And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.
Verses 1-11. - The Lord's teaching on the question of the observance of the sabbath. Verse 1. - And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first. The expression accompanying this note of time of St. Luke, "the second sabbath after the first," more literally, "the second-first sabbath," has always been a difficulty with expositors of this Gospel. The word is absolutely unique, and is found in no other Greek author. Recent investigations in the text of the New Testament have proved that this word is not found in the majority of the more ancient authorities. Of the modern critical editors, Alford and Lachmann enclose the disputed word in brackets; Tregelles and Meyer omit it altogether; but the Revisers of the English Version relegate it to the margin in its literal form, "second-first;" Tischendorf alone admits it in his text. The question is of interest to the antiquarian, but scarcely of any to the theologian. It was, perhaps, introduced at an early date into many of the manuscripts of St. Luke, owing to some copyist writing n the margin of his parchment in this place "first" to distinguish this sabbath and its scene from the other sabbath alluded to four verses further on; "second" was not unlikely to have been written in correction of "first" by some other copyist using the manuscript, thinking it better thus to distinguish this from the sabbath alluded to in Luke 4:31; and thus the two corrections may have got confused in many of the primitive copies. It can scarcely be imagined, if it really formed part of the original work of St. Luke, that so remarkable a word could ever have dropped out of the text of the most ancient and trustworthy authorities. Supposing it to have been a part of the original writing, scholars have suggested many explanations. Of these the simplest and most satisfactory are:
(1) The first sabbath of each of the seven years which made a sabbatic cycle was called first, second, third, etc., sabbath. Thus the "second-first" sabbath would signify the first sabbath of the second year of the seven-years' cycle. This is Wieseler's theory.
(2) The civil year of the Jews began in autumn about mid-September to mid-October (month Tisri), and the ecclesiastical year in spring, about mid-March to mid-April (month Nisan). Thus there were every year two first sabbaths - one at the commencement of the civil year, which would be called 'first-first;' the other at the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, which would be called 'second-first. The period here alluded to by St. Luke would perfectly agree with either of these explanations. The latter theory was suggested by Louis Cappel, and is quoted with approval by Godet. And his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. St. Matthew adds here that they "were an hungred." This they might well have been in following the Master in his teaching in different places, even though some of their homes were nigh at hand. We have no need to introduce the question of their poverty - which, in the case of several of them at least, we know did not exist - here leading them to this method of satisfying their hunger. They had probably been out for some hours with Jesus without breaking their fast, and, finding themselves in a field of ripe corn, took this easy, present means of gratifying a natural want. The Law expressly permitted them to do this: "When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand" (Deuteronomy 23:25).
And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?
Verse 2. - And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days? It would seem that these Pharisees came from Jerusalem, and were no doubt privately commissioned to watch narrowly the acts of the new Teacher who was beginning to attract such general attention, and who already was openly setting at nought the numberless additions which the Jewish schools had added to the Law. Round the original "sabbath law" of Moses thirty-nine prohibitions had been laid down in the oral law; round these "thirty-nine" a vast number of smaller rules had grouped themselves. Amongst these greater and lesser sabbath restrictions were prohibitions against "reaping and threshing." Now, plucking ears of corn was defined to be a kind of "reaping," and rubbing the ears in the hands a kind of "threshing." "See," cried some of these spying Pharisees, "do thy disciples publicly break the sabbath, and dost thou not rebuke them?" The Lord's reply does not attempt to discuss what was and what was not lawful on the sabbath, but in broad terms he expounds the great doctrine respecting the significance, limits, and purpose of every law relating to outward acts, even in the event of that law having been given by God, which was not the case in the present alleged transgression. How rigidly the stricter Jews some fourteen or fifteen centuries later still kept these strained and exaggerated traditional sabbath-day restrictions, is shown in a curious anecdote of the famous Abarbanel, "when, in 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain, and were forbidden to enter the city of Fez, lest they should cause a famine, they lived on grass; yet even in this state 'religiously avoided the violation of their sabbath by plucking the grass with their hands. To avoid this they took the much more laborious method of grovelling on their knees, and cropping it with their teeth!"
And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him;
Verses 3, 4. - And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him; how he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone? Their own loved David, said the new Teacher to his jealous accusers, scrupled not, when he "was an hungred," to set at nought the twofold ordinance of sacrilege and of sabbath-breaking. (The reference is to 1 Samuel 21:5. David's visit to the sanctuary at Nob took place evidently on the sabbath, as the fresh supply of shewbread had been apparently just laid out; he must, too, have violated another rule by his journey on that day. See Stier, 'Words of the Lord Jesus,' on Matthew 12:3, 4.) The lesson which Jesus intended to draw from the example of the great hero-king and the high priest was that no ceremonial law was to override. the general principle of providing for the necessities of the body. St. Matthew adds here a very forcible saying of the Lord's spoken on this occasion, which goes to the root of the whole matter, "But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless." These laws, as God originally gave them, were never intended to be a burden, rather they were meant to be a blessing for man. After ver. 5, Codex I) - a very ancient authority, written in the fifth century, now in the University Library at Cambridge, but one which contains many passages not found in any other trustworthy manuscript or version - adds the following strange narrative: "The same day, Jesus seeing a man who was working on the sabbath, saith to him, O man, if thou knowest what thou art doing, blessed art thou; but if thou knowest not, thou art accursed, and a transgressor of the Law." As no other ancient authority of weight contains this remarkable addition to the recital of our Lord's teaching respecting the observance of the sabbath, it must be pronounced an interpolation. It belongs most likely to the very early days of the Christian story, and was probably founded on some tradition current in the primitive Church. The framework of the anecdote in its present form, too, shows a state of things simply impossible at this time. Any Jew who, in the days of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry, openly, like the man of the story, broke the sabbath in the daring way related, would have been liable to be arrested and condemned to death by stoning.
