promised for such in heaven. This was contrary to Jewish thought, which only looked for earthly blessing. In Luke, the blessings are followed by woes, commencing with the rich. The first woe is on those who have become rich by seeking this world and what it offers, and rejecting Christ. It is deliberate choice, the world being preferred to Christ. (Christ made a choice— He spurned the world in the temptation and did His Father's will instead.) The world has rewarded such. They are full now— with earthly riches. Their barns burst with plenty. They laugh and dance and demand the head of John the Baptist. The time is coming when the roles of the world and God's people will be reversed and the world shall hunger, mourn and weep. A general principle is added that approval of the masses all men speaking well of you— is an indication that a message is not of God. The present writer well remembers the late H. E. Hayhoe preaching and saying, "any sermon which gives any comfort at all to an unsaved man, is not of God.”
Following the blessings and woes, the Lord unfolds the great guiding principle of Christian conduct today— loving our enemies. This is in direct conflict with the great guiding principle of Judaism— to destroy our enemies— "let God arise, let His enemies be scattered." When Christians failed to grasp this distinction in the great religious wars between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism„ they had to learn another lesson: "for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." Matt. 26:52. In Christianity, we are to love our enemies, bless those who curse us and pray for those who treat us shamefully. One might remark that if we fail to do so, God inflicts a present punishment on our natural bodies. Stored-up hatred leads to the disease of the body, as a physician will testify. The Lord gives many illustrations of this beauteous teaching, culminating in what men have often termed, "the golden rule"— "and as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." This is not simply beautiful moral teaching to be admired, but principles which are to be worked out practically in Christian life. The angel said that Christ was to be great and the Son of the Highest. If we follow His teaching in our lives, we shall not be great— for He alone is— but our reward shall be great. We shall be the children of the Highest. Such are to show mercy. Mercy is always extended to individuals. Our Father is merciful. We, too, are to be merciful to those who need mercy. In this way we will be shown to be children of the Highest. The ground of the Lord's discourse has shifted here from the general to the particular. So we are not to judge. Again this is expressing judgment on an individual, for the Church is given authority to judge 1 Cor. 5:12. Instead we are to forgive. More than that— for forgiveness is negative we are to give, and freely too— "for with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
Parabolic and Figurative Teaching—6:39-49
The Lord now moves away from direct teaching to teaching in the form of a parable. The Lord once said to His disciples— "it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven but to them it is not given." Matt. 13:11. A parable requires someone to explain it. Many of the Lord's parables were not understood even by His own until after His ascension, when the Holy Spirit was sent down as the Great Teacher. Why did the Lord use such indirect teaching? It was because the people had rejected Him in their hearts and so were not capable of absorbing moral instruction. In our chapter such teaching as could be grasped had already been given. From here on the Lord resorts to parabolic teaching.
Can the blind lead the blind? He asks. Won't they both fall into the ditch? After twenty centuries, we see how imperishable the words of Christ are. Have not the liberal clergy who deny the inspiration of the Scriptures, been the blind leaders, and the masses the blind led? And have they not both fallen into the ditch— away from the straight road that leads to everlasting life? They moralize, write books on the secularization of Christianity, advocate the Church assuming a role in the world, etc. There is no personal reality to such a course. All is rank disobedience. The Church is being called out of the world to heaven, and the world is about to be dealt with by God and purified by judgment. Alas for those such as a late bishop who lost faith in everything at the end and tried to contact his dead son through mediums! Alas for the man who writes or preaches denials of the truth, so imparting his own unbelief to others. "Woe unto them," says Scripture, "for they have gone in the way of Cain." Jude 1:11. The believer notes their words and actions and leaves them to God, who judges righteously.
Following this, the Lord enunciates a principle that could easily be overlooked— that is as to the depth of its meaning— "the disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone that is perfected shall be as his teacher." This can only be understood in its context. The Lord has chosen His twelve Apostles. They are to be sent forth into the world to represent Him. This cannot be done without instruction, which He is giving them here. He is not talking about salvation, but teaching them the principles of being disciples —students. "Every one that is perfected [not all Christians] shall be as his teacher." It is a question of moral likeness to Christ, in a very real way, in a world where we can expect nothing but opposition to Him and His principles. Indeed, it is for that very reason that Christ here chose the twelve. The great desire of Jehovah was always to gather Israel. The Lord longed to gather Jerusalem as a hen her chickens under her wings, but their will opposed it.
So, in this chapter, the Lord establishes something new. He will gather disciples and Apostles around Himself, instruct them and send them out. The new gathering system would ultimately end in the Church— Matt. 18:20— although there is no suggestion of the Church here. What the chapter does give us is the preparation for transition from Israel gathered by Jehovah of old to the Church to be gathered to Christ Himself.
The disciple who follows the Lord will not go about finding fault with others when there is a more grievous fault with him. Why hasn't he perceived the major obstruction to the light in his own eye? Only when he has done that can he truly say "brother" and help him with the minor obstruction in his eye. It needs a clear seeing eye to do that, with no major obstruction in it. Trees are known by the fruit they produce. The heart is in question and the fruit of the heart comes out of the lips. Still there will be those who claim to be disciples and who cry "Lord, Lord." But, because they do not the things the Lord has just been talking about, their fruit is thorns and brambles, not figs and grapes. The concluding proof of this is what a man seeks in life and what he demonstrates by his life— not mere words of empty profession. The true disciple has to build in this life and in this world, just like the false professed disciple, for we cannot live in a vacuum— we must do something with life. The true disciple digs, goes deep until he strikes rock. Now he has a secure foundation— Christ Himself— for "who is a rock save our God?" 2 Sam. 22:32. In digging, he rejects the ground on which the professed disciple of Christ built his house. The true disciple threw away with his spade all that was superficial, resting only on Christ. Thus, his house stood the test, while the other man's fell. It is the culmination of the Lord's teaching that God is looking for reality— not merely hearing Christ's words, but doing them. The cost is rejection by men, but "your reward is great" (verse 23); living according to divine principles "your reward shall be great." Otherwise, a man's house will fall and its ruin will be great.

Luke 7 -8

As already mentioned, the gospel of Luke opens with the comforting thought that God "hath visited and redeemed His people" 1:68. If He had visited us without redeeming us, the whole Adam race would have been doomed like the firstborn in Egypt when God visited that land Ex. 12. But God came in grace as "the dayspring from on high" 1:78. So, in this chapter, the people take up the cry of Zacharias the priest at the beginning of the gospel, that God hath visited His people.
If God visited your country, would you receive Him? Well, God has visited this world and men don't dispute the fact, yet they don't know Him. The late J. R. Gill, a preacher who was a comedian in his youth, once told me about an experience of his which illustrates the ignorance of modern man as to God and divine things. It was shortly after the Korean war, and Gill was waiting his turn to get his hair cut at the barbers. An American soldier was in the barber's chair and was talking freely about how he stopped huge waves of enemy soldiers with his machine gun. "Holy God, they never stopped coming," he would say repeatedly. When he stepped down from the chair, Mr. Gill spoke to him.
“My friend," he said, "I see you and I have a lot in common.”
“What do you mean?" the soldier asked gruffly, "I've never seen you before.”
“Well," Mr. Gill replied, "as you were talking to the barber, you would punctuate your stories by saying 'Holy God' this, or 'Holy God' that, quite a number of times. Since I believe that God is holy, too, we have that much in common.”
The soldier nodded.
“Then," Mr. Gill continued, "from what I overheard of your war stories, I think you will agree that you are not holy. Is that right?”
“Yes," the soldier agreed, "that's true.”
“Then," Mr. Gill went on, "we have that much in common, too, for I'm not holy either. The Bible says, 'There is no difference... all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.'" Rom. 3:22, 23.
He continued, "We both agree that God is holy and that we are not. Now I want to ask you a question. How can we who are not holy stand before God who is holy?”
“To tell you the truth, sir," the soldier replied, "I don't know.”
Well, it is blessed to know God, unlike the soldier to whom God was unknown. And this chapter opens with a soldier who did know God and loved Him.
The House of the Roman Centurion—7:1-10
Here is a soldier whose batman was about to die. In spite of his military position, the work of God in his soul is evident in his love of a subordinate. He has heard of Jesus and recognizes Him to be as superior to him as he was to his batman. Jesus too has power, as he has, but power of a different character. The two powers, as it were, are in contrast here as they are later to be at the end— the power of Caesar and of a greater King than Caesar, though humbled now. The centurion sends the elders of the Jews to ask Jesus to come and heal his batman. When Jesus comes, he sends his friends, saying, "Lord, do not trouble Thyself for I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof." At the end we find that the elders reject Jesus even as He prophesied 9:22 and send for Roman soldiers to put Him to death 20:1, 22:52, 66 and Pilate and Herod "became friends with one another the same day." 23:12.
Well, the centurion here has a good report from the elders of the Jews. They tell Jesus "he is worthy to whom Thou shouldest grant this, for he loves our nation, and himself has built a synagogue for us." So Jesus goes with them, on their witness. But this affects the centurion's heart. He contradicts the testimony of the elders, not as to his love of the nation or his gift to them, but as to his state before God. He begins by saying, "Lord"— always a good start— "I am not worthy" just as Peter before this had admitted his sinful state. But the Lord would neither depart from Peter nor refuse the request of this Gentile soldier. Note his integrity. He is a Gentile. Recognizing this, he makes his request from God on the ground, not of law, but pure grace and mercy. But he channels his request through the Jews, thus admitting their preferred relationship to God. Jesus heals the centurion's batman without even visiting his house. The centurion's house was blessed because of his faith. Here, as in 5:20, it is not the faith of the person who is healed, but the faith of those who desired healing for others and went to Jesus for it. The Lord remarks that "not even in Israel have I found so great faith.”
The Widow of Nain—7:12-17
During the Second World War, I attended a messing meeting on one of the largest heavy bomber bases in England. The presiding officer was agitated. "Where is Sergeant Daoust?" he barked. "I understand he complained about a shortage of beer mugs in the sergeants' mess, but that he systematically smashed the handles on them with his thumb to prove his strength." There was no answer. Uneasily the officer went on to other subjects, sensing something was wrong from the silence. Nobody could answer his question "Where is Sergeant Daoust?" for Daoust had forgotten to turn his oxygen on at altitude and returned to base a dead man. "Man dieth and wasteth away, yea man giveth up the spirit, and where is he?" Job 14:10. The question of when death actually occurs in man has never been unanimously agreed on by the medical profession. Only the Bible has the answer: "the body without the spirit is dead" James 2:26. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, tells us how God passed judgment on man's body because of his sin. Then that same book closes with the solemn statement of the disposal of Joseph's remains— one of the best of men— "and he was put in a coffin in Egypt." In the story of the widow of Nain we have a dead man in a coffin meeting the One who passed the original sentence on him. But what an encounter!
Could there possibly be a greater contrast between the centurion, a man of military prowess at the peak of his strength, and the poor desolate widow of Nain? Yes, there could. It is found in the two processions, one headed by Christ, the giver of life, and the other by the coffin in which lay the body of the widow's son.
The Lord is touched with compassion for the widow and says to her "weep not." She had much to weep about before Jesus came. With her husband gone and now her only son, life was now cheerless to her. She was cast upon the God of whom it is written, "a father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in His holy habitation" Psa. 68:5.
Jesus touched the coffin and the pallbearers stopped. The Lord is the only One who can arrest death. No one else can even touch it. When He touches the leper 5:13 He is not defiled as other men would be. Now He touches a coffin. He is about to show a power that transcends both leprosy and death. At His command, the dead man sits up and begins to speak. He returns him to his mother. The people admit that God has visited them, but see nothing in Jesus but a great prophet.
The Child of Wisdom in the House of Simon the Pharisee—7:36-50
We pass by the story of John the Baptist here, which speaks for itself. Here is another great contrast the contrast between John the Baptist and Simon the Pharisee, into whose house the Lord entered. John had said that he was unworthy to untie Christ's shoelaces John 1:27; Simon would not even give Him water for His feet. Well, "those who honor Me I will honor and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed" 1 Sam. 2:30. So the Lord pronounced John the greatest prophet among those born of women 7:28 but Simon is only pointed out as "one of the Pharisees" 7:36 until the Lord speaks to him about his sins. The great lesson here is that Israel has rejected both John the Baptist and Christ. This opens the way for "wisdom's child"— one who sees everything in Christ where the supposedly wise and prudent see nothing. She is only a poor woman, known everywhere as a sinner, but she seeks Christ out. In the next chapter, others like her flock around Christ and He becomes their center— replacing the Temple to them. The woman here cannot be identified. It is not her name— which was well known in the city— which is the prominent moral feature here— but Christ's Name— for He saved her.
This woman in the city, who was a sinner, knew that Jesus was dining in Simon's house. How pleasurable a meal can be if the atmosphere is right. For Christians "atmosphere" means something much different from what the man of the world seeks when he dines out— attractive interior decor, an outside view to charm the eye, music, food and wine, dancing and entertainment. At the table of the Christian man, God is first honored by thanking Him for the food, so that at the outset He is given the first place. The food and drink at Simon's house may have been the best in the land, but it is not even mentioned. He was discourteous to Christ in denying Him the social amenities of the day, suited to a hot and dusty climate. God saw that the bodily needs of His beloved Son were attended to, as before He had looked after His hunger following the temptation. So the woman brings in an alabaster jar of myrrh, which must have cost her a great deal— much more than the fare of Simon's table. Fear of her sins is such that she dare not look Christ in the eye, but stands at His feet, behind Him, weeping. Her tears are so copious that they wash Christ's feet. Then, although the text does not say so, she must have stooped, for next she wipes His feet with the hairs of her head. This is the low place suited to the sinner. When that is finished, we are ready for the final step— to anoint His blessed feet with what we have stored up at cost to ourselves— the contents of the alabaster jar of myrrh. This is the fullest expression of the heart touched by the grace of Christ. She was not bold. Like Esther, she approached the King, hoping that the golden scepter would be extended to her. She took a step at a time— each step hesitatingly waiting to see if Christ would permit her to do what she did.
The proud Pharisee would not insult Christ publicly. But the Lord read his unspoken thoughts— as He does ours, too. "This [person] if He were a prophet would have known who and what the woman is, for she is a sinner." But Christ already knew that and, we may be assured, in greater detail than Simon. When He raised the widow of Nain's son, the people had proclaimed Him a prophet. Here Simon implies even this could not be. His thought is answered. Christ gives life to one who, though still alive, is dead in trespasses and sins. But first Simon's case must be taken up. He propounds to him the story of the two debtors— one (the woman) who owed 500 denarii, the other (Simon, unknown to himself) who owed 50. Since they had nothing to pay, Christ, the rich creditor, forgave them both their debts. Which of the two loved the creditor the more? When Simon answered correctly, the Lord pointed out to him his scandalous conduct in contrast to the woman's. Then He says to the woman, "your sins are forgiven." This causes those at the table to murmur "who is this who forgives also sins?" Possibly Simon was one of those who murmured then, but at a later date, took his place at Jesus' feet, asking forgiveness for what he owed and could not repay. For the creditor forgave them both. I expect to meet Simon in heaven and, together with "the woman," hear from the lips of both of them the story of redeeming grace. "Thy faith hath saved thee," He says to the woman, "go in peace." We have seen incidents of those who were blessed because of the faith of others— now it is the individual's own faith.
Some time ago, the writer read an article in one of the leading Christian periodicals. This raised the question: What about the other lepers who were never able to get near Christ, the other women in the city who were also sinners and could not get into Simon's house, etc.? First of all, the critic vastly underrated the scope of the blessing that flowed to man in an unrestricted torrent while Christ was here. No one ever came to Jesus and was sent empty away. The heart must long for Jesus or there can be no blessing. But what of today? Has the lesson no teaching for us now? Indeed it has. Christians must not be like Simon the Pharisee but must meet the needs of all men, however far they may be away from God. We must show love and compassion, not loathing and horror when we meet the sinners of the world. Otherwise, our testimony is all hypocrisy for, except for the grace of God, we would be the same as them. I remember how the Lord drove this lesson home to me one day when I sat down on a stool at a lunch counter and discovered the man next to me was drunk decided not to leave, but be quiet. However, I noticed that he was trying to light a cigarette and, because of his shaking hand, was burning himself at each unsuccessful attempt. I steadied his hand out of compassion and helped him light his cigarette. He turned to me, feeling that he had a friend, and the following conversation took place: “You look like an educated man to me. Did you study psychology?"... continuing without a reply, "I talk too much, but I know this city.”
“Do you know Yonge Street?" (the street on which the restaurant was situated.)
“Then you would know the Yonge Street Mission. Why don't you go in there and hear the gospel preached?”
“As the wind bloweth whither it listeth!”
Astounded at this unexpected reply, I finished the quotation to gain time, not sure what he was driving at. Then I said, "You need the new birth.”
His reply was, "Do you believe in predestination?”
“I believe what the Bible teaches," I replied, "Whosoever will may come.”
To my further astonishment, he said, "He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy.”
“Your trouble is you don't want to come.”
“Paul came, didn't he, on the road to Damascus?”
The last thing the poor man said was "You remind me of..." but the restaurant owner came by and told him to finish his coffee and get out. So the man was left with God, as many another before him. "Whosoever will, let him drink of the water of life freely.”
And now we come to the eighth chapter, which gives us a glimpse of the Lord's life in the activity of grace "And it came to pass that He went through [the country] city by city, and village by village, preaching and announcing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God." Because Christ had been rejected as King, the kingdom of God was a moral thing now and always will be until Christ is publicly recognized as King. Therefore, the Lord preached the moral principles governing those in His kingdom. This is not to be confused with the Church which, at that time, did not even exist. The kingdom of God is the moral sway of Christ's principles in the lives of those who profess to be subject to Him.
We find this beautifully illustrated in the verses which follow, where we are afforded a picture of those who traveled about with Christ in His earthly ministry. First the twelve. "Have not I chosen you twelve and one of you is a devil?" John 6:70. Judas was an extreme case, but illustrates the heart of the One who makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust Matt. 5:45. Peter was not a doctor of theology like Paul. A humble fisherman was chosen so that man might not glory in the presence of His Maker. No doubt, when Paul was made an Apostle later on, Peter could not boast that learning was of little worth, for he writes of the letters of "our beloved brother Paul" "in which are some things hard to be understood" 2 Peter 3:15. Levi was an income tax collector. Like Peter, he left a good living behind to serve Christ.
The Women of Galilee—8:2-3
Certain women followed the Lord. They form the second class of those gathered around Him. Unlike the first class— the Apostles who were officially appointed to office— these women are attracted to Christ solely through devotedness of heart and trust in His love. The wretched and the weak drew near Christ for He had healed them of wicked spirits and infirmities. Now man is a servant, although he denies this truth and fancies himself independent. But he is a servant and must serve either God or the devil. These women had found the devil a hard master— Christ, a blessed One. "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me," He said, "for I am meek and lowly in heart." Matt. 11:29. God honored the faith of these women by mentioning their names in His imperishable Word. Mary, who was called Magdalene, Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, are singled out among "many others." Luke says they "ministered to Him of their substance." This suggests that they were probably rich. These faithful women are found continuing in good works at the very end of our gospel, where they prepare spices to bury the Lord's body, not knowing He has risen from the dead. God is completely sovereign. He may tell one man to go and sell all that he has to give to the poor. Another may use his riches for the Lord's work, as these women did. The woman who brought the alabaster jar of myrrh to Simon's house, illustrates the class. She may not have been wealthy, but she used her money for Christ. Doubtless she formed part of the "many others" in the eighth chapter. One servant may be called to lay down his life for the Lord's sake (Acts 12:2) another be spared to live a normal life (Acts 21:8). The servant is not to chafe at the rule of his Master, even though he may not understand it.
The Parable of the Sower and Other Teaching—8:4-18
Here we are given a glimpse of Christ's gracious service to man as the Sower a service no longer confined to Israel. The parable in its detail has to do with the results of Christ's sowing the Word of God. That was what He was sowing in verse 1 as He preached the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God. The emphasis at the beginning is on the graciousness of the Lord— a service to all men in grace that they might be blessed in receiving the good seed which He cast.
Because Christ comes as the Sower, Israel— the old vineyard— is abandoned as poor ground for God. A sower is one who starts a new work on virgin soil. Christ well knew that many casts of the seed would yield little or no lasting fruit for God. Still some would, and so He sowed. The parable is to 'reach our hearts so we receive not the grace of God in vain. Our hearts are like the fields in which the sower— sowed waste and empty.
The Lord gives us an insight into the result of sowing the good seed of the Word of God, which applies now as well as then. First, there was the seed which fell by the wayside. It was trampled underfoot and the birds of the heaven— Satan's power, for he is the prince of the power of the air Eph. 2:2 devour it. The devil can and will remove the good seed of the Word of God from man's heart where, unlike Christ's, it does not find its natural resting place. The next class is comprised of those who receive the Word— broken down into three ways in which they receive it. Here it is not the devil's work, but ours. We cannot blame him for our lack of fruit, only ourselves. The first class consists of those who receive the Word with joy. What is wrong with that? you say. Why, everything! There is no real joy when a person is deeply converted, but great repentance about sins and crying to God concerning them. Joy comes later when forgiveness is realized. If repentance is lacking, there is no root, for the seed cannot sink deep roots on rock. When a time of trial comes, such fall away. The next class consists of those surrounded by thorns— the figure of the curse on the ground for man's sin Gen. 3:18. These do not bear ripe fruit, although they make a start. They are choked by "cares and riches and pleasure of life"— the thorns. There is all the difference in the world between being diligent in business and letting it become an object of care. We are to run our business, not let it run us. Riches can choke the Word in our lives if we have them and fail to use them for the Lord. Natural pleasures are part of normal Christian life, but they must not be allowed to choke the Word. "Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" 2 Tim. 3:4 characterizes the last days. It is blessed to be a lover of God "who in an honest and good heart having heard the Word keep it.”
Now those who fell among thorns, heard the Word, too, but went away, unlike those who kept it. Unless we let the Word of God become the directing agent in our lives, the knowledge of its teachings will not keep us. Instead, we will simply wander into the world and become more responsible for our misconduct, because we heard the Word but did not let it rule our hearts. Isn't it lovely to "bring forth fruit with patience?" Fruit is the end process of the tree, vine, etc. It can't be rushed and only matures when its season has come. It is the great thing the Sower had in mind when He began to sow. Fruit is for God. To summarize, we are given a picture of what opposes man's blessing— the world, the flesh, and the devil. The devil snatches away the seed, the flesh opposes deep repentance, the world— depicted in the thorns —chokes progress in divine things.
Well, we must not allow opposition to dim our lamps— that is, be afraid to confess Christ or put our lamp under a couch— that is, become lazy and lack the spiritual energy to preach the gospel. Our light is to be set on a lampstand, so those who enter in may see the light. The light shines as the Christian life is to shine. Light makes no noise, just like fruit bearing. We are to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." 1 Peter 3:15.
How so if men don't see Christ in our lives? "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness?" Matt. 6:23. Then there is the exhortation as to hearing. Israel did not hear Christ. Those who did, had Him, and more of Christ should be given them. Those who had not Christ, should lose Him, even though they seemed to have Him present in their land. Though the people only dimly heard the Lord's teachings, they still recognized them as wonderful words of life, and crowded 'round Him. His mother and His brethren wanted to see Him, but couldn't reach Him. Nature must "stand without." Christ, of course, recognized the legitimate claims of nature. At the cross, for example, He provided for Mary in spite of His great sufferings. But the principle here is that "my brethren are those who hear the Word of God and do." This ties in with the teaching of the last class in the parable of the sower, the lampstand, and those who had taken heed how they heard.
Going Over to the Other Side—8:22-25
Very well, but what is the next step in the spiritual life of those who hear? Ah! It is deep trial and testing. Not any more bearing fruit for God or shedding light to man, but sustaining trial, suffering or sorrow in this life, with no apparent help from Christ. Faith is the leading principle of the Christian's life. He is not only justified by faith, but he lives by it, guided by an unseen Lord. Of this, Peter writes, "Whom having not seen ye love, in whom though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." 1 Peter 1:8. So it is in the boat. The storm arises, "and they were filled [with water] and were in danger." "Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Lord?" Psa. 44:23 is the thought of their hearts. But Christ is in the boat. Can it sink with Him in it? They wake Him up, crying, "Master, Master, we perish." The Lord shows that the Son of Man has power over all things by rebuking the wind and the raging of the water and then questions their faith. Fear and astonishment grip them at this manifestation of divine power. They were afraid when He didn't help them and afraid when He did. Lacking faith, they were astonished not only at His power but that He had used it to succor those in need. This is a lesson we all must learn, not merely by reading it in the Scriptures, but by experiencing it. As a young man, I once found myself, so to speak, in a boat filling with water, only to find that the Lord was in it, so I was safe. And the Lord rebuked my lack of faith in a most astonishing way. I was a passenger in a car being driven by my employer— a Godless man who cursed and swore continually. His lifestyle bothered me, because we often traveled together. I couldn't find another job. The radio was on and dance music was coming through. At this very moment, a thought of distrust flashed across my mind. "The Lord must know how precarious my position is. And I get no deliverance. Why doesn't God take care of me?" Just as I thought this, the driver of the car turned the radio to another station and an evangelical singer sang a line of a hymn. That was too much for him and he quickly dialed another station. But that brief interval was all that was necessary. The Lord gave the unknown singer just enough time to answer my distrustful thought. As I was thinking, "Why doesn't God take care of me?" she sang out, "God will take care of you" from the well-known hymn. Then she was gone. Truly God is like His Word— "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" Heb. 4:12.
Now let us pause and get our bearings, so to speak. What we have been considering up to this point is the Lord's ministry in Galilee— a ministry of grace to the Gentiles, for His own people— Israel— had rejected Him. To the godly, then, He replaced the Temple as the gathering center. Indeed, He was the Temple John 2:19-21. This blessed ministry had been prophesied by Isaiah— "The land of Zabulon and the land of Nepthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people which sat in darkness saw great light and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up" Matt. 4:15,16. But this ministry is drawing to a close and, indeed, ends in 9:50. Before it ends, Christ is on the Mount of Transfiguration. There He receives the Father's expression of delight at the close of His ministry, as He had at the beginning 3:22. At the beginning, the Holy Spirit had alighted on Him "in bodily shape like a dove." Here, at the end, the Holy Spirit, as the Author of the Scriptures, brings together in Luke's gospel certain scenes at the close which summarize that ministry and afford us a picture of His coming glory and the blessing to man which flowed from His life and work.
The Gadarenes— Christ Enters and Leaves the World in Figure— 8:26-40
Just as the Jordan was the beginning of Christ's ministry, so the Mount of Transfiguration was its end. We speak morally, of course, since historically it continued to the cross. The Jordan Valley was a low depressed place— the Mount of Transfiguration a lofty one. This gives us the range of Christ's ministry— humbling Himself at the Jordan, being exalted and glorified by God on the Mount of Transfiguration. If we look carefully, we will find the whole Trinity involved in both places; both at the Jordan and the Mount of Transfiguration God the Father expressed His delight in His Son. At the Jordan, the Holy Spirit alighted on Him in bodily form, like a dove— the well-known symbol of peace. Then, in the incidents we are about to consider, just before the Mount of Transfiguration, we are given a glimpse of Christ in dove-like character— the Man of peace as He passed through this world and will yet come to it— with blessing to the two great divisions of the human race— Jew and Gentile.
The story starts with the Lord's mother and His brethren, suggestive of His early life. Then, in verse 22, we find Him with disciples and He says to them, "Let us go over unto the other side of the lake." This is suggestive of the Lord's ministry— He launches out to reach and bless man. Satan opposes His voyage and those with Him, as pictured in the fierce storm. But Christ shows beyond all question that He is God's Son, commanding nature at His will. They arrive at the country of the Gadarenes (this word means "reward at the end"). The people of this country are kept busy looking after swine to make money. This is God's estimate of the world's busy commerce, no matter what man may think. Then we are given a picture of man himself in the midst of this environment in the demoniac. Unlike Christ, who was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, this man was driven by the demon into the desert. He was kept bound with chains and in fetters, and he broke the bonds. He did not live in a house, but in the tombs. So man has to chain himself for his own protection. Why do we have laws and police forces, auditors, jails, armies? Why are houses locked? Why do banks guard their money underground in strong vaults? All because man knows he must chain himself for his own protection. Every great city is literally a city of the dead. It is ringed with the cemeteries in which are buried those who once lived, as those still alive prepare to join them. Yes, man is not only chained, but lives in the tombs. Jesus then enters this world. He does not ask the demoniac if he wants relief. Jesus commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man. Here we see Jesus as the One who relieves man of the effects of Satan's power the One who delivered us, who, through fear of death, were all our lifetime subject to bondage— see Heb. 2:15. Liberty allows the believer to sit at Jesus' feet. This is the place of instruction, as Mary of Bethany knew. The former demoniac is clothed and in his right mind, for "God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" 2 Tim. 1:7. And he now dwells in a house and not in the tombs, for Christ— not the world has— attracted Him.
But the world does not want Christ, even though He change the lives of those who once troubled it. If you do not believe this, you will have to prove it in your own life. The servant is not above his master. The world deliberately crucified the One whom they knew had healed their diseases, driven out their demons, and raised their dead. "Away with this Man," they cried (and away with you, too, if you follow Christ). So "they besought Him to depart from them." This is the principle— in practice it was carried out at the cross. So "He returned back again." This gives us the story of the Lord's visit to this world— "I came forth from the Father and am come into the world. Again I leave the world and go to the Father." The man who is relieved of Satan's power, cannot follow Jesus "to the other side" yet. Instead, he is left behind to witness for Him in the world, as we are.
In the two stories which follow, the Holy Spirit gives us pictures of the One on whom He rested in the form of a dove. This is not a general picture, like the Gadarenes, of His entering and leaving the world, but specific pictures of blessing to Jew and Gentile. The Gentile obtained this blessing first; the Jew will secure it in the future when Christ comes to visit His ancient people once more.
The Gentiles Are Blessed on the Principle of Faith—8:43-48
We now have Jesus in figure ascended to His Father—v. 40 and people gladly receiving Him. The gospel goes forth and, because God is faithful, the blessing starts with Israel. We find this in the Book of Acts. The Church began with Jews on the Day of Pentecost. But gradually the Jews resisted the gospel. Jairus' daughter here is a figure of the Jewish people. She was about twelve years old and lying dying, having rejected Christ. Christ is on His way to raise them up, but His mission is interrupted by the woman "having an issue of blood twelve years" who is a figure of the Gentiles. Jairus' daughter had a link with God— as the Jew had— for Jairus was the ruler of the synagogue. But a woman with an issue of blood was unclean under the law— Lev. 15:25. What a picture of the Gentile nations this woman is, for she spent all her income on doctors, none of whom could help her. The physicians speak of the great Gentile teachers and philosophers who tried to cure man by uplifting his mind with philosophy and ethics, but who failed completely because man's need is spiritual, not mental. Fallen man has lost his link with God, and only Christ can restore it. Who has not read of the many vain human attempts to heal "the issue of blood" —the life that was flowing away and weakening the Gentiles? If Greece had brilliant teachers like the stars of the heavens, other nations, too, did not lack "physicians"— India had her Yogi, China her Confucius, and so on. Well, the woman with the issue of blood is a beautiful figure of the Gentiles, for she comes to Jesus. Still, she is afraid to face Him and comes behind Him, as the woman in the seventh chapter did at first. She touches the border of His garment and is healed at once. Jesus said, "Who touched Me?" —which Peter considers a strange question when people throng Him on every side. Then the woman realizes that "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Heb. 4:13. This time she falls down before Him, not behind, and makes a public confession of how she was healed. She hears those cheering words, "Daughter, be of good comfort, Thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace." Before leaving this woman, we may inquire why she was healed in such an unusual way— by touching the hem of Christ's garment. Now it is common knowledge that our garments identify us to some extent. The soldier, the sailor, the airman, each wear distinctive tunics with badges to show rank. The surgeon has a gown, the mechanic overalls, the beggar rags, and so we might go on. But why the hem of Christ's garment? The best explanation I have read is that given by August Van Ryn, the celebrated Dutch Bible teacher: "This is the only special occasion mentioned in the Gospels where anyone touched Christ and was healed. And really this woman did not even touch Him— only the border of His robe. Since this is the only instance, its meaning must be of some consequence. I suggest that it pictures the present-day way of salvation, when Christ is not here in Person, and therefore we cannot touch Him. But we can touch the hem of His garment. You remember that the High Priest of old wore long garments, the hem of which touched the ground. Our Lord Jesus is our Great High Priest, and so the hem of His garment, as it were, is still touching the earth. This High Priest was anointed, as we read in Psa. 133, and this holy ointment ran down all the way to the border of His high priestly robes. This ointment in Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit, ministering the virtues of Christ to us. It is this that is seen in the act of this woman's touching the hem of His robe." (3)
"She only touched the hem of His garment
As to His side she stole
Amid the crowd that gathered around Him
And straightway she was whole.
Oh, touch the hem of His garment
And thou too shalt be free,
His saving power this very hour
Shall give new life to thee!”
Christ Must Visit the Jews and Raise Them From the Dead—8:49-56
Notice here that the Lord's journey to Jairus' house (his name means "he will enlighten") was interrupted by the healing of the woman with the issue of blood— in figure, the Gentiles. So it is in the great history of events. The gospel started with the Jews, but when they refused it, they became sick and began to die. Then the Gentile— the woman with the issue of blood— touched the hem of Christ's garment and was healed on the principle of faith. The thread of the story is picked up here as we have Christ returning to the house— that is, Israel.
“And when He came into the house, He suffered no man to go in, save Peter and James and John." These are the three Apostles who were to be with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration and speak of the witnesses of His coming earthly glory in His Kingdom. This, of course, is administered by the Church through Israel to whom now the Lord comes. He finds Israel— Jairus' daughter —outwardly dead as far as man can see, but says, "She is not dead, but sleepeth." This is the way the Lord looks at His ancient people, who' seem to be dead to His glory, but who are really sleeping. Paul speaks of "our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night"— Acts 26:7 although there was little evidence of it. In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul asks the question, "Hath God cast away His people?" It can't be, he says, for he himself is a Jew. "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace" Rom. 11:5. But as for the Jewish people as a whole, "God hath given them the spirit of slumber" Rom. 11:8. That is why the Lord says that Jairus' daughter is not dead, but sleeping. They deride this pronouncement, just as people today see nothing in the Jew but lifelessness in divine things. "All wept and bewailed her." As for Christ, "they laughed Him to scorn." It will be different in the day when Israel is restored. Then they will weep, not for their fate, but for what they did to their Messiah. "And they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son."— Zech. 12:10. Before raising Jairus' daughter from the dead, the Lord puts everybody out of the house, except those who were to be eyewitnesses to His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration— Peter, John, and James 9:28. This tells us that when the time comes to raise up Israel again, the Lord will do it privately— like Joseph making himself known to his brethren— "cause every man to go out from me" Gen. 45:1. Because what He did was done privately, the Lord told her parents not to tell anyone what was done. This is in marked contrast to the raising of the widow of Nain's son, which was done in public. The Lord told them to feed her, just as He will feed revived Israel with spiritual food at the beginning of His millennial kingdom.
Seven Houses and Their Teaching
It is customary in Scripture to find seven broken down into four and three. This happens so often that it is worthy of study. Here we merely point out this unique design feature of the Scriptures, applying it to what we have just been considering.
In Luke's gospel we find the Lord visiting three houses— then an interlude during which He chooses His twelve Apostles, preaches the Sermon on the Mount, etc., followed by four more houses. It is suggested that the first three houses give us the effect of God visiting man; the interlude is— in the choosing of the twelve and going to the Mount— Christ's leaving this world, but with provision for carrying on after He has gone; and finally, in the last four houses what should characterize Christianity until the last house brings us up to Jewish considerations once more, prior to the establishment of His earthly kingdom. Let us consider these seven houses briefly now: THE FIRST THREE HOUSES. We are given a picture of the human race when Jesus visited us, in the first three houses. A woman in Simon Peter's house; a man let down through the roof in the second house; together these make up the Adam race. The woman is a figure of man's feverish riotous state without God; the man of his powerlessness Godwards— he has to be lowered to where Jesus is— that is humbled, so he can be blessed. The third house is Levi's, where there is a feast of rejoicing. This is right and proper in view of what Christ had accomplished in the first two houses.
THE LAST FOUR HOUSES. These seem to give us the moral features of Christianity in the world and end in the personal return of Christ to bless His ancient people, Israel, which He will do before establishing His kingdom in power on the earth.
In the house of the Roman centurion, we find the key principle of Christianity faith. We are justified by faith and it is the basis of our walk with God. Then, in Simon the Pharisee's house, we find the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith and grace go together, and we find them linked in these two houses. "For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast" Eph. 2:8,9. The house of the demoniac gives us the healing effect on man of Christ having visited and blessed this world. The poor man lived in the tombs until Christ came and he returned to a proper house. The house of Jairus completes the picture. He is the Jew at the end day. He is in marked contrast to the Roman centurion at the beginning. The centurion was a man of faith and did not ask the Lord to visit his house— "but say in a word and my servant shall be healed." The Jew has no faith and Christ must personally visit his house in the future, that the daughter of Zion might be told to arise and be nourished with suited food from the Master. Even in this scanty dispensational picture, Luke emphasizes the moral features which are to be found among God's people from Christ's first coming into the world, to His return to raise and bless Israel.

