In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Profession without Practice.
I. That even decently conducted Christians are most extensively and fearfully ruled by the opinion of society about them, instead of living by faith in the unseen God, is proved to my mind by the following circumstance: that, according as their rank in life makes men independent of the judgment of others, so the profession of regularity and strictness is given up. The great mass of men are protected from gross sin by the forms of society. The received laws of propriety and decency, the prospect of a loss of character, stand as sentinels, giving the alarm, long before their Christian principles have time to act. The question is, whether, in spite of our greater apparent virtue, we should not fall like others, if the restraints of society were withdrawn i.e. whether we are not in the main hypocrites like the Pharisees, professing to honour God, while we honour Him only so far as men require it of us.
II. Another test of being like or unlike the Pharisees may be mentioned. Our Lord warns us against hypocrisy in three respects—in doing our alms, in praying, and in fasting. (1) Doubtless much of our charity must be public, but is much of our charity also private?—is it as much private as public? (2) Are we as regular in praying in our closet to our Father which is in secret as in public? (3) We have dropped the show of fasting, which it so happens the world at the present day derides. Are we quite sure that, if fasting were in honour, we should not begin to hold fasts as the Pharisees? Thus we seek the praise of men. We see, then, how seasonable is our Lord's warning to us, His disciples, first of all to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy—professing without practising. He warns us against it as leaven, as a subtle, insinuating evil which will silently spread itself through the whole character, if we suffer it. He warns us that the pretence of religion never deceives beyond a little time, and that sooner or later, "whatsoever we have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light, and that which we have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops."
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. i., p. 124.
References: Luke 12:1.—Parker, Christian Commonwealth, vol. vii., p. 287; D. Fraser, Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 135; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 271. Luke 12:1-3.—S. Cox, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 372. Luke 12:1-5.—F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 187. Luke 12:2.—Homilist, vol. vi., p. 352. Luke 12:4, Luke 12:5.—G. E. L. Cotton. Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 12. Luke 12:5.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 53; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 237; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 3rd series, p. 90.
Luke 12:6-7These words occur in a discourse of the Lord to His disciples, in which He is instructing and preparing them for their future work as the heralds and preachers of His kingdom. He tells them that He has no esoteric doctrine to be cherished by a favoured few, but on the contrary, doctrines of light to be proclaimed everywhere for the healing and salvation of men. "In preaching My words to men," He says, "you will meet with dangers not a few, with enemies, some of whom will not stop short, if their power will reach so far, of deadly issues. But fear not; you are watched and protected at every step; and come life, come death, you are safe." Hence here we have two things for thought—our human fears and the Divine dissuasive from them.
I. Our fears may be divided into two kinds: those which respect this world—the temporalities of life, as we call them—and those which respect the world to come and our spiritual state and relation to that. (1) Now as regards this world and its affairs, I think many of us know that a good deal depends upon a man's temperament as to the way in which he will take things. You see that some go through life much more anxiously than others, as a matter of fact. The burden of life is to many not an easy one. They chafe and fret and groan under it, it is so heavy. (2) And then if we add to the fears about the temporalities of life, the deeper fears of the soul in regard to the spiritual state and the eternal prospect—you will see what ample scope there is for this Divine dissuasive, "Fear not."
II. We now come to the second point—the Divine dissuasive of this passage—and we see how it is supported and commended by our blessed Lord by these several arguments or supportings, as, for instance: (1) The limited character of human power and of the power of circumstances. That, where it is vividly apprehended, is a great dissuasive from fear. Fear not, for although men can say and do a great deal which may be very unpleasant to you—that may be even injurious to you—yet you always come to the limits of their power "after that." After that there is nothing more that they can do. Just so much unfriendliness or hostility or annoyances of any kind, and then, after that, there is no more that they can do. Exactly so you will find it with the things we call circumstances, although they may not be animated at all by any human feeling against you. They may arrange themselves in a malign manner, this or that way. They may vary, fluctuate, frown, threaten, sweep away property, bring in trouble; and after that there is no more that they can do. Other circumstances of a different kind will be sure to arise to soften, to assuage to improve. (2) "Fear not," for again, with God is unlimited power—the unlimited power which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. The argument has in the heart of it this—that God is good—that God is unchangeably good, and that He will use all that infinite power that He possesses in so far as it is needed, to protect, to defend, to cherish, to save, His trusting, loving children. (3) The closing thought in the dissuasive is, that although, in one way, there is nothing great to God and nothing little, yet, in another sense, quite a true one, there is a gradation to God just as to us; for it is the doctrine of this passage—it is the teaching of our Lord here—that there is a special care, a higher care, about us. We are of more value than many sparrows. The argument is from the less to the greater. If God provides for the inferior creatures, will He be likely to neglect the superior—the unspeakably superior? That is the doctrine: "Ye are of more value than many sparrows."
