Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Matthew 4:23) we read that Jesus went about all Galilee, "preaching the gospel of the kingdom;" here we read of the same thing in a very slightly different form - "showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God." It will clear away all possible confusion of thought respecting "the gospel" and "the kingdom" if we dwell upon the gospel (or the glad tidings) of the kingdom.
I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD. This kingdom of God, or of heaven, or of Christ (for our Lord sometimes spoke of it as his own), is something transcendently nobler than anything which the most pious or the most sanguine Jew ever hoped for in his heart or pictured in his imagination (see homily on Luke 1:31-33). As Jesus Christ conceived it, and as it will be when it has been fully and finally established, this glorious kingdom is or is to be:
1. A kingdom of God; one in which God himself will be the one Sovereign, all men everywhere being his subjects, owning his sway and loyal to his will
2. An essentially spiritual kingdom; all the obedience and submission rendered being that of the heart and the will, as well as of the tongue and the hand.
3. A righteous kingdom; in which every citizen will act in accordance with "the golden rule" (Luke 6:31).
4. A beneficent kingdom; the spirit of kindness, of practical helpfulness, animating every subject.
5. A universal kingdom; coextensive with the human race.
6. An everlasting kingdom; going down to the remotest generation. Such, in its purity, its nobility, its inherent greatness, its absolute uniqueness, is the "kingdom of God."
II. THE GOSPEL (THE GLAD TIDINGS) OF THE KINGDOM. The features of this kingdom which so much commend it to the hearts of erring, sinful, dying men, constituting "the glad tidings of the kingdom," are:
1. That entrance into it is open to every child of man. This is now so familiar to us as to be quite commonplace. But lock at it in the light of the doctrine of Divine favouritism once prevalent; in the light of the incident recorded in the fourth chapter of this Gospel (vers. 23-29); - then we cannot be too thankful that the gates of this blessed kingdom are open, stand wide open, to every comer - to the poor, to the despised, to the neglected, to the barbarous, to those whom men may consider irrecoverable or not worth redeeming.
2. That its Divine Sovereign is actively seeking all souls, that they may enter. It is not only that no one is excluded; the good news, the glad tidings, is more and better than that - it is that every one is being individually, lovingly invited, nay, pressed and urged to enter; it is that out into the "far country" of forgetfulness and dislike the heavenly Father goes in parental yearning, and bids each wandering child "Return;" it is that away over hill and mountain of estrangement and guilt the good Shepherd goes, seeking and finding and bringing back the sheep which was lost; it is that long and lovingly, at the door of each human soul, the patient Saviour stands and knocks, and cries, "If any man will open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him."
3. That admission is open to every humble and trustful soul at once. If we have grieved some human friend and become estranged from him, and if there be a proposal to seek reconciliation, our decision will probably be determined by the consideration whether we shall be at once fully restored or whether there will be a long interval before full reconciliation is effected. It is the gospel (the glad tidings) of the kingdom of God that every penitent and believing soul is immediately and without any delay whatever taken into the favour of God. As soon as the submissive spirit of the man says, "Father, I have sinned," so soon is grace bestowed, so soon is the name entered on the roll of the heavenly citizenship.
4. That citizenship now means citizenship for ever. It is a large part of the gospel of Jesus Christ that this earth is only an antechamber of the Father's house, or only a small outlying province of his boundless empire. To be a faithful citizen here and now means being a happy citizen somewhere for evermore. Life under the benign sway of this heavenly King is not counted by years or decades; it is without a bound; it is continued, perpetuated, in other regions of his glorious domain. This is the "glorious gospel" of the kingdom. Is it well to wait for a better? Dare we hope that, if we reject these glad tidings, we shall over hear any that we shall accept? "Behold, now is the accepted time." - C.
I. THE SPIRITUAL AND TEMPORAL SIDES OF OUR LORD'S EVANGELISTIC WORK. (Vers. 1-3.) Twelve men and a number of holy women form Christ's band - a choir, so to speak, of joyful evangelists. The substance of the message was "the glad tidings of the kingdom of God." Christ himself was Preacher. None of the others could enter into the nature of this coming kingdom. But it was to be a kingdom of peace and of joy to all who became members of it. Hence the preaching was "glad tidings." The spiritual side of the work was, therefore, joy-inspiring. The temporal conditions of the work are here revealed. Our Lord lived on charity, or, as we should put it, on love. Hospitality, especially to every one who professed to be a rabbi, would supply Christ with much; but it could not cover the whole case; consequently, certain women, who had been delivered from demoniacal possessions, and who were correspondingly grateful to their Deliverer, were proud to follow him and minister to him of their substance. Joanna, whose husband seems to have looked after Herod's housekeeping, transfers her attentions to a greater King,. and becomes chief minister, we may believe, to her Master's wants. The twelve disciples were candidates for the ministry under training; the holy women were the caterers for the college; and so our Lord, as President, received the help of men and women in their respective spheres.
II. THE ELEMENT OF JUDGMENT IN PARABOLIC TEACHING. Before noticing briefly the parable of the sower, we must ask attention to the change m our Lord's method of ministration. It would seem that up to this time he had preached less figuratively, but as the Pharisees had taken up their position of hostility, it was absolutely necessary for him to exercise what may be called intermediate judgment (cf. Godet, in loc.). This was by taking to parabolic teaching. While to a docile and childlike spirit a parable sets truth in its most attractive aspect, to a proud, self-sufficient spirit it veils and hides the truth. It is light or darkness according to our spiritual attitude. Hence the change in the Preacher's method heralded a new stage in his work. The common people would still hear him gladly, but the proud would be kept at a convenient distance through the veiled character of the truth presented in parables.
