Notes on the Gospel of Luke

J. N. Darby.

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

Luke 11.

Verse 1. At the beginning of this chapter we have another instance of our Lord praying, the expression of dependence. And there the disciples ask Him to teach them to pray. They had not learnt the simple confidence in the Father that would go up naturally to Him and tell Him all. There may not always be wisdom in asking, but there should be confidence of communion by the Holy Ghost. Even Paul had not always intelligence of God's mind, or he would not have asked to have the thorn in the flesh taken away; but he was not afraid to make his request. The disciples had not this simple-hearted confidence. They understood not their place as children of the Father. He condescends to teach them when in this condition and gives them this prayer. The Lord teaches them to pray for things about which His own heart was occupied. "Father, glorify thy name," was expressive of the grand desire of His heart. "Hallowed be thy name." He first tells them of Him with whom they are brought into relationship. Not that they had the present power of the Holy Ghost, giving them the consciousness of their relationship - this they did not get till the day of Pentecost; but He teaches them to say, "Father, hallowed be thy name." There we have perfection. It is the desire for Him to be glorified, though I cannot tell what it may involve me in. There will be the desire not to sin, etc. This was the expression of the perfect desire that was in Christ Himself - "Hallowed be thy name."

"Thy kingdom come." There will be the removing of those things that are made, that, "those things which cannot be shaken may remain." Are you quite sure that you would like Him to come in this kingdom that will involve the shaking out of everything that may not remain? Surely that will wrench the heart from a quantity of things that are attaching you to that which does not belong to the kingdom to come. There may be the desire for these things, while at the same time the consciousness that I have not the sense of the object, but a sense of distance from it which hinders my enjoyment, though I know Him to be "the chiefest among ten thousand," and the "altogether lovely." There are often complaining prayers, because there is not the present enjoyment of seeing Him in the sanctuary, though the remembrance of it. We may have the hope of the Lord's coming, being glad to get to the end of this desert, because it is a desert; or we may long to get out, because Canaan is at the end. If it is not the latter, we shall be in danger of being tired with running, which is always wrong. We should be in the spirit of waiting pilgrims, not weary ones. We ought not to be weary; I do not say we are not, but we ought to be ever desiring His coming, because He is precious. In Revelation 22:17, the bride says "come," in answer to what He is, when He says, "I am the bright and morning star." God does not reject the cry which comes to Him as "out of the depths"; but there is a difference between the cry of distress and the cry of desire.

115 When Christ was on earth, there was an answer in Him to all God's will, for He always did the things which pleased His Father. He did it as no angel ever could. Then He comes down to notice our daily need, and there is dependence, indeed, in this. "Give us day by day our daily bread."

"Forgive us our sins," etc. This chapter does not go into what we may call proper church privileges; the desires are perfect, but the place is not known. The Lord touches upon all the circumstances down here. Man is looking up from the earth, he is walking there, and needs his feet washed. There are trespasses to be forgiven, and the spirit of grace is wanted. There is no sin imputed to us now; it is all put away. But will that make me hard when others fail? No; my seeing that Christ has agonized on the cross for me, will give me a sense of my freedom, but not indifference about sin. Instead of hardness, it will give us tenderness and softness of spirit.

"Lead us not into temptation." Why should God ever lead us into temptation? it may be asked. Sometimes the Lord has need to put us through a certain process to make us learn our weakness. Look at Peter. The Lord saw he needed to be sifted, or He could have prayed for him to be saved from that fall. A soul would always desire that he may not have this sifting. Christ Himself, though it was a different thing for Him, desired to be delivered from it when bearing sin. Paul prayed for the thorn to be removed. But Paul did not get a fourth heaven - that would have made him worse, but a "thorn in the flesh"; something to make him despicable in preaching (otherwise people might have come to him and said, Paul, you must be better than anyone else, for you have been to the third heaven), to prevent his being puffed up, and to keep him even. It was a gracious provision for him, though it is a right thing for the soul to desire not to be led into temptation, but to be delivered from the evil.

