J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
The case of the centurion is a very full one in principle. It is not merely an act of grace. It is grace to a Gentile, nor is that all. The great principle on which the apostle rests this question is brought out. It was of faith, that it might be by grace, that the promise might be sure to all the seed. Faith, as the great principle, is introduced next. There is the recognition of the honour God had put upon His people; though despised and failing exceedingly, still he loved His nation, and had built them a synagogue. Unfeigned humility, for his faith was far beyond those he honoured, consequently a very high apprehension of the power and glory of Christ's Person as divine, reaching beyond Jewish thoughts altogether, and yet, as yet Jews, quite kept in their place all through, even by the Lord, for He says: "No, not in Israel." He went with them, and yet looking at faith out of Israel. The effect was certain of this. Thus the whole order and opening of the house was brought out. Faith always makes humble, because it exalts the object of faith. His faith too, note, was by report, by hearing. "He built the synagogue for us."
135 - 1. Christ does not conceal the principles of his faith, though He may address them as obligatory on those who are really His people; see verses 6 and 17.
- 3. Upon this occasion, it would seem, on his concern for his sick servant, he was told of this Jesus who was so famous, and He in Capernaum. But he was a stranger, and the Jews knew God, and were God's people, and they must be the fittest to bring this wonderful Person, but he believed that He was a man of mercy as well as power, and his servant needed Him.
There was surely sense of the deepest personal respect and affection - a strong apprehension, though perhaps untaught, of the excellency of His Person. I need scarcely add wonderful humility ever correspondent to the measure of the apprehension of that, and this not only showing itself towards Jesus Himself, but also towards others, the connection of which note, for it is very instructive. This message of his friends very strongly depicts his character and feeling. He was one far more morally changed and turned to God than the people whom he looked to as God's people. So often where the light of the gospel has not shone fully so as to form men on its principles. He told nothing to Jesus of his service to them, nor spoke to Him of anything but his unworthiness, and this so decidedly and consistently that he begged Him not to come, as unworthy to have Him in his house, not as if he did Christ an honour by believing on Him - no pretence of receiving Him to set himself up. His sense of himself spoke his own grave and real apprehension of what his friends told of the fruits of it.
136 The Lord reaches all Gentiles on this principle.
There is great simplicity of heart along with his very strong and simple faith. Yet it would not perhaps have become our Lord to have gone to a Gentile, though there is exhibited here that "In every nation," etc.; Acts 10:34, 35.
- 9. He addressed the multitude with this remark; they learned grace to the stranger by it, but they yet knew it in one who loved Israel. The Lord, for God was thus manifested, we may say of course removed the evil faith thus truly brought to Him, for He came to do it.
Our Lord had baptised many disciples more than John, express disciples, i.e., His disciples had, I suppose unto repentance, and that He was the Christ - rather in the hope of the coming kingdom in profession by repentance. This seems to have been before His public preaching or His apostles', etc., which note, for I doubt that our Lord baptised any after, but that He called upon all men then to believe on Him as the Christ come, when He had sufficiently won individuals by His private ministry, and even then He avoided human publicity. The character of the ministration is, we know, changed by the coming of the Holy Ghost, but I query if there be not a wisdom which, in the midst of evil, savours of this spirit - and the just use of this holy zeal for the hidden ones of the Lord, and holy boldness for His Name's sake in power give the character of a full and perfect minister. He did not in the nature of His ministry go beyond John; see chapter 4:14, where the assumption of His ministry is noted.
- 12. Along with grace to the (poor dead) Gentiles, came the evidence of power to raise the dead, but manifested here in human compassion, and in witness that God had visited His people.
Multitudes everywhere, but, alas! where is their end?
- 13. Our Lord, as Man, did it upon the spur of the occasion, but doubtless He was led to Nain of the Spirit which dwelt in Him in all fulness, that His glory might be shown forth as it is at this day by it; so often, and thus it ought to be, for the Person of Christ is eminently shown forth in it, His humanity being touched with our infirmities, and His perfect power to save. So, in their place, in measure, His Spirit in His servants; I mean as to the infirmity of the vessel, and the energy of the Spirit guided by a supreme power, not, of course, as to the person.
137 - 16. This was the common word while it was a favour to themselves and till the trial of confession came.
We have now, I take it, the complete hinge of the dispensation brought out. The Lord receives, and bears witness to John the baptist, not John to the Lord, and John receives Christ's testimony of Himself, and by report too. It was no longer preparing a people for the Lord, but receiving sinners, and raising the dead. Yet the fullest testimony is borne to John, and his work in baptism owned. They who had bowed to it among the Jews received the Lord's testimony concerning him. The Pharisees and Scribes rejected the counsel of God towards them, being not baptised of him. Thus again, while the Jewish work was owned it was owned from a higher ground, where the Lord in grace and living power, resurrection power, had placed Himself. This was based on entire rejection in and by the world, so that though He was doing all good, still it was: "Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me"; see the end then of verse 28, as marking the change now taking place. But even John had advocated repentance, which was more than law, for law allows nothing of repentance nor grace, for admission of repentance is grace. Law, with God, recognises equivalent atonement. Elias was testimony, not to those under the law properly, but to apostate Israel having left the place of covenant. We find, in addition, the recognition of a class who did understand these things - wisdom as to John, or the Lord's ways. Wisdom is justified of her children - the wisdom of God's ways, all of them apparently quite different, but understood in grace, but it is wisdom's children, those who are identified with her, and take her view of grace from above, and God glorified in His dealings, dealings towards man ruined, not man's judgment of God as if he was, as a sinner, a competent judge. It is more than they are saved, justified. It is the children of wisdom justifying wisdom.
