The Gospel of Luke

Luke 8-9
This chapter is the beginning of a series—chapters 8, 9, and 10. Chapter 8 is the Lord's own ministry, chapter 9 is the ministry of the twelve, and chapter 10 is the ministry of the seventy. The very fact that we have the ministry of the seventy is symptomatic of Luke's Gospel. Very properly, we do not get it in Matthew. The Lord is there in contact with the Jew, and the ministry sent forth is accommodated to the Jew. Here He was more on moral ground, and human ground, and therefore He sends forth a ministry characterizing the gospel sent forth largely to the whole human family. Did you ever think it a strange thing that the kingdom of God had to be preached in this world? It is a witness against the world that God has to publish His claims in it. The Lord has not only to announce that which meets the necessity of sinners, but God's rights in the world. We find that God lays His claim to me, as well as makes provision for me. I cannot accept salvation without bowing to His claims. The Creator has to publish His rights in His own creation. What a thought! Earth in mad rebellion against its Creator! We get both these thoughts in what is called preaching the gospel, and preaching the kingdom of God. God is proposing His rights to man, as well as revealing His provision for man.
When the Lord went forth, how was He attended? By the twelve—by men that had been attracted to Him, and women out of whom He had cast devils. That is His suited train—quite a different train from that of Him who comes upon the white horse in judgment. That is a suited train too. "The armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses"; but this is a degraded company, and the more largely you sum up the account of their degradation, the more you magnify the grace of Him who led them on. It will not be so when He comes in judgment.
The chapter begins with the parable of the sower. Do you think you have found the secret of that parable? It is to expose man. The seed was one and the same, but the dropping of the seed here and there was to expose the character of the soil. The seed makes manifest the soil. There is not a heart that is not seen in one or the other of these soils. The first character is the highway; that is where the devil prevails. The second is the rock; that is where nature prevails. The third is the thorny ground; that is where the world prevails. The fourth is the good ground; that is where the Holy Ghost prevails. If you examine your heart, day by day, you will find that one of these has its pleasure with you. The business of the parable is to expose you to yourself, and to make manifest the four secret influences under the power of which we are all morally moving every hour. Take the joy of the stony ground hearer. It is well to rejoice, but, if when I listen to the claims of God my conscience is not reached, that is a bad symptom. It is the levity and sensibility of nature. How wretchedly we are treating God if we do not deal with Him in conscience! If I have revolted from such a one, am I to return to Him without conviction of conscience? It would be an insult to Him. Supposing I had insulted you, would it be well for me to come and talk to you about some light matter? We have all insulted God, and are we to come to Him with a little animal-like joy?
The thorny ground hearers are a grave-hearted people that weigh everything in anxious balances. They carry the balances in their pocket, and try the importance of everything; but the mischief is that, as they weigh, they make the world as heavy as Christ. Are we not often conscious of that calculating spirit prevailing? In contrast with the others, we get the good ground. We are not told what has made it good, but suppose we have the devil, nature, and the world (in the first three parables), what is the only remaining influence? There is nothing but the Holy Ghost. It is very needful nowadays to testify that the plow must come before the seed basket. What makes the heart good? He that has gone forth to plow the fallow ground and sow the seed.
God could never get a blade of grass from our hearts if He did not work Himself. The heart can never have anything for God that has not gone through the process of the plow. Be it with the light measure of the eunuch, or the deeper strength of the jailer, the plow must go through the fallow ground. Those of the thorny ground talk of their farm, their business, their merchandise. Those by the highway say, Oh, let us think of it tomorrow. Then too, there is a sensibility that can rejoice under a sermon. It is happy for me that my conscience has to do with God, for when my conscience has to do with Him, then everything has to do with Him. We should try to get our hearts into the ministerial glories of Christ. Then we have Himself, because everything that passed from Him had the mark of deep truthfulness. Then, if we reach Himself, we reach God. It is the way we are introduced to God in this world. The world is full of its speculations about God, and the issue of them all is thick darkness which the wisdom of man finds impenetrable; but in Christ we find nothing less than the full glory of God. Let me take the happy path of studying Jesus. By that blessed happy path I can study the Father.
Now we come to a little passage in His life. "On a certain day,... He went into a ship," and He fell asleep. "So He giveth His beloved sleep." Now if the disciples had been wise, what would they have done? With what intent and worshiping gaze would they have looked at their sleeping Master! The musing of their hearts would have been, Let winds and waves arise; He has said, Let us go to the other side, and that is the pledge of safety. They might have gone to sleep with their Master but, instead, they look at the rising waves, and cry, "Master, we perish."
Are you often, in providence, called into company with a sleeping Jesus? He does not always manifest Himself at your side; nevertheless, He has said, "Let us go over unto the other side." His thought is on the end of the journey—yours and mine on the path. He never would have slept if He had not pledged them the end of the journey. Then, when the Lord makes good all that He had promised, they reap astonishment where they should have reaped worshiping admiration. Have you not often found it so? How often He comes down to your level when you cannot reach His elevation! The result is a poor experience instead of a bright and sunny experience. If He cannot take you up on the wings of faith to His elevation, He will come down and save you to the end, though He will show you what you have lost.