116 Verse 5. "Which of you shall have a friend," etc. This is another character of prayer - earnest waiting upon God. There is majesty in God's goodness, and yet He takes knowledge of all our wants, and we must await His will and pleasure. Suppose one asks his father for anything, and he says, "you must wait five minutes," is the child to say, "No, I cannot; I must have it directly?" Meantime, while waiting, faith is exercised, and the spirit broken down in the sense of need. Look at Daniel, and see another thing. God gave him a deep sense of his identification with Himself in what he was doing; so He must make him pray three weeks before he has his request granted. This is a great privilege, for it is to have fellowship with God. In the case of this friend, there is a depth of interest excited in desire for the thing, and because of his importunity he gains it. There is a certainty of God's answering in blessing, though He delay.

Verse 9-13. This is prayer for the Holy Spirit, whom they, though believers, had not then received. In one sense a man may pray for this now, when he has not the Spirit of adoption, like the disciples then. But now the Holy Ghost has been given, consequent upon the Lord's ascension to the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33). There could be no union with the man Christ on earth. It is as a heavenly people that there is union with Him. Christ was looked upon alone until His work was done. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." The Holy Ghost was the seal of Christ's work, not of John's preaching righteousness. The second time He received the Holy Ghost was for the church. He received for Himself (Matt. 3) at His baptism, but for us when He ascended, having finished the work of our salvation. The fruits of the Spirit in us are the consequences of the grace and righteousness in Him, He being the only righteous man. The firstfruits of the Spirit in us are love, joy, peace - then come the practical fruits toward men. The first-named fruits are toward God, then patience, temperance, etc., towards men. The Holy Ghost cannot be the subject for the church, as such, to ask for now, seeing He has thus been given. Christ received Him for us. We pray by or in the Holy Ghost, not for Him now. We should pray for more of the working of the Spirit in us, and desire to be filled with the Spirit - poor little hearts indeed, but they may be filled. It does not at all follow that we are filled with the Spirit because sealed with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit would keep out evil thoughts. It will not take away the evil nature, which ever remains, but thereby that will be kept down.

117 Verse 14, etc. See the dreadful opposition of man's heart against Him, which brings out a very important test. "He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth." When Christ is manifested, it is for or against Him that people take their stand. We have spiritual enemies to contend with, and Joshua leading the people in conflict was figurative of the Spirit leading the soul against our spiritual enemies. It is not Christians but Christ who is become God's centre. We may gather Christians together, but if it is not Christ in one's own spirit, it is scattering. God knows no centre of union but the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Himself the object, and nothing but Christ can be the centre. Whatever is not gathering round that centre, for Him and from Him, is scattering. There may be gathering, but, if not "with Me," it is scattering. We are by nature so essentially sectarian, that we have need to watch against this. I cannot make Christ the centre of my efforts, if He is not the centre of my thoughts. It is a great thing for a man to say, I have no other object but Christ - no other activity in my heart but for Christ; not only that He is the chief object at bottom - every Christian has that - but there may be a quantity of middle things in our hearts between the inside and the outside. These must be judged in the soul. Besides love to Christ, there may be love of company, etc.; and we must judge all that is between Christ, the root, and the offspring.

118 Verse 27, etc. "Blessed is the womb that bare thee," etc. They speak of the honour of being His mother. No, we would say, that has nothing to do with it. The closest connection with the Son of man is not equal to keeping the word of God. Religionists make a great deal of natural affection, but, though blessed in its way, it is nothing to the life of God in my soul. Of course it was a blessed thing to be the mother of the Lord; yet it was but a natural relationship, though a miracle; nor could it have been a light thing to her heart. Still, it was not equal to the blessing of the word of God bringing a soul to Himself. O! beloved friends, if you will only let the pure word of God abide in your hearts, you will find that it will sweep away all the cobwebs of the flesh.

Verse 29. They are seeking a sign, another natural thing; but He says, "There shall no sign be given." Jonah is a sign; he preached, and they repented. Now My word has come to you, and that is the test to you. "The queen of the south," etc. The word of God is so perfectly suited to man's heart, even the natural feelings are touched by it. The word is sown in the heart, though it may bring forth no fruit.