- 20. It was a turning over in fact of the disciples of John to the Lord, but that John sent for the satisfaction of his own mind, as to its ultimate expectations, is to me evident, as I have taken notice elsewhere at large. Some men reason from what could be, but the way in Scripture is to weigh the force of the testimony itself. It would be hard to say it were a sort of dramatic interlude to satisfy the disciples, and it destroys very deep and valuable instruction, namely, the paramount testimony of our Lord to Himself by His works, notwithstanding His humiliation, by which and His own testimony was the exercise of saving faith in seeing His glory - His glory as the Mediator, God manifest in the flesh. His Saviour glory, the glory which he who has seen is saved, and has, knowing, seeing the Son, seen the Father also, who can fathom the mystery of the Person of the Son of God. Upon this, His Church is built, and shall endure; and in the knowledge of this it consists as the Scriptures manifest, the Spirit testifying thereto.
138 - 24. People do not go in crowds into the wilderness for nothing. It is a strong appeal to their own former thoughts pressed home upon them, drawing them to the recollection of John's peculiar character.
It is exceedingly lovely this testimony to John, thus honouring His faithful servant, though he might have gladly decreased before the Light. But the kingdom of heaven was now introduced, and the least in it was greater than he that was connected with the Jews and before it, than John the baptist even himself. Our Lord testifies to John, not John to the Lord. Indeed he could point Him out by a revealed sign, but give Him no authenticating testimony; this was the Lord's to him.
- 30. Note, too, He authenticated John in his real character; and this was always indeed a separating medium, as our Lord expressly used it afterwards when they enquired His authority. We see here the force of that question. It was a trial of their own unconversion by what they dared not deny. Note, the danger of having rejected grace or the testimony, for it hangs together, and the next testimony always bears witness to the importance of the former, so that we cannot receive this without really acknowledging that they hang together; but the rejection of the former hardens the heart against the latter, and the receiving this condemns us for the rejection of that. Note also God always begins at the right end - confession of sin and turning to Him without assumption of grace. We shall recognise with simplicity as a doctrine what we have received in grace ourselves. But the rejection of it as that paves the way for rejection of all the promises of God. Yet both have in themselves the ground of suitable proposal to the heart and state of man primarily, and especially the gospel, the reception of which produces that of which the other is the testimony and claim.
- 13-31. In Matthew and Mark, in the narrative, "Lord" is not found, but "Jesus." Here and in chapters 10:1, 11:39, 12:42, 13:15, 17:6, and 22:31, and in John 4:1 and chapter 6:23. In John, after His resurrection it becomes a constant word as to Him. It is certainly, which bears on Luke's gospel, more constantly used in Acts, and Paul's epistles than anywhere if it be not Jude. In Peter's second epistle it is also very frequent; in John never, save in the third. It is very often used in James, and 1 Peter, of God as Jehovah.
139 - 35. On the whole we have some extremely important moral facts with our Lord's statement of the case, and the divine judgment as to the result of the whole. Simply let us say to justify Him in all His ways and works, and indeed "Wisdom is justified of all her children."
Some of the points are weakly noticed in the former note, but they deserve much study. Note, man's business here is to justify God, not himself against God. To justify God in God's way of justifying him - this begins by repentance, to wit, in ourselves; then we begin to justify God, and that too against ourselves, for this is the trying point. Thus we have to do it. But it is righteous to justify His ways, and suitable, and holy (for they are just) and in this God delights, for he that honoureth Him He will honour. Yet it is a counsel of grace to themselves, i.e., in contrast, and, as it were, in scorn of the wisdom of this world which rejected every evidence of God's mind, whereas they who were despised, and indeed held accursed, were indeed the children of wisdom, and every one of them comprehended, were possessed of, and acknowledged the whole wisdom of God, the only true wisdom which, etc., see 1 Cor. 2. Compare verse 29 here, and its connection with verse 28. There was also perverseness, for in any character they rejected it, and yet every child of God perceived His wisdom in both cases. It is, however, a solemn assertion on the Lord's part.
- 36. Notwithstanding, however, this perverseness, our Lord did not stop manifesting Himself, the truth in Himself, to them, rather to the world. Note also the perfect simplicity and readiness with which the Lord went. No common civility was offered to Him. He was a poor Preacher, and it was an honour to be with the Pharisee. But He was the Lord of glory, and the Pharisee did not know that. So of His children and theirs. Doubtless our Lord was sensible of it, but His deportment it did not affect; He was used to it; indeed He sought it not. His mind was on saving souls, finishing the work His Father gave Him to do.
