I now turn to Luke. It is remarkable how this Gospel brings out the moral condition of things in their various phases, and first of Israel in the days in which the Lord came. We have first the whole status of Judaism most clearly and graphically presented. In the body of the Gospel Luke gives us in general the Son of man, and the great moral principles of relationship between man and God. But for this reason, before this begins, he pictures to us very fully the state of Judaism by itself, and all the blessings which remained to the faithful in it: Herod (an Edomite) king of Judea—the Jewish service going on in Davidical order; angels, ministers of God, His messengers to a godly priest, prophecy, and more than prophecy brought in according to promise; the house of David entering on the scene, but in poverty and low estate. Note, the explanation of the name of “Jesus,” as saving His people, is not given, but He is the Son of the Highest. At the same time, He will have the throne of His father David. Next, as Haggai said, the Spirit remains among them, and acts in holy men and women according to ancient Jewish witness, such as Hannah in the desolations of Israel. Jewish hopes are prophetically sealed of God by prophecy. Chapter 1:67-79.
The Jews, at the same time, are under the dominion of the Gentiles, successors to those to whom Jerusalem had been delivered. They are disposed of at their will. Still the promise is sure, and its accomplishment announced by an angel to the poor of the flock. The heavens see further into this grace; there is goodwill toward, more exactly, God’s good pleasure in, men. But the Jewish order is still there; the faithful accomplish the ordinances of the law, but they await with desire the fulfilment of the promise, and see it in Jesus. They know each other as a remnant. Anna spake of Him to all them who waited for redemption in Israel. Yet prophecy in the remnant sees well the place the new-born child is to hold in Israel. He is for the fall and for the rising again of many. Such is the scene presented in the first two chapters of Luke, and of which the other Gospels say nothing, while this is silent on all the royal question and Herod’s effort to destroy Christ, Jesus coming up out of Egypt, the coming of the Gentiles to Israel’s King, all which referred to God’s dealings with Israel. Further, Christ is a real man; grows bodily and mentally, and In favour with God and man, in His gracious ways. But, child or not, His person was not changed. He depended on no outward mission to have it. At twelve years old, full of the power of His relationship, He is, with comely fitness and marvellous competency, occupied with His Father’s business, yet returns into the human child’s obedient place.
After that comes the service. In the third chapter we enter on what is common to this Gospel and that of Matthew, but the form is very different. John’s preaching, in Matthew, is repentance for the kingdom; in Luke, for the remission of sins. One feels the difference: one is dispensational, the other moral. So in Luke: “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” It is not merely the Pharisees and Sadducees, but the multitude, who are a generation of vipers. So he gives the practically moral test to each class that comes to him. The result as to John, at least his imprisonment, is given at once. Christ is owned Son of God by the Father, and the Holy Ghost comes on Him. Here this part of the Gospel closes, and the Lord’s genealogy comes in, not connected with these Jewish scenes and the promises of Abraham’s and David’s, but traced up to Adam, Son of God; introducing the great and, to us, all-important character of Son of man.
This makes us easily understand the reason why the genealogy is placed here, and the distinctive character of what precedes it. The whole Jewish condition is there, as we have seen, brought out with one little inlet into heaven, on Jesus coming into the world; and now we have His place as Son of man, One who, as representative of man according to divine perfection and counsels, is come to begin the new thing, and become the centre of the new creation. Only for that His death was needed for God’s glory and our salvation. (Compare John 12:23, 24.) But in His own moral perfectness we have the new thing.
The moment His being Son of man, descended according to the flesh from Adam, has been shewn, He is led to be put to the test by the enemy who had deceived the first Adam (chap. 4). This scene we have had as a fact in Mark, and detailed in Matthew, with this difference, that there it is given in historical, and, I may add, dispensational order; here in moral, the scriptural temptation by the Scriptures coming last. Hence Luke omits the sending away of Satan after the offer of the world and Satan’s proposal that He should worship him. After this, the moral power of work and victory in obedience is noted in His returning in the power of the Spirit into Galilee. None of that power was lost; indeed, Christ not having failed in subjective obedience, the strong man was bound. Hence the first thing is not, as in Matthew, the manifestation of power, and then (attention being attracted) the description of the character suited to the kingdom; but the presentation of Himself in grace, the Spirit of the Lord being upon Him, He being therefore man. The gracious words told in their hearts; but in His own country He was, for them, Joseph’s son—such is the place of the Lord from heaven, the Son of man (last Adam) presented in grace to men and to Israel. Christ had already preached and acted in Capernaum: but the Spirit of God we see thus formally presents Him in Luke. And the Lord shews, that coming in sovereign grace sent from God, there was no limitation to Israel, as Elias went to Sarepta, and Naaman, the Syrian, was healed; while in either case many in Israel are left aside. Hence unbridled rage in His Jewish audience; but He was not subject to its power. This is all peculiar to Luke.
With the exception of displacing the calling of Andrew and Simon, as we shall see, Luke now follows the same order as Mark. First, His power over the enemy is shewn (chap. 4:33-37); next, over diseases, and all that sin had brought in. This is the power He had in the world as having bound the strong man—He could spoil all bis goods, work an entire deliverance of man from Satan’s power, and all its consequences in this world. But He seeks no witness to Himself, does not allow the devils to speak, and retires from the gaze and throng of men when His miracles had drawn their attention. He goes first into the desert, and then, when they would stay Him, pursues His work. This characterises His presence in the world.
The Lord now begins to gather round Himself (chap 5). In Matthew, this gathering round Himself is brought in immediately He appears as the Light in Galilee, according to promise, preaching the kingdom; and then He goes round everywhere; and, when crowds follow Him, explains the character suited to the kingdom. Here, His mission and power as Son of man on the earth being shewn, He, though retiring from view, begins then to gather to Himself. It will be remarked, that we have a much fuller development of the way in which the disciples are called to follow Him in Luke. Simon hears the word in his ship. Christ works a miracle which reveals His person; the effect is just and deep conviction of sin in connection with that person. Then they leave all and follow Him. It is, I apprehend, Luke who changes the place of this. In that which immediately follows, he takes the same order as Mark. In Matthew we have the whole of this arranged according to subjects.