Luke 9:1-17

THE SIGN OF THE LOAVES AND FISHES (Suggested Reading: Chapter 9:1-17)
The Lord is now the Divine Center in Israel, not the Temple, although God still acknowledges it as His Temple. Men have been accustomed to go in and out of the Temple. Now His own come to and go out from Him. He calls the twelve and invests them with His power and authority. But when He sends them forth, their first commission is to preach the Kingdom of God, and secondly, to heal the sick. We can never preach Christ to others unless we have been in His presence. Otherwise, we would not be ambassadors of Christ, but of ourselves.
Herod hears of His power and wonders if John the Baptist, whom he beheaded, is risen from the dead as some thought, or if He were Elias or one of the old prophets, as others thought. God does not relieve his perplexity, because there is no stirring of conscience— only idle curiosity as we learn from his question— "who is this?" Herod's bewilderment is only introduced here to show the moral state of the king among whose subjects the twelve had gone, with the power and authority of Jesus Himself. So they return to Him and account for what the Lord had given them, as we also must do some day, even though what we have received is on a much lesser scale. They are tired, no doubt. The Lord takes them to a desert place near the city of Bethsaida— house of provision.
Who Is This?
Herod's question must now be answered: "Who is this?" He would not have asked it if his subjects had not puzzled him with contradictory reports about Jesus. Therefore, they— and not Herod— must receive the answer to Herod's question, "Who is this?" The Scripture taught that it was the Lord who satisfied the poor with bread. The sign of the loaves and fishes speaks for itself. The underlying moral teaching is what we would seek to unfold here. This teaching is a figure of how Christ, working through His servants in all ages, feeds His Church. It is the Church period which is in question, since the sign precedes the Mount of Transfiguration, the figure of Christ in His glory in His millennial kingdom on earth. Note, too, that it is not our service for Christ in the gospel which is the point. In the story, that service was over and the Lord took the twelve aside into the desert to rest. The twelve here represent any who seek to feed God's people. It may be a sermon, address, talk to a small group, teaching in a Bible reading, writing an article in a magazine for Christians, etc., etc. It is not the form of things, but their nature. You get the thought in John 21 where the Lord commissions Peter to feed His sheep and lambs but does not tell him how to do it.
The Sign of the Loaves and Fishes—9:12-17
Well, the first thing is, have we faith to serve the Lord in this way in a desert, hidden from the eye of man, relatively speaking, for the feeding of Christ's sheep does not make us stand out like the work of an evangelist. Most of us haven't. True, we go to the Lord about it. But then we ask Him to send the people away and let them get their own food— "for we are here in a desert place." But this does not satisfy the heart of God. Remember that we cannot say we love God if we neglect His people— "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" 1 John 4:20. So the Lord tests them— "Give ye them to eat." Immediately they quibble, "We have no more than five loaves and two fishes." They had not yet learned the lesson "little is much if God is in it. "'Hadn't the God of Israel spoken? Was His power less in this command than what they had already proved when they went out in His service and came back victorious?
Well, we think it is. Often we shrink from the task of feeding Christ's sheep, which takes spiritual energy and pioneering. We say to ourselves— but really we are telling the Lord— "What, me?! I have only five loaves and two fishes! So-and-so is better qualified than I am. Let the people go to so-and-so and buy their bread and fish from him.”
“No," the Lord says, "the bread and fish isn't to be bought. Go ahead and give it to them— free.”
Now the Lord doesn't start you out with nothing you begin with five loaves and two fishes. The five loaves are your preparation for Christ's service. A loaf of bread starts with the plowing of land, the sowing of seed, the patient waiting for the crop, harvesting it, milling it, baking it. It is your education in divine things, the patient waiting for Christ, your testing under adversity— the baking process, etc. Man has five fingers and five toes, so it is the compass of your work and walk with God. The two fishes are entirely God's gift to you— you don't prepare a fish— God gives it to you as it is. Look up the subject of gift in the Bible yourself and see to it that you don't neglect your gift, whatever it is. Well, we take this provision and thank God for it. Effective prayer precedes the feeding of God's people. Suppose you write an article, book or pamphlet about Christ. In that case, look beyond the printing press which is multiplying your few loaves and fishes to the Lord, who gives you multiplied readers.
Everybody is fed fully when we follow God's way, not ours. God does not tolerate waste, either. The fragments that remain are twelve baskets. This means that when Christ has finished the work of feeding the Church and takes us to glory, twelve baskets are left over to feed Israel. What a God! But remember— Israel collects our fragments! We eat the loaves and fishes— we taste the goodness of our Lord's provision for us first. Israel gets the spiritual food that is left over after we are full.
One great lesson in all this is to be thankful to God for His care over us. The crowd ate until they had enough, but there is no record that they thanked God for satisfying their heeds. For some fifteen years I preached the gospel in a jail for young criminals. One Thanksgiving Day, before speaking to the prisoners, I asked them what they had to be thankful for.
“That the Russians haven't dropped the bomb yet," one young man said. "That I'm getting out soon," another said. And so on. The Christian would say, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable free gift." 2 Cor. 9:15. That gift is Christ and all true service for God in the Church is ministry which exalts Christ. The gift is unspeakable, but that does not mean we are to be silent about it. The Lord will multiply our loaves and fishes if we leave them in His hands.

Luke 9:18-50

The heart of man remains the same today as yesterday— alienated from God. Some time after the Second World War, I was sitting in a barber shop having my hair cut and trying to reach the barber with the gospel. He said to me, "You remind me of a customer of mine who is always sending money out of the country to support missionaries in the East. My question is, why don't the people in the East send missionaries to us? Isn't their religion as good as ours?" Well, if this man is alive today, which is doubtful, he would see his longing fulfilled, for there is a Buddhist church in his city now. I told him that all the great religions in the world were founded by dead men. Buddha is dead, Mohammed is dead, but Christ— who became dead for our sins, for death had no claim on Him— is alive forevermore and has the keys of death and Hades see Rev. 1:18. Christianity is founded on an empty tomb and an occupied throne. That Man whom sinners crucified is now seated on His Father's throne in glory and will leave it one day to be the Judge of the living and the dead.
Peter's Confession of Christ—9:18-27
The heart of the barber was the heart of the men of two thousand years ago. The Lord said to His disciples, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" Their answers showed that men made no distinction between Him and the present and former religious leaders of the people. But Peter rightly answered, "The Christ of God.”
Christ's supreme and overriding claims must be acknowledged. All must bow to Him— there can be no equality to Christ except in the Godhead. Men must acknowledge Him as "The Christ of God" as Peter does here, for God will accept nothing less. When we do, our eyes are opened to see the glory of Christ. Here, however, the cross looms before Him and the Lord tells His Own why His sufferings were necessary before the kingdom can be ushered in in power and glory.
Now the Mount of Transfiguration foreshadows that glory, just before the close of the heavenly part of the kingdom. When the kingdom comes, it will be shared by Moses (representing the law) and Elias (the prophets), which, taken together, stand for the Old Testament saints; and Peter, James, and John, representing the New Testament saints. The saints of all ages who are in heaven will have glorified bodies –bodies suited to men entering the glory of God, of which the cloud is the symbol. The scene also has a present application, that is, it shows us our intercourse now with the Lord on high— calmly in communion with Him on heavenly subjects until the day when the power and the glory, postponed by His sufferings and death, are publicly displayed on earth. Following the transfiguration, and descended from the Mount, the Lord tells His own more about His coming sufferings and death. But it makes no impression (v. 45) as it did on the holy mount. It is only as we are in spirit with Christ in glory and not occupied with ourselves or our circumstances, that the impress of His death comes upon our spirits.
The Holy Mount—9:29-36
The opening and closing of the Lord's ministry is marked by prayer. Indeed, the Lord ascends the mountain for that distinct purpose— that He might be alone with God. At the Jordan, the lowly, depressed place where His ministry began, He prayed; at the mountain, the exalted place where His Galilean ministry formally ended, He prayed. God chose the physical features to portray first His Son's humiliation as a dependent Man at the beginning, and then His exaltation by God at the end. The theme opens up to us in Phil. 2, which is commended to the study of the reader.
Peter, John, and James accompany Him as eye witnesses. Peter writes of the event in his second Epistle. He tells us that he, John and James "were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard when we were with Him in the holy mount." 2 Peter 1:16-18.
And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and effulgent— that is, radiant, giving off light. This is a picture of Christ glorified, when He reigns in the kingdom. Because we belong to Christ, we too shall have bodies of glory like His own body of glory in that coming day.
"With Thee in garments white
Lord Jesus we shall walk
And spotless in that heavenly light
Of all Thy sufferings talk.”
Moses and Elias talk of the same theme as we shall when we appear in glory. Moses represents the law; Elias the prophets— both of which testified to "the sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow." And so they "spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem." In another sense, Moses represents the saints who have died; Elias, who was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11), of the saints who will be raptured at the second coming of Christ. Many lines of truth converge on the Mount of Transfiguration, because it is the high point of Christ's ministry and God's verdict of its value. God's sentence on it is deferred, however, until man has the first say. And how unqualified even a great saint like Peter is to have any say! That he was a great saint is shown by his omission of all references to himself when Christ was present. He only says, "it is good for us to be here"— and gives Christ the first place before Moses and Elias. Even so, the inspired verdict is "not knowing what he said." Why? Because Christ must never be ranked with any other man, whether that man be the great of Israel like Moses and Elias, or the great teachers of other countries, whoever they may be. "That in all things He might have the pre-eminence" Col. 1:18 is the great principle. And so the very moment man does this, God begins to speak and put an end to the matter: "And there came a voice out of the cloud saying 'This is My beloved Son: hear Him.'”
"Assured in faith we enter now
Thy presence where, most blessed
God Thy glory rests upon His brow
Who brought us nigh to Thee by blood.
To Him Thy voice from out the cloud
Once spoke Thy deep, Thy full delight
And now without a veil to shroud
In Him shines forth Thy glory bright.”
The above lines represent the believer's assurance now that the cross is past. Here on the Mount, it is still before Christ, although the very fact He is transfigured shows that His decease was divinely viewed as accomplished already so that God glorified Him in anticipation of it. Still "they feared as they entered into the cloud." "The cloud" in Scripture is always the symbol of the divine glory and presence. This cloud is the Shechinah glory, the dwelling place of the God of Israel. It is the cloud which guided Israel through the wilderness. They stopped or moved with it. Here the cloud is the entrance to the Father's presence, our eternal dwelling place. IC is from the cloud the Father's voice is heard, for He is our Father by virtue of the death of Christ, and so announced in His resurrection John 20. Man cannot be there without the shed blood of Christ. Moses could not enter into the tabernacle "because the cloud abode thereon and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" Ex. 40:35. No need for three tabernacles as Peter suggested, but of "a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands —that is to say not of this building" Heb. 9:11. No, "by one offering He has perfected forever those that are sanctified" Heb. 10:14. It is for this reason that the Father directs our attention to His Son.
The Father's Voice
At the Jordan— the beginning— the Father's voice had said, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." At the end, He does not need to say "in whom I am well pleased," for the Transfiguration itself is sufficient witness of that. Instead, He directs our hearts to the object of His delight, exclaiming, "hear ye Him" as He did to Peter, John and James— men on the earth— not to Moses and Elias. It is not the voice of Moses and Elias— the law and the prophets— to which the Father would open our ears, but the voice of His Son.
The Epistle to the Hebrews begins and ends on this note, which is morally connected with the holy mount. In time past, God had spoken to the fathers by the prophets, but now He is speaking, "in Son"— "who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person, etc." see Heb. 1:1, 2. Then it ends morally in the twelfth chapter "see that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven." V. 25. Then the message continues, "wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear." V. 28. It is on this note that Luke's account of the Mount of Transfiguration ends— the kingdom is deferred— the foreshadowing of Christ's glory disappears— and Jesus is found alone. We leave our delightful meditations of the coming glory and walk down from the mountain to serve our rejected King in a world of sin— "and it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met Him." But let us not forget the Lord's words spoken just before the Transfiguration, which had the coming glory of the kingdom in view, "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." 9:26.
Satan's Power Overthrown—9:37-50
It is remarkable that the Lord's ministry began by his confrontation with Satan in the desert; here it ends with the casting out of demons— Satan's power over man, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil." 1 John 3:8.
The human race is helpless to deliver itself from Satan's power— it stands alone, defenseless against him until Jesus comes. That is why we have an only son-7:12 dead; an only daughter 8:24—dead; and here, an only child 9:39— indwelt by an unclean spirit who tore and bruised him. Our other great enemy is not Satan, but ourselves. So again, Jesus takes a child— this one a living child— and sits him by Him. The child gives us the secret of greatness once we are delivered, as the three other children showed us who our Deliverer was: Christ. Would we be great in God's kingdom— then let us be nothing that Christ may be all— "For he that is least among you all, the same shall be great." 9:48.
One more lesson is needed before the curtain falls. The heart of man is always sectarian. Lacking the vision of the whole Church of God in the unity with which God sees it, we champion a cause— part of the whole rather than the whole— "Master, we saw one casting out demons in Thy Name and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us." This was a remarkable prohibition on John's part. Hadn't the father of the child, who was possessed with demons, told the Lord, "And I besought Thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not"? Here is the perfect manifestation of the sectarian spirit which pervades the Church at the present time. Unable to do any work for God themselves, the sectarians forbid others who can, because "he followeth not with us." But the Scripture is our guide— not men. And what saith the Scripture— "we ought to obey God rather than men." Acts 5:29. Now God is speaking in His Son and has told us on the Mount, "Hear ye Him." His closing words, ending His Galilean ministry, are, "Forbid him not, for he that is not against us is for us.”

Luke 9:51-62 - Luke 10:1-20

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 9:51-62 and Chapter 10)
And now we come to a great watershed in the gospel of Luke. The Lord's Galilean ministry ends at chapter 9:50; the following verse opens the concluding section of the gospel, "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." Note Luke's emphasis here, not on the cross, but on His being received up— the ascension. This was the end of the Lord's journey from the Father to the Father. In the eighth chapter, Luke gave us the entire story of the Lord's journey into this world, through this world, and out of this world, concluding with the Gadarenes— the people of this world— asking Him to leave them. 8:37. In the last section of his gospel, Luke gives us our journey— in the story of the poor man beaten by thieves whom the Good Samaritan befriended. Christ was the Good Samaritan. He journeyed through this world to rescue us. His journey through this world was triumphant— ours tragic. No matter, the Good Samaritan cannot rest until we start another journey— out of this world to His Father's house. So He invites us to a Great Supper in His Father's house. But first, the Good Samaritan lodges man in an inn until He returns— striking contrast to man's treatment of Him, for there was no room for Him in the inn at His birth. Then the poor man, beaten by thieves, and the Good Samaritan change roles, becoming respectively the prodigal son and the shepherd —Christ— seeking the lost sheep. The Shepherd brings the lost sheep to the house. This is the prodigal accepting the invitation to the Great Supper, returning to his father and eating the fatted calf in his father's house— heaven, figuratively. These stories bring out the hearts of God and man as none others do. Luke's "method" is always to bring the heart closer to God. That is why he condenses the Lord's Galilean ministry and expands these themes. They constitute the bulk of his gospel and are the very heart of it— the unfolding of the divine bosom and the very beating of the heart of God.
"Lord Jesus Christ, we praise
Thy Name In God the Father's ear;
And worship Thee Thou holy Lamb,
Whose blood has brought us near.”
A New Spirit for a New Man—9:51-56
As the Lord journeys to Jerusalem and the cross, the Samaritans show their disapproval. James and John ask the Lord if He will bring fire down from heaven to burn them up. James and John had been on the holy mount with Moses and Elias. The Father's voice had not instructed them to listen to the law and the prophets, but the gracious voice of His Son. Peter failed on the mount by wanting to build three tabernacles— one for the Lord and one each for Moses and Elias. James and John failed after coming down from the mount— desiring to repeat the works of Elias in the spirit of Moses' law. So the Lord rebukes them— which He would not have done if they had not been with Him on the holy mount. He says, "ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.”
Following and Serving Christ—9:57-62
Next, a certain man would follow Christ without a call. He was not the first to do so— "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran." Jer. 23:21. And he has had many followers since. Self-will "—I will follow Thee"— is not God's will. It is different when the Lord calls, as He did Peter— "Follow thou Me." The Lord reminds this man that following Him is not a pathway of ease gratifying to nature— "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." Next, we are given an illustration of what happens when the Lord Himself calls us. Immediately nature objects, "Lord," the man says, a contradiction, because if He is our Lord, we must obey Him— "Suffer me first to go and bury my father." This seems a legitimate enough request, except for the order in which he wanted to do it. The key to his difficulty was "first" which put Christ second. Then a third man volunteers to serve Christ, "but let me first go bid them farewell which are at home at my house." The first thing with him was saying goodbye to the dead. Dead or alive, nature's claims combine to give Christ second place. But God will not have this. And so the Lord tests every man "no— man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." To plow a straight furrow you must look ahead, fixing your eye on one object ahead of you. Failure to set Christ first before us as our object in Christian life means that our furrow the record of our life's work in the earth— becomes a crooked one.
This gives us an insight into why some Christians become good servants of Christ, while others fall by the wayside. There is a sifting out process, as we see in the stories of these three men. It is only "after these things"— that is, after His true followers gathered around Him, that He appoints— from them, no doubt— "other seventy also" —that is, in addition to the twelve Apostles. We cannot serve Christ until we first become His followers, for the servant is the ambassador of Christ and must fittingly represent Him before men.
A certain class of people today will tell you that since the simplicity of these early days has passed away, the Christian message is no longer relevant. Actually, although jet aircraft span the oceans and man has gone to the moon and returned, nothing has changed. Modern life in great cities, interlaced with traffic arteries, may differ in some details from life in the past, but the eternal issues remain the same— life, death, salvation, heaven, hell. One day I was driving slowly along a great highway, for traffic was virtually halted by an accident. A great truck was straddling the road and beside it was a completely demolished car. At the time I thought, "Nobody in that car can come out alive." The next day I went to preach in the jail and noticed the prison guards huddled together. "We have just lost the best secretary this institution ever had," they lamented. As they went on, it became clear that the wreck I had seen the day before was the one in which their fellow employee had been killed. Across my mind flashed the memory of another woman— a Christian school teacher who used to accompany me on visits to this institution and speak to the women prisoners. I gasped, for it was two years to the very day since she also was killed in a traffic accident. The last time she was with the Lord's people, I had spoken on the text, "behold the Lamb of God." We sang together the hymn, "And shall we see Thy face, and hear Thy heavenly voice?" The next Lord's day she was with Christ, which is far better. We had dinner together on the day we parted and drove to the jail, each in our own car. Then I entered her car and discussed with her, "the things concerning Himself," little knowing it was to be a farewell message. Surely eternal issues are the same now as when the Lord sought the souls of men, both Himself and through His servants? What the world has done since then doesn't matter— God's testimony is the important thing.
The Lord Sends Out the Seventy—10:1-20
The sending out of the seventy introduces a dispensational change. That is to say, they are sent out as representatives of a Christ who was on His way to Jerusalem, not to be crowned there as King, but to be crucified outside its walls. The Lord sends them out by twos to precede every place He visited. The time is short now before the cross. He reminds them of the greatness of the harvest and the few laborers. But they are to go as lambs in the midst of wolves. This is an impossible thing to do unless there is total dependence on the God who sent them. To ensure this, they are not to take care of themselves by human means— money, etc., and are not to salute man by the way— that is, they mustn't waste God's time in human traditions, ceremonies, etc.— it is not that they were to be discourteous. They were to enter houses with a message of peace, and if received, their peace should rest on that house. This was God's provision for them instead of their own— purse, scrip, shoes. For in the houses in which they were received, they were to eat and drink "such things as they have," which would vary with the house in which they lodged. They were not to be traveling beggars going from house to house. Remaining in one house, the blessing of peace rested on that house in receiving them, for in receiving them, the householder received Christ who sent them.
The Lord gave His own instructions, not only for their conduct in houses, but in cities. Again they were to eat "such things as are set before you." But there is more— "heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them the kingdom of God is come near you." If the message of peace was rejected, it would be more tolerable for Sodom "in that day" than that city. Sodom had no such message of peace from those who represented God manifest in the flesh. Well, the Lord pronounces woe on two cities— Chorazin and Bethsaida, which had rejected His mighty works. Even Tyre and Sidon would have repented if such mighty works had been done in them. A special judgment is pronounced upon Capernaum— lifted up to heaven, it should be thrust down to hell. Then the Lord connects His own personal acceptance or rejection with the seventy who represented Him.
The seventy return with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject unto us through Thy Name." The Lord's reply is, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." This reply showed that He was more concerned with the destruction of the seat of Satan's power— heaven— than with the workings of Satan's power on earth. Satan hasn't access to the dwelling place of God in heaven, but he still comes before the judgment seat Job 1:6-12 where he accuses us before God unceasingly see Rev. 12:10. But the day is coming when he will be barred even from that and cast out of heaven to earth as the Lord prophesies here. The actual event is given to us in Rev. 12:12 "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea for the devil is come down unto you having great wrath because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." Later on, he is taken away from earth by an angel with the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand, and is confined in the abyss for one thousand years. This is the duration of Christ's millennial kingdom. While the kingdom lasts, he remains confined in the abyss, unable to trouble man. At the end of the kingdom, he is freed briefly. He is allowed to tempt man after God has showered every goodness on him for one thousand years —no famines, wars, diseases, etc.— all richness and plenty from the hand of God. Satan succeeds in tempting man and is cast into the lake of fire "where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." Rev. 20:10. Even here in Luke's gospel, we see how richly his fate is deserved. He tempted Christ in the wilderness, but was overcome 4:8. His doom is foretold here 10:18. Later on we will see how he entered into Judas— a sinner 22:3 to betray Christ and desired to have Peter— a saint 22:31. But the Lord says, "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Not withstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10: 21-42

The Lord Rejoices in His Father's Will
The blessed Lord, who had told His own to rejoice, breaks forth in rejoicing Himself. And the reason? Because in suffering humiliation and rejection in the cities where His mighty works were done, He had not only submitted to His Father's will, but done it perfectly. It was in that very hour He rejoiced in spirit and said, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." The Lord's joy was in doing His Father's will— in this case, accepting the rejection of His mighty works as from a Father's hand which knew best. The climax of doing the Father's will, of course, was the cross where Christ took the bitter cup of judgment, not from Satan, but from His Father, and drained it to its last bitter dregs. But it was this which made the Father's joy possible— we speak reverently. In no other way could the prodigal son be received back into the Father's house. And it was this which made the Father's joy full.
Christ, the Good Samaritan—10:25-37
The Lord had told Satan, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Here man would do that, though in ignorance, for the "certain lawyer" calls the Lord a teacher and asks Him, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" The Lord turns the question back to him, referring him to the law of which he was an exponent. He replies, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself." It is astonishing how much men may know of the truth and yet not come under the power of it. This man had grasped the twin principles of the law— that righteousness consisted in giving to God what was His due and to the creature what was his due. The Lord expresses the same thought in other words— "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." Mark 12:17. The Lord gave him credit for his answer, but applied the two-edged sword to him— the application of this truth to his conscience— "this do, and thou shalt live." That was all the law promised to man if he could keep it— life on earth and no more far short of eternal life the subject of the lawyer's question. But the Lord knew that it would be useless to take up the question of eternal life with him in his state of soul. This comes out here— "but he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, and who is my neighbor?" Self-justification is the principle of law-keeping, and law-keeping is not confined to Moses' law. We find it in the codes of ethics of professional associations— indeed, it is the basis of all attempts by man to live in decency without God.
Jesus defers the answer to this man's question until he has told the story of the Good Samaritan. Only then does He answer his question (v. 37) by saying, "Go, and do thou likewise." That is to say, the man knew the answer to the question he proposed— "Who is my neighbor?"— but didn't want to do anything about it.
Had he not been willing to justify himself before God, he could have rested on the truth of Rom. 4:5 before it was written, for God was present in the flesh, "but to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
Jesus now gives the lawyer a true picture of man's condition before God. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho went down. Man, too, fell from the place God set him in. He "fell among thieves, who stripped him and wounded him leaving him in a half dead state." This was what Satan's attack did to man. "Dead in trespasses and sins," he still lives on in carnal pleasures, unable to do anything to change his condition. Can the law help him— the law in which this lawyer glories? Well, the two representatives of the law, the priest and the Levite, don't help him. Not only that, they appear disinterested. The priest comes "by chance," the Levite, "looks at him" and both pass by on the other side. The very representatives of the law regard our condition as hopeless. Would it have done any good to have told the dying thief on the cross to keep the law? No, he had broken it or he wouldn't have been crucified. Like the man here, he needed grace. Well, the certain Samaritan journed and came where he was. The Lord Jesus represents His mission to man under this figure— "a certain Samaritan." The Jews had said of Him "Say we not well that Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil?" John 8:48. How they hated the Samaritans! Grace will expose man's need— it takes a Samaritan to see him and have compassion on him. Now look what the Lord does for us. First He approaches us when nobody else will then binds up our wounds— that is, healing man as He did in this gospel— leprosy, palsy, etc.— all wounds inflicted by Satan. He pours in the oil and wine— oil, light; wine, joy— all figures of His blessed teaching ministry of the Word of God. Next, He sets him on His own beast, brings him to the inn and takes care of him. The oil, wine, and the beast are figures of the Holy Spirit's activity to bless us in— this world— under the direction of Christ. We are enlightened, filled with joy, and carried through this world until Christ comes back to receive us. The Good Samaritan departed "on the morrow" as Christ left the inn— this world— in which there was no room for Him at His birth.(4) He leaves us still in the world, but with enough to spare to take care of us until He comes again (v. 35).
Martha and Mary—10:38-42
As Jesus journeys, He comes to a certain village and a woman called Martha receives Him into her house. The principles the Lord laid down for the seventy surely applied to Him who gave them v. 5-7. So peace was on Martha's house and He remained in it, eating and drinking. But the preparations for the meals so preoccupied Martha that she lacked time to hear the Lord's words. So she carried her complaint to the Lord about her lazy sister, who she thought should be helping her in the kitchen.
Martha and Mary represent believers in the two aspects in which eternal life manifests itself in us— worship (Mary) and service (Martha). Jesus rebukes Martha for her preoccupation with service, but we are not to interpret this as meaning that service for Christ is of low value and commit the opposite error of preoccupation with worship. "But one thing is needful," Jesus says, "and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." We are to keep the truth in balance, unlike the lawyer who tempted the Lord. Service is generally manward, although rendered in the Lord's Name; worship is Godwards and God is not to be cheated out of His portion.
What was it that Mary heard at Jesus' feet which intrigued her? The Scripture says she "heard His Word." The Lord, undoubtedly, spoke about "the Father's things"— for "all things are delivered to Me of My Father. And no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father, and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him." It was to Mary, not one of the wise and prudent in this world, but a babe, to whom He revealed the Father. Blessed privilege indeed. Was she not one of His disciples? And He had said to His disciples, "blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them, and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.”
"Sweet it is to sit before Thee
Sweet to hear Thy blessed voice
Sweet to worship and adore Thee,
While our hearts in Thee rejoice.”

Luke 11

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 11)
This chapter opens with the Lord's Prayer, which flows here from its moral connection— Mary sitting at Jesus' feet and hearing His Word. The Christian life is regulated by communion with God, meditation on "the Father's things," as given to us in the Scriptures and prayer and intercession to God. Prayer should be intelligent and, for this reason, the Lord gave His disciples some general guidelines as to the pattern of prayer. He did not intend this prayer to become a mechanical one. He cautioned the disciples, "when ye pray use not vain repetitions as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be ye not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him." Matt. 6:7, 8.
This warning was generally ignored by the nations enlightened by Christianity. In the days of the British Empire, for example, the Lord's Prayer was recited at executions. By pre-arrangement, the trap door was sprung at the hanging of a murderer at a certain juncture of the reading of the Lord's Prayer! Years ago, too, a rich neighbor visited me. He was quite excited and exclaimed, "I've changed my church!" I let him talk on and he told me he had an argument with the minister who recited the Lord's Prayer, as in Matthew, which reads, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." He wanted it recited as in Luke, because he said, "I own plenty of mortgages and I don't intend to forgive a single one of them. That prayer in Matthew is impractical and the world couldn't go on if everybody did that!”
I tried to explain to him that God doesn't ask us to do impractical or foolish things, and He is the source of perfect wisdom. Scripture makes it clear that it is the wicked who borrow and do not repay Psa. 37:21. What the Lord spoke about was the forgiveness of debt where the poor had lost the means of payment. Hence the prayer, "forgive us our debts." is related to the Lord's lesson to Simon "and when they had nothing to pay he frankly forgave them both." This is what God did to us through the work of the cross, for we were bankrupt. The cross at this time was future, so the request was "forgive us our debts." Thank God this prayer has been answered for every believer.
Well, I recall a much happier experience with the Lord's Prayer. I was sitting behind two young girls in a gospel tent twelve years ago. I had been asked to preach; there was a large number of people present and I was uncertain what to speak about. It was a warm summer day, with the wind gently rustling the tent flaps, but I was becoming disturbed. Then I overheard one of these girls saying to the other, "These people don't go in for the Lord's Prayer." Rather than correct her before her friend, I took this as the message the Lord had for me and made the Lord's Prayer the entire subject of my message. It left a warm feeling in my heart and is one of the few sermons I have ever preached which I can remember in detail as the years have rolled by.
The Lord's Prayer and Its Associated Teaching—11:1-13
Before commenting on the Lord's Prayer, we might remark that the Lord never taught others to do what He did not do Himself. In his Exposition of the Gospel of St. John, William Kelly draws our attention to some of the highlights in Bishop Chase's book on the Lord's Prayer. Chase drew a comparison between the prayer the Lord taught His disciples, which we are now going to consider, and His own prayer to His Father in the 17th of John (5)
The disciples knew that John had taught his disciples to pray, but John's ministry was one of repentance, so they went to the One of whom John spake. So the prayer commences with "Our Father." The Lord had said, "no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him." Blessed revelation, given to us in its fullness in the Lord's own Prayer to His Father in John 17 and declared to Mary Magdalene as a message to His own in resurrection. Then follows the form our prayers are to take. We are to put God's interests in the earth before our own. God is not only our Father, but He is our Holy Father. His Name is hallowed and we acknowledge this. It gives character to what we pray for. This is the coming of His kingdom, when heaven and earth will be in harmony because the will of God will be done on earth as well as in heaven. God's interests in the earth vary with His ways with men over the ages, but, regardless of this, God's interests are God's interests, and they are to come first. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest— that He would send forth laborers to His harvest." 10:2. Then we have physical needs which must be met— our daily bread. When tempting Christ in the wilderness, the devil suggested that He command the stones to be made bread. But the Lord answered, "Man shall not live by bread alone." His Father provided for Him. He does not teach us what He has not done Himself. He sent the twelve out without bread and they were perfectly provided for. Remembering this, they could count on God to provide for their daily needs as He had done in the past.
The third circle is others. The spirit of forgiveness is to characterize us. The Lord had said, "Pray for those who despitefully use you" 6:28. These are our debtors, for they owe us, like all men, just treatment. But when we do not get it, we are to show Christ's Spirit to them and remember them in prayer. Should we sin, we are to pray for forgiveness— "if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9. Sinning is not normal Christianity and, until we judge it before the Lord, it sets us aside as witnesses for Christ in the world so that we no longer can be a channel of blessing to others.
The fourth and last circle recognizes the weakness of the creature. We need to be kept, but must not be careless and forget to ask for it. The Psalmist said, "Wilt Thou not deliver my feet from falling?" Psa. 56:13. In the garden of Gethsemane we find Christ's disciples whom He had taught to pray, "Lead us not into temptation." Yet He has to say to them, "Why sleep ye? Rise and pray lest ye enter into temptation." 22:46. And had He not taught Peter, the foremost of those disciples, to pray for deliverance from evil? Matt. 6:13. Possibly Peter had forgotten this, for the Lord said to him, "Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." 22:31-2.
In summary, we have these things as the pattern of our prayers. God's interests in the earth, whatever they may be, are to be prayed for first; secondly, our bodily needs so that we can serve God and others; thirdly, intercession for others in the Spirit of Christ; fourthly, prayer for our spiritual state, that God will keep us.
Having given us guidelines as to what we should pray about, the Lord now stresses how we should pray. The great principle is earnestness— "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." James 5:16. We are not to pray with an alternative plan in our minds if we do not get the answer we want. The Lord uses the illustration of a man who will get up at night to give his friend badly-needed bread, even though it disturbs him. If this is true of an earthly friend, how much more will our Father supply our needs. We know God has what we need, that we need it, and that nobody else can give it to us. In this way we are completely cast upon God for the answer, and have abandoned our own sufficiency. "My God shall abundantly supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:19.
Sometimes our prayers have to be tailored to the times in which we live. An illustration of such a special situation is that they were to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit. We do not pray for the Holy Spirit now— He indwells us— Eph. 1:13. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 1 Cor. 3:16. But this was not so at this time. Their prayers were answered at the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down.
Satan's Kingdom—11:14-26
In the Lord's Prayer the disciples were taught to pray for the coming of the Father's Kingdom. This is because Satan's kingdom now holds sway, opposing good in the earth. The casting out of the demon lets the dumb man speak. Man cannot pray, praise, or bless the Lord if he is held captive by Satan's power. Satan exercises his power in two different ways— as "the devil" in which he deceives man, acting as an angel of light— and as Satan, "the adversary" in which capacity he violently opposes Christ and His people. In Luke's gospel the enemy is referred to as "the devil" on two occasions— at the temptation when he unsuccessfully sought to deceive Christ 4:2-13 and when he successfully deceives man by taking the Word sown away from him 8:12. The Word of God was always in Christ's heart; with us it is not its natural resting place. It takes a work of God in our hearts, which the devil opposes, to cause it to spring forth in fruit. "Satan" is used when the enemy, by his actions, exposes himself for what he is— the foe of God and man. The Lord gives him this name when He sees him cast out of heaven in a future day 10:18 when his kingdom, reigning over demons, is exposed, as here 11:18, when his baneful influence over man is revealed— the daughter of Abraham bound eighteen years 13:16 when he entered into Judas to betray Christ 22:3 and when he demanded to have Peter to sift him as wheat 22:31.
Satan's kingdom properly comprises the fallen angels, the demons, and fallen man. In this chapter, the Lord cast out demons with the finger of God. But some of those who witnessed the dumb man speak said that the Lord cast out demons through Beelzebub (6), the chief of the demons. The Lord exposes the folly of such an accusation by pointing out that a kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation. Satan would be divided against himself if he cast out those over whom he ruled. Every kingdom has a palace in which its ruler dwells. So, too, with Satan. For this reason the Lord reminds His hearers that "a house divided against a house falleth." Satan's house or palace is the world, for we are told, "the whole world lieth in the wicked one." 1 John 5:19. The people of the world are the servants of his palace. They are powerless to rise up against him, for he is "a strong man armed." But Christ is a stronger Man. He took from him all his armor in which he trusted— the principles by which he governs the world see 1 John 2:16. All Christ's subsequent ministry of healing, of which the dumb man here was only another token, was dividing his spoils.
Then the Lord points out that it is not a question of Satan dividing his kingdom, but of the division of men for Him or against Him. From verses 24 to 27, we find the moral effects of the profession of Christianity in the world without reality. First “the unclean spirit is gone out of a man"— this signifies the cleansing effect of even the outward profession of Christianity— the great relief it brought to man. What is implied but not stated is that God allows the unclean spirit to return "unto my house whence I came out" for a governmental reason. In the providence of God, the light of Christianity in the centuries preceding this one, swept away such gross public evils as slavery, piracy, the degrading of women, etc. Today these evils have returned in new forms— piracy of aircraft, for example, being called "hijacking." In returning, the wicked spirit takes to him "seven other spirits more wicked than himself." The book of Revelation is the unfolding of the results of this. Having been enlightened by the Kingdom of God, man prefers Satan's kingdom so that "the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
The State of the People—11:27-32
Next we are given a glimpse of the moral state of the people. A certain woman pronounced a blessing on the Lord's earthly mother without naming her. The Lord's reply was "blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it." The Lord was not disparaging Mary, His mother, according to the flesh, but rather drawing attention to what His heart now longed for— such as the Mary in the previous chapter who "hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her." Israel had heard the Word of God, but had not kept it. So He could not connect Himself by natural ties with a people who had disowned Him. "For if any be a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man beholding his natural face in a glass. For he beholdeth himself and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." James 1:23, 24.
So the Lord pronounces them an evil generation. They sought a sign from heaven (v. 16-29). They should get a sign from earth only. Jonah went and the Queen of the South came. Gentiles only are in question. Jonah preached; the Queen of the South listened. Those who listened to Jonah's preaching would condemn "this generation" in the judgment; so, too, would the Queen of the South, who listened to Solomon's wisdom for a greater than Solomon was there. Jonah is a picture of the sufferings of Christ; Solomon of His glory. Unlike Christ, neither did miracles, yet Nineveh repented the Queen of the South came for wisdom.
The Reason for the Moral State of the People and Their Leaders—11:33-36
Just as our evangelist has been giving us a glimpse of the moral state of the people who rejected Christ, even so, in verses 37-54, he gives us a similar picture of the moral state of their leaders. Wedged in between the two in verses 33-36 we see what caused their darkened state.
The great reason was that the people had rejected the light. Luke's gospel had opened with Christ come "to give light to those who sit in darkness" 1:79. He was "a light to lighten the Gentiles." 2:32. In this chapter, the Lord is on the way to the cross and the effect of the light He shed on those exposed to it is the great subject. Most of the quotations on light are in this passage 11:33, 34, 35, 36, and 12:3. The remaining two relate to further consequences of the light 15:8, 16:8 after which the power of darkness takes over in the world at the crucifixion of Christ— "this is your hour and the power of darkness" 22:53 and "there was a darkness over all the earth" 23:44 at the cross.
The inlet to light is the eye. The Lord had illustrated man's trouble ignoring "the beam that is in thine own eye" and speaking out against "the mote that is in thy brother's eye." 6:41, 42. This was the spirit of the Pharisee and lawyer. "God, I thank thee I am not as other men or even as this publican." 18:11. It was a complete lack of self-judgment the repentance John preached. And so the eye became evil. Since the light of the body is the eye 11:34 the single eye, that is, the eye on Christ, filled the body with light. The evil eye with the beam in it un-removed, obstructed the light of Christ so that the whole body was full of darkness. The Lord then summarizes this teaching in a most profound word, "take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness." The corruption of the best (Christianity) historically became the worst. It is an indisputable historical fact that crimes have been committed in the Name of Christ which would have made the old pagans blush with shame. "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness." Matt. 6:23.
The State of the Rulers of the People—11:37-54
Both the people and their rulers were really part of Satan's kingdom, for both rose up against Christ at the cross. Here, Luke takes up the ruling classes of Pharisees, scribes and lawyers. The Sadducees, also influential, are largely ignored in the gospels, but become prominent in the Acts. The classes mentioned here represent orthodoxy in religion; the Sadducees, the "liberals" who question and deny fundamentals. Christ met the first class in His ministry on earth; His people the second class, the Sadducees.
The Pharisee was rebuked by the Lord for concentrating on externals— not washing before dinner, cleaning the outside of the cup and saucer, tithing, etc. But they lacked inner moral purity as evidenced by their outer actions— disinterest in the poor and passing over judgment and the love of God. Worse still, they made themselves prominent in spite of these defects, loving the highest seats in the synagogues and greetings in public. For this, the Lord pronounces woe on them, including the scribes also, and telling them that they are invisible graves but men do not know this.
This sweeping condemnation stings one of the lawyers, who rightly reads into it the judgment of his own state. For this reason, the Lord pronounces judgment on the lawyers at the beginning rather than at the end of His message. The Lord pronounces a woe on the lawyers for burdening men with grievous loads which they themselves ignored. We can be sure the burdens were not the law of God, for the Lord would not condemn His own law which He came to fulfill. They were human ordinances superimposed on the law and given the sanction of religious tradition. This incurred the first woe judgment on the lawyers. The second woe was for building the sepulchers of the prophets which their fathers killed. The heart of man tends to honor unduly religious leaders of the past, incidents, places, etc., connected with their service rather than the God whom they served. It was for this reason God buried Moses so that men such as these lawyers could not erect a shrine around his body as they did to the bodies of the prophets. For the same reason, Hezekiah broke in pieces the brazen serpent Moses made 2 Kings 18:4 for he found the children of Israel burning incense to it. But the blood of all the prophets should be required of this generation who pretended to venerate their memory. Why? Because they testified of Christ and they sought to slay Him as their fathers did the prophets. The third and final woe upon the lawyers was that they had taken away the key of knowledge. They had not entered into the kingdom themselves and had frustrated those who would. The principle outlined here manifested itself in the dark ages when the clergy saw to it that the people were kept in ignorance of the Word of God. Stained glass windows told the stories of the love of God in picture form, but the Bible itself was chained to the church pulpit and the people were told that only the Church could interpret it.
The exposure of these conditions incurs the enmity of the heart of man, today as then. It is astonishing how much space is given to Christ in the secular press today— not honoring Him, of course, but attacking Christianity. "Men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil." John 3:19. The darkness speaks out because it cannot bear the light which exposes it.
So here "the Pharisees began to urge Him vehemently, and to provoke Him to speak of many things, laying wait for Him and seeking to catch something out of His mouth that they might accuse Him." This explains the sternness of the Lord's rebuke to the Pharisees' internal murmurings that the Lord had not washed before dinner. Compare the way the Lord handled Simon the Pharisee in chapter 7, and this Pharisee. If we had been doing it, wouldn't we have given Simon the greater condemnation for not washing our feet, etc., and this Pharisee the lesser condemnation? Not so the Lord, who did not take offense against ill-treatment of Himself by Simon and who reaffirmed this in 12:10. The Lord discerned in this Pharisee the hatred against God, which surfaced in verses 53 and 54 hence His condemnation.