A. Raleigh, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 844.
References: Luke 12:6, Luke 12:7.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 189; Todd, Lectures to Children, p. 193. Luke 12:8.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 281. Luke 12:8, Luke 12:9.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxi., p. 340; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. ii., p. 412. Luke 12:10.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 207.
Luke 12:13-21The folly of the rich fool appears:—
I. In the fact that he completely ignored his responsibility to God in the matter of his possessions. He speaks of "my fruits," and "my goods," and the Lord describes him as laying up treasure "for himself" Are we not all too sadly in the same condemnation with him? Are we not all too prone to take to ourselves the sole credit for any property we have acquired, or for any eminence we have reached? Yet it is just as true in every department of life, though perhaps not quite so apparent as it is in agriculture, that the chief factor of success in it is God. He gave the original aptitude and ability to the man; and it will commonly be found that the critical turning-points of life, which led directly to the results over which we felicitate ourselves, were due entirely to Him, and came altogether irrespective of our own arrangement.
II. In the fact that he ignored the claims of other men upon him for his help. He had no idea apparently that there was any other possible way of bestowing his goods than by storing them in his barns. As Augustine, quoted by Trench, has replied to his soliloquy, "Thou hast barns,—the bosoms of the needy, the houses of widows, the mouths of orphans and of infants;" these are the true storehouses for surplus wealth. It is right to provide for those who are dependent on us; it is prudent to lay up something in store against a possible evil day; but after that, the storehouse of wealth should be benevolence.
III. The folly of this man is seen in the fact that he imagined that material things were proper food for his soul. The mere animal life of the body may be supported by such goods as this man was about to lay up, but the soul needs something better than these. Its true food is God Himself; and hence Jesus, in the moral of the parable, calls the man who has that rich towards God.
IV. The folly of the rich man is apparent from the fact that he had entirely ignored the truth that his material possessions were not to be his for ever. Let these two things stand out in lurid distinctness on this subject; wealth cannot buy off death, and when we die we can take none of it with us, and then you will understand how supremely foolish it is for a man to live simply and only for its accumulation.
W. M. Taylor, The Parables of Our Saviour, p. 259.
References: Luke 12:13, Luke 12:14.—J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 235. Luke 12:13-15.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 270; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xv., p. 37. Luke 12:13-21.—Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 16; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 131.
Luke 12:15Business—its Dangers and Safeguards.
I. There can be no doubt at all that the average business man's temptation must chiefly lie in this direction: to exaggerate the relative value of the thing he deals with—that is money; and in consequence, to under-estimate whatever cannot be appraised by that conventional standard of the market. To be safe, therefore, the young man embarking on a commercial life is bound to keep this risk of his calling before his eyes. He must refuse to fall down and worship any plutocracy, keeping his reverence for the good rather than for the opulent or successful; in a word, he must save himself from coming to think or act as if a man's life consisted in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
II. The safeguards. There are secondary safeguards, such as the pursuit of literature and the cultivation of a sympathising contact with men and women in other than mere business relationships. But the only primary and sufficient safeguard for any one of us is the religion of Jesus Christ. (1) Religion opens the widest, freest outlook for the mind into the eternal truth, enlarging a man's range of spiritual sight, and enabling him to judge of all things in both worlds in their due proportion. (2) It supplies us for that reason with the only true and perfect standard by which to test the value of things, and so corrects the one-sided materialistic standard of business. (3) It transforms business itself from an ignoble to a noble calling, because it substitutes for the principle of mere profit the ideal of service.
J. Oswald Dykes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 209.
References: Luke 12:15.—J. W. Gleadall, Church Sermons, vol. i., p. 331; Burrows, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 237; J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 235. Luke 12:15-21.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 17. Luke 12:16.—Homilist, new series, vol. i., p. 620. Luke 12:16-20.—Ibid., vol. vi., p. 84; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 234. Luke 12:16-21.—H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 1870, p. 631; Ibid., Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 218; Ibid., vol. xxi., p. 156; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 316; Ibid., vol. iii., p. 306; R. C. Trench, Notes on the Parables p., 337; R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 180.