140 From this verse to the end, we have three hearts fully revealed - light and grace come by Jesus Christ being there, in the blessed Lord. The Pharisee's - God in grace in his house, and he never found it out. The woman - all in the light, and having learned to trust in grace, knowing in this the Person of the blessed Lord; she loved much. God's own heart - perfect light, revealed the others therefore, but His own, God's grace to the sinner. Grace that had won, grace that had inspired confidence, in full acknowledgment of sin, grace that thought of her, and while so meeting did not further trouble Himself about man's judgment. How should God, and God in grace, but have thought of the woman, pronounced forgiveness, pronounced peace, assured of salvation, and denied its source in man's heart - by grace the revelation to it, faith in the blessed Person of the Son of God? And how was that faith showed?
- 39. Here we find too the force of hamartolos (a sinner), valuable as regards John's words. What if He were a Saviour of any poor lost sinners? Ah! God was unknown - that was the secret. We often reason justly as to that part of a question which is within human reason; so here. But God's thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor His ways our ways; our conclusions therefore go all wrong, there is something assumed, founded in our own thoughts which are not His.
Note the close of this chapter is evidently the beautiful comment on verse 35, "Wisdom is justified of her children." This poor woman was a child of wisdom, and she justified it. Justifying God is the grand point of true subjective righteousness or restoration to it. It is lost in us utterly, we have only to own it (as sinners, too) in Another - first in John Baptist, or repentance ministry, that we are justly condemned or condemnable, and next in grace in His ways to us as sinners, dealing with us as such in grace (and righteousness) in Christ. The Pharisee Simon ought as towards the woman; but then he must have counted himself a sinner, and come in as such. It is impossible (ought not to be done morally) to justify grace towards the chief of sinners, and all without difference, unless we put ourselves in that place; the poor woman did, and justified God in His ways in Christ. If difference is to be made, i.e., if righteousness is to be sought for or recognised in man, then grace to a sinner destroys that difference. But if the Holy God cannot sanction the decency, poor external decency of man - a good character - then it is only in the place ourselves of the objects of grace that we can justify that grace, for anywhere else we should claim a difference to be made, and condemn the grace, as self-righteous Pharisees did. They separated themselves, made a difference. But the comment is most lovely.
141 The state of this Pharisee's mind I think deeply interesting. I think it has been treated superciliously. But he failed entirely in the essential point, perceiving the glory of Christ. In this the Lord meets him, and shows, in contrast with the woman, the point where he was exercising judgment to be precisely the point where he failed. The converted and convinced mind sees the glory of the Lord as grace towards itself; the unconverted, unconvinced, however interested in the enquiry, as a man judges, and therefore judges according to its own thoughts, and therefore necessarily fails in seeing the glory which is not according to those thoughts. If it were on any ground, it need not have been manifested, our judgment of the gospel must be wrong therefore, our reception of it as grace alone right, and alone the way of coming to the knowledge of it, for it is grace. When informed by it we may see its excellence. Note also, there are generally, as moralists, two great points before us - our perception of the state of sin, and God's thoughts upon it. The one we may, in measure, perceive, i.e., in their legal character, but the other we know nothing of, and therefore in truth fail in all our results upon the former. We are, however, warranted in the direct application of gospel truth to it. This mind and these thoughts of God were fully in Christ, and He exhibited them. They ought to be in the Church, and are, according to the measure of the Spirit by the gospel, and I think it all hangs on these words.
This was not the Son of man proving that, come here below, He had power to forgive sins on earth, by removing the Jewish and earthly consequences, but the direct and distinct revelation of the ways of God. It was not now righteousness presented to Him, or chastenings even removed in mercy, but a forgiving of sins in grace put sovereignly and freely to any poor sinner, manifesting and producing love in the forgiven, and thus reconciling to God, producing peace. It was properly grace, the ground upon which any poor sinner (a Gentile) could be received, and God manifested, not in requirement from man, and making man of importance (in the flesh) but making God and His character in sovereign grace all, so bringing in blessing, and its blessed effect upon the heart in developing the fruits of grace there in a heart restored to confidence in God in the sense of goodness. What a blessed picture! A goodness known in its blessedness through that which has introduced us to it, not only in the act but in Him who did it.
142 The discernment of guilt, judged of by man in its gross and heinous forms was one thing, but the grace of God which could blot out and forgive all was quite another. This was quite a new thing, not righteousness from a sinner to God, and Christ come only to sanction Pharisees and discern guilt, but love to a sinner (manifesting God in this new character) producing thankful, holy love to God, a new and blessed relationship, sovereign and beyond, and out of the reach of all others. But how has God always to prove Himself right in His goodness to Man! So hard is man's heart!