What characterises these facts in Luke is their being presented as the various displays of power in grace. First, Jesus heals that which Jehovah alone healed, the figure of sin as disease and defilement, which excluded from Jehovah’s presence, and from communion with His people. He cleanses them from defilement. He charges the cleansed men to tell no man, but it is noised abroad. He heals all who come, but retires into the wilderness and prays. There is power and grace, but it is the Son of man. Next, doctors of the law and Pharisees were then there, and (an expression so fully shewing the situation) the power of the Lord (of Jehovah) was present to heal them. Faith brings the paralytic man; Jesus goes to the root of all evil in Israel (and everywhere), but here especially deals with it in respect of the government of God, and pardons the man’s sins—Jesus brings forgiveness. The word is, “The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive.” Yet it was the Jehovah of Psalm 103. Here “so seen in Israel” is omitted. Next, we find grace receiving the vile. He came to call sinners as a physician for their need. Grace was thus shewn in the midst of Israel, but on principles which went necessarily beyond it. Jesus receives sinners in grace, making all new. These cases, indeed, are common to the Gospels, whatever the order may be, and prominent in them as stamping a plain character on Christ’s mission. Only Matthew, introduces the centurion’s case where he places it, as especially shewing the bearing of the state of things on the extension of grace to the Gentiles. The fact that, though in connection with Israel, the presence of the Lord and the principles here brought into view went necessarily farther, and could not be confined to the Jews definitely, is brought out in the question as to John’s disciples, and the new wine and old bottles, etc.; the vessels must be new for the new power. But Luke adds here a moral principle not noticed in the other two Gospels; that human nature will like the old thing best.
This subject is pursued (chap. 6) in two remarkable cases as to the sabbath, the key-stone of Jewish ordinances: the case of David eating the shewbread—the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath; and the healing of the withered hand—divine goodness rises above ordinances. Luke gives the facts more briefly than Mark. Matthew puts them much farther on in the history, where they are connected with the rejection of Israel. The first of these cases presents the position of the rejected King whose need was above ordinances, and whose condition really abrogated them; adding that, as Son of man, consequently, He was Lord of the sabbath. The second is the title of grace to rise above them. For grace is of God.
Next, we find the nomination of the apostles. After the Lord’s personal position and character had been brought out, this finds a natural place. He selects His instruments. This still follows the same order as Mark; who, after a general statement of the position of Jesus, continues his account with the same event. Matthew has not this choice of the twelve. He continues his full account of Jesus’ mission in the midst of Israel till He sends them out to continue it. In Luke we find again here the dependent character of the Son of man. He is all night in prayer before He chooses the twelve. Here comes in the sermon on the mountain in its place; and we have clear evidence of the intended omission by the Holy Ghost of this choice of the twelve in Matthew, for as a man he must have known it, for he was one of the twelve. We have seen Matthew bringing in the sermon on the mount much earlier, as the principles of the kingdom. In Luke 6:17 it should not be “the plain,” but “a level place” —still on the mountain. Luke gives the substance of the sermon in its great moral principles. His power, note, was shewn in the multitude (v. 17-19). The Lord addresses Himself in Luke to His disciples, as being themselves in the place He speaks of, instead of stating the abstract principle. The woes too are added. It is an address to the heart and conscience of the person present. He weaves in too, as verses 39, 40, other general principles connected with the precepts He is giving. So verses 44, 45. Here we have left Mark, who does not give the sermon on the mount. He gives the choice of the apostles, and then passes on to the full blasphemy of the Pharisees, and Jesus’ refusal to listen to His mother, preceding the parables from the ship, as in Matthew 12 and 13. But the order in Luke, in this particular case, helps us, as it does in Matthew, to identify the sermon on the mount in the two Gospels.
From the mountain He enters into Capernaum, and heals the centurion’s servant. Here Christ’s divine title and power is shewn; but he does not use it to shew the rejection of Israel, and the reception of the Gentiles as in Matthew. The widow of Nain, again, shews the divine power and compassion of Jesus in the place of death and sorrow; this circumstance is peculiar to Luke. In Matt. 8 the leper, and the healing of Peter’s wife’s mother, are introduced respectively before and after the centurion’s servant, without reference to the order of time. After this, the relative positions of John and Christ are brought forward; which is not in Mark, and is much later in Matthew. I apprehend its historical place is here. In Luke we have the moral effect of both inquired into. The people and publicans justified Christ, having humbled themselves under John’s baptism; the Pharisees not, having refused to do so. Matthew introduces here Jesus thanking the Father for His way of dealing with the wise and with babes, and the real reason of the change taking place; taking it again, I apprehend, out of its historical order to complete the picture of that change furnished by John’s position and message. This justifying of wisdom by her children is then illustrated by the woman who was a sinner, in contrast with Simon the Pharisee.
This deep-reaching moral picture is in Luke only, as are also the few words which follow (chap. 8); which cast so clear a light on the Lord’s life; and give the double character of devotedness—that of the apostles, and of the women who followed Him. One of the parables of Matthew 13 is then given, that is, the present service in the word, and responsibility of man, his duty to maintain the light. The case of Jesus’ mother and brethren is then introduced in Luke, as shewing Christ’s value for those who kept His word, and not as a witness of His breaking His ties with Israel in the flesh. None of the parables relative to the kingdom are spoken of. Here we return to the historical order which is in Mark until the feeding of the five thousand inclusive; that is, the history of Legion, Jairus’ daughter, the sending out of the twelve, and the feeding of the multitude. As regards Legion, the difference is remarkable. In Matthew we have the display of Satan’s power, as it would afterwards work in the Jews, and the request for Jesus’ departure; not any detail as to the poor man that was healed. In Luke, as in Mark, we have the details of the effects on him:—the Lord’s real work in grace in the matter. In the case of Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood, the same brevity may be remarked in Matthew.
In Luke all the moral circumstances are much more brought out in detail, as indeed in Mark also. What is shewn in Luke especially is grace, divine power acting in the kindness and goodness of a Man filled with charity. It is not, as in John, a divine person so much as a divine character; and that in the perfect sympathy of a Man. What shews this (as the case of the widow of Nain, Simon and the woman that was a sinner) is constantly found in Luke and not in the other Gospels. It is grace in and towards man.
