Acts 1:6, 7
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?…
With these our Lord had to do battle all through his ministry. These so filled the minds of his disciples that they were unable to receive aright much of his spiritual teachings. Many of our Lord's sayings can be explained as being designed to correct this mistake, remove this prejudice, and adequately assure his disciples and us of the spiritual nature of the kingdom he came to set up. Though not in precisely the same way, yet quite as truly, the visibility and outward circumstance of Christ's Church may, in our day, occupy our thought rather than its spiritual character and work, and therefore our Lord's cautions to his apostles may be applicable to us. The dream of an "outward and visible" kingdom has not yet altogether faded, and given place to the sober reality of the existing "inward and spiritual" one. Christ is a King, but he is King of truth-seekers; he is "Lord of lambs the lowly, King of saints the holy." Show what the carnal conceptions were that the apostles cherished: the breaking off of the Roman yoke; the restoration of Israelite independence; the resumption of the Davidic kingdom under the Messiah. Show -
I. WHENCE THESE CONCEPTIONS SPRANG. Distinguish between the tone of prophecy and Messianic allusion before and after the "Captivity." Tendency of national circumstances to set prominently the promise of a Deliverer and King, and to set aside the figure of Messiah as a crushed Sufferer. Then show the influence exerted by the Messianic conception of Daniel, and yet that the Jews did not take it in its entirety. Further point out how the Maccabean princes became Messianic models, and the idea cherished was that Messiah would prove to be a national Hero and Savior, accomplishing the work permanently which Judas Maccabeus had only achieved temporarily. The merely national idea of Messiah cannot be based on a full treatment of the Messianic representations of Holy Scripture.
II. HOW WERE THESE CONCEPTIONS NOURISHED? Partly by the national condition in our Lord's time. Patriotic feeling was crushed down by the strong Roman rule; but patriotism, though it may be crushed down, cannot be crushed out, and indeed only becomes more dangerous to oppressors by being silenced. Partly by the hopeless condition of religion, which called for a great reformer; and, in the later monarchy, the reformers had been kings. Partly by the personal ambitions of the disciples, as illustrated by the request of the sons of Zebedee for the first places in the new court. To be faithful to the truth has often required resistance to surrounding sentiments and circumstances. Such resistance is only made by high-minded men.
III. HOW THESE CONCEPTIONS WERE OPPOSED BY CHRIST. Take:
1. The general tone of his teaching, as illustrated in the sermon on the mount.
2. The prominence in which he set his sufferings, especially after the Transfiguration.
3. The rebuke of those who would use carnal weapons for his defence, as to Peter outside the Garden of Gethsemane.
4. The distinct explanation of the nature of his kingship, as stated to Pilate. In spite of all his efforts with his disciples, we find the carnal notions of Messiah lingering in them (see Luke 19:11; Luke 24:21); and they seem to have been revived by that very resurrection which should have finally removed them. This is indicated in the text. Our Lord's last effort to destroy them is full of wisdom and gentleness. He says in effect, "Don't think about it; bend your whole mind and heart to two things -
(1) your great life-work, and
(2) the Divine presence that will be with you for its fulfillment" (ver. 8). The true corrective for intellectual error is still that which our Lord commands, viz. Christian work. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?