- 44. This is a moral explanation of the blessed results of this dealing and principle. Grace and love in Jesus had produced more lovely effects really, and in the sight of God who did judge all things, than were found in Simon. She discerned what he could not - the blessed perfectness of divine grace, and the loveliness of Jesus; she judged as God did. What a place does grace put a poor sinner in! The full peace is a positive announcement; attractive goodness in God may be felt previous to this, but not certainty of conscience through Christ before Him. This was the announcement of this truth, that souls so restored were forgiven; that they were attracted, and fruits produced was evident. The Lord appealed to it The forgiveness was the new, blessed, and full announcement of the real character and extent of this grace to the conscience and need of the sinner. "Her many sins are forgiven her." As we said, God knew all about it; our comfort is He does. But Simon had no sort of idea what God was to such, hence no love; he was curious as to Christ as a Preacher. What a rebuke to the whole principle he stood on! His ignorance, the state of his heart, for Christ had known this too, and proved Himself a Prophet! As Simon would not have had the love that forgives, produces the effect on the heart, the announcement of the authoritative forgiveness may remain to purge, and send away in peace the conscience. But the Spirit, and operative attraction of forgiveness is in the Person, quod nota. "Go in peace" was the sentence. Her faith had seen the Person and attractive grace of Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, and had therefore really known, understood, and delighted in God, and she was saved; for surely one that does is actually saved, for that is to be saved. She loved well, then she knew God, and was born of God. Where had she found Him? In Jesus! A blessed knowledge of the highest perfection which scribes and learned men knew nothing about, for it was moral knowledge eternal and essential though given knowledge - a knowledge connected with the state of the heart and nature, and therefore acting on conscience, and forming the affections. She shone out in this. The other was peace pronounced, a very important thing, but the work was done; but she now knew that faith had saved her. It is both mercy and grace to put it on faith, for it reaches other poor sinners, and honours, and comforts the heart of the humbled one on God's part restoring the soul to confidence.
143 If He could not forgive sins, what good to sinners? But grace exercised and made known by the Son of man was blasphemy to man's heart (who needed it?) - what a state! And but for sovereign grace it was. But God was this. There the only answer.
- 47. Note it is not said: "For which cause they are forgiven," but "For which cause I say." It formed a ground of reasoning and observation, not the ultimate cause which is absolutely impossible. The Lord, as it were, identifies Himself with, and vindicates against the haughty world, the believing sinner, and then gives assurance and peace perfectly regardless of the comments of their minds. He applies Himself then, not to their unbelief, which were useless, but to the other's faith, and having communicated forgiveness as an Interpreter, One among a thousand, He shows unto the believing sinner his uprightness, to wit, his faith, for that is uprightness, it has right thoughts of God, right thoughts, in some measure at least, of oneself, as it is written: "Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered: blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." For "When I kept silence," etc. And, which indeed is the root and spring of this matter, right thoughts about Christ, His work, His coming. The work is of grace, but the work is recognised, but as of grace; compare Hosea 14. The whole question is, in this answer, settled: "Hath saved thee; go in peace." It is discharged from the conscience, while the soul finds itself infinitely and everlastingly a debtor to the continual fountain of all grace.
144 On the whole, there cannot be a more deeply interesting display of the whole relation in which man stands with God - its method, its order, and its results developed in Christ, all in all, than in this passage, which may be followed in the minutest detail, and so the more known of it, for some passages of Scripture afford a general principle, and do not affect detail, some exhibit explicit characters, and follow the workings of moral circumstances in the fullest and deepest measure, and the more they are investigated the more do their closeness and depth appear, and we see the secret springs of conduct and character, as here, from the God of heaven, through various ignorances and error, to the poor sinner, opened out in their true nature and character by the presence and word of Him who revealed the one, and came to judge and restore the other, who brought both into each other's presence that He might show the mercy and fulness of God, and make it good to His people. And this is to be looked for in Luke. So in the parable of the prodigal son, and that whole chapter, etc., for this is its object.
- 50. "Go in peace." Not merely, I conceive, peace as to the particular act passed, but fully and in state, as if He should say to the waves: Be at peace - in peace generally and finally - a concluded state of reconciliation.
We have then a brief picture of the Lord's life (as ensuing) not controversy with priests or learned scribes, but its proper character, though the other may have been by enforced occasion. He was preaching, certain women, a few women supporting Him - a humble place in, and because in a Lord denying race; alas! for them. But they had been subjects of His grace, and so their love drawn out towards Him, the expressions thus of His grace, grace as we have seen it just before in the poor woman. Evil spirits, sicknesses, and many devils had been the characteristics of these poor women. Where worthy of notice, one was connected with the palace; that was as remarkable. But these are the noticeable things in the ministers to the wants of, and companions of Christ. The noticing the women thus, as thus attracted, is every way worthy of attention. It is a distinct trait in the Lord's history, clear grace, and bearing with, and condescension to weakness, in its gentlest, and what would have been in this case its most despised forms.
145 - 1. This is an interesting little episode - the manner of our Saviour's life, and His attendants, and much is contained in it. What follows is a commentary or sermon on this.
We have then the next great character of grace - the ministry of the word; see 2 Cor. 5:19. "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them," and committing "unto us the ministry of reconciliation." There its committing to His servants the ministry is mentioned, here the Lord of course ministers Himself, but it is the same principle. It is no question of efficacy here, but of gracious service, for indeed much fell on profitless ground. It was not seeking fruit in His vineyard, but scattering seed wheresoever it might fall - a general act of grace. Note, as taking up the general principle, the Sower is left unexplained. We have only this parable therefore here as instructing us in the principle of grace, not in the prophetic history of the kingdom. There is, however, the distinct setting aside of His associations and relationships in the flesh, and of Jewish principles. They (a Remnant) were spoken to "in parables, that seeing they might not see"; that dispensation on its folly in disowning Him, and to open now the door to all the seed, was judicially shut up. And it was at once said: "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," and to them in parables that hearing they might not understand. It was not Jewish privileges, but the scattered Word of God, wherever (through grace) there was an ear and a heart to receive it. Accordingly we have this announced at the close when the Lord's mother and brethren after the flesh are not recognised, and it is announced that he that hears the Word of God, and does it, the same is His mother and brethren.
