To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days…
Speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. We hold in our hands, in these words, the key, not of a brief section of this chapter and this book alone, but rather of a very long stretch of time, and an immensely important and absorbingly interesting stretch of the world's history. Matters of the deepest and most touching individual interest, like all the charming incident of the four Gospels, must yield, we are here tacitly reminded - yield both in time and in high equity also - to those of collective, of national, of universal interest. All the capacity of Old Testament history, abounding in monographs of thrilling human import, long led the way onward to this development. And now it might be said the crisis had arrived. All that even Jesus himself had done and taught before "his passion" is to be called only a beginning. He had done, indeed, unnumbered benefits to unnumbered persons. He had taught unnumbered lessons of wisdom and goodness to unnumbered persons. And he had been a light, a wonder, a glory, to a nation. But now, after his passion and resurrection, on to his ascension, his work shows as though cast in larger mould. Its character speaks comprehension beyond what it formerly did. And this is its simple, grand, motto - "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." We have here -
I. THE MANIFEST INSTALLATION, LONG AWAITED, OF THE ONE ROYAL INSTITUTION OF THE WORLD. Henceforth the question that shall be to the front for the whole world is "the kingdom of God." The kingdom of God and the Church of Christ are not, indeed, identities. But they stand in most real correlation. The just analogy of the relation that holds between them is that of the perfect type, the original model to the faithful copy - a copy ever realizing greater faithfulness of resemblance. For this supreme installation, now come with so little of ceremony, at so unexpected a time, in so unexpected and modest a way, the world had waited thousands of years, while "kings and prophets" had been on the watch-tower. These had died with "hope deferred," but in many cases with faith never stronger than in that dying hour. But further, during the last thirty-three years, since in strangest consent a heavenly band of angels, and certain shepherds, and certain "wise men of the East," and a certain very unwise king, Herod, struck to the heart cowardly, had seemed to set them going, wave after wave of excited expectation and of suspense had swayed to and fro the hearts of multitudes. The expectation and the suspense were just now put to rest, and it should be a satisfied rest, for "this time," to be soon superseded by an untold period of hard work and severe conflict. During the past thirty-three years, this kingdom had been foreshadowed among a thousand things "done" and "taught" that seemed of nearer import, by
1. The distinct preaching of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1) and of Jesus Christ himself (Matthew 4:17).
2. The introduction of it into the model prayer taught by Jesus to his disciples, "Thy kingdom come Thine is the kingdom."
3. The many parables of Jesus, of which "the kingdom of God" or "the kingdom of heaven" was the subject.
4. The missionary tours of the twelve disciples (Matthew 10:7, 8) and of the seventy, (Luke 10:9).
5. The detached observations made by Jesus, having the kingdom as their subject (Luke 17:20; John 18:33-37). But now, during so special a period as the forty days, this subject - "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God " - is spoken of as the characteristic and discriminating theme of Christ's discourse and instruction to the apostles. The inference is plain.
II. THE INDICATIONS OF THE AUGUST CRISIS, WHEN THE MOST ARDUOUS WORK, MOST ENNOBLING PRIVILEGE, MOST TREMENDOUS RESPONSIBILITY, WERE DEVOLVED ON HUMAN AGENTS. And two things are specially to be noted at this amazing juncture.
1. The carrying on of the work of Christ on earth, in the establishing and propagating of the kingdom of God, is given into the hands of men. We know nothing like all which Jesus said to his apostles during these "forty days." Probably we do not know even all the occasions on which he appeared to them and instructed them. But there can be no doubt that there was one reason, and only one chief reason, why the theme of Christ's conversation or discourse was what we are here told it was. The reason this, that the apostles should now be prepared, both in heart and hand, to undertake the lead of the great work, as they had never Before been prepared, probably not even to the conceiving of such a thing.
2. The carrying on of that work, now devolved or about immediately to be devolved on the servants by the Master, is - for so we are irresistibly led to conclude - not prescribed too closely, is not provided for in anything approaching literal detail. Christ spoke of "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. One inevitably imagines that under this description principles were imparted - possibly enough information savoring of the character of revelation. These would be lighted up and warmed by the presence of gracious promise and stirring glimpses of the above and of the future. Yet, all as inevitably, one is impressed with the conviction that even that poor earthly judgment of those poor earthly men, who had so often slipped and failed even under the eye of the Master, was not fettered, hampered, overpowered by the severity of binding detail. We seem to see Jesus doing at that germinal time what the history of the Church clearly enough shows he ever has done since, throwing himself and his own expensive work and grand sacrifice alike on the love and the judgment of his servants! It is a marvelous thought of work and honor devolved on men! Nor could it be easy to find either a more stirring or inspiring stimulus both of love and of wisdom's best efforts. The conjunction of the trust Christ offers to repose practically, not on our hearts' love alone, but even on our fallible discretion, illustrates the height of his surpassing grace to us, in the very gracefulness of the grace.
III. THE SUGGESTIONS OF THE SOURCE OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM THAT UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES WOULD BE REQUIRED. He who spake" to loving disciples, friends, servants, and who instructed them now, would by the very act, often repeated before "his passion," but now (it is impossible to refrain from the word) with increased sanctity after his resurrection, ensure their memory, and their grateful memory, of himself. These he would make his own - more surely than the child hallows more and more the memory of the father; more surely than the pupil never conquers, nor wishes nor tries to conquer, the reverence he used to feel to a teacher, whom he once pictured as possessed of all knowledge. To him who gives the grace of conversion, we look instinctively for that of sanctification; as to those who give us life, we instinctively, unconsciously look for the support and rearing of that life. "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world," were words, we may rest assured, not heard exactly for the first time in the rapt moments of the literal Ascension! We are also immediately informed that Christ emphatically directed his disciples, now hanging on his lips, to look for and wait for the Holy Spirit, one of whose main offices was and ever is to bring to remembrance the things already spoken by Christ. Until, then, "God is all in all," and the mediatorial reign of Christ is resigned, he is our one Hope and Trust. He is the Giver of light, knowledge, love. He is the one only Head of his Church. He the Savior and the King of men, who now so condescendingly "showed himself alive" to the apostles, "after his passion, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: