Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
Verses 1-6. - The Master sends out the twelve on a mission. Ver 1. - Then he called his twelve disciples together. The Galilee ministry was just over; outwardly it had been a triumphant success; vast crowds had been gathered together. The Master was generally welcomed with a positive enthusiasm; the people heard him gladly. Here and there were visible, as in the cases of the woman who touched him and the synagogue ruler who prayed him to heal his little daughter, just related (ch. 8.), conspicuous examples of a strange or mighty faith; but the success, the Master knew too well, was only on the surface. The crowds who to-day shouted "Hosanna!" and greeted his appearance among them with joy, on the morrow would fall away from him, and on the day following would reappear with the shout "Crucify him!" It was especially to warn his Church in coming ages of this sure result of all earnest devoted preaching and teaching, that he spoke that saddest of parables, "the sower" (ch. 8.) But before he finally brought this Galilaean ministry to a close, he would gather in some few wavering souls, whose hearts he knew were trembling in the balance between the choice of life and good, and death and evil. To help these he sent out this last mission. The word rendered called together" indicates a solemn gathering. And gave them power, etc. This and the further detail of the next verse (2) roughly describe the work he intended them to do, and the means bestowed on them for its accomplishment. Very extraordinary powers were conferred on them - powers evidently intended to terminate with the short mission on which he now despatched them.
And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
Verse 2. - And to heal the sick. St. Mark (Mark 6:13), in his brief notice of this mission of the twelve, mentions the special instrument of their power over sickness - the twelve anointed the sick with oil, and healed them. It is probable that the early Christian custom alluded to by St. James (James 5:14), of anointing the sick with oil, arose from our Lord's direction to his apostles on the occasion of this mission. The practice was continued, or possibly was revived, long after the original power connected with it had ceased to exist. It still survives in the Roman Catholic Church in the sacrament of extreme unction, which, singularly enough, is administered when all hope of the patient's recovery from the sickness is over. Anointing the sick with oil was a favourite practice among the ancient Jews (see Isaiah 1:6 and Luke 10:34). It was to be used by the twelve as an ordinary medicine, possessing, however, in their hands an extraordinary effect, and was to be, during this mission, the visible medium through which the Divine influence and power to heal took effect. We never read of Jesus in his miracles using oil; his usual practice seems to have been simply to have used words. At times he touched the sufferer; on one occasion only we read how he mixed some clay with which he anointed the sightless eyes.
And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.
Verse 3. - Take nothing for your journey. Dr. Farrar well sums up the various directions of the Master to these his first missionaries: "The general spirit of the instructions merely is, 'Go forth in the simplest, humblest manner, with no hindrances to your movements, and in perfect faith;' and this, as history shows, has always been the method of the most successful missions. At the same time, we must remember that the wants of the twelve were very small, and were secured by the free open hospitality of the East."
And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.
Verse 4. - And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart. On entering any new place they were to select, after due and careful inquiry (Matthew 10:11), a family likely and able to assist them in their evangelistic work. This "house" they were to endeavour to make the centre of their efforts in that locality. This rule we find continued in the early years of Christianity. In the history of the first Churches, certain "houses" in the different cities were evidently the centres of the mission work there. We gather this from such expressions in St. Paul's letters as "the Church which is in his house" (comp., too, Acts 16:40, where the house of Lydia was evidently the head-quarters of all missionary work in Philippi and its neighbourhood).
And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.
Verse 5. And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very duet from your feet for a testimony against them. It was the custom of the Jews when they returned from foreign (Gentile) lands, as they crossed the frontiers of the Holy Land, to shake the dust from off their feet. This was an act symbolizing that they had broken, now on their return to their own land, all communion with Gentile peoples which a residence among them had necessitated for a season. The bitter hatred and loathing of the Jews, after their return from the Captivity, for all Gentile races can only be understood by the student of the Talmud. So comprehensive and perfect a hatred, enduring, too, for centuries, has never been witnessed in the case of any other peoples. This accounts in great measure for the retaliative persecution which more or less has been carried on all through the Christian era against this marvellous race. In our day - the day of a liberalism possibly exaggerated and unreal - in many parts of Europe the untrained sense of the masses strangely revolts against this spirit of toleration; and wild excesses, massacres, and bitter persecution - the Judenhetz, hatred of the Jews in Germany and in Russia - are among the curious results of the liberality and universal toleration of the time.
And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.
Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him: and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead;
Verses 7-9. - Herod's terror. Verse 7. - Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him. This was Herod Antipas; he was a son of Herod the Great; his mother's name was Malthace. After his father's death he became tetrareh or prince-ruler of Galilee, Peraea, and of a fourth part of the Roman province of Syria. His first wife was daughter of Aretas, a famous Arabian sheik spoken of by St. Paul as "king of the Damascenes" (2 Corinthians 11:32). This princess he divorced, and contracted a marriage at once incestuous and adulterous with his niece Herodias, the beautiful wife of his half-brother Philip. Philip was not a sovereign prince, and it was probably from motives of ambition that she deserted Philip for the powerful tetrarch Herod Antipas. It was owing to his fearless remonstrances against this wicked marriage that John the Baptist incurred the enmity of Herodias, who was only satisfied with the head of the daring preacher who presumed to attack her brilliant wicked life. What Herod now heard was the report of the widespread interest suddenly aroused by the mission of the twelve - a mission, we know, supported by miraculous powers, following close upon the Galilaean ministry of the Lord, which, as far as regarded the numbers who thronged his meetings, and the outward interest his words and works excited, had been so successful. Rumours of all this at last reached the court circle, wrapped up in its own selfish and often wanton pleasures and false excitement. Because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead. Herod Antipas was probably inclined to the Sadducee creed, which believed in neither angel nor spirit. But Sadduceeism and the easy doctrines of Epicurus, which no doubt found favour in the luxurious palace of Herod, are but a flimsy protection at best against the ghastly reminiscences and the weird forebodings of a guilty conscience. The murder of John had been, Herod knew, strongly condemned by the public voice. He would not believe it was his old monitor risen, but vet the prince was anxious and perturbed in his mind. The murmur that the great prophet was Elias (Elijah) disquieted him, too. Herod could not help recalling to his mind the lifelong combat of that great and austere servant of God against another wicked sovereign and his queen, Ahab and Jezebel, whose great crime was that they, too, had slain the Lord's prophets. That history, Herod felt, had to some extent been reproduced by himself and Herodias. There was a rooted expectation among the Jews that Elijah would reappear again on earth, and that his appearance would herald the advent of the Messiah. There are numberless references in the Talmud to this looked-for return of the famous Elijah.
And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again.
Verse 8. - One of the old prophets. Jeremiah and also Isaiah, though to a lesser degree than Elijah, were looked for as heralds of the coming Messiah (see 2 Esdr. 2:10, 18, and 2 Macc. 2:4-8 2Macc. 15:13-16). It was expected that Jeremiah would reveal the hiding-place of the long-lost ark and of the Urim.
And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see him.
Verse 9. - And he desired to see him; that is, Jesus. The desire of Herod was gratified, but not then. He saw him the day of the Crucifixion, when Pilate sent him to Herod for judgment; but the tetrarch, weak and wicked though he was, declined the responsibility of shedding that blood, so he sent him back to the Roman governor. Here, in SS. Matthew and Mark, follows the dramatic and vivid account of the death of John the Baptist. St. Luke probably omits it, as his Gospel, or rather Paul's, was derived from what they heard from eyewitnesses and hearers of the Lord. As regards SS. Matthew and Mark, the latter of whom was probably simply the amanuensis of St. Peter, the awful event was woven into their life's story. It was most natural that, in their public preaching and teaching, they should make constant mention of the tragedy which so personally affected Jesus and his little company. St. Luke and his master, Paul, on the other hand, who were not personally present with the Lord when these events took place, would be likely to confine their memoirs as closely as possible to those circumstances in which Jesus alone occupied the prominent place.
And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.
Verses 10-17. - The Lord feeds the five thousand. Verse 10. - And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. This, perhaps the most famous and oftenest told of the Lord's miracles, was worked directly after the return of the twelve from their mission. He and they were no doubt very weary of the crowds which continually now thronged them. The excitement of the multitude about Jesus was now at its height. Directly after the discourse at Capernaum (John 6.), which immediately followed the great miracle we are about to discuss, the popular enthusiasm began to wane. Intensely weary, dispirited too at the story of the murder of John the Baptist, which was told the Master by the disciples and the friends of John on their return from their mission, Jesus determined for a brief space to withdraw himself from the public gaze. He crossed the Lake of Gennesaret in one of his friends' fishing-boats to a town lately identified by modern research as Bethsaida Julias, a small city recently beautified by Herod Philip, and named Bethsaida Julias, after the daughter of Augustus. Bethsaida, "house of fish," was a name attached evidently to several of these fishing centres on the shores of the lake. Many of the multitude of whom we read subsequently in the account of the miracle, had watched his departure in the boat for the neighbourhood of Bethsaida Julias, and had gone on foot round the head of the lake to join the popular Teacher again. The distance round the north end of the lake from the point of embarkation, most likely Capernaum, to Bethsaida Julias is not very considerable. The crowd which soon joined him in retirement would be considerably swelled by many of the Passover pilgrims just arrived at Capernaum on their way to Jerusalem to keep the feast. These would be anxious, too, to see and to hear the great Galilaean Prophet, whose name just then was in every mouth. Not very far from Bethsaida Julias there is a secluded plain, El Batihah; thither Jesus no doubt went after leaving his fishing-boat, purposing to spend some time in perfect rest. Soon, however, the usually quiet plain becomes populous with the crowds following after the Galilaean Master. Though longing intensely for repose so necessary for himself and his disciples, he at once, moved by the eagerness of the multitude to hear and see him again, gives them his usual loving welcome, and begins in his old fashion to teach them many things, and to heal their sick.
And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.
And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place.
Verse 12. - And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. Simple consideration for the crowds, among whom we know were women and children, probably dictated this remark of the twelve, though it has been with some ingenuity suggested that the advice of the disciples was owing to their fear that, as darkness would soon creep over the scene, some calamity might happen which would give a fresh handle against Jesus to his many enemies.
But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people.
Verse 13. But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. Godet here beautifully observes that this reply, and the great miracle that followed, was the result of a loving thought of the Redeemer. "John has disclosed it to us (John 6:4). It was the time of the Passover. He could not visit Jerusalem with his disciples, owing to the virulent hatred of which he had become the object. In this unexpected gathering, resembling that of the nation at Jerusalem, he discerns a signal from on high, and determines to celebrate a feast in the desert as a compensation for the Passover Feast." We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people. The main lines of this story are the same in each of the four accounts which we possess of this miracle; but each of the four evangelists supplies some little detail wanting in the others. It is clear that there was no original written tradition from which they all copied. St. John tells us it was a little boy who had this small, rough provision. The boy probably was in attendance on the apostles, and this was no doubt the little stock of food they had provided for their own frugal meal. The barley loaves were the ordinary food of the poorest in Palestine, and the two fish were dried, as was the common custom of the country; and such dried fish was usually eaten with the bread.
For they were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company.
Verse 14. - They were about five thousand men. St. Matthew adds, "besides women and children." The multitude generally had come from a considerable distance, we know; there would not be, comparatively speaking, many women and children among them. These were grouped together apart, and, of course, fed, but were not counted among the five thousand. And he said to his disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company. "Jesus has no sooner ascertained that there are five loaves and two fishes, than he is satisfied. He commands them to make the multitude sit down. Just as though he had said, 'I have what I want; the meal is ready; let them be seated!' But he takes care that his banquet shall be conducted with an order worthy of the God who gives it. Everything must be calm and solemn; it is a kind of Passover meal. By the help of the apostles, he seats his guests in rows of fifty each (St.. Matthew), or in double rows of fifty, by hundreds (Mark). This orderly arrangement allowed of the guests being easily counted. St. Mark describes in a dramatic manner the striking spectacle presented by these regularly formed companies, each consisting of two equal ranks, and all arranged upon the slope of the hill. The pastures at that time were in all their spring glory. SS. John and Mark both bring forward the beauty of this natural carpet. 'Much grass' (St. John); 'on the green grass' (St. Mark)" (Godet). St. Mark's vivid picturesque details show the observant eve-witness. The words rendered "in ranks" ("they sat down in ranks") literally mean they were like flower-beds set in the green grass. The bright-coloured Eastern robes of these men, as they sat in long rows, suggested the happy comparison.
And they did so, and made them all sit down.
Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.
Verse 16. - Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. The blessing was the usual introduction of a pious Jewish family to a meal. It was pronounced by the head of the household. An ordinary formula was, "May God, the Ever-blessed One, bless what he has given us!" The Jewish barley loaves were broad, thin cakes; these were usually broken, not out - hence the expression, "and brake." In SS. Mark and Luke the tense of the verb rendered "gave," in the original Greek, is an imperfect, and signifies, "he gave, and kept on giving." This supplies a hint as to the way of working the miracle. Each disciple kept coming to him for a fresh supply of bread. It was, however, as it has been well said, a miracle of the highest order, one of creative power, and is to us inconceivable. The evangelists make no attempt to explain it. They evidently did not care to ask. They beheld it, and related it to us just as they saw it in its simple grandeur. Neither disciples nor crowds seem at first to have grasped the stupendous nature of the act. St. John tells us of its effect on the crowds, who, when they came to see what had been done, wished to take him by force and make him king. For a brief space they were convinced that in the poor Galilee Rabbi they had found King Messiah - none but he could have done this great thing. They were right.
And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve baskets.