How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?
And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
Verse 5. - And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. The Master closed his reply to the Pharisee inquirers with one of those short assertions of his awful greatness which puzzled and alarmed his jealous foes. Who, then, was he, this poor unknown Carpenter of despised and ignorant Nazareth? He was either a blasphemer too wicked to be allowed to live, or the alternative must have been a very awful thought to some of the nobler spirits among those Jerusalem learned men. Across their minds must have flitted not once or twice in that eventful period some anxious questionings as to who and what was the strange and powerful Being who had appeared in their midst.
And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.
Verse 6. - And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. This was the second part of his sabbath teaching. The first had taken place in the open country, in one of the corn-fields near the Lake of Gennesaret. The second was given in a synagogue possibly in the city of Capernaum. St. Luke inserts this scene, which may have taken place several weeks after the one above related, because it completes in a way the teaching of the Lord on this important point of the ceremonial law.
And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.
Verse 7. - And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. The Pharisee emissaries from the capital were carefully watching him. The Master was perfectly aware of their presence, and well knew the spirit in which they listened to his words and marked his acts, and on this sabbath day he was evidently determined to let them see clearly what was in his mind respecting the present state of Jewish religious training.
But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.
Verse 8. - But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. When he perceived or was informed of the presence of the afflicted sufferer in the synagogue, who no doubt had come there with a view of seeing Jesus and asking his help as a physician, Jesus publicly bade the sufferer to stand out in a prominent place in the assembly, and then in the hush that followed proceeded with his public instruction, the poor man with the withered hand standing before him. The Gospel which Jerome found among the Nazarenes gives at length the prayer of this man with the withered hand. "I was a mason earning my livelihood with my own hands; I pray thee, Jesus, restore me to health, in order that I may not with shame beg my bread." This Nazarene Gospel was only used among a sect of early Jewish Christians, and has not been preserved. It possibly was one of those alluded to by the compiler of the Third Gospel in his preface (Luke 1:1).
Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?
Verse 9. - Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? The sum and substance of the Master's teaching here is - works of love done for the bodies and souls of men never mar or in any way interfere with the holiness of a day of rest. St. Matthew in his account of the plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath day (Matthew 12:5), tells us, on that occasion Jesus asked how it was that the priests on the sabbath days profaned the sabbath and were blameless? The Jews in later days used to declare, perhaps in answer to Jesus Christ's famous question here, "that in the temple was there no sabbatism." Now, the Lord pressed home to those who listened to his voice the great truth that in all labours of love, of pity, and of kindness, done anywhere, there was no sabbatism.
And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
Verse 10. - Stretch forth thy hand! It must have sounded a strange command to the people in the synagogue. How could he stretch out that withered, powerless limb? But with the command went forth the power. In other words, "Stretch forth that poor hand of thine; thou canst now, for, lo! the disease is gone." And we read that he did so, and as he stretched out the limb, so long powerless, the man discovered and the people saw that the cure was already performed.
And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.
Verse 11. - And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus. The storm was already gathering. From this time we gather from the words of SS. Matthew and Mark, that in the minds of others as well as in the mind of Jesus, the thought of his death was ever present. The thought-leaders of the Jews - the men whose position was secured as long as the rabbinic teaching held sway in the hearts of the people, but no longer - from this hour resolved upon the death of that strange mighty Reformer. He was, said they, an impostor, a fanatic; one who led men's minds astray. Had they no doubts, we ask; no qualms of conscience, no deep searchings of heart? Were these great ones of earth really persuaded that he was a deceiver?
And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
Verses 12-19. - The choice of the twelve. Verse 12. And it came to pass in those days. That is to say, in the course of his ministry in Galilee, especially in the thickly populated district lying round the Lake of Genessaret, and after the events related in ch. 5. and the first eleven verses of ch. 6, Jesus proceeded to choose, out of the company of those who had especially attached themselves to him, twelve who should henceforth be always with him. These he purposed to train up as the authorized exponents of his doctrine, and as the future leaders of his Church. Things had assumed a new aspect during the last few months. Jerusalem and the hierarchy, supported by the great teachers of that form of Judaism which for so long a period had swayed the hearts of the people, had, although not yet openly, declared against the views and teaching of Jesus. His acts - but far more his words - had gathered round him, especially in Galilee, in the north and central districts of Palestine, a large and rapidly increasing following. It was necessary that some steps should be taken at once to introduce among the people who had received his words gladly, some kind of organization; hence the formal choice of the twelve, who from henceforth stood nearest to him. We possess the following four lists of these twelve men: - Matthew 10:2-4....