Then another principle is introduced, responsibility for the communication of that we have received, for being in grace, and testimony of love, wherever really received it must, in the power of that, be in honour to the grace, and so desire of blessing to others. This was the evidence of really having - for the testimony now was of and in grace, and so going forth supremely to Gentiles and sinners known to be such. God did enter prerogatively and blessedly to light a candle not to put it under a bushel (the Lord make us faithful) but on a candlestick, and all was for manifestation. This was the very principle of what was now working. It was no conventional veiled system, but the going forth and coming into the world, of light; evil fear to communicate every secret principle that hindered would come to light, but especially, and above all, the light was given to come to light - everything indeed would, but this was for it, given for manifestation as the light, as Paul therefore: "Hath shined in our hearts for the shining forth of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." "Take heed therefore how ye hear," i.e., as responsible for the possession of all the advantages set before them by the Lord and His word, that it be possessed in the living power of grace as testified of by grace. The goodness of the seed would be test of the character of the soil. Happy for those in whose consciences grace planted a deep and divinely-rooted conviction, for conscience it is that the root abidingly strikes in, and so the heart of grace - and it is more than the natural man - for what is of God abides. But here the ordinary moral apparent effects are spoken of, for the Lord is not spoken of as working efficaciously as in divine power, but ministerially as sowing the seed, and to this therefore the parable applies, and rests on the detection of man, and responsibility on grace exercises in service and sowing the word, not in internal secret and saving power but ministry and fruit. It is an instructive portion of the word.
146 - 5. The servant is not above his master; it is enough for the servant if he be as his master.
- 7. It is not that there was nothing else. Nominally they were "sprung up" (sumphueisai) that was all, but it was enough to choke the word and ruin the man.
- 8. It was "into" (eis) not "upon" (epi). It is good and profitable to know the manner of the work as well as to declare the things which constitute the work itself. This I have sometimes enquired within myself as to, reasoning with others, but then it is: "He that hath ears to hear." There are those to whom it is given in parables.
- 12. "Are those who hear." There is all they are; the rest the devil has, but they are hearers.
- 13. "Who believe for a time, and in time of trial fall away." So ever, and such there must be.
147 - 14. It is "who having heard" (akousantes) not "who hear" (akouontes).
- 15. Fruit is always brought forth in patience.
God in communicating the knowledge of the things of the kingdom, does it to set up a light. "God who caused" (commanded) "the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts for the shining forth of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." In speaking therefore to men, He seeks a manifestation proportionate to that which is spoken; failure in this displays fault in the hearer, which will appear in the light he gives forth (for indeed there is nothing hid - for indeed this was an unperceived fault - which shall not become manifest, or secret which shall not be known and come to light) "therefore take heed how ye hear." For indeed the word received in proportion to its full development within is the spring of abundant exercise in the word, and not only will it produce manifold more in fruit, but thus, as seed, give occasion to renewed enlargements in the power and fruit of the kingdom. The manner of reception may be unperceived, but when it grows up into the light it will sadly appear in the manifested crop. "Take heed therefore"; who can tell the consequences of right reception of the word? And if there be not this solid fruitful rest, all apparent enjoyment of the light of the word and exercise of it will vanish into nothing. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples"; for God is a God of love, and works by this assimilation of others to Himself, though here it is enforced by warning considerations; so often.
The use of this passage in Luke very much manifests his style of application of principles laid down, I mean of course as entrusted to him. What follows is an instance of incidents brought in in their moral connection, without reference to their historical consequence. With this, accordingly, the immediate paragraph or subject ends.
- 19, et seq. It is exceeding solemn this. How little of this entire purpose of heart is there! This divine separatedness to one thing!
Such was the conduct of the Lord, and such the duty of His people! He disregards the claim when it was of another nature. It was not ministry, it was not a claim within the kingdom and its labour and patience, but out of it. The reason of their wish was not enquired into. If we see them we acknowledge their claim as such, and therefore are bound to fulfil the relation. The ground on which we stand is, there is a paramount claim upon one, which makes one not know them as such who are merely naturally related; if we are in the place, the duty follows, and it is sin to neglect it in se, but there may be a claim by Him who made the relation, and the duty coming from the source of that duty, takes us provisionally out of the place. The believer reckons those his kin who hear the word of God and keep it.
148 - 22. We have then the condition of the disciples as launched forth and their trial - and that through unbelief as though He were asleep, quod nota. How truly we feel this! But it is unbelief; i.e., the fear. The Lord, however, permits the trial for the exercise of faith, and permits to be in danger, and He apparently to be quite neglectful, because it is the trial of faith, in His interest in them which is their strength, and the identity of their cause with Him, and He is in the same ship with them; and surely we may say, with us. And yet He has perfect power to allay the storm, and does in mercy when called to take notice of it, for though the Lord may have purpose of it, the mischief is of Satan's will as with Job we see.