Luke 12:19The Privileges of Youth.
I. The spirit of the boast contained in the text is nowhere more common than in the hearts of the young. They say to themselves, as much as persons at any age, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years." If we consider a little we shall see what these goods are. (1) There is the great good of time. A young person thinks that he has this in plenty. (2) Another good, which youth feels no less sure of, is health and strength. (3) Belonging to these two feelings, and yet in some way to be distinguished from them, is the sense of having ample liberty; by which, I mean, that our time of heavy responsibility is not yet come; that there is, and ought to be, large allowance for what we do; that we may, in short, give the reins to ourselves, our fancies, and our inclinations, because we are not yet old enough to be serious.
II. If the rich man in the parable, whilst his riches were flowing in upon him so largely, had wished and resolved to be rich towards God also, what would have been his language to his soul then? Or if any of you, so rich in the good things of youth, were also to resolve with God's grace to be rich towards God, what would be your language, the language of your hearts, whether it shapes itself into words or not? It would be a language which older men, I might almost say, would hear with envy. But, speaking more truly, it is not a sight for envy, but for the deepest joy and thankfulness, joy both of men and angels. We feel the charm of youth naturally, it cannot but awaken our interest even in itself; but when this natural interest is sanctioned by our soberest reason, when natural youth assumes, so to speak, the beauty of the spring of an eternal and a heavenly year, then it does fill us with the deepest joy; and this work of God's Spirit, far more than all those natural works of creation, is, indeed, very good. There is no more beautiful, no more blessed, sight upon this earth than a youth that is rich toward God.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 75.
References: Luke 12:20.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 357; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 94; E. Blencowe, Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. i., p. 328.
Luke 12:21I. Consider the sinfulness of the rich man, as gathered from his address to his soul. The rich man addressed his soul when forming his plan for a long course of selfishness. "I will say to my soul, Soul thou has much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." And what had the soul to do with the indulgences and enjoyments which he thus thought that his riches would procure? Had he addressed his body, and thus seemed forgetful or ignorant of its being immortal, we must have wondered at him less, and have thought him less degraded; but to confess that he had a soul, and then to speak to that soul as though it were material, a mere animal thing, with fleshly appetites and passions, this marked him at the very outset as being at the lowest point of sensuality; as though he knew no higher use of faculties, which distinguished him from the brute, than to give a zest to gratifications which he had in common with the brute. But, nevertheless, there was truth in the address of the sensualist; he was not so mistaken as at first he might appear. True, indeed, the soul could not literally eat, the soul could not literally drink; but the soul might have no taste, no relish, for spiritual things, the whole man might be given up to carnal indulgences, and the soul might be in such subjection, such slavery to the flesh, as to think of nothing but how to multiply its gratifications or to increase their intenseness. The very essence of idolatry is discoverable in this address of the rich man to his soul. It may be justly said that the rich man substituted his stores for God, put them in the place of God, or looked to them to do for him what God alone could do. Do you wonder, then, that his conduct was especially offensive to God, as offensive as though, in spite of the very letter of the Second Commandment, he had fashioned an image and bowed down before it?
II. It ought to be received by us as a very impressive warning, that it was nothing but a practical forgetfulness of the uncertainty of life, which brought down a sudden judgment on the rich worldling whose history is before us. There is evidently a peculiar invasion as it were of the prerogatives of God whensoever a man calculates that death is yet distant. Every man who is not labouring earnestly to save the soul is reckoning on long life. And the fearful thing is, that this very reckoning upon life, which men would perhaps hardly think of counting amongst their sins, may be the most offensive part of their conduct in the eye of the Almighty, and draw upon them the abbreviation of that life, and thus the loss of the expected opportunities of repentance and amendment.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,544.
References: Luke 12:21.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 123. Luke 12:22-35.—Ibid., vol. xx., p. 372. Luke 12:22-40.—R. S. Candlish, Sermons, p. 139.
Luke 12:23-24Man's Future Destiny.
I. Since the Resurrection, since Jesus came out of the sepulchre with the same or like body with which He entered into it, with the same faculties and senses, the future has ceased to be a practical question to discuss; both because of what we know and of what we do not know. We know enough to know that the changes which death makes will not be so very considerable. As the man is at night, so shall he be in the morning, although when the sun set he was living in a mortal body, and when it rose he had left the mortal body, and was living in an immortal body. But the going out of a house gives no right of inference that the man who goes out is affected in the least by the act; and the body can seem to no one who discerns between flesh and spirit anything more than a house in which a man lives.