Verses 33-36. Light is there, and the question is about the man's eye. If a man has bad eyes, the light is painful. So the word to one who has not clear eyesight or the eye single. This is a solemn word; but if a person was converted only yesterday, it might be true of him; he might be full of light It applies as much to the babe in Christ as to the grown man Where God is in the soul, His light is seen. "If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not." "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light, having no part dark," etc. When the candle is there, we see all around. It shews itself and thus shews all around. The eye receives the light, single or evil. It is not single or double, but single or evil. If Christ is not the object, there is some evil object. If the eye be single, it is all simple, though there will be difficulties in the path, as with Paul. The light is set on a candlestick, that all who come in "may see the light." The man is forced to the question, Do you see it or not? Christ has set up the light in the world. God has displayed Himself in Him, and the effect of that is to shew your condition. Do you say, "Suffer me first to go and bury my father?" Ah, you have something first. If my body is not full of light, there is something not single in my eye - something has not given way before the power of Christ - something not given up. People say, I cannot see. No, of course you cannot; you have some other light. Further, what you do-see now will presently be given up if you do not walk in the power of what you have.

119 "Take heed that the light that is in thee be not darkness." Our manner of judging may be wrong, because the standard is not Christ, and then the light becomes darkness: we are guided wrong and mistaken in our path. If the eye be full of Christ, and we judge everything by that light, when I see anything that would not glorify Christ, I say, That will not do for me. I may be a little vessel, but I must be wholly for Christ. May we be walking in the power of the Holy Ghost, and by the divine teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, content to follow Him, and desire no other path, having the eye upon Him, and only upon Him, so that when other objects are put before us, we may be able to say, "This one thing I do!" While walking through the world, may we be occupied with Christ, not making it our business to judge evil, but simple concerning it.

From verse 37 we have the sure judgment of the Lord on the various forms which the lifeless religion of those who led the people took up, expressed in different ways, but His constant and unmingled judgment upon it all. The first ground of condemnation is the substitution of outward cleansings and services, which the flesh can render, for purity of heart and the spirit of love: where these last are, external things are clean. Thus money occupies the heart, where there is only a religious form, for it represents the world; and pre-eminence is another expression of the same thing. Next (v. 45, etc.), the doctors of the law are sentenced, and with them the imposing of burdens on others, while they spared themselves from the trouble. It might not at first appear why building the sepulchre of the prophets shewed approval of those who killed them; but the truth was that the lawyers sought in this their own honour, instead of receiving the testimony of the prophets, which would have humbled them, for the moral and utter ruin of the nation. But they were adorning, as if all were right, the tombs of the righteous and good. It was the spirit of the world, arrogating credit to itself for piety to the dead, not holy fear at the prophet's rebukes. But a clearer proof should be in the wisdom of God that they sympathised not with the word of the prophets, but with the works of their fathers. Prophets and apostles would be sent, and once more be slain and persecuted. The Pharisees were hypocrites, and so judged; the expositors of the law perverted their nearness to scripture in their hatred of any real testimony to their own conscience. These could, least of all bear, what detected their evil. Hence, in pride and fear, they took to themselves all the springs of knowledge, neither entering themselves (for they must do that as learners, and needy, and lost), nor allowing those to enter who would (lest they should condemn themselves, and besides, their honour and characters go for nothing). The closing verses shew us the invariable conduct of false religionists. Having no answer of moral truth to the evidence of deceit and evil exhibited in their ways, their effort was to perplex and to entrap. Convicted of sin, and incapable of truth, they sought to make void God's goodness in accusing even Christ of error. It was mercy toward others to be plain as to these false guides, and therefore the Lord denounced them unsparingly.

120 Luke 12.

The last section of this gospel (chap. 10:38; 11) shewed the two great means of blessing to the soul - namely the word of God and prayer, the precious gift of God, and the true need of man in the presence of a rejected Messiah. It shewed withal the doom of the people who refused every testimony of God. Chapter 12 presents the disciples carrying on their testimony in the midst of hypocrisy and opposition, but in the power of the Holy Ghost. The Lord addressed His disciples first of all; but fearlessly, and without compromise, before a vast throng, as one who acted in the spirit of what He taught. He warns them against that religious formalism which consists of what could be presented to man, and insists strongly and explicitly upon the sure bringing of all things into the light (v. 1-3).

But just as the breaking down of forms and the revelation of the full light of God had its highest operation and effect in His own death, so the disciples must look for the world's hostility, must be prepared for it in their own case, it might be up to death itself. If Messiah were rejected and slain, what could they look for in the same scene, while Satan's power is not set aside? Hence, also, in these chapters it is a question of the soul's relationship with God. It was not the unfolding of the church yet, but the kingdom in its Jewish application is set aside, and the consequence is that the disciples are to look for the Lord's coming again, and until then, trial and violence. His return would have two aspects: one for such as are in relationship with Himself, and the other for the world; and both are taken up here. They were to beware of hypocrisy, and to remember God's necessary determination to bring everything to light. "For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops."

