Notes on the Gospel of Luke

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Collected Writings Vol. 25, Expository No. 4d. (b & c are the charts, pp. 28-36)

Luke  1
Luke  2
Luke  3
Luke  4
Luke  5
Luke  6
Luke  7
Luke  8
Luke  9
Luke 10
Luke 11
Luke 12
Luke 13
Luke 14
Luke 15, 16
Luke 17
Luke 18
Luke 19
Luke 20
Luke 21
Luke 22
Luke 23
Luke 24

Luke 1.

The Saviour is presented to us in Luke in His character as Son of man, displaying the power of Jehovah in grace in the midst of men. At first, doubtless, we find Him in relationship with Israel, to whom He had been promised; but afterwards moral principles are brought out, which apply to man, as such, wherever he might be. And indeed what characterises Luke's account of our Lord, and gives special interest to his Gospel, is that it presents to us Christ Himself, and not His official glory as in Matthew, nor His mission or service as in Mark, nor the peculiar revelation of His divine nature as in John. It is Himself, such as He was, a man upon the earth, moving among men day by day.

Verses 1-4. Many had undertaken to give an account of what was historically received amongst Christians, as it had been related to them by the eye-witnesses. However well intended this might be, yet it was a work undertaken and executed by men. Luke had an exact and intimate knowledge of all from the beginning, and he found it good to write in order to Theophilus, that he might know the certainty of the things he had been instructed in. It is thus that God has provided for the whole church by the teaching contained in the living picture of Jesus that we owe to this man of God. For Luke, although he might be personally moved by Christian motives, was of course none the less inspired by the Holy Ghost to write.

Verses 5-17. The history brings us into the midst of Jewish institutions, feelings, and expectations. First, we have a priest of Abia (one of the twenty-four classes: 1 Chr. 24), with his wife who was of the daughters of Aaron. "They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." All with them was in accordance with God's law Jewishly; but they did not enjoy the blessing so earnestly desired by every Jew; they were childless. Yet it was according to the ways of God to accomplish His work of blessing while manifesting the weakness of the instrument which He was using. But now this long-prayed-for blessing was to be withheld no longer; and when Zacharias draws near to offer the incense, the angel of Jehovah appears to him. At the sight of so glorious a being Zacharias is troubled; but the angel says to him, "Fear not, thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John," that is, "the favour of Jehovah." And not only should the hearts of many rejoice in him, but he should be great in the sight of the Lord and be filled with the Holy Ghost. "Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias … to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." The "spirit of Elias" was a firm and ardent zeal for the glory of Jehovah and for the re-establishment, through repentance, of Israel's relations with Him. The heart of John clung to this link of the people with God, and it is in the moral force of his call to repentance that John is here compared to Elias.

38 Verses 18-23. But Zacharias's faith, as is alas! so often the case, was not equal to the greatness of his request. He knows not how to walk in the steps of Abraham, and he asks again how such a thing can be. God's goodness turns the unbelief of His servant into a chastening that was profitable for him, and that served, at the same time, as a proof to the people that he had been visited from on high. Zacharias remains dumb until the word of Jehovah is accomplished.

Verses 24, 25. Elizabeth, with feelings so suitable to a holy woman, remembering what had been a shame to her in Israel (the traces of which were only made the more marked by the supernatural blessing now granted to her), hides herself, whilst at the same time she owns the Lord's goodness to her. But what may conceal us from the eyes of men has great value before God.

Verses 26-38. And now the scene changes, in order to introduce the Lord Himself into this marvellous scene that is unfolding itself before our eyes. In Nazareth, that despised place, there was found a young virgin, unknown by the world, whose name was Mary. She was espoused to Joseph, who was of the house of David; but so out of order was everything in Israel, that this descendant of the king was a carpenter. But what is this to God? Mary was a chosen vessel; she had found favour in the eyes of God.

We must remark that the subject here is the birth of the child Jesus as born of Mary. It is not so much His divine nature as the Word which was God and which was made flesh (though, of course, it is the same precious Saviour presented here as in John's Gospel); but it is Jesus as really and truly man - born of a virgin. His name was to be Jesus, that is, Jehovah the Saviour. "He shall be called the Son of the highest, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David" - still looking at Him as man born into the world. But He was God as well as man. Holy by His birth, conceived by the power of God, this blessed One, who even as born of Mary is spoken of as "that holy thing," was to be called "the Son of God."

39 The angel then tells Mary of the blessing God had bestowed upon Elizabeth. The wonderful intervention of God had rendered Mary humble instead of lifting her up: she had seen God and not herself in what had happened. Self was hidden from her because God had been brought so near, and she bows to His holy will. "Be it unto me according to thy word."

Verses 39-45. Afterwards we find that Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, for her heart loves to see and acknowledge the goodness of the Lord. Elizabeth, speaking by the Spirit, acknowledges Mary as the mother of her Lord, and announces the accomplishment of God's promise. "Blessed is she that believed," etc.

Verse 46. The heart of Mary is filled with joy, and she breaks forth into a song of praise. She acknowledges God her Saviour in the grace that has filled her with such joy, whilst, at the same time, she owns her utter littleness. For whatever might be the holiness of the instrument that God might employ, and that was found really in Mary, yet she was only great so long as she hid herself; for then God was everything. By making something of herself she would have lost her place; but this she did not. God kept her in order that His grace might be fully manifested.

The character of the thoughts that fill the heart of Mary is Jewish. It reminds us of Hannah's song in 1 Samuel 2, which speaks prophetically of this same blessed intervention of God. But Mary goes back to the promises made to the fathers, and takes in the whole of Israel.

Verse 56. After remaining three months with Elizabeth, she returns to her house humbly to follow her own path, in order that God's ways may be accomplished. Nothing is more beautiful in its way than this account of the conversations of these holy women, unknown to the world, but who were the instruments of God's grace to accomplish His glorious designs. They moved in a scene where nothing entered but piety and grace. But God was there Himself, no better known to the world than were these poor women, but preparing and accomplishing what the angels would desire to look into.

40 Verses 57-59. But what is only known in secret by faith is at last to be accomplished before all men. The son of Zacharias and Elizabeth is born, and Zacharias, no longer dumb, pronounces the blessed prophecy we have in verses 69-80. The visitation of Israel by Jehovah, which he speaks of, embraces all the happiness of the millennium, connected with the presence of Jesus upon the earth. All the promises are Yea and Amen in Him. All the prophecies encircle Him with the glory which will be then realised. We know that, since He has been rejected and while He is now absent, the accomplishment of these things is necessarily put off till His return.