Verse 17. - And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them, twelve baskets. A very impressive lesson from the Creator himself against waste or extravagance. St. John expressly tells us that this order to gather up the fragments of their meal emanated from Jesus himself. Carefulness, thrift, and economy in small things as in great, form part of the teaching of the loving Master. From such passages as Mark 6:37 and John 13:29, it seems probable that the disciples, acting under their Master's direction, were in the habit of distributing, out of their comparative abundance, food to those persons in the villages who were poorer than themselves. It was, no doubt, for some such hallowed object as this that the careful collection of the fragments which filled twelve baskets was made. The "baskets" (cophinus) were usually carried by travelling Jews to keep their food from contracting Levitical pollution in Gentile places. Juvenal, in a well-known passage ('Sat.,' 3:14), writes of the Jews travelling about Italy with no baggage save a little bundle of hay to serve as a pillow, and this cophinus, or basket, for their food. So abundant had been the provision created by Jesus, that the fragments collected far exceeded the original stock of food which the disciples gave to Jesus to bless, to break, and to distribute among the five thousand and upward who were fed that memorable afternoon. This miracle is the only one in the entire Galilaean ministry which is told by all the four evangelists. It evidently had a very prominent place in the teaching of the first days. Rationalizing interpretation in the case of this miracle is singularly at fault. After eighteen centuries of unremitting hostility to the teaching of Jesus Christ, not even a plausible explanation of this miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes has been found by adverse critics. In our own days, Renan, following the ancient interpretation of Paulus, simply suggests that the multitudes were fed by materials provided by themselves. "Every one took his little store of provision from his wallet; they lived on very little" - an explanation, as it has been happily termed, "ludicrously inadequate." After the relation of the great miracle of feeding the five thousand, St. Luke omits in his Gospel a variety of incidents and several discourses told at greater or lesser length by the other evangelists. For instance, the reverential amazement of the people when the nature of the stupendous miracle in connection with the creation of the loaves and fishes flashed upon them, - they wished to recognize him as King Messiah; the walking on the sea; the long and important discourse on the true Bread at Capernaum, the text of which was the late great miracle of the loaves; the journey among the heathen as far as Tyre and Sidon; the meeting with the Syro-phoenician woman; the feeding of the four thousand, etc. These incidents are related in Matthew 14-16:12; Mark 6:45 - 8:80; John 6. No commentator has satisfactorily explained the reason of this omission of important portions of our Lord's public ministry. The reason for St. Luke's action here probably will never be guessed. We must, however, in all theories which we may form of the composition of these Gospels, never lose sight of this fact, that while SS. Matthew and Peter (Mark) were eyewitnesses of the events of the life, St. Luke, and his master, Paul, simply reproduced what they had heard or read. We may, therefore, suppose that St. Luke exercised larger discretionary powers in dealing with materials derived from others than the other two, who desired, no doubt, to reproduce a fairly general summary of their Divine Master's acts. On such a theory of composition, a gap in the story like the one we are now alluding to, in the more eclectic Gospel of St. Luke, would seem scarcely possible in the first two Gospels. We, of course, make no allusion here to the Fourth Gospel; the whole plan and design of St. John was different to that upon which the first three were modelled.
And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
Verses 18-27. - Jesus question to his own: Who did they think he was? He tells them of a suffering Messiah, and describes the lot of his own true followers. Verse 18. - And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? With these abrupt words, St. Luke changes for his readers the time and scene. Since the miracle of feeding the five thousand at Bethsaida Julias, Jesus had preached at Capernaum the famous sermon on the "Bread of life" (reported in John 6.); he had wandered to the north-east as far as the maritime cities of Tyro and Sidon; had returned again to the Decapolis region for a brief sojourn; and then once more had turned his footsteps north; and it was in the extreme confines of the Holy Land, in the neighbourhood of Caesarea Philippi, and close to the great fountain, the source of the sacred Jordan, at the foot of the southern ridge of Hermon, where he put the momentous question here chronicled, to his listening disciples. Much had happened since the five thousand were fed. The defection which the Master had foreseen when he commenced his parable-teaching with the sad story of the "sower," had begun. After the great Capernaum sermon (John 6.), many had fallen away from him; the enthusiasm for his words was rapidly waning; the end was already in sight. "Well," he asks his own, "what are men saying about me? Whom do they think that I am?"
They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.
Verse 19. - They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. It was a strange answer, this report of the popular belief concerning Jesus. There had been for a long period among the people expectations more or less defined, that certain of the great national heroes were to reappear again to take up their incomplete work, and to play the part in Israel, of heralds of the looked-for glorious King Messiah. The popular belief respecting Jesus was that he was one of these. Some thought of Elijah. The two miracles of creating the loaves and fishes for a great famishing crowd especially suggested this idea. There was a shadowy, but not an unreal resemblance here to the well-remembered miracle of Elijah, worked for the Sarepta widow and her son, with the cruse of oil and the barrel of meal which failed not (1 Kings 17:14). The words of Malachi (Malachi 4:5) pointed in the same direction. The image of the recently murdered Baptist was present with some. Herod's words, already commented on, point to this, perhaps, widespread belief. Jeremiah would be a likely instance of "one of the old prophets." Tradition had already asserted that the spirit of that great one had passed into Zechariah; surely another similar transmigration was possible. Jeremiah, popular tradition said, had safely hidden the ark and the tabernacle and the altar of incense somewhere in the mountain where Moses died by the "kiss of God." Already had he appeared to the brave and patriotic Judas Maccabaeus in a vision as a man greyhaired and exceeding glorious, as one praying for the people as their guardian-prophet, and had given the gallant Maeeabaean hero a golden sword from God. It was one of these old heroic forms, so loved of Israel, once more in the flesh, that the people believed Jesus to be.
He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.
Verse 20. - But whom say ye that I am Peter answering said, The Christ of God. And the Master listened, apparently without comment, to this reply, which told him what the people said of him, and then went on, "But you, my disciples, who have been ever with he, what say, what think you about me?" Peter, as the representative of the others in that little chosen company, answers, "We believe that thou art more than any prophet or national hero or forerunner of the Messiah; we think that thou art the Messiah himself."' Dr. Morrison very beautifully pictures the disciples' state of mind at this juncture. "No doubt the true light on the subject had often gleamed through the darkness of their minds (see John 1:29, 33, 34, 41, 45, 49, etc.). But, though gleam succeeded gleam, in flashes that revealed the Illimitable, the darkness would ever, more or less, close in again. They could not altogether help it. They were witnesses of a 'humiliation' which they could not reconcile with the notions they had inherited in reference to the power and pomp of the Messiah. And yet it was evident that he was entirely unlike all other rabbis. He was the Master of masters, and a mystery over and above. An inner lustre was continually breaking through. It was glorious; it was unique. His character was transcendently noble and pure. He had not, moreover, obtruded self-assertions on them. He had left them, in a great measure, to observe for themselves; and they had been observing." It was, indeed, on the part of these feeble disciples a pure and lofty expression of the effect produced on their hearts by Jesus Christ's teaching. But though these men, afterwards so great, had attained to this grand conception of their adored Master, though they alone, among the crowds, through the sad coloured veil of his low estate, could see shining the glory of Divinity, yet they could not grasp yet the conception of a suffering Messiah, and in spite of all the teaching of the Master, the cross and the Passion made them unbelievers again. It needed the Resurrection to complete the education of faith.
And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;
Verse 21. - And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing. It would have been no hard task for the disciples to have gone about with an expression of their earnest conviction that the great Prophet was indeed the long looked-for King Messiah, and thus to have raised the excitable crowds to any wild pitch of enthusiasm. It was only a very short time back that, moved by the miracle of the loaves, the multitudes wished to crown him King by force. That was not the kind of homage Jesus sought; besides which, any such enthusiasm thus evoked would quickly have died away, and a hostile reaction would have set in when the high hopes excited by the idea of King Messiah were contradicted by the life of suffering and self-denial which Jesus sternly set himself to live through to its bitter end. This life he sketched out for them in the severe language of the next verse.
Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.
