Luke 4 and 5
J. N. Darby.
I hardly know whether the thoughts I send you suit your little journal, but trust that all that unfolds the way the blessed Lord presented Himself on the earth, the connection of the Old Testament with the New, and the revealing of God in man upon the earth, will be profitable to some of your readers at least.
I forward to you therefore some remarks on the Gospel of Luke, flowing from thoughts which have arisen in my mind while lately reading it. There are two great subjects in the life of the blessed Lord which Luke brings out: the fulfilment of promise, and the revelation of God in grace in the "Son of man." These are presented to us in the history in a very interesting way. I will notice this as displayed in chapters 4 and 5.
In chapter 4 the Spirit of God has shewn us the blessed One led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, victorious in trial, as the first man had failed in it. He returns in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, having first bound the strong man. Let me remark here, in passing, how faithfulness in trial and temptation shews the power of the Spirit as much as the energy of action. Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted, overcame Satan by the word through the Spirit, and returned in its power, working miracles and casting out devils. But the power has been exercised all through the temptation, only in standing fast. See Eph. 6. Therein He had overcome Satan, baffled his power, really bound the strong man, and then had only to spoil his goods. He used, too, the weapon we have to use, the word of God; only we must remark that we learn from Ephesians 6, that to use the word we must first have all the defensive armour, that is, the state of the soul must be right, Christ, of course, was perfect and used it perfectly.
In the measure of our spirituality and uprightness we shall be able to wield this blessed weapon. But here even the sword was a defensive weapon. He met the wiles of Satan by it. Whatever reasonings or scriptures Satan may use, if we are spiritual enough to use it, the word of God suffices to confound him.
338 But to turn to my more direct subject. The Lord now stood as man, anointed of the Holy Ghost, having overcome Satan, to make good the grace and goodness of God amongst men, and specially first amongst the Jews; but the glory of His divine Person was not to be hid. But first He presents Himself as the anointed Man, fulfilling all that had been promised in grace.
I must remark another point. The Lord looks for rejection and this it will be seen is the case in both the characters in which He presents Himself. First, then, as the anointed Man. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord," Thus He presents Himself as the fulfiller of promise, announcing the favourable and gracious time of God's mercy in His own person. "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." But at the same time He tells them that He will be rejected. A prophet has not honour in his own country, But He adds that grace, as grace, passed beyond the limits of the Jews; that God was sovereign in His goodness, and of old had sent help to two Gentiles, while many remained in sorrow in rebellious Israel. This the haughty Jews would not bear, and, gracious as His words had been, they are now ready to destroy Him for preaching a grace which Israel might lose all part in, as rejecting Him, and the Gentile get blessing by. They are ready to destroy Him, but it was not the time, and He passed through the midst of them.
Now see the character in which the devils own Him; how it meets this character in which He was really come. How sad a picture! Devils perforce own Him; men reject Him with hatred. It is remarkable how these evil spirits own Him according to the truth (as we may remember the spirit of divination did Paul), but surely only as dreading, and, if they could have done so, avoiding His power. "Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the holy One of God." It was the reluctant owning of a power they could not avoid. The time was not come to cast them into the pit, but to deliver man. They came out of the man at Jesus's word.
339 But this title (the holy One) was a prophetic one of Jesus; and this title as summing up all the mercies of God. It is unfolded in Psalm 89. The word "mercies" in the first verse of that psalm is the same as "holy One" in verse 19. "Holy One" in verse 18 is quite different. Mercy was to be built up for ever, the psalm declares. How? "Thou spakest in vision of [not "to," I think, but about, as we see that of the prophecy, Psalm 72, "A psalm about Solomon"] thy holy One," Thy gracious One, in whom help and mercy are summed up. "I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David my servant," etc. Here, no doubt, the immediate subject is David; but in the mind of God a greater, even Christ, is here. The evil spirit owns that this holy One is there in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. Help was indeed laid upon the mighty One, who having overcome Satan wholly, could have delivered man from all the miserable fruits of his power, even death itself; but man would have none of Him. He must be redeemed or lost.
Next, in chapter 4, when healing many, the devils who are cast out own Him as the Christ the Son of God. This was owning His title as promised to Israel in Psalm 2; but which also witnessed to His rejection. Thus the power of present delivering goodness, in the promised One, was there. He is owned the holy One of God in whom mercies came to Israel, as the Christ and Son of God spoken of in Psalm 2. But in His own country He is not received. The prejudices and passions of man rise up against grace and this gracious One, while the devils own Him, but through dread; a strange but solemn picture! They could not but know Him. But what is knowledge when only such? Those He really came to would not receive Him.
In chapter 5 He is seen in another character. He reveals and is, Jehovah. In the miraculous draught of fishes He makes Himself known to the conscience of Peter. He sees the Lord in it and acknowledges himself a sinful man. unfit for His presence. This is always the effect of the revelation of God to us, and indeed of nothing else. Jesus speaks words of grace, "Fear not." From henceforth he should catch men. In what follows He heals the leper, which was Jehovah's work alone. But there was a special circumstance connected with this, full of blessed significance. The leper recognised His power, but was not sure of His goodness or willingness to help him. "Lord [he says], if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." The Lord does not merely say He is willing, He puts forth His hand and touches him. Now, if a man touched a leper he too was unclean, and must be put out of the camp. But here was a divine Person come down, Jehovah, who could cleanse; One who could say, "I will"; "be"; One who could not be defiled, but had for that very reason come down to touch the defiled one, and remove the defilement. He was Jehovah, come as man, to touch, so to speak, the sinner in grace.
340 Jesus was One whose holiness was so perfect, as God become man, that He could carry divine love to the vilest; carry it wherever a need or a sorrow was, and as love touch the defiled, not to become so, but to heal. It Is a wonderful picture of what Christ, Jehovah, present to heal was in this world. This revealing Himself to the conscience, and doing a divine work in love, in what was a figure of cleansing from sin, mark Him out as Jehovah in the world in grace.
He withdraws Himself into the wilderness and prays; ever the dependent, as the obedient and victorious Man. But other elements of divine grace are yet to be observed here. He was sitting with doctors of the law, ready to object to grace, and ignorant of how the Son of God had in manhood visited this sinful world in the power and title of divine grace. One sick of the palsy is brought to Him by faith. He goes to the root of all sorrow, and says, "Thy sins be forgiven thee." The question is not here how through the precious death of Christ forgiveness was consistent with divine righteousness and glorified it. What is here revealed, is Jehovah present in full unmingled grace. As the testimony and witness of this, the Lord does what is ascribed to Jehovah in Psalm 103, along with the forgiveness of sins. "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases."
Lastly, the Lord shews, as the friend of publicans and sinners, that He had come in sovereign grace to gather in the power of good, not looking for it in man. But thus also He must be rejected. This new wine, for it was so, could not be put into old bottles; Judaism could not receive and be the vessel of sovereign grace; nor could those who were used to Judaism easily receive the new wine of the gospel and spirit of God. And so it ever is in all ages.