Luke 2.

When God is pleased to occupy Himself with the world, and to take a part in what passes therein, it is marvellous to see how He acts and the instruction He gives. There is no agreement, but a total opposition between His ways and those of men. The emperor and his decree are but insignificant instruments. Caesar Augustus acts in view of his subjects; yet he is, without knowing it, the means of accomplishing the prophecy that Jesus should be born in Bethlehem. The entire course of the world is outside the current of God's thoughts. The capital fact for Him and for His kingdom here is the babe's birth at Bethlehem; but the emperor has no thought about it. The decree puts the world in motion, and God makes good His thoughts here below. How wondrous! All the world is in movement to bring about this event, needed to fulfil prophecy, that the poor carpenter, with Mary, his espoused wife, should be in the city of David, and David's heir should be born there and then. And this is the more striking, for the census itself was first made some years afterwards, when Cyrenius was governor of Syria: God is accomplishing His purpose of love. But man was blind to it. Who cared to notice the poor Jew, though he might be of the house and lineage of David? The things that are perfectly indifferent to man fill the heart and eye of God.

41 Still we are in Jewish atmosphere. Promises are being accomplished; the babe must be born in Bethlehem. "The city of David" is nothing to the Christian as such, save as shewing prophecy fulfilled: to us the Son comes from heaven. On earth the babe is the object of God's counsels; angels and all heaven are occupied with His birth; but there is no place in the world for Him! Go where the great world registers every individual, go to the little world of an inn, where each is measured by the servant's knowing eye, and place is accordingly awarded from the garret to the first floor; but there is no room for Jesus! And the manger led, in due time, to the lowest place - to the cross.

What a lesson for us as to this world! What a difference, too, between giving up the world and the world giving us up! We may do the one with comparative ease; but when we feel the world despises us as Christ was despised, we shall discover, unless He fills and satisfies the heart, that we had a value for its esteem that we were not aware of. When obedience is as important to us in our measure, as obeying was to Christ, we shall go right on whatever be before us, without regarding the world: not that we shall be insensible, but when Christ is the object we shall only be occupied with Him.

All intelligence of the things of God comes from His revelation, and not from the reasonings of men. Hence, the simple go farther in spiritual understanding than the wise and prudent of the earth. God acts here so as to set aside all appearance of human wisdom. Happy he who has so seized the intention of God as to be identified with it, and to want none but God! This was the case with the shepherds. They little entered into the great intent of the registration; but it was to them, and not to the prudent, that God revealed Himself. Our true wisdom is through what God reveals. But we never get God's fullest blessings till we are where the flesh is brought down and destroyed - I speak as regards walk. We cannot get into the simple joy and power of God, till we accept the place of lowliness and humiliation - till the heart is emptied of what is contrary to the lowliness of Christ. These shepherds were in the quiet fulfilment of their humble duty; and that is the place of blessing. Whoever is keeping on terms with the world is not walking with God; for God is not walking with you there. From the manger to the cross all in Christ was simple obedience. How unlike a Theudas, who boasted himself to be somebody! Christ did all in God's way; and not only so, but we must come so too.

42 The glory of the Lord shines round about the shepherds, the angel speaks to them, the sign is given; and what a sign! "Ye shall find the babe wrapped up in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God" - and for what? "The mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh." The hope of Israel is revealed to them - glad tidings of great joy to all the people. For Jesus is the pivot of all God s counsels in grace. Adam himself was but a figure of Him who was to come. Christ was ever in the mind of God. Such displays of glory are not shewn to mortal eyes every day; but God sets them before us in His word, and we must every day follow the sign given - follow Jesus the babe in the manger. If He filled the eye, the ear, the heart, how we should see the effects in person, spirit, conversation, dress, house, money, etc.

Such, then, is the sign of God's accomplishment of promise and of His presence in the world - "a babe in a manger" - the least and lowest thing. But God is found there, though these things are beyond man, who cannot walk with God, nor understand His moral glory. But God's sign is within the reach of faith. It is the token of perfect weakness; a little infant who can only weep! Such, born into this world is Christ the Lord. Such is the place God chose - the low degree. God's intervention is recognised by a sign like this. Man would not have sought that. The heavenly host praise God and say, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward [in] men." Nothing higher nor more astonishing (save the cross) for those who have the mind of heaven. The choir above see God in it - God manifested in flesh, and praise God in the highest. They rejoice that His delights are with the sons of men. Of old God had displayed Himself to Moses in a flame of fire, without consuming the bush, and here, still more marvellously, in the feeblest thing on earth; infinite thought morally, though despicable in the eye of the world! How hard it is to receive that the work of God and of His Christ is always in weakness! the rulers of the people saw in Peter and John unlearned and ignorant men. Paul's weakness at Corinth was the trial of his friends, the taunt of his enemies, the boast of himself. The Lord's strength is made perfect in weakness. The thorn in the flesh made Paul despised, and he conceived it would be better if that were gone. He had need of the lesson, "My grace is sufficient for thee." It is God's rule of action, if we may so say, to choose the weak things. Everything must rest on God's power, otherwise God's work cannot be done according to His mind. One can hardly believe that one must be feeble to do the work of God: but Christ was crucified in weakness, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For the work of God we must be weak, that the strength may be of God; and that work will last when all the earth shall be moved away.

43 Verse 21-38. But besides the additional testimony rendered by the offering of His mother to the circumstances in this world, in which the Lord of glory was born, we may see that, while God all through the Gospel is settling man in his new place with Himself, He did not forget His ancient people. He shews us here that He met every thought in every heart that was touched by grace in Israel. His heart was especially toward those who sorrowed over the sins and desolation of His people; and who, withal, waited for redemption, crying from the darkness, "How long, O Lord?" God will accomplish in power that wherein man has failed in responsibility. Should we therefore be content if God's people do not glorify Him? No; faith is not hard; it will sorrow, but it will wait for God, and God's time too; for faithful is He who hath promised, who also will do it. He will bring about His own purposes.

Verse 25. Thus was Simeon "waiting for the consolation of Israel." Thus Anna departed not from the temple, but served with fastings and prayers night and day; thus all that had looked for redemption in Jerusalem. There were those who watched, and Anna knew and spake to them. The rest doubtless were occupied with Roman oppression; but these few waited for Him, bowing before His hand in judgment of evil, but looking for His deliverance.