James of Alphaeus
Simon the Kananite
James of Alphaeus
Simon the Kananite
James of Alphaeus
Judas of James
James of Alphaeus
Judas of James He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;
Verse 13. - And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve. St. Luke frequently alludes to Jesus spending periods of time in prayer. He would have the readers of his Gospel never lose sight of the perfect humanity of the Saviour, and, while ever keeping in view the higher objects of his earthly mission, still is careful always to present him as the Example of a true life. This is why he mentions so often the prayers of Jesus. This time the Master continued in prayer all night. It was a momentous task which lay before him on the following morning - the choice of a few men, the measureless influence of whose life and work we, though we live eighteen centuries after the choice was made, and see already how the twelve have moved the world, are utterly unable to apprehend. In these solemn hours of communion with the Eternal, we may in all reverence suppose that the Blessed One took counsel with his Father, presenting, as Godet phrases it, one by one to the All-seing, while God's finger pointed out those to whom he was to entrust the salvation of the world. Whom also he named apostles. The literal meaning of this term is "one who is sent," but in classical Greek it had acquired a distinct meaning as "envoy or ambassador" of a sovereign or of a state. These favoured men, then, received this as the official designation by which they were ever to be known. Unknown, unhonoured, and for the most part unlearned men, they with all their love and devotion for their Master who had called them, little recked that morning on the mountain-side to what they were called, and of whom they were the chosen envoys! The four lists of the apostles copied above vary very slightly. There was evidently in the matter of the holy twelve an unerring tradition at the time when Luke wrote these chronicles at Rome or Alexandria, at Ephesus or at Antioch, - all knew every detail connected with the great first leaders of the faith. The bare list of names was enough. The Church of the first days knew a hundred facts connected with these famous men. The Church of the future needed no details of private history. These apostles, great though they were, were only instruments in the Master's hand; what they did and suffered was, after all, of little moment to those who should come after. In the four bare skeleton lists, though, certain points are noticeable.
(1) Each catalogue fails into three divisions containing four names. In each of these divisions the same name always stands first, as though some precedence or authority was deputed to this one over the other three forming the division. This, in the absence of any further notice, must not be pressed. It is, however, a very probable inference. The names of these three are Peter, Philip, James.
(2) The twelve were thus divided into three distinct companies, of which the first (this is clearly borne out by the gospel story) stood in the closest relation to Jesus. Of the twelve, the first five came from Bethsaida on the lake, and they all apparently with the exception of Judas the traitor, who came from a town in Judaea - were Galileans. The names are all Hebrew (Aramaic) with the exception of Philip and Andrew, which are Greek. It was, however, at that time by no means uncommon for Jews to possess Greek names, so widely did Hellenic influence extend over Egypt, Syria, and the Mediterranean-washed countries of Asia.
Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,
Verse 14. - Simon, (whom he also named Peter). The Master had already, reading as he did the future, bestowed upon this often erring, but noble and devoted servant. the surname, Cephas, literally, a "mass of rock." And Andrew. One of the first believers, and reckoned among the four whose office placed them in closest relation to their Master, and yet for some - to us - unexplained reason, Andrew did not occupy that position of intimacy shared by Peter, James, and John. He was apparently the intimate friend and associate of Philip, the first of the second "four." James and John. Well-known and honoured names in the records of the first days. Mark adds a vivid detail which throws much light on the character and fortunes of the brothers; he calls them Boanerges, "sons of thunder." The burning enthusiasm of James no doubt led to his receiving the first martyr-crown allotted to "the glorious company of the apostles," while the same fiery zeal in the loved apostle colours the Apocalypse. Philip. John 6:5 may be quoted to show that the Lord was on terms of peculiar friendship with this first of the second four. Bartholomew; Bar-Tolmai: son of Tolmai, He therefore must have been known also by some other name. In St. John's Gospel Bartholomew is never mentioned, but Nathanael, whose name appears in the Fourth Gospel among the apostles, and who is not alluded to in the memoirs of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, evidently represents the same person. The real name of the son of Tolmai, then, would appear to have been Nathanael.
Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes,
Verse 15. - Matthew. In the list contained in the Gospel which unanimous Church traditions ascribe to this apostle, "the publican" (tax-gatherer) is significantly added. His brother evangelists, Mark and Luke, in their catalogues, omit the hated profession to which he once belonged. Simon called Zelotes. In SS. Matthew and Mark this apostle is called "Simon the Kananite." This epithet does not mean that Simon was a native or dweller in Cana of Galilee, but the epithet "Kananite" had the same signification as "Zelotes," the surname given by St. Luke, which is best rendered as "the Zealot." Kananite is derived from the Hebrew word קנא, zeal. "He had once, therefore, belonged to the sect of terrible fanatics who thought any deed of violence justifiable for the recovery of national freedom, and had probably been one of the wild followers of Judas the Gaulonite (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 4:03. 9). Their name was derived from 1 Macc. 2:50, where the dying Mattathias, father of Judas Maccabaeus, says to the Assidaeans (Chasidim, i.e. 'all such as were voluntarily devoted to the Law'), 'Be ye zealous for the Law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers'" (Archdeacon Farrar).
And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.