On the other hand (chap. 9), the mission of the twelve, which comes in its place here, is given much more briefly, and with no special reference to Israel; nor the elaborate unfolding of the place which testimony would have among the people until Christ’s return, which is found in Matthew. We have the fact: they are to preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick, and to go free from care and dependent on Himself. It is the same mission, but in its simple actual character. The effect on Herod is here introduced. Luke gives no account of John the Baptist’s death. There is a short allusion to his imprisonment (Luke 3:19), when John’s preaching is spoken of; but this part of Israel’s sin formed no part of his subject. Otherwise the same order as Mark’s is still followed here. On the return of the twelve, the Lord goes into a desert place, is followed, and heals those who have need of healing. In these miracles, necessary to relate as great witnesses to Christ’s power, Luke gives but the fact briefly, and, as so given, having more power in that respect. The connection of it with Israel, and His dismissal of the people, and taking Himself another position while His disciples were toiling alone, are all omitted. In Matthew and Mark, the closing circumstances of this miracle lead to a series of events and incidents, which refer all of them to Christ’s special relationship with the Jews, the moral position of these, and God’s estimate of them; all of which are omitted in Luke. Matt. 14:22 to 16:12; Mark 6:47 to 8:26.
All three Gospels then come to Peter’s confession of Christ and the transfiguration. Only in Luke the common opinions as to Christ connect themselves more directly with Herod’s, and what is there said. For Luke 9:18 is directly connected with chapter 10, and that with what precedes. Still the transfiguration is a great central event in all, and that connected with the confession of Peter. In all the rejection of Christ and the taking up the cross are founded on Peter’s owning Him to be the Christ, and precede the revelation of His glory. There are some differences to be noted. Matthew recounts Christ’s instruction as to the church, which was to take the place for the present of His Messiah glory; and the place Peter was to hold in the administration of the kingdom. Here also in Luke the matter is simply stated in its own moral force; and the details of Peter’s dislike to the cross, and the Lord’s rebuke, are omitted. The character of what they are about to see is also more simply stated.
In Matthew, for whom the change from Messiah to Son of man is a main point, and the future coming of Christ in this character (see Matt. 24:30), the expression used in connection with this display of His glory is the Son of man coming in His kingdom. In Mark, where service in the word forms the subject, it is the kingdom of God come with power. In Luke it is simply till they see the kingdom of God. There is a difference also in the details. The moral circumstances again appear in Luke. The disciples are asleep. The Lord is speaking of His decease. It is the entry of Moses and Elias1 into the cloud that alarmed them. All the ensuing conversation relative to John’s being Elias, of which Matthew and Mark speak, is not found in Luke’s account; but he returns after the casting out of a devil to the doctrine of the cross (v. 44, 45). And further, in the rest of this chapter, in Luke 9, we have all the forms which self takes, and which it would excuse and justify from the grossest to the most subtle; and the claim of Christ and the service of grace in the kingdom is shewn to be paramount to every thing. Two of the circumstances are given in Matthew and Mark; the second, that of the little child, as an example, with a large addition of instruction as to offences; and with the addition, in Matthew, of the position which the church takes, as in the place of Israel in respect of offences. This passes off in Matthew to other questions relative to the Jews.
We then find in Luke a mission not noticed in the other Gospels, that of the seventy (chap. 10). It is in principle the same as that of the twelve, only more urgent, but there is no limit as in Matthew 10. Those that rejected them were to be equally sure that the kingdom of God had come nigh to them. Such was essentially the message, with proofs of the power of Him that sent it. From this onwards to the commencement of the closing scene (chap. 18:31), what we read in Luke is either not in Matthew and Mark, or is here connected with other subjects than the historical ones found in those Gospels; and the various circumstances are introduced in their moral connection. On the return of the seventy the great moral connection of the gospel with eternal hopes comes out. The power of Christ’s name over the demons brings to Christ’s mind the final overthrow of Satan. Still the subject of joy for them was not that they could cast out devils, but that they belonged themselves to heaven—their names were registered there. This gave a very clear and definite character to the Gospel. It is in this connection that the hiding these things from wise and prudent, and revealing them to babes, is introduced here; not in connection with the rejection of John Baptist and Christ, and the total change in God’s dealings with man taking place, as in Matthew 11. Hence it is added here, that the Lord turned to the disciples to remark their blessedness, for these things were brought to their eyes. It is the blessing of the heavenly people which is before us.
What follows is in Luke alone. After the essence of the statement of the law, the Lord shews to him who would justify himself by a cavil on the terms, that grace, the new and blessed principle of God’s dealings, makes us, by its own nature, the neighbour of every one that has need, and obliterates, by its divine nature, the divisions formed by ordinance which work no grace, but, with the heart such as it is, tend to nourish pride by distinguishing him to whom they belong. The bearing of this instruction, and its deep moral character, are evident.
Next, we learn the value of hearing the word—in contrast with cares—and that of prayer, its character and success (chap. n). We have then the final hardness of the Pharisee shewn, and the way in which Satan possesses the heart void of God, though it seem reformed; but without application to Israel’s final state, as in Matthew. The Lord turns, on one speaking of the value of natural ties with Him, to the word; that God owned those who heard and kept it, as the only true tie—the Ninevites and Queen of Sheba, as owning the word from feebler lips than He who was there, would condemn that generation. We have then the judgment of the moral state of the Pharisees, but not here connected with the final judgment of Jerusalem, and the connection of the disciples with Israel, as in Matthew. Still the Lord shews, that all the blood shed would be required of them, as in Matthew.
We have then a general warning as to their principles, and those on which the disciples were to act, taken, partly from a private warning to His disciples, partly from His instruction to the twelve when He sent them out, partly from His statement as to the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost: but this is here employed to encourage the disciples in acting on the principles of the upright testimony He had spoken to them of; shewing that the Holy Ghost who was spoken against, spoke in them, and would tell them what to say; chapter 12.
As the Lord had urged on His disciples, faithfulness, uprightness, and boldness in testimony, so now He goes on to press on them disinterestedness and absence of all carefulness. This, however, is introduced by one who looked to Him to order things rightly on earth. This He entirely disclaims, and turns to the multitude to press on them the folly of having their portion here, which death in a moment could snatch away. With His disciples He presses another motive, namely, their preciousness in the Father’s eyes. Here some of the instructions of the sermon on the mount come in.