I believe there was something more in Simeon's soul than the joy of holding in his arms the babe, the expected Messiah; Simeon felt he had God, and was satisfied. So he says, without even looking on to the glory, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word." In Romans 5:11 the apostle, after speaking of rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God, says, "and not only so." What could be more than that hope? Yes, there is more: "we also have joy in God." The eyes of Simeon have seen God's salvation, and he begs of the sovereign Lord that he may go.

44 We often see something like this in dying saints, who deeply joy in the Lord's love to His own, and in the nearness of His coming for them. Why, one might say, what is His near coming to those who are dying and departing to Him? Just this - the nearer we are to God, the more precious is all the truth of God, and everything which is near to His heart. So in verses 30-32 Simeon rejoices as he surveys the extent of the divine deliverance. It was for the revelation of the Gentiles, who had been till now hidden in the dark of idolatry and ungodliness, as well as for the glory of Israel. But his soul is satisfied possessing Christ, and anticipating the effect of His presence in the whole world: he has all in Him, and desires to depart. If a man walks with God and has finished his course, he knows that his work is done and is conscious of the Lord's time being come. He has a companionship and communion with the Lord he has walked with. If simply brought to a bed of sickness, he is not then ready to go; not that he fears, but God is teaching him something else. But when God's time is come, all is joy and readiness. He feels like Simeon, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.

But, further, when Simeon blessed Joseph and Mary, the Spirit gives him to disclose the more immediate results of the babe's presence in Israel. He should be the touchstone of many hearts, an occasion for the fall as well as the rise of many; He should be a sign spoken against, a rejected Messiah; and Mary's heart should be pierced through, whatever the present joy or the future glory.

Israel was low indeed, but did not know it; Israel must be made to know it, and Christians too; for Christ had to descend to the grave and rise again. The thoughts of the heart must be revealed, whatever the outward garb. But then He is the one who brings out God's thoughts too. If He is the Christ, the glory of God's people, He is also the one who will abase the flesh, and meet and humble man in his pride; He is the one who will make you know whether His rejection is more precious than all beside.

Verse 39. When all was done according to the law, they returned to Galilee to Nazareth. Jesus would not be the Christ we need, if He had taken any glory from Jerusalem. His place is among the poor of the flock - His place all through in Israel.

45 Verse 40. "And the child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him." Luke gives us more of the reality of His childhood than the other Gospels. He was not made man full-formed like Adam.

If one only reads the account without comment, how the soul feels it unspeakably precious! When we see who it was, we see human nature in Him filled with God, so to speak. It is not official distinction, but the heart feels God brought nigh. The blessedness of the child's intrinsic loveliness fills the heart. Deeply instructive too is the incident recorded in connection with the passover when He was twelve years old. His true character comes out, though He was not yet to act upon it. He came to be a Nazarene - to be about His Father's business. This is here stated distinctly before He enters upon His public ministry, that it might be seen to be connected with His person, and not to depend merely upon His office. He was the Pastor of the flock in spirit and character. It belonged to Him. He was the Son of the Father, though abiding God's time for shewing it.

Verse 51. Nevertheless "He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them." What a majesty in His whole life! His being God secured His perfection as a child and man here below. He had ever the blessed consciousness of His relationship to His Father - an obedient child, but conscious also of a glory unconnected in itself with subjection to human parentage. He belonged to Mary and even Joseph; in another sense He was not theirs. His divine sonship was as well known to Him, as His obedience to His parents was in due season absolutely right.

Verse 52. "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." His human intelligence being developed, He, though ever perfect, became so in a full way - the perfect man. The lovely plant grew up and unfolded before God and man.

Luke 3.

The two preceding chapters have given the general character; they have shewn the going out of the thoughts of God to man. Accordingly we find that the Gospel, as a whole, is particularly occupied with what is not Jewish. Still the Jewish part is given at first with considerable detail, inasmuch as Israel, because of their unbelief and moral worthlessness, are to be set aside, in order to make way for new relationships, founded on what God reveals Himself to be for man in Jesus, the true and only mediator. But if chapter I disclosed the faithfulness of God to the Abrahamic promises, to His covenant and His oath, chapter 2 puts us in the presence of the actual government of the world and of the Lord's land and people under the fourth beast, the Roman empire. What confusion does not sin create? The Jews are subject to the Gentiles; Joseph and Mary, of David's royal house, go up to be taxed. Nevertheless the ways of God shine so much the brighter for the darkness that surrounded them: He was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. Israel, however, would be put to a new moral test by His presentation of Himself. Alas! it would soon appear that, if they had not kept the law, they hated grace. "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel: and for a sign which shall be spoken against."

46 In chapter 3 we have the ministry of God coming in by a prophet as of old by Samuel. "The word of God came unto John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness." It is not without object that the Spirit mentions the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, etc. All the earth was seemingly at rest under its heathen lord; the word of God found its suited sphere in the wilderness. The law and the prophets were until John: and where should he be in such a state of things but the wilderness? Could he morally own it? God will not have His messenger in Jerusalem.

Prophecy is the sovereign means whereby God can communicate with His people when they are ruined and departed from Him. John understands this, and preaches the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And such was the place assigned him, many centuries before, by Esaias the prophet. It was vain for Israel to plead their privileges and rights. All was wrong, and the Judge was at the door. John's work was not to lead the people back to the law: he was preparing the way of the Lord. Herein he differed from the prophets as well as the law, or rather he went farther; for God's time was come for a step in advance. The prophets led back to Horeb: John says not a word of this, though his father was a priest, and himself, of course, an Aaronite. He does not try to set up again what was closed; he announces the kingdom. He may not introduce the church, nor even the glad tidings of God's grace (both awaited the accomplishment of the work of redemption), but he drops the law, and shews that God's purpose is the kingdom.

47 The quotation from Esaias sets aside Israel - not the Gentiles merely but Israel - as grass, withered grass, without a green blade left. Yet the word of the Lord endureth for ever, and this when all hope for man was gone. Israel may have failed, but the word of the Lord shall stand. Moreover, since it was the Lord who was coming, every valley should be filled, etc. Not the Jews alone, but all flesh, should see God's deliverance. If sin plunges all in indiscriminate ruin and a common judgment, God can meet man thus ruined, but His glory will not be shut up in the narrow limits of Israel.

Verses 7-14. But, to be blessed, man must repent. God would have realities, and not a mere nominal people; He must have fruits answering to hearts which felt and judged their moral condition, and which therefore turned from themselves to God. Ordinances, formal claims, etc., which should have been means of blessing, would be no shelter against the coming wrath; nor would God permit them to hinder His creating true children of the promise, if this generation were but Ishmael over again. Judgment must begin at the house of God.