This then was the history of Christ and the Remnant's history, or Christ and the Remnant identified with Him. Its primary application is to the Remnant of the Jews actually brought out.
Note the storm is "on" the sea, but the ship is "in" the sea, and Christ is "in" the ship.
I cannot doubt the general intention of this fact - Christ leaves us and the Church, as though He were asleep, though: "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." Still the danger is apparent; the presence of Christ's power is not to man's thoughts. But then we may note the characters of unbelief, here selfishness. All fear, properly so called, is selfish - merely "We perish." It ceases to regard the Church as the vase of Christ's glory, in which He is interested, we are permitted to say, for His own sake. Was not Christ in the ship? What would have become of Him? Faith, on the contrary, resting in the apprehension of Christ's own interest in the Church, is calm, and not only has the fruit of peace in Himself, but in fact lives out of that selfishness which the other generates, honours Christ, and is able to serve his neighbour according to His glory, and the very injurious moral influence of the power of circumstances is avoided. Circumstances, when they thus by unbelief gain power over our mind, separate us from God, discharge our mind from all sanctifying influences, and make us pro tanto atheists; when, on the contrary, passed through in faith, they enlarge our acquaintance with God, deprive circumstances of their separating power, and work in us living communion, that inward life which is eternal. But Christ alone is the power of this to us. Nevertheless the Lord will rebuke, and show His power to us, though we be weak. This is mercy.
149 - 25. Here we have the general testimony (explained to His own) and their identification with Him in the tossings of apparent danger.
- 27. Then from this verse we have the effect historically of Christ's coming into this. The power of Satan set aside by a word, but the world wishing and sending Him away, the Jews rushing down to ruin, the saved man desiring to be with Him, but sent back to testify of his deliverance. Then the ways of grace (v. 40) to faith which characterises this part of the chapter.
We then get the general picture of the operation of grace in deliverance from the power of Satan, of the chiefest under it for a witness of Christ's power over it, and the witness of his mischief in the headlong destruction of those given up to him - swine, these unclean ones. The full effect of the Lord's first coming in testimony, mercy sent, on His departure, by the healed one, Satan not shut up yet into the bottomless pit, but hurrying others to destruction.
The healed Legion seems to me then the Remnant as delivered from Satan and brought to its right mind, then desirous to be with Christ, but sent back in testimony. The swine seem to me specially to represent the Jews given up; the Gadarenes the world. Such a picture, too, will be more especially in the latter day. Here the previous state of the man, Legion, describes the then present state of the ungodly Gentiles, and the swine, as we have said, the ruin of Judaism. But in the latter day Gentiles will be in this headlong swinish state, too, under the evil influence of the enemy, and Legion then is the Remnant of the Jews who are messengers to the world. This double application flows from the preliminary destruction of the then disobedient Jews, as hereafter more largely, and, with swinish apostate Gentiles, filled with the power of the evil one. The world's reception of Jesus is shown in the conduct of the Gadarenes even upon the evidence of blessing. The instruction is given on great moral principles withal, so that it has application to individuals. No human power or arrangement binds or arrests the prevailing power of Satan in the world. The limit of the work of the Lord is very plain, verse 31, for, for the next dispensation, the enemy will be sent into the bottomless pit. But this shows, on the contrary, what is previous, more particularly accomplished mercy and so full witness. We have the destroyed, the saved and right-minded subject of grace in Legion, and then the indifferent and repelling world. The moral instruction is very strong.
150 The word of Jesus delivers, has perfect power over but does not send Satan into the abyss. The result of Satan's work (permitted perhaps in witness) is charged upon the Lord Jesus. Verse 40, I apprehend, presents Jesus' return to the Jewish people as on earth whence He had left on the ship. They are now waiting for Him; it is a remarkable interval. The first, i.e., the voyage, showing the condition, feebleness, trial, and support of the disciples embarked with Jesus in the same ship; the case on landing, the active seeking operation of Jesus in deliverance and testimony towards the world. "Go and tell," was an unusual thing, not Christ's Jewish but His gospel character. Then He had not striven, nor cried, nor lifted up, for He came as to His own, they would not receive Him, but here message was sent, yet primarily by the Jewish Remnant. His own house, was therefore the first commission. It is manifest that the character of the deliverance and the question brought out was Satan's power and influence, which in violence in Legion, in sober gentleness and rejection of Christ in the Gadarenes, or headlong destruction in the swine, was the same power, and this, in the world in all its parts, was exhibited in the history, and Christ's power over it. But his quiet influence, by fear of Christ's disturbing their quiet and ordinary worldly matters, was as ruinous as all, and worse in moral exhibition, for it stood the exhibition of Christ's almighty grace. And this is very evil. They were told how it all was, and they besought Him to depart out of their coasts. This is the world. Legion, I apprehend, we must account as an expression of the concentration of all the various evil, various power of Satan which besets the human part, i.e., of the evil spirits as governing by it, and possessing that which by His power Christ delivers. Seven devils were in Mary Magdalene by various lusts. Satan governs and tyrannises over the faculties of the believer when not yet delivered, and is possessed of these faculties in power as well - quietly guides by lusts and worldliness. The latter is the real evil as shutting out God. The power of Satan, when He comes to deliver, never can, nor control us when we have His Spirit, when by it resisted and the flesh kept down, though there may be consequences suffered for that, where need was. Christ suffered, but He for us, we as consequences, still as occasions of His power, and proofs of capacity of a greater deliverance. How are we fallen!