Verse 16. - Judas the brother of James; more accurately, Judas, or Jude, son of James, or simply James's Jude. So this disciple is termed in both the writings ascribed to St. Luke (the Gospel and Acts). In St. Matthew's list we find a "Lebbaeus," and in St. Mark's a "Thaddaeus" occupying a position in the third division which in St. Luke's list is filled by "James's Jude." There is no doubt that Lebbaeus and Thaddaeus were surnames by which James's Jude, or Judas, was known generally in the Church. The necessity of some surname to distinguish this apostle was obvious. Already in the company of apostles there was a Judas, or Jude, who was afterwards known as 'the betrayer." One, too, of the Lord's so-called brothers, a figure well known in the society of the Church of the first days, was also named Jude. The meaning of the two epithets is somewhat similar; they both were probably derived from the apostle's character - Lebbaeus from the Hebrew לב (lev), the heart. Jude was probably so styled on account of his loving earnestness. Thaddaeus, from thad, a word which in later Hebrew meant the female breast, was suggested possibly by his even feminine devotedness and tenderness of disposition. The addition in St. Matthew's catalogue to "Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thad-daeus," which we read in our Authorized Version, does not occur in any of the older authorities, "Thaddaeus" being only found in St. Mark's list. And Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor. Some scholars have derived "Iscariot" from as-cara, strangulation; or from sheker, a lie, ish sheker, the man of a lie; these derivations are, however, most improbable. The surname is evidently derived from the place whence this Judas came. Kerioth, possibly the modern town or village of Kuryetein, not far from Hebron in Judah. Kerioth is mentioned in Joshua 15:25, ish-Kerioth, a man of Kerioth.
And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases;
Verse 17. - And he came down with them, and stood in the plain. Leaving the uppermost slopes of the hill - the modern Kurm Hattin, or "Horns of Hattin" - where he had spent the night alone in prayer - Jesus probably descended a little and rejoined the band of disciples. Out of these he called the twelve above mentioned; and titan, with the whole body of disciples - the twelve, no doubt, closest to his Person - he continued the descent for some way. On a level spot situate on the hillside, very likely a fiat space between the two peaks of Hattin, the Master and his followers came upon a crowd of inquirers, who had ascended thus far to meet him. These were composed, as we shall see, of various nationalities. Some came with their sick friends, seeking a cure; some were urged by curiosity; others by a real longing to hear more of the words of life from his Divine lips. It was to this crowd that, surrounded by the newly elected twelve, as well as by the larger company of disciples, that Jesus spoke the famous discourse known as the sermon on the mount. A great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea-coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him. To the places here enumerated, St. Matthew adds Galilee, Decapolis, and the region beyond Jordan. St. Mark (Mark 3:8) - where the same period of our Lord's ministry is treated of - alludes to people from Idumaea forming part of the multitude which just then used to crowd round the Master as he taught. Thus the great sermon was addressed to men of various nationalities - to rigid and careless Jews, to Romans and Greeks, to Phoenicians from Tyre and Sidon, and to nomad Arabs from Idumaea.
And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed.
And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.
Verse 19. - And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all. The words here used are few, and we pass them over often without pausing to think of what they involve. It was, perhaps, the hour in the ministry of Jesus when his miraculous power was most abundantly displayed.
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
Verses 20-49. - St. Luke's report of the discourse of our Lord commonly termed the sermon on the mount. We consider that the discourse contained in the following thirty verses (20-49) is identical with that longer "sermon on the mount" reported by St. Matthew (5.). Certain differences are alleged to exist in the framework of the two discourses. In St. Matthew the Lord is stated to have spoken it on the mountain; in St. Luke, in the plain. This apparent discrepancy has been already discussed (see above, on ver. 17). The "plain" of St. Luke was, no doubt, simply a level spot on the hillside, on the fiat space between the two peaks of the hill. The more important differences in the Master's utterances - of which, perhaps, one of the weightiest is the addition of St. Matthew to that first beatitude which explains what poor were blessed - the" poor in spirit " - probably arose from some questions put to the Master as he was teaching. In his reply he probably amplified or paraphrased the first utterance, which gave rise to the question; hence the occasional discrepancies in the two accounts. It is, too, most likely that many of the weightier utterances of the great sermon were several times reproduced in a longer or shorter form in the course of his teaching. Such repetitions would be likely to produce the differences we find in the two reports of the great sermon. The plan or scheme of the two Gospels was not the same. St. Luke, doubtless, had before him, when he compiled his work, copious notes or memoranda of the famous discourse. He evidently selected such small portions of it as fell in with his design. The two discourses reported by SS. Matthew and Luke have besides many striking resemblances - both beginning with the beatitudes, both concluding with the same simile or parable of the two buildings, both immediately succeeded by the same miracle, the healing of the centurion's servant. It is scarcely possible - when these points are taken into consideration - to suppose that the reports are of two distinct discourses. The theory held by some scholars, that the great sermon was delivered twice on the same day, on the hillside to a smaller and more selected auditory, then on the plain below to the multitude in a shorter form, is in the highest degree improbable. No portion of the public teaching of the Lord seems to have made so deep an impression as the mount-sermon. St. James, the so-called brother of Jesus, the first president of the Jerusalem Church, repeatedly quotes it in his Epistle. It was evidently the groundwork of his teaching in the first days. Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp, the nameless author of the recently found 'Teaching of the Apostles,' whose writings represent to us most of the Christian literature which we possess of the first century after the death of St. Paul, quote it often. It may be taken, indeed, as the pattern discourse which mirrors better and mere fully than any other portion of the Gospels the Lord's teaching concerning the life he would have his followers lead. It is not easy to give a precis of such a report as that of St. Luke, necessarily brief, and yet containing, we feel, many of the words, and even sentences, in the very form in which the Lord spoke them. What we possess here is, perhaps, little more itself than a summary of the great original discourse to which the disciples and the people listened. Godet has attempted, and not unsuccessfully, to give a resume of the contents of St. Luke's memoir here. Still, it must be felt that any such work must necessarily be unsatisfactory. There appear to be three main divisions in the sermon:
(1) A description of the persons to Whom Jesus chiefly addressed himself (vers. 20-26).