III. THE PARABLE OF WARNING. (Vers. 4-8, 11-15.) This, according to all the evangelists, was the first parable. It was breaking ground in the delivery of parables. Hence its character as a warning. Its subject is the hearing of the Word. Its warning is that there are three bad ways of hearing as against one good way. These are:
1. Careless hearing - represented by wayside seed devoured by the birds before it can fall into the earth and bear any fruit. The devil visits careless hearers, and takes the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
2. Rapturous hearing - represented by seed failing into rocky soil and springing up suddenly, only to wither away. Hence the danger of hearing with rapture and resting in the rapture. It is the religion of feeling, of happy times, and such superficialities. Something deeper is needed than this.
3. Careworn and preoccupied hearing - represented by seed falling into soil that is not cleansed of roots and thorns, and where the seed is choked. We cannot hear to advantage if we put anything before the Word. Unless it is put before worldly concerns, there will not be much fruit.
4. Honest and good-hearted hearing - represented by the seed falling into good and cleansed ground. In this ease there is knit-bearing, in some cases up to an hundredfold. Hence the warning voice, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Unless the multitude hearing Jesus, unless in particular the disciples, took the Word of God ministered by Jesus patiently and honestly into their consideration, they could not bring forth fruit unto perfection.
IV. THE APPLICATION TO THE TWELVE. (Vers. 16-18.) The disciples had received Jesus' explanation of the first parable. And now he further applies it to their case. They are intended, he tells them, to be lights in the world; and he has no intention of putting them under a bushel or bed, where the light would be lost and useless, but on a candlestick to illuminate all who enter the house. In this beautiful and figurative way our Lord indicates the position he means to give them in his Church. Consequently, they must remember that every secret thing is on its way to manifestation (ver. 17), and so their lives, no matter how secret and apparently insignificant, are public lives. By this thought all hearing will be intensified with a new sense of responsibility. Besides, he tells them that the law of capital obtains in hearing as well as in everything else This is the law by which the person, who has something to start with, gets something more. For example, if we bring to the contemplation of the truth a "good and honest heart," then its goodness and honesty will be intensified and increased by the truth; whereas, if we bring a vacant heart, an inattentive mind, then our heart will be still more vacant, and our mind still more inattentive. We lose power by indifferent hearing, just as we gain power by attentive and honest hearing. This was a most important lesson for the candidates about him. Doubtless they profited by it.
V. BLOOD-RELATIONSHIP VERSUS SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP. (Vers. 19-21.) We learn from the parallel passages that this incident occurred in consequence of our Lord's enthusiasm. His relatives thought him mad, and that he ought to be put under restraint. His reply to their message is most significant. As Gess says, "He draws his true disciples the more closely around him as the hostility of his own relatives increases, and calls them his family." We have thus, as Sanrin puts it, the family of Jesus Christ according to the flesh contrasted with the family of Jesus Christ according to the Spirit. The spiritual relationship is put before the blood-relationship, other things being equal. It is not that Jesus loved his brothers and mother less, but that he regarded the Father's will and those who obeyed it as more to him than they can be. His conduct on this occasion most likely conduced to the conversion of his kindred to believe upon him. It enabled them to see exactly the principle of his work. And in this loyalty to members of God's family we must follow our Lord. We must not allow others to usurp their rights under any pretence of relationship or authority. - R.M.E.
Luke 2:36-38) that woman, in the person of Anna, welcomed the infant Saviour to the world; it was most fitting that she should do so, for Christianity and womanhood have had a very 'close relationship, and undoubtedly will have even to the end.
I. WHAT CHRISTIANITY OWES TO WOMAN.
1. Its Divine Author and the Object of its worship was, "as concerning the flesh," born of a woman (Galatians 4:4). The Son of God was, in a true and important sense, the "Son of Mary."
2. He owed the care and the training of his childhood to a human mother.
3. He received, during his active life, the generous provision of ministering women (see text); these, out of" their substance," supplied his necessities.
4. He found some of his best disciples and of his most faithful attendants in women (Matthew 27:65).
5. He had the comfort of the near presence of three devoted women in his last agonies (John 19:25). Closer to him in that awful hour than the ruthless soldier and the taunting enemy, rendering him a silent and sorrowful but not unvalued sympathy, stood three women who loved him for all that he was in himself and for all he had been to them.
7. Women were united with the apostles in the upper room, waiting and praying for the further manifestation of the Lord after his ascension (Acts 1:14).
8. The apostle of the Gentiles owed much to women in his abundant and fruitful labours (Philippians 4:3).
9. From that time to this, women have been rendering valuable service to the cause of Jesus Christ: the mother of Augustine, the mother of the Wesleys, and many hundreds more have, by their holy and faithful motherhood, done signal service to the gospel. In these later days, moved by the Spirit of God, women have, by their writings and by their "prophesyings," effected great things for the furtherance of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. And it is right that it should be so; for we have to consider -
II. WHAT WOMAN OWES TO CHRISTIANITY.
1. We know what barbarism does, and fails to do, for woman.
2. We know also what Greek and Roman civilization did, and failed to do, for her; in how unsatisfactory a condition it left her; how completely it failed to raise her. to her true spiritual dignity. We know what Christianity has done and is doing for her.
(1) Jesus Christ taught and enforced the transcendent value of every human soul.
(2) He admitted women into his kingdom on the same terms on which he received men: "In him is neither male nor female."
(3) He gave to women a sphere of honorable service in his kingdom; not only (as above) accepting their loving ministry for himself, but for his disciples also.
(4) Influenced increasingly by these ideas, the Church of Christ has been giving to woman a place of growing honour and usefulness; it has made her the full helpmeet and equal companion of man; it has opened for her the gateway of knowledge and influence; it has placed her on the highest seat to receive its respect, its affection, its service. We may look at -
III. THE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTIONS WHICH WOMAN MAY RENDER.
1. When not bound by domestic ties, she can offer, as these women did, of her worldly substance.
2. She can minister, as man cannot, to the sick and suffering; she has a gentle touch of hand and a tenderness and patience of spirit for which we look to man in vain.