Verse 22. - Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. "See how," as Riggenbach, quoted by Godet, says ('Vie de Jesus,' p. 318), "Jesus was obliged, in the very moment of self-revelation, to veil himself, when he had lighted the fire to cover it again." This dark and terrible prediction came upon the disciples evidently as something new. It was their Master's reply to their confession of faith in him. It said in other words, "You are right in your conception of me and my work. I am the promised King Messiah; but this part of my reign will be made up of affliction and mourning and woe. The great council of the people will reject me, and I shall only enter into my grand Messianic kingdom through the gate of suffering and of death. But do you, my own, be of good cheer. Three days after that death I shall rise again." The enumeration of "elders, chief priests, and scribes" is simply a popular way of describing the great council of the Jewish nation, the Sanhedrin, which was composed of these three important and influential sections of the people.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Verse 23. - And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Before sketching out the life which the true disciples of a suffering King Messiah must lead on earth, our Lord seems to have given notice of one of his public discourses. Even though his great popularity was now on the wane, to the last he was evidently listened to by crowds, if not with enthusiasm, certainly with eager and impatient curiosity. The sermon, of which we have the outline in the next five verses, and the subject-matter of which was, "No cross, no crown," was preached evidently to the masses. This is plain from the opening words of ver. 23. The sermon was evidently a hard saying, and, no doubt, gave bitter offence to many of the hearers. "If any man will," that is, wishes to, "come after me, to follow me where I am going" (Jesus was going to his kingdom), "let that man be prepared to give up earthly ease and comfort, and be ready to bear the sufferings which will be sure to fall on him if he struggle after holiness." This readiness to give up ease, this willingness to bear suffering, will be a matter, they must remember, of everyday experience. The terrible simile with which the Lord pressed his stern lesson home was, of course, suggested to him by the clear view he had of the fearful end of his own earthly life - an end then so near at hand, though the disciples guessed it not. The cross was no unknown image to the Jews who that day listened to the Master. The gloomy procession of robbers and of rebels against Rome, each condemned one bearing to the place of death the cross on which he was to suffer, was a sadly familiar image then in their unhappy land.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
Verse 24. - For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. The Greek word here rendered "life" signifies the natural animal life, of which the main interests are centred in the earth. If a man grasp at this shadowy, quickly passing earthly life, he will assuredly lose the substantial enduring heaven-life. If, on the other hand, he consents, "for my sake," to sacrifice this quickly fading life of earth, he shall surely find it again in heaven, no longer quickly fading, but a life fadeless, eternal, a life infinitely higher than the one he has for righteousness' sake consented to lose here. The same beautiful and comforting truth we find in that fragment, as it is supposed, of a very early Christian hymn, woven into the tapestry of St. Paul's Second Epistle to Timothy -
"If we be dead with him,
We shall also live with him:
If we suffer, We shall also reign."
(2 Timothy 2:11, 12.)
For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
Verse 25. - For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? Godet's comment here is pithy and quaint: "Jesus supposes, in this twenty-fifth verse, the act of saving one's own life accomplished with the most complete success... amounting to a gain of the whole world. But in this very moment, the master of this magnificent domain finds himself condemned to perish! What gain to draw in a lottery a gallery of pictures... and at the same time to become blind!" "O flesh," writes Luther (quoted by Dr. Morrison), "how mighty art thou, that thou canst still throw darkness over those things, even to the minds of the holy!"
For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.
Verse 26. - For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels. Here follows the punishment in the world to come. It consists in the Judge's solemn award to the man who has succeeded in saving his life in this world. The award is, "Depart from me: I know you not." Of such a selfish soul, who here has loved his own ease, and has declined all self-sacrifice, will the Son of man, in the day of his glory, be justly ashamed. The suffering Messiah thus completed his vivid picture of himself. Not always was he to suffer, or to wear the robe of humiliation. The Despised and Rejected would assuredly return with a glory indescribable, inconceivable. His assertion, advanced here, that he will return as Almighty Judge, is very remarkable. In the parallel passage in St. Matthew (Matthew 16:13) it is put even more clearly. There Jesus asks his disciples, "Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?" In ver. 27 Jesus goes on to say, "The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels, and then he shall reward every man according to his works." The lesson was very clear. His own might surely be content. Only let them be patient. Lo! in the poor rejected Rabbi now before them, going to his bitter suffering and his death, they were looking really on the awful form of the Almighty Judge of quick and dead. These words, very dimly understood then, in days to come were often recalled by his hearers. They formed the groundwork of many a primitive apostolic sermon.
But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
Verse 27. - But I tell you of a truth, there he some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God. This magnificent promise has always been more or less a difficulty to expositors. Two favourite explanations which
(1) in the Transfiguration mystery,
(2) in the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Jewish state,
see the fulfilment of this great prediction, must be put aside as inadequate, as failing utterly to satisfy any idea of the kingdom of God. Concerning (1), it must be borne in mind that the words were addressed, not only to the disciples, but to a mixed multitude; the expression then, "there be some standing here," etc., would seem to point to more than three (Peter, James, and John were alone present at the Transfiguration) who should, while living, see the kingdom of God. Concerning (2), those who were witnesses of the great catastrophe which resulted in the sack of Jerusalem and the ruin of the Jewish polity, can scarcely be said to have looked on the kingdom of God. It was rather a great and terrible judgment; in no way can it fairly be termed the kingdom, or even its herald; it was simply an awful event in the world's story. But surely the Lord's disciples, the holy women, the still larger outer circle of loving followers of Jesus, who were changed by what happened during the forty days which immediately succeeded the Resurrection morning - changed from simple, loving, fearful, doubting men and women, into the brave resistless preachers and teachers of the new faith - the five hundred who gazed on the risen Lord in the Galilaean mountain, - these may in good earnest be said to have seen, while in life, "the kingdom of God." These five hundred, or at all events many of them, after the Resurrection, not only looked on God, but grasped the meaning of the presence and work of God on earth. The secret of the strange resistless power of these men in a hostile world was that their eyes had gazed on some of the sublime glories, and their ears had heard some of the tremendous secrets of the kingdom of God.
And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
Verses 28-36. - The Transfiguration. Verse 28. - And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. Some eight days after this question asked in the neighbourhood of Caesarea Philippi, and its reply, and the sermon to the people on the subject of "No cross, no crown," which immediately followed, our Lord summoned the three leading disciples and took them up into a mountain to pray. They had spent the last few days apparently in quiet converse together. SS. Matthew and Mark speak only of six days. St. Luke gives the period in round numbers, counting portions of the first and last days as whole days. We may well imagine that this was a period of intense depression in the little company of Jesus. Their Master's popularity was fast waning among the people. His powerful enemies seemed gathering closer and closer round the Teacher whom they were determined to crush. The late utterances of Jesus, too, whether spoken to them alone, or publicly to the people, all foreshadowed a time of danger and suffering in the immediate future for him and for them - a time which, as far as he was concerned, would close with a violent death. To raise the fainting spirits of his own, to inspire them with greater confidence in himself, seems to have been the immediate purpose of that grand vision of glory known as the Transfiguration. It is true that to only three was vouchsafed the vision, and silence was enjoined on these, but the three were the leading spirits of the twelve. If Peter, James, and John were brave, earnest, and hopeful, there was little doubt that their tone of mind would be quickly reflected in their companions. Tradition, based on the fairly early authority of Cyril of Jerusalem, and of Jerome (fourth century), speaks of the mountain as Tabor, but the solitude evidently necessary for the manifestation would have been sought for in vain on Mount Tabor, a hill which rises abruptly from the Plain of Esdraelon, not very far from Nazareth to the south-east, for the summit of Tabor at that time was crowned with a fortress. The mount,in most probably was one of the lower peaks of Hermon, at no great distance from the fountain source of the Jordan and Caesarea Philippi, in which district we know Jesus and his companions had been teaching only a few days before.
And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.