II. The annihilation of life is (1) against the analogies of the universe. There is no evidence, even, that the lowest grade of matter is perishable. But if the base and low cannot be destroyed, on what have you to build an inference that the high and noble shall perish? If matter holds itself secure against duration, what friction of continued existence shall touch the lofty permanence of the soul? (2) Against the affections of the universe. The universe is affectionate. All orders of existence are blood-relations one to another. The grief at death, based on the apprehension of a subtle relationship existent between all orders of life, is felt everywhere, and by all, and for all bright things. (3) Graveyards are not for spirits. God does not smother life in sepulchres. All creatures shall live because He loves them, loves them as a parent loves his own. All creatures shall live, because His heart requires their life. The parent's joy is found in the possession of children, and who is to suggest that He, the Infinite Father, shall destroy His own felicity?
III. Upon the subject of the future life Jesus did not teach fully. Of the few things which He revealed plainly, these may be enumerated: (1) That men continue to live on; (2) that the moral natures they have in the mortal body they retain in the immortal boy; (3) that God alone has their destiny in charge. In His hands we may therefore reverently, prayerfully, hopefully, leave the destinies of our race.
W. H. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 463.
References: Luke 12:24.—Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 197. Luke 12:25, Luke 12:26.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 95. Luke 12:29.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. i., p. 249. Luke 12:31.—J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 29.
Luke 12:32The Kingdom for the Children.
It is to comfort and assure "the little flock" that our Lord means when He says these words. And you will observe that His argument is twofold—one in the nature of their Father, and the other in the character of the Father's gift.
I. You cannot observe the workings of any mind without seeing that there is a strong tendency to treat God as if He were anything else rather than a Father, as if He were a God unwilling to love us and save us. Because we are—or at least, were once—unwilling to come to God, by a strange confusion of ideas we begin to speak and act as if God were the reluctant party. As if to meet and contradict that, Christ says, "It is your Father's good pleasure." You will never have got the secret of Christ's teaching till you take more loving views of God the Father. In the original, this is a very full expression, "Your Father's good pleasure." It means this: He has considered it, He has approved it, and it is now His delight. All the forgiving and kind and fond thoughts that ever were in the world to sweeten life, they are only drops out of that deep spring of the Father's breast. What must the Fountain be? Therefore, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
II. Turn next from the Giver to the gift. Our Saviour evidently intends it to be a reasoning from the whole to the part. Shall the heir of an empire, the child of a King, nurtured in his Father's court, be anxious every day about little crumbs? What is the kingdom which the Father loves to give? That kingdom is inward. It lies in deep, secret places: it has no pageant. Its condition is humility; its gold, good works; its royalties, the chaste and simple services and sacraments of the Church; its diadem, love. It is "not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost"—righteousness its throne, peace its diadem, joy its dazzling crown. And that kingdom in a man's heart is what it is, a kingdom, because self-government is begun. In the heart, which is a kingdom, feelings are in their proper place, affections are subordinated, there is a harmony. Christ is in His right place; His pleasure is at the top, and all things are in subjection and dominion to Him.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 7th series, p. 72.
References: Luke 12:32.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 20; R. B. Isaac, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 227; J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons (1875), p. 290; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 122. Luke 12:35-37.—G. Macdonald, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 149. Luke 12:35-38.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. viii., p. 44. Luke 12:35-40.—S. Greg, A Layman's Legacy, p. 176.
Luke 12:40What is the problem about Advent? You hear of the Son of Man coming. Sometimes you hear of His coming as a thief in the night: sometimes you hear of His returning as a bridegroom from the wedding. In the passage from which my text is taken both these forms of speech are combined. What do they signify; are they merely figures which point to the necessity of preparation for death?