3. She can train the child in the home, and, by giving to him or her the earliest and deepest impressions concerning Divine love, prepare for noblest work in after-years in various fields of holy service. - C.
I. THE ACCOUNT OF THE FAILURE.
1. Inattention on the part of the bearer. The truth is spoken faithfully, but so little heed is given to it that it is no sooner uttered and beard than it has disappeared from view. Sown on the hard wayside (ver. 5), it does not enter into the soil, and is readily borne away. They who do not know how to listen when God speaks to them, need not be surprised if they are of those who are "ever learning, and never coming to a knowledge of the truth." "Give earnest heed" as the Word is being spoken.
2. Want of reflection. (Ver. 6.) Many listen with delight, and consider themselves the better for their present gladness. But they do not reflect on what they have heard; there is nothing to nourish the feeble life - no "moisture," no "earth," no thoughtfulness and prayer; and the end is that the emotion that was aroused as the hearer listened withers away.
3. Incapacity to stand tests. (Ver. 7.) There may be earnest attention, and this may be followed by some consideration and even prayer; but the root of conviction does not go down far enough to become resolute consecration, and the result is that the "thorns choke the corn as it is growing. There are two kinds of thorn which are of a deadly influence in the spiritual field - one is that of worldly cares, and the other that of unspiritual pleasure. These are not evil things in themselves, but, just as the weeds in the field draw up and into themselves the nourishment which should be given to the useful plant, so do these lower anxieties and gratifications absorb the time, the thought, the energy, which should go to the maintenance of the new spiritual life, and, being unfed and unsustained, it languishes and perishes.
II. THE CONDITIONS OF SUCCESS. What is the good ground? What is the honest and good heart (vers. 8-15)? It is that of:
1. Sincere inquiry. The hearer goes to learn what is the will of God concerning him - to inquire in his temple." The question of his heart is, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Hence he listens eagerly and continuously.
2. Devout meditation. He ponders, he dwells upon, he prays over, the truth he has been receiving.
3. Intelligent, deliberate dedication. The man takes all things into his mind that must be taken; he counts the cost; he considers what the service of Christ means, and how much it involves in the way of surrender and of activity, and he solemnly devotes himself to the service, or, as the case may be, to the work of the Lord. Jesus cried, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." He spoke that word in a striking, impressive, emphatic voice. He would say to us:
1. Your privilege in having access to the gospel is very great, and as is your privilege so also is your responsibility.
2. Many are the children of opportunity who are not heirs of the kingdom of God; many go into the "house of God" who remain outside the Church of Christ; who hear but do not heed, or who listen but do not ponder and pray, or who pray but do not determine and devote; who at some point or other fall short of the kingdom. It is a sad thing to be "in the way of salvation," and yet to be unsaved.
3. Very blessed are the children of wisdom. When the Word of God takes deep root and brings 'forth fruit, its fertility is great indeed; the increase may be "an hundredfold" (ver. 8). In the heart itself in which it is sown, it may produce all the graces of the Spirit of God; and in the better life thus called forth there may shine all the excellences which are in Christ Jesus our Lord and Exemplar; and/tom that life there may flow forth influences for good, of which the number and the nature and the duration only God can tell. - C.
1. There is much of solid goodness in Christian men. All who name the name of Christ are under bond to depart from all iniquity; their life is a life of holy endeavour after the character of their Lord; they are seeking daily the aid and inspiration of the Divine Spirit; they must be wiser and worthier than those who are living for themselves.
2. This light of Christian character is shining straight before the eyes of unholy men. In the great field of the human world the wheat and the tares grow together. Here we meet together, good and bad, the irreverent and the profane, under the same roof, at the same table and hearth, in the same shop and warehouse. We witness one another's lives. Christian character is near enough to be seen by all.
3. We are sometimes asked to be shown the light of Christian worth. Men say, "Where is this excellency, this supposed superiority of spirit and conduct, these fruits? we should like to see them." What shall we say to this challenge? That they who thus complain do not see what they look for because there is something the matter with their vision, because it is distorted by prejudice? Or shall we say that where no goodness is seen it is because there is none to see; that piety, being popular, is simulated, and they are looking at those who are only pretending to be Christian men, and that godliness is no more accountable for hypocrisy than the good coin is answerable for the counterfeit? We might often make one of these two replies, with right and reason on our side. But that would not meet the case; it would leave the question partially unanswered. The fact is that goodness is often unseen in consequence of the intervening of some surface faults which hide it from view. There is -
I. THE COVERING OF RETICENCE. Many a man is right at heart, sound in faith, well fitted by his knowledge and intelligence to render essential service; but he is so reserved, so self-contained, so inaccessible, lives so much in the inner circle of his own familiar friends, that he is far less forcible and influential than he is capable of being; - he is hiding the light of his character under the covering of reserve, instead of setting it on the candlestick of open-heartedness and expressiveness.
II. THE COVERING OF RESENTFULNESS. Other men are warm-hearted, good-natured, diligent, and devoted in every good work, capable of rendering admirable service; but they are quick-tempered, irascible, ready to take offence; so hasty and resentful that they are shunned when they would otherwise be approached; - they hide the light of their character under the vessel of ill temper.
III. THE COVERING OF SELF-ASSERTION. Some men are upright, honourable, zealous, resolute, forcible, well fitted to effect great things, but they hide their light under the bushel of self-assertion; they insist on everything being done in the way they prefer; they make co-operation impossible; they cut their influence in twain by their want of conciliation and concession.
IV. THE COVERING OF DISCOURTESY. There are those who are honest, and even earnest and hardworking Christian men, acting along the lines of holy usefulness; but they cover their character with the vessel of bluntness, or ignorance, or positive rudeness, instead of putting the light of piety and zeal on the candlestick of courtesy. Now, it has to be remembered that our children and our neighbours, all with whom we have to do, judge of our character not only by its solid and essential elements, but also (and rather) by its superficial features; they will be affected and influenced, not more by that in us which is deep and decisive than by those outside qualities which are visible to them just because they are outside. Hence, if we care, as we are bound to do, that our character should be telling on those with whom we are connected, and for whom we are responsible, we shall strive and pray to be not only pure and just and true, but also frank and amiable and courteous. If we would not go through our life with our Christian character covered over and lost by some superficial failing, if we would have it fixed on the candlestick on which it will "give light to all that are in the house," - we must not only think on the things which are true, honest, just, and pure, but also on those things which are "lovely and of good report;" - C,
I. A SACRED DUTY WE ARE CALLED UPON TO DISCHARGE. It is in this sense our Lord used them on the occasion reported by Matthew (Matthew 10:25-27). What was then hidden in the minds of the disciples they were to reveal to the world in due time; the truth which the Master was making known to them "in the darkness" they were to "speak in the light." And this duty is of universal obligation. What God reveals to us and what is, at first, hidden in our own soul we are bound to bring forth into the light of day. It may be any kind of truth - medical, agricultural, commercial, economical, moral, or directly and positively religious; whatever we have learned that is of value to the world we have no right to retain for our own private benefit, Truth is common property; it should be open to all men, like the air and the sunshine. When God, in any way, says to us, "Know;" he also says, "Teach; pass on to your brethren what I have revealed to you; 'there is nothing secret that shall not be made manifest, nor hid that shall not be known.'"
II. A SERIOUS FACT WE DO WELL TO CONSIDER. Guilt loves secrecy. "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light.., lest his deeds should be reproved." Men that sin against God and their own conscience would be only too glad to know that their deeds were finally buried and would never reappear. But no man may take this consolation to his soul. Secret things are disclosed; there is an instinctive feeling expressed in the common Belief that "murder will out," that flagrant wrong will sooner or later be exposed. We may not say that no crimes have ever been successfully concealed; but we may safely say that no man, however careful and ingenious he may be in the art of concealing, can be at all sure that his iniquity will not be laid bare. And this will apply to lesser as well as larger evils. Habits of secret drinking, of impurity, of dishonesty, of vindictive passion, will sooner or later betray themselves and bring shame on their victim. Indeed, so closely allied are the body and the spirit, so constantly does the former receive impressions from the latter, that there is no emotion, however deep it may be within the soul, which will not, after a time, reveal itself in the countenance, or write its signature in some way on "the flesh." If illegible to the many, it is still there, to he read by those who have eyes to see, and to be seen of God. There is a very true sense in which "nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest" even here. But this is more perfectly and strikingly true of the future.
III. A CERTAINTY IN THE FUTURE WE SHALL WISELY ANTICIPATE. There is a "day when God shall judge the secrets of men" Romans 2:16). when he "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts" (1 Corinthians 4:5). Then shall these words be indeed fulfilled. Then may we know how:
1. This language will prove a terrible prediction; our buried and forgotten iniquities being Brought back to us, God "reproving us, and setting them [our sins] before our face" (Psalm 50:21).
2. This warning may be met and modified; our sins, having been repented of and forgiven, will be buried in those depths of Divine mercy whence they will never be brought back (Psalm 103:11, 12; Micah 7:18, 19).
3. These words may constitute a blessed promise - all acts of pity, of patience, of kindness, of mercy, of magnanimity, of self-sacrifice, reappearing for Divine approval and award. "Then shall every man have praise of God." - C.
I. THE VERY TEMPORARY CHARACTER OF HIS FLESHLY RELATIONSHIP. He was, of course, most intimately associated, in purely human bends, with "his mother and his brethren." But he gave the clearest intimation that this was only to last during his sojourn on the earth, and that it was not to be relied upon as a source of life even then.
1. He checked his mother in her eagerness at the very first miracle he wrought (John 2:4).
2. He intimated in the text that his human connections were already merging in those of a higher, a spiritual hind.
3. He disengaged himself, tenderly but decidedly, from his human, filial obligations as he was about to consummate his redemptive work (John 19:26).
4. He declined the demonstrativeness of his warm-hearted disciple as partaking too much of the fleshly, and intimated that all approach thenceforward must be of a heavenly and spiritual character (John 20:16, 17).
5. He instructed his apostle to declare that all further knowledge of Jesus Christ must not be "after the flesh," but spiritual (2 Corinthians 5:16).
6. He gave no position in his Church to his mother or his brethren because they had been such. They cud not derive anything, in their after-relation to him, from the fact of their motherhood or brotherhood; they stood related to him just as all other souls did, by their reverence, their trust, their love, their service, and by these alone.
II. THE PERMANENT AND INTIMATE CHARACTER OF HIS SPIRITUAL RELATIONS WITH US. "My mother and my brethren are these which hear the Word of God and do it." "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Matthew 12:50). From these words of truth and grace we gather:
1. That what unites us to Christ is practical godliness. It is reverent attention followed by obedient life; hearing and doing the will of God. It is well to place ourselves where the will of God is made known; better to listen attentively when it is revealed; better still to be excited to solemn and earnest feeling concerning it; but we do not become Christ's, we are not numbered amongst his own, until we so hear and heed and feel that we resolve to be and strive to do what we know is his holy will concerning us. We may fail frequently to realize our own intention; we may strive upwards and Godwards with many a stumble on our way; but if there be an honest and earnest effort towards the good and the true, animated and inspired By the fear and the love of God, then Christ acknowledges us as his, we are citizens of his kingdom. We are something more than that; for we learn from the text:
2. That those who are truly united to Christ are in very close affinity with him. So much are they to him that the nearest and dearest human relationships are called in to express it. Dear as the mother is to her child, as the sister to her brother, so dear are all true and earnest souls to their Divine Lord. With filial, with brotherly love will he watch and guard them, will he provide for their necessities, will he sympathize with them in their sorrows, will he attend their steps, will he secure their lasting interest in the Father's home. - C.