But the Lord goes on to urge another motive, giving an additional character to their devotedness. Not only it was the Father’s good pleasure to give them the kingdom, so that they might well trust Him for all things: but He Himself was coming again. Christians were to be as those that waited for Him. He gives the beautiful picture of His love making them happy in glory, girding Himself and coming forth to serve them; till then they must watch with girded loins. The difference of the faithful and unfaithful professing servants is then brought out. One cannot but feel, in all this and what follows, even though parts of what is recorded are found in Matthew and Mark, that we are in a wide sphere of moral instruction not entered on elsewhere: and that all this is given with a moral purpose, not in reference to historical order. He is in Israel, but developing great principles which cannot be confined to Israel.
In what immediately follows, He shews that they must bow to the truth or be judged. He came in grace, and the power of divine love: but there was nothing to answer it. His death would open the flood-gates of this love to the chief of sinners, not wait till there was righteousness enough to receive it. But while this love was in Himself, He was straitened in its display and revelation, till this baptism of death was accomplished. This love, this incoming of God, would raise all the enmity of the human heart. It is not as Prince of peace that His power would be shewn. Not only so, but, by the present manifestation of the grace, though straitened, the fire it would light was already kindled. The Jews ought to have discerned this time. Looked at, naturally, as under the law, they did not become reconciled on the way; they would go to prison till all was paid.
Personally, if they did not repent, they would all perish, like those slain by Pilate at Jerusalem, whom they thought special objects of judgment; chapter 13. This instruction is closed by the parable of the fig-tree in the garden, spared by the intercession of the gardener, that is, for the painstaking service of Christ; then, if fruitless, to be cut down. It only spoiled the garden. In all this, and what follows, we have the judgment of the present state of Jerusalem and the people, in connection with the Lord’s presence. Meanwhile, He asserts, while shewing their hypocrisy, His right to minister in grace, in divine power, blessing to Israel, in opposition to their legal ignorance of and absence from God. The urgency of the acceptance of this ministry is then pressed. He was going through the cities and villages teaching, and presses the entrance at the strait gate; for the time would come when they would seek to take credit from His having been among them, He would in glory reject them, and they would see Gentiles with Abraham and the fathers, and themselves thrust out. Finally, on the Pharisees urging Herod’s evil intentions, He shews that Jerusalem must fill up its guilt in rejecting Him, the Jehovah who would ever have gathered her children, and now mourned in tender grace over her who was henceforth to be desolate, till, according to Psalm 118, she saluted Him who came in the name of the Lord.
In chapter 14 the Lord, on occasion of a dinner in the Pharisee’s house, continues His instruction on the grace which characterised God’s ways now, and that again in contrast with the sabbath; silencing them, with the same reasoning as to their own conduct. He then unfolds the path of present grace, and its results with God; namely, first lowliness, taking the lowest place (God would exalt, in due time, those who did so: such was His own course); next, to act in grace, and not on the principles of worldly selfishness. The recompense would be in the resurrection of the just. In all this, He is bringing out the spirit and character of the new thing, into which He was leading men; the character of the new man in a world of evil. The reference of one of the company to the joy of eating bread in the kingdom of God, perhaps a commonplace remark, perhaps felt, leads Him to apply the principles He is expounding, to the consequence of their rejection in Israel then. The kingdom was presented in grace; the Jews, in their national capacity, from temporal motives, were slighting it. The Lord would call the poor of the flock, glad to come; and the Jews, as such, be excluded. But the enjoyment of blessing, at the same time, would depend on unqualified decision in oneself, and against the much greater power, in flesh’s judgment of it, exercised against those who sought it.
It will be remarked, that the parable of the great supper in Matthew has a much more dispensational and judicial character. The city is burnt up. It is the king’s son the marriage is for. The king’s turning to the poor of the flock in Israel, the judgment of those entered, the conduct of many towards the messengers, are not found in Luke; nor the fact of the house being filled with guests. That is, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the general Gentile body of professors are not brought out. The first invited are excluded from the Supper in Luke as unworthy. I am disposed to think it a different occasion.
After insisting on decision, and counting the cost, the Lord concludes by saying, a man must forsake all that he has; and if the salt has lost its savour, it is good for nothing.
Chapter 15 begins a series of instruction, shewing the character and effects of grace; and the change, dependent not on dispensation, but on the full revelation of the divine character, and the consequent judgment of the whole condition of man; though it was in Israel that condition was put to the test. The well-known fifteenth chapter brings out the whole scheme of God’s ways in grace with the sinner; in Christ, the Spirit, and the Father; and, in general, that it was the divine joy to save and act in grace. It shews the way in which Christ sought His sheep, and charged Himself with bringing it home; the way the Spirit sought diligently with the light brought to bear on all; the path of man’s ruin, and the way the Father received Him on His return; and, finally, the self-righteous Jewish condition.
Next, we find the way in which grace estimates this world, and man in it; with the use to be made of his forfeited possession in it; that is, of what he possessed, though he had forfeited all title to it. Of this, also, the Jews were the special illustration. When the human earthly place was lost, another future was to be the motive on which the use of present possessions was to be founded. Then the veil of the other world is removed, and we see that this world’s being our portion, excludes from that. In the close of this parable, which points at the complete substitution of the heavenly blessing for the earthly, and the judging of all things, in their eternal character, by the letting in of that new light, the Lord shews that Moses and the prophets would have led the Jews to own Him, and be delivered; and that if they did not hear them, His own resurrection would have no effect. The connection of great moral truths with the setting aside of the Jewish system, and the setting it aside by these moral truths, and the grace which belonged to God’s nature, when He revealed Himself; both of them too wide for Judaism (the latter, contrasted with its spirit, as the former left all its ordinances necessarily behind), instead of setting it aside dispensationally, is very remarkable in all this part of Luke; chapter 16.