Luke 12:1-53

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 12:1-53)
The crowd had heard that Jesus was present in the Pharisee's house 11:37. Whether they overflowed into his house or Jesus came outside it to address them, is unimportant. What is important, is to understand the background to His sayings and the great teaching He was bringing out. The background is that the religious leaders of the people had just rejected Him. Since the people themselves were now present, the Lord begins by warning them about their religious leaders. This warning went unheeded, for it was the religious leaders who later stirred up the crowd to crucify Christ. Knowing that this was to befall Him, the Lord next takes up the theme of how His own are to carry on His testimony after He has left this world and gone to His Father. He leaves no stone unturned to let us know the path He has marked out for the faithful. Also He warns us about unfaithful servants, who should profess His Name without really having been born again.
The Secret Evil Working Against Those Who Would Follow Christ—12:1-3
The Lord now goes to the root of things— the secret evil of the Pharisees. They washed the outside of the cup and saucer, but inside they were full of plunder and wickedness. It was all covered up by the deceit of a supposedly clean outward walk— religious externals. The reason they hated Christ was that He exposed the inside— the true condition of things— and ignored the externals on which they prided themselves.
Leaven was a substance the ancients used to make bread rise, much as we use yeast today. Scripture uses leaven in figurative language for the working of the human mind or the flesh in the things of God. Knowledge puffeth up and so the mind of man, without the new birth, merely intrudes into divine things and produces evil. Religious man uses the knowledge he acquires from the Scriptures to make himself important. He denies his true condition as lost, and when this is exposed by the light, the hidden evil working within explodes like the cone of a volcano, erupting in violence against those who bear the light of God's witness.
Open Hatred Expressed Against Those Who Would Follow Christ—4:12
Open hatred produces fear if those hated are in the minority, as Christ's disciples are. So the Lord points out that the fear of man is one thing— the fear of God is another. How much emphasis we place on the body compared to the Lord, who says, "be not afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do." The nature of fallen man is expressed in hidden evil— the unfruitful works of darkness in 12:1 and violence 12:4. The nature of God is light and love. The light exposes the darkness 12:3; His love cares for those who fear Him more than the sparrows— in fact, He numbers the very hairs of our head.
In spite of the warning to fear God, not man, some will think only of their bodies. So encouragement is given to those who confess Christ; warning to those who deny Him. There is forgiveness for those who speak against Christ, but not for those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. This is the last mention of "forgiven" in Luke's gospel. For here we have the unforgiveable sin— attributing the works of Christ— all of which were done in the power of the Holy Spirit— to Satan. Those who committed the unforgiveable sin are found in 11:15. The Apostles, in a way that is not true of other Christians, did mighty works in the Spirit's power, the record of which is given to us in the opening chapters of Acts.
Worldliness—the Trap of Satan—12:13-34
The love of the world is deep in the heart of each of us, and it is something we must judge if we are to be faithful. We might not be guilty of hypocrisy like the Pharisees or be afraid of the world, but, like Achan, we may covet something here. So we find a man asking the Lord to act as Judge between himself and his brother to divide a worldly inheritance. He was probably the aggrieved one or he would not have asked the Lord to arbitrate his case. For His judgment is true. Now a day is coming when the Lord will judge earthly matters, but now He is concerned with men's souls— not their material possessions. It is not that material possessions are wrong in themselves, for they can be used for God. It is the tendency of the human heart to turn them into idols and so shut out God from our lives. The Lord illustrates this with the parable of the rich fool who pulled down his barns to build greater. In Luke 6:24 the Lord had pronounced a woe on the rich— here He begins to spell out the reasons for the woe. Only self-enjoyment was before the rich fool. He abused God's bounty in nature, appropriating it all for himself. He thought of the future in terms of his enjoyment in the body and gave no thought to his eternal soul. In that parable, the curtain hiding our gaze from the unseen world was only partly pulled back. But, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, we see the force of the Lord's words— "fear Him who after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him.”
Now the Lord does not tell us how much money makes a man rich, any more than He tells us how short a man's hair should be or how long a woman's. Why should this be, seeing He is a God of measure? Well, the answer is that He wants these things to be a matter of exercise in Christianity. In Judaism, there were innumerable regulations on all aspects of daily life. But we are not under law, but grace. This does not justify loose walk. We form moral estimates of things. It is not how much money you own but how highly you value what you have, and whether you use it to exclude God from your life, which determines whether or not you are rich toward God.
Many years ago, I worked in a large engineering organization which had just such a rich fool. True, he probably possessed only a fraction of the wealth of the rich fool in our parable. But his principles were the same. He had a good position in life and plenty of money, which he selfishly used only for his own enjoyment. And he scoffed at all thought of God and his accountability to Him when his life was over. I had just received delivery of a new dictating machine, when in walked this official.
“Let me see how that machine works," he said.
I explained it patiently to him, including the device to play back dictation. He picked up the microphone and began cursing, swearing, and shouting blasphemies into it. Next, with great satisfaction, he turned on the playback switch and listened to his filth. Then he walked away. The last time I saw him, he had had a stroke and was dependent on his wife and daughter. Then he was gone— out of time and into eternity. God, too, has a playback switch, and all that this man said will be played back to him in the Day of Judgment. "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened ... and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." Rev. 20:12.
After taking up the folly of ignoring life after death, the Lord would have us not to be overly concerned with this present life. He had already told His own they were more valuable than many sparrows. Next, He reminds them of the ravens. Unlike the rich fool, they have no barns, but God takes care of them. They are much better than the birds— more valuable than sparrows, more cared for than ravens. They couldn't increase the height of their bodies. Why be concerned, then, for the rest— the things that trouble other men, such as pride of race, language, color of skin, etc.? Consider the lilies. God has given them a distinctive color and beauty. We admire and enjoy them, yet they are completely dependent on God for rain and sunshine to grow, and He does not fail them. Now what is the end result of dependence on God? Is it that He fails us? No. The lilies are the apex of dependence. Unlike the birds, they cannot fly elsewhere if food is lacking. "Yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
The Lord now ties together His parable and text from nature's book. His mission was not to divide an inheritance, for He came not to direct men to this world, but to the next. Because they lived here, He held up a mirror to man to expose his worldliness and lack of confidence in God. "If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will He clothe you, O ye of little faith?" Peter, who heard these words, must have thought of them when he wrote later, "for all flesh is as grass and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away. But the Word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you." 1 Peter 1:24, 25.
The Lord's sentence on His own is that they are of little faith. How withering! Faith is believing God because He has spoken on any subject— be it the way of salvation or His teaching on how the disciple should conduct his life, as here. Instead of behaving like the nations of the world, which only sought pleasure in worldly satisfaction, they were to seek the Kingdom of God— which is moral— and God would add whatever was necessary for this life. Now the use of the word "faith" in Luke's gospel indicates that the Lord well knew just how far short we would fall from His mind to us. In the opening part 5:20, 7:9, 50; 8:25, 48 we are given an insight into faith as the saving and justifying principle, rather than the law. From "O ye of little faith" on, we are given various pictures of just how feeble our faith is. Reading all this might make us despondent— we of little faith— were it not for the great heart of our God. Those of little faith are called “a little flock," to whom the Father would give the kingdom. The Lord had taught His disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come" 11:2. But Satan's kingdom had intervened. Now they are told “fear not" for the kingdom will be theirs in spite of all Satan's interference. There are seven "fear not's" in Luke's gospel. The first three give us the introduction of Christ into the world— since He is perfect love, He casts out all fear. The last four give us the delivering power of Christ, for the godly remnant— the "little flock"— ending with them having the kingdom. Here they are:
1:13— Fear not Zacharias for thy prayer
1:30— Fear not Mary
2:10— Fear not for behold I bring you
5:10— And Jesus said unto Simon, fear not
8:50— Fear not, believe only
12:7— Fear not, therefore ye are
12:32— Fear not, little flock.
In view of the coming Kingdom, the Lord exhorted the Apostles to sell what they had, give it to the poor, and so lay up treasures in heaven. This they did. When Peter and John were at the beautiful gate of the Temple, Peter said to the lame man, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee." Oh, to have such as Peter had! He demonstrated what he had in the Temple at Jerusalem, but it will be seen even more publicly in the holy city, Jerusalem. "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the Temple of My God." Rev. 3:12
"Though we pass through tribulation
All will be well;
Ours is such a full salvation,
All, all is well.
Happy still in God confiding;
Fruitful, if in Christ abiding;
Holy, through the Spirit's guiding
All must be well.
“We expect a bright to-morrow;
All will be well.
Faith can sing through days of sorrow
All, all is well.
On our Father's love relying,
Jesus every need supplying;
Or in living, or in dying,
All must be well.”
True and False Servants—12:37-48
In the previous chapter, the Lord had pronounced woes on the Pharisees and lawyers. Here, He pronounces blessings on some of His servants, but not all. In the verses we have just been considering, He has shown the moral features He is looking for in His servants— uprightness instead of hypocrisy, the fear of God, not the fear of man, looking for our hope in heaven, not something in this world. If He finds these things in His servants, well; if not, then He will deal with those who professed that they knew God but in works denied Him.
What the Lord looks for in the faithful servant is a waiting attitude as to His return. He is not concerned with our mental assent to the doctrine of the second coming of Christ, but with our putting the doctrine into practice by a waiting attitude. Our loins are to be girded— the flowing garments of the East interfered with activity unless girded at the loins— and our lights burning— shining here as witnesses in this dark world— for lights do not burn in heaven. This activity and light-bearing was customary at an Eastern wedding before the bridegroom came. Christ, our heavenly Bridegroom, will gird Himself and in the activity of divine service will make us rest in all the blessedness and joy of His Father's house. But God has given us no exact point of time as to Christ's return— the second watch or the third watch— which? Who could take anything from that? Even so, a householder would sit up waiting for an intruder if he knew when he would come. With these illustrations as to our being ready to meet Christ without being given a definite point in time as to His return, the Lord concludes His teaching by saying, "Be ye therefore ready also, for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”
Peter wants to know to whom this teaching applies. Clearly it applies to those who serve in the Church. If we are faithful and wise stewards, the Lord will make us rulers over His goods. This is a different line of truth from what we have been considering. Those who awaited Christ's return— that is, those who loved Him deeply in their hearts and longed for His coming, are rewarded by Christ's serving them in His Father's house. It is, of course, a service of joy— a ministry of rest. Here, those who have served well in the Church below are rewarded above by ruling over the Master's goods. But again we find servants who only hold the doctrine of Christ's return and with whom it is not an affair of the heart. They do not repudiate the doctrine. They simply say, "My Lord delayeth His coming." This causes them to beat their fellow-servants. Now isn't this the history of the Christian Church? It wasn't the world which burned Christians at the stake once Christianity had been publicly professed. It wasn't the world, but religious leaders who attacked Bible-believing Christians and mocked the inspiration of the Word of life. It was "that servant, which knew his Lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did according to His will." Others shall be beaten with few stripes— the nations which professed religions other than Christianity. But the Christian nations and the Apostate Church in their bosom shall be beaten with many stripes. This is the end of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy.
However, all things came to an issue among the people themselves, because some had accepted the teaching of their religious leaders, others that of Christ. He is come to send fire on the earth— fire is the symbol of judgment— because, if refused, what else can man's portion be? "I have a baptism to be baptized with and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?" This baptism was the baptism of fire on the cross during the three hours of darkness when the Lord suffered the judgment our sins deserved. He was "straitened" till it be accomplished— that is, His divine affections toward man were pent up like water stored in a dam until the work of redemption He came to do was finished. The preaching of the cross would not unite men but divide them, breaking up families. But those who accept Christ are brought into the marvelous unity of the family of God.

Luke 12:54-59 - Luke 13

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 12: 54-59 and Chapter 13)
Everything that Luke has been writing about since the end of the Lord's Galilean ministry 9:50 has centered around the Lord's imminent death at Jerusalem. Our last chapter, for example, gave us the path of faith during the absence of our Lord and the question of faithful or unfaithful service to Him while He is absent. But there is another question related to His absence and that is the effect it has on the world and, more particularly, Israel, the earthly people. They were awaiting the Kingdom of God in visible display in the world. But, because they had rejected their King, the Kingdom must take a spiritual form, for the King was going to heaven. Our subject opens here, then, with what is really a divine warning of the judgment soon to fall on Israel.
The Divine Warning of Coming Judgment on the Jewish Nation—12:54-59; 13:1-5
The weather is always a topic of conversation with men. Recognizing this, the Lord remarked how observant they were in interpreting "the face of the sky." But this only emphasized their hypocrisy, because nature's God was among them and they knew not "this time." Their judgment was perverted. They had made Him their adversary and He would deliver them to the magistrate for sentence. They could still be delivered if they came to terms with Him. If not, they would end up in prison and would not be let out until they paid their debts in full. This is where the Jew is now in prison. They must receive double for all their sins and then, through the mercy of God, they will be released.
Much gossip was going around about Pilate's cruelty to the Galileans, and the tale was passed on to the Lord. The Lord rebuked them for suggesting that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things. Eighteen men were killed when the tower of Siloam at Jerusalem collapsed. Judgment would fall on all who did not repent, whether men of despised Galilee or proud Jerusalem. The Lord's words are identical for both— "I tell you nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
The Spiritual State of God's Vineyard—Israel—13:6-17
Israel had a privileged place in the earth which is indicated in Scripture by the symbolism of a vineyard. She was the vine transplanted from Egypt Psa. 80:8 that is, redeemed by the Passover Lamb's blood and brought into the land of promise. There she was to grow grapes from which wine would come— in Scripture a figure of earthly joy. That is why the parable of the vineyard is followed by the story of the Lord delivering the woman in the synagogue. The Lord was entitled, in coming into His vineyard, to drink wine— that is, to receive earthly joy from His people in the synagogue. Instead, there was no fruit. But we are going ahead of our subject.
In the vineyard a fig tree had been planted. In Scripture, the fig tree is a symbol of Israel as a nation responsible to bear fruit. The vine is Israel from a religious viewpoint— the land of the Temple— the custodians of the Holy Scripture. The fig tree's fruit is to be eaten— the fruit of the vine is to be drunk. So, when the Lord came to this earth, He sought fruit from the nation, but there was none "these three years,"— that is, substantially the period of Christ's ministry on earth. So He raises the question of why such a useless tree should be left standing in the earth. In the parable, the gardener asks for more time to fertilize it, promising that if that failed, he would cut it down. This further period of grace for the fig tree was the testimony of Peter and the other Apostles in the Acts, up to the time the guilty nation stoned Stephen. Some teachers hold that after that, the fig tree was cut down; more likely its fate was that it withered. It will revive again under a new principle— grace, not law— under a new covenant. Then Israel shall blossom and fruit. But now we will consider the Sabbath and the synagogue, which represent the Old Covenant and which brought no joy to the heart of God.
In the world eighteen had perished when the tower in Siloam fell on them; in the synagogue a woman was bowed eighteen years by an infirmity. God must act in grace to man or all will perish. He heals the woman to the indignation of the ruler of the synagogue, who claims He has violated the Sabbath. The ruler of the synagogue professed to be acting for God, but was really His enemy. Why? Because he tried to lay down God's law to God and tell Him He could not work on His own Sabbath. No wonder the Lord calls him a hypocrite! He reminds him that the whole congregation led their animals to a watering spot on the Sabbath. It would be cruel to do otherwise. Shouldn't this woman, whom Satan had bound for eighteen years, be freed on the Sabbath? This reply silenced and shamed the Lord's critics and delighted the people.
What Should Replace Israel in the World?—13:18-21
Israel had looked for the Kingdom of God on earth, but they plainly could not have it because they had rejected their King. However, God hadn't given up the thought of the Kingdom. Instead, for the time being, it was to take an unusual outward form. This is given to us in the story of the man and the woman.
The man planted a mustard seed in his garden. The garden is Israel under another figure. A garden is an enclosure, as Israel was among the nations of the world. There, the seed of Christianity was planted. It spread out from Israel with great branches in which the birds of the air roosted— these speak of those who are really adversaries of Christianity, but who take advantage of its blessings and rest in its shelter. It is a figure of the nations which publicly profess to honor God, Christian principles, etc. Since righteousness exacts a nation, the figure of a tree is apt.
The woman, on the other hand, speaks of what was hidden— of doctrinal evil which was to work unseen and eventually leaven the professing Church. Leaven is evil doctrine, as we saw in 12:1. So the woman hid it "till the whole was leavened"— historically, this working of evil in the Church must be just about complete. The "three measures of meal" tell us that the leaven only works in the nominally Christian part of the world, for most of the world has never professed Christianity. The moral sway of the Kingdom of God is over those who profess Christianity, but actual entrance to the Kingdom is only by the new birth John 3. A Christian not only confesses Christ as His Savior, but acknowledges Him as King, in contrast to the world which disallowed His claim at the cross.
"Royal robes shall soon invest Thee,
Royal splendors crown Thy brow;
Christ of God, our souls confess Thee
King and Sovereign even now!
Thee we reverence,
Thee obey—
Own Thee Lord and Christ always.”
The Kingdom of God Is a Reality Not to Be Trifled With—13:22-30
The Lord now resumes His journey to Jerusalem and the cross, teaching in cities and villages on the way. His teaching arouses the curiosity of one of His listeners, who asks Him, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" This question is answered elsewhere in Scripture. We are told that in all things He should have the pre-eminence. We tend to think of salvation in terms of those who believe, forgetting that God does not judge those who are not responsible— young children, idiots, etc. Scripture makes the distinction— "the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost." 19:10 those who have attained the age of responsibility, whatever God may judge this to be, and "the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost." Matt. 18:11. Unnumbered millions of children from all races, languages, and religions, throughout the world, who have died in infancy in plagues, famine, wars, etc., will swell the grand total in the Father's house. The Scripture "Jesus called a little child unto Him" Matt. 18:2 is full of meaning. The writer remembers reading of the concern of the late President Kennedy at the time of his young son's death. He took up the question of the child's salvation with a Roman Catholic cardinal and was correctly assured on the point. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Gen. 18:25.
Here, however, the questioner is only seeking to gratify mental curiosity, turning aside his responsibility to believe. The Lord says "strive" that is, do you strive "to enter in at the strait gate"? The "strait" gate is repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." John 3:5. The Lord continues "for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in"— that is, not at the strait gate, but will seek to enter the Kingdom on their own terms "and shall not be able." God has His own time for shutting the door of the strait gate. Then they will confess Him as Lord and plead with Him to enter, but it will be too late. They will see those who have entered the Kingdom of God by the strait gate, but they will be outside. They will see not only the godly of Israel (v. 28), but others beside Israel (v. 29) sitting down in the Kingdom of God. In that day, supreme righteousness shall reign. The former conditions in which hypocrites prevailed over the righteous will be reversed— the last shall be first and the first last.
The distinction between the mere profession of Christianity and actual Christianity has always been difficult for the Eastern mind to grasp. The Buddhist, the Mohammedan, etc., would look at the nations which professed Christianity and call them "Christian nations." He would also be puzzled at the gap between Christian doctrine and practice in these nations. Christianity, of course, is heavenly, and is a call out of all nations to our Father's house. But, in its outward form, it is a great mustard tree which grew from a seed in God's garden— Israel— until its branches spread in the earth. Here is an incident told by an old friend of the writer, P. R. Glading, once a missionary to China, which shows the distinction between reality and profession: “In 1940 I was stranded on the island of Ceylon for sixteen months, for the ship on which I was returning to China was taken over by the Admiralty and converted into a warship. Soon after my arrival on this island, I visited a dear old Christian native woman. During this visit, a British Naval officer dropped in to visit her, too. This man was also a Christian. He was curious to know what I was doing in China, and I replied that I was working among the servicemen there. He then said, 'I guess you would like to visit the British warships as they come into this port, and give the sailors the gospel.' I told him that I would be delighted to have this privilege. He invited me to his office and gave me a pass to board all warships. Some Naval men greatly opposed my work. But on some ships I met real Christians. We would sit under the great guns and read our Bibles together and encourage each other.
“One day, H.M.A.S. Sydney, the flagship of the Australian Navy, came into port. I boarded it and distributed tracts, gospels, and testaments, and spoke to the men of their need of salvation.
Many of the sailors sat down and read the tracts right away. After spending about two hours on board, I was suddenly summoned to the Commander's cabin. He told me I must leave at once, since he had received a message that two enemy warships had been located in the Indian Ocean and he must pursue them. I left, and the ship sailed immediately. The Sydney soon sighted the enemy ships, opened fire on one of them, and sank it. But the other enemy ship fired a salvo at the Sydney and sank it in turn. Every man on the Sydney was lost— hurled into eternity, with the ship saturated with the Word of God. No doubt there were hundreds of tracts floating around these poor men while they were struggling in the sea, but I wonder how many called upon the Savior in their last moments? It is one thing to receive God's Word in the hand, but it is of the utmost importance to receive it into the heart by faith, and to receive the blessed One of whom His Word speaks, the Lord Jesus Christ, as one's Savior. Dear friends, defer not, delay not. Time is short, for the 'coming of the Lord draweth nigh.' Soon for you, the day of grace will be gone, as it suddenly ended for those poor sailors. 'Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.' Prov. 27:1.”
The King and Those at Jerusalem—13:31-35
Certain of the Pharisees now come to the Lord hoping to stop His teaching with a threat, although it came under the guise of interest in His welfare. Everything in Israel was disordered. Herod sat on David's throne, but was not David's son. Christ was David's son, but was threatened with death. The Lord replies, "Go ye and tell that fox, behold I cast out demons and I do cures today and tomorrow and the third day I shall be perfected." This latter saying referred to His rising out of death in resurrection. Herod was the fox, those at Jerusalem the chickens threatened by the fox. As Israel's rightful King, He would have gathered the children of Jerusalem under the protection of His wings, like a mother hen, but they would not. That was the key— the will was opposed to Christ. For this reason, the Lord pronounces judgment on Jerusalem— not an accidental happening as when the tower of Siloam fell, but a deliberate judgment from Jehovah. First their house that is, the Temple at Jerusalem— was left unto them desolate. God would no longer dwell there, and it would be razed by the Romans, as it had once been razed by Nebuchadnezzar. They should not see Him again until they should say, "Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord." Psa. 118:26. In that psalm, which the Lord quoted, His rejection precedes that utterance v. 22. But it ends with Israel's renewed joy when they turn to the Lord "O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever.”

Luke 14

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 14)
We now pass on to a new phase of things in view of Christ's rejection. In chapter 12, we have the path of faith of the believer once Christ is gone on high— in chapter 13, the effect of His rejection on Israel and the world. But here we move away from Israel and its law to what was really in the heart of God— grace to fallen man.
The subject is introduced by Christ healing a man with the dropsy in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. The Lord had healed a woman in the synagogue on the Sabbath day, using the incident to reveal what was in the heart of the ruler of the synagogue. Now He heals a man, to reveal what was in the hearts of the Pharisees. Even before this happens, we are given an indication of their state of soul— "they watched Him.”
The Parable of the Guest's Conduct at a Wedding—14:7-11
The occasion for this parable was dual— first, the reaction of the lawyers and Pharisees to the healing of the man with the dropsy; secondly, "He marked how they chose out the chief rooms." Both are connected, for they resented blessing to others and selfishly sought good for themselves. If their ox or ass needed water or was in trouble, they looked after it on the Sabbath 13:15. 14:5 but they would neglect their fellow man. Still, they might argue technically that they need not go beyond the law, for the Scripture says, "a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast" Prov. 12:10. But they could not answer Him publicly. Now the Lord exposes the springs of their conduct. He points out that the proper conduct of a wedding guest was to sit down in the lowest room. If the guest's conduct and status warranted it, the host might then usher him to a better room. This would bring respect to the guest, instead of shame, if the host conducted him out of a high room he chose himself, to a lower one.
Out of this parable comes a great principle, "for whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Christ was the only Man who truly humbled Himself, as we read, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem it an object of rapine to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking a bondman's form, taking His place in the likeness of men, and having been found in figure as a man, humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death and that the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and granted Him a Name, that which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly and earthly and infernal beings and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to God the Father's glory." Phil. 2:5-11. Christ then was "the more honorable Man" 14:8 but they did not know it. Israel's leaders had exalted themselves and must be abased; Christ, who had humbled Himself, would be exalted.
The Conduct of a Host in Inviting Guests to a Feast—14:12-14
The Lord next unveils the complementary principle to the guest's conduct in instructing the host what he should do. The host was to invite the poor and wretched to his feast— not the rich and amiable. If he did this, God would repay him— since the poor and wretched couldn't. Now the guests in the parable had sought only present advantage self-exaltation in this life; here the host is warned to turn his back on this and seek God's approval in the life to come. "The resurrection of the just" (v. 14) is also called the first resurrection, of which it is written, "Blessed and holy is he who hath part in the first resurrection." Rev. 20:6.
The Great Supper—14:15-24
This beauteous teaching, so contrary to what men were accustomed to hear from others, caused a guest to exclaim admiringly, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." The Lord uses the remark to illustrate the blessedness indeed of eating bread in the Kingdom of God, but that Israel, alas, did not want to do so. "A certain man [God] made a great supper, and invited many, and sent his servant [the Holy Spirit] at suppertime to say to those who were invited [the Jews] Come for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse.”
At this point, let me break the thread of the narrative to tell a story which demonstrates that our hearts really are no different from the hearts of the Jews, but that God's heart is the same to Jews or Gentiles. As I was walking to the office where I once worked, I noticed a man reading his Bible in the company parking lot. I approached him and identified myself as a Christian. After some conversation, we agreed to meet together in Queen's Park. We met one lunch hour and sat down on a bench. Then he gave his testimony to me and also to another believer I knew who was passing by. Although he is now with the Lord, "he being dead yet speaketh" Heb. 11:4.
He lived in Poland and came from a Greek Orthodox family. His mother had attended gospel meetings and had been saved. She knew her son was going on vacation and, desiring his salvation, packed a Bible in his suitcase. He found it before he left and threw it away in anger, storming at his mother at the same time. Some time after his return, his dear mother was disconsolate. She had invited to her house her son's school teacher, who was later saved, but at this time only beginning to be anxious. The son overheard the two women conversing, his mother in tears— "Oh," the poor mother cried, "my son, he is all I have, I brought him up; I educated him— and he won't do the one thing I ask— take Christ as his Savior." His school teacher said she would try to get him to go to a revival meeting being held by a preacher from Philadelphia, U.S.A. About eight hundred people were attending— a large number for a strict Roman Catholic country like pre-war Poland.
The son argued with his school teacher. That night there was a dance on. "Nice girls," he said— soft music, dancing, coffee on the terrace— what could be better? And to go to a gospel meeting instead, when he didn't even believe in God! Nonsense. What a perfect illustration of our chapter, "they all began with one consent to make excuse." But the school teacher persisted until he promised to go— but just for fifteen minutes. He went. The fifteen minutes passed— then half an hour an hour. Suddenly he realized he had missed the party. Angry, he went up to the platform to attack the speaker.
“Show me your Jesus Christ," he said, "and then I will believe." For three months he wrestled with the Holy Spirit, getting no rest at night until, finally, he accepted Christ as Savior. The rest of the story, while not directly connected to our chapter, is too good not to pass on— for it is part of the story of the glory of the grace of God to man.
The years rolled on until the German armies invaded Poland, and the Russians in turn fought in that country. The Russians seized this young man and shipped him to the Ukraine for forced labor, along with some German civilian prisoners. As the German armies closed in on the Ukraine, the Russians decided to move the German prisoners back lest they join the advancing German army. They told them to discard everything for the move. One German threw out a big Bible labeled "Holy Bible" on the cover. The young Pole quickly seized this treasure and took it to his lodging. When the German armies entered the town, their commander was enraged at the losses of his men from sniping civilians. He ordered three hundred Russian civilians to be rounded up and shot in reprisal. One of those seized was the young Pole.
“But I'm not Russian, I'm Polish," he protested to the Nazi storm trooper.
“It doesn't matter. Poles shoot just as good as Russians," he said. "I have to make up my quota.”
In despair, the Pole cried out, "This is the end. O God, save me!”
The soldier granted him a few moments to pack up his belongings and went into his lodgings to watch him do this. As he entered the room, his eyes caught the words "Holy Bible" in German on the big Bible the Pole had found.
“Holy Bible," he exclaimed. "My mother read me the Holy Bible." He began to talk. He had a wife and children, too, but he would never see them again, for he would be killed in this war. The Pole then spoke to the German about God's way of salvation, and they discovered that they were both Baptists. The Pole then quoted the 91St Psalm to comfort the German "a thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee." Remember that this comfort was coming from a man selected to die! But tears came into the burly German soldier's eyes. "You can stay here," he said. "Goodbye." Thus did the Pole prove the truth of the psalm he had just quoted.
The sequel to this story is also interesting. The Pole told us that he was the pastor of a poor Polish-speaking evangelical church in the city. Like Paul with his tent-making, he supported himself and others by working. His engineering degree was not recognized in Canada and he had to work as a draftsman. When the company threatened to lay off several draftsmen, he said he had no worries. "The Lord knows I need this job, both for my family and my people," he said. In later life, I was able to verify the Lord's care of him. With this beautiful illustration of God's care to those who love Him, let us return to consider those who don't.
What were the excuses they made for not attending the great Supper? The first said, "I have bought a piece of ground and I must go and see it." What folly! The time to see a piece of ground is before you buy it— not after. "She considereth a field and buyeth it," is simple logic Prov. 31:16. Another said, "I have bought five yoke of oxen; and I go to prove them." Again, the time to prove them is before you buy them. Another said, "I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come." This is the worst excuse of all. Why not bring her along, too, to the Supper? It is indifference to grace. There was nothing wrong in the things they did —only in making these invalid excuses for not attending the Supper.
God was exceedingly angry that His gospel invitation was rejected. He tells His servant —the Holy Spirit— "Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city." "The city" here is Jerusalem, where the gospel was first preached, on the day of Pentecost. The servant is to "bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind" as Jesus had instructed the host to do (v. 13) when making a feast. This done, the servant reports back that there is still room, "And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, that My house may be filled." These are the Gentiles. Israel's sin made this extension of grace necessary. She bore no fruit when fertilized (chapter 13) and she refused the invitation to the Kingdom of God here. The fullness of Gentile blessing is given to us in the story of the prodigal son in the next chapter. As for the religion of the Jews, it was being broken up. The Lord's condemnation falls on the religious leaders, "for I say unto you, that none of those men who were invited shall taste of My Supper.”
The Lord's Words to the Crowds Who Thronged Him—14:25-35
In thronging the Lord, the crowds were saying, in effect, "We are different from our religious leaders we will go with you and eat the Great Supper." But man is the same, be he lofty or low all need the new birth to follow Christ. Nature will not do though right in its place. We cannot be Christ's disciples unless we apply the cross to ourselves. This is hard for most people to understand, so the Lord gives two illustrations. Would a contractor start to build a tower without first estimating its cost? Certainly not, for he might go bankrupt. Laying the foundation is what is fundamental to Christianity the bedrock truths. To build a tower that is go heavenwards we must not only pour treasure into the project, but we must estimate the cost in advance. The other illustration is warring with another mightier than ourselves as Satan is. The whole camp of Israel trembled when Goliath appeared. To meet Satan we must be full of Christ, for He overcame him. If we are full of flesh that is, self like the Pharisees, we will soon find out that he is a mightier king than we. This thought, too, is included in the symbolism of the tower and the army. The tower is defensive warfare taking the field offensive warfare. Satan may besiege us in the tower or take the field against us. In both cases, the cost must be counted.
“Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its savor wherewith shall it be seasoned." Salt is the preservative factor the saints are the salt of the earth. If they fail to be this due to unfaithfulness in life, they become of no account in this world. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." All men have ears, but only Christians have ears to hear Christ's words John 10:27. The great thing is, having heard, to obey.