Now we get three cases together: Jesus in Gadara, in the crowd, and at the bedside. It is a series of victories. First we see Him in Gadara. Here is the strength of Satan displayed. He did not wait on faith here. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and would destroy them. In the case of the poor woman in the crowd, He waits for and upon faith. We have often marked the traces of His grace and the pathway of His glory. Nothing could meet this poor captive of Satan. Human power left him as it found him. The Lord delivers him, and deliverance in His hand is as perfect as captivity in Satan's. Yes, and something more. His restoration is more than mere restoration. Restoration would never describe the ways of God. With Him it is a bringing forth of fresh glories from ruins. Not only was Legion cast out, but the man was impregnated with this principle, that he would be with Jesus for eternity; yet, at His bidding, would go to the ends of the earth. Is that merely restoration? What would not one give for such a mind as that! To have found a home in His presence; yet, if it be His blessed will, to go to the ends of the earth in drudging service!
Now, as He passed on, a poor woman touched Him in the crowd. He was touched by thousands, but the virtue that was in Him waited on faith. The moment faith commanded, virtue went forth. Now, have you more in Christ than a healer? This poor woman had. She did not know when she came up that she had a title to Himself. So she modestly retreated as a debtor. Very right that a debtor should carry herself with humility; but oh, Christ is more to you and me than that. The healer puts Himself into relationship. When He inquired after her she began to tremble. Her faith had measured her title to touch Him, but she was not prepared when He called her face to face to look at Him, till He said, "Daughter, be of good comfort." There is no spirit of liberty in our souls if we do not know relationship. Nature cannot trust God, but the blessed way of God is to show me that I have an interest in Himself, as well as in the saving virtue that is in Him. We have relationship now—it does not wait for glory. In spirit I walk in the family mansion now, as soon I shall personally in the glory. The woman left Him, not only with a healed body, but with a calm and satisfied spirit. Is any book so worthy of reading as the book that we call Jesus?
Now we get to the house of Jairus, and the Lord meets the power of death in its fresh victory. The poor damsel is delivered from the bands of death, as the man was delivered from the bands of Satan, and the poor woman from the bands of corruption. Oh, let us acquaint ourselves with Him, and say, "Christ for me, Christ for me!"
Chapter 9
A very important thing is suggested at the opening of this chapter. We were observing the three distinct ministries of chapters 8, 9, and 10, and that the largeness of the ministry set forth bespeaks the character of this Gospel. The Lord did not, it is true, step over Jewish limits, but He is looking at man in the Jew, and not, as in Matthew, at the Jew in the Jew. Now observe, in sending out the twelve, He told them to heal the sick and to preach the kingdom of God. They were to cure diseases and to challenge the claims of God in the face of the world. Do you think that God has come into the world, bringing salvation, to surrender His own rights to your necessities? He could not do it; and you, if in a right mind, could not wish it. The glory of the gospel is, that He is glorified while you are saved. Could you enjoy a robbery? It would be a robbery if you could get a blessing which took glory from God. You get this in the cross if you read it aright. It is the glory of the gospel that God could be just and yet the justifier of him that believes in Jesus. We get a sample of that here. He tells them, then, to take with them neither scrip, nor money, nor bread. He says, as it were, You are going forth with My message; lean on Me. No man goeth a warfare at his own charges. I will take care of your necessities, and do you let your moderation be known unto all. He says, "Whosoever will not receive you,... shake off the very dust from your feet." While there is a graciousness attaching to such ministry, there is a solemnity too.
Now let us look at Herod for a moment. Tell me, do you think you have done with sin, when you have committed it? One thing is certain: It has not done with you. The charm of sin is gone the moment it is perpetrated. That is your way of disposing of sin, but conscience which makes cowards of us all, lets you know that it has not done with you. Herod had beheaded John long before, but now it was said of some that John was risen from the dead, and he is perplexed. Here the worm that never dies was doing its business. I am not of course determining its eternity, but the Lord in such cases lifts the veil from hell and shows us the worm at its work. Herod could not rest. How could he?—the murderer of the greatest witness of God in the world at that moment!
Now the apostles return and tell what they have done, and we have the scene of feeding the multitude. Here we get the largeness of the heart of Christ, in contrast with every human heart. Could you get a sample of the human heart more easy to love than Peter's? He was an open-hearted, good-natured man that you could easily have loved; but look at it in contrast with the heart of Christ! They said, "Send the multitude away." No, said He, Give ye them to eat. And they said, What! are we to go and buy? It was said in a sulky mood of mind, but the Lord did not refuse to go on with His sulky disciples. He met with vanity, ignorance, heartlessness, bad temper. It is a very interesting study to see how He always overcame evil with good. If my bad temper puts you into a bad temper, you have been overcome of evil. God never gives place to evil. This is a beautiful instance of it. The disciples said, Send them away. "Make them sit down," said Jesus; then, being the master of the feast, He must supply the guests.