In the beginning of chapter 17, are collected a number of passages found in Matthew and Mark, with additional matter, in which the principles on which the disciples had to walk, in their new service, are stated. Such are—care against giving occasions of stumbling to the little ones of Christ; forgiveness of what is personal; the power of faith; the recognition that, at best, we have only done our duty. The order and way in which these are introduced and used is the only thing to be particularly noted here. In what follows we have an interesting example of the way of deliverance from the legal ordinances. Ten lepers are cleansed. The Lord sends them—their cleansing was the fruit of Jehovah’s power—to shew themselves to the priests, according to the law. They go, believing Him, and are cleansed. Nine pursue their course; one turns back. Outwardly farther from privileges which exalt flesh, he more easily discovers that Jehovah, whom he went to own in Jerusalem, is in Him who had cleansed him. He turns back to offer his thanks there. The Lord, since he had found the true place where God was, sets him entirely free from Jerusalem: “Go thy way,” He says, “thy faith hath made thee whole.” He was not only blessed but free. The kingdom of God was really in its power in His person amongst them. And this was so true, that, rejected as He was going to be, the time would soon come, when the disciples would be glad to have such days as they then had with Him.
The Lord then, as in chapter 12, He had given the church’s place at His coming, gives the Jewish condition and in general the world’s. The same instructions are given, in connection with the judgment of Jerusalem, in Matthew, of which the prophetic announcement in Luke is farther on. Here it is the unfolding the condition of the disciples and the Jews, flowing from His then presence and the place His removal would give them. The condition of the witnesses in the final days of Jerusalem is given here, not as in Matthew in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem. This last is directly and distinctly given by itself, and with plain reference to presently coming events, as a positive object of revelation in Luke.
Here the subject is the condition of the disciples; and the warnings are connected with His teaching on that point. Hence the direction to pray, though having a peculiar parabolic application to the latter days in Jerusalem, has a universal one for men in every circumstance in which they are in difficulty and need. But this dependence upon God was hardly to be expected when the Lord returned. Except the comparison of the times of Noe and Lot, all this is found in Luke only; and the whole is general, and applicable to the coming of Christ, in its bearing on the world at large, though where the carcase is there the eagles will be gathered together.
The characteristic traits, suited to the kingdom, and approved of God, are next shewn. Lowliness—because of our sinfulness—lowliness in the sense of our nothingness. Here we have some of the account, given in Matthew, of the relationship and position of children, in a moral connection, as is usual with Luke. Then, entire devotedness, and the heart purged; not simply the outward keeping of the commandments, however sincere. Goodness is denied to man. One only is good— God Himself. What seems blessing here below, is the greatest hindrance to entering into the kingdom; but grace can do everything. Nor will devotedness lose its reward in this world, or the next; chapter 18.
This closes the morat developments which compose all the middle part of Luke, and form instructions of the highest interest, connected with the present moral introduction of the kingdom. They contrast with Matthew 13, where we have the dispensational earthly survey of it; and with chapters 16, 17, when the great change of system and organisation is brought out to light. Save two or three general principles, such as taking up the cross, the young ruler seeking the best commandment to have eternal life, and the exhortation to lowliness, all this part is omitted in Matthew and Mark. It characterises Luke; and even the topics introduced, which are found in Matthew and Mark, are so in a different connection. On the other hand, a good deal that precedes the transfiguration in Matthew and Mark is omitted in Luke. In this part of Luke historical order is not generally to be sought. This is now again taken up, as it is in the other Gospels too, by telling the disciples that rejection awaited Him from the Jewish rulers. The prophecies were thus going to be accomplished. The disciples did not understand Him.
The history of the last events, begins, as we have seen in reading Matthew, with the entrance into Jericho, where the blind man owns Him as Son of David, and receives his sight. But here also the grace which receives the vile, in spite of Jewish prejudices, must be brought out in Luke; chapter 19. This is the more remarkable here, as connected with His character as Son of David, and His speedy entry into Jerusalem, according to Zechariah. Zacchaeus had been honestly faithful to his conscience; but that day salvation came to his house. His heart had been drawn; but now salvation came to him. The Son of David, Messiah the King, would, in spite of Pharisees, meet the wants of the poor and despised in Israel, however false their position. And that of Zacchaeus was so; and no attempt to satisfy the exigencies of his conscience changed its falseness; indeed this creates them. But in a time of confusion (and who does not see such?) grace reaches through the forms this confusion takes in individuals, to meet the need which lies at the bottom of the heart, and which grace had produced, and which shews itself in many a detail of which grace takes notice, and which grace can see (though selfishness cannot), as the Lord did here. Such grace as Jesus’ draws them out, as it did here; but that grace, at the same time, passes by as well all the efforts to quiet the conscience. It brings salvation. Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham, surely as much as the Pharisees. I am disposed to think, that the healing of the blind man is out of its place in Luke, and is introduced before the Lord’s entry into Jericho, in order to give its true character to the reception of Zacchaeus.2
Besides the very interesting history of Zacchaeus, Luke adds the parable of the traffic with the mina, referring to the way in which the kingdom would be set up, and the Jews’ rejection of Him. It is evident that there are certain points of analogy between this and the parable addressed to the disciples in Matthew; but there are important points of distinction. Here responsibility is much more distinctly brought out; God’s sovereignty, though ever wise sovereignty, in gifts, less. In Matthew one had five talents; another two; another one, according to his several ability. Here each has one; all depends on the faithfulness of the servant. Hence, it is not, as in Matthew, one common joy, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”; but “Be thou over ten, thou over five cities.” It is reward in the kingdom, not common joy with Christ; each being faithful in what was entrusted, and having gained according to what was given him. But another point is brought in, not merely the faithfulness of the servants, in which the analogy, though not sameness, of the two parables lies. The question of the Jews receiving the kingdom or not is treated; they could not, for they would not receive the King. Christ was now near that place where this question was to be decided, the city of the great King; and men thought the kingdom should immediately appear. He shews them that another order was to be followed. He was going to a far country, heaven, to receive the kingdom. Meanwhile, He left His servants to trade; not yet to be His partners in the glory of the kingdom—that would come afterwards. They would have their place in it according to their faithfulness in His absence; to them that had, more would be given. But there was another class of persons, His citizens—over whom He should have reigned—the Jews; but they, in their rejection of the gospel after His departure, declared they would not have Him to reign over them. They are, on His return, brought before Him and slain. It was not merely the rejection of Christ;—He interceded for them on the cross, for that as their ignorance, and the Spirit comes to tell them, He will return on their repentance;—but their opposition to this last, as a message sent after Him, that they will not have Him. This gave the full instructions as to the course the introduction of the kingdom would take.
