Notes on Luke 9:51 and 10:1-37

Luke 9:51; Luke 10:1-37
Chaps. 9:51, &c.; 10:1-37
“When the time was come that He should be received up, He set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem.” In Isaiah, “I set my face as a flint” He was accomplishing His Father's will here, as in all His course. Redemption must be accomplished through the cross. He “learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” It was the same obedience as at the beginning, when He was coming amongst them with “Blessed are the poor,” &c—more painful, and of course He felt the difference; but still He goes in the same blessed spirit and earnestness. Are there not twelve hours in the day If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, &c. He had found it His meat to do the will of Him that sent Him. There was joy to Him in this; but in the cup of wrath which He was going to drink there was no joy. He had met with scorn here, smiting there, rejection all through, but nothing like this cup, and therefore He cried, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” &c. Christ proved his perfectness, for He felt what it was to be “made sin,” &c. His holy nature shrunk from it, yet there was the same quiet, steady, patient obedience, for “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,” as all through. He knows His Father's will and He does it. He sets His face there, where His Father's will is to be done, not looking to this side or to that, but there—Jerusalem.
We, according to the measure we have of the single eye, shall be following in the same course, going to the cross steadily, with one purpose; and in proportion as we do so, will those who do not so set their face oppose us. But the Lord says, “If any man serve me, let him follow me.” Service is not doing a great deal, but following the master, and the world and half-hearted Christians do not like that. There is plenty of doing in the world, but “if any man serve me, let him follow me.” Paul wanted to serve every way, but we find the Spirit forbidding him to go into Bithynia or Troas, and yet two years afterward we read that “all Asia heard the word.” God's work was to be done, but it was to be in His time and of His ordering. His servant had only to follow in obedience. It was the same with Moses. Nature would say of him, Why not stay in Pharaoh's court that the people there may be converted, instead of leaving it? Flesh cannot understand what faith, leads to. Then after he goes out in all the earnestness of his spirit, natural energy comes in, but then there is no deliverance. Moses has to go and keep sheep for forty years, to be broken down, and made nothing of, and what were Israel to do all that time To wait. Then when he comes back to serve them, how is it done? There is the flesh appearing in another way. “Lord, I am not eloquent.” Then Aaron is sent back with him, and the work is done in the power of God.
Ver. 52. “They went and entered into a village of the Samaritans,” &c. (ver. 53.) We see the very reason they did not receive Him was because His face was set towards Jerusalem. His very obedience, singleness of eye, going to do God's will without honor, or attractiveness, or repute, going to Jerusalem, is the very reason they would have nothing to do with Him. (ver. 54.) See the religious opposition of the disciples to them. The Samaritans would not submit to God's way: Christ did. That is the difference: and the disciples went to command fire to come out of heaven as Elias did, and at the very place where Elias worked the miracle. In fleshly reasoning they think Christ was as worthy as Elias to call down fire. This is a more subtle kind of self than the other. It seemed like direct zeal for Christ, but they did not understand the zeal of Christ. He was not come for judgment; not to destroy men's lives, but to suffer Himself for them. If they had known God's thoughts they would have submitted quietly. Peter again understood not the Lord's mind when he drew his sword and smote the servant of the high priest. All the miracles of Elias were characterized by the spirit of judgment, not like Elisha who had his commission from heaven. Elijah stood in the place of judgment and righteousness, like John the Baptist who came in the spirit and power of Elias, saying, “Every tree that bringeth not forth fruit shall be hewn down,” &c., and “the ax is laid to the root of the trees.” Elisha had life-giving power, on the contrary, and was a type of grace. Elijah passed through Jordan, (death in type,) while Elisha starts from the other side of Jordan in resurrection.
Ver. 56. He turned round and went to another village. It is not pleasant to be trodden upon in this world, but Christ was. To do well, and suffer for it, and take it patiently, is what we have; and is it to end there Yes, and that is “acceptable with God.” Christ came to suffer, to bear anything for the sake of others, and He would not have been doing that, if He had called down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans. We have to follow Christ in carrying the testimony of God's love into the world in all our walk through it. The world needs it. We must not be seeking for ourselves, but having Christ the object.
At the end of the chapter He goes on to show how the links with this world are to be broken.
Ver. 57, 58. One says, “Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest,” but Christ puts him to the test. You cannot go if you do not take up your lot with One who had not where to lay His head; for you may sooner go to the birds of the air for a nest, or to the foxes for a hole, than to the Son of man for a home in this world. They were not now to come to Him as the One who had the promises, &c., but to One whose portion was utter and entire rejection. Following Him could not be accompanied with ease and comfort here. He was to be delivered into the hands of men. At His birth we see the same thing. Every one found room in the inn save He, but any who wanted to find Him whom angels celebrate, must go to the manger!