Luke 15

(Suggested Reading: Chapters 15 and 16)
The sun, "the greater light" of Gen. 1 which God ordained to rule the day, is indeed a mighty engine, maintaining life on the earth through careful regulation of the distance between the two bodies and giving light to a world which otherwise would be in darkness. In this respect, it is like the Bible, which, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, brings us who were dead into life and enlightens us. But, just as most people take the shining of the sun for granted, so do most Christians with the Bible. Yet scientists will tell you that the sun gives off huge bursts of energy called sun spots, which flare out from that great body for vast distances into space and which greatly interest them. Again, most people do not even know when such an event takes place. The Bible, too, has "sun spots"— huge bursts of light from the Holy Spirit, which transcend the revelation itself in brilliance, though only part of it. In the gospel of John, for example, the 17th chapter, where the Lord prays to His Father, is a "sun spot." In the gospel of Luke, the 15th and 16th chapters are "sun spots." And just as there is a reason for sun spots in nature, even so is there in revelation. The scientist devotes himself to the study of these natural phenomena. The Christian should be equally as zealous in studying the "sun spots" in the Bible. Because of the important subjects taken up in the 15th and 16th chapters, we have subdivided each chapter into three parts. With our curiosity aroused like Moses at the burning bush, we will "now turn aside and see this great sight." Ex. 3:3.
Our first question might well be, just why we have a sun spot here in our gospel. This is readily answered. The 15th and 16th chapters are almost equidistant between Luke's history of Christ entering the world and His leaving it. The first fourteen chapters teem with the story of the glory— of how the heavenly glory burst upon this world when Jesus entered it and became a Man the beauty of His ministry to man— His rejection by man, forcing Him to take the title, "Son of Man," who was the lawful King of Israel— His certain knowledge that He was on the way to the cross to die for our sins. Then the chapters from 17 on revolve around His death and the consequences flowing from that death. It is fitting then that the 15th and 16th chapters should be the very heart of Luke's gospel. In these chapters, "the beloved physician" takes the pulse of his own gospel, so to speak. These two chapters are vibrant and throbbing with God's message to a world sick with sin.
Our second question should be— What are the broad characteristics of our "sun spot" here? The details can be examined later, but what are the leading thoughts? Unquestionably, they are the revelation of the hearts of God and man. The 15th chapter of Luke's gospel records the very beating of God's heart. It unfolds the divine bosom in all its richness and loveliness in the story of the prodigal. The necessity of the cross is made evident by the revelation that man is lost. Now the fall and depravity of man is a self-evident truth. As divine history, the fall of man is recorded at the beginning of the Bible; as human history, the sin of man has scorched this world with suffering. But what we find here is that God is interested in this problem, which is beyond human solution— so much so that He sent His Son into this world to die for our sins on the cross. Luke's record becomes fascinating when he tells us why God was so interested in our fallen race— it is because, after all, man is related to God in sonship— "a certain man had two sons"— that is, a relationship in affection. God lost much when that relationship was disturbed by sin. He wanted to restore that relationship in righteousness and the cross was the only way He could do it.
"Thy death has brought to light the Father's heart
And ours has won
And now we contemplate Thee as Thou art
God's glorious Son!
And know that we are loved with that great love
That rests on Thee in those bright courts above.”
Man Is Lost, but Not Abandoned— 15:3-10
One evening I took my wife to dinner at a restaurant called "The Dutch Sisters." Its decor was that of an old sailing ship. The "cabin," with old oak beams, rope, portholes, seemed dingy. Pictures of old sailing ships, shrouded in the mists of far-off days, hung on the walls. I looked at one and imagination gripped me. I saw the men in the rigging. How easy to fall into the sea, I thought. Then, out of the past, something came back to me. Once again I seemed to see the cold gray waters of the Atlantic. I was one of eighteen thousand men on the liner, Queen Elizabeth, which had been converted into a troopship. We were sailing out of Halifax harbor for Scotland, and the captain was speaking to all on board over the ship's public address system. I could remember snatches of what he said.... "This is the captain of the ship speaking... my orders are law in wartime... I have authority over every officer and man on board... this has been given to me by the allied governments. If you disobey my orders, you will be thrown in irons, kept in the hold, and court-martialed will be barred with steel shutters, and you will go below. If you are called on deck after this time, do not smoke, for a lighted cigarette can be seen for miles at sea. Because this ship has the capacity to transport so many troops, Hitler has offered the Iron Cross to any U-boat commander who can sink it. We sail without convoy, except for leaving and arriving escorts, and depend on our speed on the open sea to escape submarines. For this reason, if you fall overboard, we will make no attempt to rescue you— you will be left to your fate.”
When the steel shutters were battened down that night, an incredible thing took place. The fighting men of many nations aboard, almost by common consent, broke into such songs of evil that for the moment I thought I was in hell. An outburst like this did not occur again during the voyage. Most likely, the captain's speech made everybody suddenly realize they were in danger, and then, what was hidden in the depths of their hearts, came out.
I tell this story to show how the message of the Bible is self-proving. Thousands of years have rolled by since God gave man the Bible, but the hearts of God and man remain unchanged. Man is lost— the troops on board that ship confirmed that basic message of the Bible. But he is not abandoned. If you are lost, there is hope that you will be found. But if you had fallen off that troopship, no lifebelt would have been thrown to you, no attempt made to rescue you. You would have been abandoned to your hopeless fate. This is what hell is— abandonment by God. The men on board that ship avoided such a fate by obedience to the sea captain's orders. But the Lord of Glory has a voice like the sound of many waters. Not only that, but He Himself was abandoned by God on the cross that the lost might never be abandoned. That was the meaning of His cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" He has all authority and power— not given to Him by human governments like the sea captain, but from God, the Father, the Supreme Source of power and authority. He came to save you who are lost. Did you ever see a child who was lost, crying for its parents? Its concern is for itself, but the other side of being lost is that the parents have lost their child— its company and happiness. That is why God, the Father, is so concerned that the lost be found. But if you refuse God's offer of salvation, you will not only be lost, but abandoned forever and ever. There is a great difference between being lost and being abandoned. When you are lost, there is hope that you may be found; when you are abandoned, all hope of being saved is gone. The prodigal son in Luke 15 was lost, but later found; the rich man in Luke 16 was abandoned in hell forever. With these preliminary explanations, let us now turn to the consideration of the Lord's words.
Introductory Remarks Concerning the Lord's Parable
It was the grace poured into the lips of Christ, the One whom God has blessed forever, which attracted to Him the vile and the outcasts. Nobody else wanted them. And when such people came to Christ, the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, "this Man receiveth sinners and eateth with them." This was entirely consistent with the Lord's teaching— "when thou makest a feast call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind... for they cannot recompense thee" 14:13, 14. No wonder one of those who heard Him exclaimed, "blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." Why, then, did the Pharisees and scribes murmur? It was because they saw themselves as more righteous than those who thronged Christ. They did not know that in God's eyes all men are lost. Because they could not endure such direct teaching, the Lord told them a parable concerning a lost sheep, a lost piece of silver, and two sons, one of whom knew that he was lost, but the other didn't.
We must understand at the very beginning that the Lord is speaking of the Jew and the Gentile in His parable. Jew and Gentile comprise the world of man. The Jew would readily have consented to the Lord's teaching that the Gentile was lost but himself? Oh, no. Well, in the parable, the lost sheep is the Gentile and the lost piece of silver, the Jew. So both Jew and Gentile are lost. Then "a certain man had two sons" —the Jew and the Gentile. Again both are shown to be lost, but this time in practice— that is, by the conduct of the prodigal and elder sons.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Piece of Silver
The stories of the lost sheep and the lost piece of silver are so interconnected that it is almost impossible to consider each one separately. So we will consider the teaching in the parable under different headings, as follows:... The Truth that both Jew and Gentile are Lost: Both Jew and Gentile belong to the fallen Adam race. But before Christ came, God segregated the Jew from the Gentile, gave the Jew His land, the Holy Scriptures, the Temple, the testimony of the prophets. In other words, He put the Jew in an especially favored place to see if man could produce fruit for God if divinely educated and favored. The Epistle to the Romans tells us of the failure of man when tried— "We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin." Rom. 3:9. Now we will see how the lost sheep and the lost piece of silver illustrate this truth.
In one view of the parable— the one we are considering here— the lost piece of silver is the Jew— the lost sheep, the Gentile. The sheep wanders away from the fold as the Gentile did from God Acts 17:22-31. The Jew, however, remains at home in the house.
He had Ten Commandments, like the ten pieces of silver here. But if you break just one commandment, you are lost, even if you keep the other nine as the woman did here. The piece of silver was lost in the house— figuratively, the house of God— the sheep was lost outside— figuratively, the world— and brought back to the house.
... The Truth that Man is Lost as a Creature: The truth that we belong to a fallen race from which no good can be expected is vigorously resisted by every man who has not obeyed the gospel. Every human religion has at its core some demand on man therefore, an enshrined belief that in spite of his evil nature, effort can improve man. Similarly, every newspaper editorial, student protest, etc., assumes that the other party, the other country, etc., is wrong, and all will be well if only we listen to the voice of reform, reason, etc. Not so. The Word of God says— "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Rom. 3:23. Man is lost.
The parable illustrates this truth beautifully. There is a lost sheep and a lost piece of silver. The sheep is a living thing, the silver, dead and lifeless. So God views man as a lost sheep— living in sins as we are told in Rom. 3— dead and lifeless as a coin, dead in trespasses and sins Eph. 2. Romans is the Epistle which gives us man as he is in this world— and so 'living in sins like a lost sheep— a living thing. The coin is a lifeless thing and shows man to be dead toward God. In Ephesians, it is more God looking down from heaven to see if there are any righteous on earth, and finding none.
Who should have understood the meaning of one sheep being lost out of one hundred better than the Pharisees and scribes who boasted in Scripture? Should not the one hundred sheep have reminded them of the one hundredth Psalm— "We are His people and the sheep of His pasture"? Or of what the prophet Isaiah wrote— "all we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way, and the lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" Isa. 53:6. But why, in describing man's lost condition, did not the parable tell us that ninety-nine sheep and nine pieces of silver were lost? Wouldn't it have been better to reverse the figures that way and make the condemnation appear more universal? No, the illustration conveys exactly what God had in mind. Salvation is an individual matter— between your soul and God. So there is one lost sheep, one lost piece of silver, one lost son who returned, one lost son who never returned. "This man receiveth sinners." They had said it. So, if they, like the other lost sheep, will take this ground, they, too, will be received. Secondly, "and eateth with them." Here was the Son of a Father who spread a feast for any returning prodigal, be he publican, sinner, Pharisee, or scribe. He will eat with such.
... The Work of the Trinity in the Salvation of Man: The whole Trinity is active in the salvation of man. The Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd who goes out in the world to seek the lost sheep. The Holy Spirit works inside, not outside, like the Good Shepherd. The Holy Spirit is aptly depicted as a woman, for a woman's work is inside a house. Even so, the Holy Spirit works inside the house of God. He is the light of the sanctuary— the inside place— as Christ is the light of the world— the outside place. The Spirit's work is to shine the light on the dead coin. This exposes the lost condition of the Jew, for he had the privileged position of being in the house of God, unlike the poor Gentile. The broom speaks of the energy of the Spirit in sweeping the house. The candle and the broom give us the two ways the Spirit worked with Israel. The candle shone on what was dead, exposing Israel's true moral condition before God. The broom is the energy of the Spirit, working through the prophets, etc., in all directions to reach them. A light was struck in the house, because, as already stated, the Jew had the privileged inside position— the Gentile must be sought outside by Christ, and brought back to the house.
The work of God the Father for the sinner is not given us in this opening parable. This comes out later in the following parable about the prodigal son. There we find that both the Son and the Father have come out. The Son went into the far country seeking the lost sheep— the Father went into the fields to greet the returning prodigal. God the Father's heart is not made known until it has been clearly demonstrated, not only that man is lost like the lost sheep and lost piece of silver, but that our self-centered lives confirm this— in the story of the prodigal. This is the distinction between sin and sins. Sin— the lost sheep and lost coin— is the root of the tree; sins— the life of the prodigal— its bitter fruit. It is only when the worst of man comes out that the greatness of the Father's love is made known— "for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
When the lost sheep and lost piece of silver are found, there is great joy. This great joy is not confined to earth only where the lost things are found. There is joy in heaven, too. But suppose you say, "How do I know I am the lost sheep and lost piece of silver?" Well, in both cases, the Lord Jesus Christ tells us there is joy in heaven when one sinner repents. What is a sinner? He is one who does his own will, as every man does until he is saved, This will expresses itself in three ways, which are the governing principles of the world— deceit (or lies), corruption, and violence. And what is repentance? It is simply taking God's side against ourselves. It is admitting that God's view of us is correct— that we are lost— and not our view that there is some good in us which can be developed by effort— by religious exercises, ethics, etc. The latter only justify us before men. God is looking for "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" Acts 20:21. The first movement of our heart toward God brings joy in heaven and earth. We cease our struggling and let the Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, take us home to eternal blessing.
How does He do it? When the Lord Jesus was here, He Himself sought the lost. Now He gives us the privilege of seeking others out. We are to wrestle with men’s consciences to bring them to God. Inwardly man knows he is lost, but will not admit it. I remember an incident on a passenger boat many years ago which illustrates this. We had come to the end of our cruise and were approaching Toronto harbor by the Eastern gap. On the deck above, the dancing stopped with the last notes of the orchestra. The engines were slowed down and the ship gently made her approach, lapping the waves. It was a scene of great natural beauty— full moonlight, the blending of sea and sky, and the lights of the city as we came nearer the docks. This caused an abrupt hush on board. Suddenly four girls, sitting on deck chairs to the right of me, broke the silence by singing a song mocking the gospel. The chorus went— "You can't get to heaven on the Yonge Street car, for the Yonge Street car doesn't go that far." When they paused, I handed several gospel tracts to the first girl on my right and asked her to pass them on to her friends. She did. They all glanced at the title: "How the Lost Sheep Was Found," and remained silent until the ship docked. The conscience had been reached.
The Lost Sheep and Lost Piece of Silver Introduce Us to the Stories of Three
Men Who Were Lost Man is not described according to his character until the question of his guilt has been established. That is why we are first told about a lost sheep and a lost piece of silver. The Lord establishes man's condition as lost before He lets us know the consequences of this. To illustrate— the Lord first connects man to the story of the lost sheep and lost piece of silver by the word "likewise." Then He shows the sad fruit of man's lost condition by telling us the life stories of three men— the younger (or prodigal) son, the elder son, and the rich man. The unjust steward (trustee) also mentioned in the text is only an elaboration of the elder son, as we shall see later. Finally, Luke takes up the fate of each man based upon his treatment of Christ. Since these remarks are introductory, we will summarize the fate of each man below, leaving the detailed explanation to the sub-chapters which describe them.
(1) The Younger (or Prodigal) Son: He is a figure of the Gentiles running away from God and exceedingly wicked. The grace of God reaches the Gentiles, they receive salvation and heaven as their home. This is the Father's House— the inner circle.
(2) The Elder Son: He is a figure of the Jews who stayed in the house in the land God gave them. But they were unjust trustees of the divine things committed to them. Still, God says of the elder son— "all that I have is thine"— and God gives them the earth— in the millennium— the coming one thousand year rule of Christ over the world Eph. 1:10.
(3) The Rich Man: He is a figure of unbelieving man, be he Jew or Gentile. The prodigal son got heaven as his portion, the elder son got the earth, but the rich man got hell. Instead of a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet, the unbeliever is bound hand and foot. Instead of the light of the Father's House, he is cast into outer darkness. His person is rejected and he himself forsaken in death because he rejected Christ in life.
Part 2
The Story of the Prodigal Son—the Gentile
Luke is a rich story-teller. How exquisitely he records what the Lord said. How beautifully he links together the chain of events in Chapters 10 to 15 to illustrate how God loves and cares for man. This is Luke's method— the grouping of stories as well as events to illustrate great moral truths. Let us consider now the continuous linkage between the tenth and fifteenth chapters. In the tenth chapter, Luke tells us of the Good Samaritan taking the beaten man to an inn. The inn is a figure of temporary lodging and so speaks of God's care for us as we go through this world, which will soon pass away— a care which lasts until Jesus comes to take us to His Father's House.
In the tenth chapter, the Good Samaritan poured oil and wine into our wounds. In the fourteenth chapter, He would feed us as well, for that chapter tells us of the invitation to the Great Supper. Then, in the fifteenth chapter, we learn that "this Man receiveth sinners and eateth with them." The prodigal son proves the truth of this. He is the typical guest at the Great Supper. To accept this invitation a guest would have to leave his temporary abode in the inn where the Good Samaritan left him, and enter his permanent dwelling— the Father's House. There the guests feed on the fatted calf. We will now consider these thoughts in more detail, for they are the inlets to an intelligent understanding of the story of the prodigal son.
From the Inn to the Father's House
When the Good Samaritan finds the poor man in the tenth chapter, he is so badly beaten that he puts him on his own beast and takes him to the inn. Here he pays the innkeeper to look after him until he returns. Now the Good Samaritan is Christ, "his own beast" is divine power to carry us through this world, because we are powerless to go through it without help— the inn is shelter in this world— temporary provision until the Good Samaritan returns for us. Then what? Why, we leave the inn for our permanent dwelling— our Father's House in heaven.
While we are in the inn, there is no feasting, but we are still taken care of. The feasting is at the Great Supper in our Father's House. "The certain man" who made a Great Supper in the fourteenth chapter is the same as "the certain man" who had two sons in the fifteenth chapter and who threw open his house for the enjoyment of that Supper. Each guest who accepts the invitation to the Great Supper will be astonished at the menu, for the feast is more sumptuous than his most extravagant hopes. For example, the man in the fourteenth chapter looked forward to eating bread in the kingdom. "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God" he said. And why not? God is a good provider. Wasn't Christ born in Bethlehem, which means "house of bread"? The prodigal's thoughts of God could rise no higher, either. He looked forward to eating bread in the house— "there is bread enough and to spare in my father's house." Perfectly true, but the Father's heart went far beyond providing only bread for an earthly people (the kingdom) or a heavenly people (the Father's House). It was His thought that His guests should eat the fatted calf at the Great Supper. This was the very best food that could be served at His table. The fatted calf speaks of the death of Christ. The Great Supper is at the end of the day— the celebration of a finished work.
It is beautiful to see that from the moment we are saved that is, when the Good Samaritan first finds us beaten by sin and Satan and takes us to the inn— to the moment when we enter our Father's House— the Lord cares for us. How precious when we think of how wickedly we treated Him. When He entered the world, there was no room for Him in the inn and when He left it for His Father's House, it was on a cross of shame and suffering. Yet on that very cross, He affirmed once more His care for man in the inn and the house. He said to His earthly mother— "woman behold thy son" and to John "Behold thy mother" John 19:26, 27. Thus the Apostle John became "his own beast" to take care of Mary in the inn. As for the dying thief, he got a home in heaven that very day. So Mary and the dying thief illustrate the Lord's care for man in the inn and the house. Truly the ways of God with man are wondrous. They have both made known the Father's heart and won ours. With these comments we pass on to the great thought in these chapters— the revealed Father's heart in contrast to the heart of man— and why they are so different.
The Story Opens With “a Certain Man" and His Two Sons
The Lord now commences a new story by introducing "a certain man"— a figure of God the Father— who owns much land— a figure of the world viewed as belonging entirely to God. It is a good land, as we learn later in the story of the trustee who administered its produce. It grew wheat and olive trees. Livestock grazed on it. On this rich land a fatted calf could be found and many kids. The father had two sons— who lived with him in his splendid farmhouse. Regrettably, neither son loved their father. They both knew he was wealthy. Each son wanted material things from his father out of his vast estate, but denied him the love he longed for from them as his sons.
The father knew that his sons lacked affection for him, so he was not surprised when the younger son made him a scandalous proposition: "Father give me," he said, "the share of the property that falls to me." Now an heir never inherits property until the death of his father. What the younger son was saying was that he couldn't wait for his father to die— he wanted his share of his estate while he was still young enough to enjoy it. So what does the father do? Knowing that the heart of his elder son was as wicked as that of his younger son, he divided unto them— that is, to each son— his living. It does not say he sold and divided the land, but rather he gave them equal shares of the living off the land. In this way both sons became trustees of the rich farmer's goods. However, the younger son wanted nothing of this arrangement. He gathered together everything he could find as soon as possible and left his father. Thus, he forfeited all title to his father's property. Then he took his journey into a far country and there wasted his substance in riotous living. In the Bible "the far country" may be variously interpreted as heaven or the world, depending on the context— that is, heaven viewed as far away from the world, or the world viewed as far away from heaven. Here it clearly means the world.
The Prodigal Son and His First Cry—"Father Give Me.”
“Father give me" is the first cry of the prodigal; then "Father I have sinned" the next, and "Father make me" his unuttered cry. "Father give me the share of the property that falls to me," the prodigal cried. So saying, he revealed the state of soul which caused his later fall. He was as far away from his father then as when he was in the far country. "Father give me" was really the thought in Adam's heart when he surveyed the greatness of the creation. As soon as Satan tempted him, Adam's heart responded. Surely God had held something back from him— had denied him the forbidden fruit. "Father give me" is as old as the garden in Eden. Later we will see that the elder son expressed the same thought, only in slightly different language— "you never gave me." "Father give me" implies that I am all right. I just need something added to me— some material possessions which my Father is denying me. The trouble is with my Father, not with me. As for my Father, He is insufficient in Himself to satisfy me. The truth is that nothing more was needed on man's side, but on God's side what was lacking was a revelation of the Father's heart. The prodigal's cry was the beginning of this, the stirring of two hearts— God who needed His heart made known— man who wanted something more than that heart, because he did not know what was in it. It took the prodigal's sin to show the grace in the Father's heart. Only the Lord Jesus, the Son of the Father, knew what was in the Father's heart, apart from sin. Sin had to come into the world and be put away at the cross before the Father's heart could be known.
Our language is governed by our state of soul— it reveals where we are. Take Paul, who writes, "I Paul, the prisoner of the Lord" Eph. 4:1. But Paul, you say, you are Caesar's prisoner. Not so, he replies, I never look at second causes; I take my circumstances from the Lord. "Father give me" shows that the prodigal did not know his heart or his father's heart; "father make me" shows that he did not understand a son's relationship with a father; "father I have sinned" turned the key of knowledge. Before the prodigal cried, "father give me," he was dissatisfied with his father. "Godliness with contentment is great gain" 1 Tim. 6:6
The Prodigal Son Leaves His Father and Goes Away to the Far Country
“And not many days after he gathered all together." It took a few days to turn his father's goods into cash. During this waiting period, surely it should have occurred to him that his father wasn't going to hold anything back from him at all! Why did he ever leave the threshold of his father's house, then? Ah! His conscience was not awakened. So he went— he is still going, you see, for restless movement characterizes all those who leave the Father— and joined himself to a citizen of that country. When he went, he left everything worthwhile behind— his father's love, and the warmth of his father's house. There is nothing to check his lusts now. Man without God is governed entirely by his lusts and public opinion. It is not so with the believer. He has to pass through the far country, too, but his walk is governed by the sense that God is his Father and he His son. We are to walk in the far country as though we are already in our Father's House. But the prodigal is a man of the world now and the farther he gets from home, the worse his conduct is. So, in the far country, the prodigal son drops lower and lower, until there is little about him to mark him as the son of his father. We only show what we really are when we are away from home. Did the younger son have a different heart in the far country than when in his father's house? Not a bit of it! Why do soldiers and sailors stationed in other countries behave so much worse than when they are at home? Did stationing them abroad change them? Not at all. It merely gave an opportunity to show what they were really like when the influence of home was withdrawn. We are not tried when full, but when empty, when everything is against us and nothing is for us. How different the heart of man is from Christ's. He was tried by Satan after fasting forty days in a desert place and in Satan's eyes, receiving no help from His Father to sustain Him. But Christ, the Son of the Father's Love, overcame the devil in His temptation.
Famine Strikes in the Far Country
Well, the younger son was overcome in the far country. First he spent all that he had. Where did he get it from? Why, from his father. When a young man goes out in the world to seek its pleasures, he spends what God gave him, although he thinks it is his own. He spends his health in debauchery, the perils of military service, or toiling to make other men rich. He taxes his brain with studies. He gives his God-given talents up to build a world which his own eyes tell him will be torn down by succeeding generations, for, as Thomas Huxley once remarked, "all the works of man tend to dissolution." As time goes on, he finds that these pursuits do not satisfy. How much does it cost you to buy military medals in a pawnshop— medals which could have cost some man his life? Not much. Does anybody stop at your grave to inquire at which university you were educated, your professional qualifications, or how much money you were worth? No, you are forgotten. The realization of these simple truths burns a hole in the soul of the man whose hopes are confined to this life. "The things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal" 2 Cor. 4:18. A mighty famine arose in the land where the younger son was— a great famine indeed— a famine of the things the younger son had known in his father's house. The real famine in the world today is a famine of the Words of the Lord. It is need that drives us back to our Father. In John 4, we find the woman at the well thirsty. She was trying to satisfy her thirst with what she found in the world— Jacob's well. The Lord Jesus knew that her thirst was inside, and gave her a well of water inside her to satisfy her thirst at its source. So with the prodigal. There is a mighty famine, but bread in his father's house. "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled" Matt. 5:6.
No wonder he began to be in want. In vain did he work to find relief. Still he had no alternative, for "no man gave to him." If you lose your health or your money in this world, you also lose those whom you thought were your friends. It is desperation that turns man to God. The plight of the younger son was such that he would gladly have filled his belly with the swine's food. Here we have a picture of man when the things he relies on for natural enjoyment crumble before his eyes. Does he like to watch television or is he an avid reader? His eyesight fails. Does he like to listen to music, the news, discuss politics? He grows deaf with advancing years. Would he like to participate in some sporting event, or march with his old regiment, perhaps? Arthritis has crippled his legs. Now the things of the world have proper and improper use. However, even if properly used, they can become idols if they are allowed to become objects for enjoyment and satisfaction, rather than God. An idol is anything which comes between the soul and God. Nothing in the world is evil in itself rather is it the use to which a thing is put which brings out good or evil. For example, the physician can use a drug to heal a man; the addict can use the same drug to ruin himself. For another example, consider nuclear energy which can either be used to generate electricity or to kill people on a giant scale. However, even if we use the things in the world properly, there is the further snare of allowing them to become idols. That happens when instead of merely being diligent in our business, we allow it to dominate all our thoughts and so shut God out of our lives. Then we feed on husks— the low-down food of the world which lacks nourishment— and like the prodigal, may not even be able to get that much. A great famine arises in the soul, since it has departed from God who alone can feed it. The Scriptures have warned us not to allow the world or the things in it to lure us away from our Father— "love not the world, neither the things that are in the world— if any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him" 1 John 2:15.
The prodigal had tasted the things of the world to the full and found they did not satisfy. He begins to compare himself to the servants in his father's house and the bread they ate. He had served the world— the citizens of the far country— and he couldn't even eat the food of the swine— "I perish with hunger" was his lament. The pangs of famine in the soul, its parched condition and desperate need of living water these are the things which drive men to God. He never fails us. Here the father meets the hunger of his younger son. When he returns home, he proves the truth of the Lord's words "he that cometh to Me shall never hunger and he that believeth in Me shall never thirst." John 6:35.
Now listen to his words, for a man's words reveal his state of soul "by thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" Matt. 12:37. "I will arise and go to my father." Though he has not acted like a son, he feels instinctively that he can trust his father to act like a father. I will arise. There it is— the will. The will is the spring of sin— of self. "Ye will not come to Me that ye might have life" the Lord said John 5:40. The prodigal son is finished with self now. It brought him to the pig pen. He will arise from that and go back to his father. But his thoughts accuse him. How will he explain his misconduct? He must prepare a speech— he must be ready. He will rehearse this speech for the moment when he must meet his father.
The Prodigal Son Goes Back to His Father
So the younger son retraces his footsteps to his father's house. The landmarks of the far country disappear and the road homeward comes into view. But is he thinking about the road as he walks on? Scarcely. He is thinking about meeting his father. When a sinner comes to Christ, what is happening in the world is not his concern— it is about whether God will receive him. We all have harsh thoughts about God naturally, and say in our hearts— "I feared Thee because Thou art an austere Man" 19:21. A missionary in China, the late G. C. Willis, once asked a Chinese artist to paint a picture of the prodigal son returning to his father. To make sure the painting would be accurate, he told him to read the account in Luke's gospel carefully before starting to work. When the artist turned over the canvas, the missionary was astounded to look at a picture of the father thrashing his son with a big stick.
“Why, the story doesn't say that!" he exclaimed.
“Maybe it doesn't," replied the painter, "but that's what he deserved.”
Well, if we all got what we deserved, the whole human race would be banished from God. God, being what He is, had to find a way back for man— a way which displayed His grace without sacrificing His righteousness. That was the work of the cross.
"Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.”
“When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's grace
Than when we first begun.”
Well, the father saw the returning son before the son saw the father. If you are not yet a Christian, did it ever occur to you that God is yearning over you, though you never even think of Him? His heart is filled with love toward you. The father saw the son, "when he was a great way off." First the father had compassion on him. No doubt the sight of his son in the rags of the far country, thin and famished from the lack of food he could supply, moved his heart. He ran to him and did not stop until he fell on his neck. He covered him with kisses before the son even had time to confess he had sinned. The father knew that by returning to him, he had really judged and forsaken his past.
The Prodigal's Last Cry Is "Father I Have Sinned" Not "Father Make Me.”
Before returning to his father, the prodigal had made up a speech to apologize for his behavior. He rehearsed it carefully— "Father I have sinned against heaven and before thee and am no more worthy to be called thy son. Make me as one of thy hired servants." As the father was kissing him, the son recited the first part of his speech— "Father I have sinned against heaven and before thee and am no more worthy to be called thy son." Once he admits this, the father will not permit him to say "make me as one of thy hired servants." Why? Because "Father make me" really means, "I must have lost my sonship because of my sins, so perhaps you will let me serve you to do penance for them. I will be glad to carry out your orders and show you what I can do." But when you sin, you can no longer serve God. The only way back is on the ground of pure grace and mercy. "Father make me" was just as wrong as "Father give me." The father received the prodigal back not because of what the son was, but because of what the father was. When a man realizes he is a sinner before God, his first thought is to make amends for his wrongdoing by serving him. He wants to merit salvation by works.
In the City of Lahore, India, there once lived a man whose name was Mohammedan Sahib Shah, but who was called "Sankal-Walah" (man of chains). He began putting chains on his body as a young man and welding on more and more as he grew older. At the time of his death, his chains weighed 670 pounds, which weight he carried for the last thirteen years of his life. The people considered him a very holy man because of the way he mortified his body in an effort to obtain salvation. But the Scripture teaches that it is "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us" Titus 3:5. Chains, penance, holy robes, are external to the body and merely express the wish for a holy life. Holiness is inside, and is only possible by the new birth which God gives to those who believe in His Son Jesus Christ— read John's gospel, chapter 3.
The elder son said, "lo these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment" (v. 29)—. thus showing he was no different from his brother who wanted to be a servant. Man wants to do works of righteousness to please God because they make him important in his own eyes. He rejects the cross because it condemns him as a sinner who can do nothing to please God. Only those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ can serve God acceptably. "His servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face, and His Name shall be in their foreheads" Rev. 22:3, 4.
Once the prodigal confesses his sin, the father will not permit him to say "make me as one of thy hired servants." From "Father give me" to "Father I have sinned," there was a work of grace in the prodigal's soul. He has truly repented, even though he still does not understand his father's heart. He cannot be received back as a servant, for he never was one. He left as a son and must be received back as a son. His first cry, "Father give me" implied that he needed possessions— the "share of the property" his father was keeping back from him. Then the thought "Father make me" shows the folly of the first cry, for he received his share of the property and was now more miserable than when he demanded it.
Thus, the prodigal has gone full circle from the father to the father. When he left the father, he began to be in want; when he returned, both he and his father began to be merry. Like man in innocence in the garden of Eden, we don't know what he was like in his father's house in the beginning. It took the fall of man— and the prodigal's life tells us the results of that— to bring out the story of redeeming grace. So now the younger son stops talking and the father starts.
The father now talks, not to his son, but to his servants— "bring forth the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet." What a contrast with the far country! When I was in the far country with the harlots, there was no music and dancing. I had rags on the outside; an empty belly on the inside. Now I have Christ on the outside, for Christ is the best robe— and Christ on the inside, for I have eaten the fatted calf. Even in the far country the only support I had came from my Father's purse which I had robbed. When that was gone, no man gave unto me. Oh, to return to my Father! On her deathbed, Lady Huntingdon exclaimed, "I shall be with my Father tonight.”
Divine Love
Only the father was concerned that the prodigal should have his old place back. The prodigal only knew that he perished with hunger. Compare him with Rahab the harlot, who "perished not with them that believed not." She was a harlot; the prodigal one who had devoured his father's living with harlots. The same grace meets both of them, for John 3:16 tells us that whosoever believes in the Son "should not perish." In the far country, the prodigal would gladly have filled his belly with the food of the swine— and no man gave unto him. When he returns, he eats the fatted calf— that is, partakes of the death of Christ in figure. The fatted calf is the Father's food, too— "let us eat," etc. God delights in His Son and in His finished work. Well, it is the father who gives the prodigal back a son's place— gives him gifts from his heart— justifies him before men— for the elder son had accused him— as he had been already justified before God— "it is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?" Rom. 8:33, 4.
Later on we shall comment on the father's gifts to the prodigal in some detail. Here we shall be content to summarize them briefly. The first thing the prodigal got in the field when he returned was the father's heart— he covered him with kisses. Why didn't this take place before he left his father's house? Ah! When a child's heart is not right with its parents, it pushes away parental love. Not so with the True Son —the Lord Jesus— "He was daily His delight." Next the prodigal gets the best robe. The best robe is Christ, because there can be nothing better. The best robe is brought out of God's House before Christ the fatted calf is killed, because God's earliest thought was the blessing of man. That is, God replies to "Father make me" in a positive way as He did to "Father give me." He makes him, true enough, but after His Son, not like a hired servant. We shall always wear the best robe so that when the Father looks at us, He will not see us, but Christ. We are covered with what came out of the Father's House. The best robe clothes us in the field— that is, while we are still in this world.
Then there is the ring— my acceptance with my Father according to the work of Christ on the cross, in which I had no part but to believe. The shoes are standing on redemption ground. I get them while promised something better in my Father's House. I use my shoes to start walking heavenward. And what is this I hear as I near the house? Why, music and dancing. I smell the aroma of the fatted calf. This was the expression of the father's substance— eating and enjoying a portion from himself— as the kisses were the expression of his heart. Formerly the prodigal had devoured the father's substance with harlots. Eating the fatted calf is inward sustenance— music and dancing the outer expression of inner joy. It must be so, for the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. The joy comes last, because I cannot make merry in the field where the fatted calf was slain— that is, in plain language, I cannot make merry in a world which crucified my Lord. I will make merry in my Father's House. Praise the Lord I am fitted for that house now with the best robe, the ring, and the shoes. I am dressed as a son now. The servants will recognize me as a son. The Father's House is the prodigal's eternal portion. There we find the revealed Father's love— the atmosphere of the glory. In the Father's House they began to be merry. There is no record of any end to that.
The Father's House
“Oh, scenes of heavenly joy!
The Father's house above,
Where cloudless peace without alloy
Fills all that home of love.
“There glory bright and fair
Shines with celestial beam
For He who suffered once is there —
Its center and its theme.”
Part 3
The Story of the Elder Son— the Jew
At first glance, the elder son seems to be devoted to his father. Indeed, he protests to his father that he is, and compares himself favorably to his wicked brother. But he neither loves his brother nor his father, and the Scripture says, "he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" 1 John 4:20. The elder son is a figure of the Jew, of whom it is written, "they please not God, and are contrary to all men" 1 Thess. 2:15. How could the Jew say he pleased God when his fathers worshipped a golden calf and he himself refused to eat the fatted calf? Worse still, the Acts of the Apostles, the inspired history of the early Church, tells us how he opposed the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles.
The Jew might claim that the Gentiles were prodigal sons, profaning the earth with their wicked lives. However, the elder son wasn't much better. To help us understand this, Luke casts the elder son in the role of a trustee charged with embezzling a rich man's estate. This rich man is the farmer in the fourteenth chapter, the "certain man" who had two sons. Unquestionably then, both sons wasted his estate— the prodigal son in the far country— the elder son at home. The elder son, thinking that his father was unaware of the lurid sins his brother had committed, tells him all the details. The father already knew that the prodigal had devoured his living with harlots. But the father received him back, not because of what the son was, but because he was a father. This is the principle of divine grace, so disliked by the self-righteous. The elder son did not understand grace. It never occurred to him that his case only differed in degree from his brother's.
The Gentile— the prodigal son— wandered away from God. Forgetting Him, they committed carnal sins. The Jew— the elder son— remained at home in the land of Israel, where they were custodians of the Holy Scriptures and abode in God's Presence at that Temple which the Lord Himself acknowledged as His Father's House on earth. So both Jew and Gentile sinned precisely where the record says— one while away from God, the other while near Him. The sins of the Gentile were carnal— of the Jews, spiritual. We have already considered the carnal sins of the prodigal son. Now we will turn our attention to the spiritual sins of the Jew. These are abandoning the light and food found in the Holy Scriptures, and then opposing the Will of God to bless the Gentiles in the gospel. This is the general picture; now let us consider it in detail. We will reconstruct the scene in the field after the younger son had entered his father's house and study the elder son's reaction to that event.
The Elder Son's Controversy With His Father
The elder son is in the field walking toward the house. As he nears it, the sound of merry-making— music and dancing— drifts over to his ears. Strange to say, he doesn't go into the house to inquire what is happening. There had never been anything like that in the house before, so he calls one of the servants and asks him what is going on. Why didn't he go directly to his father like the prodigal? And what a son he was when a servant knew more about his father's house than he did! The servant tells him that his brother has returned and his father is so happy he is safe that he has killed the fatted calf, This makes him angry. His will is aroused and he refused to go in. So his father comes out and remonstrates with him. God the Father came out of His House, so to speak, and begged the Jews to come in through the preaching of the twelve Apostles following the day of Pentecost. This went on until they slew His ambassador, Stephen— read Acts 7— and in this way told Him definitely that they would not go in.
With the elder son, all is "I," "me" and "my." "Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment, and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends." For a man who made such high claims, how prominently he rates himself. What a revelation of his self-centered state! His younger brother was just as full of himself but in a different context, the humbling realization of his misdeeds "I perish with hunger. I will arise and go unto my father and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee... make me as one of thy hired servants." In the elder son, much iniquity is submerged. It does not surface like the prodigal until the father acts in grace. The prodigal made no claims except that he was a sinner perishing with hunger. The prodigal called on his father as a son; the elder son ignored him. The prodigal wanted to say "Father make me" that is, he hoped his father would permit him to serve him as he had once served the citizens of the far country. The elder brother, however, did serve his father. Let us now see how faithfully or poorly he did so.
“Lo These Many Years Do I Serve Thee"—the Story of the Elder Son As God's Crooked Trustee
Since the elder son made the claim of serving God, unlike his brother, the father must have weighed it carefully before replying. The Lord refutes the claim by pointing out that the Jew did indeed serve God, but did so un-righteously. This is brought out in the story of the crooked trustee. The heart of the Jew is no different from the heart of the Gentile. God gave the Jew special privileges just to prove this point. Also, because the younger son had wasted his father's property, the elder son became responsible for its administration. The record of how he discharged this responsibility is the story of the unfaithful Trustee— the Jew or elder son. The Jew stayed in the land and behaved just as badly there as the Gentile who ran away. There is a reason why the Lord told the story of the crooked trustee as an appendix to the story of the elder son. It is because He was not speaking to the Pharisees, although they eavesdropped 16:14, but to His disciples. He wanted them to understand why the elder son behaved the way he did, knowing that the Pharisees would see nothing more in the story than condemnation of their covetousness. This was exactly the case, for they derided Him.
Actually, the sin of the elder son was worse than that of his brother, for he was the trustee of the Father's things— that is, of the things of God. The figures given to convey this are oil and wheat. In the ancient world, oil was the source of light and bread (wheat) the staff of life. The oil and wheat were the produce of the rich farmer's lord— oil was burned in lamps to enlighten men; wheat to feed them. Men were indebted to God— pictured here as the rich farmer— for these things in Old Testament days, when the world lay in moral darkness and perishing with a spiritual hunger. No wonder "there arose a mighty famine in that land" where the prodigal son's feet wandered. The Jew was the unfaithful trustee of these things, and could have satisfied the hunger of the people of the far country— the Gentile nations— with the wheat— the food of the Word of God— and the oil— the light to turn them away from their darkness and ignorance of God. The Father would have been glad of that, for no man wanted in His House. All nations were to know it as a house of prayer— not just the Jews. However, the Jew valued these things lightly. In what way, though, we may ask, did the Jew write off the rich farmer's oil and wheat to his debtors? In other words, how did the Jew cause the Gentiles to lose part of the spiritual light and food God had provided for them through the Jew? The Acts of the Apostles gives us the answer. In all the Gentile lands, the Jews had synagogues in which the Scriptures were read. These synagogues were open to the Gentiles who thronged to them, seeking relief from paganism. Thus were the Gentile nations debtors to God, the rich farmer, for his oil (light) and wheat (food for their souls), administered through His Trustee, the Jew or elder son in the synagogues. But the Jews, by their traditions and customs, reduced the flow of oil to half of what it should have been and cut the wheat down, too. God had supplied the same amount of each— one hundred measures. No wonder that the farmer made the Trustee show his books, so to speak, and gave him notice that he would be fired. The Trustee's actions made a sham of the elder son's boast that he had served his father faithfully for many years. But the thought of losing his divinely appointed office greatly disturbed him. When God sent Paul into the elder son's synagogues to preach the message that Jesus is the Son of God Acts 9:20 the Jew knew at last that he had lost his trusteeship of divine things. Others had taken over from him with a new, living message. He vents his anger against the new preacher who is filling his old office, opposing both the message and God who sent it.
“I Never Broke Your Law.”
This is the next claim of the elder son— "neither transgressed I at any time Thy commandment." Here is the man of law— the Jew— boasting to God that he never broke the law God gave him. How different he was from the prodigal, and yet how like each one of us naturally. A man likes to compare himself with some other man whose conduct is worse than his. This justifies him in his own eyes, but not before God. God compares us to Christ— then we see we are lost and need a Savior.
Now the Lord had previously proved that the elder son's claim was false in the story of the lost piece of silver. The Jew was in the house— that is, God's House— the Temple at Jerusalem—the place of privilege. The poor Gentile sheep were in the wilderness. Christ, as the Good Shepherd, had to go after the lost Gentile sheep— the prodigal, really— and bring him home. When the prodigal returns, his father greets him. That story links together the interest of God the Father and God the Son in one poor lost prodigal. But the Jew did not wander away like the Gentile. He was lost in the house— the very place of nearness to his Father. That is the story of the woman— the Holy Spirit in figure— striking a light to show that one piece of silver out of ten was lost. When was it, you ask, that the one piece of silver was lost? When did it drop on the floor? Think back a little. Didn't God give the Jews Ten Commandments? And didn't they break the very first commandment to love the Lord their God when they worshipped the golden calf? That was when the piece of silver was lost. To awake their consciences, the Lord brings them back in spirit to that great sin of their fathers. Had they judged it? Not at all. They were filling up the sins of their fathers. They had departed from God by worshipping a golden calf, the death of the fatted calf was the only way to bring them back to the God they had forsaken.
How the Elder Son Broke the Law by Worshipping the Golden Calf
The first commandment in the law was that Israel was to love the Lord their God with all their heart, their soul, their strength. When they lost their first love for the Lord, the way was opened for the breaking of the first commandment and the worshipping of the golden calf. Then, when Stephen addressed the Jewish Sanhedrin at the end of their sad history, he reminded them of how their fathers had worshipped the golden calf. It was for this sin God had carried them captive beyond Babylon. God did not do this as soon as they worshipped the golden calf. First, He sent them prophets and judges within and enemies without, so they might repent and seek His Face once more. Instead, their darkness increased. Israel wanted to be like the neighboring nations— multiplying horses, silver, and idols. All this idolatry stemmed from the worship of the golden calf. So they were carried captive, not only to Babylon, but beyond Babylon, as Stephen said. The Jew was scattered and dispersed among the Gentile nations long after the Babylonian captivity.
The golden calf never had life. It was only made because God's people turned away from Him in their hearts. It was formed out of the golden earrings they once wore. Now "faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God" Rom. 10:17. The golden earrings spoke of Israel's attachment to the hearing of the Word of God. They discarded this link with Jehovah, corrupted it into a golden calf, and worshipped the work of their hands. The fatted calf speaks of feasting on what God had provided— the work of God's hands. It had life— "in Him was life, and the life was the light of men" John 1:4. But Christ gave His life up in obedience to His Father's Will. Disobedience to God's Will produced the golden calf; obedience to God's Will caused the death of the fatted calf. The golden calf is the expression of our hearts— the fatted calf of the Father's heart. We are commanded to "keep your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life" Prov. 4:23. The Christian is to avoid idolatry, and this means much more than not worshipping a physical idol. Anything which comes between the soul and God is an idol. It might be a thing perfectly right in itself— say a computer— but if it so engrosses the heart that there is nothing left for God in one's life, then that thing becomes an idol. "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" 1 John 5:21. Christ is to attract our hearts— "Ephraim shall say 'what have I any more to do with idols?' I have heard Him" Hos. 14:8.
The law exposed Israel's hearts. Breaking the law by worshipping the golden calf, they let their hearts go in music and dancing. It was rejoicing in the flesh. Rejoicing in the Lord is the music and dancing of the Father's House where we eat the fatted calf— God's provision for us as lost sinners— the death of Christ. The golden calf was a figure of Israel corrupting the Word of God and turning it into a religious system suited to the flesh. The externals were there— Moses, the law, the Temple— but when Christ came among them, they reviled the blind man whose sight He restored, saying "you are His disciple but we are Moses' disciples" John 9:28. So they rejoiced at the work of their hands. But God showed His displeasure at the beginning when three thousand of their fathers were slain for their idolatry Ex. 32:28. However, God showed His pleasure at the work of His hands— the killing of the fatted calf— when He saved three thousand at the Day of Pentecost Acts 2:41 The same number of souls who were once slain for worshipping the golden calf.
How the Elder Son Despised Grace by Rejecting the Fatted Calf
The last words the father spoke to the elder son were "It is fitting that we should make merry and be glad, for this thy brother was dead" like the lost piece of silver and is alive again; and was lost "like the lost sheep—" and is found. The lost sheep and lost piece of silver represent property lost and found, and so the call "rejoice with me" in both cases, is appropriate. But when the lost son returns, relationship in affection is restored, which is deeper. Christ, as the Good Shepherd, goes after the lost sheep; the Holy Spirit, as the woman sweeping the house, seeks the lost piece of silver. These figures illustrate the work of the whole Trinity in securing our salvation. Our part in salvation is returning like the prodigal— not being sought. Man is responsible to obey the gospel and must return to the God he has given up if he is to be blessed. The moment a man believes the gospel, he starts his journey to his Father's House. He has accepted the invitation to the Great Supper and is looking forward to eating the fatted calf in his Father's House in heaven.
Now the Father provided the fatted calf for both His sons. The Jew could have enjoyed it instead of complaining that his father never gave him a kid. Why not come in and feast on the calf? There would be enough on it for all to eat and celebrate. But this meant eating with publicans and sinners, as the blessed Lord had done. The prodigal son said, "Father give me"; the elder son, "You never gave me." Still, when the prodigal returned, he addressed his father as his father. The elder son ignored him. Sensitive at this treatment, the father called his eldest son "child" 15:31 because he did not act like a son. He denied both his relationship to his father and to his brother. How could the elder son say he had served his father? The law told him to love his neighbor as himself, but he did not even love his brother.
Only the Father's Friends Will Eat the Fatted Calf
Although the elder son loved neither his father nor his brother, he did have friends. But, as we might suspect, they were not the father's friends, but his own. He complained that his father never gave him a kid so he could make merry with his friends. He didn't want his father's richest gift— for the fatted calf is a figure of Christ offered up in death for us. He didn't understand that it wasn't his father's mind to celebrate in the field— this world where His beloved Son was crucified. It was only in the Father's House that they began to be merry. The elder son transgressed the Lord's teaching in wanting to make merry with his friends, as well as misunderstanding his father. The Lord said "When thou makest a dinner or a supper call not thy friends" etc. 14:12. The elder son wanted to celebrate with his friends— away from his father, just as the prodigal son made merry with his friends— the harlots of the far country, away from his father. Their friends were not the father's friends. The good shepherd called together his friends when he found the lost sheep 15:6 the woman who found the lost piece of silver called together her friends-15:9. In these two stories only property was lost and found and there was no great supper. But when the lost son is found, the Father invites guests to a Great Supper. These are the poor and maimed, the lame and blind 14:13. The prodigal is a good example of a guest invited to the Great Supper. These were the father's friends— the publicans and sinners who came to hear Christ at the beginning of chapter 15 but they were not the elder son's friends. The Jews disdained them, saying, "this Man receives sinners and eats with them." Thus, they sat in judgment on God's Son, just as in the parable they judged the Father who sent Him, saying, "as soon as this thy son is come, who has devoured your living with harlots, you have killed for him the fatted calf." Actually, the fatted calf was killed for both sons. It was not the father's fault if the elder son objected to his company and so refused to eat it with him. He even came out and begged him to change his mind.
When the Father Gives the Eldest Son a Kid, It Will Not Be to Make Merry With His Friends, but to Sacrifice As a Sin Offering
Now let us picture the history of the Jew— the elder son. He started by worshipping the golden calf and so broke the law in its very first commandment. Then God the Father, knowing his sinfulness, acted graciously to him. He invited him to come into His House and eat the fatted calf with his Gentile brother. But he would not. They closed their eyes Acts 28:27 and lapsed into moral darkness for a season. God, on His part, has had to give them up until He puts an end to their controversy with Him in a future day. Then He will give them a kid, which the eldest son complained he never got from his father. But it will not be to make merry, but to offer to God as a sin offering. In this way they will be forced to admit, like their Gentile brothers, "Father I have sinned.”
Much light is given to us on the history of the elder son, as well as his future, in the following passage, "and Jacob was left alone, and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh, and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob but Israel, for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed" Gen. 32:24-28. This is the history of the elder son after rejecting the fatted calf— left alone wrestling with God during the night. When the day breaks, God ends the struggle and gives Jacob a new name— Israel— meaning "a prince with God." The night is the night of Israel's darkness— to us, Christianity— when they have rejected their Messiah; the daybreak, the resumption of their relationship under a new name, a prince with God" just before the world kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ is established over this world. This brings us back to the ever-recurring phrase in Num. 7, where each prince— at the dedication of the altar— had to offer to the Lord "one kid of the goats for a sin offering." The eldest son who had rejected the one and only fatted calf, must now, at the end of his history, offer kids to the Lord, not to make merry with his friends, but as a sin offering.
The most complete picture of this is the feast known as the Day of Atonement. This is described in Lev. 16 "and he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering" v. 5... "and Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats— one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness" v. 8-10. "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited, and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness" v. 21-22. This shows us that the death of Christ is the only way God can bless man, be he Jew or Gentile. The Gentile's blessing came through the death of the fatted calf— the blessing of the Jew will come through the death of the kid the elder son wanted from his father. Of course, both the fatted calf and the kid are only pictures of the death of Christ. But Israel's night ends when they see that Christ was the goat on whom the Lord's lot fell. They see that their sins have been lost in the wilderness where the live goat has carried them, and that Jehovah remembers them no more. They cease wrestling with God. Morning breaks and Israel receives the blessing Jacob coveted.
The Father Gives the Earthly Blessing to the Elder Son— the Heavenly Blessing to the Prodigal
When finally Israel is right with God, He will remember them in the same way the father spoke to His elder son— "thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine." What did he mean by these words? Why, he acknowledged one part of the Jews' complaint by admitting "thou art ever with Me." The Jew remained in the land of promise and at God's Temple, while the Gentile lived in debauchery away from God. When the younger son returned, he had spent everything. So the Gentile righteously has no inheritance in this world. As for the Jew, he had wasted his master's goods, but some remained— half the oil, one-fifth of the wheat— and so the father says, "all that I have is thine." In the coming day of glory, the Jew will have this residual portion in the earth— that day of millennial glory when Israel will be returned to their former place of blessing. What then can the father give the younger son, seeing he has forfeited his portion? Well, he has nothing to offer him here. If he is to have a portion, it must be in the Father's House in heaven, and not on earth. And this is exactly the portion which the Church— which is predominantly Gentile— will receive. This is the more blessed portion— an inheritance in our Father's House. We were dead and are alive again, we were lost and are found.
"In Thine own house there love divine
Fills the bright courts with cloudless joy,
But 'tis the love that made us Thine,
Fills all that house without alloy.”

Luke 16:19-31

The Apostle Paul tells us that "by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and thus death passed upon all men, for all have sinned" Rom. 5:12. God pronounced a judgment on man's body when sin entered the world— "dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return" Gen. 3:19. However, God said nothing about man's soul, because He promised One who should redeem it— the woman's seed— that is, Christ.
In the great time interval between man's sin in the garden and Christ's appearance on earth, the Gentiles turned to speculation on what followed the grave. Their funeral customs suggest dread of an after-life. The practice of cremating the body may have grown out of a despairing hope to avoid a future judgment. Vain thought, if such were the case. Man is animated dust. And God commanded the complete return of the body to the dust out of which He formed it— not merely to corruption in the grave or destruction in the belly of a wild animal or sea fish— but a return to dust— the unformed state— however this might occur. Cremation speeds up the process, but the end result is the same. Men generally do not succumb to the idea of annihilation. They know they differ from the beast which perishes. No beast can plan a city, design an airplane, build a bridge. And so we find the early and partial acceptance of two other principles: the unending existence of man, and his accountability to a higher power. The Egyptians built soul boats for their Pharaohs and great pyramids. On the walls of their tombs can be seen a god weighing the heart of the deceased to see whether good or evil prevailed in his life. This is the legal principle man loves, and betrays ignorance of God.
As for the Jews, who boasted in their knowledge of God, we do not find darkness like the Gentiles, but rather obscurity. Jacob, for example, speaks of his gray hairs going down with sorrow to Sheol, which simply means the grave, or the pit. It is the Hades of the New Testament— the state or place of the departed. The Hebrews also spoke of "Tophet" 2 Kings 23:10, Isa. 30:33, and Jer. 19:13. This seems to be the same as "Gehenna"— hell— the place of eternal punishment, which the Apostle John calls "the lake of fire" Rev. 20:11-15. Gehenna, which means "valley of Hinnon," was the place where the Jews passed their children through the fire to heathen gods. A continual fire made it a suited figure of the eternal punishment of the wicked. The Old Testament saints looked for redemption by the coming Messiah from the judgment which would fall on all men apart from that. So they had a hope which the Gentiles lacked, but little real light on the state of the soul after death.
It was not until Christ, the Redeemer God had promised man in the Garden of Eden, had appeared and been rejected, that God revealed to man his eternal destiny— for glory or despair.
The Setting of the Divine Revelation of the State of the Soul After Death
When the Pharisees murmured because the Lord ate with sinners, He revealed to them in the story of the prodigal son why He did so— that is, that God was now dealing with man in grace, not law. When they ignored this revelation and murmured again at the Lord's words— the stage was set for a further and final revelation— that if man refuses God's dealings with him in grace, he must face a future and eternal judgment on his soul.
The time was now ripe for this fresh revelation. The Pharisees had overheard the words of the Lord to His disciples. They were wise in the ways of this world and we may be sure that they silently approved the actions of the fraudulent trustee of whom the Lord spoke. The world values a man for his money— God for his soul. The Pharisees derided the Lord for teaching that we should invest earthly riches so as to promote God's work in this world, awaiting our dividends, so to speak, in heaven. If we fail to do so, how can heaven entrust us with the true riches? While this teaching was a blow to the Pharisees, who were covetous, it was as nothing compared to the final warning they so richly merited and now received. This was the unveiling of another world— of the punishment awaiting those who reject God's salvation in life when they die. Up to this point in the history of the human race, God had little to say about the fate of the soul after death. But now it is appropriate to pull back the curtain and reveal an unseen world. They have derided the only Savior God has for man. For this reason, wrath from heaven is revealed.
Where Are the Dead?
The Certain Answer of Divine Revelation
In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, the Lord establishes the principle of a separation between those whom God has justified and those who die in their sins— "between us and you a great chasm is fixed, so that those who desire to pass hence to you cannot, nor do they who [desire to cross] from there pass over unto us" 16:26. The condition of those on either side of the great fixed chasm is completely opposite. The rich man is "in hades," where he lifts up his eyes, being in torments. Lazarus, on the other hand, is carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. This was the strongest figure, to a Jew, of acceptance and delight. Then, on the cross, the Lord turned to the dying thief and used an even stronger expression— "today shalt thou be with Me in paradise." Paradise was man's home in the beginning. He lost it through sin, but it was in that earthly paradise that God gave the promise of the coming Redeemer. Now redeemed man is to enter a heavenly paradise when he dies. But what would paradise be without Christ, our Redeemer? He tells us through His Apostle Paul of our crowning joy— that Christ is there. Paul wanted "to depart and be with Christ, which is far better" Phil. 1:23. Thus, the Lord, in ever-widening circles, unfolds the blessedness which awaits those who fall asleep in Jesus before the resurrection morn— "blessed are the dead who die in the Lord" Rev. 14:13. Little is told us about the state of the lost after death, except for the story of Lazarus and the rich man, until we come to the end of the Bible. In the twentieth chapter of Revelation we are given a brief glance at the awful and eternal doom of the lost.
After This Life— Either Dwelling in the House of the Lord.
Forever—Or Eternal Separation From God
God's righteousness, as made known in the law, consisted of two great principles— giving God what was His due, and the creature what was the creature's due-see Matt. 22:35-40. The rich man committed the lesser sin— sinning against the creature, that is, Lazarus— yet ended up in Hades; the prodigal committed the greater sin— sinning against God— yet ended up in the Father's House. So a new principle is established: righteousness not based on law— for man could not keep the law— but on grace. The whole Trinity is actively engaged in man's salvation, based on this new principle. The lost sheep found by the Good Shepherd speaks of Christ's work on the cross, for without that He could never seek a lost sheep. Next, the woman with the broom and light is the Holy Spirit in energy seeking the lost and bringing the light of the gospel into man's darkened soul. This makes the prodigal realize his true condition. He exclaims, "Father I have sinned." So he returns and God the Father gives him His kisses at the beginning, His House at the end. The rich man is the lost sheep who was never found. Luke takes up the prodigal's case before the rich man's, because the prodigal sinned against God. His sins, therefore, were greater than the rich man's. When it is proved that God can forgive the prodigal's sins, the rich man has no excuse.
The rich man in our story is the opposite of the prodigal. He is a picture of the man who is a success in "the far country," as the prodigal is a picture of a failure. The prodigal lost everything in life; the rich man everything in death. The prodigal squandered his father's substance on harlots; the rich man on himself. The prodigal asked his father for "the share of property"; the rich man took it. And so Abraham— who speaks of the justifying principle— see Rom. 4— tells the rich man he had received in his life all he was going to get.
The rich man was not received into the houses of others, be, cause, unlike the unjust trustee, he made no provision for the future. He provided only for the present, like the prodigal at first. But the prodigal returned to his father, who saw him a great way off. The rich man never returned. After death, he saw Lazarus in Abraham's bosom a great way off. After death, the mask the sinner wore in life comes off. There is reality then— a realization that "I am in hell"— a seeking, too late— the God who in life had been seeking them, hoping they would return. Now it is too late. The great gulf that existed between God and them in life has jelled in death. They are not only lost now, but forsaken. The rich man took three downward steps— first, "the rich man also died"— second, "and was buried"— third, "and in hades lifted up his eyes." Thus, the man who exalted himself was abased. The prodigal, on the other hand, humbled himself. First, he said, "I will arise"; second, "and go unto my father"; third, "and say unto him father I have sinned." This was the man whom the father exalted, restoring him to his place as a son in his father's house.
Why the Rich Man Lost His Soul
Possibly, the rich man was known to the Pharisees whom the Lord addressed, and Lazarus, too... "there was also a certain beggar." The rich man may even have been a Pharisee, for they were covetous. In any case, he died. So, too, did the beggar. Now the curtain is pulled back and the fate of both of them after death is revealed. Since riches were a sign of God's blessing to the Jew, it must have been a distinct shock to the Lord's audience to hear of a rich man being eternally lost and a beggar in Abraham's bosom. What was the crime of the rich man? What had he done to incur divine wrath more than other men? We have already given the reader some hints, but there were three things in particular. First, his sins, second, his rejection of grace to meet his sins, and third, his rejection of the warnings of divine judgment against sinners found in the Holy Scriptures.
... The Sins of the Rich Man— First of all, the rich man disobeyed the injunction that Jews, as God's people, were not to wear a garment of "divers sorts," that is, of different materials. The Scripture said, "thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts as of woolen and linen together" Deut. 22:11. This prohibition did not merely have externals in mind— that is, a man's actual garments— but something more fundamental— governing one's life by a mixture of divine and worldly principles. When this happens, worldly principles prevail and divine things are exploited for self-aggrandizement. It was so with the covetous Pharisees. Garments are often used in Scripture as a figure of our circumstances in life. This is easily understood, for even today the surgeon has a gown, the soldier a uniform, the beggar, rags, etc. The purple cloth by itself did not offend God— it was suitable clothing for a rich man in those days. But the purple and fine linen did— it was a garment of divers sorts. Fine linen was the garment of a priest. God judged King Saul for usurping priestly service contrary to the law. And how many men since have made themselves rich and famous, using Church connections and influence to rise to prominence in the world? God will one day publicly judge this intermingling of the Church and the world— this interplay of the purple and fine linen, as we see in Rev. 17. Here, His judgment falls on just one individual guilty of it.
The point is that when a man so corrupts himself, his conscience becomes dulled. It is a small step then to ignoring the sufferings of his fellow man, for self has become the center of his life. While the rich man dined in luxury every day, poor Lazarus groped in vain for a few crumbs falling from his table. He did not dress his sores or show any compassion to him. All he thought about was himself.
... The Rich Man Rejected the Grace of God During His Lifetime— Luke's "method"— the way he groups his stories together morally— shows up strikingly here. It helps us understand why the rich man lost his soul. If we consider the story of the rich man not as an isolated story, but as part of a broad teaching beginning at the Good Samaritan, the reason the rich man lost his soul becomes instantly apparent. It was because he spurned the invitation to the Great Supper In the Father's House, and chose to spread a lavish supper for himself in this life instead.
Being a Jew, he must have received an invitation to the Great Supper 14:17. The Great Supper is prepared in the evening, after the day's work is done. The fatted calf has been killed. Like the elder son, he does not go into the house. However, he does not make religious claims like the elder son. He has bought land, five yoke of oxen, and married a wife 14:15-20. His thoughts do not rise any further than this life, and enjoying worldly prosperity in it. He is indifferent to grace. Therefore, he cannot come. The prodigal came first and received a portion from his father in his father's house that is, he got heaven. The elder son will come later and will get a portion on earth. The rich man never came he gets his portion in hell.
 ... The Rich Man Ignored God's Warnings of Judgment on Unrepentant Sinners contained in the Holy Scriptures The Scriptures not only point out the way of salvation, but the eternal consequences of ignoring it. "Behold now is the accepted time. Behold now is the day of salvation" 2 Cor. 6:2. That is a warning for time. There are also warnings for eternity— "it is appointed unto men once to die but after this the judgment" Heb. 9:27. "The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God" Psa. 9:17.
The rich man had forgotten God in life. He is dead now, but more alive than when "he moved among his fellow men, with health and happy fortune crowned." He cries for God's mercy. It is too late for that. Prayers for or to the dead are worthless except to those who profit financially from them. His pleas for personal relief are heard, but not granted. Then the man who thought nothing of his fellows in life remembers his five brothers now that he has left life behind. He has learned his lesson too late. The man who refused the invitation to God the Father's House, pleads that Lazarus may be sent to his father's house to testify to his five brothers. He is told that they will receive the same warning he ignored— the testimony of the Scriptures, nothing more. He persists. "If one went unto them from the dead they will repent." The rejoinder was— "if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
God answered the rich man's closing plea. Christ rose from among the dead. But, as predicted, they did not repent, they were not persuaded. Such are those whose moral state corresponds to the Lord's closing words— "the dead"— for the rich man is a pattern man. How many have followed in his steps? His ending is the universal fate of all who reject the gospel and the warnings of coming judgment contained in the Scriptures. The writer has encountered sad examples of such people during his lifetime. Once, while touring a cemetery, an employee of the burial grounds told me of a woman with a fatal disease who chose her burial plot before death. She bought one overlooking a street light so she wouldn't be lonely in her grave at night, he said. Just as this woman by her actions showed that her thoughts ended with her present body, so others accept a future judgment and are bold about it.
In the Second World War, the heavy bombers at our base were marshaled early in the morning for a strike at a target in Germany. 419 Squadron was the first to take off. In the distance we saw the ground crew's green Verey lights flashing beside the control tower as each bomber received permission to take off. They thundered down the runway, took off, and climbed to altitude. As this was going on, our squadron waited its turn to taxi to the control tower. To relieve the suspense, the air crews and ground crews chatted together on their dispersal areas. Suddenly it was time for partings. The air crews began to enter their bombers, and one by one the engines on both wings were started up. Out of the darkness, the gunner from another bomber ran up breathlessly to our tail gunner and delivered a last message— "So long, so-and-so," he cried, "if anything happens tonight, I'll meet you in hell." Then he ran back to his aircraft and disappeared in the darkness. Here, at least, was a man who knew where he was going when he died, and was honest about it. Few display such candor, especially in the society of the modern West. Men today will deny the existence of hell if the subject is, discussed. Yet, with the same lips, they use the word "hell" in blasphemy. If they believe there is no hell, why do they shriek the word from the housetops— on the printed page, on radio, and television? Surely it is the conscience crying out, as the gunner's did, less clearly because under less danger, more muted because of the conventions of civilian life— but always there, like a flickering flame bursting into fire at unexpected moments.
The Two Resurrections
In the Garden of Eden, God pronounced the judgment of death on man because he sinned. This judgment was on man's body; nothing was said about the soul which was separated from the body on death. The word we translate, "resurrection," is literally "standing up" and means the raising to life of the dead body. There is no such thing as a spiritual resurrection. The New Testament teaches two resurrections of the body. Still, the hope of resurrection is found as early as the Book of Job— generally considered the most ancient book in the Old Testament. Job exclaims, "for I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another, though my reins be consumed within me" Job 19:25-27. Among the Jews, some held the doctrine like the Pharisees; others rejected it like the Sadducees Acts 23:8. With those Jews who held the doctrine, only a general resurrection was assumed, as we see from Martha's conversation with the Lord John 11:24. The doctrine that God will raise the body in one of two distinct and separate resurrections— one for blessing, the other for judgment— is a New Testament truth. The Lord left us with the rich man in Hades after death— Lazarus in Abraham's bosom. The state of their souls was fixed after death, and so, too, the respective resurrection which will claim their bodies at a later date.
The Lord's people are raised from their graves for blessing in the first resurrection, which the Lord also calls "the resurrection of the just" 14:14 and "the resurrection of life" John 5:29. These three terms all refer to the same resurrection, but we shall use only one of them here— "the first resurrection"— since the other two terms are self-explanatory. In Acts 4:2, we are told that this resurrection precedes the resurrection of the lost, for this passage speaks of "the resurrection from among the dead." In other words, this is a selective resurrection— "from among the dead" literally— that is, leaving the unjust dead in their graves to await a later resurrection. "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection— over these the second death has no power" Rev. 20:6. Since the relevant prophetic considerations are beyond the scope of this book, we might simplify things by saying that the first resurrection precedes the establishment of Christ's earthly kingdom, whereas the resurrection of judgment is at the end of that kingdom.
John tells us a great deal about "the resurrection of judgment"— also known as "the resurrection of the unjust" Acts 24:15. He lay in Jesus' bosom and thus was closer to His thoughts than others. For it is Christ who revealed the eternal punishment of the lost— those who reject Him as their Savior. He writes about a great white throne in space at the close of the Bible. Christ alone can sit on it— read John 5. Heaven and earth flee from His face, for time is about to cease and eternity begin. Those who died without Christ, stand before the throne and the books are opened. The rich man's secrets, an open book to Christ when He was on earth, will be an open book there, too. Death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death. As already quoted Rev. 20:6 the second death had no power over those who were raised previously in the first resurrection. But it has here. The first death separated them from creation— the world in which they lived— the second death, more hideous than the first, separates them from God Himself. The rich man the Lord spoke about will have a body once more so he can bow the knee at the Name of Jesus— a tongue, too, to confess Him as Lord before time ends and eternity begins Phil. 2:10-11. After the judgment, the lost are cast into the lake of fire for their eternal punishment.
Eternity is the projection of time. When a man dies, he loses control of his purposes, be they good or bad, but what he was in life, continues in eternity— saved or lost. Believers generally have little in this world— much in the next. Unbelievers have much here, on the whole— nothing hereafter. The prodigal had nothing to lose in this world but his sins— Lazarus, his sufferings. When the rich man died, he lost everything— his riches and his soul.
Part 2
The Son of the Father's Love—
The Bright Contrast to the Other Son of the Father
How disappointing the story of the family of man— the son who ran away from his father's house and sinned in the far country— the son who stayed at home with his father, but embezzled his estate— the rich man who was told to remember how he had wasted a life that was gone. But God the Father had another Son, whose life we shall shortly reflect upon. He is God's beloved Son. He is the One who told us the stories of the sons who didn't love their fathers without vaunting Himself as the Son who did. His life was the witness to His obedience to His Father's Will.
His people know Him as the Second Man— in contrast to the first man, Adam, who begat sons of disobedience— also as the last Adam, for there shall never be another Head of a race of men— the Man of Glory, in contrast to Adam, the man of dust— the Lord from heaven— in contrast to the first man Adam, who was of the earth earthy.
"Fairer than all the earth-born race,
Perfect in comeliness Thou art,
Replenished are Thy lips with grace
And full of love Thy tender heart.
God ever blest, we bow the knee
And own all fullness rests in Thee.”
The Father Loves His Beloved Son, but
Man Hates Him and Puts Him to Death
The Father loved His two sons— the Jew and the Gentile. Did He not shower His erring son with seven marvelous gifts when he returned? Did He not offer the fatted calf to His other son, too, and even when His love was spurned, say, "all that I have is thine"? If He loves such sons, can we imagine how great His love must be to His beloved Son? What depths there are in the following sublime utterance: "the Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His hand" John 3:35. These things He used for good, blessing His enemies as He taught us to do.
“Many good works have I showed you from My Father," Jesus once said, "for which of those works do ye stone Me?" John 10:32. It was to this blessed Man, so dear to our hearts, so much, dearer to the Father's heart, that the children of the first man, Adam, offered every indignity, especially at the Cross, which fully exposed, for the first time, the hearts of God and man. The fragrance of Christ's life spread out in all directions in that dark valley of death, dispelling all the evil of the heart of man which sought to end it on a cross of shame, but could not. He gave His life up voluntarily in love to others, but no man took it from Him. He had power to lay it down and power to take it again. This was a commandment He had received from His Father.
When the prodigal returned to his father, he covered him with kisses; when the True Son was about to return to His Father, Judas Iscariot covered Him with kisses, too the kisses which betrayed Him to those who would crucify Him. The father gave the prodigal the best robe when he returned; man, too, gave the True Son the best robe— a gorgeous robe, in mockery— 23:11 just before He returned to His Father. The father gave the prodigal a ring for his hand and shoes for his feet; as the True Son was about to return to His Father, man nailed His hands and His feet to the Cross, hoping to end His blessed work and walk forever.
While we have compared the True Son with the prodigal, actually both sons were represented at the Cross. We find the younger son, the Gentile prodigal, in the Romans, under whose power the Lord suffered. We find the elder son, the Jewish Trustee, who betrayed Christ to the Romans. "Am I a Jew?" Pilate cried, "Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me. What hast Thou done?" John 18:35. It was this saying which Mary Bowly put in verse:
"O blessed Lord, what hast Thou done?
How vast a ransom given
Thyself of God the eternal Son
The Lord of earth and heaven.
Thy Father in His gracious love
Didst spare Thee from His side
And Thou didst stoop to bear above
At such a cost Thy bride.”
Pilate examined Christ and exclaimed, "I find no fault in Him" John 19:6. But man cried out, "away with This Man." So God must proclaim His glory to His rebellious creature. He was nature's God and the sun must be darkened in the heavens. As for the earth— the rocks, its most stable features— were fractured see Matt. 27:51 for Jesus had said that if men did not praise Him, the stones would immediately cry out. And since He holds the keys of death and Hades Rev. 1:18 the graves were opened, "and many bodies of the saints fallen asleep arose and going out of the tombs after His arising entered into the holy city and appeared unto many" Matt. 27:52-3. But again man rejected the divine testimony, for Isa. 53:9, correctly translated, shows the thoughts and intents of their hearts— "men appointed His grave with the wicked but He was with the rich in His death." Thus God divinely foretold their purpose. After Christ was dead, they planned to bury Him with the wicked— the two thieves. Instead, He was with the rich in His death, for Joseph of Arimathea claimed His body and buried Him in his own tomb. This act was a final witness to divine favor, for riches in Jewish eyes spoke of the blessing of the Lord.
Such was the way the True Son returned to His Father. He is the One who narrated the stories which give us the real history of man ranging from the lost sheep to the lost rich man. It is now appropriate to compare the True Son with each of the other characters whose lives the True Son has described in His stories. We will begin at the rich man. His life makes the first and most logical comparison. For who was ever as rich as Christ who created the world and everything in it, which therefore belongs to Him? The purpose of our comparisons is to enlarge our thoughts as to Christ's greatness. We will see Him as the Father ever saw Him— the Son of His love.
The True Son Contrasted With the Rich Man
In the fourteenth chapter, the Lord had laid down a sweeping principle— "whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" 14:11. Now the Lord knew that men use riches to exalt themselves, and so He told us how the prodigal squandered them, the dishonest trustee embezzled them, the rich man spent them for his own enjoyment. The Lord Jesus was richer than all of them, yet humbled Himself by becoming a Man— "ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" 2 Cor. 8:9.
Inside and outside his person, the rich man in life stood only for self-gratification. Outside, his body was clothed with splendid garments— inside, his belly was filled with the finest food and drink money could buy. By way of contrast, the Lord wore a robe without seam, and said, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me and to finish His work" John 4:34. The rich man showed no compassion to poor Lazarus. Outwardly his body was exposed— full of sores; inwardly his belly was empty. It was in the rich man's power to feed him, but he did not even receive the crumbs from his table. The Lord Jesus fed men's bodies and their souls, be they Jew or Gentile. "Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table"— a Gentile woman said to the Lord Matt. 15:27. Nobody ever begged anything from the Lord and went empty away.
When the rich man died, we see the fallacy of a life of self-gratification. In life he had been a success in the far country, just as the prodigal had been a failure. He understood the principles of this world —"while he lived he blessed his soul, and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself" Psa. 49:18. But now the rich man died and was buried and in Hades lifted up his eyes.
“When he dieth he shall carry nothing away— his glory shall not descend after him" Psa. 49:17. The body clothed with splendid clothes, the belly always filled with food and drink only enjoyed by the rich, now lies in corruption in the grave. "Man that is in honor and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish" Ps. 49:20. Jesus, too, died and was buried. But His precious body saw no corruption and He Himself committed His spirit to His Father, who on the third day raised Him from among the dead by His glory. Thus we see that Christ, the Rich Man who humbleth Himself to become poor, was exalted by God the Father.
The death and resurrection of Christ and the Holy Scriptures are God's witness to man. In life the rich man ignored the Scriptures, unlike Christ, who lived by every Word that came out of the mouth of God. In death the rich man pleads for his five brothers still alive. Couldn't Lazarus be resurrected and sent back to warn them of the terrible fate of the lost? No, he is told, the Scriptures are all the warning needed. If they ignore the Scriptures, they will not be persuaded "though one rose from the dead." Still, the rich man's plea is heard. One has risen from the dead— Jesus. But the living mockingly reply, "almost thou persuadest me to become a Christian" Acts 26:28. If we are not persuaded in life by the death and resurrection of Christ and the witness of the Holy Scriptures, then it is too late when death comes, for after this, the judgment. On the other hand, "if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him" 1 Thess. 4:14.
The True Son Contrasted With the Elder Son
The elder son said, "lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment." If this were true, why was it necessary for the True Son to drive the moneychangers out of the Temple, crying, "make not My Father's House an house of merchandise" John 2:16. They had "made the commandment of God of none effect by their tradition" Matt. 15:6, so it was useless to claim that they had never transgressed God's commandment. As God's Trustee, Israel had written off half the oil and most of the wheat under their charge. These are figures, respectively, of the light from God and the food for men's souls, contained in the Holy Scriptures of which they were the custodians Rom. 3:2. As God's lighthouse and granary in the world, Israel was responsible for seeing that the Gentile nations attributed what they administered to God only. He was the rich creditor. Instead, by their traditions which choked the Word, they attributed everything to themselves and stumbled the Gentiles. They opposed Paul preaching the gospel in their synagogues in far off Gentile lands, and seized him when he returned to the Temple. What a contrast to the Lord Jesus, the True Son, who administered His Father's things perfectly. We see today with the oil He has given us in the Scriptures and fatten our souls with wheat from them, too.
To protect himself from ruin due to failure in his trusteeship, the dishonest trustee provided homes for himself. Again this is a picture of the elder son, the Jew. Driven from his land and Temple because of his fraudulent trusteeship of divine things, he settled down in homes in far-off Gentile lands, providing for his own needs with natural wisdom. Jacob prophesied that this would be so on his deathbed when he told his sons of what should befall them "in the last days" Gen. 49. The Lord Jesus as the True Son was the opposite of the fraudulent trustee. At the end of His perfect administration, He provided homes for others— an earthly home for a woman— a heavenly home for a man. This was on the Cross when He entrusted the care of His earthly mother to the Apostle John and promised paradise shortly to the dying thief. Note the order— God first provides an earthly home for us— then one in heaven. As the Good Samaritan, the True Son provided an earthly home for man in the inn— as the Good Shepherd, He carried the prodigal sheep to the Great Supper in the Father's House above. Only when His work was finished did the True Son enter into the rest of His Father's House in heaven.
The True Son Contrasted With the Prodigal Son
The prodigal's evil career began by saying "father give me." But the True Son gave Himself, sparing nothing, so that the Apostle exclaims, "the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" Gal. 2:20. Then the prodigal wandered off to the far country like a lost sheep, without consulting his father. Well, the Lord Jesus also went to the far country— that is, He came into this world, not because it attracted Him, but because His Father sent Him, "I proceeded forth and came from God neither came I of Myself, but He sent Me" John 8:42.
When the prodigal reached the far country, he wasted his father's substance with riotous living. The True Son was so careful of His Father's things, that He said, "gather up the fragments that remain that nothing be lost" John 6:12. With the prodigal, nothing remained, and everything was lost. There was, consequently, a great famine in that land and he began to be in want. There was no famine in the far country when Christ was there. Unlike the prodigal who fed the swine, the True Son fed His Father's sheep. He fed men's bodies with loaves and fishes; their souls with such words of life that men exclaimed, "never man spake like This Man" John 7:46.
Then came a time when the prodigal compared the famine conditions in the far country with the bread in his father's house. He will return to his father and the house of bread, for he is in need. The Lord Jesus left His Father and came to Bethlehem, which means "house of bread." He said of Himself, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread he shall live forever" John 6:51. "I perish with hunger," the prodigal exclaims, and then rehearses his apology to his father— "father I have sinned." The True Son said, "which of you convinceth Me of sin?" John 8:46. Only the True Son could say, "I have glorified Thee on the earth"— as for the prodigal, he disgraced his father. The prodigal's thought was that his father should make him like a hired servant. The Lord Jesus, the True Son, took upon Him the form of a servant— Phil. 2:7 because His Father told Him to do so.
The opening cry of the prodigal was "father give me," for at that time he did not know his father's heart. This could only be made known in all its richness at the Cross. There, the opening cry of the True Son was "Father forgive them." "Them" means both sons— the prodigal and the elder. Forgive them for what? Oh, for crucifying Christ, you reply, and we will all agree. But forgiveness was also needed for saying, "Father give me." If man hadn't said, "Father give me" in the garden of Eden, the Lord wouldn't have had to say "Father forgive them" at the Cross. The opening prayer of the True Son then, "Father forgive them" was the answer to the opening demand of the prodigal, "father give me." Then, at the end of his course, the prodigal exclaimed, "father I have sinned." Well, "the wages of sin is death" Rom. 6:23 but, thank God, the True Son accepted those wages for the prodigal. The Scripture teaches that "the body without the spirit is dead" James 2:26. So the True Son's last cry, "Father into Thy hands I commit My spirit" was the answer to the prodigal's last cry, "father I have sinned." In this way the unbounded love of the Father and the Son to man was made known. On the Cross, the Lord prayed for the forgiveness of His enemies and only then commenced the work of dying for their sins, which made it possible for God to answer that prayer and forgive them. The father anticipated that blessed work when he kissed the returning prodigal even before the fatted calf was killed.
Now we will bring our comparisons into focus. The rich man is a picture of the self-sufficient, self-centered man of the world who rejects the Person and work of the True Son. His life really said to God, "depart from me." When his life is over, he is buried and so banished from the world in which his thoughts were centered. A great gulf separates him from heaven and he finds himself in hell. The elder son— the fraudulent trustee— is a picture of the Jew. Like the rich man, he, too, rejects the True Son, for he will not come into the Father's House and eat the fatted calf. However, there is this difference— he is not cut off like the rich man— his blessing is only deferred. In a future day he will offer as a sin offering the kid of the goats with which he originally hoped to make merry. The Jew will do this in the millennium, on the Day of Atonement. Only then will God restore the Jew as His Trustee, in charge of His goods on this earth. But to get the blessing he really has to take the same ground as his younger brother. When he offers up a kid of the goats on the Day of Atonement, he will be admitting, like the prodigal, "father I have sinned." The prodigal never covered up his sins and so prospered. He receives the richest portion of all the Father's House, the fatted calf, and the knowledge of His Father's heart.
"High in the Father's house above,
Our mansion is prepared;
There is the home, the rest we love,
And there our bright reward.
With Him we love, in spotless white,
In glory we shall shine;
His blissful presence our delight
In love and joy divine.
All taint of sin shall be removed,
All evil done away;
And we shall dwell with God's beloved
Through God's eternal day.”
Part 3
The Revealed Father's Heart
That God is rich and man is poor is a truism to believers only. The man of the world thinks that the property he owns and the money he hoards belongs to him alone. His intelligence tells him that he must leave everything behind when he dies, yet he acts as though he were indestructible. God is in complete contrast to this behavior. He is not only immensely rich, but being the living God, He holds onto those riches forever. He made those mineral deposits and other treasures buried in the earth to possess which, only for a time, men devote their lives. "The cattle on the thousand hills are His-"Psa. 50:10, for He is Lord of life on the earth, as well as what is under it. Man may buy and sell the beast; still they belong to Him, for He created them. "The Lord needs him" 19:31 was the only word spoken to get the colt. Possessing such power, we find Him a lonely stranger at Sychar's well, whose conduct was inexplicable, even to His disciples. Why did He not eat, they want to know? John 4:31-34, not recalling the Scripture—"If I were hungry I would not tell you for the world is Mine and the fullness thereof" Psa. 50:12. Not only the world, but the whole range of the universe is His, for He created it.
However, knowing that a man is rich will not help a poor man unless he knows that the rich man is benevolent. So it is with God. Knowing that He is rich does not help needy man if he does not know that God longs to endow him with eternal riches— "the unsearchable riches of Christ." Both the prodigal and elder sons knew that their father was rich, but they did not know their father's heart. One son said, "father give me" and the other son said "you never gave me." One son suggested that his father was keeping something back from him; the other reproached him for having done so. It did not occur to either son that their father coveted something he didn't have. How could this be, seeing he was so rich? Well, riches can't buy our affections. This was what the father craved— the love of his two sons. He got it from one of them —the prodigal— an unexpected source. The prodigal was ready to give his heart to his father once he learned what was in his father's heart and his own. "My son, give Me thine heart" Prov. 23:26. If we do, we will experience God as a giver in a way we never could when He gave us merely "the share of the property" that is, material things. God's richest gift is Himself. "Fear not, Abraham" He said to His ancient servant, "I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward" Gen. 15:1.
The Seven Gifts of the Father to the Prodigal
The first gift of the father was what flowed out of his heart his unrestrained love. He fell on his son's neck and covered him with kisses. It is the same expression in the original which is used for Judas Iscariot when he kissed the Lord to betray Him. Judas was probably man at his worst. The Bible paints a picture of man as he really is in the opening of Isaiah— "from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment" Isa. 1:6. Well, the Lord Jesus, as the Good Samaritan, took care of the wounds and bruises, and God the Father of our lack of soundness. Our Father knew we were unsound from the sole of the foot even to the head, but He reversed all this, starting at our head and working down to our feet in unbounded blessing. He began with His kisses on the prodigal's neck and then worked downward on his body with gift after gift until He reached his feet, on which His servants put shoes. Everything started from the top— where the Father is. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" James 1:17.
The second gift is the best robe. This is a figure of Christ. You cannot have a better covering than Christ— He is the best robe God the Father can provide. The best robe comes out of the Father's House, as Christ did, when the need arises. The Father would call many sons to glory and clothe them with Christ. We receive the best robe in the field before we enter the Father's House. "The field" is a general term for the world here, just as "the far country" in this chapter is a term for a world far away from God. So, when the Father looks at us now, He doesn't see us, but Christ, for we are clothed with the best robe. The best robe was for the elder son, too, if he wanted it, but he didn't. Nor did he care for the father's kisses.
The first two gifts, though separate and distinct, are one in a certain sense— that is, in their meaning— for they bring together what the Father and the Son should mean to the believer. Every returning son receives two gifts first— the gift of the Father's love His kisses and the divine covering— the best robe— the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The Father and the Son— this is true Christianity— "if that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son and in the Father" 1 John 2:24. Once we understand this truth, our work and walk must be consistent with the gifts of the Father's love and the Son's covering. The hand speaks of work; the feet, of walk. A ring, then, is put on the younger son's hand. A ring has no beginning or end. It is a token of eternal acceptance. Shoes are next put on his feet. The same feet which once walked away from his father now stand upon redemption ground. They are to walk toward the Father's House. The thought of entering his father's house now comes before his soul. But the father has a thought, too, and that is to bestow three more gifts on his son once he is inside the house. But before this can happen, another must die for the prodigal's sins. And so the command goes out— "bring hither the fatted calf and kill it.”
A sinner could never enter the Father's House except by the death of another. The prodigal did not enter the Father's House until the fatted calf was killed. And it is not until the prodigal is given shoes to walk toward the Father's House that the Father issues the command to kill the fatted calf. The fatted calf was slain in "the field"— the world— Christ bought "the field" for the treasure in it— see Matt. 13:44. Only after the fatted calf has been killed can the Father eat and rejoice with the recipients of His grace. The Father's House is the dwelling place of God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ. But it is just that— the divine Presence dwelling there— which excludes man from that house without a sacrifice to make him fit to enter it.
The elder son rejected the fatted calf. Consequently, he neither entered the house, nor did he address his father as his father— "you never gave me a kid" is all he has to say. But the Father does provide a kid for the elder son after all. The story is given to us in Lev. 16, which describes the Jewish feast known as the Day of Atonement. The application of this is future. In that day a kid of the goats will be sacrificed for a sin offering. There can be no making merry with the question of sin unanswered and not met with a sacrifice. The elder son never said, like the prodigal, "father I have sinned," So he will have to admit it by afflicting his soul in the coming day. The sins of the elder son will be forgiven, but the Jew will have lost the portion of the Father's House we will enjoy. The death of the fatted calf divided the Father's gifts into two groups. The first four gifts are received in this world where Christ— God's fatted calf— was slain. We will receive three more gifts when we get to heaven— of which the Father's House here is a picture. The first of the last three gifts is eating the fatted calf. Certainly we cannot do this in the field. It is the fare of the banqueting house and must be enjoyed there. The last gifts— music and dancing— tell us of the merry-making inappropriate in the field where the fatted calf was killed, but suitable in our Father's House. The Father rejected the thought of making merry with a kid in the place where the fatted calf was killed. His house alone was the place to make merry. Hadn't the elder son heard of the sins of his fathers who made merry in the wrong place and at the wrong time? Israel made merry when they worshipped the golden calf. There was music and dancing then, but it ended in death. In the Father's House, they began to be merry and of this there was no end. Rejoicing in the flesh and rejoicing in the Lord are two different things. Why does the prodigal enjoy the music and dancing of the Father's House? Because he has Christ on the outside— the best robe— and is filled with Christ inside— the fatted calf. Music and dancing are the outer expression of inner joy. While we are in this world, we anticipate these joys in the soul— perhaps we smell the aroma of the fatted calf as we near our Father's House. But it is in the Father's House itself that we will ungird ourselves, our labors over, and enter into our eternal portion of enjoying Christ and the Father. We will begin to be merry. Of the music and dancing, there shall be no end. Now let us review and consolidate what we have learned of the Father's seven gifts in their varied aspects.
The Seven Gifts Viewed As a Reversal of Our Natural State
This view of the seven gifts is the most fundamental. The prodigal is a picture of man in his depravity, but turning to God. Which was the greater sin— devouring the father's living with harlots, or what he did before that: demanding property that didn't belong to him before his father died and then taking that money and virtually deserting his father? The father traced all the prodigal's sins to walking away from him, so he awarded the shoes last of all the gifts in the field. He reserved them until the other gifts showed that he was acting like a father to the wayward son. So his first gift was to cover the prodigal with kisses. This revealed the father's heart and won the prodigal's heart. In the gospel, God starts with Himself— it was God who so loved the world— that is, the father's kisses. Then the measure of that love is giving His only begotten Son. That brings before us the best robe. But the prodigal doesn't put the best robe on— neither does the Father. It is the servants— those who preach the gospel— who do that. It is a figure, of course, but an apt one. When the Lord raised Lazarus from the dead, He also commanded others to take off his grave-clothes John 11:44 here the servants put on the best robe. Man is powerless to take off the grave-clothes he inherited from the fall or to put on the best robe.
The gift the prodigal received from his father by asking for it covered him with shame. All was devoured by harlots. But the gifts the prodigal received from his father without asking for them flowed freely from his father's heart. The hand that had fed swine now displays the ring of acceptance. The body that was covered with shame now is covered with the best robe. The feet that had walked away from his father's house to the pigpen now have shoes on them to walk heavenward— to the Father's House. The spirit of glory and of God rests upon him.
The Seven Gifts Viewed in the Light of Our Fellowship With the Father and the Son
We have considered the seven gifts in the light of God's salvation freely bestowed on the returning sinner. But after God saves us, He wants us to have fellowship with Him. "And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" 1 John 1:3. This thought is found in the first four gifts which the prodigal received in the field. That is because this fellowship is now— we do not have to wait until we enter the Father's House to enjoy it.
The first two gifts speak of God the Father and Jesus Christ, His Son. The father's kisses speak to us of the revelation of the Father's heart of love; the best robe of Christ, the Son of the Father's love. The next two gifts the ring on my hand and the shoes on my feet— speak of my responsibility as a Christian. The hand is the work— the feet, the walk. My work and my walk must be consistent with what I know of God my Father and Jesus Christ, His Son. I must show in this world that my work and my walk agree with the father's kisses and the best robe which covers me. Then men will know in a practical way what John teaches us as a fact "and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
The Seven Gifts Viewed As an Expression of Sonship and a Son's Place on Earth and in Heaven
I am no longer looked at as a sinner now that I have confessed my sins to my Father. I have been restored to full communion with my Father. Even so, there is one more insight into the seven gifts— the enjoyment of sonship in whatever place we may be— on earth or in heaven. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, `Abba Father'" Gal. 4:6. "Abba" is a word meaning "Father" to both Hebrew and Greek. "Father, Father" then is the universal cry of Jew and Gentile— that is, of all who are redeemed of the human race.
I am to sense— to understand— my new position fully. Also, I am to sense this on earth as well as when I am in heaven. So the seven gifts are broken down into four we receive on earth right now— the field— and three we receive later in heaven— the Father's House. That great Bible teacher of another century, J. B. Stoney, once said (7) "Everything connected with the avenues to the soul of man is under the grace of God." This comment is aptly illustrated here. The father's kisses are felt by the prodigal. The father has come out of his house and kissed him. This is the evidence of restored relationship. He is his father— the prodigal, his son. Then there is what the prodigal can see— the best robe, the ring, the shoes— the visual demonstration of divine grace. There are three more avenues to his soul— smell, taste, and hearing. As the prodigal approaches the house, he smells the aroma of the fatted calf filling it. Later, he tastes the fatted calf. And he hears the music which fills the place. The fatted calf is Christ, on whom we shall feed forever. The music? Well, "they sung a new song saying— Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof, for Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred and tongue, and people and nation" Rev. 5:9.
But what about the dancing? David once danced before the Lord with all his might. It was the outer expression of his inner joy. But the Root and Offspring of David will be in the glory. He is the Lord. No longer will we gird ourselves for His battles, as we did on earth. We ungird ourselves and dance in fullness of joy. Why are we so happy? We are happy because of two of the gifts which have a special meaning. The father only says, "bring" of two of his gifts— the best robe and the fatted calf. To "bring" implies the conveying of something from a distant person or place to a nearer. Where was the best robe kept? Why, in the Father's House. The Father had it brought down to this world so we might be clothed with Christ. But we take it with us to the Father's House. The fatted calf was killed in the field, but eaten in the house. So when we are in our Father's House, we have Christ inside— for we feast on the fatted calf— and Christ outside— the best robe. No wonder there is music and dancing! They began to be merry. Of this joy there will be no end. Hallelujah!
What Was Lost and Found, Stolen and Given
Our review of God's ways has ranged from the lost sheep to the lost rich man. It is appropriate at this juncture to review what was lost and found, stolen and given, for these things provide the measure of God's dealings with man.
Now the lost sheep and the lost piece of silver are unique in that everything that was lost was found. That is because these two illustrations give us the work of God for man, based upon the cross. That work is perfect. The cross has met the question of sin, God has been glorified completely, and everything that was lost was found. The stories of the sons, however, give us man's side of things— not God's— and not all that is lost is found. For example, the prodigal son lost half the property which he squandered in the far country— which amounted to a total loss of his share. His brother kept his half, but embezzled away half the oil and most of the wheat in his unfaithful trusteeship. Half the oil is the New Testament, which he lost by refusing the fatted calf. However, he kept the Old Testament. The prodigal found a place in his father's house; the unfaithful trustee, in the houses of those whom he helped swindle his father. The rich man lost everything, for he ended up in Hades.
As to his state, man is a lost sheep— as to his actions, he is primarily a thief. Man began his thievery in the garden in Eden, stealing the fruit of a tree. And so Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree, surrounded by two thieves. Man steals because he does not believe that God is a giver, and will withhold nothing good from him. It took the cross to reveal the Father's heart to the dying thief. He heard the cry, "Father forgive them" and received Christ's personal assurance of being with Him in a paradise which can never be lost. For Christ is there, the Man who never took away God's glory as man did by his thievery, but instead restored what was stolen see Psa. 69:4. With His glory restored by His beloved Son, God the Father can freely give to His erring sons— the Jew and the Gentile— more than they could possibly steal from Him. The younger son was given the Father's House— the elder son, "all that I have." They were never able to steal that much.
God Has the Last Word With Man
Our stories began with man judging God's heart— for the prodigal said "Father give me" and the elder son "thou never gavest me"— and end with God judging man's heart— the rich man in Hades. "Let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written that Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou art judged" Rom. 3:4. Man is often conscious of his own inadequacy, but fails to come to terms with the God of all grace. Years ago, I attended the retirement of the Internal Auditor of a large corporation. Many important officials rose to their feet and praised this man for his past services to the firm. When it was all over, the old Internal Auditor made a speech in reply. The part of the speech I remember was this— "I have to thank you gentlemen for the many kind remarks you have made— all on the credit side of the ledger." Then he said quietly, "But nobody has said anything about the other side of the ledger.”
Thank God He has taken care of "the other side of the ledger" for us, not only paying our debts, but filling our hearts with the knowledge of Himself— always the source of rejoicing for the Christian.
"What love to Thee we owe
Our God for all Thy grace
Our hearts may well o'erflow
In everlasting praise!
Make us, O Lord, to praise Thee thus
For all Thy boundless love to us.”
The basis of our praise is our Father's ways with us. God had two great works— creation and redemption. Do we praise God because He is the Creator? Partly— see Rev. 4:11 but not entirely. All we wanted from God was to rob Him of the treasures He planted in this earth. "Father give me" was our cry, or "Thou never gavest me." We didn't care about our Father at all— all we wanted was to steal His bankbook. So God began another work— redemption— because His first work— creation— only aroused our greed and envy. He killed the fatted calf in the field— that is, gave Christ up in death to bring us back to Him. This work rejoiced the Father's heart. The work of seeking the lost sheep and lost silver rejoiced the angels, but the killing of the fatted calf and the feast spread at the banqueting table for the returning prodigal— this rejoiced the Father's heart. When the prodigal said, "father give me," the father did. As a Father, God has not denied man anything in this world. But it brought no joy to the Father's heart and only misery to the prodigal's. As soon as the prodigal's heart turned to the Father, He began giving without being asked to do so. Because God is a Father, He wants children on whom He can shower His affections. This is where we come in— we are adopted children, the objects of His love.
When we understand God's ways, we stop talking. The prodigal started talking at the beginning, for his father's words carried no weight with him. Do unconverted men read the Bible? Certainly, for its cultural value, etc., but not to hear the Father's words. They sit in judgment over the Word of God which, at the end of time, will sit in judgment over them. The first words of the prodigal— "father give me"— led him nowhere; his last words— words which judged his first words— were "Thy son." That expression showed that he finally understood his true relationship to his father. Because the Father wanted to teach him that lesson, He never allowed him to say, "make me as one of Thy hired servants." A son in the house can never drop to a servant's level. As soon as he said "Thy son," the father kissed him. When the son stops talking, he fades out of sight, as it were. Only then does the Father start talking. "But the Father said to His servants" begins the chain of blessing.
When the elder son begins to talk, he asks one of the servants a question rather than his father. He was so angry with his father for blessing his brother that his father had to go out of the house to plead with him. When he begins to talk to his father, he compares himself to his brother and accuses his father of unrighteousness. The father's reply begins where the prodigal's words trail off— only instead of calling the elder son "son," he calls him "child." God always has the last word with man. He reminds the elder son that he is his child, that nothing has been denied him, that his actions toward him were just. The story of the Trustee makes it clear that the elder son was not so different from his brother— his sins only took a different form. The father remained what he always was— a father. There is grace in his heart for both sons, but he calls one "son"— the other "child." One knew his father— the other did not.
The rich man never talks to God in life he— is far removed from Him. In death he starts talking, and his first word is "father”— a recognition of the relationship he has violated. The reply of Abraham— a figure of God the Father here— begins with "child”— his response to the rich man's plea of "father." The rich man began talking to God too late. "Moses and the prophets"— the holy Scriptures— and the resurrection of Christ v. 31 are the twofold witness to the living against joining the rich man in the place of torment. God has the last word with the rich man. He remains in eternal contrast to the prodigal— "this thy brother was dead, and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”
“And the Veil Was Rent”
Both the younger and the elder son are guilty of the death of Christ. However, God used their very wickedness as the means of bringing them into blessing. The Gentile, or prodigal son, was present at the cross. He was represented by the Roman soldiers who took the garments of Jesus and made four parts, to every soldier a part John 19:23. This division of the Lord's garments is a figure of the message of the cross going out to the four corners of the world. Wherever the gospel has been preached, this story has been told. That is God's response to the wickedness of the younger son. The elder son is represented by the High Priest. At the trial of Christ, he tore his garments contrary to the law Lev. 21:10. And so wrath came upon all the (Jewish) people as prophesied Lev. 10:6. God's response to the High Priest's act of tearing his garments was to tear the veil in the Temple. This ended the religious pretensions of the High Priest and the ancient religion of Judaism. But it did more— it opened the way into the Presence of God for the believer in this day, with Jesus as His High Priest. "Having therefore brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say His flesh and having an high priest over the house of God, let us draw near" Heb. 10:19-22. How marvelous then, the end of God's ways, which bring us into His very Presence in peace, and free.
"Assured in faith we enter now
Thy presence where, most blessed God
Thy glory rests upon His brow
Who brought us nigh to Thee by blood.
“To Him Thy voice from out the cloud
Once spoke Thy deep, Thy full delight
And now without a veil to shroud
In Him shines forth Thy glory bright.”

