Instead of being provoked by the vehement opposition of the scribes
and Pharisees, the Lord improved the occasion by calmly instructing His
disciples in the presence of the enormous crowd, that the controversy
had drawn together. He had just been fuming the searchlight of truth on
the religious leaders: He now turned the same light on the disciples
and their path.
In the first place He warned them against the hypocrisy, which He
had just been unmasking in the Pharisees. It is indeed a "leaven;" that
is, a type of evil which, if unjudged, ferments and grows. The
hypocrite aims at having things "covered" from God in the first place,
and then from the eyes of his fellows. Everything however is coming
into the light, so that in the long run hypocrisy is futile. Still,
while it exists, it is absolutely fatal to the soul having to do with
God in any way. Hence from a moral point of view the warning against it
must come in the first place. For the disciple of Christ there must be
no covering of anything from the eyes of the Lord.
In the second place He warned them against the fear of man-verses
4-11. He did not hide from them the fact that they were going to
encounter rejection and persecution. If they were to be free of
hypocrisy in a world which is so largely dominated by it, they could
not expect to be popular. But, on the other hand, if they were to have
nothing covered from the eyes of God, they would be able to stand forth
with no cowardice in the presence of persecuting men. They who fear God
much, fear men little.
The Lord did not merely exhort His disciples to have no fear of men,
He also made known to them things which would prove great
encouragements to that end. In verse 4 He addressed them as, "My
friends." They knew that they were His disciples, His servants, but
this must have set matters in a new and very cheering light. In the
strength of His friendship they, and we, can face the world's enmity.
Then, in verses 6 and 7, He set before them in a very touching way the
care of God on their behalf. So intimate is it, that the very hairs of
our head are not merely counted but numbered.
In verse 12 He assures them that in their moments of emergency they
could count upon the special teaching of the Holy Ghost. They would
have no need to prepare an elaborate defence when arraigned before the
authorities. The hatred and opposition of men was to lie as a liability
upon them: but what marvellous assets are these - the friendship of
Christ, the care of God, the teaching of the Holy Ghost. And in
addition to this, their confession of Christ before hostile men would
be rewarded by His confession of them before holy angels.
At this point in His discourse the Lord was interrupted by a man who
wished Him to interfere on his behalf in a matter of money. Had He been
the social reformer or socialist, that some imagine Him to have been,
here was the opportunity for Him to have laid down correct rules for
the division of property. He did nothing of the kind: instead, He
unmasked the covetousness which had led to man's request, and spoke the
well-known parable concerning the rich fool. To reconstruct his barns,
so as to conserve all the fruits given to him by the bounty of God, was
just ordinary prudence. To lay all up for himself, and to neglect all
the Divine riches for the soul, was the substance of his folly.
The rich fool was filled with covetousness, since he regarded all
his goods as guaranteeing the fulfilment of his programme - "take thine
ease, eat, drink, and be merry." This is precisely the programme of the
average man of the world today - plenty of leisure, plenty to eat and
drink, plenty of fun and amusement.
Now the believer is "rich toward God," as verse 32 makes very plain.
So, when the Lord resumed His discourse to His disciples, in verse 22,
He began to relieve their minds of all those cares which are so natural
to us. Since we are enriched with the kingdom, no covetousness is to
characterize us; and we are to be burdened with no care, since God's
care on our behalf is all-sufficient. His words were, "Your Father
knoweth." Thus He taught His disciples to know God as One who took a
fatherly interest in them, and in all their needs as relating to this
But this He did, in order that they might be set free in spirit to
pursue things that at the present moment lie outside this life. There
is no contradiction between verses 31 and 32. The kingdom is given to
us and yet we are to seek it. We must seek it because it is not yet in
manifestation; consequently it is not found in the things of this life,
but lies in the spiritual and moral realities connected with the souls
of those who are brought under the Divine authority. Nevertheless the
kingdom is to be a manifested reality in this world, and the
title-deeds of it are already sure to the people of God. As our
thoughts and our lives today are filled with the things of God and the
service of God, we seek the kingdom of God.