In fact, as we know, John was beheaded, and the Lord was crucified, and the kingdom, presented in Him, and by Him, was rejected by Israel. By-and-by it will be set up visibly and in power.* Meanwhile the church is set up, because the kingdom is not set up in this manifested way. And those who now take their place with the Lord share His rejection. They are members of His body, the church. They shall share His glory, but it will be heavenly, and not earthly, glory. In another sense we are in the kingdom now. To faith heaven rules now, and we own it, and know it; but Satan is actually prince and god of this world; and hence those who are made kings to God (for that is our true place) are called to suffer. Therefore Paul went everywhere preaching the kingdom of God, as well as Christ and the church. We have that by virtue of which we shall reign with Christ; but even that is not our best portion. To be one with Christ - His body and bride - is far more blessed. If your mind only rests on the person of Christ, there is no difficulty in seeing that when He is cut off, all must cease as regards the earth. He is the centre of all; and when rejected, what prophecy spoke of, and what seemed about to be accomplished, breaks off. Thereupon Christ ascends, and takes up a glory above the heavens, and there now the saints find their place with Him. Compare Psalms 2 and 8.

{*Observe, that Matthew only uses the expression, "kingdom of heaven." It is often, in a general sense, capable of being interchanged with "kingdom of God," as we see by comparing Luke. Notwithstanding, the two phrases cannot always replace each other, and Matthew uses "kingdom of God" in a few passages where "kingdom of heaven" could not be used (Matt. 6:33; 12:28; 21:43). Thus "the kingdom of God" was there when Christ the King was there; "the kingdom of heaven" began with Christ going to heaven. By-and-by, when Satan ceases to rule, it will be the "kingdom of heaven" (and "of God" too, of course), not in a mystery, but in manifestation. "The kingdom of God" has also a moral force which "kingdom of heaven" has not; and in this way it is frequently used by Paul, and was peculiarly suitable to the Spirit's design in Luke.}

48 John Baptist, then, addresses himself to the Jews, demanding repentance, and righteousness as its fruit; shews them that, if they were nearer to God outwardly as Jews, they must expect judgment the sooner. If the Lord was coming, He must have what became the Lord. The axe was even then lying at the root of the trees; if there was not good fruit on the trees, every one must be hewn down and burnt. Repentance or wrath - which? The Lord would allow no plea of descent from Abraham, if their ways belied Abraham; He must have righteousness. It is the Lord that is just at hand, and He must have a people fit for Him, or He would out of the very stones make a suited people for Himself.

Evidently John's word is not a voice of mercy to the poor sinner. God is presented in the way of judgment, not of sovereign mercy. He does not say, "Come unto me." John could not say it, because he was not Christ, and none but He could say, "Come unto me." John came in righteousness.

In verses 10-14 moral testimony is given, and that in detail. John deals with the practical iniquity of each set of people. So even when the question of the Christ is raised (v. 15-18), "one mightier than I cometh," says he. It is of His power specially he thinks - His power morally as outwardly. "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." It is the power of the Holy Ghost and His consuming judgment. He could not speak of the grace of the gospel which we know now. He proclaims One who was coming after him, not a present salvation. Whatever would not stand the fire was to be burnt up. For His fan "is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner, but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable." (Compare Isa. 21:10, etc.) God's floor was Israel; there He was getting His wheat, if any were to be found. But His fan is in His hand; He is going to make short work. Titus finally set aside God's floor upon the earth; Israel's sin had lost it morally when they rejected Christ, but at the destruction of Jerusalem it was done with thoroughly for the present.

49 Verses 19, etc. - Luke's method of instruction is to be noticed in passing. He shews that John had preached and exhorted moral truth, and then disposes of him, putting him, as it were, out of the scene, in order to bring Christ in. It was not that historically John was imprisoned at that juncture by Herod the tetrarch; it took place long after. But it is a sample of Luke's manner, who returns to the Lord's taking His place amongst the remnant of Israel. For the Lord does not identify Himself with the nation; but, directly there is a poor remnant, He identifies Himself with it.

This history opens with verse 21, and how wonderful and full of grace! "Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended, in a bodily shape like a dove, upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased." One may have looked and listened mournfully, as one reads of John Baptist and his testimony. We might have asked, as the dying record of men passed before us, What is man? But now my eye rests on Jesus: I find the Lord from heaven a man. All is to begin again. Do I ask again, What is man? At once Christ comes out. Do I look at myself? at all around? What do I see? Enough to break my heart, if there is a heart to be broken. The only thing which prevents people being utterly broken down is that they have not a heart to feel things as they are.

But a rest is here! I have got a man now who satisfied God - this blessed man on earth in the presence of God, looking to God, and an object to God! not Messiah purging His floor, but Him in whom God's thoughts and purposes are all folded up - not man perishing before the moth, but Jesus the Son of man, not merely coming down from Abraham and David, but traced up, "which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God" - the second Man, the last Adam, the quickening Spirit. What a relief; for what is man? What one's self when the heart's sin is known - giving up God for an apple from the beginning hitherto! But now a man, a blessed man, appears, "and praying." We are not told this elsewhere, and why here? Because Luke presents man in his perfection - the dependent man; for dependence is the essence of a perfect man. Truly we see God shining all through, but yet in Jesus the dependent man, in the place and condition of perfectness as man. The root of sin in us is self-will, independence. Here my heart has rest! A dependent man in the midst of sorrow, but perfectly with God in all. See Luke's account of the transfiguration also: in humiliation or in glory, it makes no difference as to this; the perfect is ever the dependent one.

50 And when that blessed heart thus expressed its dependence, did He get no answer? "The heaven was opened." Does heaven open thus on me? It is open to me indeed, no doubt, but I pray because it is open; it opened because He prayed. I come and look up because the heavens were opened on Him.

It is, indeed, a lovely picture of grace, and we may be bold to say that the Father loved to look on - to look down, in the midst of all sin, on His beloved Son. Nothing but what was divine could thus awaken God's heart; and yet it was the lowly perfect man. He takes not the place of His eternal glory, as the Creator, the Son of God. He stoops and is baptized (Psalm 16). He says, "in thee do I trust." He says to Jehovah, "Thou art the Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee." He says to the godly remnant in Israel, "To the saints that are on the earth, and to the excellent … In them is all my delight." He needed no repentance, yet is He baptized with them; just as when, later on, He puts forth His sheep, He goes before them. He identifies Himself in grace with Israel, even with such as were of a clean heart. And the Holy Ghost descends like a dove on Him - fit emblem of that spotless man! - fit resting place for the Spirit in the deluge of this world! And how sweet, too, that Jesus is pointed out to us as God's object. I know the way the Father feels about Him. I am made His intimate, and admitted to hear Him expressing His affection for His Son, to see the links reformed between God and man. Heaven is opened, not on something above, but upon a man on the earth. Thus I get rest, and my heart finds communion with God in His beloved Son. It is only the believer who enjoys it, but the link is there. And if I have that in and about me which distresses the soul, I have that in Him which is unfailing joy and comfort.

51 The genealogy quite falls in with the thought that God is shewing grace in man and to man. Jesus, the beloved Son of God, is traced up to Adam and to God. Jesus is Son of man; He is heir in this sense. He takes up the inheritance God gave to man. O what a truth! Where could one's heart turn for rest, if it had not Jesus to rest in? With Him, let heaven and earth be turned upside down, and still I have a rest. What blessedness for the heart to have the object God Himself is occupied with! May our hearts also be more and more occupied with Him!

Luke 4.

We saw the Lord taking His place of servant with the excellent in Israel, and thereon the heavens opened, and Himself owned by the Father as His beloved Son. His delights were with the sons of men, and He is traced up, not to Abraham only, the root and depositary of Jewish promises, but to Adam and God Himself. Independently of His proper divine glory as Son of the Father, Jesus should be called the Son of the Highest, the Son of God. As man on earth, He was sealed with the Holy Ghost. He took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. His entire perfectness now was to fulfil, as a servant, the will of Him who sent Him; for a servant doing his own will is a bad servant. Dependence, waiting, and obedience, were the characteristics of this place, and they are found in Him to the uttermost. Hence, as in the Psalms, "I waited patiently for the Lord." He would not ask for power, but waits on God. "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" Put thoroughly to the test, He would do nothing but His Father's will. He was to learn obedience. Having taken the place, He would go through it wholly, not in one act, but experiencing the force of that expression, learning obedience, without one comfort here, with enemies around, bulls of Bashan besetting, dogs compassing. He had to learn obedience where obedience was always suffering, even to the yielding up of life. Every single step was humiliation till the close came in the cross, where the wrath of God was borne in love to us. No doubt He found, in His rejection, fields white for harvest, and so shall we, in our measure, when walking in the same path. But the cross was always before Him, - everything that could stop a man. Nevertheless He went on, patiently waiting, and not asking for deliverances. Thus He presented perfect God to man, and perfect man to God.

52 Verse 1. In this chapter He begins the walk of suffering obedience publicly. And the first thing to be remarked is that, being full of the Holy Ghost, He is led by Him into the wilderness, where He is tempted by the devil. There are two ways in which the enemy has power; first by allurements, and secondly by terror. In the one he works upon us through our lusts, presenting what is calculated to attract, and so he rules over us naturally. In the other he has the power of death. Thus, Judas being a covetous man and without the faith which purifies the heart, Satan suggested the occasion and gets him. He has no right to rule over men, but he acquires dominion through the lusts of the flesh. Another way is through the terror of death. In both he assailed the Lord, but found nothing in Him.

Here, then, we have the devil meeting man in the power of the Spirit of God - man tempted, not in paradise, but in the wilderness. Jesus does not say, "I am God, and you are Satan; go away." That would not have glorified God, nor have helped us. But as the Lord was led into the wilderness, not by lust (God forbid the thought!) but by the Holy Ghost, so in His blessed grace He puts Himself in the place where man was. He has help from none, not even from John the Baptist. There was all that might have stumbled rather, had it been possible; through all He goes as man. He must be tempted, and must overcome where man not only had failed, but was lying under the power of wickedness.

Verses 2, 3. There was no harm in hunger: it was no sin. He could have commanded stones to be made bread, but to do so, save at His Father's word, would have been doing His own will, and then He had not been the perfect man. Satan tries to introduce into His heart a desire which was not in the word of God; He succeeded in insinuating a lust into the heart of Adam; he fails with Jesus, though He was for forty days exposed to his presence and power. Jesus had to know by experience what it was to have working at Him, without a single support, without a friend, in solitary dreariness (save indeed the wild beasts) with the devil! Thus He measured the power of Satan. The strong man was there, putting forth all his weapons, but the stronger than he overcame: Jesus binds the strong man. He was abstracted from human condition for forty days, not like Moses to be only with God, but as the one who was always with God, to be exposed to Satan. None other man needs to be abstracted in order to be tempted, he has only to go along with men. In this case, this extraordinary separation was to be with the devil. To be with God He did not need anything out of His every-day path, for it was His natural place; but to be with Satan, He needed it. Others were strangers to God, and at home with Satan. He, in the most adverse things, is a stranger to Satan, and dwells in the bosom of the Father. But He emptied Himself as God to become a servant as man, and there He waits in dependence on the word of Him whom He served. The living Father had sent Him, and He lived by the Father. He was as man under His authority, and His meat was to do His will. "By the words of thy lips, I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer."

53 Verse 4. It is the written word He ever uses, and Satan is powerless! What amazing importance Jesus gives the scriptures! God now acts by the word, and Satan is resisted morally in this way. A man cannot be touched by Satan while the word is simply used in obedience. "He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." It was not as an exercise of divine authority He dismissed Satan, but the enemy is proved unable to grapple with obedience to the word of God. If he cannot take out of the path of obedience, he has no power. What more simple? Every child of God has the Holy Ghost acting by the word to keep him.

Jesus does not reason with Satan. A single text silences when used in the power of the Spirit. The whole secret of strength in conflict is using the word of God in the right way. One may say, I am not like this perfect Man: it might be so with Christ, but how can I expect the same result? True, we are ignorant, and the flesh is in us; but God is always behind, and He is faithful, and will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able. Temptation may be simply a trial of our obedience, as in Abraham's case, not a snare to lead us astray. Satan presents what has no appearance of evil. The evil would be - doing one's own will. Now it solves every difficulty to ask - not, what harm is there in doing this or that? - but, why am I doing it? Is it for God or myself? What! am I to be always under this restraint? Ah! there the secret of our nature comes out; we do not like the restraint of doing what God will approve. It is restraint to do God's will! We want to do our own will. To act merely because one must is law, and not the guidance of the Spirit. The word of God was the motive of Christ, and such is Christ's guidance. Not fencing the old man, but the new man living on the word is defence against Satan.