(2) The proclamation of the fundamental principles of the new society (vers. 27-45).
(3) An announcement of the judgment to which the members of the new kingdom of God will have to submit (vers. 46-49). Verse 20. - Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God; better rendered, blessed are ye poor, etc. It is the exact equivalent of the well-known Hebrew expression with which the Psalms begin: אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ, which should be rendered, "Oh the blessedness of the man," etc.! This was probably the exact form in which Jesus began the sermon: "Blessed are the poor." He was gazing on a vast congregation mostly made of the literally poor. Those Standing nearest to him belonged to the masses - the fishermen, the carpenters, and the like. The crowd was mainly composed of the trading and artisan class, and they, at least then, were friendly to him, heard him gladly, came out to him from their villages, their poor industries, their little farms, their boats. The comparatively few rich and powerful who were present that day in the listening multitude were for the most part enemies, jealous, angry men, spying emissaries of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, men who hated rather than loved the words and works of the Galilaean Teacher. The literally poor, then, represented the friends of Jesus; the rich, his enemies. But we may conceive of some like Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathaea, Gamaliel, or the wealthy patrician centurion, in that listening crowd, gently asking the Teacher as he taught, "Are only the poor, then, to be reckoned among thy blessed ones?" Some such question, we think, elicited the qualifying words of Matthew, "Blessed are the poor in spirit,' with some such underlying thought as, "Alas! this is not very often the character of the rich." It certainly was not while the Lord worked among men. While, then, the blessedness he spoke of belonged not to the poor because they were poor, yet it seemed to belong to them especially as a class, because they welcomed the Master and tried to share his life, while the rich and powerful as a class did not. It runs indisputably all through the teaching of Paul and Luke, this tender love for the poor and despised of this world; full of warnings are their writings against the perils and dangers of riches. The awful parable of the rich man and Lazarus gathers up, in the story form best understood by Oriental peoples, that truth of which these great servants of the Redeemer were so intensely conscious, that the poor stand better than the rich for the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God. Not here, not now. Just a few drops from the river of joy which flows through that kingdom will sprinkle the life of his blessed ones while they live and struggle to do his will on earth; but the kingdom of God, in its full glorious signification, will be only enjoyed hereafter. It is an expression which includes citizenship in his city, a home among the mansions of the blessed, a place in the society of heaven, the enjoyment of the sight of God - the beatific vision.
Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
Verse 21. - Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. A similar question probably to the one suggested above, brought out the addition reported in St. Matthew's account - " after righteousness." Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. There is a mourning which, as Augustine says, has no blessing from heaven attached to it, at best only a sorrow of this world and for the things of this world. What Jesus speaks of is a nobler grief', a weeping for our sins and the sins of others, for our weary exile here. This is "the only instance," writes Dean Plumptre, "in the New Testament of the use of 'laughter' as the symbol of spiritual joy .... The Greek word was too much associated with the lower forms of mirth .... It is probable that the Aramaic word which our Lord doubtless used here had a somewhat higher meaning. Hebrew laughter was a somewhat graver thing than that of Greek or Roman. Comedy was unknown among the Hebrew people." It is observable that we read of our Lord weeping. His joy is mentioned, and his sorrow. He sympathized with all classes and orders, talked with them, even ate and drank with them; but we never read that he laughed. There was a tradition in the early Church that Lazarus, after he rose from the dead, was never seen again to smile.
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
Verse 22. - Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. An onlook into the yet distant future. These words would be repeated by many a brave confessor in the days when persecution, at the hands of a far stronger and more far-reaching government than that of Jerusalem, should be the general lot of his followers. We find from pagan writers of the next age that Christians were charged with plotting every vile and detestable crime that could be conceived against man-. kind (see, for instance, the historian Tacitus, 'Annal.,' 15:44; Suetonius, 'Nero.,' 16).
Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
Verse 23. - Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. Well and faithfully did his followers in after, days fulfil their Master's prophetic charge. Not only did men like Paul and his brother apostles welcome persecution "for the Name" with joy, but long after Paul and his fellows had "fallen asleep," Christians in well-nigh every populous centre of the empire followed the same glorious lead. Indeed, we find the great teachers of the faith positively condemning the fiery zeal of men and women who even too literally obeyed this and other like charges of their adored Master, who positively courted a painful martyrdom, too willingly throwing away their lives, so deeply had words like these burned into their souls. The terrible persecutions which many of the old Hebrew prophets underwent were well known. These men of God endured this treatment during several generations, while evil princes sat on the thrones of Judah and Israel. Thus Elijah mourned the wholesale massacre of his brother prophets when Ahab and Jezebel reigned (1 Kings 19:10). Urijah was slain by Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:23). Jeremiah himself underwent long and painful persecution. Amos was accused and banished, and, according to tradition, beaten to death. Isaiah, so the Jews said, was sawn asunder by order of King Manasseh. These are only a few instances of the treatment which faithful prophets of the Lord had undergone.