Ver. 59. He says to one, “Follow me.” The first one wanted something with Christ; but here where He says, “Follow me,” then immediately a difficulty is started; and it is when He calls a man that difficulties are felt. There was no sense of the difficulties in the one who said, “Lord, I will follow thee,” without His call. But this man who is called, says, “Let me first go and bury my father.” He is going presently, but there is a link felt. Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their dead:” you must leave them to follow me. You may be ready to say, the things of the earth have no power over you; but just try what it is to have them, and you will learn the extent of their power. A man may go to the length of his cord, but when he gets to the end he is checked. A father had the first claim in nature, and especially to a Jew, but Christ says, I am calling you out in the power of life; I am putting in my claim for the life I give you, and it breaks every bond here. It is a question of life in the midst of death. This word, “first,” (let me first go and bury my father), shows something put before Christ, as though the man said, There is something I put before your calling. Death had come in, and this very plea told Christ they were all under death. It was quite a right thing for the man to bury his father; but if life has come in, and the question is one of redemption, to be lost or saved, you must give yourself up to it. In the divine light which is in the cross, He saw all dead, and therefore He said, “Let the dead bury their dead.” The one thing to be done now is to follow Christ. The question is, Death in the world or life in Christ? Where are the affections?
Ver. 61. “Another also said, Lord, I will follow thee, but let me first go bid them farewell which are at home at my house.” In the previous case it was just this: When my first affections are settled, then will I come and follow thee. There is no good in that, the Lord says: “Let the dead bury their dead.” But this case shows that those at home were not left in heart. He felt he had to break with them, and yet his heart lingered. “No man looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” “Remember Lot's wife.” “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” If Christ be not first and last, He will always be last, for faith is not in exercise. The question is, whether we are walking as seeing what the cross tell us. The cross lifts the veil, showing the skeleton of this world, and when I see this sentence on all that is in the world, self as well as what is outside, and our links of affections with it, I learn that all is to be given up; but there is Christ Himself and the love there is in Him to meet it. It will and must judge self; and it brings out the will too, for there is a great deal of will in all this shunning of the cross. People may speak of the claims of affection, but it is not really and only family affection, &c., but the end which connects with self is felt. Natural affection there should be—indeed it is one of the signs of the last evil days to be without it—but if you have power to judge yourselves, you will find that many an excuse you make has this secret at the end. So in affliction, bereavement, &c. It is not only the affection that is touched, but the will. There is sweetness in the sorrow, so long as we realize Christ in it, and affection only is sorrowing. But if the will is touched, there is rebellion, resistance, struggling, and all this the Lord must judge, for a mass of flesh and self can never follow Christ. What a wonderful detail all this is? It is God going through our hearts entering into every corner and crevice. Why? Because of the constant, undeviating steadfastness of His love; and as a father loves his child when it is naught, as well as when it is good, so our God takes pains, at it were, with us all, even when so bad.
The effect of all is not only to make us practically righteous, but happy— “imitators of God as dear children.” It is well, on the one hand, for us to judge ourselves and see what there is to detect in us, and, on the other, to see the fullness of his grace in Christ.
May the Lord give us to feel more and more that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God,” and that the energy of the flesh cannot accomplish the work of God, so that we may learn to work from God, for God, and with God.
Chap. 10. The Lord pursues the subject we have been looking at in the preceding chapter, connected with the change that has taken place in His own position amongst them. It is no longer the Messiah on earth, but the heavenly Christ, they are to look to. There is another thing brought out here in the amazing importance attached to that moment, the last testimony being applied to them; and those who heard it would be more the subject of judgment than Tire and Sidon. Any among them would have repented with the truth you have, but they had it not. The blessing now was the Lord Himself being there; and he was so glorious and excellent that to hear Him was the prime source of blessing. All hung upon their reception or rejection of Him. In the sending out of these seventy, we see the same patient grace at work as when He sent out the twelve. If they were not received, they were to shake off the dust from their feet, &c. God's love never stops, whatever the wickedness of man, until His work is done. His grace never fails. Christ looks at the power of grace in God, more than at the wickedness of men, and he went patiently on, and said, “the harvest is great,” though knowing what there was all around him. The Lord was not like Elijah, who needed to be reminded of the seven thousand, who, as God knew, had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. He came in by the door, and went through everything with God. Nothing stopped Him from seeking out His sheep, scattered on the dark mountains. He laid down His life to save His sheep, and not one should be lost. To gather them, He went on in the power of grace. Paul was of this spirit when he says, “I endure all things for the elect's sakes.”