He rides into the city on an ass. Part of the cry recited here, not in the other Gospels, is worthy of remark: “Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” That is, in Luke, they not merely raise the cry of Israel in the last day, according to Psalm 118, but the announcement is extended to heaven. There peace is settled. The power of the enemy is gone; and that glory, which is above the heavens, fully established. Peace reigns there, so that the blessing on earth can follow. This additional and characteristic announcement naturally belongs to Him who reveals the Son of man, and heavenly and eternal things. Further, we have still grace shewn here; the other special part of Christ’s character in Luke—He weeps over the city on seeing it.
The question of His authority is in all the three Gospels, as is also the seeking of fruit from the husbandmen; but Luke omits the marriage of the king’s son, which, in Matthew, gives the other part of God’s dealing with the Jewish people. Luke had already given an analogous parable; but dealing with the subject morally as to the effect of Jesus’ teaching, and calling men, and the result in its extension to the Gentiles, after He had shewn His love to the poor of the flock in Israel. In Christ’s reply to the Sadducees, an additional and important element is brought out in Luke—the first resurrection peculiar to the children of God. In Matthew, the present authority of scribes, etc., as in Moses’ seat, is recognised; but they are denounced by the Lord in the most awful way. Here, after the manner of Luke, the true moral point of their character is stated; no authority is spoken of, and they are left there. A few words suffice for this; chapter 20.
Then comes the widow’s mite (chap. 21)’, which is not in Matthew.
In all this part Luke’s account tallies exactly with Mark’s. The character of Jerusalem, as killing the prophets, and the Lord’s patient grace, which would have so often assembled her children, found in Matthew immediately before the prophecy of chapter 24, is in Luke 13. I apprehend, as I expressed in speaking of Matthew 23, it is introduced by Matthew, in connection with his subject, somewhat out of its place, but not so far as to time as might be supposed. The journey mentioned in Luke 9:51, and in chapter 17:11, was the last, which, I suppose, are the same, if the sense of chapter 9:51 is rightly given.
The collection of moral instructions, which follows on chapter 9, leaves the chronological connection untouched. The transfiguration practically closed the Lord’s ministry, as the Lord in the midst of Israel; and that, in all the three Gospels. In all the three, besides the account of the birth of the Lord, which is not in Mark, there are three parts: His ministry in Galilee, which closes with the transfiguration; then He specially announces that He is to suffer, and that as Son of man; then we have a course of instruction, whether dispensational or moral. The latter character is largely developed in Luke, so that this second part, in which Christ has the place of Son of man (the subject of Luke’s Gospel), is very much longer, contains a great deal of additional matter, and draws out what is found in Matthew and Mark in quite another connection. The third part begins with the blind man near Jericho.
In the second part, in all three Gospels, there is, as to historical circumstances, merely the last journey, and what passed in it; so that the blind man at Jericho connects itself, through this journey, almost immediately with the transfiguration. He then finally left His service in Galilee, and set out to suffer in Jerusalem; so that the character of His service was changed, or rather it was closed: only that He continued to shew mercy, and to bear witness in grace, till it was actually and finally closed. But He had forbidden His disciples to say He was the Christ, for He was soon going to suffer as Son of man, and could say now, “How long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?”
John shews, I apprehend, that there was, after His leaving Galilee, a course of movements in detail not found in the other Gospels. He goes up into the coast of Judaea from Galilee, the other side Jordan, and goes to Jerusalem; Mark 11. Jesus was at Jerusalem in winter, at the feast of the dedication; John 10:22. They seek to kill Him, and He goes beyond Jordan again; comes up to raise Lazarus, and again departs to a country called Ephraim. Then He comes up for the last time; Luke 9 and 17. This, of course, was a little before Easter. The address to Jerusalem was thus, at any rate, on His last journey up to Jerusalem.
To come now to the prophetic warning of the Lord. The question recorded, as put by the disciples, shews at the outset the difference of the object of the revelation. Christ, as in Matthew, had assured them that the temple would be thrown down. The inquiry, as to the sign of Christ’s coming and the end of the age, is not presented nor noticed in Luke. The question here put, relates solely to the destruction the Lord had spoken of. Hence, while the early warnings referring to this epoch are found here, more briefly, yet much as in Matthew, the prophetic account closes with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and says nothing of the abomination of desolation. The times of the Gentiles have then their course, till they are fulfilled, Jerusalem being trodden under foot. After this come the signs, and the Son of man is seen coming in glory. The difference of this and Matthew is evident. The passage in Luke, while giving the subsequent events and the coming of the Lord, is specially occupied with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, judicially ushering in the external Christian order of things; while Matthew is exclusively occupied with the time which is yet to come, and (save the fact that the gospel of the kingdom was to be preached to all nations) confines himself to the testimony in Israel. We shall see something analogous in the Lord’s supper.
The close of the warning in Luke 21 is also peculiar. The warnings of Noe and Lot are not given here in Luke, but in chapter 17. Instead of that, we have verses 34-36, where the day is declared to come on the whole earth; but then the warning directed to the disciples, that they may escape and stand before the Son of man, leaving it open to a full millennial accomplishment. Thus, while it deals with the remnant, it is much more large and general. In Luke 17 the Noe and Lot comparisons are given as a warning, in contrast to the present character of the kingdom then through Christ’s presence. The kingdom was there in His person; but His rejection would change all, and then He would come as a flash of lightning in the midst of the busy selfish occupations of this world, like the deluge on the world and the fire on Sodom.
I do not think, from chapter 17:22, the Gospel of Luke has a date, until the last events. What is narrated, is added to what precedes; and then, when the prophetic warnings are given, that is, when the residue are warned, the present change is brought forward, and the time of the Gentiles dispensationally stated.