But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
Verse 24. - But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. These "rich" referred to here signify men of good social position. These, as a class, opposed Jesus with a bitter and unreasoning opposition. Again the same warning cry to the so-called fortunate ones of this world is re-echoed with greater force in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. "Thou in thy lifetime," said Abraham, speaking from Paradise to the poor lost Dives, "receivedst thy good things;" and yet the very characters represented in that most awful of the parable-stories of the pitiful Lord correct any false notion which, from words like these, men may entertain respecting the condemnation of the rich and great because they are rich and great. Abraham, who speaks the grave stern words, was himself a sheik of great power and consideration, and at the same time very rich. Prophets and apostles, as well as the Son of God, never ceased to warn men of the danger of misusing wealth and power; but at the same time they always represented these dangerous gifts as gifts from God, capable of a noble use, and, if nobly used, these teachers sent by God pointed out, these gifts would bring to the men who so used them a proportional reward.
Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
Verse 25. - Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. This saying points to men who used their wealth for self-indulgence, for the mere gratification of the senses. "The fulness," writes Dean Plumptre, "is the satiety of over-indulgence." Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. These are they who, proudly self-satisfied, dreamed that they needed nothing, neither repentance in themselves nor forgiveness from God - a character too faithfully represented in the self-satisfied, haughty Pharisee of the time of our Lord, a character, alas! not extinct even when the hapless men to whom the Lord specially referred had paid the awful penalty of extinction of name and race, loss of home and wealth. The hunger, the mourning, and the weeping were terribly realized in the case of the men and their proud houses in the national war with Rome which quickly followed the public teaching of Jesus. When the Master spoke the words of this sermon the date was about A.D. -31. In A.D. - that is, within forty years - Jerusalem, its temple, and its beautiful houses, were a mass of shapeless ruins. Its people, rich and poor, were ruined. Its very name, as a city and nation, blotted out. But from parables, and still more from direct words, we gather, too, that the hunger, the mourning, and the weeping point to the cheerless state of things in which those poor souls who have lived alone for this world will find themselves after death.
Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
Verse 26. - Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! Dean Plumptre, with great force, remarks that these words "open a wide question as to the worth of praise as a test of human conduct, and tend to a conclusion quite the reverse of that implied in the maxim, Vox populi, vox Dei. So did their fathers to the false prophets. A good instance of this is found in 1 Kings 18:19, where Queen Jezebel honours the false prophets. See, too, King Ahab's conduct to such men (1 Kings 22.), and Jeremiah's bitter plaint respecting the popularity of these false men (Jeremiah 5:31). At this point, according to St. Luke's report, the Master paused. It would seem as though he was fearful lest the awful woes foretold as the doom of the rich, the powerful, and the persecutor, should impart a too sombre hue to the thoughts which his followers would in coming days entertain of the world of men about them. He would have his own think of the circle outside the little world of believers with no bitter and revengeful thoughts, but rather with that Divine pity which he felt and showed to all poor fallen creatures. 'See now," the Master went on to say, 'notwithstanding the wee which will one day fall on the selfish rich and great ones of earth, and to whom you, my people, will surely be objects of dislike and hate, while you and they are on earth together, the part you have to play with regard to these is steadily to return love for hate."
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
Verse 28. - Pray for them which despitefully use you. Jesus himself, on his cross, when he prayed that his murderers might be forgiven, for they knew not what they were doing, and his true servant Stephen, who copied faithfully his Lord in his own dying moments, are beautiful though extreme examples of what is meant here. It is St. Luke alone who mentions this act of Jesus on the cross; it is St. Luke, again, who has preserved St. Stephen's words, uttered while they were stoning him to death. He would show how the Lord's command could be carried out.
And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
Verse 29. - And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other. This and the following direction is clothed in language of Eastern. picturesqueness, to drive home to the listening crowds the great and novel truths he was urging upon them. No reasonable, thoughtful man would feel himself bound to the letter of these commandments. Our Lord, for instance, himself did not offer himself to be stricken again (John 18:22, 23), but firmly, though with exquisite courtesy, rebuked the one who struck him. St. Paul, too (Acts 23:3), never dreamed of obeying the letter of this charge. It is but an assertion of a great principle, and so, with the exception of a very few mistaken fanatics, all the great teachers of Christianity have understood it.
Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
Verse 30. - Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. Here, again, it is clear that faithfully to cling to the literal interpretation would be utterly to ignore the true spirit of the Lord's words here, where he sets forth his sublime ideal of a charity which ignores its own rights and knows no limits to its self-sacrifice. Augustine quaintly suggests that in the words themselves will be found the limitation required. "'Give to every man,' but not everything,' suggesting that in many cases a medicine for the hurt of the soul would better carry out the words of the Lord than the gift of material help for the needs of the body ('Serm.' 359.). But such ingenious exposition, after all, is needless. What the Lord inculcated here was that broad, unselfish generosity which acts as though it really believed those other beautiful words of Jesus, that "it is more blessed to give than to receive."