Luke 16:11-31 - Luke 17 - Luke 18:1-8

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 17:11-37 and Chapter 18:1-8)
In her book, The End of the Bible, Mrs. J. S. Oliphant tells of a question directed to Moses Mendelssohn— "When will the Jews become Christians?" His reply was "When the Christians cease to be Jews." (8) What truth there was in this rejoinder! I recall a Christian woman saying, "he's such a godly man— he's worth a million dollars"— all in one breath. Another man boasted to me how the Lord had blessed him— by which he meant the size of his bank account. This is all Jewish, and not Christianity at all. Wealth was a sign of God's favor to a Jew, but the Christian is blessed "with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" Eph. 1:3. When the Lord unfolded the new principles of the kingdom, they came as a distinct shock to the Jews. A beggar in Abraham's bosom! A rich man in hell! They forgot that they had rejected the King when He was present so that He could not introduce a visible kingdom with earthly possessions and glory. The Kingdom of God must take a temporary form— it must become moral— with the publicly displayed kingdom postponed till a new thing the Church should come and go on and from the earth. In the meantime, the key thought in this chapter is "behold the kingdom of God is within you." "Within you" meant present where Christ then was, as well as inside those who recognized the kingdom as divine power working in and through Christ. So they were not to look for it here or there— for to do so would be to deny that the King was present. This chapter largely centers around this theme.
The Healing of the Ten Lepers—17:11-19
The healing of the ten lepers tells us of the presence of the Kingdom of God among men, because the King— Jehovah Himself— was present. It also brings into sharp focus the contrasting principles of law and grace— the former now receding because the King has been rejected, the latter now emerging as the new principle in God's dealings with man. God, now manifest in the flesh, had taken up "the law of the leper" in Lev. 13 and 14. He had provided an elaborate ritual for the cleansing of the leper and his re-admission to the camp. The leper is a figure of the sinner. He had to go outside the camp and cry "unclean, unclean," so other people would not be contaminated. His clothes must be torn so his leprosy couldn't be hidden— and his head bare— no shelter from divine wrath. In the day of his cleansing, he was to be brought to the priest.
The ten lepers here were nine Jews and one Samaritan. Now the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans John 4:9. To humble them, therefore, all alike contracted leprosy. The meaning of the incident illustrates the characteristic teaching of Christianity— "there is none righteous, no not one" Rom. 3:10. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Rom. 3:23. The ten lepers stood far away from Christ, as sinners must, whether they are Jews or Gentile Samaritans. They all cried, "Jesus Master have mercy on us." It was not really the cry of faith, but of despair, of pleading. Still the Scripture tells us He is a God of mercy.
So the God who laid down the law of the leper tells them to conform to His own law. Jesus' answer was, "go show yourselves to the priests." But you say the leper could only do that if he were clean. Exactly. That is why Luke writes "as they went, they were cleansed." Obedience to the voice of Christ is what cleanses man of leprosy (sin). When the Samaritan saw that he was cleansed, he also saw who did it. Only God can cleanse a leper. So he turned back to Christ, the source of power, and with a loud voice glorified God. Then he fell down on his face at Jesus' feet and thanked Him. The Lord immediately rebuked the nine who did not return to give glory to God. They were content to return to externals, whereas this man wanted reality. The Levitical cleansing rite looked forward to Christ and His work. Now that He was present, the shadow of things must recede. Great principles emerge here— for the Jew, retention of the law and rejection of Christ; for the Gentile, "thy faith hath made thee whole." Martin Luther rediscovered this truth after the Judaizing of Christianity had returned men to the works of the law. While he was doing penance trudging up steps on his knees, the Scripture came to him "the just shall live by faith." He got up and walked down.
How God Will Eventually Establish the Kingdom of God in the World in Power—a Brief Explanation
A good teacher never teaches his students more than they can absorb at one time. He builds slowly on what he taught them previously, until gradually the subject he is teaching is clearly understood. The Lord is the Master Teacher. The great subject in which He was instructing His disciples was the Kingdom of God. They were poor students because, being Jews, they only looked at those Scriptures which spoke of Messiah dealing with their enemies in power and setting up a visible kingdom in Israel which would then be the center of glory and government in the earth. They ignored such Scriptures as the 53rd of Isaiah, which spoke of a suffering Messiah. Little did they think that God was about to set up a new thing on— earth the Church— whose tenure on earth has already spanned nearly two thousand years— and that only after the second coming of Christ for the Church would God start to work to set up the Kingdom of God in power. In the meantime, the Kingdom of God would be moral. It would be entered by the new birth John 3. Those who were born again would acknowledge the moral rule of Christ, the rejected King in their lives. Even the Apostles were not ready for such teaching.
So the Lord unfolded only parts of it now, and those parts in easy steps. In Chapter 12, He pointed out the great principles of faith while the King was absent. In Chapter 13, He told them about the government of the earth— of Israel— and of the outward form the Kingdom should take— the great mustard tree, etc. —while the King was absent. Then He showed them that the revelation of the Father's heart— the story of the prodigal son— Chapter 15 was the key to the Kingdom in its spiritual form— "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" from. 14:17. Next, in Chapter 16, He reveals a rich man in hell, a poor man in Abraham's bosom— a complete reversal of things to the Jew, who thought of God's blessing as being material riches. Now in Chapter 17, He heals ten lepers. This proves He is the King present in power. The next lesson is how the Kingdom will finally be established in the world in power. It is not a question of denying the Old Testament Scriptures which speak of that, but of when and how. The Pharisees ask the question "when?" and are only told that the Kingdom of God was present. They needed this instruction, for they were not acknowledging the King. The disciples are separately instructed as to how the Kingdom shall be established that is, by judgment. No curious particulars are given as to how the judgment will fall these are found in prophetic books, such as Revelation. But we are let into the great moral teaching that the world will be purified by the fire of God's judgment preparatory to the setting up of the Kingdom in the world.
The Coming of the Son of Man—17:22-37; 18:1-8
The Lord moves gradually into this final question of how the Kingdom of God shall be established in the world in power. He says "the days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and ye shall not see it." In plain language, He is about to leave this world and they will look back longingly to the days when He walked with them, but will be unable to bring them back. He repeats His warning to the Pharisees (v. 21) as to false Christ’s. He knew that warning would fall on deaf ears, but to His own He says, "go not after them, nor follow them." The Son of Man was as the lightning. A brief momentary flash of lightning opens up the night sky revealing the whole countryside in a moment. Then it is gone. The darkness returns, but we remember what was there.
The Lord must "suffer many things and be rejected by this generation." "This generation" means more than the physical generation of the Lord's time. "This generation" is the generation of unbelief— "the seed of the serpent" which will be found when Christ comes back— not for the Church, but as the Judge of the living who reject Him and would resist the establishment of His Kingdom.
The Lord gives two illustrations of the conditions which will prevail in Israel when His judgment falls on it. It shall be like the days of Noah and the days of Lot. The world of Noah's day was destroyed by water; Lot's world was Sodom and it was destroyed by fire. Complete judgment then— in the figures of floods of water and fire from heaven await the Jews who have returned to Israel after nearly two thousand years of unbelief and who remain that way. They are enjoying themselves— eating, drinking, marrying— and going in for this life as though there was no other buying, selling, planting, building. God will visit them with discriminating judgment v. 34, 35 just as He preserved Noah and his house and Lot. Let the godly in that day beware of the example of Lot's wife who looked back, for "whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it." This puzzles the disciples, who ask Him, "where, Lord?" His reply is "where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together." Without satisfying their idle curiosity, the Lord reveals that the executors of God's judgment will swoop down on those, be they men or women, who are moral carcasses. The judgment is discriminating in character with God's true people untouched. They will be spared to enter the world kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
God Will Avenge His Suffering People—18:1-8
The first eight verses of the eighteenth chapter carry on and bring to a conclusion the Lord's teaching we have just been considering— "and He spake a parable unto them to this end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint." The unjust judge in the parable would not render justice to a poor widow until she kept coming back to him and annoying him. To get rid of her and have some peace, he gave her what she wanted.
The meaning of the parable relates to the closing events when God's judgments are in the earth just prior to the introduction of the millennium— the Kingdom of God in power. The godly Jews in that day will be outnumbered by their wicked brethren. They will be only a remnant of the nation. Persecuted and helpless— their adversary is the Antichrist— they are compared to a widow who is the picture of complete helplessness. Their only recourse is to go to God in prayer as a righteous Judge. In the parable the figure of an unrighteous judge is given to show that if an unrighteous judge finally takes action when petitioned endlessly, will not God the righteous Judge do more so? The whole is Jewish for the widow pleads for vengeance, as the Jews will. Christians are to forgive and pray for their enemies. Still there seems to be no answer to the prayers of the godly Jews in that coming day. The heavens are as brass to their entreaties. This is because Israel must pass through "the time of Jacob's trouble" Jer. 30:7. Not until Jerusalem has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins Isa. 40:2 can God avenge Israel. Then the eagles will gather together to feast on the bodies 17:37. Although the Lord says this vengeance will be executed speedily, the godly remnant do not think so. Their prayers are in bitterness of spirit, something wrung out of them. Their anguish is given to us in some of the Psalms which has been called "the Book of Common Prayer" of the godly Jews of the future. That is why the Lord says, "when the Son of Man cometh"— not for the Church, but to avenge the godly Jews— "shall he find faith on the earth?”
May He find it now. May our prayers ascend to God at the throne of grace. While the above interpretation is the primary one, we must never forget that Luke is moral and the admonition at the opening of Luke 18 is for us, too. We are always to pray and not to faint.

Luke 18:9-32

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 18:9-34)
What are the moral characteristics of the Kingdom of God? This is the great question taken up and answered here. The self-righteous Jew thought he knew. His life, as a man under law, self-importance, wealth as a mark of God's favor, the present enjoyment of material things in the land of promise. But the King is the only One Who has the right to legislate on this point not His subjects, real or pretended. So the Lord points out the great moral features suited or opposed to the Kingdom during the day of grace. Because those who claimed to be His subjects were unwilling to deviate from their own ideas of what the Kingdom should be like, the Lord unfolds the truth gently— first, in the form of a parable, next, in an incident, and finally, in direct instruction to His own.
The Parable of the Pharisee and Publican—18:9-14
In the parable, two men went up into the Temple to pray—one a Pharisee, the other a tax-gatherer. Both men stand to pray, but the word used to describe the Pharisee standing denotes a formal stance in addressing God. He is full of himself. "I thank Thee." "I am not as other men." "I fast twice in the week." "I give tithes." "I possess." He acknowledges God, but not his distance from Him. Instead of comparing himself with God, he compares himself with other men whose sins, he reminds God, are in marked contrast to his own virtuous, religious life. In so saying, he unmasks his own sins: pride, hatred, and contempt for other men more hateful to God than the carnal sins of others. No wonder that "he prayed thus with himself." God will note such a prayer, as the Lord did here, but will not answer it.
The prayer of the tax-gatherer is short and to the point. He starts with God, like the Pharisee, but immediately asks for mercy, ending quickly with the unpalatable admission that he is a sinner. Unlike the Pharisee, who ended by telling God that he gave tithes of all he possessed, the tax-gatherer, who probably possessed more, admits that he could really give God nothing. How can a sinner give God anything? On the contrary, he pleads with God to give him what he needs so badly— mercy. He beats his breast, hoping that God will hear his entreaty. And Jesus did, saying, "I tell you this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other." This has nothing to do with Paul's doctrine of justification by faith. At this point, the cross is future and Paul nowhere in sight. It simply tells us that the tax-gatherer was justified, not the Pharisee, for his prayer in the Temple. The Lord follows this statement with one of the great principles in the Bible— "for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." The tax-gatherer "would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven"; the rich man lifted them up in hell. The tax-gatherer had humbled himself and the Lord exalted him; the rich man had exalted himself and God had humbled him.
Believers should beware of the spirit of the Pharisee and not think that they are immune to it. An old Christian man, confined to his house, used to ask me for tracts. His neighbor gave him newspapers with people's names, and the old man got great joy from mailing out tracts to them. It was the one thing left that he could still do for the Lord. One day, an astonishing letter was received. A Christian lady was most indignant that a tract was mailed to her. "I'm a born-again believer," she complained. "Our family gives tithes to the Lord's work." Then she concluded, "Besides, tracts shouldn't be mailed. They should only be given out personally." However, there is no indication that she went up to the Temple to pray.
The Confiding Trust of Little Children— the Believer's True Place—18:15-17
The tax-gatherer admitted his lowliness by confessing his sinfulness; little children are not even conscious of their lowliness.
Theirs is the lowliness of insignificance, but confiding trust. The disciples oppose the little children coming to the Lord, showing how slowly they were absorbing His teachings, and why He has to instruct them directly at the end.
The Rich Young Ruler and the Lord—18:18-27
People who travel greatly, see the ruins of great buildings erected by vanished civilizations and with a little imagination can visualize them in their former glory. So it is with man. The fall left him in ruin. Still, in some men we see not good, as the Lord teaches here, but suggestions of man's distant origin from the hand of God. Here is a man who naturally has every advantage. He is rich; he has lived a morally good life under the law. He is a ruler and seeks to improve his life, perhaps that he may rule more justly. Furthermore, he is young, not old, and can enjoy his position and the riches it probably produced, to the full— not wait for gratification until he is older. However, when he approaches the Lord, his questioning about eternal life clearly reveals his groping for something. He cannot maintain his position or hold onto his riches forever, since every man is born to die. Yet he has no sense of personal distance from God, of ruin, of sin.
The two great mistakes of this young man were failing to recognize in Jesus a divine Person, a Savior of sinners, and his own need of salvation. Instead, he approached Christ as man might Ghandi or Confucius, for ethical instruction. Well did the Lord feel the insult to His Person. He concealed it admirably, yet exposed the young ruler's error. He had called the Lord "Good teacher," and so the Lord takes the young man up on his own ground. "Why callest thou Me good?" means "if you think I am only a man like other men why do you call Me 'good teacher' for man is not good at all?" Since the ruler could not respond to such doctrine any more than the Pharisee who prayed in the Temple, the Lord tests him with the law. He is proud to reply that he has kept the commandments from his youth. But he lacked one thing: "sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me.”
If he did that, he would not only lose his wealth, but his position as a ruler. He couldn't rule and follow a King who wasn't allowed to rule. But he would be fully recompensed with treasure in heaven. How this teaching reaches the foundation of our beings! Place yourself in the position of this man. What would your answer be? His answer is given us: "and when he heard this he was very sorrowful, for he was very rich." He is in contrast to Zacchaeus in the following chapter, another rich man, who received the Lord joyfully. Still, one hopes to meet the young ruler in heaven. He will not have treasure there unless he finally obeyed, of which there is no indication. The Lord did not say that a camel could not go through the low gate called "a needle's eye" here, but indicates how difficult it was. Zacchaeus proved it could be done. Just as the disciples were unprepared for the Lord's teaching on entering the Kingdom as little children, so they were not ready for the teaching the Lord gave to the rich young ruler. The Lord must now give them direct instruction.
The Lord Reveals His Death and Resurrection to His Own—18:28-34
Peter was always the leader among the disciples. He reminds the Lord that if the rich young ruler was fearful of leaving his riches to follow Christ, the disciples weren't. After all, he had left a prosperous fishing business, Matthew his tax revenues, etc. The Lord's answer is an indirect reply to the lack of confidence in God displayed by the young ruler. He states that those who left all for Christ, would receive eternal life in the world to come. That was what the young ruler wanted when he approached Christ. But he was afraid to reach out for it, fearing he wouldn't be taken care of in this life if he forsook his riches. So the Lord covers this point, too. God would see to it that those who gave up temporary advantage for Christ, would receive "manifold more at this time." How? Simply that God moves the hearts of His people to open up their houses and treasures to take care of His servants' needs.
Now the Lord never taught others what He did not practice Himself. He began "to do and to teach." He was the rich Man, far richer than the rich young ruler, yet for our sakes, He became poor see I 1 Cor. 8:9. So poor in fact, that He had to say, "show Me a penny," for He didn't have one. He "sold all that He had" Matt. 13:46 and in this way, secured "the pearl of great price"— the Church— His "treasure in heaven" Rev. 21:21. Then, too, He was the Man Who truly humbled Himself. He "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" Phil. 2:8. But He had taught that "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." So, when He told the disciples of His death, He also told them of His resurrection, for He was to be raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. But the disciples "understood none of these things... neither knew they the things which were spoken." This is the key to why much of the Bible is not understood by believers. The will is working, not obedience to "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
The disciples clung to their Jewish prejudices and hopes of an earthly kingdom. Believers today approach the Bible and take from it what pleases them, forgetting that Scripture is a unity. Not all believers. Some. Those who "understood none of these things.”

Luke 18:35-43 - Luke 19

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 18:35-43 and Chapter 19)
The third section of Luke's Gospel opens with the thirty-fifth verse of the eighteenth chapter and continues on to the end. This section gives us the King going to Jerusalem to claim His Kingdom and, instead, being crucified by His subjects. Of course, the Lord knew all this, for in the second section of this gospel, we were given clear indications of the new and heavenly character of the Kingdom of God which should follow His rejection.
In introducing his third section, Luke takes us back to the basic principle he enunciated in the first section— that is, that he was writing "with method." Now Luke's "method" is to emphasize the moral rather than the historical side of things, so that you cannot find the correct order of events in this gospel. Here we have an excellent illustration of this in the story of the blind man receiving his sight. From the other gospels, we know that this happened historically when the Lord left Jericho. Here, except for a misleading translation in the King James' version, we are told that it happened in the general area of Jericho, without saying when. In this, Luke's "method" shines out. He makes the blind man act as the herald of the King, announcing that He is David's son. Then, unbroken by the story of the blind man, he gives us an uninterrupted outline of the two comings of the King. In His first coming it is in grace the— story of Zacchaeus; in His second coming— not for the Church, which is not in question here— but to take His earthly Kingdom, the King rewards His faithful servants and punishes His enemies.
The rest of the chapter is His triumphant approach to Jerusalem and His weeping over the city for the woes soon to come upon it for rejecting its King.
The Blind Man Heralds the Coming of Israel's King—18:35-43
The blind man is a figure of Israel, blind to the glory of Christ— seeing in Him not their Messiah, but just another teacher or prophet. Not until the coming day, when they cry to Him for mercy and acknowledge Him as the Son of David, will they receive their sight. The cry "Son of David" is needful for Israel for their great sin is rejecting Him as the lawful King— the only one entitled to sit on David's throne.
But in the actual story, the blind man is more a herald paving the way for the King by crying out "Thou Son of David." The Lord gives him back his sight, showing that his faith in Him was not misplaced, for "the Lord openeth the eyes of the blind" Psa. 146:8. "And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.”
The First Coming of Israel's King Characterized by Grace in the Story of Zacchaeus—19:1-10
If Luke's Gospel records the story of a rich man in hell, it also records the story of a rich man assured of being in heaven from the Lord's own lips. Zacchaeus is an example of a child of God in a false position. He was a tax-gatherer for the Roman occupying power. These men thought nothing of putting money into their own pockets which they squeezed from their fellow citizens on top of the Roman tax levies. In the eyes of the Jews, Zacchaeus was an extortionist because they saw him as a member of a class. But we are told "judge not according to the appearance but judge righteous judgment" John 7:24. The Lord saw the good deeds Zacchaeus did too, although He neither praised him for them nor condemned him as occupying a false position.
The beautiful thing about Zacchaeus was that He loved Christ. This is what God values. Jesus has come to His own town, Jericho. This is variously known in Scripture as the city of palm trees 2 Chron. 28:15 that is, a picture of the world in its attractiveness— and the city of the curse Josh. 6:26 the world as a place subject to God's judgment for crucifying His Son. Jesus stood still at Jericho 18:40 a fact more amazing than the sun standing still. Here He had once blessed Rahab the harlot— here Zacchaeus the publican and the blind man. Zacchaeus and the blind man had this much in common— they wanted to see Jesus. Zacchaeus had eyes, of course, but was a short man and could not see because the people in the crowd were taller than he. Never let the crowd keep you away from Christ. The crowd tried to keep the blind man from seeing Christ as he sat by the road asking for mercy. It would keep Zacchaeus from seeing Christ just by its presence. But Zacchaeus found out the route the Lord was traveling, ran ahead, climbed up a tree and waited for Him to walk by. The Lord knew about this. When He came to the tree where Zacchaeus was, He told him to hurry up and come down, for today He MUST stay at his house. Normally we do not invite ourselves to another man's house, but this is the Lord of glory, Who not only made Zacchaeus but was to die to redeem him. He is as much entitled to Zacchaeus' house as to the man's donkey on which He sat 19:29-38.
Zacchaeus received Christ joyfully. Doesn't this remind us of the incident in the fifteenth chapter, "this Man receives sinners, and eats with them." And all because, like Zacchaeus, they received Christ joyfully. This joy on earth was echoed in heaven, for "joy shall be in heaven over one sinner who repents" 15:7. Well, Zacchaeus was one sinner who repented, even though he told the Lord about his good deeds. In the fifteenth chapter, it was the Pharisees and scribes who murmured about the Lord dining with the publicans and sinners— here, it is the crowd. In this third section of Luke, both are to unite against Christ.
Does the Lord care about the murmuring of the crowd when He goes to Zacchaeus' house? No, because He is God's King, not man's King. A President is sensitive to public opinion. He knows that his time in office depends on what the voters think of his administration. Not so with Christ. He extends the royal scepter to whom He will— in this case, a publican. Zacchaeus, the rich man of the nineteenth chapter, is the last man called a sinner in Luke's Gospel, and salvation comes to his house. The "woman in the city" of the seventh chapter, is the first one called a sinner in Luke's Gospel, and she hears the Lord say, "your sins are forgiven... your faith has saved you." Never let us forget that faith and salvation go together. So do obedience and happiness in Christian life.
The Second Coming of Israel's King (to Receive His Earthly Kingdom, Reward His Servants, and Punish His Enemies)—19:11-27
Whenever Christians think of the second coming of Christ, they think of His coming to rapture the Church to eternal glory. It is well that they do, for it is our blessed hope. But when the Church is in glory with Christ, God commences His judgments on the earth— which are given to us in the Book of Revelation. These will subdue Christ's enemies and the kingdoms of this world will become the world kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Then He will reward His people for faithful service while He was the rejected King, and punish His enemies. Now see how Luke has tied the whole narrative together— on Christ's first advent as King— grace, as shown to Zacchaeus— on Christ's second advent righteous judgment on adversaries. Now we will examine the details.
The Lord had begun His entry by Jericho to visit His royal city Jerusalem, accompanied by the crowd. He was the True Son of David, and the crowd thought that He was about to display His royal glory in the world, establish the promised kingdom and expel their enemies. This is the meaning of the eleventh verse. Instead, the kingdom was to be deferred because Jerusalem was about to disown its King. For this reason, the Lord compared Himself to "a certain nobleman" in a parable.
The certain nobleman went into "a far country [heaven] to receive for Himself a kingdom, and to return." This indicates clearly that the earthly kingdom was to be deferred until He returned. He entrusted His money— ten minas to ten servants— a mina apiece— and instructed them to "trade until I come." The money speaks of Christ's goods— divine things in general— which each one of us is responsible to use for Him until He comes back. Ten always speaks of responsibility, e.g., the Ten Commandments. Then a new class is introduced: not His servants (us), but His citizens (the Jews). His citizens hated Him and sent an embassy after Him. "After him" means after He has returned to heaven— "the far country— "by way of the Cross where they showed their hatred. The message was "we will not have this Man to reign over us." They delivered this message by stoning Stephen, who saw the heaven opened and testified to them that their King was in glory. So they sealed their sin by rejecting their King in heaven as well as on earth. Now let us see what happens to the two classes the servants with their money, and the citizens who rejected their King— when the King returns from heaven to claim His kingdom on earth.
All the servants appear before the King to give an account of their stewardship. Even so must we appear before Christ to receive reward or blame for our responsible pathway while He was absent. The first servant was a good investor— his Lord's mina had gained ten minas. The most blessed reward he gets is the Lord's commendation: "Well, thou good servant." Then he is given charge of ten cities, corresponding to the increase he brought to his master's wealth. Christian— note this carefully— all rewards for service to Christ are in connection with Christ's earthly kingdom. A city is a system of administration and the rewards for faithfulness here are administrative offices in the kingdom when Christ's glory is publicly displayed. Now it is true that these administrative positions will be exercised through the Church, as we see in Rev. 21, but that is not the point here. Luke is moral and the question of our individual faithfulness is considered here. The next servant receives five cities— excellent— but not the personal commendation of the first servant. The third servant receives the Lord's rebuke. Not only had he not traded with his mina, but he had been too lazy even to deposit it in the bank and get interest. So it is taken from him and given to the man who had given his Lord ten minas of profit.
Next, Christ's enemies are disposed of. Matthew gives us more details than Luke. "The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and those who do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire" Matt. 13:41,42. Luke presents their judgment from a moral viewpoint. The reason they are to be brought before the King and slain is exposed— their will was opposed to the grace of God.
They "would not that I should reign over them." "Bring them here and slay them before Me" are the words they must hear because they stopped their ears to the Father's words, "bring the fatted calf and kill it" 15:23. The killing of the fatted calf is the death of Christ. They must be put to death for refusing Christ's death for them.
Before closing off this section, we need a word of cheer for the discouraging days in which we live. You hear Christians complain that this is a day of small things— cold, dead formalism has taken over, and so on. But the Lord hasn't changed and we must not lose our first love for Him. It is only two years from the time of writing since my old friend, C. B. Jewell, departed to be with Christ, which is far better. After retirement, when most men decide to take things easy, this man dedicated himself to the work of tract distribution in England. As one who supplied him with many tracts, I found his zeal a source of encouragement. Those who received his tracts came from all walks of life and some sent letters of thanks to me. A nurse would write in, "a little old man gave me a tract on the beach. I am a Christian and would like to serve the Lord this way, too." He visited hospitals and on one occasion a patient broke down and cried when he told him of the Lord's love, later accepting Him as Savior. In London he worked at subway stations. Once he boarded a train and handed a tract to a man from my hometown. This man read the tract sitting down, and was astonished to find he needed to be born again. He thought he was a Christian because he was born in "a Christian country," as he called Canada, not knowing there is no such thing. And so, from early morning to late at night, C. B. Jewell labored without pay at his own expense. It was through him giving out tracts to some Indians at a bus stop that my Indian tract ministry started. One of them mailed a tract to Dr. D. Gnanabaranam of Madurai, who wrote me for permission to translate it into Tamil. Later I received a few copies of the tract in Tamil and sent one to Mr. Jewell. One day, Mr. Jewell's young co-worker met an Indian student from Ceylon who wished to be directed to a Christian church or chapel. He was invited to Mr. Jewell's home for tea. On discovering that his own language was Tamil, he was given the gospel tract newly translated into that language. This man returned to Ceylon a Christian, even though he did not entirely shake off his Buddhist training. And so Mr. Jewell labored on and on until his strength failed. Then, in His own good time, the Lord took His old servant home. His son visited him and had a word of prayer. Shortly afterward he fell asleep in Jesus without a struggle. Such are the servants, unknown to man but known to God, who shall be over cities when Christ sets up His earthly kingdom.
The Triumphal Entry of Jerusalem—19:27-48
The Lord now ascends up to Jerusalem, where He will receive a Cross, not a kingdom, although His title to the kingdom will be acknowledged in writing over His Cross. Knowing this, the Lord does not ride a white horse— the symbol of imperial triumph to ancient eyes. When He comes in triumph at a later day as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He will ride a white horse Rev. 19:11-16. But now He sits upon a donkey. The scene described by Luke exactly fulfills the prophecy "rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold thy King cometh unto thee. He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass" Zech. 9:9.
As the King approached His royal city, those who accept and reject His claims are brought into focus. First we see His claims over His creation acknowledged. The cattle in the thousand hills are His and it is enough to say "the Lord needs him" and the owners release the colt. The colt has never been broken in it was tied (v. 30) but, contrary to nature, it carries the Lord gently. Then the disciples burst forth into praise, fulfilling Psa. 118:26, "blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord." They cry out "peace in heaven, and glory in the highest." This cry, "peace in heaven" at the end is in marked contrast to the angels' cry at the beginning, "glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men" 2:14. As soon as the disciples cry "peace in heaven," the Pharisees turn to Christ and ask Him to rebuke them. This is the last mention of the Pharisees in Luke. From now on, they will merge into the general opposition of the religious classes to the King. So there will be peace in heaven now rather than on earth. Man does not want the Prince of Peace on earth, but will send Him to heaven by crucifying Him. The result will be war, not peace, on earth.
The Lord prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem, then, in the coming war with the Romans. This destruction was literally fulfilled forty years later when the Roman armies besieged the city and enacted the most frightful carnage in the long annals of warfare until modern times. The Lord had said that if His disciples did not cry out and praise Him, the stones would. Not one stone in Jerusalem should be left upon another, because the city would not acknowledge Him. The Lord weeps at the prospect. He goes into the Temple already doomed by His sentence, and casts out those who defiled it by their avariciousness. Then He teaches daily in the Temple. The people hear Him gladly, but the religious leaders plot His death. They cannot touch Him until the Passover, when He will fulfill the type of the Passover Lamb sheltering all God's people from the judgment of their sins. God is the Judge of sinners but He is also the One Who said, "when I see the blood I will pass over you.”
The Lord's entry into Jerusalem and His death there fulfilled a striking prophecy in the Book of Daniel: "seventy weeks are apportioned out upon the people and upon thy holy city, to close the transgression and to make an end of sins, and to make expiation for iniquity and to bring in the righteousness of the ages and to seal the vision and prophet and to anoint the holy of holies. Know therefore and understand. From the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince are seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. The street and the moat shall be built again, even in troublous times. And after the sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off and shall have nothing and the people of the Prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary and the end thereof shall be with an overflow and unto the end war the desolations determined" Dan. 9:24-26. This prophecy relates solely to the Jewish people, their Messiah and Jerusalem "thy people," "Messiah the Prince," "thy holy city" and a measurement of time connecting these things together. The entire period of time is seventy weeks, but one week is unfulfilled and need not concern us here.
The sixty-nine weeks are broken down into two periods seven weeks to rebuild Jerusalem and sixty-two weeks until Christ entered Jerusalem and was crucified. Each week represents seven years, so that Christ is clearly shown to be Messiah the Prince. In B.C. 455, Artaxerxes Longimanus, a Persian monarch, issued an order to restore and build Jerusalem. Nehemiah undertook this work which occupied seven weeks— that is, forty-nine years. Then sixty-two weeks elapsed after this event, i.e., 62 x 7, or 434 years until Messiah was cut off. This gives us a total of 483 years. The difference between B.C. 455, when the command to rebuild the city was given, and these 483 subsequent years, gives us the exact year in which Christ entered His royal city to be rejected and crucified. As punishment for this crime, "the people of the Prince that shall come"— that is, the Roman people -would destroy both Jerusalem and its Temple. That is why the Lord wept over Jerusalem, for He knew that He was about to be cut off as Messiah and have nothing. If they would not have their King, they, too, must have nothing and become a heap of ruins.