Now, mark something of the moral beauty of Jesus' feast. He sits at the head of the table in the glory of God, and as the perfect Man. As God He puts forth creative powers, and was acting without robbery. He not only was God, but there was no form of divine glory that He would not assume—no act of divine power that He would not put forth. But He took His place also as the perfect Man. He was an entire contradiction to Adam. What was Adam's offense? He did not give thanks, but assumed to be master of all. It was a man refusing to be thankful. The Lord gives thanks. I see Him taking His place at the head of the table in the wilderness, as perfect God and perfect Man. The worship that God got in the Person of Jesus was richer incense to Him than if Adam had lived forever as a thankful man. He came to erect out of the ruins a temple for the glory of God that the creation in integrity would never have yielded.
Now the blessed God would have us know that at His table there is always more than enough. We know what it is to sit comfortably at a plentiful board. When I see very God making the feast, and very Man giving thanks, then leaving cartloads, so to speak, of fragments, what can I do but be thankful! We may, each one and all, be full and go away thankful that there is plenty for others.
Now we get a very important part in the gospel story. The Lord was in prayer, and when He arose, He asked His disciples, "Whom say the people that I am?" Let me say, there is a great deal to be found out in the style of the moment in Scripture. The very style in which an event comes out, gives it a character. That question draws out the proof that the world was rejecting Him. "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." You are now in the vestibule of the mountain of transfiguration. He has ascended into heaven as the earth-rejected Son of man. If you ask, Were not all things known to God from the creation of the world?—surely they were; but these things came out in great moral glory. Man would not give Him place here, so God took Him up to heaven. "Whom say the people that I am?" And they answered, "Some say,... Elias; and others,... one of the old prophets." What! is that the best thought that Israel has of Me? "But whom say ye that I am?" "The world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." Let us search out the undercurrent of the spirit of Scripture, not merely track the words.
Now the Lord says to the disciples, Do not you be loving your life. Come away up to the hill with Me, and there I will show the glory. And now I will ask you, What suits the man on his way to heavenly glory? Is it money and power, and such like, he should be seeking? Judge in yourselves, Is it consistent in a man to load himself with clay on his way to a place where there is to be no clay? The Lord shows you the path, and shows you the end of the path. It is only our love of present things that makes such a lesson difficult. My whole soul seals it; would that my whole heart adopted it.
After this the Lord comes down and meets His disciples in their inability to cast out a demon. Now, on no occasion does the Lord express disappointment of heart more vividly than here. "0 faithless and perverse generation." All human development in Christ was perfectly natural. I ask you, When you have been particularly happy on the mount with Christ, would not the pollutions of the earth, and the poverty and degradation of the Church, pain your spirit more, in contrast with the joy and liberty you have been tasting? The Lord had been tasting the joys of His own land, and He comes down to find faithlessness and defilement. He does not look for glory here, but He does look for the laborings and energy of faith; and when He finds Himself unhelped by the disciples, He says, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you?"
Now when they came down they were amazed at His glory, and while they wondered, He said, "Let these sayings sink down into your ears." In verse 51, He had sent His disciples to prepare His way, and the villagers would not receive Him. The disciples would have commanded fire to come down and consume them, but He rebuked them. Now, why do I put these two things together? I see, in the developments and expression of the Lord's human beauty, a man who knew both how to be abased and how to abound. It is a beautiful virtue in human nature. Paul may have learned it by severe moral culture, but Jesus learned it by the perfection of His own human nature.
How willing and ready our wretched and corrupt nature is to take advantage of a flattering moment! Jesus had not become an object of wonder and amazement, and at once He hides Himself behind a veil of deep degradation. While the rays of glory were shining still about His countenance, He says, Let this be your understanding of Me. And afterward, when they would have brought down fire upon the Samaritan villagers, He said, No. He knew how to be abased. In these ways His moral beauties shine out.
At the close, one comes and says, "I will follow Thee"; and He says, Do not you see how the villagers have treated Me? If you will follow Me, you must take part with One who has not where to lay His head. Now, mark another thing. Another comes and says, "Suffer me first to go and bury my father." The sense of the dignity of His ministry was with Him wonderfully. He answers, One fellow creature may do the office of the dying to the dying, but go you and do the office of a living Savior in the world. He carried with Him a sense of His ministerial glory. Paul had it in the vessel going to Rome, and before Agrippa. There he was, a prisoner in chains and degradation, and he stands and says, I would you were like me. What consciousness of secret dignity in the midst of public degradation! "Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God"—go and do My business, the business of life, and not of death, in a sin-stricken world. Now tell me, whom do you admire in this world? Do you speak well of those who do well to themselves? Do you hate the practice that speaks of men according to their standing in society? Accustom yourselves to see true glory. It shone in the carpenter's Son, in the captive at Rome, and it shines in the poor in this world, rich in faith. May the Lord open our eyes to see God's objects in God's light! Amen.