121 Verses 4, 5. Next, as to the importance of walking in the light. They were not to fear them who kill the body but God, who could cast into hell. Jesus perfectly feared God, and called on His friends to fear none but Him. "Yea, I say unto you, fear him." But further (v. 6-8), not even a sparrow is forgotten before God; and the very hairs of their head were all numbered. Therefore they were not to fear. Our God has made it of faith to be assured that He cares much for us.

On the other hand, they were not to trust in themselves - in their own courage or their own wisdom, but to confess Christ. There was the result in relation with the humbled, but yet to be exalted, Son of man. There would be a return of love or shame before the angels of God, according as He should be confessed or denied before men (v. 8, 9). He had hidden His glory to effect grace. He had come among men and into the midst of evil, that God might be fully glorified in His humiliation. This was the patience of God, for Christ claimed nothing. But the Holy Ghost would come asserting the glory of God, and claiming subjection to it, witnessing the grace, and proving the glory in power. Hence a word spoken against the Holy Ghost would not be forgiven. Wonderful to say, this is attached to the disciples (v. 10) to console and strengthen them in their weakness. The Son of man might be slighted, and yet there was forgiveness; but if He by whom they would speak was blasphemed, it would be unpardonable. Further (v. 11, 12), the Holy Ghost would speak by them, whatever the power, ecclesiastical or civil, that arraigned them. Such were the principles, the warnings, the motives. and the encouragements the Lord attached to a mission which, rejected by and outside Judaism, was the introduction of light by grace into a world of sin and darkness.

122 Thereupon in verses 13, 14, the Lord, by positively refusing to adjudge in Israel, shews that Jewish blessing had lost its place. It was no longer a question of dividing the inheritance, but of the soul in its position before God. Only He warns against the folly of loving the things which gave occasion to such disputes. Righteousness on earth is not looked for now: Jesus declines the place of regulating it, and proceeds to shew the inward principle of the kingdom in contrast with the world. Hence He told the multitude to beware of covetousness, for a man's life is not in what he possesses, adding a most solemn parable as to the doom of the rich man, who was not rich toward God. Whatever he might say to his soul, God required it that night. "So is he that layeth up treasure for himself" (v. 16-21).

Verses 22-31. If it be thus with the world, do you who have a father, even the Father, not be anxious for your soul or body. Food and clothing were not just objects for disciples' care, but rather to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Their thoughts should be in another channel, rising above a mere natural view of the life and the body. But He proceeds to assign positive grounds operative upon them as believers. Needful things were subsidiary which God provided, for they were His and under His ordering. He cared for much less than they were. The fowls of heaven and the grass of the field read them no uninstructive lesson, as interpreted of Christ. And if there was, on the one side, God's provident care for the least of His creatures, on the other side let them bear in mind the utter weakness of their anxieties. Whatever might be natural to those who knew not God, they were not to be seeking what to eat or drink: their Father knew they wanted such things. Let them seek the kingdom of God, and all the rest should be added.

Verses 32-40. The Lord now takes higher ground for them. "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Therefore were they rather to get rid of what they had as men, and to provide things such as the Father gives to the heirs of the kingdom. They were to act the part of kings called to and having an higher inheritance. The heart follows the treasure. Let them provide a treasure in the heavens, and their heart will be there also. To be great saints is not by the value of what they gave meritoriously, but the effect internally suitable to their position and their calling. God is not ashamed to be called their God. Further (v. 35, etc.), they were to wait for their Lord. This was especially to form their character, and to be continually and outwardly expressed - the habitual expectancy of the Lord. Their loins were girded, and their lights burning, as if Christ was actually on His way. And He that shall come will come; and "blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching; verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them."