Luke 20

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 20)
If you wished to lead an uprising against your government, you would not begin by taking up arms. The first thing you would do would be to agitate against it by challenging its authority in every possible way. In this way you would undermine it, cause the public to lose confidence in it, and prepare the way for its overthrow. This, in brief, explains the events recorded in the twentieth chapter, for they are nothing less than a series of challenges to the authority of Christ the King, Who had just entered His royal city, Jerusalem. The Pharisees in chapter nineteen had asked Christ to rebuke His disciples because they acclaimed Him as King. Here the chief priests, the scribes and the elders challenge Christ's authority directly. The whole chapter consists of a series of challenges to Christ's authority, carefully veiled to conceal their real intent, but having this as their common denominator.
It is astonishing how entrenched religious authority opposes Christ's authority and thinks it is doing God's Will in so doing. I should like to emphasize this principle by recounting the story of the conversion of my maternal grandfather before proceeding into the exposition of the twentieth chapter.
My grandfather was a proud religious man, financially independent, whose residence was Cluny Castle in Scotland. He was one of a group of seven young men who spent their time in idle pursuits, such as fox hunting. One day when the group got together, one of them remarked that Captain Cross, the evangelist, was coming to the village and was setting up a tent to preach the Gospel. Captain Cross and his brother were professional soldiers and crack swordsmen in the British Army. They once hired themselves out as mercenary soldiers and on a foreign battlefield fought back to back, leaving mounds of dead around them until their attackers dispersed. When Captain Cross was converted, he became a soldier of the Cross and wielded the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, more effectively than the sword of man. "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" 2 Cor. 10:4. My grandfather did not know of Captain Cross' valor, but instantly challenged his authority to preach the Gospel. "I am a member of the established Church," he sputtered, "and will not have this man here with his tent," or words to that effect. They all agreed and decided to break up the Gospel meeting. They jumped on their horses, rode down to the tent, and sat at the back waiting for the preacher. When Captain Cross strode in with his erect military bearing, they all hesitated. His preaching was with power, and at the close of the meeting, the whole seven sinners were saved. There is a sad sequel to this story which should be mentioned. Captain Cross' brother never accepted Christ. It was suspected that he had murdered his wife. Her body was exhumed and he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Captain Cross went to the prison and pleaded with his brother to accept Christ, but alas, he went to the gallows unrepentant. Lost for eternity, unlike the seven young men who began challenging the Lord's authority over them, but ended up by bowing to it, and are now forever with the Lord.
The General Challenge to Christ's Authority and the Lord's Reply—20:1-18
The challenge to the King's authority occurs on "one of those days as He taught the people in the Temple and preached the gospel." He is now about to be offered up and the religious leaders are closing in on Him, seeking to find a pretext to deliver Him to the Romans. They begin by questioning His authority: "tell us, by what authority doest Thou these things? Or who is He that gave Thee this authority?" In asking such a question, they assumed that the Lord was accountable to them, whereas the reverse was the case. So He turns the question back to them, asking them one thing and demanding an answer. Before He healed the man with the withered hand, He had asked one thing: "is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? To save life or to destroy it?" 6:9. He had told Martha, "one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." He had told the rich ruler, "yet lackest thou one thing, sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me." These three "one things" tell us of His works, His words, and the responsibility to give up all for Him and become His disciple. All this is now being challenged. The Lord's answer is, "I will ask you one thing— the baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?" "And they reasoned with themselves saying, If we shall say From heaven, He will say, Why then believed ye him not? But and if we say of men, all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered that they could not tell whence it was. And Jesus said unto them, neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”
Now the believer need be in no doubt as to the source of the Lord's authority. It was the Father's voice from heaven. We know that John's baptism was from heaven and not of men. The Lord Jesus told John to baptize Him and the Father's voice then exclaimed, "Thou are My beloved Son in whom I have found all My delight." Then on the holy mount, the Father added these additional words, "hear ye Him." The Father's voice from heaven, then, was the authority by which He did these things, and so men are now responsible to hear the voice of God the Son Heb. 1:2. But these men had "neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape" John 5:37. For this reason, the Lord speaks a parable to them, not based on hearing the Father's voice, but on seeing the Son. And this parable is about the judgment that must fall on them for refusing the source of His authority— the Father's voice.
Israel was God's vineyard whom God, described here as "a certain man," had planted see Isa. 5 and Psa. 80:8-19. He left farmers over it to work it and obtain fruit from it in His absence. But God never got fruit from Israel. The parable condenses Israel's history of disobedience. God sent as many as three servants to collect fruit from Israel, but all were mistreated. Finally, He decided to send His Son. This story is summarized in even briefer fashion in the opening of the Epistle to the Hebrews: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son." Not content with ill treating God's servants, the prophets, the farmers rose up and slew His Son. Their motive is exposed— "This is the heir, come let us kill Him, that the inheritance may be ours." Now God tolerated the beating of His servants, but the Jewish farmers of His inheritance must be punished— for His Son is His Son. So the verdict is "He shall come and destroy those farmers"— this was done when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70— "and shall give the vineyard to others"— the Church. "And when they heard it they said God forbid." They did not say "God forbid" when it was a question of killing God's Son only when the consequence of their wickedness was revealed. Now they know the answer to their question "by what authority doest Thou these things? Or who is He that gave Thee this authority?" "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father" John 5:22, 23.
Should God forbid this? Not at all. Their own Scriptures told them that the stone which the builders rejected— Christ— should become the cornerstone. "Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." That means that in the days in which Christ walked the earth, men tripped over this divine stone, fell, and were broken like egg shells; in the future day, Christ will fall on His enemies— Antichrist and those who follow him, and grind them to powder. It also applies today. If we confess Christ, we fall on Him and are broken— that is, become useless for the way Satan hopes to use man in the world. But if we do not confess Him, He will grind us to powder in the Day of Judgment.
The Challenge to Christ's Authority As the Governor of the Nations (See Psa. 22:28)—20:19-26
Satan's servants next devised a most subtle trap for the Lord. The scribes watched Him here as the Pharisees had watched Him in the fourteenth chapter. They "sent forth spies which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of His words, that so they might deliver Him unto the power and authority of the governor." Notice how the question of power and authority fills this chapter. Christ had made man drink the wine of astonishment at the beginning— "they were astonished at His doctrine, for His word was with power" 4:32. He had given the twelve "power and authority over all demons" 9:1 yet man challenged His power and authority by tempting the Lord their God. They began with flattery, "Master, we know that Thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest Thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly." Then they say, "is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar or no?" They thought they would use the same tactic the Lord used on them when He said, "the baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?" Then they would either silence Him as He had silenced them, or force Him to commit Himself to a damaging statement. If He said, "do not give tribute to Caesar," they would report Him to the Romans; if He said, "give tribute to Caesar," they would say, "Ah! You are not then the Messiah, the delivering King, after all" and report this to the crowds. Now the same Lord Who had reminded Satan not to tempt the Lord God, reminded His slaves of this injunction, too. The Lord asked them whose image and superscription was on a coin. When they replied, "Caesar's," He said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things which are God's." This flattened them completely. "Render unto Caesar" told them that it was God's verdict that they should be under Gentile dominion, because they had rejected their true King. The reminder to render unto God the things which are God's, showed that they hadn't been doing so, and exposed the root of their trouble. No wonder they marveled at His answer and kept quiet! Later they were to accuse the Lord of forbidding to give tribute to Caesar 23:2 a false charge.
The Challenge to Christ's Authority Over the Dead—20:27-38
The Sadducees did not believe in angel or spirit or the resurrection of the body. They correspond to the "liberals" or "modernists" today, as the Pharisees correspond to present-day ritualists.
Because Christ and His Church are one, the order in which our foes confront us is the same as the way they confronted Christ— the Pharisees first, then the Sadducees. The Sadducees are mentioned last in Luke's Gospel here. Historically, ritualism ruled the early Church, as rationalism rules today. Having said this, let us examine the rationalist challenge for what it really is— a challenge to Christ's authority, not over the living, but over the dead. The Scripture says, "for to this [end] Christ has died and lived [again] that He might rule over both dead and living" Rom. 14:9.
The Sadducees tell the Lord a tall tale about a woman who had seven husbands, asking Him whose wife she should be in the resurrection. They hoped to ridicule a bodily resurrection. Unknown to them, the doctrine is vital and they stood in the Presence of One Who holds the keys of death and Hades. The Lord answered them by first pointing out that the resurrection body differs from the natural body which was created male and female Gen. 1:27. "Neither can they die any more, for they are equal unto the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection." There is much instruction on our new body in 1 Cor. 15. Paul tells us that we cannot inherit the Kingdom of God in our present bodies of flesh and blood. "We shall all be changed." We will receive incorruptible bodies like Christ's own body of glory— effulgent with light, no doubt, as He was on the Mount of Transfiguration— possessing undreamed of power to traverse space, pass through solid objects, etc. It is a body of flesh and bone, not flesh and blood, whose life principle is spirit, not breath, as in our natural bodies. Such is the spiritual body believers will receive at the second coming of Christ. Need we add that believers are in view in these two passages and receive their glorified bodies at the second coming of the Lord, when the dead in Christ are raised incorruptible and living believers have their mortal bodies changed? Those who die in their sins, are resurrected at the close of the kingdom for judgment. All we know about their bodies is that "the dead, small and great, stand before God" Rev. 20:12. And they must finally acknowledge Christ's authority by bowing the knee to Him Phil. 2 and confessing Him as Lord.
Having disposed of their foolish question, the Lord refers them to Moses to prove the truth of resurrection, as they had appealed to Moses mockingly to deny it. Moses had called the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Moses would scarcely use such language unless the patriarchs had a conscious existence after death. If it were otherwise, how could God be a God to them? It is the very existence of man after death which proves the necessity of his bodily resurrection. If we die, we will not remain forever in the disembodied state— we await the Lord's assembling shout from heaven.
The Authority of Christ Established From the Scriptures—20:39-47
Instead of silencing the Lord, His enemies are silenced, and are afraid to ask Him any more questions. Only the scribes remain before Him and they say approvingly, "Master, Thou hast well said." It is now the Lord's turn to ask His foes a question— a question designed to prove Who He is. "And He said unto them, How say they that Christ is David's Son? And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit Thou on My right hand till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool." David, therefore, calleth Him Lord, how is He then his Son? Now the Father's voice was shown to be the source of Christ's authority when it was first challenged 20:1-18. Here, the Lord quotes it as the source of a new authority about to be given Him. The quotation makes it clear that those who had just challenged Christ's authority are His enemies. Eventually, they will be made His footstool, but not for the present. He will be rejected and, although the rightful heir to David's throne, will not sit on it. As compensation, the Father tells Him to sit on His own throne— in heaven, not in earth see Rev. 3:21. Thus the Father seats His Son at His right hand— the figure of His throne, the place of supreme authority— although He is still rejected on earth.
The scribes had read about a triumphant Christ in the Scriptures and ignored the other Scriptures which told about a rejected Christ. Their slanted teachings deceived even the godly in Israel 24:25-27. Their failure to understand and teach the people such a basic truth as the temporary rejection of Messiah proved them blind leaders of the blind. So the Lord turns from doctrine to practice, exposing their self-exalting and hypocritical conduct. Their doctrine was wrong because their hearts were wrong. The subject mind, the tender heart, lowliness these are essential in those who would walk with God, learn His ways, and teach them to others.

Luke 21

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 21)
What does God think of what we offer to Him? The answer is given us here for "the rich and poor meet together. The Lord is the Maker of them all." Prov. 22:2. The rich cast their gifts into the Temple treasury. A certain poor widow cast in two mites— the minimum amount which could be contributed. Since both offered their money to the Lord, only the Lord could evaluate the offerings. He said, "all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God, but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had." This widow appears at the Temple near the close of the Lord's life, as Anna did at the beginning. Anna served the Lord directly. The widow here contributed her money so others could serve Him. She displays great devotedness of heart. The Temple was adorned with precious gifts which only the rich could supply. But both the Temple and the rich gifts adorning it came under the Lord's judgment— "as for these things which ye behold, the days will come in which there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down." Thus were the gifts of the rich destroyed, but the gift of the poor widow has been imperishably recorded in the Word of God.
The Lord Warns His Own so They Will Not Be Trapped in Jerusalem When It Is Besieged—21:7-24
The Temple was the very heart of Judaism. The rich Jews from foreign nations poured their wealth into it so that it became the St. Peter's of the ancient world. Little wonder, then, that its prophesied judgment raised the question, when will this happen? What sign will be given to warn us that such a solemn thing is about to take place? For the Temple could not fall unless Jerusalem did. The Lord knew this, too. In the next chapter, He will be betrayed. With the Cross before Him, His desire is to protect His own from the judgment that is to fall on those who will crucify Him. He answers their questions so they will know how to escape the wrath to come. "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." Beautiful love of Jesus to be thinking of His own when everybody was about to turn against Him. Here are the Lord's warnings then:
Antichrists— The Lord's first warning concerns those who would come in His Name— after He had returned to His Father and before the destruction of the Temple. Such should say "I am Christ." The Apostle John wrote, "Even now are there many antichrists" 1 John 2:18. Simon the sorcerer is an illustration— "to whom they all gave heed from the least to the greatest saying This man is the great power of God" Acts 8:10.
Wars and Riots— This refers to the period of war and insurrection following Nero's death two years before the Temple was destroyed.
Natural Disasters— Earthquakes head the list here. There was a huge one in Phrygia in A.D. 61. Vesuvius, the great volcano near Naples, erupted in A.D. 63, engulfing the twin cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in lava. Famines occurred in the reigns of Claudius and Nero.
Fearful Sights and Great Signs from Heaven— This is the subject of the historian Josephus' pen, which we would likely dismiss as the product of an overactive imagination if it were not for the Lord's own words. In The Wars of the Jews, Book 6, Chapter 5, he tells us of a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, which continued for a year, and also how, before sunset, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds and surrounding of cities.
Testimony and Persecution for Christ's Sake— In verses 12-19, we are given a summary of the events recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, so there is no point in going into detail here. Notice the apparent contradiction in the Lord's words in verses 16 and 18, however. In verse 16, He says they should be put to death in verse 18, that not a hair of their head should perish. This entirely agrees with His teaching to fear not those who kill the body and afterward can do no more. He looks beyond this to the resurrection of the body so His own can suffer no loss. These events the witness to Christ recorded in the Acts of the Apostles transpired before the destruction of the Temple, which neither Peter nor Paul, the two great Apostles of the Acts, lived to see.
The Roman Armies Encircling Jerusalem— This was the great and final sign which the Christians were to watch for. The other signs only indicated that the time of Jerusalem's destruction was near. A similar general warning, supplementing these signs, was the Epistle to the Hebrews, which encouraged the Jewish believers to cling to the kingdom which could not be moved. Eusebius tells us that the Church at Jerusalem was warned to flee the city by an oracle to their leaders— Epiphanius says by an angel. This may be, but all Scripture tells us is the Lord's warning to evacuate Jerusalem when the Roman armies approached. Remember that only forty years elapsed between the Lord's words here and the destruction of Jerusalem, so that His words would be fresh to two generations of believers. The record is clear that the entire Church fled Jerusalem and went to Pella. This mountainous city was under Agrippa's protection, and sheltered the Jewish Church until Jerusalem was destroyed. Jews were banned from the site of the city and its suburbs after its destruction. The first Jews who were granted permission to return to the area were the Christians, who evacuated the city and fled to Pella in obedience to the Lord's warning. Here they established a settlement— all that remained of once-populous Jerusalem, except the Roman soldiers of the famed Tenth Legion who were stationed in the area for many years.
The Time of the End—the Lord Warns the
Godly Jews of the Coming Day of the Last Crisis—21:25-38
The Lord's discourse is in two parts. The first part, which we have just considered, was a warning to the early Church to flee Jerusalem— which they heeded. The second part is prophetic, and unfulfilled as yet. It is a message aimed at the godly Jews, who will arise after the rapture of the Church and will pass through the period of great tribulation described in the Book of Revelation. Note how the Lord says, "this generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled." That is the key— "till all be fulfilled." The Lord has in mind a continuous generation a generation— of men from a moral viewpoint— which continues without interruption from the time of His first advent to His second.
The Lord uses symbolism to depict the conditions which will prevail in the end times. His warnings of the coming destruction of Jerusalem were unsettling events on the earth; in that day, there will be signs in the heaven. The sun speaks of supreme authority, the moon of derived authority, the stars of lesser powers. Since the powers that be are ordained by God, the symbolism teaches us of unspecified judgments on governments great and small, without telling us who they are. These judgments produce distress of nations on the earth, men "ready to die through fear and expectation of what is coming on the habitable earth.”
This interpretation is confirmed by the Lord's words, "for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." Then the Lord appears in a cloud with power and great glory. "And every eye shall see Him and they also who pierced Him and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen." Rev. 1:7.
This is completely different from the Lord's coming for the Church. Here He is coming in judgment on the world, and we shall be with Him. That is why the Son of Man is said to appear with power and great glory after the powers of heaven are shaken. Now He appears, after overturning man's power and glory, to set up His earthly millennial kingdom. Hitler used to boast that his Third Reich would last a thousand years, because Satan planted the thought in his mind as a counterfeit of Christ's coming thousand year rule when he will be chained in the bottomless pit Rev. 20:1-3. Depend upon it, God will never let any man rule the earth for a thousand years, except Christ!
The Lord now tells the parable of "the fig tree and all the trees"— the last parable in our Gospel. "The fig tree" is always Israel in Scripture; "all the trees" are the Gentiles, without specifying the nations involved. In this setting, the trees speak of powers, for trees are rooted in the earth and provide shelter, fruit, etc., for man. Israel's fate, then, is mixed up with "all the trees"— that is, she is involved with the Gentiles as the time of the end approaches. These conditions already apply in the world, so that we, as well as the godly Jews soon to come, know that the end is approaching rapidly. Consider Israel's return to the land after a two thousand-year exile, for example— partially fulfilling Isa. 18. In this connection, some Christians are puzzled at the Lord's words, "Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" v. 24. Now it is true that Jerusalem, at the time of writing, is in Jewish hands. But the force of the Lord's words is not that the Jews shall never hold it temporarily, but rather that the Gentile powers will subjugate it at their pleasure "until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." The proof that this is so is that present-day Jerusalem, declared the capital of Israel by the Knesset in 1980, will be attacked and overrun by the nations to the North and the South in the future Dan. 11:40-45. "The times of the Gentiles" began when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem and will end when Christ sets up His earthly kingdom.
The Lord summarizes His teaching in verses 28 and 31. "When these things begin to come to pass"— that is, divine judgments on the great powers of the world, "then look up, for your redemption draweth nigh." "So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass"— that is, Israel and the Gentile nations in the melting pot with Israel beginning to bud again— "the kingdom of God is near." That will be earth's summertime when men can rightfully exclaim "blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." The Lord assures men that though heaven and earth shall pass away, His words shall not pass away. There are "great earthquakes" and "great signs" 21:11 "great distress" 21:23 but the end is "great glory" 21:27. Although victory is assured, the righteous are exhorted to be watchful as to their personal lives and not to fall into a trap like "them that dwell on the face of the whole earth." The expression "them that dwell on the earth" is a technical one found in the Book of Revelation. It describes those who are living in the world after the rapture of the Church. They are viewed as a special class those who have heard the Gospel call to the Father's House but ignored it, choosing this world instead as their home. This class can now be identified. They are the ones whose hearts will fail with fear when God begins to judge the world in earnest. Even now they are becoming apprehensive, as many Christians can testify.
Many years ago I had an appointment with an engineer in the company for which I worked. At the end of the meeting, I rose up to gather together the charts and tables we had been working on. Without any warning, he said to me, "I suppose you think that when I die, I'll go straight to hell!" Now I had never spoken to this man about Christ or the Gospel. It was because our relationship was strictly a business one that I was so surprised, and so I said nothing. He continued on: "I suppose you would like to telephone me at two o'clock in the morning and ask me if I'm saved. I know people who would do that. Maybe you belong to them.”
I said a few brief words in reply, and left him a Gospel tract I had written. Some time later, he returned it with a remark: "That is well written and would prove your point if I could accept the Bible you quote from as being authoritative." So I gave him an article later by a Harvard mathematician purporting to demonstrate scientifically that the Bible is inspired. Now, I do not believe this can be proved, for if it could, faith would not be our guiding principle. The article in question was really a probability statement and, as an intelligent man, my engineer associate would recognize this. It should at least have made him pause and consider. But what did he do? He returned the article to me and said, "I always thought Christianity was a religion of faith, not of reason." My reply was, "Bob, I gave you faith and you demanded reason; when I gave you reason, you demanded faith. You won't have Christ, no matter how He is presented to you.”
The sequel to this incident occurred some time later. We were walking together to work one day when he unburdened himself. Here was a man who belonged to "them that dwell on the earth"— the class of men who have heard the Gospel, refused it, chose the world instead of heaven, and then are terrified when God begins to shake their choice. He burst into a long lament over what was happening in the world. "It's the decline and the fall of the Roman Empire all over again," he said, "even to the reappearance of the barbarians— the Chinese Reds. It isn't worthwhile even to bring children into this world and educate them," he cried.
And so he went on. Oh, that he had been like the people at the close of our chapter who came early in the morning to hear words of life from the Lord of glory!

Luke 22

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 22)
The Scripture says: "the first man is of the earth, earthy; the second Man is the Lord from heaven" 1 Cor. 15:47. In Chapter 22, the power of darkness is brought to bear upon these two men. The story of the tests is the story of our chapter.
The Passover was approaching. The religious leaders plotted the death of Christ, but it took Satan to make their plans practical. Money, ever the lure to the heart away from God, was the means he used. The religious rulers had it— the rich men gave it to them 21:1 Judas coveted it. Although Luke says that Satan entered into Judas Iscariot at this time, he is speaking morally, not historically. At this time Satan entered into Judas' heart and took it over. Later, Satan entered into Judas in an indwelling sense, taking him over completely— that is, when the Lord gave him the sop. Here, Luke is more interested in exposing the hidden workings of the evil one.
The Lord Takes the Oath of the Nazarite at the Last Passover—22:7-18
“Then came the day of unleavened bread when the Passover must be killed." The Passover was the memorial of Israel's redemption. In the land of Egypt— figure of the world— the firstborn was killed, except in those houses where the blood of the Passover Lamb was sprinkled. The Passover Lamb was a type of Christ. The Scripture is careful always to use the singular and never the plural when referring to the Passover Lamb— your lamb, a lamb, the lamb, etc.— because God has only one Lamb— the Lord Jesus Christ— though many eat Him. Eating Him means appropriating His death for us, just as the food we eat becomes part of us. How the Lord Jesus must have thought of God's words in instituting the Passover Feast as He Himself ate the Lamb for the last time "eat none of it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roast with fire, its head with its legs and with its inwards" Ex. 12:9. This speaks of the judgment of God which fell on Him at the Cross. "Roast with fire" means no escape from it— nothing to mitigate it— surrounded by judgment on all sides. "His head" speaks of His holy intelligence. Unlike Isaac who went up the mountain not knowing he was to be sacrificed, Christ knew from the beginning that "the Passover must be killed." "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" 1 Cor. 5:7. "His legs" speak of His holy walk. The "inwards" speak of truth in the inward parts, always found in Christ. The Passover was to be eaten with bitter herbs— a figure intended to humble us, since it was our sins for which Christ died.
Hyssop was a weed which grew along the ground. It is used figuratively to speak of lowliness and repentance. The Jews were to take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood, and sprinkle the blood on the lintel and two door posts. God had said, "when I see the blood I will pass over you." The blood speaks of the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, which "cleanseth us from all sin" see 1 John 1:7. But to secure ourselves from God's judgment against our sins, we must repent— take a bunch of hyssop the— low place— and apply the blood— faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ— His blood shedding on the Cross for our sins. Then we have God's assurance that He will pass over us in the Day of Judgment, for Christ died for our sins.
Next comes the story of the guest chamber where the Lord would eat the Passover with His disciples. When He was about to be publicly acclaimed, just before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He sent two of His disciples to claim the ass. They were only to say, "the Lord needs him." Here, where He is about to be publicly rejected, He sends two of His disciples to claim the guest-chamber that He may eat the Passover.
“And He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." He knew perfectly the sufferings which were to be His, as outlined in Ex. 12, which we have already considered. But He put communion with His own before His sufferings. He could eat the Passover with them, and desired to do so. But He must cut Himself off from the guilty nation. "I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." This was to be the Last Passover— the end of Israel's old connection with God. To show this, the Lord refrained from drinking the Passover cup, as we read, "and He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come." Note carefully that this is not the cup of the Lord's Supper, but the Passover cup. The Lord's action in not drinking it is so full of meaning that it requires separate consideration.
In the sixth chapter of Numbers we are given "the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the Lord for his separation." The only part that need concern us here is that after his vow, the Nazarite was separated to the Lord and must not drink wine. When his vow was over, he could drink wine. To interpret this we must understand two things: first, that Christ is the True Nazarite, and second, that wine is used figuratively in Scripture for earthly joy. Now, when Christ said, "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come," He took the oath of the Nazarite. How could He receive earthly joy from His people when they are about to crucify Him? So His joy must be postponed "until the kingdom of God shall come." Then His Nazarite vow will be ended and He can drink wine again— that is, receive joy from Israel on earth. In the meantime, as a Nazarite, He is separated to God— that is, He is in heaven as our Great High Priest.
The Institution of the Lord's Supper—22:19-20
When the Lord took the oath of the Nazarite, He cut Himself off from Israel. Then He was free to introduce something new— the Lord's Supper. The elements were already present from the Passover feast— the bread and the wine. As for the act of breaking bread, it was common among the Jews as expressing fellowship at a meal. Baptism— the other Christian ordinance— was practiced throughout the ancient world as a form of ceremonial washing. These points are only mentioned because critics of Christianity say its two principal ordinances are borrowed from customs of others. That was precisely what God intended. His purpose was not the introduction of something new to stimulate the mind of man, but for conveying truth and establishing the heart by the use of well-known rites and symbols. The Lord's Supper is a Christian ordinance, instituted by the Lord before going to the Cross, confirmed by the Apostle Paul as having been received from Christ in glory, is a public announcement of the death of Christ in a hostile world, and ends with the second coming of Christ see 1 Cor. 11:23-26.
The Lord took bread and gave thanks and broke it. In the unbroken state, it anticipated the union of Jew and Gentile into one body, the Church. Broken, it spoke of the Lord's actual body given up in death for us.
The wine has a much wider symbolical meaning. First, it speaks of the Lord's blood separate from His body— symbolically shed, poured out for sinners. "The cup of blessing which we bless is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?" 1 Cor. 10:16. But its wider sense can only be understood in the light of the Lord's words— "This cup is the New Covenant in My blood which is poured out for you" 22:20. Scripture makes it clear that the New Covenant is One that God will make with Israel in the future Jer. 31:31-34. It is based on pure grace, since Israel crucified their Messiah, and is in contrast to the Old Covenant— the law— which they were responsible to keep but could not. But we, as Christians, enter into the good of the New Covenant NOW, for the grace of God has reached us through the shed blood of Christ.
The wine, as symbolic of the New Covenant, covers all classes of redeemed man, thus going well beyond the Church. Christ's blood was shed "for the remission of sins that are past through the forbearance of God" Rom. 3:25 the Old Testament saints— for us who have "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" Eph. 1:7 and for the godly in Christ's millennial kingdom who come under the New Covenant. The blood of Christ ushers in that coming scene of worldwide millennial blessing, too, as it is the foundation of all righteousness before God.
"Thou dost make us taste the blessing
Soon to fill a world of bliss
And we bless Thy Name confessing
Thine own joy our portion is.”
The Lord Addresses His Own Following the Supper—22:21-38
Luke next groups certain events, not all of which are historically connected, into a continuous discourse by the Lord. His object is moral— to paint the faithlessness of the human heart in contrast to the Lord's. He also gives us a picture of conditions which have often prevailed— alas!— at the Lord's Supper, for the heart of man remains unchanged.
In this writer's judgment, Judas ate the Passover but not the Lord's Supper, as we might think he did from this passage if we did not understand Luke's "method." Historically, Judas received the sop and went out at once— "and it was night" John 13:30. Only then was the Lord free to institute the Supper.
Luke takes up the case of two Apostles— Judas and Peter— with a few lines in between to sketch the moral state of the others. Here were the real religious leaders of the nation, not those who later appeared to judge Christ. They were officially appointed by Christ to the greatest office. Yet Judas betrays Him, Peter denies Him, and the rest are mostly concerned about which of them should be the greatest. Judas had no life; and, like many religious leaders in the centuries which followed, betrayed Christ. Peter had forgotten the Lord's Prayer— "Lead us not into temptation"— that is, trial by Satan. The Lord was led into temptation by the Holy Spirit, and overcame him 4:1-13. But, before that occurred, we find Him the dependent Man praying 3:21. If we fail, the Lord may allow Satan to sift us, but he can only do so "as wheat" 22:31. And we have a Great High Priest to intercede for us, as the Lord did for Peter here, if we carelessly forget to pray. The Lord stands out in contrast to other men. His portion— soon to be— was GREAT drops of blood falling down to the ground 22:44. Yet He taught that the GREATER was he who sat down to dinner 22:27, He Himself taking the place of servant. This was an unknown thing to those who strove to be thought of as the GREATEST 22:24. Knowing all this, the Lord still imputes the best to His own— blessed encouragement for us— and says, "ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom as My Father hath appointed unto Me. That ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
To make it clear once more, however, that this is future arid the kingdom is going to be postponed, the Lord tells His own that the special care He took of them while on the earth 22:35 is ending. From now on they will have to take care of themselves, for He is going away. Let them buy a sword and defend themselves "for the things concerning Me have an end." Taking the Lord's words literally, they say, "Lord, behold here are two swords." The Lord replies, "it is enough"— that is, that He had spoken enough to those who did not understand His words.
The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane—22:39-53
Luke does not identify the place to which the Lord went as the garden of Gethsemane, but enters at once into the moral considerations. The disciples were to pray for themselves. As for the Master, He is described as withdrawn from them "about a stone's cast." That means that He was near enough to be interested in them, yet distant because of the different character of His prayers. Luke summarizes the three prayers in Matthew. Two things indicate the Lord's earnestness— first, He kneeled (it was customary to pray standing) 18:11-13 second, "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." One commentator says of this, "It is not meant that His sweat fell merely like great drops of blood, but that it became this as it were; that is, the sweat was so tinged with blood which exuded from Him in His conflict that it might have seemed pure blood."(9) He is supernaturally strengthened by an angel. The Lord is anticipating the agonies of the Cross here— not the physical agonies, but the cost to His holy soul to be made sin for us and to endure the forsaking of God because of this. Luke summarizes His anguish in these words: "Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me." This was the cup of God's judgment He must drink at the Cross. "Nevertheless not My will, but Thine be done," tells us He is satisfied that it is His Father's will that He should receive the cup of judgment from His hand.
What Luke has presented here is the Lord's deep human sorrow, which is absent in his account of the Cross. Luke shows Him more as the suffering Man than as the rejected Christ. He has gone through the sorrow with His Father as the perfect Man. Now He rises and goes to His own. He finds them drowning their sorrows in sleep. Christ had agonized in prayer in God's Presence, but is calm in man's presence; His disciples neglect prayer and are fearful in man's presence.
Judas Betrays the Lord—22:47-53
Judas had chosen the ideal time to betray the Lord. The people who listened so eagerly to His teachings were indoors celebrating the Passover. It was a secluded spot in any case, a garden. It was night. He comes not alone, but with the Temple guard, well armed. His perfidy is highlighted by the Lord's words, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" When the Father saw the prodigal son, He kissed him, out of a true heart; Judas kissed Christ out of a false heart. He did not even say, "Father give me" like the prodigal. He was the Treasurer and stole from the Lord's purse. By not judging this evil, he went on to worse, selling even his Lord, until his name became a byword to untold generations. Universalists have said there was even hope for Judas, but Scripture tells us, "he went to his own place" Acts 1:15-25. The Lord pronounced the last woe in this Gospel on Judas— the Treasurer— as the beginning of woes was on the rich 6:24. Money corrupted Judas' heart so badly that he sold Christ for it. Let the reader turn to the eloquent sermon of Bishop Nicholson on this subject and form his own conclusions. This sermon is so good it is reproduced in full following this chapter and is the answer to all those who deny the eternal punishment of the lost.
The disciples now ask the Lord if they shall smite with the sword. Peter, out of communion now, does not wait for an answer, but cuts off the ear of the high priest's servant. Peter is not named here, for Luke's presentation is moral. Luke is about to group Peter with Judas to demonstrate how two men, blessed with the highest privilege, ecclesiastical office and personal nearness to Christ, fail when tempted. Luke's "method" here is to contrast all men to Christ when tempted. As for the Lord, He displays perfect confidence in His Father. He heals the ear of the high priest's servant. Man cannot accuse Him of leading a violent band or seize Peter. "Those that Thou gavest Me I have kept and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition" John 17:12. The "son of perdition," of course, is Judas. The Lord ignores Judas and addresses those who came to seize Him. He reminds them that they could have seized Him in the Temple, for He taught publicly. Instead, they chose stealth. He convicts them as servants of Satan— "this is your hour and the power of darkness.”
Peter Denies the Lord—22:54-62
Next follows the sad story of Peter's denial. He had tried to protect the Lord with the arm of flesh, but when he sees that the Lord has surrendered to the well-armed Temple guard, his natural courage fails him. He must have been a brave man to draw his sword almost alone against those trained soldiers. But it has been said, it takes more courage to confess Christ before the world than to fight on a battlefield. Peter proves this, first by following Jesus "far off," then by warming himself at the world's fire, then trembling before a little maid and denying his Lord publicly.
Satan must have thought he had ruined Peter forever as Christ's Apostle. It is astonishing, too, how many Christians censure Peter as though they wouldn't do such a thing themselves. Well, "let him that thinketh he stands take heed lest he fall" 1 Cor. 10:12. Peter's trouble was that he thought he was more faithful than the others John 21:15. When he had been taught his lesson, he could strengthen others 22:32. But it is a mistake to think that Satan gained the victory, except for the moment. Satan never gains the victory in our lives, even if we fail, if we turn to the Lord as Peter did. Peter went out and wept bitterly. There was true repentance with Peter which works Godward; with Judas, there was only remorse and despair. Now the great thing about Peter was that he looked at the Lord when he realized what he had done. Luke does not tell us this, of course, but it seems obvious. Luke says, "and the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." Peter must have turned to the Lord or he would not have seen that look.
"'Tis that look that melted Peter
'Tis that face that Stephen saw
'Tis that heart that wept with Mary
Can alone from idols draw.”
Before closing off Peter's failure, there is a dispensational teaching here which should be briefly considered. The New Testament tells us of three fires— Peter's fire here, Paul's fire on the island of Malta Acts 28 and the Lord's fire following His resurrection John 21. Now Peter is the Apostle to the Jews, Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, and the Holy Spirit ties the characteristic sins of Jews and Gentiles together at these two fires, and contrasts them with the Lord's fire. What was the characteristic sin of the Jew but denying Christ as Peter did? What was the characteristic sin of the Gentile but dividing the Church whose mission was to testify of Him before the world? The Lord alone can reunite the Church, but the sin of the Jew requires him to appear before the Lord for restoration. In figure, this is what John 21 teaches. In that chapter, there is not only restoration at the Lord's fire, but bread and fish— food to strengthen and continue, with the Lord's forgiveness assured.
The Lord Before the Sanhedrin—22:63-71
The Lord was kept up all night, insulted and tormented by the common soldiers of the Temple guard. The chief priests and such members of the Sanhedrin as were present when Christ was seized, went off to a sound night's sleep, which their hardened consciences permitted them. Time enough to try the Savior when they were properly rested after their hard night's work! In the morning, they lead Jesus into the Sanhedrin— called the Council here and question Him. Luke gives us a very condensed account. It is a moral presentation of two charges and how the Lord answered them. Both are in the form of questions.
The first question was "Art Thou the Christ? Tell us." To confess that He was the Christ was to state publicly that He was the Messiah, their rightful King. The Lord refused to answer this question, saying, "If I tell you, ye will not believe. And if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let Me go." His refusal to answer was based on His public rejection as King. His mission as King was over and He would have nothing more to say about it now.
The second question was a challenge to His Person following His words, "henceforth shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God." The Lord plainly stated that though man had rejected Him as King, from that very moment, God would seat Him on His throne in glory. To whom could God give such an exalted position but His Son? Even the Sanhedrists saw what Jesus implied but did not say. He merely revealed the counsel of God respecting the Son of man without directly applying it to Himself. "Art Thou then the Son of God?" they ask. The Lord's reply is, "ye say that I am." The Lord had stated the truth— they rejected it. And they said, "what need we any further witness? For we ourselves have heard of His own mouth." Exactly. And hearing the truth from the Lord's own mouth is the basis of their condemnation. This sealed the Lord's rejection. It began with those nearest to Christ: Judas, who betrayed Him, and Peter, who denied Him, and ended with those farthest away from Him: the Sanhedrin.
Luke's "method," again, is to group characteristic happenings which reveal great moral truths and omit or present elsewhere other incidents. Here, for example, all incidents are grouped to show how Satan tries Christ and man. Christ stands the trial, and man fails. Later, Luke tells us about a dissenting judgment in the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea had voted against the majority in the trial 23:50, 51. We may be assured that Nicodemus did, too, if present.
To this day, men are divided on the Person of God's eternal Son. Many fall in line with the majority in the Sanhedrin. Wise are those who, like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, heed the counsel of Psa. 2:12 "kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”
My uncle, now with the Lord, once suffered from eye trouble and asked his doctor for a preliminary examination before referral to a specialist. The doctor visited him at his house. The first thing he asked him to do was to pick up a book from his library and try to read a few lines from it. "What kind of book?" my uncle asked, wondering if any type size was wanted. "It doesn't matter," the doctor replied. "Any book will do." My uncle did as directed, picking up a book containing miscellaneous published letters of a Christian man. He opened it at random and read, "Dear friend, I hear it reported of you that you do not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." The doctor turned ashen pale, for this was the sin of his unbelieving heart. A bow drawn at a venture had pierced his harness joints 1 Kings 22:34. But, unlike wicked Ahab, the doctor turned to Christ on his deathbed and at last found peace.