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
Verses 32, 33. - For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. There are three manners of return, as Augustine - quoted by Archbishop Trench in his 'Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount' - observes, which men may make one to another: the returning good for good and evil for evil, - this is the ordinary rule of man; then beneath this there is the returning of evil for good, which is devilish; while above it there is the returning of good for evil, which is Divine, - and this is what is commanded for the followers of Jesus here. On the words, "sinners also love those that love them," Augustine's words are singularly terse and quaint: "Amas amantes te filios et parentes. Amat et latro, amat et draco, amant et lupi, amant et ursi" (quoted by Archbishop Trench, 'Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount,' p. 234, note).
And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
Verse 35. - And your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest. It has been objected by the enemies of Christianity that, after all, Jesus offered his followers a reward by way of payment to them for their self-sacrificing lives on earth. What, however, is this reward? Is it not a share in that Divine and glorious life of God, who is all love; a hope of participation in that eternal work of his which will go from blessing to blessing, from glory to glory; a certain expectation of dying only to wake up in his likeness, satisfied? The Eternal had already made a similar promise to his faithful servant Abraham. when he bade him fear not, because here on earth God was his Shield, and after death would be his exceeding great Reward.
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Verse 36. - Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. "Yes," goes on the Master, "be ye kind, tender-hearted, merciful; stop not short at the easier love, but go on to the harder; and do this because God does it even to the unthankful and evil" (ver. 35). On this attribute of the mercy of the Most High, James, who had evidently drunk deep of the wisdom contained in this great discourse of his so-called brother, speaks of the Lord as "very pitiful, and of tender mercy" (James 5:11).
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
Verse 37. - Judge not, and ye shall not be judged. Jesus would have his followers avoid one great error which was too common in the religious Jewish life of his time - the habit of censoriously judging others. This uncharitable and often untrue censorship of the motives which led to the acts of others, was one of the practices of the day which stunted and marred all true healthy religious life. Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned. That pitiless condemnation which, regardless of circumstances, condemned as sinners beyond the pale of mercy, whole classes of their fellow-country-men, publicans, Samaritans, and the like. This haughty judgment of others in the case of the dominant sects of the Jews resulted in an undue estimate of themselves. His disciples must be very careful how they judged and condemned others; their rule must be, not condemnation, but forgiveness of others.
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
Verse 38. - Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. The grand characteristic feature of the society of his followers must be generosity. They must be known among men as givers rather than judges. Boundless generosity, limitless kindness to all, saint and sinner - that is what he, the Master, would press home to those who would follow his lead (see 3 John 1:5, 6). Men would find out in time what generous friends they were, and would in their turn freely give to them. Shall men give into your bosom. The image is an Eastern one. In the dress then worn, a largo bag-shaped fold in the robe above the cincture or girdle was used instead of a pocket.
And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?
Verse 39. - And he spake a parable unto them. St. Luke closes his report of the great sermon with four little parables taken from everyday life. With these pictures drawn from common life, the Master purposed to bring home to the hearts of the men and women listening to him the solemn warnings he had just been enunciating. They - if they would be his followers - must indeed refrain from ever setting up themselves as judges of others. "See," he went on to say, "I will show you what ruin this wicked, ungenerous practice will result in: listen to me." Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? It is not improbable that some of the links in the Master's argument here have been omitted by St. Luke; still, the connection of this saying and what follows, with the preceding grave warning against the bitter censorious spirit which had exercised so fatal an influence on religious teaching in Israel, is clear. The figure of the blind man setting himself up as a guide was evidently in the Lord's mind as a fair representation of the present thought-leaders of the people (the Pharisees). This is evident from the imagery of the beam and mote which follows (vers. 41, 42). Can these blind guides lead others more ignorant and blind too? What is the natural result? he asks; will not destruction naturally overtake the blind leader and the blind led? Both will, of course, end by falling into the ditch.
The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.
Verse 40. - The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. "Both," he went on to say, "will be lost hopelessly. You cannot expect the disciples of these mistaken men, surely, to be wiser than their teachers; for you know the oft-repeated saying, 'Every one that is perfect [better rendered, that has been perfected] shall be as his master;' in other words, the pupils of these censorious, evil-judging, narrow-minded, bitter men will grow up - as they become perfected in this teaching - in their turn equally narrow-minded and bitter as their masters." The conclusion, felt though not expressed, of course, is, "But my followers must be something different to these; another and nobler spirit, nobler because more generous, must rule in their hearts."
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Verse 41. - And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? The thought-leaders of the day were in good truth hypocrites, proud, avaricious, in many cases self-indulgent, bigoted, and selfish; they were utterly unfit to be the moral teachers of the people - a position they had arrogated to themselves. The homely but well-known Jewish proverb of the mote and the beam picturesquely put before his listeners the position as it appeared to the Lord. The very defects among the people which the religious teachers professed to lecture upon and to discuss, disfigured and marred their own lives. They were - these priests and scribes and Pharisees - worse than self deceivers; they were religious hypocrites. The now famous illustration of the mote and the beam is, as has been said, purely Jewish, and was no doubt a familiar one to the people. It is found in the Talmud (treatise 'Bava Bathra' fol. 15. 2). Farrar quotes from Chaucer -
"He can wel in myn eye see a stalke,
But in his owne he can nought see a balke." The word "mote" translates the Greek κάρφος, a chip. In Dutch mot is the dust of wood. In Spanish recta is the flue on cloth.
Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.
For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Verses 43, 44. - For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For a religious teacher ever to work any real work of good, the first requirement is that he should be known as a faithful doer of the thing he advocates. He must be intensely in earnest, and to be in earnest he must be real. This is emphatically what the religious scribes of Israel were not. This portion of the report of the great sermon, at one period of the Church's history possessed a special importance. It was used as one of the foundations of the system of dualism taught in the once widespread Manichaean heresy, which apparently reached its culminating period of popularity in the fifth century. This heretical school taught that there were two original principles - one good, from which good proceeded; one evil, from which evil came; that there were two races of men, having severally their descent from the one and from the other. The Manichaean teachers, while rejecting many of the Christian doctrines, made much of the sermon on the mount, calling it the "Divine discourse," mainly on account of the statement we are here discussing. Yet here, when the words of Jesus are carefully considered, there is no assertion of Manichaean dualism, neither does the Master hint that there is anything irrevocably fixed in men's natures, so that some can never become good, and others never evil, but only that, so long as a man is as an evil tree, he cannot bring forth good fruit; that if he would do good he must first be good (see here Augustine, 'Contra Faust.,' 32:7; and 'De Serm. Dom. in Mon.,' 11. 24; 'Contra Adimant.,' 26, etc., in Archbishop Trench's 'Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount,' pp. 309, 310). For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. This imagery is taken from what is a common sight in Palestine; behind rough hedges of thorn and of the prickly pear, fig-trees are often seen completely covered with the twining tendrils of vine branches.
For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
Verse 46. - And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? It is evident from this heart-stirring appeal of Jesus that he had already obtained a large measure of recognition from the people. We should hardly be prepared to aver that any large number of the Palestinian inhabitants looked on him as Messiah, though probably some did; but that generally at this period he was looked on by the common folk, at all events, and by a few perhaps of their rulers, as a Being of no ordinary power, as a Prophet, and probably as One greater than a prophet. It is scarcely likely that even they who regarded him with the deepest reverence when he spoke the mount-sermon would have been able to define their own feelings towards him. But underneath the Lord's words lies this thought: "Those blind guides of whom I have been telling you, they with their lips profess to adore the eternal God of Israel, and yet live their lives of sin. You, my followers, do not the same thing."
Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
Verses 47-49. - Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: he is like a man which built a house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built a house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. "The surrounding scenery may, in this as in other instances, have suggested the illustration. As in all hilly countries, the streams of Galilee rush down the torrent-beds during the winter and early spring, sweep all before them, overflow their banks, and leave beds of alluvial deposit on either side. When summer comes their waters fail (comp. Jeremiah 15:18; Job 6:15), and what had seemed a goodly river is then a tract covered with debris of stones and sand. A stranger coming to build might be attracted by the ready-prepared level surface of the sand. It would be easier to build there instead of working upon the hard and rugged rock. But the people of the land would know and mock the folly of such a builder, and he would pass (our Lord's words may possibly refer to something that had actually occurred) into a byword of reproach. On such a house the winter torrent had swept down in its fury, and the storms had raged, and then the fair fabric, on which time and money had been expended, had given way and fallen into a heap of ruins" (Dean Plumptre). Augustine has some weighty and practical comments on this simile of the Master's, with which, as a picture of what they had no doubt seen with their own eyes, the listening multitude would be singularly impressed. The great Latin Father calls special attention to the fact that in this picture of our Lord's the declared rejecters of the truth do not appear mirrored. In both the cases here instanced there is a readiness to hear the truth. Both the men of the parable-story built their house, but in one case the building ends in terrible disaster. "Would it have been better," asks Augustine ('Serm.' 179. 9), "not to have built at all if the building is thus to perish?" He answers, "Scarcely so; that were not to hear at all - to have built nothing. The fate of such will be to be swept away naked, exposed to wind and rain and torrents. The doom is similar in both cases; the lesson of the Lord is one easy to grasp. The wise man will hear, and, when he hears, will do, that is, will translate his impressions into actions. This will be to build a house upon a rock" (see Archbishop Trench, 'Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount,' drawn from Augustine on Matthew 7:24-27). There is something very striking in the words with which our Master concluded his great sermon, "and the ruin of that house was great." "After all," men would say, "it was only the destruction of one human being." But our Lord's saying reminds us that in his eyes the ruin of one immortal soul is a thought full of unspeakable sorrow. "Jesus, in closing his discourse, leaves his hearers under the impression of this solemn thought. Each of them, while listening to this last word, might think that he heard the crash of the falling edifice, and say within himself, 'This disaster will be mine, if I prove hypocritical or inconsistent'" (Godet). In ver. 48 some, though not all, of the ancient authorities, instead of the words, "for it was founded upon a rock," read, "because it had been well built." This text is adopted in the Revised Version, the old reading, as less probably correct, being relegated to the margin.
He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.