I. The first coming of Christ in great humility imports a continual lordship of His over the being and faculties of man. His purpose, the Apostles teach us, was not accomplished till He rose from the dead, and ascended on high, till He had claimed the glory which He had had with His Father before the worlds were. That was the vindication of His title to be Lord. That was the beginning of a society which could be nothing but universal, because it stood in the Name of the Son of God and Son of Man. That was necessary that the promise might be thoroughly accomplished, "The Lord God shall dwell among you, and He shall be your Father, and ye shall be His children." By this language we are able to understand that other language which refers to the coming, or to the appearing and unveiling of the Son of Man after His Ascension. We may very well admit that when our Lord says, "In such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh," He gives us all and more than all the warning respecting the hour of death which preachers have ever drawn out of His words. Assuredly it is no contradiction of His other teaching to say that, though on earth we may fancy ourselves under a law of selfishness, though here we may act as if we had no ties and relationships to those who surround us, when we close our eyes on the things with which they have been familiar, we pass into a region where we shall know assuredly that the Son of Man is reigning, where it will be impossible any longer to think that we are out of His Presence, or to escape from that Divine law of love which binds man to man, which binds earth and heaven together. The lie upon which we have acted must then be laid bare, the whole scheme of our existence must be exposed and broken in pieces; we must confess Him who gave Himself for men to be the Lord of all.
II. If this be the idea of Christ's coming, whether to the world or to individuals, which the New Testament sets before us, what is to make us ready for his coming? What is to save us from that sleep into which our Lord warns us that we may fall? What is to arouse us if it has overtaken us? Surely we must be reminded of His Presence with us. The natural notion that what is invisible is unreal; that He does not govern us because our eyes do not see Him; that He does not govern the world because the world fancies that it governs itself, this must be set at nought. We must have an assurance that the senses are as little judges of what is true in morals as they are in physics; that self, which appears to be the centre round which everything here revolves; is no more really the centre than our earth is the centre round which the heavenly bodies revolve. What shall give us this assurance? In the Eucharist we declare that our hope is in a Lamb of God which has taken away the sin of the world by the sacrifice of Himself: therefore, we ask that we may be ready when the Son of Man comes to claim us as sacrifices to God; and that we may not be found choosing another master for ourselves, and shutting ourselves up in a hell of selfishness and despair. In the Eucharist we give thanks for a death not for ourselves only, but for the whole world, therefore in it we look forward to a redemption, which shall be not for ourselves only, but for the world, when Christ shall appear without sin, unto salvation.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. i., p. 1.
References: Luke 12:40.—R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 2nd series, p. 110. Luke 12:41-48.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 340. Luke 12:42.—Parker, Christian Commonwealth, vol. viii., p. 3. Luke 12:43.—H. M. Gunn, Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 245. Luke 12:47, Luke 12:48.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 18. Luke 12:48.—H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, p. 332; Ibid., Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 312; J. M. Neale, Sermons for Children, p. 214; H. Scott Holland, Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 152.
Luke 12:49There are three main elements, three ruling and inspiring convictions, at the root of missionary enthusiasm.
I. Of these, the first is a deep sense of the certainty and importance of the truths of the Gospel.
II. The second conviction is a sense of the need which man has of revealed truth.
III. The third conviction is a belief in the capacity of every man for the highest good—for salvation through Christ.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 630.
References: Luke 12:49.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 854; J. R. Woodford, The Anglican Pulpit of Today, p. 63; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 97.
Luke 12:50I. Most persons know something of the feeling of suspens and anxious curiosity, when they are looking forward to anything very serious, anything which they think will greatly affect their happiness; especially when they have been a long time kept in expectation of it. The hours, days, months, years, of waiting appear to them more and more tedious; they are more and more alive and awake with curiosity to know what sort of a thing it will be when present, which now at a distance occupies their mind so much. Now, our Blessed Lord, as one of us in all things, sin only excepted, had His share of this feeling so far as it is natural and innocent; at least, so we may understand His saying in the text. Instead of shrinking from His death He was the more eager to begin; so high, so courageous was His love for us, and His zeal for His Father's glory; so complete the condescension with which He entered into this and all other innocent feelings of ours.
II. Thus, as He in His merciful and infinite condescension, limited Himself as His creatures are limited—He who is the God of Eternity limited Himself to a certain time—so He set us an example, who are all of us so limited, which way our thoughts should tend. Men are apt to think they shall die contented when they have satisfied this or that wish, when they have done this or that work, when they have made so much money, when they have obtained such and such an advantage for those whom they leave behind them; and that favourite object, whatever it be, haunts them night and day, and colours in a manner almost all their thoughts and words. So were our blessed Master's sayings tinged all over with the longing expectation of the Cross. And when the Cross itself came, His disciples, and we after them, might see the meaning of very many words and deeds which could not be understood at the first. As Christ was straitened, until His painful baptism of blood and sorrow was accomplished, so St. Paul, and all who resemble Him, are straitened, until they can find some way of giving themselves up more entirely, body and soul, life and death, to Him who thought nothing at all, not even heavenly and Divine glory, too dear to give up for them. Instead of planning restlessly and wearily what we have to do next, and what after that, in some pursuit which happens just now to be interesting, we shall be straitened and anxious, thinking how little we have done yet, and what we may and ought to do, for Christ and the Church's sake.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vi., p. 66.