Matthew 26:24

A Sermon on Eternal Punishment, by Bishop W. R. Nicholson Text
"It had been good for that man if he had not been born.”—Matt. 26:24
That man! A fearful distinction. That man! Our eyes are riveted on him. It had been good for him if he had not been born. And we know who said it. He who spake as never man spake.
That man died nineteen hundred years ago. Where is he, then? Is he in heaven? What? In heaven, and his life there a curse to him? In heaven, and so wretched that it had been good for him that he had never lived? In heaven? The question is its own answer. Awfully certain it is that there is at least one man, who, having died, is not in heaven, is not blessed, had better not have been born. And that man? Judas.
Now, what has been, may be again. What has befallen one man, may befall another man. If Judas is not in heaven, then many another dead one may not be there. Nay, is not there; for so the Scriptures declare.
But a prodigious thing it is to have a person pointed out to us, by the finger of God, as one for whom never to have existed had been a blessing. It is something awful in the extreme, that the concealing veil of the great future is shoved aside for a brief instant, to enable us to follow with the eye the lurid destiny of a particular man, who is even named to us; that our attention, instead of listening to merely general statements of the future wretchedness of the wicked, is gazing at an actual instance, is trembling with a secret of the invisible world, is crying out, This is the man, this is he. Such a disclosure is that of our text. "The son of man goeth," said Jesus, "As it is written of Him; but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born." So is opened to us a window of the world beyond.
There can be but one meaning of these words. If, in any case, non-existence is better for a person than existence, it can only be because of the wretchedness of that existence. If, in any case, non-existence is better than existence, it can only be that there is to that person neither annihilation nor want of consciousness; but only continued existence in wretchedness felt. For, since a wicked man has some enjoyment, although it be but in the pleasures of sin for a season, how, therefore, can it be true that it were better for that man— that is, so far as he himself is concerned— never to have lived, and enjoyed himself, simply for the reason that he is now to be either annihilated, or bereft of feeling? Enjoyment he has had; and that fact remains, even though he now cease to exist, or cease to be conscious; so that it cannot be true that not to have lived at all had been a good thing for that man. On the supposition of annihilation of the wicked, or even of their sinking into utter insensibility, our text is an absurdity. If, in any case, nonexistence is better than existence, it can only be because of continued consciousness of misery. And this is confirmed and demonstrated by what Jesus says in connection with the text— "Woe unto that man. It had been good for that man if he had not been born." By its being good for a man that he had not been born, a woe is meant. But what woe to a man can there be, if the man does not exist or is not conscious? Or, is it that the being annihilated is itself the woe? Not so; for that would make the words mean, Woe to that man, for he shall be annihilated. Whereas what the words do say is, Woe to that man, forasmuch as he was ever born; which implies that, having once had existence, his existence is a continued consciousness, and therefore the woe is in that consciousness.
Again, if, in any case, non-existence is better than existence, it can only be that that continued consciousness of woe is endless. For if there come an end of whatever woe, and then there be an eternity of blessedness and joy, it would not be true that it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
Such is the meaning of these words of Jesus: He does not Himself analyze and reason them out, but leaves them in their brevity and simplicity to our own thoughts. And the power of their appeal to us is peculiar. When you hear it said that the whole is greater than any one of its parts, your perception of the truth of it is as quick as the lightning's flash; and it is almost with the power of that intuition you hear Jesus say of a certain man, "It had been good for that man if he had not been born." What it is meant to express, what its piercing truth, what its solemnity and awfulness, you need no argument to show you. Men may seek to mystify it, may throw over it their doubts and prejudices and sophisms; all which are as flimsy as gauze. In spite of the jargon of objections to the truth of future punishment, of which the natural heart is so prolific, amid the din and roar of false reasonings, these words of Jesus are ringing in our ears, are shining in our eyes. Their sound will not be hushed, the light that is in them will not be put out.
Was Jesus cruel in that He spoke these words? He, who was just now passing into the dread eclipse of Gethsemane, who bare our sins in His own body, and suffered the punishment, that we might not suffer it; who sweat blood in the anticipation of it; whose agony on Calvary for our redemption was the concentrated essence of His own love and the Father's love and the Spirit's love; who said to all the weary and heavy-laden, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest"; who said to the broken-hearted woman who was a sinner: "Thy sins are forgiven"— HE cruel? Oh, such words as these He said of Judas because He must. Infinite love had done its best. There remained but the office of justice.
Am I cruel, who seek to prolong the voice of Jesus, and to echo the alarm, that men may be aroused from their fatal fond security? The city of Sodom was doomed. "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee," said the angel to Lot; and he laid hold upon him, and brought him forth, and set him without the city. Was the angel cruel to Lot?
But now what was the occasion of Jesus' speaking these words? What did Judas do? He betrayed the Savior of mankind. He sold Him for money, and delivered Him into the clutches of murderers. He flung from him the Savior's boundless grace, and shut his heart, as with lock and bars, against the Spirit's gracious work. This is what he did.
Now, of course, we cannot do the same form of sin that Judas did; for the Lord Jesus is not now with us in body. But we can commit the essence of that sin. Analyzing the character of Judas, we find him to have been selfish, covetous, greedy. And these elements of character— do they not, in varying degrees, abound in the men of this generation? And, if un-repented of, will not these sinful feelings, as surely as night follows day, rush headlong into ultimate full and final rejection of the Savior? The Holy Spirit will cease to strive, the hardened heart will have bartered Jesus for money, or worldly pleasure, or the prizes of ambition, or the Lucifer-like satisfaction of pride, and here and there yonder, another Judas, and another and another, of each of whom Jesus will repeat, It had been good for that man if he had not been born. Such are the responsibilities of life.
And now, in conclusion, a question starts to the lips. Is life worth living? The weary heart, the ages all along, has been asking it. Today thousands of voices are repeating it. Meanwhile, many are making the vainest efforts to answer it by the taking of their own lives. Is life worth living? No! Yes!
No. To Judas, life was not worth living. "It had been good for that man if he had not been born." He rejected Christ. That is the explanation. Thus locking himself out from all blessed influences of the gracious Spirit of God, for the Holy Spirit teaches and sanctifies only with Christ for His subject-matter— he opened his soul to the ravages of hell. And Judas took his own life; thereby, however, only transferring his existence from this world to that of the dread unseen. His answer to the question was, No. His own conscience undersigned the decision of Jesus, It had been good for him if he had not been born. Now, in the case of any loser of Christ, can the answer be different? To every final unbeliever, no matter what his pleasures and his splendors at present may be, no, life is not worth living.
Yes. To John, and James, and Peter, and Matthew, and others of the eleven, life was worth living. When Jesus said of Judas, "That man," He distinguished him from the rest, and therefore of them He said in effect, Good for them that they had been born. They had received Christ, were hearty believers in Him, were washed from their sins in His atoning Blood, were at peace with God, were born again, were children of God, and heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ Himself. All this— does it not make life worth living? The believer in Christ has a new life; a life the same as Christ's, a principle of vitality God-born, pure, incorruptible, divinely joyous; a new life that shall never end, going on with uninterrupted flow through the act of death, and thenceforth, forever and forever, in closest union with the Everlasting, Adorable, Almighty, All-loving God-man. Is not this worth living for?
This earthly life, indeed, is burdened with troubles; but even here the Christian's new life is as a thousand rainbows spanning the storm. Nay, crowd my life with ever so many more troubles, fill it to the brim with aches, and pains, and pangs, and sorrows, and toil, and disabilities, make me to be a Job, aye, a hundred Jobs in one, even then to bear and to smile, to suffer and to sing, to work and wait and hope, might be to me heaven begun on earth. Worth living? Oh, yes! Blotted out of existence would I be, if I could? No, never, for I have the Lord Jesus Christ.
And now which is it? Your life— is it worth living, or is it not? Are you washed in the blood that cleanseth, or are you not? If not, then, by God's grace, make your life worth living; for so easy of access is the Blood of Jesus. He that believeth— he it is that is saved. And remember that, once having been born, you exist, and your existence you cannot get rid of. You may kill yourself, still you exist. And is it not better that you should now make your life worth living by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ than that eternity should echo to the fact of your unceasing existence, and re-echo and echo again, that appalling note of wretchedness, "It had been good for that man if he had not been born"?
O Thou loving Savior, whose mercy is higher than the heavens and is deeper than hell, but who art as just as merciful,
"They that by love's mild dictate now
Will not adore Thee,
Shall then with just confusion bow.
And break before Thee.”
Amen, and Amen!

Luke 23

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 23)
The Sanhedrin had become the seat of Satan's power, for it led Christ away to the Roman governor. Official religion is always closer to Satan than the civil power which it manipulates. This comment applies to all the religions of the world, whose influence over the civil power is vast. Even communism is a religion. The heart of man cannot live in a vacuum. If man will not serve God, he must serve Satan, for he is a servant. When Christianity became corrupted, it was no better than the Sanhedrin. The Lord says to the angel of the Church in Pergamos, "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is" Rev. 2:13. Religion without Christ is worthless, as we see here.
The Lord Before Pilate and Herod—23:1-25
The Lord's enemies now press false accusations before Pilate. The first charge, that of perverting the nation, was uppermost in their minds. What they meant was that the Lord exposed their shallowness before the people and so undermined their usurped authority over them. Pilate, like Gallio, "cared for none of these things" Acts 18:17. Their second charge, "forbidding to give tribute to Caesar" was false, for the Lord had said, "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." Pilate questions the Lord briefly and quickly senses the true state of things. Though a cruel man himself 13:1 he disliked finding in others the cruelty he found in himself. Three times Pilate declares that he found no fault in Christ 23:4, 23:14, 23:22 a solemn witness to the Jews. A politically sensitive man, he looks for a way to release Jesus without offending the Jews. He knew that they had led Jesus to him because the Romans did not allow them to inflict capital punishment, but he had found no reason to put Him to death. So he sends Him to Herod, for He belongs to his jurisdiction.
The Lord had compared Himself to a mother hen who would gather her chicks— Jerusalem— and Herod to a fox who went about to destroy. Now the Lord appears before the fox, and rebukes him by remaining silent. The chief priests and scribes vehemently accuse the Lord. Herod and his soldiers mock Him, but His composure is unaltered. He is dressed in a gorgeous robe and returned to Pilate. God disallows Pilate's act of political expediency. God had set the Roman Empire up as the last form of Gentile government in the world and its responsibility to give a righteous trial to Christ cannot be avoided.
Pilate is disturbed. Even though Herod had mocked Christ, he had found Him innocent. He calls together the rulers and tells them that both he and Herod have found Christ guiltless. Yet there is a subtle irony in Luke's remark that "the same day"— that is, the day Herod mocked Christ by dressing Him in a gorgeous robe and sending Him back to Pilate— Pilate and Herod who had been enemies, became friends. They could unite against Christ, but not until they had both admitted He was guiltless. Pilate will make a confession to them— even though Christ had done nothing wrong, he would punish Him and release Him. As soon as they hear of the possibility of releasing Christ, they cry out, "away with this Man and release unto us Barabbas." Tradition permitted the release of a prisoner at the feast. Barabbas was imprisoned for murder. His name means "son of his father." Truly he was the son of his father, the devil, who "was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth" John 8:44. But the world began with Cain, who was a murderer; morally it ends at the Cross when the world preferred another murderer to Christ. But the blood of Christ speaks better things than that of Abel Heb. 12:24. Abel's blood cried to God for vengeance; Jesus' blood speaks of peace and pardon. The Jews demand that Christ be crucified and shout aloud until Pilate gives way. Just as Pilate and Herod, former enemies, had both united against Christ, so the Jews unite with their hated conquerors, the Romans. Caesar is preferred to Christ, Barabbas to the King of Israel! The disunity of the world ends. The uniting force is common hatred of Christ.
The Crucifixion—23:26-46
Luke gives us only the barest details of the crucifixion. He presents the grace of God to sinners in his account. He paints a great moral picture the bearing of the crucifixion on the Gentiles and how it reaches and affects the heart.
On the way to the Cross, Simon and the daughters of Jerusalem are in contrast. The women lament Jesus' fate, showing Him the pity and mercy which should characterize women. But their condescending pity implies a superiority of position which fails to recognize Him as their King. So He turns to them and tells them to lament for themselves and their children. This is a veiled allusion to the fate that was to befall their children at the siege of Jerusalem later. What a contrast to the angel's words to Mary at the beginning: "blessed art thou among women" 1:28 and the testimony of a certain woman: "blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked" 11:27. All that is naturally fair is now just part of the nation under judgment "behold the days are coming, in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck" 23:29. Christ was the only green tree, full of life the Jews were dry trees, dead and lifeless, like bones bleached in the sun. This is all in marked contrast to Simon, who says nothing but carries the Lord's Cross. His sons are found in the book of life— see Mark 15:21, Rom. 16:13.
Luke simply records the fact that Jesus was crucified on a center cross together with two thieves, one on His right hand, the other on His left. The Romans did not crucify these men for simple theft. They were guerrilla soldiers who stole to finance their rebellion against the Roman occupation of the land. Jesus is led to the place called "skull." Man's brain is located in his skull. That is what makes him great in the world. It is picture of death putting an end to all that.
The Story of the Two Thieves
Luke records the opening cry of the Cross here, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Here is the answer to the infidel's question, "Why did God allow sin?" Would a great artist paint a picture in white paint on a white canvas? Certainly not. Then, why should God? Sin is in contrast to God. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. But when God dwelt alone in past distant eternal ages, who could know Him? None. He must remain unknown and unknowable. The holy angels shouted for joy during creation Job 38:7 but understood only His might and power. Only when we see the Creator of all things allowing His creature to clothe Him with a gorgeous robe to humiliate Him and even allowing the creature to crucify Him, does the outline of the great painting of Scripture live before our eyes. It took sin— the contrast with God revealed in Christ— to make us know God. But the Holy Spirit, the Great Artist of the Scriptures, completed the outline of the painting with the story of the Cross. If God allowed sin, only He could put it away. He did this by making His own Son sin on the Cross and heaping on Him the sins of everyone who will trust in Him. In this way, God is righteous in saving the vilest sinner, for "the wages of sin is death" Rom. 6:23 and "Christ died for the ungodly" Rom. 5:6. Who, then, can say, "Why did God allow sin?"— seeing He has put it away righteously? And if sinners had never risen up against His Son and crucified Him, what would we have known of the revealed Father's love expressed in the words of His well-beloved Son, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"?
Man's reaction to these words is now grouped morally by Luke. The soldiers react by dividing up the Lord's clothes. The people look at Him. The rulers mock Him, acknowledging the truth that He had saved others. "Let Him save Himself," they gloat but His love to sinners was too great for that.
"Himself He could not save,
He on the cross must die
Or mercy could not come
To ruined sinners nigh.
Yes, Christ the Son of God must bleed
That sinners might from sin be freed.”
The soldiers join the mockery, repeating the words of the Jewish rulers like parrots without understanding them. They had been merely tools in their hands. Over the Cross a sign was erected in the three languages of the ancient world. This sign contradicted the doubting railings of the rulers and the soldiers by stating publicly what they questioned: "This is the King of the Jews." So the sign over the Cross confirmed the Lord's words, "for they know not what they do." But what about the first part of His prayer, "Father forgive them"? In the largest sense, this prayer was answered in resurrection. But there is also a direct answer here.
Luke tells us that one of the malefactors picked up the words of the rulers and the soldiers, saying, "if Thou be Christ, save Thyself" and then added something more, "and us." The Spirit of God works a great work in the soul of the other thief. He asks his fellow prisoner why he doesn't fear God, considering what has happened to him. Being crucified, he has nothing more to fear from man. But death, and after death the judgment, brings in the fear of God. This is the beginning of wisdom Psa. 111:10. Who is this man who can talk of God after a life like his? Listen— "And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds." Thus he condemns the other thief. Next, he condemns the world and justifies Christ— "but this Man hath done nothing amiss.”
How God strengthens the man who repents and turns to Him through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, at the very jaws of death, the Holy Spirit puts words of amazing truth into his mouth truth even the Apostles hadn't yet understood. "Lord," he says, now "no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Spirit" 1 Cor. 12:3; "remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." What faith that took! The sign over His Cross said that He was a King. But He wears a crown of thorns— not a crown of gold. And what kingdom can He have, He Who is about to die?
“Remember me"— he had heard those words, "Father forgive them" and he had railed on Christ at the beginning like the other thief Matt. 27:44. "When Thou comest into Thy kingdom." He looked beyond the period of nearly two thousand years, during which time the King has been rejected, on to His coming earthly kingdom. The Lord's answer was swift and sure, "verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise." Paradise had once been Eden, but when man sinned, the Lord drove him out of there and into the world. Now man drives the Lord out of the world and into Paradise. But He will not go there alone— to that enduring heavenly paradise into which sin cannot enter. He will have this thief with Him. Nothing more is said as to the other thief. His challenge was, "save Thyself and us." Before his eyes, his fellow had been saved, his challenge met. Paradise is only open to those who believe on Christ.
"Where deceiver ne'er can enter
Sin soiled feet have never trod,
Free our peaceful feet may venture
In the Paradise of God.”
The Death and Burial of the Lord—23:44-56
And now everything that God has ordained in heaven and earth must unite to show Whose death is taking place. Light gives place to darkness at noon-time, fulfilling the prophecy, "I will cause the sun to go down at noon and I will darken the earth in the clear day" Amos 8:9. The darkening of the sun is the temporary blotting out of the great light of the fourth day Gen. 1.
"Well may the sun in darkness hide
And shut His glories in
When the incarnate Maker died
For man, His creature's sin.”
Then the veil of the Temple was rent in the midst. By this action God morally set aside the old religion of Judaism. The veil represented this religion because it shut man out from the Presence of God. The death of Christ lets man into God's Presence. So Jesus must die now. With a loud voice, He cries, "Father into Thy hands I commit My spirit, and having said this, He gave up the ghost.”
Luke gave us a moral picture of those who surrounded the Cross before Jesus died. Now he gives us a moral picture of those who surround the Cross after Jesus died. First, there is the Centurion, representing not only the power of Rome, but of Pilate. Pilate had proclaimed Christ innocent; the Centurion does more— he proclaims Him a righteous Man. The people are in consternation. Deceived by their religious leaders, they lament what has taken place, but cannot understand it. Then we have others, of whom we read, "and all His acquaintance, and the women that followed Him from Galilee stood far off, beholding these things." Now a man arises who followed Christ "far off" in life, but is made bold by the outrage of His death. This is Joseph of Arimathaea. He had stood against the Sanhedrin's judgment. Now he goes boldly to Pilate and asks for the body of Jesus. While the great Apostles do nothing, this man enters the lion's mouth— his heart moved at what has taken place. He was given by God the immense honor of taking the Lord's sacred body down from the Cross. Then he wrapped it in linen and laid it in the tomb he had purchased for his own use. He was a rich man to have such a tomb, quarried out of the rock. His action fulfilled the prophecy in Isa. 53:9, which, properly translated, reads "and [men] appointed His grave with the wicked, but He was with the rich in His death." The meaning of this Scripture is that men wanted to bury Christ with the two thieves, but God thwarted their plans. Instead, He was buried with the rich— the mark of God's approval among His earthly people. This was another sign to those who would not see.
Finally, the Spirit notes, "the women also, who came with Him from Galilee." These women had followed Him faithfully since they were healed of evil spirits. They "ministered unto Him of their substance" 8:3. They continue this ministry following the Lord's death. They "beheld the sepulcher; and how His body was laid. And they returned and prepared spices and ointments, and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment." This conclusion is full of encouragement to us. Their spiritual understanding was limited to death— which they did not realize could not hold the Lord of glory— and to the keeping of the Sabbath. Their spices and ointments so carefully prepared, were not to be used. But God records the love of the heart and the correctness of the motive. Nothing done for Christ is ever wasted. For nearly two thousand years, believers have been reading the story of their devoted hearts.
The Application of the Death of Christ to Our Lives
Christianity is a love affair. "We love Him "because He first loved us" 1 John 4:19. Nothing angers God more than the abuse of grace. As Christians, we are not to repeat the sins of our unconverted days— the sins which made the blood of Christ necessary. Our bodies are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, and we are not to take the Holy Spirit where He would be grieved. A school teacher told me a story in this connection which illustrates these truths. In the course of his education, he discovered to his dismay that a fellow student, a girl who was popular at the school dances and who was leading an immoral life, professed to be a Christian. He decided to speak to her and reprove her. She brushed aside his rebuke, saying to him, "once saved, always saved. I can do what I like." This is the sin of the Nicolaitans which arose in the primitive Church and is hateful to God Rev. 2:6. The next time the school teacher saw this girl, she was in her coffin, taken away by the judgment of God. All believers are subject to the overruling discipline of God if they allow sin to reign in the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
By way of contrast, I like to think of a Christian lady I knew who was "full of the Holy Spirit." Even in her old age, she was giving out tracts and speaking to everyone about the Lord. Her face was like sunshine. This dear lady was an accomplished musician who had studied music in the best academies of the old world. Her pupils learned more than music when they went to her, however. And how my heart is warmed when I think back on the happy evening when, in her husband's home, she played "Lord Jesus Come" on the violin. When her end approached, she was conscious of a deep peace. Her nephew, a dear Christian man, went to visit her on her deathbed and came away with these beautiful last words: "My eternal state is perfect.”

Luke 24

(Suggested Reading: Chapter 24)
The closing chapter of Luke's Gospel gives us two great foundation truths the resurrection and the ascension. The death and resurrection of Christ are the two pillars of the Gospel. Christ "was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification" Rom. 4:25. The ascension is connected with our hope— the second coming of the Lord to take the Church to the Father's House and afterward establish His earthly kingdom, the rule of which we shall share with Him from heaven.
The Vision of Angels—24:1-12
The women from Galilee had previously seen the Lord's body in the tomb just as Joseph of Arimathea had laid it. They went away, prepared burial spices and ointment, and waited for the Sabbath to pass before returning to the tomb. Then they take "certain others with them," no doubt recognizing the limits on their strength faced by such an unaccustomed task. First, they find the stone which sealed the rocky grave has been rolled away (such stones were circular and could be moved in a pre-arranged groove to seal or enter a tomb). They enter. The tomb is empty. They cannot use their spices, for the Lord's body is not there and they do not know He is risen. In their perplexity "two men stood by them in shining garments." Fear seizes them and they look at the ground to escape such a sight. The angels ask them why they seek the Living One among the dead. Then they tell them "He is not here, but is risen." Heaven's messengers proclaim the empty tomb so those on earth can re-echo the message. When they had followed the Lord in Galilee, He had told them that He must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and rise the third day. We might remark that the Jews counted part of a day as a full day. The chart on the following page explains the three-day period.
The evidence of the empty tomb and the testimony of two angels made the women remember the Lord's words back in His Galilean ministry. They go back to the eleven Apostles and tell them the message of the angels. Their testimony seems like idle tales to the Apostles, "and they believed them not." They were believers with the Apostles, but the Apostles are singled out to contrast them with the simple faith of the women. Again the Lord's strength is made perfect in weakness. Peter arises to see for himself. He sees the linen clothes with which Joseph had wrapped the Savior's body laid in perfect order. He leaves as perplexed as the women when they had entered. God will not repeat the message of the angels it is enough.
The Lord Appears, Vanishes, and Re-Appears—24:13-49
The angels had testified that the Lord was alive. Now the Lord appears to support the witness of His servants. Two disciples out of the group assembled with the eleven Apostles in Jerusalem decide to leave the city and walk to their suburban home at Emmaus. One of them is identified here as Cleopas. It is unlikely that the other was another man, as many commentators seem to think much more probable that she was Mary, the wife of Cleopas John 19:25. She had stood by Jesus' Cross and was likely telling her husband about the crucifixion as they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus, "and they talked together of all these things which had happened.”
Jesus comes up to them and joins them. They do not recognize Him. Is it because "they reasoned" that their eyes were shut? Well, here is the One Who alone can open not only their eyes, but many other things, as we shall see. The Lord asks them what they are talking about as they walk along so sadly. They are surprised at His question. How could He, a stranger alone in Jerusalem, as far as they could see, come from the city like themselves and not know what had happened there? The Lord draws them out further, asking them, "what things?" They tell Him that a mighty prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, had been delivered up by the chief priests and rulers, and crucified. Their hope was that He was the Messiah. But certain women known to them had visited His tomb, could not find His body, but saw a vision of angels who said He was alive. Others visited the tomb, but did not see Him.
The Lord replies by rebuking them— "O senseless and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken." The key to this rebuke is that they only believed some of the things the prophets had spoken, not all. This was not because they were senseless naturally, but because they were "slow of heart." Their affections believed those Scriptures which spoke of a reigning Messiah, for that was what they wanted, and ignored the Scriptures which spoke of a suffering Messiah whom they did not want. So the Lord continues, "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" Here is another key. After suffering, Christ was "to enter into His glory"— that is, in heaven. His glory in this world is future, when His earthly kingdom is established. The Lord then begins with Moses and all the prophets, and interprets the things concerning Himself to them from the Scriptures.
The Old Testament Scriptures are full of types of Christ, His sufferings, death, and glory. Here is a lesson for young Christians. Store your mind with Scripture while you are young, even though you do not understand it. Even the Lord could not interpret Scriptures to these two if they had never read them. If you acquaint yourself with Scripture while you are young, the Lord will open it out to you later, as He did to these two. The question is, do you value His Presence? He will not force Himself on you. As they drew near to their village, the Lord indicated that He was about to pass on. But they compelled Him to come into their house. How could man force God to do anything, you ask? Well, Jacob did. He wrestled all night with God and said, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me" Gen. 32:26. So did these two, and look at the blessing they received.
The Lord took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. Now clearly this wasn't the Lord's Supper, for there was no wine. The breaking of bread as a social custom was well established with the Jews, but it wasn't that either. It was the sign of His death, pointing on, perhaps, to the use of the bread in the Lord's Supper, but actually more connected with His words that Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory. He gives them the bread in fellowship with these truths, and their eyes are opened. It was, no doubt, the sight of His pierced hands as He broke the bread which opened their eyes. As soon as they know Him, He vanishes. This anticipates the Christian position of remembering an unseen Christ.
At the beginning of Luke, the heavens were opened and God looks down and takes delight in His Son 3:21, 22. Here, at the end, men's eyes were closed as to Who He really was 24:16 -until He opens them. Then they understand why the sepulcher was opened, for He opened the Scriptures to them. On His second appearance in Luke, which we shall consider next, He went further and "opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures." Then, at the very end, He is carried up into the heaven, opened now to receive Him, as it once was to behold Him on earth.
The effect of all this was to make "our heart" burn within us— two people, notice, but one heart, no longer "slow of heart," as at first, but burning. Now they had told the Lord "it is toward evening, and the day is far spent," yet they immediately reverse their steps and go back to Jerusalem. They find the eleven gathered together with others, and they tell them their own experience. The Lord is about to appear once more to this assembled company, which includes, lest we forget, these two from Emmaus whose affections for Christ were so stirred that they had walked back to Jerusalem in the night.
The Lord Appears in the Midst—24:36-43
The Lord now appears in the center of the reunited company. When He appeared to the two on the way to Emmaus, His great purpose seems to have been to establish from the Scriptures that Christ must suffer and enter into His glory— a thought alien to the Jew, who thought only of the earthly kingdom. Here, His great purpose seems to be to establish clearly that His resurrection is a reality. He is "in the midst"— His sufferings over, His glory to come. The Lord makes it abundantly clear to all that He is a Man. They do not think so at first, take Him for a spirit, and are terrified. This is man's natural reaction to resurrection. Resurrection always concerns the body. Enemies of Christianity, many of whom are in well-placed Church offices, will agree to a spiritual resurrection. But God will not have that— "Thou wilt not leave My soul to Sheol neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to see corruption" Psa. 16:10. The Lord first tells the disciples to look at Him, and then handle Him, neither of which you can do to a spirit. "A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me have." Note that the Lord does not say flesh and blood, for the blood was shed in redemption. He has a spiritual body of flesh and bones. This is the body we shall receive "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump" 1 Cor. 15:52. Its life principle is not breath, as with our Adam bodies, but spirit— read 1 Cor. 15:35 to end. Yet the Lord is a real Man. He has already shown that by appealing to their sight and hearing and showing them the marks of the Cross. He concludes by eating in their presence a piece of broiled fish and honeycomb as a man would. He had given bread to the two on the way to Emmaus, but not eaten Himself; here they give Him food cooked and in its natural state, and He eats it before them.
The Lord's Closing Discourse—24:44-49
The Lord appeals once more to the Holy Scriptures as proof that all things written in them about Him had to be fulfilled. He had spoken to the two on the way to Emmaus from Moses and the prophets here, He adds the Psalms, which are also full of Him. He speaks not only of His sufferings and death, but of His resurrection. The testimony to the world is founded on the resurrection. This must go forth from the Jewish center Jerusalem first, as we find it did in the Book of Acts. But Christ could no more be a Jewish Christ, for His own nation had rejected Him. So the door is opened to the Gentiles. The Apostles were witnesses of these things. A new Gospel should be preached— no longer the Gospel of the Kingdom, but our present Gospel of the grace of God. Repentance and remission of sins was the message to be carried to all nations from its start at Jerusalem. Such a message needed power from on high to deliver it. This power was the Holy Spirit. So far, He was not given. They were to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came down at the day of Pentecost to energize them. The Holy Spirit remains the only effective power in which the believer can preach the Gospel to this day. This discourse, we need hardly add, is the final proof of Luke's "method" of moral rather than chronological presentation. Forty days actually elapsed and the Lord went into Galilee from verses 44 to 49. Luke is stressing the moral position of the disciples here. The natural man seeks out these apparent discrepancies and uses them to discredit Luke. The divine answer to his folly is given us in 1 Cor. 2:14 "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him. Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Who but those taught by the Spirit could realize that Luke has been suggesting to our souls three great truths that were later to characterize Christianity— the knowledge of the Scriptures, the Lord's Supper, and the Presence of the Lord in the midst of believers.
The Ascension
The Lord led His own out as far as Bethany. This town was His link with the world, so to speak. He had visited many houses in this Gospel, but this was "the town of Mary and her sister Martha" John 11:1. This depicts the Lord as a true Man, with human sympathies and feelings and responsive to love shown to Him as a true man is. Then He lifted up His hands and blessed them. They could see the marks of the Cross in those hands. Without the work of the Cross, there could be no blessing for man. But that work was over now and the blessing is ours.
Luke recounts the scene a little differently when he opens the Acts, telling us that "this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" Acts 1:11. That is, He shall come for us as He left us, with His hands lifted up in blessing. And that is His character in the interval as our great High Priest. Then He was parted from His own and carried up into heaven. This demonstrates His body to be a real one, but not subject to the limitations of our bodies of humiliation. He had appeared in the midst when the doors were shut, now He is carried up into heaven. The power that carried Him is not revealed— the language is chosen to reveal Him still as a dependent Man. In John, the Gospel of the Son of God, He says, "I ascend" John 20:17 the thought there being His own divine power.
“And they worshipped Him." The Lamb is always worthy of worship. Stephen prayed to Him when he saw the heavens opened. There was Jesus standing on the right hand of God. Dear Stephen called upon God, saying, "Lord Jesus receive my spirit" Acts 7:59. Worship belongs to Him. They return to Jerusalem and are found "continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God.”
"Sing His blest triumphant rising;
Sing Him on the Father's throne;
Sing till heaven and earth surprising
Reigns the Nazarene alone.”

Luke - Notes and Bibliography

(1) The view expressed here was the one held in the early Church, dating back at least to Origen. J. N. Darby, a 19th century commentator, writes "it is constantly stated both by rationalists and by others who hold loose views of inspiration, that he declares he gave his own account from what he heard and from his inquiries. He does no such thing— it shows that many having done it in that way was a motive for his doing it on more trustworthy ground." Collected Writings, Vol-. 6, p. 576-7, Morrish Edition. He covers the same point also in p. 245-51 of the same volume and in Vol. 9, p. 427-8; Vol. 23, p. 249-50; and Vol. 29, p. 219-20.
(2) Carmichael, The Death of Jesus (1966) pp. 9-10, cited from "Reflections on the Trial and Death of Jesus," by Haim H. Cohn, Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel (published by the Israel Law Review Association, Jerusalem, 1967.)
(3) Meditations in Luke, p. 215 by August Van Ryn; Loizeaux Bros., Neptune, N.J.
(4) Some commentators view the inn as the Church. This is contrary to the way Scripture uses it. There was no room for the Lord in the inn at His birth. The inn is a place of temporary shelter. Put simply, the Good Samaritan takes care of us in this world until His (that is Christ's) return. Nobody who has read Church history could conceive of the Church as a place of shelter for its own, unless of a monastic bent of mind. Historically, the most godly of men have suffered more from the Church than from the world. We pass this comment, acknowledging our universal shame that such should be the case, but it is.
(5) Exposition of the Gospel of St. John, by Wm. Kelly 1908 Edition, Elliot Stock, Paternoster Row, London, England, p. 529.
(6) The meaning of this name has long been disputed, but the sense in which it is used in the text makes it clear that the Jews, at least, used it to refer to Satan, and this is the sin with which they are charged.
(7) Ministry of J. B. Stoney, Vol. 14, p. 252 1963, Stow Hill Edition.
(8) The End of the Bible, p. 219-20. Marshall Bros., Paternoster Row, London, 1902.
(9) Bible Treasury, Wm. Kelly, Vol. 9, p. 115, Third (German) Edition, 1969