151 The details of this passage are most instructive to us. How completely Satan identified himself with the man's mind, so that the man spoke as speaking his own interest and wishes under the influence of Satan, though there was the sense of superior power present, and so now with the word: "What have I to do with thee?" "I beseech thee torment me not." Note the use, too, of the unclean spirit and the demons. The manifestation of Satan's power is a real help to deliverance, but not unless in the exercise of power to deliver, but it marks what is there, and the might that can show, and force them to show their true character, however man's evil heart may give place to them. I suspect it is: "he besought" not "they besought" - parekalei not parekaloun, verse 31.
The account judges the power of Satan as prince of this world, and shows the character of the believer's (Remnant's) deliverance from it - formerly a prey to all its lusts, and driven about, though never, through the preserving love of God, able to do the very first thing they did with the swine. The believer (Remnant) would have shut out Jesus from tormenting it, as it accounted it in a state of nature. The world does send Him away, however quietly, not liking the manifestation of God's presence to disturb its peace, and He sends back the delivered as witnesses of the delivering power, of which they are subjects, to the world. First it was to their own home; so, beginning at Jerusalem. We have three parties or classes here - the delivered, the given up as swine, and the quiet, careless world annoyed and distressed at the Lord's presence, and begging Him to go away. It was all that poor Legion had done.
- 31. In English abusson sounds as though it were the sea, but it is the same word as the "bottomless pit" in Revelation 20, "the abyss."
152 - 36. This is evidently inserted with purpose, the manifestation of the Lord's power. Though in the way of mercy to others, when His grace is not personally felt leaves the soul still in its hardness, they had the same circumstances before them precisely as the man healed, the effect was totally opposite. We may observe too the character of this short visit. It is on the whole a deeply instructive statement.
I think too we ought to note that the supreme directing mind evidently disposed the incidents of our Lord's life, though He may have walked through them as Man.
- 40. This, I think, marks generally the return of Jesus to the Jewish people.
- 41. Then in the visit to Jairus, there is the character of His dealing with that people - desires awakened for His interference; but before ever He really reaches the scene of mercy, the object of mercy is really dead, and, to all man's thoughts, hopeless, and the deliverance is really and altogether in the power of resurrection, and the deliverance in that day shall be altogether so. And such is the mind and journey of the Lord - the deliverance of the virgin, the daughter of His people (the Remnant of) those He visited in His mercy.
But then another principle came in in the way - to do this He must come full of grace and truth. He must come in that fulness of God's character with grace and love in His heart which, wherever discerned, must flow forth and answer to the need which drew on it, for it was love in power to save. To understand it was to enjoy, and have its saving influence. In a word, faith always got a blessing, and must. It was this principle that, while it might now save those that believed among the Jews, let in the Gentiles. It was "by faith," and therefore "upon all those who believe." "Through their faith"; see the previous account. It was the manifestation of the active power of Christ's divine purpose of love, which went in the mind of that love out of its way, and when the subject of it was entirely out of its mind, as sin makes us for all real things of the soul, meets in its own supreme will and power, the power of Satan which holds us there, and casts by His word the unclean spirit and power out, and the man restored loves to be with Him whose presence once he abhorred and could not bear as under Satan's power. Now it is the other side of the picture, the desires and need of faith, knowing its misery, meeting necessarily the full supply of love and power in which He came, in touching if it was (in the shame and sorrow, yet secret faith) of its need, but the hem of His garment, and finding healing. The one was the deliverance of supreme purpose and power, keeping even when Satan seemed to have his own way, hindered, and no restraint or fetter of man was of any avail, yet never allowed to do what would have hindered the meeting Jesus - the first thing done with the swine. The other, the manner of it in faith when discerning need made one seek, or hidden shame met Him in the crowd by the way, and found in the throng means to be nigh and find resource in Him.
153 The incurable disease and death of sin was entirely met by the grace and word of Jesus, as well as the power of Satan, in the mighty and irresistible triumph of His purpose and will. Let Satan have what permitted power he might, he could do nothing against that will, nor an instant withstand the power. The deliverance from it only became witness to the world of what had come in to deliver in Jesus, of the saving power of God.
It is very lovely, in the case of this poor woman, seeing faith breaking through the difficulties, and having, through a touched heart, this perfect confidence in the power that resided in Him. How faith makes its way! What discoveries it makes of His Person and blessedness! The hem of His garment is enough to satisfy its desires, because filled with the power of His presence, because it has so deep an apprehension of the excellence and value, the power and grace of His Person. The heart is filled with that, and all about Him is clothed to it with that; but this is faith operating by need. I do not say that there is not withal a power of communion more fully and peacefully acquainted with His blessedness through the Holy Ghost given when the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by that given. Still need finds its resource in grace, and the blessedness of His Person here. Let the theory of the world too be ever so great, how so weak a one to find her way to Him? Why, He was in the way (the sorrowful, heartless, easy way of this world) for it drew this weakness to it by the secret power of this very grace. To be near Him was the point. It had its power in as well as on faith, and drew it near Him, while the rest but thronged Him, as the loadstone to itself, separating from all around, not by power in what is drawn but by attractive efficacy on it. Faith, in a word, is exhibited here, as we have said, as the manner, as power and purpose against Satan's dominion.