refused to put forth his power if by its exercise he could do an act of pure pity and kindness; and that he never consented to do so for the mere purpose of display. Hence there is a most marked difference between his "works' and the pretences of the impostor. The perfect suitableness of the occasion and the moral character of the action are the signature of Divinity. Yet it was fitting that the strong desire on the part of the Jews to see a miracle wrought "in the heavens' should, if occasion offered, have at least one fulfilment. And such it certainly had in this stilling of the storm. And in this incident we have -
I. AN IMPRESSIVE ILLUSTRATION OF CHRIST'S DIVINE COMMAND. It would only be right, we may argue, that our Lord should give to his disciples one illustration of his Divine power that would be exceedingly impressive, and therefore convincing and permanently effective. There was no more virtue or force in the stilling of the storm on the lake than in the expulsion of the demon on the other side of the water; to control the elements of nature did not require more Divine power than to control the will of an evil spirit; perhaps less. But the moral effect upon the observer's mind was much greater in the former instance than in the latter. It appealed most influentially to the imagination as well as to the reason. And considering all that these disciples would be called upon to pass through in his cause, remembering the severity of the trial of their faith, it was surely well that, in addition to many other proofs of their Lord's Divinity, they should be able to recall this scene upon the lake, and be assured that he whom the winds and the waves obeyed was the Christ of God indeed.
II. AN ASSURANCE THAT HE IS LORD OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF OUR LIFE. AS we ply our little bark across the lake of our life, we shall find storm as well as calm, rough adverse winds as well as favourable breezes. It will help us to think that the Divine will which subdued that tempest is the will that is ruling wind and wave beneath every sky; that Christ is Lord of the circumstances of our life; and that if only we have him on board as our chief Passenger, we may count on his controlling power in the time of danger or of trouble. But we must be sure that Christ/s with us; for the promises of gracious guidance and merciful interposition can only be pleaded by those who are loyal to him and to his cause.
III. A PICTURE OF THE PRESENT CHRIST IN THE TRIAL-HOUR OF HIS CHURCH. In that little boat was the Christian Church: if that vessel had sunk, the Church would have perished with it. But the Church that has Christ with it cannot sink. The question of questions, therefore, is this - Is Christ with us or not? And the answer to that question will be found, not in the shape of the vessel, but in the character of the crew; not in the peculiarity of the ecclesiastical structure, but in the spirit and character of those who compose and who direct the Church. Is his truth, is he himself, preached and taught in our sanctuaries and our schools? Are his principles inculcated in our homes and illustrated in our lives? Is his spirit breathed by us in our intercourse with one another, and with "them that are without"? These are the questions we must answer satisfactorily if we would reply in the affirmative to that one vital question - Is Christ with us or not?
IV. A. REMINDER OF THE DIVINE PEACE-BRINGER TO THE HUMAN SOUL. There is something unspeakably grand in a storm in nature; we are affected, awed, subdued, by it. But in the estimate of Divine wisdom there is something of profounder interest in the unrest and perturbation of a human soul. Jesus Christ cares more to speak peace to one troubled human heart than to produce the most striking change in the whole face of nature. There are many sources of spiritual disquietude; but the most constant and the worst of all is guilt, the sin with which we have sinned against the Lord and the sense of his condemnation we carry in our hearts. It is that which takes the light out of our skies, the joy out of our homes, the beauty and the brightness out of our lives. The deepest question that wells from the human soul is this -
"Oh! where shall rest Be found - "The voice of Jesus sounds o'er land and sea;" a voice which has brought and will ever bring peace to the aching, burdened, stricken heart; "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." - C.
"The voice of Jesus sounds o'er land and sea;" a voice which has brought and will ever bring peace to the aching, burdened, stricken heart; "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." - C.
a voice which has brought and will ever bring peace to the aching, burdened, stricken heart; "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." - C.
I. SAFETY IN THE SOCIETY OF JESUS. (Vers. 22-25.) The disciples and Jesus had embarked to visit the country of the Gadarenes. His object in doing so, as we shall presently see, was to rescue from diabolical possession a single soul. But to rescue this soul they had all to pass through storms in crossing. It was surely worth all the risk they ran! The weary Saviour fell asleep soon after embarking, and it was while he was sleeping the storm arose in nature, and the storm of fear in the souls of the disciples. It argued little faith on their part to suppose that they were in danger when beside them is the sleeping Christ. Yet so it was. Jesus may lead his people into danger, but he always shares it with them, and leads them in due time out of it. No sooner do they appeal to him to save them from perishing, than he arises, rebukes the wind and the wave, so that, contrary to custom, there is an immediate calm; and then proceeds to rebuke the storm within their souls, and make all these also to be peace. In this way our Lord showed his sovereignty over nature, and his sovereignty over man. He can rebuke "the noise of their seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people" (Psalm 65:7). No wonder that the strangers who were in the beat with the disciples were astonished at One who could command wind and wave, and they obeyed him!