Verse 29. - And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, etc. The marvellous change evidently passed over Jesus while he was in prayer, probably because of his intense prayer. Real, close communion with God ever imparts to the countenance of the one who has thus entered into communion with the High and Holy One, a new and strange beauty. Very many have noticed at times this peculiar and lovely change pass over the faces of God's true saints as they prayed - faces perhaps old and withered, grey with years and wrinkled with care. A yet higher degree of transfiguration through communion with God is recorded in the case of Moses, whose face, after he had been with his God-Friend on the mount, shone with so bright a glory that mortal eye could not bear to gaze on it until the radiance began to fade away. A similar change is recorded to have taken place in the case of Stephen when he pleaded his Divine Master's cause in the Sanhedrin hall at Jerusalem with such rapt eloquence that to the by-standers his face then, we read, "was as the face of an angel." Stephen told his audience later on, in the course of that earnest and impassioned pleading, that to him the very heavens were opened, and that his eyes were positively gazing on the beatific vision. Yet a step higher still was this transfiguration of our Lord. St. Luke tells us simply that, "as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered." St. Matthew tells us how it was altered when he writes that "his countenance shone as the sun." And his raiment was white and glistering; literally, lightening forth, as if from some inward source of glorious light. The earthly robes were so beautified by contact with this Divine light that human language is exhausted by the evangelists to find terms and metaphors to picture them. St. Matthew compares these garments of the Blessed One to light; St. Mark, to the snow; St. Luke, to the flashing lightning.
And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias:
Verse 30. - And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias; literally, there were talking. Evidently these two glorified beings had been conversing with Jesus some time before the three apostles, heavy with sleep, had noticed their presence; wearied and tired, slumber had overtaken them; we are not told how long they slept. The glorious light which environed them and the murmur of voices probably roused them, and in after-days they recounted what, after they were awake, they saw, and something of what they heard.
Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
Verse 31. - Who appeared in glory. Why were these two chosen as the Lord's companions on that solemn night? Probably
(1) because they were what may be termed the two great representative men of the chosen race of Israel. The one was the human author of the Divine Law which for so many centuries had been the guide and teacher of the covenant people. The other had been the most illustrious of that great order of prophets who, during the centuries of their eventful history as a nation, had, under the commission of the Most Highest, kept alight the torch of the knowledge of the one true God. And
(2) because these men alone of the race of Israel apparently had kept their earthly bodies as the shrines of their immortal spirits. Elijah, we know, was translated alive into the other and the grander world; and as for Moses, God, his heavenly Friend, closed his eyes, and then hid his body from mortal sight, and, the mysterious words of Jude (ver. 9) would seem to tell us, from mortal corruption. And spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. Why was this the chosen subject of the august conference between the Lord and the heavenly pair?
(1) In all reverence we may feel that one reason for the visit of these blessed spirits on that solemn night was the strengthening the sinless Sufferer himself. The vista which lay immediately before Jesus, of rejection, desertion, the death of agony, and the dreadful sufferings which preceded it, - all this had been very present before him lately. He had dwelt upon these things, we know, to his own. He had pondered over them, no doubt, often when alone. It was not only in Gethsemane that his "soul was sorrowful even unto death." As in the garden-agony "appeared to him an angel from heaven strengthening him," so here on the mount came to him these glorified spirits for the same blessed purpose of ministering. And
(2) it was to help the three disciples. Their wavering faith would surely be strengthened if the words which they heard from those heavenly visitants dwelt with reverent awe and admiration on the circumstances of their Master's self-sacrificing career of agony and suffering. It must be remembered that a few days earlier they had listened to him, when he spoke to them of these things, with shrink-iv g terror and incredulous amazement. They would now know what was thought of all this in the courts of heaven.
But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.
Verse 32. - And the two men that stood with him. It has been asked - How did the disciples know the names which those glorified ones had once borne? Three replies are at least probable.
(1) They may have heard their Master address them by their old earthly names.
(2) In subsequent conversations the Lord may have disclosed them to the three.
(3) Is it not a very thinkable thought that the blessed bear upon their spirit-forms their old individuality transfigured and glorified? Were such a vision vouchsafed to us, should we not in a moment recognize a Peter, a Mary, or a Paul?
And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.
Verse 33. - And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias' not knowing what he said. The three evangelists who relate the Transfiguration scene, with trifling variations repeat this remark of Peter's. It is valuable to us when we remember that the tradition of the marvellous event comes from Peter, James, and John; and that they repeat the strange inconsequent words uttered by one of themselves - their acknowledged spokesman. No thought of self-glorification evidently tinged this strange memory of theirs. They simply wished to record the plain truth just as it happened, and in the course of the narrative they had to repeat their own poor, babbling, meaningless words - for the remark of Peter is nothing else. Their own remark, which immediately follows, is the best comment upon them, "not knowing what he said." There was a deep feeling that in such a company, bathed, too, in that glorious and unearthly light, it was well with them. But they saw the heavenly visitants preparing to leave them. They would stay their departure if they could, so they stammered, "Let us build some shelter; let us erect some temple, however humble, to do honour, Lord, to thee and thy companions."
While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.
Verse 34. - While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. This luminous cloud, bright though it was, yet veiled the more intolerable brightness within. That such a bright cloud had the power of overshadowing and concealing, is not strange, for light in its utmost intensity hides as effectually as the darkness would do. God dwells in light inaccessible, whom therefore "no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Timothy 6:16). Milton writes -
"Dark with excess of light." Philo speaks of the highest light as identical with darkness. Anselm thus understands the cloud here, quoting the words of 1 Timothy 6:16, referred to above, and then the words of Moses, "And Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was" (Exodus 20:21), and then this passage from the Transfiguration, and comments thus: "Illa caligo et ista nubes, atque ilia lux idem sunt" (see Archbishop Trench on "Transfiguration," in 'Studies in the Gospels,' 8). The fear which these eye-witnesses remember as one of their experiences that memorable night was a very natural feeling. As the cloud stole over the mountain ridge, and the glory-light gradually paled and waned, the sensation of intense pleasure and satisfaction, which we may assume to be the natural accompaniment of such a blessed scene, would give place to awe and amazement.
And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
Verse 35. - And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. The reading here of the older authorities must be adopted. Instead of the voice out of the cloud saying, "This is my beloved Son," we must substitute," This is my Elect." As SS. Matthew and Mark both read, "my beloved Son," we have here another of the many proofs that each of the three records of the Transfiguration is a distinct and separate memory of itself. The voice was evidently for the disciples - one more help for them in their present and future struggle against the cold and chilling doubts which ever and again would be suggested to them by the enemy of human souls, with a view to marring their present training, their future mighty missionary work.