Did Christ suffer nothing in it? Look at Him, weary with His journey, sitting at the well, and a poor, wretched, vile sinner coming to meet Him, to whom He gives the water of life. There He finds meat to eat that they know not of; and He says, “the fields are white unto harvest.” He was as fresh and happy in His testimony, while sitting at the well with this poor woman, as if all Jerusalem had received Him; because the fountain was within In Him was “a well of water, springing up,” &c. So with us. If we are going on with him, we shall be “troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; cast down, but not destroyed.” The testimony is in the earthen vessel, it is true, but the fountain is within, and they were to be perfectly dependent on God, and independent of everything else. They were to expect to meet enemies, wolves. “Go your ways, behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.” You cannot turn a lamb into a wolf to defend itself. Peter was for taking a sword to smite off the servant's right ear, but the Lord forbids him, and says, “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” It is difficult to receive everything and do nothing, to be a lamb among wolves—like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in prospect of the fiery furnace, saying, “we are careful, O king, to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver,” &c.
“Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and salute no man by the way.” Not be uncourteous, but waste not time in useless ceremonies, &c.
When in God's service, and among God's enemies, God must be everything. It needs concentration of heart in Him, as knowing that the world has rejected your Master, and will reject you, if you are faithful to Him. Faith knows this, and goes on, not with carnal prudence and worldly wisdom, but as knowing what to do and going on to do it. Faith always carries to the house peace; it produces enmity,—two against three, and three against two,—because some will receive it, and some not; but the thing brought is always peace. (ver. 7-9.) “The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” Not merely such and such a thing is God's will, but whatever you do, whether you receive or reject it, the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” The condition of the world now is, that it has rejected it. The Son of God, the King, has come into the world, put it to the test, and it says, We will have Him This fact has not lost its solemnity now, for we are walking through the world that has rejected Christ; we bring the testimony of peace to it—peace that has been made, for the sacrifice has been offered. It is also true that the testimony has been rejected. “Notwithstanding, be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” (ver. 10, 11.) Faith carries things in its own sphere, needing nothing but God's word. The sight of the eyes is constantly tending to dim the estimate which faith forms; and if faith is not nourished by the word, it sinks down and fades away. If I am not feeding on the word, faith is not fed, for it cannot be fed by sight of things all around. When the Lord spoke to Jerusalem, saying, Their house should be left unto them desolate, and there should not be one stone left upon another, they could not actually see the stones then falling, but it was Christ's word for them to believe. Natural reasoning is fed by what we see, but faith is fed by what God has revealed to the soul.
Ver. 15. “Thou, Capernaum, shall be thrust down to hell” —in God's eye, not man's. In man's eye, it might be exalted to heaven. So with this world. And what does that prove? That it may last as long as God permits, but that His word will be fulfilled, “the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” There is nothing stable here. When God comes in, where will it all be? though there are scoffers who say, “Where is the promise of His coming?”
Ver. 16, “He that heareth you, heareth me.” That is where faith has its resource. In hearing the word the disciples spoke, I am hearing Christ Himself. That is where faith walks. I know it must be true, for Christ has said it. Everything may go wrong, the world, Jews, the Church, &c., but God's word never. And it has been given. It never changes, for it has been given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, &c. The Church, as ground of confidence in testimony, is gone, (though we know it is founded upon a rock; and as to its security, it can never be destroyed,) but God's word will not fail. Whatever we see tends to weaken and deface faith, puts to the test what the affections of the soul are, because it is not to be what I like, but what God says.
Ver. 17-20. “Rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” This shows the change of everything Devils may be subject to you, but the Lord says, That is not the portion for you to rejoice in; I am now showing my power in another way. This word, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven,” alludes to the time when Satan the “accuser of the brethren” will be cast down. Now he is in heaven-not in God's presence, in light inaccessible, but before the throne of judgment—two different things. “Hast thou considered my servant Job.” Proving that when others came before the throne, Satan came also. Contrast ver. 19 and 20. The one speaks of what can be seen, the other what could be known only to faith. The unseen thoughts of your heart are much more important than what can be seen. The invisible is always more important than the visible.