II. JESUS THE MINISTER TO MINDS DISEASED. (Vers. 26-40.) In the greatest peace the disciples and their Master approached the shore. But here a more terrible storm confronted him - the mania of the poor possessed one. "The beloved physician," who writes this Gospel, brings out the characteristics of the mania as a physician would. No sooner does the case present itself to Jesus, than he commands the devil to depart from him. No protest on the part of the unclean tenant avails; the spirit and his companions are compelled to prepare for departure. They bargain hard not to be sent "into the abyss" (εἰς τὴν ἄβυσσον), where their final doom awaits them, and, as an alternative, ask to be permitted to enter into an adjoining herd of swine. This association of evil spirits with animals is illustrated in the Edenic temptation, and it may account for the reign of terror in the geologic times. The possession of the animals may be different from that of a moral being like man, as Godet suggests; yet it shows surely the sensualism into which evil spirits can descend. The prodigal son only desired to satisfy himself with the swinish life; but these demons actually made the experiment (cf. Luke 15:16). But now the swine, reinforced by the devils, rush madly onwards to the sea, and perish in the waters. The result is that one human being is delivered from his mania, while a herd of swine are sacrificed. If such an alternative is presented, there can be no doubt as to the decision. Better that all the swine in the world should perish, if as the result a single human soul is delivered from his mental disease. Hence the wretched souls, who came from the city and lamented the loss of the swine instead of rejoicing in the cure of the demoniac, show thereby that they deserved the judgment which had overtaken them. Jesus can "minister to minds diseased;" he can bring the maniac to his right mind again; and he can cure us of the insanity of sin and have us sitting clothed at his feet and anxious to be with him evermore. When, besides, the Gadarenes desire his departure, he can make arrangements for witness-bearing, so that when he returns after a time, the unwilling people shall be found to have renounced their unwillingness and to gladly welcome him. So may we all witness among our friends to the power of our Lord.
III. THE TOUCH OF FAITH. (Vers. 43-48.) We have next to notice the healing of the woman with the issue of blood. This was the solitary miracle where faith anticipates our Lord's consent, and finds healing through the touch of his garment. Having presented herself so often to the physicians, she in this case refuses to obtrude upon his notice, but thinks she will escape in the crowd. But our Lord, perceiving that from his sacred Person healing power had flowed, inquires for the patient, who in due season comes and confesses all. But she has been brought before him that he might convey to her the lesson that it was her faith, and not a mere physical touch, which had saved her. That is to say, the process was moral, and not merely physical. And surely this case of the issue of blood is to represent certain aspects of sin. It is a drain upon the moral system which man cannot staunch. But once we look to Jesus by faith and touch the hem of his garment, we are instantly healed, and power begins again to rise within us. We ought not to let our vital power be undermined when such a Saviour is at hand to heal us!
IV. THE AWAKENING OF THE DEAD. (Vers. 41, 42, 49-56.) This case of resurrection-power presents Jesus in the culmination of his miraculous work. The command of nature and of human nature is important, but still more magnificent is the command of death, the power to enter into the gloomy realm, and there assert one's authority. This is what Jesus does. He is humbly asked by Jairus to come to his dying daughter. He finds that he has to face the little daughter already dead. The father, ready to despair, is told to "believe only, and she shall be made whole." He believed, and lo! he found in Jesus One who could awake the dead! The resurrection is witnessed by the parents and three disciples - chosen witnesses. And after she is raised, he gives directions that she should be fed, and then that they should be silent about the miracle. He did not desire to be overwhelmed by the miraculous part of his work, but that he might be able to give a due proportion of his attention to teaching, Similarly may each of us experience Christ's resurrection-power in our souls now, and in our bodies afterwards. - R.M.E.
I. THE SON OF MAN ASLEEP IN THE HOUR OF HIS OWN BODILY WEARINESS. A hard and long day's work had the Master that day. He had thought much, taught much, wrought much; and each one of these had been laborious and exhausting to One who was what he was and felt as he felt. He was completely spent with his strenuous and sustained exertion. And as they sailed he fell asleep; so fast asleep that, though the winds raged round him and the spray fell upon him, he did not awake. The incident points to:
1. The devoted diligence of his life. Other things might have accounted for this simple fact of being overcome, but that was the true account of it. How laboriously he must have worked to do all that he did in the few months at his command! we might well argue; how devotedly he did labour the memoirs of the evangelists assure us.
2. The generous impulse which he allowed himself in the conduct of his life. That life was not without plan, arrangement. But our Lord permitted himself to be guided by the conduct and attitude of others; he went back when repelled (ver. 37), he went on when invited (ver. 41). On this occasion he allowed the importunity of the people to hold him longer in teaching and healing than he would otherwise have remained; thus he left room in his life for the play of generous impulse. By all means let us be methodical, laying out our time intelligently and wisely; but let us leave room also for an unselfish responsiveness in the structure of our life, even as our Lord did.
3. The thoroughness of his humanity. Who but the Son of God could, of his own will and in his own name, command the mighty elements of nature? Who but a veritable Son of man could be overcome by weariness, and sleep in the midst of the raging of the storm? He was one of ourselves - walking wearied him, teaching tired him, healing exhausted him; he expended himself as he wrought day by day; his manhood was real and true.
II. THE MASTER ASLEEP IN THE HOUR OF THE DISCIPLES' DANGER AND DISTRESS. Christ sleeping when the boat was sinking I It looked like negligence! "Carest thou not that we perish?" That negligence was only apparent; there was no real danger. As it was right for him to sleep under such exhaustion, he could with perfect safety commit himself and his cause to the care of the unsleeping Father. As it was, the greatness of the apparent peril brought about an illustration of Divine power which otherwise they would have missed. That was not the last time that the Master seemed negligent of his own. To his Church in its storm of terrible persecution, to his people (in their individual lives) in the tempests of temptation or adversity through which they have passed, Christ may often, indeed has often, seemed to be heedless and indifferent. But he has always been at hand, always ready for action at the right moment. We have but to make our earnest appeal to him, and if the right time has come for the manifestation of his power - though on this point we may be mistaken (see John 2:4; Acts 2:6, 7) - he will most effectually respond; he will say to the mightiest forces with which we are in conflict, "Peace, be still!" and there will be "a great calm." - C.