And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
Verse 36. - And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen. The reasons of this silence for the present have been already discussed. The scene, doubtless, had done its work in the education of the three. Without telling their companions what they had seen and heard on the mount, we may assume that the sight of the serene confidence and renewed trust on the part of Peter, James, and John did its effectual work in strengthening their brethren. No doubt directly after the Resurrection, possibly during the days of darkness and gloom which followed the day of the cross, the chosen three related at length their experience of the Transfiguration mystery. The narrative of the Transfiguration and its attendant circumstances, as might have been expected, has been a favourite subject for hostile criticism. It does not, however, lend itself to any probable, or even possible, explanation which refers the story to some exaggerated report of a mistaken natural phenomenon. The whole story, as we have it thrice - with very slight variation in the details - repeated in the synoptical Gospels, must stand as we have it, or else must be wholly rejected as a myth. But, if a myth, whence did it spring? for nothing in the Jewish expectation of Messiah could possibly have suggested the "legend." The strange and even childish interruption of Peter could never have been invented. No one friendly to the apostle would have chronicled such a saying had there been any doubt resting on its authenticity; and a writer hostile to the apostle would scarcely have invented a narrative which treated of the Divine glory of the apostle's adored Master. If it be an invention, whence comes it? in whose interest was it composed? and how did it find its way into the very heart of the three synoptical Gospels? for there we find it woven into that marvellous tapestry of revelation and teaching which has at once charmed and influenced so many millions of men and women now for more than eighteen hundred years. Something of the purpose which the Transfiguration was intended to serve in the education of the twelve has been already discussed in the foregoing notes. Dr. Lange, who has made this difficult passage in the story of Jesus a subject of deep and earnest study, has given us some beautiful thoughts on the real signification of the Lord's transfiguration. This scholar and divine considers that, just at this period of his public ministry, Jesus had reached the zenith of his power. This is indicated by the grandeur of his recent miracles. There was nothing higher and more sublime to be reached by him. From this moment, therefore, earthly existence became too narrow a sphere. There only remained death; but death is, as St. Paul says, the wages of sin. For the sinless Man the issue of life is not the sombre passage of the tomb, rather is it the. royal road of a glorious transformation. Had the hour of this glorification struck for Jesus? and was the Transfiguration the beginning of the heavenly renewal? Gess, quoted by Godet - from whose precis of Lange's note these observations are derived - gives expression to Lange's thoughts in these words: "This event (the Transfiguration) indicates the ripe preparation of Jesus for immediate entrance upon eternity." "Had not Jesus himself," goes on Godet to say, thus con-eluding this very beautiful and suggestive, if somewhat fanciful note, "voluntarily suspended this change which was on the point of being wrought in him, this moment, the moment of his glorious transfiguration would have become the moment of his ascension."
And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met him.
Verses 37-45. - The scene at the foot of the hill of Transfiguration. The healing of the demoniac boy. Verse 37. - On the next day, when they were come down from the hill. The Transfiguration had taken place in the late evening or night. It probably lasted for a much longer period than the brief account, preserved by the eye-witnesses, seems to speak cf. How long the three disciples slept is not mentioned. Wearied and exhausted, deep slumber overtook them while the Master was praying. When they awoke, Jesus was bathed in glory, and the two heavenly spirits were conversing with him. They only tell us generally that the subject which occupied the blessed ones was their Master's speedy departure from earth; no mention is made of the time all this consumed. It was morning when they rejoined their company. Much people met him. St. Mark, whose account here is more detailed - evidently Peter preserved a very vivid memory of these events - tells us that the crowds, "when they beheld him, were greatly amazed." Without concluding that any lingering radiance of the last night's glory was still playing about his Person, we may well imagine that a holy joy just then lit up that face over which for some time past a cloud of deep sadness had brooded. The heavenly visitants; the words he had been listening to, which told him of his home of grandeur and of peace, voluntarily left by him that he might work his mighty earthwork; - had no doubt strengthened with a strange strength the Man of sorrows; and when the crowds gazed on his face they marvelled, as St. Mark tells us, at what they saw there.
And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child.
Verse 38. - A man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child. The tender sympathy of St. Luke is shown in this little detail. He is the only evangelist who mentions that the poor tormented boy was an only child.
And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him.
And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not.
Verse 40. - And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not. This appears to have been a case of the deadliest kind of epileptic lunacy. Our Lord distinctly assumes here that the disease in this case was occasioned by an unclean spirit who had taken possession of the suffering child. The whole question of demoniacal possession, its extent, its cause, whether or no it still survives in some of the many mysterious phases of madness, is very difficult. It has been discussed elsewhere (see notes on Luke 4:33 and following verses).
And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither.
Verse 41. - And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you?. This grave and mournful expression of the loving but just Master was addressed to the entire crowd, in whose midst he now found himself. The people, swayed hither and thither, now enthusiastic in his favour, when soma sweet promise, or noble sentiment, or marvellous work touched their hearts, now' coldly indifferent or even hostile, when his teaching seemed to exact some painful sacrifice of self at their hands. - these were looking On with quiet indifference at his disciples' failure in the case of the poor possessed child, and listened to their scribes as they wrangled with the Lord's dismayed and perplexed followers. These followers, trying to imitate their Master in his wonder-works, but failing because, after all, their faith in him wavered. The rather of the child, confessing his unbelief, but utterly wretched at the sight of the suffering of his boy. The ghastly spectacle of the insane boy writhing and foaming on the ground, and then lying all bruised and dishevelled, with the pallor of death on the poor, pain-wrung face, and this sorely afflicted one a child, one of those little ones whom Jesus loved so well. Poor child-sufferer, on whose comparatively innocent life the sin of mother and father weighed so heavily! What a contrast for the Lord between the heavenly hours he had just been spending on the mount, and this sad sight of pain and suffering, of jealousy and wrangling, of doubts and indecision, in the midst of which he now stood! ") faithless and perverse," cried the pitiful Lord with a burst of intense sorrow, "how long shall I be with you, and suffer you?" One word, he knew, and for him all this might be exchanged for the scenes of heaven, for the company of angels and of blessed spirits, for the old home of grandeur and of peace; only it was just to heal this bitter curse that he had left his heaven-home. But the contrast between the glory of the Transfiguration mount and the memories which they evoked, and the present scene of pain and woe unutterable, of human passions and weakness, called forth from the Lord this bitter, sorrowful expression.
And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father.
Verse 42. - And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father. A word of the great Master was sufficient, and the spirit which had brought the cruel curse of disease and madness into the boy was cast out, and the strange cure was complete. St. Peter supplied St. Mark with fuller details here, and especially adds one priceless gem of instruction in the Christian life. The Lord told the father of the suffering child that the granting of the boon he craved for his son depended on his own faith. Then the poor father, won by the Divine goodness manifest in every act and word of Jesus, stammered out that pitiful, loving expression, re-echoed since in so many thousand hearts, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." If he accepted and rewarded that trembling, wavering faith in him, will he reject mine?
And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples,
Verse 43. - And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples. Once more were kindled the disciples' hopes of an earthly royalty in the Person of that strange Messiah. For was he not Messiah after all, who with a word worked such stupendous works as the miracle they had just witnessed? But Jesus read their thoughts, and again tells them (in ver. 44) of the terrible doom which awaited him. They must remember there was no earthly crown or human sovereignty for him.
Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.
But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.
Verse 45. - And they feared to ask him of that saying. The "saying" was to them so utterly distasteful, perhaps inconceivable. It is possible that they thought this betrayal and death simply veiled for them some bit of teaching to be explained hereafter; it is possible they at once dismissed it from their minds, as men often do painful and mournful forebodings. At all events, they dreaded asking him any questions about this dark future of suffering which he said lay before him.
Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.