54 Verses 3-13. The first temptation is an appeal to the need of the body. The second in Luke (not in Matthew) is the inducement of the world's glory. The third in our Gospel is the religious temptation through the word of God, and therefore morally the hardest of all to one who values that word. And this is the reason why Luke departs from the actual order of the events, in order to group them morally, as is the habit of this evangelist elsewhere also. Thus we have the tempter assailing the Lord Jesus, first, as to man's life; second, as to the power given to man; and third, as to the promises made to Christ Himself.

The Lord might have argued with the devil, but He does not even tell him that the dominion of the world would be His by-and-by. He takes His stand on that which settles everything, and is a perfect example for us. He stands to God's word, and God's worship. He awaits His word, He worships Him, He serves Him only. How simple and how blessed! It was the immediate link of an obedient heart with God. The question was one of relationship to God. So of old, Eliezer receives blessing, but before he begins to enjoy it, he gives thanks. He had the word first, then the blessing-and what follows forthwith? He bows his head and worships. God is the first thought of his heart. And so still more fully with the Lord here. The last and subtlest temptation was grounded on the promises to Messiah (v. 9-11). If thou art the Son of God, why not try? But why should He try, who KNEW that God was for Him? Why should He be like presumptuous Israel of old, who would go up the hill in disobedience, to prove whether the Lord was among them? Not even when Lazarus was sick would He stir, till it was the Father's will, though all nature would have moved: and He knew well the sorrow of that house which was His refuge; for "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus."

55 The Lord did not listen. Who would? you say. But you do listen to Satan, every day of your lives that you seek a very little bit of the world. But was there not a promise? Doubtless there was; yet why should He throw Himself down to see whether God would be as good as His word? Did He not know that God was with Him? And so with us: let us only have the word behind us, no matter what may be before us. Never should we raise a question whether God is with us. If He does not send, let us not move, but let us never question His presence. If we are in the simple path of His will, the Holy Ghost will act in us to guide, and not merely on us to correct.

Thus then, in the order of Luke, which, as we have seen, is not historical, but moral, we have the progressive exercises of a man. First, natural lusts; secondly, worldly lusts;* and lastly, spiritual temptations. The Lord Jesus was tempted here, not in Eden, but in the great system where we are. He put Himself, by the will and wisdom of God, in the place of our difficulty in the world, where man is. He has gone through all the difficulties a saint is in. Who wants His help? Not a sinner, for he wants salvation: but a saint needs help and sympathy in his path. We have practically to keep our first estate, as renewed. Satan cannot touch the new man, but he tries to entice us out of the path of godliness. We want the succour to walk as obedient ones where Christ walked.

{*Satan's saying in Luke 4:6 ("All this power," etc.) was false as to right, but true in fact, through men's lusts. So far as these go, he gives the power; but God, after all, is above him, and governs in providence.}

Verse 14. "And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee; and he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all." In all things His obedience is shewn. Untouched by Satan, He goes forth in unhindered power: as we shall in a measure, if like Him we pass through temptation, so as not to be touched by Satan.

56 Verse 16. "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up" - the low, despised place, but just the place where spiritual power is found. Was it not ever thus? When was it [power] found allied to the great things of this world?

Verse 18. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor," etc. It was the characteristic of grace to come to such. The great business of Christ was to preach, that is to present God. The Holy Ghost gives the right word at the right time, and in the right way. "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears," v. 21. The Lord does not reason; He says, Here it is. The way of God is to present what we want. You want salvation, there it is; you want mercy, and there it is. God alone can thus come, by grace, into the place of a sinner. They wonder, for His were precious words, but soon they ask, Is not this Joseph's son? Was He ashamed of being the carpenter? Grace goes down to the lowest need. But man will take occasion to despise grace, because it is clothed in humiliation: he cannot but see God, but he steps aside to look at the humiliation, and so shew out the hatred of his heart. God's grace is despised and His sovereignty is hated. God did not despise Nazareth, but man despises Jesus because He came out of Nazareth. Even the guileless Nathaniel asks, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" How little appreciation of the way of grace there is even in the godly! Christ comes into man's misery, and finds him where he is. Could an angel? No: he stays in his proper position, doing the Lord's commandments, and hearkening to the voice of His word. An angel ought not to come down to me in my sins: God only can in His grace. And man despised the lowliness to which grace brought Him - wretched man!

But Israel ever resisted grace, and yet it was ever the way of God's delight. Witness the widow of Sarepta in Sidon, and Naaman the Syrian leper. Grace overleaped the bounds of Israel (v. 25-27) They might be enraged, but grace does over-step their limits. They rose up to thrust down Him who had denied their privileges, but He passed through (v. 30) to renew the work of grace elsewhere (v. 31, 32). This does not move Jesus; it tries Him and breaks His heart, but it does not move Him. The reproach of man turns Him to God. His comfort in His rejection is His Father's will: "Even so, Father." It was perfectness in the scene of grace, as before in the scene of temptation.

57 There was also the manifestation of power, and not merely promise. There was the accomplishment of promise for the deliverance of man in power as well as grace: and this remains true for us, who know Him as a man risen, and at the right hand of God. Mere promise does not give a centre for the affections: Christ Himself is that - Christ to whom promise pointed. He awakens divine feelings and thoughts in us, which find no response or satisfaction from anything in this world. It is the special character of Christ: when He presents Himself, it is perfect peace and grace; and in fellowship with Him, the soul can praise and rejoice in what He is.

This grace adapts itself to all difficulties, so as to bring man into peace with God. The very demons knew who He was; man alone was dull and blind. The demon held captive, but a single word of Jesus sets the captive free. He was there, not a promise merely, but power accomplishing, the living power of the Lord Himself among men, the power of God in man overcoming Satan. Such was Jesus in the synagogue of Capernaum, dealing with the unclean spirit (v. 33-37). And it is the same when He goes out and enters Simon's house. Disease disappears, the weak is made strong. He ministers unto Simon's wife's mother, as she lay taken in a great fever, "and immediately she arose and ministered unto them" (v. 38, 39). What can resist this delivering power in the person of the Lord Jesus? "Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases, brought them unto him, and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them; and demons also came out of many." He went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil. Therefore when men stayed Him that He should not depart, He pleads His mission to preach elsewhere also. He is ever the obedient One.

Luke 5.