154 - 46. There was intention in it - that is faith. The Lord cannot but give when His character is known and drawn upon.
It cannot be overlooked that there is not a single sentence recorded by Luke which is not of the strongest moral character. This is so familiarly, so that it needs no comment, though worthy of the closest attention.
- 47. Healed sin may be manifested. Though in itself it be of shame and sorrow, but indeed it is the manifestation of faith and the Lord's acceptance. It is the clothing of the Lord's glory thrown around the poor sinner, and in this he appears before men, and testimony to men, that he that was separated is fully restored, reinstated. He is "immediately healed," and is no longer the object of separation as unclean, and this the Lord shows, though conscience and the memory of man might, per se, otherwise not recognise the change or estimate it. But the Lord restores wholly; it is His pregorative, for He heals wholly, and clears the conscience. Of this we have many testimonies in this book, as we shall see in the prodigal son. The testimony is here, as in the woman, in the Pharisee's house.
- 50. Fear and faith do not run well together; but see Mark on this verse.
- 51. There is great simplicity and evidence of truth in this. There are certain undue, unbelieving feelings of others with which we must not get entangled, or it will be impossible for us to exercise faith towards God; and our love towards those who really need it claims this. The truest charity and holiest faith sometimes assume a very harsh appearance to the false feelings of man, and a very foolish one too, but faith acts upon its own resources. The result will show where truth and power and goodness was. He cast them all out. We must act decisively at times towards men, if we would act faithfully towards God. The enquiry for us is: Is this really done in love? Note, too, they all seemed on the same errand of kindness and condolence, but one was selfish in fact, and habitual, the other intelligent from God. One could not see beyond itself, the other came with power. They were indeed in contrast and opposition one to the other. Yet first observe it would show itself even to them. The Lord would see if they would entertain His faith, not in any assumption of power so as to claim subjection to Him, but in proposal of a common object if they could enter into it, which He saw but they could not. If indeed their hearts had been really affected or open, they would have leapt at the thoughts, though it seemed impossible, and indeed it was true. But instead they mocked at the Proposer as foolish, and for His faith. Unbelief is ever right in its premises but wrong in its conclusions, because it is unbelief as far as it goes, and because it leaves out the power of God overruling these premises. But it is the most foolish of all things, it forgives itself on its ignorance of the greatest and most certain thing in the universe - the power of God. The Lord grant His people the practical spirit of faith!
155 - 56. He charged them to tell no man what was done. This was the character of His Jewish service on His rejection; publicity became necessary to vindicate His Name in what was rejected, but He did not now strive nor cry. The testimony of the Holy Ghost to His exaltation, and therefore Gentile ministry was quite of another character, though Gentile ministry brought into another truth - union.
Our Lord did not omit the least little attention in His mercies. Not occupied with the greatness of His own work or the obligation of others to Him, His mind goes forth on the least occasions of one who had received the greatest of mercies. He perfects His work because all selfishness was absent from His mind. All comprehensive love flowed from perfect love, for there was no distracting medium of perception: "Tell it, said he, to no one." But He could not be hid. This is the spirit, so far above us, to seek. It is to us through faith. It works not merely not for a return, though it delights in it, but not from results, but from communion with Him who is love. It works by faith, and springs ever from Him who is above selfishness ever, in many shapes finding its way into our heart while it gives the real joy of love in the good done as to the blessing of another, but rests in Him from whom it flows. Nor will anything else make us workers together with Him, for our objects will always sink us in principle and communion, if we work for them. It is evidence of the reality of the work.
We get then in this chapter His reception, but the character of His coming as a Sower in connection with the responsibility of man, and then the history of the Jews in respect of it, given in descriptive or suggestive circumstances. The word of God characterised Him and His work or service in the world.
156 The whole order of God's ways in regard to His reception in Israel is unfolded in this chapter. He is surrounded by the Remnant devoted to Himself. He sows, as often remarked, does not seek fruit; only verses 16-18 add the idea of its moral universality, and the responsibility of man. His disciples, not natural relations are all that He owns on earth. In all the difficulties in the scene into which they launch forth, He, though He seems asleep and indifferent, has absolute power. Israel, when the Remnant are delivered and attached to Him, rush into destruction as the unclean; the Remnant would leave with Him, but they are sent back in testimony of the deliverance which they have received themselves. The special application to Israel is then brought out. He is on His way to heal the daughter of His people; he who in the crowd on the way touches Him by faith is healed. The deliverance is really giving life to the dead, yet treated but as asleep. Several of these points have been noted apart, but the assembly of the whole is the key here. It is not dispensational, as in Matthew 13, but the moral ways of God, and their results. In the following chapter it is more immediately and narrowly His position according to promise in Israel, enlarging itself into His place as Son of man, and then the Spirit that became them as passing through, with the knowledge of this. It is more historical, though showing that He takes the place provisionally and rejected, and this appears ever clearer in reading the gospels.