Verses 46-48. - How the Lord answered the question which arose among the disciples as to which was the greatest. Verses 46, 47. - Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart. Somewhere on their journey back to the south, between the neighbourhood of Caesarea Philippi and the old scene of his labours, Capernaum, this dispute must have taken place. Shortly after their arrival at Capernaum, the Master called them together, and gave them the following lesson on human greatness. Took a child, and set him by him. St. Mark mentions that this teaching was "in the house," and commentators have suggested, with some probability, that the house was St. Peter's, and the child one of his. Clement of Alexandria ('Stromata,' 3:448, B) especially mentions that this apostle had children. St. Matthew relates this incident at greater length, and, still dwelling upon the text of "the little one," gives us another and different sketch of the Master's teaching on this occasion. St. Mark tells us how Jesus folded his arms round the little creature in loving fondness. If the child, as above suggested, was Peter's own, such an incident as that embrace would never have been forgotten by the father, and would, of course, find a place in the memoir of his faithful disciple Mark. A (late) tradition of the Eastern Church identifies this child with him who afterwards became the famous Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, a martyr. Ignatius styled himself Theophoros; this, understood in a passive sense, would signify "one who had been carried by God." But in this Father's own writings we find the name used by himself in an active sense, as "one who carries God within himself." And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child. The dispute "which of them should be greatest," which no doubt had taken place among themselves in their last journey from the north of the Holy Land to Capernaum, was still a leading thought in the hearts of the twelve, so little had they really understood their Master's teaching, and especially his later solemn words which pointed the way of the cross as the only way to heaven and to real greatness. The Lord reads these poor sinful hearts; then, calling them together, he takes a child in his arms, and sets him by him. By this action the Lord answers the silent questioning thought of the worldly twelve. "The child stands as the type of the humble and childlike disciple, and (the dispute having been about the comparative greatness of the disciples) such a disciple is the greatest; he is so honoured by God that he stands on earth as the representative of Christ, and of God himself (ver. 47), since "he that is [willingly] least among you all, the same shall be [truly] great' (ver. 48)" (Meyer).
And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him,
And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.
Verse 48. - Whosoever shall receive this child in my Name receiveth me. The general lesson here - and it is one that has gone to the heart more or less of all professing Christians - is that all the followers of Jesus should practise humility before, and show tenderness to, the weak. It is one of the great sayings of the Master which has stirred that practical charity which has ever been one of the great characteristic features of Christianity. But while the general lesson is clear, the particular reminder still claims attention. Singular and touching was the affection of Jesus for children. Several marked instances of this are noted in the Gospels. To this passage, however, and to the sequel as reported in St. Mark (Mark 9:42), may be especially referred the thought which has founded the countless child-homes, schools, and hospitals in all lands in different ages, and in our own time the institution of the Sunday school, not the least beautiful of Christian works done in the Master's Name.
And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
Verses 49, 50. - A question put by John. Ver. 49. - And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy Name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. The character of John is a strangely interesting one. With the exception of his forming one of the chosen three who were in a peculiar manner received into their Master's confidence, John seldom appears, during the public ministry of Christ, to have played a prominent part. Many years had to elapse before he attained that unique position of influence in the early Church which no one seems to have disputed. In the mean time, his character was slowly forming. Fiery and impetuous, although reserved and retiring, it seemed in these first days scarcely probable that such a nature would ever deepen or ripen into that John who became the world-teacher of his Master's love. St. Luke here records two circumstances which suggested some of the Master's important teaching, in both of which John plays the prominent part. The question of John was evidently suggested by Jesus' words spoken in connection with his teaching respecting little ones. "Whosoever," said the Master, "shall receive this child in my Name." But John and others had just been sternly rebuking some one not of their company, who had been using, to some effect evidently, that same Master's Name, which possessed, as John saw, wondrous power. Had he and his friends been doing right in rebuking the comparative stranger for using a Name which Jesus, in his words just spoken, seemed to regard as the common property of kindly devout men? Meyer remarks here "that outside the company of disciples of Jesus there were, even then, men in whose hearts, his teaching and acts had evoked a higher and even a supernatural power. Certain sparks which had fallen here and there beyond the little circle of his own, kindled flames occasionally away from the central fire." Those who were ever close to the Master seemed to dread lest, if these were allowed unchecked to teach and to work in the Name, grave error might be disseminated. Some natural jealousy of these outsiders no doubt influenced men like John in their wish to confine the work in the limits of their own circle.
And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.
Verse 50. - And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. The older authorities, manuscripts, and the more venerable versions here read for the last clause, "He that is not against you is for you." Exegetically as well as critically this amended reading is to be preferred. The offence of the stranger, if it were an offence, was not against Jesus, whose Name had evidently been used reverently and with faith, but against the disciples, whose rights and privileges were presumably infringed upon. The Master's reply contained a broad and far-reaching truth. No earthly society, however holy, would be able exclusively to claim the Divine powers inseparably connected with a true and faithful use of his Name. This is the grand and massive answer which stretches over a history of eighteen centuries, and which will possibly extend over many yet to come; the answer which gives an ample reason why noble Christian work is done whether emanating from Churches bearing the name of Protestant, or Roman, or Greek. THE SO-CALLED JOURNEYINGS TOWARDS JERUSALEM. The great characteristic feature in St. Luke's Gospel, distinguishing it especially from the other two synoptical Gospels of SS. Matthew and Mark, are the events in the public ministry of Jesus dwelt on in the next ten chapters of this Gospel. Many incidents in the succeeding chapters are recorded by this evangelist alone. Two questions suggest themselves.
1. To what period of the Lord's public work does this large and important section of our Gospel refer?
(1) Why is this period, comparatively speaking, so little dwelt on by the other two synoptists SS. Matthew and Mark?
(2) Where did St. Luke probably derive his information here?
1. Commentators frequently, and with some accuracy, speak of this great section of St. Luke's work as "the journeyings towards Jerusalem." Three times does this writer especially tell us that this was the object and end of the journeys he was describing; in Luke 9:51, "He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem;" in Luke 13:22, "He went through the cities and villages... journeying toward Jerusalem;" in Luke 17:11, "And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem." These journeyings to Jerusalem were evidently just before the end. They were the close of the public life. They immediately preceded the last Passover Feast, which all the four evangelists tell us the Lord kept at Jerusalem, and in the course of which he was crucified. They fill up, then, the last six or seven months of his earth-life - that period, roughly speaking, from the Feast of Tabernacles (alluded to in John 7.), which falls in October, until the Passover Feast in the following spring. These last months were occupied by the Master in a slow progress from Capernaum, through those parts of Galilee hitherto generally unvisited by him, gradually making his way toward the capital, which we know he reached in time for the Passover Feast, during which he was crucified. In the course of this period it seems, however, likely that, in St. Luke's account of Mary and Martha (ch. 10:38-42), we have an allusion to a short visit to Jerusalem of the Lord, undertaken in the course of these journeyings, at the Dedication Feast (John 10:22).
(1) In these last journeyings it appears that the Lord was in the habit of constantly sending out by themselves small companies of his disciples as missionaries in the neighbouring districts, thus accustoming his followers, in view of his own approaching death, to act alone and to think alone. It is, therefore, extremely probable that SS. Matthew and Peter (the real author of St. Mark's Gospel) were, during this period of our Lord's work, constantly absent from their Master's immediate neighbourhood. These apostles would naturally choose, as the special subjects of their own teaching and preaching, those events at which they personally had been present. Much of what was done and said by the Master during these last six months was done during the temporary absence, on special mission duty, of these two evangelists.