In what follows in chapter 22, in the main, the three Gospels are alike; only Luke, as he usually does, where not led out into moral development, gives a very brief and concentrated resume of the facts more distinctly stated elsewhere. I refer particularly now to Judas and the chief priests. The “then” of “then entered Satan,” ver. 3, is not in the original. It was after the sop he entered in. Before that, he had put the betraying of Jesus into his heart. This is all put together, with the chief priests’ counsel; chapter 22:1-6. A similar instance is as to John Baptist (Luke 3:15-19): as is also the visit of the women to the sepulchre.
Then follows the choice of the room for the Passover. Here there are some important circumstances peculiar to Luke. First, the Lord’s love and feeling about it (v. 15); next, the reference to the eating the lamb for the last time, and the cup: besides the institution of the Supper, the presence of Judas, and the strife among them who should be the greatest. The manner of expression, too, is according to the character of that Gospel; that is, opening the then next present order of God’s dealings, instead of going on dispensationally to the renewal of God’s relationship with the world. The Passover was to be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. Hence He was glad to eat of it for the last time in His earthly association with His disciples. This is not in Matthew. It is the great moral fact of universal bearing of the death of Christ.
Next, as to His drinking of the fruit of the vine. In Matthew, He takes His character of Nazarite separation from Israel, until He drinks it in a new way in the Father’s kingdom: the time of future blessedness spoken of, in this way, in Matthew. Compare chapter 13. Here, He takes the Nazarite place as a present thing, but closes, so to speak, every thought of this association in the present time, fixing the mind on the present setting up of the kingdom. In Matthew in connection with His death, and the founding of the new covenant thereon, He goes quite on to the establishment of the Father’s kingdom: only shewing His separation from all on earth, till that establishment of the kingdom came. The words of institution differ, also, somewhat. In Matthew, He replaces the pass-over: and the words, “this is my body,” only are given. In Luke the gift of grace is noticed. In Matthew it is noticed as going out beyond the Jews, to whom Christ had presented Himself, as related in that Gospel—shed for many, for the remission of sins. In Luke it is the simple, personal application of grace— “for you.”
The inquiry among the disciples who should betray Him, is found in Luke in a few words, as we have seen in other cases. On the other hand, an humbling moral circumstance is stated; that, even here, was a strife among them who should be greatest—at such a moment! But it gives occasion to the perfect and patient grace of Christ, to teach them the true path of glory He had followed—that of humility, and being servant to all; and to own, in unspeakable grace, as if dependent on their kindness, their perseverance with Him. Also He appointed to them a kingdom, as His Father had appointed to Him: so that they should be at table in His kingdom, and sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The very greatness of the glory and the blessing ought to silence the dispute.
In Matthew the fact here revealed is given (Matt. 19:16-30) in connection with setting aside human righteousness, and riches as an advantage and reward connected with it (that is, the setting aside the Jewish system); and with the glory, in the time of the regeneration, consequent on the loss of all for faith: still shewing, in chapter 20, that grace—sovereign grace—characterised God’s dealing with men in the kingdom.
To turn to Luke 22, where the general application of Christ’s death to faith is spoken of, the result of the present faithfulness of the disciples in connection with Christ before His death would meet its judgment in Jewish millennial glory. But into His death—which, while witnessing judgment of sin, was the means of salvation—they could not follow Him; to be saved by it was another thing. Their service in His suffering in the kingdom would be recompensed with glory in the kingdom; but death, as such, man could not stand in, such as he was: that belonged to Christ only, a lesson they had not yet learned. They could not go into it as death from the divine judgment of sin; but they could as a sifting from the enemy, to learn that they could not, but must be dependent on Another’s doing it. This is found only in Luke; and the ardour of nature is suffered to go farther in Peter, to teach the entire incapacity of the energy of nature to do the work of God (its ardour only making its fall more apparent and terrible); so that, by the experience of what it was worth, and grace meeting it, one should be better able to strengthen others with true strength. This done, the Lord shews the difference of their position during His life, and that induced by His death. He had served them as a living Saviour. They must suffer, and, humanly speaking, shift for themselves when He became a dying one. On the earth He was reckoned among malefactors; for the things which concerned Him drew to a close. New ones would begin.
This contrast of Christ’s life, and His disciples’ connection with it; and His death, and the impossibility of their being connected with Him in it, is peculiar to Luke. Into the latter, that is, the scenes connected with His death, he now enters. This point is important. The human character of the blessed Lord’s suffering in Gethsemane is much more brought out in Luke; and circumstances of the deepest interest are added, while the details of the thrice repeated prayer are omitted, and all is brought together in its moral character. The chief circumstances added are these.
The Lord already on arriving at the place, Himself perfect in the sense of what it was, warns them of their need and how to meet it. “Pray that ye enter not into temptation.” Further, an angel from heaven appeared to Him to strengthen Him. Here we find His human position clearly brought out. Again, we have the solemn sign of the conflict in which He was: His sweat as great drops of blood falling down. All this is brought together without distinguishing His three prayers. Save the answer of the Lord to Judas as to his kiss, nothing distinctive, that I am aware of, is in what follows, only the healing of Malchus is more briefly noticed. Conflict through prayer in view of temptation, not to enter into it, characterises Luke’s account of Gethsemane, not the being sorrowful unto death. The forsaking of the disciples is not in Luke. The personal human conflict of Jesus is His subject. The trial of Peter follows in Luke. The Lord had closed His address to those that came, by saying that it was the hour of Satan’s power—alas! their hour also, but the time of the exercise of the power of darkness; happily for us, for the light has shone there, and in that light, the power of darkness is gone for us. This Gospel brings in, in connection with this, Peter’s history under temptation and the power of the enemy, before pursuing that of Christ’s interrogatory.
There is no difficulty in the details, as has been imagined. The maid spoke to the men, a man to Peter. The perfect grace of the Lord is brought out here in a circumstance omitted elsewhere—the Lord’s looking at Peter. The personal sorrows of Christ are given as such in Luke. His being buffeted is given also before His interrogatory: and this last very briefly in the testimony of Christ Himself, who declares the uselessness of reply; that henceforth they would not see Him, but in glory. All the witness as to the destruction of the temple is omitted.