It is interesting to know the progressive power of the word of God. The Lord was preaching, as related at the close of chapter 4, and in so doing, as well as in the miracles He wrought, He was manifesting the power of goodness. Thus, in performing miracles, two purposes had to be accomplished - confirmation of the testimony given, and present deliverance from the power of Satan. But His great business was preaching the kingdom of God. He will set up the kingdom in power by-and-by, but His great object then was (and is) to bring the heart into contact with God; and the word does this more than miracles.

58 Verse 1. In a measure even the unconverted are sensible of the presence of God. Adam was, when he tried to hide himself. When the gospel is preached with power, crowds are gathered together by it, touched, perhaps, by something new, but without fruit. So it was with the Lord's preaching and miracles. We know their motives were selfish often, yet He went on all the same. Come for the blessing of man, He would associate others with Himself in this work of grace; but He calls them in such a way as leaves no glory to man. He "saw two ships standing by the lake, but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would launch out a little from the land; and he sat down and taught the multitudes out of the ship. Now when he had left off speaking, he said to Simon, Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught" (v. 2-4). The word had authority in the conscience. Peter and Andrew had seen Jesus before, but had not yet staid with Him; there had not been sufficient power in their faith to attach them to Christ. There are many now, as ever, who own the authority of the word, and yet not attached by its power to His person - many absorbed by their every-day pursuits, the word not having laid hold of their souls so as to make them walk thoroughly with Christ. It is one thing simply to hear His word when spoken to them; quite a different thing when the word reaches them, and becomes the spring and motive of all their ways. So, here, these men had spent a little time with Jesus, had heard Him speak, and owned Him as Messiah; so, now also, we see obedience to His word when it comes to them. They launch out at His word, and at His word they let down their nets.

The miracle which the Lord wrought was one every way suited to act on those concerned. Their own powerlessness was confessed. "Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing." Man could do nothing in such a case: if Jesus could, it was because everything was at His disposal. "At thy word I will let down the net" (v. 5).

59 Verses 6-8. "And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes, and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners … and they came and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink." There was not even strength to receive of themselves. "When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." If the word of Jesus had not reached Peter's heart, he would merely have obeyed it as a means of temporal help; but he owns Him as Lord, hearing far more in the words spoken. His conscience was reached. The Lord Himself is revealed to Peter, and that shews Peter himself. When the eye of God is consciously upon us, we see in ourselves what He saw. This was Peter's case. He, when brought into God's presence, feels that he has been deceiving himself.

Grace begins here, but we have not the end yet. So Paul was blind three days, and his soul so wrought on that he could neither eat nor drink. Here Peter falls down at Jesus' knees. So with us: when brought really into His presence, there is the discovery of our sinfulness. The means used to bring us there may be various - circumstances of life, providential occurrences (with Luther, a thunder-storm). But when we are there, there is the revelation of Christ Himself, and wherever He is, He takes His right place in the soul. It is not only that a man then has salvation, but he cannot longer be content without God having His due place before him.

Peter does not fly away from the Lord, like Adam hiding himself: he is attracted to Him. At the same time he is there a judged, convicted, sinful man in his own conscience, which takes the part of Christ against itself. "Depart from me," he says, but he says it at Jesus' knees. This might seem like a contradiction. It was really love to the Lord and care for His honour, because His word had become the revelation of Christ to him. His heart has not perfect peace, but Christ has got possession of it. Grace draws to Christ, but there is withal the sense of unfitness till His work is known in all its peace-giving consequences. God sees the thoughts and intents of the heart, and we are made to see these as He sees them. Righteousness is planted in the conscience; God and man are brought together. It was not that Peter could be happy anywhere but at the knees of Jesus, but he felt all the while how unfit he was to be in such company.

60 But the Lord deals in perfect grace. He does not leave Simon Peter. He knew all his sin before He went into the ship, and says to him, "Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men." Jesus went into the ship to shew Peter that he had nothing to fear. Truly "perfect love casteth out fear." Fear has torment till grace is fully revealed; and now it was, with as much authority as that miracle-working word, "Let down your nets for a draught." It was the word of Christ to his heart. If he trusted it for the fish, why not for his fears? Peter had said, "Depart," but instead of that, Christ had already come, knowing all he was better than Peter. He was come as a Saviour; nay, more, He intimates to Peter that He was going to make him an instrument in gathering others. Everyone who has the love of God shed abroad in his heart becomes a vessel of living grace himself: not the source, but the river flows through him, so that people may come and drink. Recipients of grace, we are associated with Christ in the activity of love. Outward gift is not meant here, but that, as members of His body, there is living fellowship with the Head in the testimony of His grace and power.

We see in these disciples the effect of all. They are absorbed with Christ now. They not only look to Him for salvation, but they think of nothing else for life, speaking now generally and apart from any particular failure. "They forsook all and followed him." Christ becomes their life. It is a new line altogether - not merely obedience to an express command, with the reserve of thinking and saying, perhaps, "there is no harm in this or that." Christ pleased not Himself. His reason for action was His Father's will, and not the absence of a prohibition. And we are sanctified unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. "They forsook all," and where Christ went they went. They are associated with their Lord in His love to souls, and in the walk of life. This is liberty. May we, having Christ our life, have Him as our one motive! detached from all to Him, yet channels for all the blessing and grace we have ourselves tasted in Him! There is power to attract out of every corruption around, and to gather the soul into the thoughts and ways of God, by the revelation of Christ Himself.

61 Verse 12. Christ was the manifestation on earth of God's power and character - of grace. Of this the leper's case which follows is a striking witness; for leprosy was an evil which none but God could remove. But God was there in grace. Leprosy presented sin in the aspect of uncleanness. A man full of it on seeing Jesus, fell on his face, and besought Him, saying, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." There is the recognition of divine power in Jesus, but He has not full confidence in His grace. He seems disheartened by misery; and almost in despair says, "If thou wilt," etc. But He who alone on earth had the title so to say, says, "I will." It was God only - not in heaven, but come down in man and among men. Christ was there, who could touch the leper and the leprosy without being touched by it. Divine power was needed, doubtless, and the very priests could not but attest the results of its intervention, but there was divine and perfect love in His touch, while it was the touch of a man, a man who acknowledged the ordinances of God, as one who had been born under law. Thus this "turned for a testimony." For the leper must go to the priest, and what could he think? Why, who has been here? Jehovah must have been to heal the man.

Verse 16. And what next? Jesus "withdrew himself into the wilderness and prayed." Let the power exercised be ever so great, and manifestly divine, He is the dependent man; and this is just where we fail.