(2) When we consider the probable sources whence St. Luke derived his detailed information concerning this period, we are, of course, landed in conjecture. We know, however, that the whole of his narrative was composed after careful research into well-sifted evidence, supplied generally by eyewitnesses, of the events described. Thus, in the earlier chapters, we have already discussed the high probability of the Virgin-mother herself having furnished the information; so here there is little doubt that SS. Paul and Luke, in their researches during the composition of the Third Gospel, met with men and women who had formed part of that larger company which had been with Jesus, we know, during those last months of his ministry among us. Nor is it, surely, an unreasonable thought for us to see, in connection with this important portion of our Gospel, the hand of the Holy Spirit, who, unseen, guided the pen of the four evangelists, especially throwing Luke and his master, Paul, into the society of men who had watched the great Teacher closely during that period of his work, when the other two synoptists, SS. Matthew and Peter (Mark), were frequently absent. From the language employed in this portion of the Gospel, there seems a high probability that many of the notes or documents supplied to SS. Luke and Paul were written or dictated in Aramaic (Hebrew).
And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,
Verses 51-56. - The Samaritan insult to the Lord. The Master's reception of it. Verse 51. - And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. This is a very solemn introduction to this great section of St. Luke's writing. It at once marks off all that now follows as a winding-up of the earthly ministry. The expression, "that he should be received up," is simply the rendering of one Greek word, which signifies "ascension." The Passion, the cross, and the grave are passed over here, and the glorious goal alone is spoken cf. What a lesson of comfort is here suggested! The words in the Greek original, "he steadfastly set his face," are evidently literally translated from a well-known Aramaic (Hebrew) expression.
And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
Verse 52. - And sent messengers before his face. Probably, as the sequel shows, these were John and James. This was necessary at this period of the Lord's life. A numerous company now usually followed the Lord; it is probable that many of those most devoted to him, both men and women, scarcely ever left him, now that the popular enthusiasm was waning, and the number of his deadly enemies increasing. And they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. These Samaritans were the descendants of a, mixed race brought by Esarhaddon ( eighth century B.C.) from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, to replace the ten tribes carried captive to the East. These became worshippers of Jehovah, and, on the return of Judah and Benjamin from captivity, sought to be allowed to share in the rebuilding of the temple, and then to be admitted as Jews to share in the religious privileges of the chosen race. Their wishes, however, were not complied with. They subsequently erected a rival temple on Mount Gerizim, and henceforward were known as a schismatical sect, and continued in a state of deadly enmity with the orthodox Jews. This bitter hatred is noticed in the New Testament (see John 4:9), where it is stated that the Jews "had no dealings with the Samaritans," whom they looked on as worse than heathen. In the synagogues these Samaritans were cursed. The Son of Sirach named them as a people that they abhorred (Ecclus. 1:25, 26); and in the Talmud we read this terrible passage, "Let not the Samaritans have part in the resurrection!" This hatred, however, we know, was not shared in by our Lord, and on more than one occasion we find him dealing gently and lovingly with this race.
And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
Verse 53. - And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. Here the kindly overtures were rejected by the inhabitants of the Samaritan village in question. The reason alleged by them was that this Teacher, who wished to come among them, was on his way up to worship at the rival temple at Jerusalem.
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
Verse 54. - And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? The natural fiery temper and burning zeal of these highly favoured and loved brethren - who, we know, received, perhaps in half-playful rebuke from their Master, the epithet Boanerges, sons of thunder-flamed forth at this insult offered to their adored Master in return for his tender, loving consideration for this hated people. Possibly, what these two had lately witnessed on the Transfiguration mount had deepened their veneration for their Lord, and caused them the more bitterly to resent an insult levelled at him. So they prayed him - him whom they had so lately seen radiant with the awful fire of heaven - prayed him to call that fire down, and so wither in a moment those impious despisers of his gracious goodness. The words, "even as Elias did," form a very appropriate historical instance, but they are of doubtful authenticity - the older authorities have them not.
But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
Verse 55. - But he turned, and rebuked them. "Christ wrought miracles in every element except fire. Fire is reserved for the consummation of the age" (Bengel). And said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
Verse 56. - For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. This entire clause is absent in a large majority of the elder authorities. On every principle of criticism it must be, if not struck out, at least marked as of doubtful authenticity. Commentators are, however, vary loth to part with the words, which breathe, as has been remarked, "a spirit far purer, loftier, and rarer than is usually discernible in ecclesiastical interpolations." They are certainly very old, as old almost as the apostolic age, being found in the Italic and Peshito, the most venerable of versions. Many, therefore, of the contemporaries of apostolic men must have read these words as a genuine utterance of our Lord. And they went to another village. The Greek word translated "another" suggests that our Lord, after the insult offered by the Samaritans, quietly turned his steps to a Jewish community.
And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
Verses 57-62. - Three would-be disciples. The Lord, in plain terms, tells them what is required of men who seek his service. The first two of these incidents in the life of Jesus are related by St. Matthew (Matthew 7:19-22), but he places them in an earlier period. They evidently did not occur together, but most probably they took place about this time in the ministry. They are placed in one group as examples of the way in which the Master replied to numerous offers of service made to him under different conditions. Verses 57, 58. - Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. St. Matthew tells us that the "certain man" who made this offer of service was a scribe. This detail is useful, as showing that those who were attracted by our Lord's teaching were by no means confined to the peasant and artisan class. If we look a little below the surface of the gospel story, we find numberless indications of this. In the Master's reply it is probable that the depression, naturally the result of the churlish refusal of the Samaritan villagers to receive him (ver. 53), coloured the sad but true reflection. The wise Master distrusted the too-ready enthusiasm of his would-be disciple. He saw it would never stand the test of the severe privation or the painful self-sacrifice which would be the sure lot of any one, especially at that juncture, really faithful to him.
And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
Verses 59, 60. - And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. In this case the Master was the Summoner. Something he read in this man's heart, or words he had heard him speak, moved the Redeemer's great love, so he gave him a special call. This was a very different character from the last. Whereas that seeker for work from Jesus was impulsive, and even thoughtless in his enthusiasm, one who would begin to act without counting the cost, this one was overcautious, cold and calculating to an ungenerous excess; yet there was evidently sterling stuff in the character, for Jesus argues and remonstrates with him; there was, too, much gold mingled with the earth of that man's disposition, for the Lord lightly to let it go. It is thus that the Spirit pleads still with the selfishness which disfigures many a noble and devoted servant of high God. He seems to say, "My call is too imperative to yield to any home duties, however orderly and respectable." During the official days of mourning (in the case of a funeral, these were seven) the impression now made by his summoning words would have worn off. It is noticeable that the home duties, which Jesus suggested should give place to other and more imperative claims, were in connection with the dead. It was not the living father who was to be left to hirelings, only the inanimate corpse. It was rather a society call than a home or family duty which was to give place to work for the Master. St. Chrysostom makes some quaint, but strikingly practical, remarks here. "He might need, if he went to the funeral, to proceed, after the burial, to make inquiry about the will, and then about the distribution of the inheritance, and all the other things that followed thereupon; and thus waves after waves of things coming in upon him in succession might bear him very far away from the harbour of truth. For this cause, doubtless, the Saviour draws him, and fastens him to himself."
Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
Verses 61, 62. - And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. There is an implied reproach in our Lord s reply to what, on first thoughts, would seem a reasonable request. The offer in this case came from the man himself. It would appear that this would-be disciple, on thinking the matter over, considered it might be desirable to hear what his family and friends thought about his project. At all events, one thing is clear his first ardour was cooled, his first love left. The Master, in his pithy but striking comment, shows when such is the case, that there is little or no hope of any real noble work being carried out. The simile is drawn from agricultural imagery. Jesus was evidently very familiar with all the little details of rural life. We find a similar saying in Hesiod, "He who would plough straight furrows, must not look about him" ('Works and Days,' 2:60).
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.