Christ's Baptism of Suffering.
I. The whole structure of this sentence is in exact keeping with the common notion of baptism, seeing that a condition of greater freedom is evidently looked forward to by Christ as certain to result from those waves of fire through which He had to pass. He laboured under a species of bondage prior to His agony and death; and the consequence of the agony and death would, He knew, be deliverance from this bondage. There is, therefore, peculiar fitness in His describing that agony and death as a baptism with which He should be baptized. A change was to take place, and for the bringing about of that change immersion in a deep ocean of trouble was absolutely indispensable. Baptism denotes what is both temporary and refreshing. In respect to our blessed Saviour, both as to the time of endurance—for He was but plunged in the raging waters and then quickly withdrawn—and as to the undoubted change; for He went down with transgression and came up having made full expiation—in both particulars the imagery is most perfect.
II. "How am I straitened till it be accomplished!" (1) It was one consequence of our Saviour's sufferings and death that the gift of the Holy Spirit should be poured forth on His disciples. Until, therefore, the baptism was accomplished there could be little or none of that preparation of heart on the part of His followers which was indispensable to the reception of the spiritual magnificence and majesty of the Gospel. Thus our Lord was brought into the position of a constant restraint, like a man charged with news that would gladden an empire, while the rocks were the only audience to which he could have access. (2) Although the Spirit was given without measure to the Saviour, He was nevertheless hemmed round by spiritual adversaries, and He had continually before Him a task overwhelming in its difficulties—the keeping our nature free from every taint of corruption, the contending therein against the assaults of the devil. Is not the contrast of the state which preceded, and that which succeeded, the baptism of agony sufficient in itself to account for expressions even more sternly descriptive of bondage than that of our text? (3) Christ had not yet won the headship over all things, and therefore He was straitened by being circumscribed in Himself, in place of expanding into myriads. These, with like reason, serve to explain, in a degree, the expression of our text; though we frankly confess that so awful and inscrutable is everything connected with the anguish of the Mediator that we can only be said to catch glimmerings of a fulness which would overwhelm us, we may suppose, with amazement and dread.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,047.
In this awful utterance of our Substitute, as He looked forward to the Cross, we have,—
I. A longing for the baptism. He desired its accomplishment. He knew the results depending on it, and these were so Divinely glorious, so eternally blessed, that He could not but long for it—He could not but be straitened until it was accomplished.
II. The consciousness of fear and bitter anguish in contemplating it. He was truly man both in body and soul. As man He shrank from pain, He was weighed down with burdens, He was subject to sorrow; He looked on death as His enemy, and He made supplication with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death. His Divine nature did not relieve Him of one grief, or make His sufferings mere shadows.
III. The straitening in regard to its accomplishment. Like St. Paul, He was in a strait between things which pressed in opposite ways, and which must continue to press till the work was done. (1) He was straitened between the anticipated pain, and the thought of the result of that pain. (2) He was straitened between grace and righteousness. Between His love to the sinner and His love to the Father there was conflict; between His desire to save the former and His zeal to glorify the latter there was something wanting to produce harmony. He knew that this something was at hand, that His baptism of suffering was to be the reconciliation; and He pressed forward to the Cross as one that could not rest till the discordance were removed,—as one straitened in spirit till the great reconciliation should be effected. "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!"
H. Bonar, Short Sermons, p. 96.
I. What was the secret of the Saviour's earnestness? (1) His belief in a Divine commission. (2) His belief in the solemnity of time.
II. If these convictions possessed our souls—(1) they would dispel the delusions of time; (2) they would overcome the hindrances to submission; (3) they would break down the impediments of fear.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 70.
References: Luke 12:50.—J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, p. 24; G. Davis, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 88. Luke 12:51.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. iv., p. 217. Luke 12:52.—R. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 235. Luke 12:54-57.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1135.
For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.
And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.
And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.
Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?
But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.
And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.
Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?
When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.
I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.