Hence the lives of the disciples were to run on lines diametrically
opposed to those of the votaries of this world. Instead of laying up
goods for an easy time of pleasure, the disciple is to be one who is a
giver, one who lays up treasure in heaven, one whose loins are girded
for activity and service, and whose light of testimony is shining. He
is, in fact, to be like a man waiting for the return of his master. We
have already noticed the things which are not to characterize us: here
we have the things which are to characterize us.
As servants we are to be waiting for our Lord, and not only waiting
but "watching" (verse 37), "ready" (verse 40), and "doing" (verse
43)-doing that which is our allotted task. The time of reward will be
when our Lord returns. Then the Lord will Himself undertake to minister
to the full blessing of those who have watched for Him. This, which we
find in verse 37, indicates a reward of a general sort. Verse 44 speaks
of a reward of a more special sort to be given to those marked by
faithful and diligent service in their Master's interests.
The Lord's discourse to His disciples extends to the end of verse 53. A few salient points are these:
(1) Heaven is again set before the disciples. In Luke 10, as we
noticed, they are instructed that their citizenship is to be in the
heavens. Now they are taught so to act that their treasure may be in
heaven, and consequently their heart there too. They are to live on
principles altogether opposed to those governing the rich fool.
(2) The Lord assumes His rejection all through, and speaks of it yet
more plainly towards the end-verses 49-53. "Fire" is symbolic of that
which searches and judges, and it had been already kindled by His
rejection. By His "baptism" He indicated His death, and until that was
accomplished He was "straitened," that is, narrowed up, or restrained.
Only when expiation had been accomplished could love and righteousness
flow forth in full power. But then, the fire being kindled and the
baptism accomplished, all would be brought to an issue, and the line of
demarcation clearly drawn. He would become the test, and division take
place even in the most intimate circles. In the anticipation of all
this, the Lord assumes His absence, and consequently speaks freely of
His second coming.
(3) To Peter's question (verse 41) the Lord did not give a direct
answer. He did not definitely limit His remarks to the small circle of
His disciples, nor enlarge the circle to embrace the thousands of
Israel who were standing round. Instead He rested the whole weight of
His words upon the responsibility of His hearers. If men were in the
place of His servants-no matter how they got there-they would be
recompensed according to their works, whether they proved to be
faithful or evil. The evil servant does not desire the presence of the
Lord, and consequently in his mind he defers His coming. Being thus
wrong in relation to the Master, he becomes wrong in his relations with
his fellow-servants, and wrong in his personal life. When the Lord
comes his portion will be with the unbelievers, inasmuch as he has
proved himself to be only an unbeliever. Verses 47 and 48 clearly show
that penalty as well as reward will be graduated with equity in keeping
with the degree of responsibility.
(4) The marks of the true servant are that he devotes himself to his
Master's interests while He is absent, and he waits for his reward
until He returns. Three times in this discourse does the Lord refer to
eating and drinking, as a figure of having a good time. The worldling
has his good time of merriment (verse 19), which ends in death. The
false servant has his good time when he begins "to eat and drink, and
to be drunken" (verse 45), which ends in disaster at the coming of his
Master. The worldling was not only merry; he was drunk, which is worse.
As a matter of fact, when unconverted men take the place of being
servants of God, they seem to fall more easily under the intoxicating
influence of seductive religious and philosophic notions than anyone
else. The true servant waits for his Master, who will make him to sit
down to eat and drink and be the Servant of his joy (verse 37). His
good time will be then.
In verse 54 the Lord turned from His disciples to the people with
words of warning. They were in a most critical position and did not
know it. They were well able to read the signs of the weather, but
unable to read the signs of the time. By their rejection of the Lord
they were forcing Him into the part of their "adversary," that is, the
opposing party in a law-suit. If they persisted in their attitude, and
the case came before the Judge of all, they would find themselves
altogether in the wrong and the penalty to the uttermost would come
upon them. They would have to pay "the very last mite."