In this world, it is not merely that man is a sinner, but there is the introduction into it of the power of evil. Satan has got hold of this world through man's sin. So in the case of the poor woman it is said, “whom Satan has bound these eighteen years,” But when the Church has been caught up, Satan will be cast down. There was war in heaven; but when he is on the earth, he will for three and a half years be raising up the man of the earth against the Lord from heaven. When He comes, Satan's power will be put away. He is not put into the “the lake of fire” until the close of the thousand years, but into “the bottomless pit.” That is just what the devils asked to be saved from when cast out of the man whose name was Legion; (chap. viii. 31;) “deep” meaning “bottomless pit.” The Lord did not cast them down to it, because the time was not then come.
This ability to cast out devils was a great thing. The communicating of the power by the Lord was a power above the immediate working of the miracles themselves. It required divine power, and none but that could give the power, to others. In the millennium, there will not be the power of good and evil together; the latter will be cast out. “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee,” &c. The pit shall be digged for the wicked. Satan must be cast out. And when Christ was upon earth, He was presenting Himself in the power of God to bind the strong man, and spoil his goods, &c. It was a wonderful thing to meet a man under the power of Satan, and to cast Satan out. It was an earnest of the “powers of the world to come;” the “world to come” referring, not to heaven, but to this earth being renewed. He was then putting forth the same power, that He will exercise fully in the coming kingdom.
Ver. 19. “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents,” &c.; and it was at the point when He was rejected that He says this. He knew what was really going on, and though He said peace, they did not say peace to Him. “I give you power” over all the power of the enemy. “Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” That is the Church's place. When Christ was manifested on earth, it was a blessed thing; but it is better to be His companion in heaven, as we shall be when He comes to take us. Far better to be with Himself and as Himself in the Father's house. We have nothing to do with earth, our names are not written in the earth,—kings in it indeed, but our portion is not in it. “He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.” We shall have the inheritance with Him, but it is below us; our hope is to be with Himself above it. The inheritance is the consequence of having this place with Him. (Eph. 1) We are children of the Father, to be “holy and without blame before him in love.” Now we have our portion according to the riches of His grace, of poor sinners whom He has saved; and we shall be to the glory of His grace in the manifestation of it. The inheritance comes in afterward., “Rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” As though He would say to them, Do not let your minds be filled with things down here, but think of what you have in me and with me. We find two things brought before us in God's ways: first, the government of this world—that which is still prophetic, connected with the kingdom; and then the Church up in heaven. When the inheritance is spoken of, it is always future; but when our place is spoken of, it is always up in heaven. The Lord saw that the present setting up of the kingdom would all fail, and He was bringing in a better thing than any kingdom, and He rejoiced in that; for when He gives joy to another, He cannot help having it also Himself. When the thief on the cross asked Him to remember him in His kingdom, He said, “this day shalt thou be with me,” &c. He was gratifying the thief and also Himself. So with these disciples. He would have them not be rejoicing in the good down here, for it is not good enough. Not only do not be troubled with the bad, but rejoice not in the best thing in this world. “In that hour, Jesus rejoiced in spirit.” “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” He felt the circumstances deeply, but His soul was up to the source, and He would say, It is quite right that these proud and haughty ones should see they are nothing, and that these poor despised lambs should get the glory. “Even so, Father.” He must bow to the evil, because the time to judge it was not yet come. Evil is going on; people are saying, Where is the God of the earth? We have to bear it; the Lord did. We must get our thoughts away from the expectation of having things better down here. The soul that enters into God's thoughts and purposes bows to His will. “Even so, Father.”
Then He, as it were, retires into the glory of His own person. The Son has to reveal the Father. The world rejects Him, and He submits to the rejection of the kingdom, and brings out, instead of it, the blessedness of the heavenly thing, and now speaks of Himself as the Son, and glories in that. The present result of His coming is the Son revealing the Father; and this is even better than the kingdom. The testimony is brighter, as to what God is about, when I take things quietly and submit, not desiring to be a wolf among the wolves. It is exceeding difficult for one's heart to bow and say, will be nothing but a lamb; but that is our place, for the Lord says, vengeance is mine,” “rather give place unto wrath;” (Rom. 12) and “neither give place to the devil.” (Eph. 4) But if you do not give place to wrath, you will give place to the devil. Shall we loose anything by being quiet, and taking things patiently? No, “all power,” he says, “is given unto me in heaven and on earth.” We must bow to what is, without, and be satisfied with what is written. If not we shall be only wearying ourselves in the greatness of our way. May we be satisfied to have our “names written in heaven.”
(To be continued.)