123 They were now associated with the heavenly character of the kingdom. This world was nought; what they had of it they could turn into the privilege of doing good unselfishly, and have their treasure above, where there would be no losing it, and so their hearts would be kept there. Thus their character would be heavenly. Meanwhile they were to be as men who waited their Lord returning from the wedding. The general aim of the heavenly effect of the calling is here in question. They were to be on the watch. It is not prophecy, but character and position. There are no signs or historical circumstances, as in chapters 17 and 21, for people on earth; here there is heavenly separation from it. For those who thus wait Jesus is still a servant. He will make them sit down to meat, and come forth and serve them. Girded to serve as man, His ear bored in death, in joy He comes forth delighting in disciples so walking. Gladly He releases them from their endurance and watching and service; He sets them at the feast, and honours their faithfulness thus. They were therefore left in uncertainty; and so the church, when formed, was left. The church is always to wait for Christ, having no special time: every moment is its time in desire and duty, as alas! it is the world's for negligence. The Jews have a time; days, years, and earth computations belong to them, and therefore signs. To us it may be second watch or third watch; blessed only if we are found watching!

Verses 41-48. Peter puts the question of the application of what goes before, which brings out the portion of those who serve faithfully. They will be set over all the Lord's goods when He returns to take possession of all He made and will inherit; a very encouraging thought, though not the highest. On the other hand Christendom apostatises by putting off in heart the Lord's coming. The great stay of heavenly-mindedness is lost thereby, and so our peculiar calling and hope. To expect the Lord detaches from the world; putting it off left the servant to his own will. It is not doctrinal denial; but he says in his heart, "My Lord delayeth his coming"; and then he acts with violence towards the fellow-servants, and his fellowship is with the world. But that servant has a Lord, let hum act ever so independently; and He will come when not expected, and set that servant's portion with the unbelievers, whatever may have been his boasted rights and privileges Further in detail there would be a righteous adjudgment (v. 47, 48); for here we have the principles of service, as before of position. The ignorance of heathenism, etc., will not be spared, but far more tremendous will be the doom of Christendom. Most righteous, but oh, how solemn!

124 Verse 49. There is another thing to be noted - the import of our Lord's coming then into the world. Had man been what he ought, peace would have been the result; but man saw no beauty in Christ to desire Him, and the effect was hatred - not peace, but a sword. The nearer the relation, the deeper the grievance. The will of man comes out, and is utterly opposed to God. They would not endure to be told that they were under God's judgment. But there is this peculiarity in the character of division which the entrance of grace makes. He who is converted in a family becomes generally, and at once, the slave of the rest. Nature even is subverted in such cases. How often thus a husband or parent loses his authority! There is a fire kindled before Christ comes again in judgment to kindle it. He was not then come to judge, but they, by their rejection of Him, kindled the fire of judgment.

Now look at the Lord's part. "I have a baptism," etc What could straiten the Lord's heart? The perfect infinite love of God in Him was, as it were, shut up. If He spoke to His disciples of His death, "That be far from thee, Lord" was all the response He met with even in Peter. How painfully was He thus shut up into Himself! But on He went in His service of living love through the world, looking forward to the baptism of His death; and His being straitened shewed the fulness and strength of His love. Till then there could be no letting out of heart; for who understood Him? The Jews said, "Behold a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!" They were shut up within the walls of Judaism; so that, though One was there with a flowing river of blessing, they would not receive Him. Divine love was, we may say, pent up and driven back into the heart of God. But all is met. "How am I straitened till it be accomplished?" He is not straitened now. The barrier is broken in His death.

125 How could they as sinners have communion with Christ? There could be none. When He came to meet man's need, they hated and rejected Him. But on the cross He has put away sin, and now grace can flow out without hindrance or measure: "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Man is not changed, but God can act in His own way through redemption. Christ's love and glory did come out in a measure before, for "He could not be hid." But at the cross all overflowed; and looking back from that over His life, we see what infinite love, and sorrow, and suffering, filled it up.

In verses 54-57 the multitude are addressed on the principle of personal responsibility - first, upon the evident signs of God's dealing with the world, and next, from their moral judgment of what was right. The conclusion was, that God was in the way with the Jewish people; and if they did not agree with Him then, they would turn Him into a judge, and must incur the full penalty of their iniquities. In human affairs man would be prudent enough to come to terms with his adversary, knowing himself wrong and anticipating the judgment. If they did not submit and be reconciled to the Lord now in the way, they would soon be delivered to His judicial dealings and not cease from them till they had received of His hand double for all their sins.