I. THE REJECTION OF JESUS CHRIST.
1. It may be deliberate and determined. In the case of the Gadarenes it was emphatically so. They all came together to seek him and to entreat of him that he would leave their neighbourhood. Their request was unqualified with any condition; it was decisive, absolute. It is not often that men suddenly arrive at the conclusion that 'they will not have the Son of man to reign over them; but the long postponement of his claims leads on and down to a decisive rejection; at length the mind is fully made up, the soul resolved that it will seek its good elsewhere, that the patient Saviour may knock but he will wait in vain.
2. It may proceed from motives that are distinctly unworthy. It was a procedure on the part of these Gadarenes that was simply shameful; they preferred their swine to a Divine Restorer; they would rather keep their property than entertain One who would bring health to their homes and wisdom to their hearts. When men reject Christ, they seldom put before their minds the alternative as it really is in the sight of God; but traced far enough, seen in the light of truth, viewed as it will have to be one day regarded, it is an unholy and an unworthy preference of the human to the Divine, or of the present to the future, or of the fleshly to the spiritual; it is a preference which God condemns, and for making which the soul will one day reproach itself.
3. It may be only too successful. It was so here. Jesus did not contest the point; he did not assert his fight to go where he pleased and labour where he liked. He yielded to their urgency; "He went up into the ship, and returned back again," Man has a power which may well make him tremble, of resisting and rejecting the Divine; of sending away the messenger and the message which come from God himself; of silencing the voice which speaks from heaven "How often would I!... but ye would not;" "Ye shall not see me until," etc. (ch. 13.). This is the record of many a soul's history in its relation to Christ. We send away from our hearts and homes the Lord that would heal and save and enrich us.
II. THE WELCOME OF CHRIST. "The people gladly received him" (ver. 40); they welcomed him, "for they were all waiting for him" - were in expectation of his coming.
1. The spirit in which it is offered. We cannot suppose that every one then present had the same feeling about our Lord's return. Probably there were those who were influenced by a legitimate but unspiritual curiosity; others by a desire to be healed, or to secure his services as Healer of sickness for their friends; others by a wish to learn more of his wondrous wisdom; others by a reverent thankfulness and a desire to manifest their gratitude to him. Many motives take men into the presence of Christ. Some are low and very near the ground, that may or may not go unblessed. Others are higher and more hopeful. And yet others are certain to be recompensed. They who receive Christ's word in the love of it, who go to him to learn of him and to be healed by him, or who want to be employed by him in his cause, may make sure of a full-handed welcome by him.
2. Its reception by our Lord. We know that this is cordial and full of blessing. "If any man... open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" If, when Jesus Christ offers himself to us as our Teacher and Saviour, we heartily welcome him as such, there will be for us an enrichment of soul surpassing all that we can imagine - reconciliation to the living God; his own blessed and unfailing friendship; a life of sacred service, holy usefulness, and abiding joy; a death of peace and hope; an immortality of glory. - C.
I. THE GREATER KINDNESSES WE RECEIVE FROM GOD. It might be argued that all God's mercies are great, inasmuch as
(1) coming from his heart, all his kindnesses are loving-kindnesses; and
(2) they are all so thoroughly undeserved. God sends us a gift when he might send us a blow, a blessing when we deserve a rebuke (Genesis 32:10). Yet some of God's gifts to us are greater than others, and we may ask which they are that might fairly draw such words as these from Christ concerning them, "how great things God hath done for thee." And it is worthy of remark:
1. That some of them are little marked by us. Among these are:
(1) Our being itself, our intelligent, immortal nature, with all its illimitable capacities. We so gradually awaken to the realization of this, that the boundless value of the gift does not impress us as it should.
(2) Our health. We accept this as a matter of course, little affected by it until we lose it.
(3) Our kindred. So does the mantle of parental, filial, fraternal love wrap us round from our infancy, that its beauty and its blessedness do not strike us as they might well do, and we live on for years, failing to appreciate all the mercies which are associated with the one word "home."
(4) Our education; all those educational influences and privileges which build and shape our mind and character. But it is clear:
2. That there are special kindnesses we cannot fail to note. Of these are
(1) deliverance from sudden peril, from the railway accident, from death by drowning, etc.;
(2) recovery from dangerous sickness;
(3) rescue from the grasp of some fell temptation;
(4) special Divine influences, those which make the truth of God clear to our understanding, and bring it home to our heart and conscience, thus placing eternal life within our reach.
II. THE RETURN WHICH WE MAKE TO GOD for these greater kindnesses. Jesus Christ bade this man to whom he rendered such signal service return and show his friends what great things he had received; and he did so freely and fully. What is our response to our heavenly Father, our Divine Saviour?
1. What are we being to him? What is the measure of our thought concerning him who never for one moment forgets us, and who, in so full and deep a sense, "remembered us in our low estate"? of our feeling toward him who has spent on us such generous, such self-sacrificing love? of our service of him whose we are and to whom we owe everything we are and have?
2. What testimony are we bearing to him - what testimony concerning the goodness, the patience, the faithfulness of God are we bearing in the home in which we live? Are parents impressing on their children by their whole bearing and demeanour that, in their deliberate judgment, the service of Christ and likeness to Christ are things of immeasurably greater concern to them than the making of money or the gaining of position? Are elder brothers and sisters doing their best to commend the truth they have come to appreciate to the understanding and the affection of those who are younger, and who are taking their cue from them? What testimony are we bearing in the shop and the .factory, to our fellow-workers, to those whom we are employing? What testimony in the Church? Are we avowing our faith, our love, our hope, our joy? Are we, who have received greater kindness by far than even this poor demoniac, so acting that as much is ascribed to us in God's book of account as is here recorded of him, that "he published throughout the whole city how great things," etc.? - C.
I. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BODILY AND REAL SPIRITUAL CONTACT, "There are times when hands touch ours, but only send an icy chill of unsympathizing indifference to the heart; when eyes gaze into ours, but with a glazed look that cannot read our souls; when the multitude throng and press us, but we cannot say, ' Somebody hath touched me,' for the contact has not been between soul and soul, but only between form and form." We are very much thronged in this modern life we live, but we are not very often touched to newness of thought and feeling; and except we live a life of prayer and genuine human sympathy, we must not expect to "touch" other souls so as to quicken and inspire them.
II. THE USELESSNESS OF ANY REMEDY BUT THE GOSPEL FOR OUR SPIRITUAL NEED. This woman in her helplessness is a picture of humanity. It is sick with the worst of all maladies - sin. It is suffering all the wretched consequences of guilt - weariness, restlessness, misery, remorse. It often spends its resources on things which have no healing virtue, and which leave it ill as ever. At length it repairs unto him in whom is no disappointment, in the shelter of whose cross, and in the shadow of whose love, and in the sunshine of whose service is pardon for every sin, comfort for every sorrow, rest for every soul.
III. THE DUTY OF DECLARING WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US. That sensitive heart, trying to screen herself from the observation of the crowd, and wishing to come and go unnoticed, was not rejected. Nevertheless, the Lord, by his repeated questioning, constrained her to come forward and acknowledge the blessing she had received. Christ does not wish for an ostentatious piety; he hates all pretence; but he approves and desires a suitable and grateful avowal of our indebtedness to him. Though we come with a trembling heart, yet we are to come and tell our friends what great things the Lord has done for us.
IV. THE DISTINGUISHING NOTICE CHRIST TAKES OF US. "Who touched me?" asked the Lord. "Master, the multitude throng thee; is it wonderful that somebody should touch thee? Anybody might chance to touch thee in such a crowd; can it matter who it was?" urges Peter. "Ah! but that is not enough. Somebody, some one, hath touched me; there is one individual, whom I distinguish from the others, that has laid an appealing hand upon me. You see nothing in that touch but an accidental encounter. I see much more than that - the approach of a human mind, the appeal of a human heart, the contact of a human soul with mine." This is the spirit of our Lord's reply. And it conveys to us the important truth that we are not lost in the crowd. It is not so true to say, "God loves man," as to say, "God loves men." "He tasted death for every man;" "He loved me, and gave himself for me." There are no limitations in the Infinite One. The fact that he controls the universe is no reason why he should not watch the workings of each humblest human soul The vastness of the range of his observation does not diminish the fulness of his knowledge of every member of his family. Disciples see only a pressing, pushing throng; but the Master singles out the woman who has come to see whether her last chance will fail her. The crowd may hide us from one another, but not from our Lord. God sees us, every one; follows us; pursues us with his watchful and redeeming love; guides us with his hand; leads us into his kingdom. But we must see that our touch is one that will call forth such a response as this. Christ discriminates between the touch of this woman and that of the unmannerly crowd. It is not necessary for us to have a full and perfect understanding of his nature, or even a perfect, unwavering assurance of the success of our appeal. This woman had neither of these. It is necessary that we should have what she had - earnestness of spirit, and a measure of genuine faith in him. Then will he say to us, as to her, "Be of good comfort... go in peace." - C.
Luke 7:6). He felt that the Lord could accomplish in the distance the object of his perhaps toilsome journey, and he sent to say, "Trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof." It was right that, by considerate kindness, the Son of man should be saved all that those who loved and honoured him could save him from. And the same is true enough to-day of the Son of God. There are -
I. WISE AND RIGHT SOLICITUDES CONCERNING HIM. We are bound to refrain most carefully and conscientiously from troubling the Master by:
1. Doing in his name that which he would disown; e.g. carrying on a cruel, though it may be a refined, persecution of those who "follow not with us" in the mode of our worship, or the method of our Christian work.
2. Asking his blessing on that which he disapproves; e.g. on the war which is an unrighteous one, on the cause which is an unsound one, on the business which is not conducted on principles he can acknowledge as his own.
3. Misrepresenting him by the spirit which we manifest; instead of breathing the spirit of graciousness and self-sacrifice toward those who are weaker or younger or less cultured or less privileged than ourselves, adopting a tone of haughty superiority, or doing that which "causes them to offend."
4. Failing to approach him in prayer, to seek his aid and his influence, to apply for his redeeming touch. Christ may be much troubled by our distance and neglect; he is not likely to be burdened by our earnest approaches and appeals.
II. NEEDLESS ANXIETIES CONCERNING HIM.
1. Inviting him to stay too long with us. The centurion, modestly and properly enough, felt that he was not worthy that Christ should come under his roof. We may feel that also, and especially that we are not worthy that he should make our hearts his home, as he has promised us. But we must not refrain from inviting him to come and to stay with us. We must ask him earnestly to "abide with us from morn till eve," not "to sojourn, but abide with us." He will not count that a trouble; he will honour our faith and appreciate our welcome. "Abide in me, and I [will abide] in you."
2. Going to him too often. He places no limit on our spiritual approach to him. He says ever to us, "Come unto me;" "Draw nigh unto me;" "Seek ye my face?' We shall not burden him by our fellowship; we may grieve him by our absence and by our preference of the society of those who are his enemies.
3. Asking too much of him - either for ourselves or for others. There is no magnitude or multitude of sins we may not ask him to forgive; no depth of evil we may not ask him to eradicate; no severity of disease we may not ask him to undertake. The maiden may be dead (text), the cause may be very low, the heart may be very cold, the character may be very corrupt, the life may be very base, the case may seem very hopeless; but do not shrink from "troubling the Master;" his touch "has still its ancient power;" to the lifeless form he can say, "Arise!" and into the cause that seems wholly gone, and the soul that seems utterly lost, he can infuse newness of life.
4. Doing too much in his cause for him to watch and bless. The more often we ask him to crown our holy labours with his energizing touch, the better we shall please his yearning and loving spirit. - C.