Verse 18. Here we have another thing - not the power of Satan, as in chapter 4, nor the uncleanness of sin, typified by leprosy, but the guilt of sin. They brought the man, because they felt the need; and there was the perseverance of faith, which would not be put off till another day. And Jesus brings forgiveness of sins, as well as cleansing from defilement. This is what appears in the instance of the palsied man. The first and grand point is that Jesus pronounces his sins forgiven. Authority to pardon was come in the Person of the Son of man on earth, whatever scribes and Pharisees might think. It was God, the Lord Jehovah, but the Son of man withal, having on earth power to forgive sins, and using it. It is in this way Israel is to be forgiven by-and-by (compare Psalm 103:3); and accordingly, the Lord here gives the proof of that authority to forgive by the healing the disease of the paralytic. "That ye may know," etc. (v. 14). The man was to know in his relationship to God, that his guilt was gone. Through infinite grace, we are entitled to more than even this; for we have the righteousness of the accepted man in God's presence. We are made the righteousness of God in Him. This palsied man was a sample of what will be, in the future day, Israel's portion. Jesus was forgiving iniquities and healing diseases. He had shewn the power to do the one; now He would shew that He could do the other also. It is God's delight to do it all. You may not believe that you can have such a boon, but it is ours in Christ. The perfect Man has come with perfect title in His Person. God wrought there, but it was also as a man filled with the Holy Ghost. The believer walks, too, a proof not to himself so much as to others that God is there. The man ought not to say, "I wonder if I can walk"; if he has faith, he will get up and do it.

62 Two things are here present. First, the exceeding blessed grace that the Lord is come, the power of God within the sphere of human misery, which, extreme as it may be, does but make that power evident. If I look around as a man, I am lost. I cannot unriddle the history of the world - abominations committed in the name of Christ, Himself rejected by His people Israel, and crucified by those Gentiles to whom God had entrusted the government of the world, Mohammedanism, heathenism; what kind of a God have you, says the reasoning heart, when it is such a world! But here I have the Lord come down into all the wretchedness, sickness, sin; and my heart is drawn away from pleasure and sorrow to Him. How beautiful to see heart after heart brought around this One, the only true centre, soon to be the risen head of the new creation, Himself the object drawing out feelings and affections of which He alone is worthy; He who by His excellency, gives excellency, and by His gracious thoughts towards us produces and draws out gracious thoughts in us. Next, our hearts are fixed just so far as we have an object-fixed according to God, when we have Christ Himself before us. How can I love if I have nothing to love? A man is what he feels, and likes and thinks. If my soul lives and feeds upon that which is most excellent - Christ the bread of God, Christ becomes, in a practical sense, formed in the heart. In Him, the man Christ Jesus, God has had all His delight, and the display of it too.

Remark further, that in the accounts we have seen, divine power in the person of Jesus, the Son of man, is exercised in the midst of Israel. First, chapter 4:31-41, its triumph over the enemy's power in sicknesses and in demoniacal possessions, and the testimony of the kingdom, when all such effects of Satan's work should disappear. This last opens the way for the more positive and deeper blessing of souls, being put in relationship to God. Hence from chapter 5:1-26 (the call of Peter, the cleansing of the leper, and the pardon of the palsied man), it is a question of the state of the soul (whatever the outward accompaniments might be), of the authority of the word of the heart, of faith, and of Christ's personal glory. Still it was grace in operation towards Israel; grace, if one may so speak, in government. To Israel God had said that He would not put upon them the plagues of Egypt, save for their sin. They were an outwardly elect, redeemed people, but they were under God's government; and hence chastening came, of which the leprosy and the palsy were peculiar samples. Jesus shews Himself to be "Jehovah that healeth thee," in the midst of Israel, though He was passing away from them into a wider display of power and goodness. He could have healed every one, leprous or paralytic; He could have removed all the diseases, now, alas! brought on the Israelites; but in these cases it is where they come to Him in quest of healing, that is, it is in answer to faith that He works. He was there, shewing divine power and grace in healing.

63 Verse 27, etc. But this grace, being of God and sovereign, could not be bounded by human circumstances. Wherever a want appeared to Him, could He gainsay His power or His love? Now, see how that connects itself with what follows. There was full deliverance for all who trusted in Israel, but He could not, and would not limit His grace. The law limited, but when Himself, the God who gave it, came, everybody who needs Him is welcome; His house is a house of prayer for all nations. Hence He calls a publican, a Jew indeed, but detested by the Israelites, and in a sense rightly, when viewed as the mark of their servitude nationally. A publican was one who profited by their Gentile masters, to extort money from Israel, and therefore naturally regarded with horror. But Jesus calls one named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom - calls him to be an apostle! Grace must act according to its own rights. If God has been good to you and me, does that hinder His mercy and love to another? Grace creates the instrument it wants to act by; and it will flow farther than the publican yet, even to the most distant Gentile. True, Israel had the promises, the Gentile, strictly speaking, had none; but for that very reason it was more purely grace; and grace would act towards the Gentiles. The Lord Himself, God, was there, and Israel could not be the centre, nor the temple, when He was there, the despised Lord of both. He is the door, the new centre and turning-point of blessing; not a mere branch of the old vine, but Himself the true vine. As a Jew, He was subject to ordinances, but as the Lord, He is above them, and He breaks out beyond all the old restrictions.

64 "Levi made him a great feast in his own house, and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them; but their scribes and Pharisees murmured." It was a terrible sight and blow to such. But Jesus answers, "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." They mistook the Lord altogether: He came to shew how grace could deal with those who had no righteousness.

Verse 33, etc. He is now breaking, as it were, out of the old thing. He is faithful to Israel, but breaking up that order of things. How could they fast who owned the presence of the divine husband of Israel, the Messiah! The time was coming when the cross must be taken; but when the Bridegroom is there, fasting was out of place and season.

Verses 36-39. Further, the old garment cannot be patched with new cloth. Jesus would do no such thing as tack on Christianity to Judaism. Flesh and law go together, but grace and law, God's righteousness and man's, will never mix. Neither can the new wine, the power of the Spirit, be put into the old legal ordinances without loss on all sides. A man accustomed to forms, human arrangement, fathers' religion, etc., never likes the new principle and power of the kingdom; he says, The old is better. Such is nature; grace is offensive to it. Nor does man improve in divine things. He can degrade himself and give up what his heart never relished. And this goes on rapidly today.