The account of Luke is here also much more brief, but an important fact added (chap. 23). Judas’ death is not found (see the Acts), nor the message of Pilate’s wife, nor the Jews taking His blood upon their head, nor, subsequently, the crown of thorns and insults. On the other hand, the sending to Herod is brought before us, and thus the full uniting of all against the rightful Lord of the world—the Christ—is presented to us; with the solemn but too natural picture of the opposition to Christ, uniting those who in their personal interests and passions were otherwise enemies. They can compliment each other in treating Christ thus. Pilate, doubtless, would have quieted thus a disturbed conscience by throwing the matter over on Herod, or avoided the guilt. But thus it was to be. Nor can men thus escape the fruit of their own wickedness. He hoped to get rid of the matter. What is noticed in Luke is, that he delivered Jesus to their will.
The circumstances attending Christ’s crucifixion give a very different character to the scene, though the great central truth is necessarily the same. He is all through now, indeed, the green tree. It is the Man, the Man dependent on the Father, the holy confiding Man, as full of grace now as when walking through a world enlightened (had it been possible) by His miracles. His sufferings, His death as King of the Jews, are recounted surely, the veil of the temple is rent; but the accomplishing so many prophecies, and the expression of His expiatory agony, are not noticed. Nature wept at His sorrow, His loss, and the terrible act was felt; but it was over themselves these daughters of Jerusalem should weep. He was the green tree, and if this happened in Him, what should be done to the dry, the lifeless Jerusalem, whose sorrow He was bearing, whose state in judgment He had in grace stepped forward to take for the remnant, who would fain have seen Him received, and acknowledged the sad estate of Jerusalem? Still a nation’s sin was there. Judgment was due, and He, the green tree, took it on Him. The remnant would thus escape, but the dry tree, what would be done in it? It is not simply salvation here, but judgment on the nation. This unfolds many Psalms, and the desire that the meek and righteous should not be ashamed for His sake.
Verses 35-38 very briefly recount what the other two evangelists relate in detail; and then we have the deeply interesting account of the malefactor, which, as the weeping women drew out the judicial dealings with Jerusalem, and the place Christ took as to the judgment due to the people, unfolds the heavenly portion through faith in Jesus, in virtue of expiation and grace of one who leaves this earth, however great a sinner a man may be, be he who he may, before even the kingdom is set up at all. This we have constantly seen is in view in Luke,—the eternal, moral, heavenly blessing, what we call Christianity, in contrast with the order of dispensations, while even owning these. Even the dispensational part (the weeping women) is treated morally. The poor thief, converted, justified, and cleansed, was to be that very day with Him in paradise. The traits of his conversion and faith are admirable. The circumstance that the sun, the centre of all natural light and life, and of the whole system of nature for us, was darkened is added (v. 45). Nature was put out, and its central sun darkened, as it were, but the way into the holiest laid open by the very same thing.
But, on the other hand, there is no rising for the earthly witness (as in Matthew) of bodies of the saints. Further, there is not the agony of rejection from the light of God’s countenance—the opposite to all that every righteous man in Israel hitherto could say, for they had been heard. But we have the new man, the man that trusts in God. Having passed through it and drunk, in perfect obedience, the bitter cup, He can say, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” In death, He trusts His soul to His Father. So the centurion also here recognises the Lord in this character; “Certainly this was a righteous man.” Luke adds the moral effect on the people now, as so often happens under the effect of what their misguided passions had led to. That He was with the rich in His death is then related by all.
In what follows, as we have so often found, Luke relates in a general way, bringing all together, the discovery by the women and by Peter of the resurrection of Jesus; but there is no apparition of Jesus here to any of them; chapter 24. Angels spoke to the women—they to the disciples. It was as idle tales to these; only Peter went to the sepulchre and found it was so, and departed wondering. But then Luke gives the details of the touching history of the journey to Emmaus, just noticed by Mark, where Jesus reveals Himself; and here it is by an allusion to His death, which, though in no way the Lord’s supper, intimated a part of the same truth as that. The Christ they had to know was a Christ who had died, whose body had been broken for them, and who then disappeared—was to be known by faith. At the same time He had expounded to them the Scriptures. This and indeed something more, is again found after His personal revelation of Himself to Simon, and to the eleven and others. We have His revelation of Himself-first to Peter, and then the clear setting forth that He was really a risen man, having flesh and bones, and having even eaten with them. Two things then are presented, divinely given intelligence of Scripture, and power given from on high.
Such are the great bases of the Gospel here presented— the Man risen—known in death, and gone away; scripture understood by divinely-given spiritual intelligence; and power from on high. Of this last we have little to boast. Next, all that passed in Galilee, recorded by Matthew, is omitted. Matthew gives his last glimpse of Jesus there, and does not speak of the ascension. What is recorded also by John as passing in Galilee is also omitted.3 He closes with the respective positions of Peter and John (representing the Jewish and Gentile parts of the Christian church), without historically mentioning the ascension. All this part of the history is omitted in Luke, and the link of the Lord’s departure is with Bethany, His home when rejected of Jerusalem, the heavenly family. There He blesses them, and, as He does so, is taken up to heaven. The mission they receive is according to this. It is not going forth to the Gentiles, assuming the acceptance of, at any rate, the remnant of Israel; nor simply enlarging the service to all creation; but as from outside all, as from heaven, to preach to all the Gentiles, beginning at Jerusalem, which for heavenly things needed it as much as Gentiles, and as to dispensation, had the first place as object of promise. They were to go to all, but “to the Jew first.” The apostles were witnesses, but the Holy Ghost also would be given. Though their blessing and mission were from heaven, they find their way to the temple, there praising God.
To simplify the use of the parallel columns on pp. 28-36, a change has been made in the method of cross reference, and the paragraphs on the next page adjusted accordingly.
1 It rather appears that the second “they” refers to Moses and Elias, though it is not absolutely certain.
2 The expression employed, I judge, carefully avoids the moment or act of entering into Jericho. The Greek for “as he was come nigh unto Jericho,” Luke 18:35, is in a form always distinctively used for a period or course of action, a state of things during which a thing happens. It may refer to an individual act; but it is while a thing takes place, not as it takes place, as a particular point. It is at the period in which Jesus came into the neighbourhood of Jericho, which He did in a particular manner; in fact, at that time.
3 The Lord teaches the ascension to Mary Magdalene. See John’s Gospel, though there be no account of it.