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 20.

The first question raised was by the scribes, as to the authority of Christ and its source. Jesus questions them about the baptism of John: Was it from heaven or of man? They reasoned without conscience. They owned their incompetency, rather than acknowledge His Messiahship. The simple child of God receives the word as certainly as Christ gives it. Reliance on God's word is the only sure ground. How can you be certain? God has said it. If God's speaking requires proof, I must have something more sure and true than God. Is the church? Alas! alas! … If God cannot speak so as to claim authority, without another to accredit what He says, there is no such thing as faith.

The parable of the husbandmen (v. 9-18) sets forth the Lord's dealings with Israel, to whom the vineyard was first let, and, upon the rejection of "the Heir," the gift of it to others. Nor was this all. The rejected stone becomes the head of the corner. Whosoever fell on that stone should be broken; but on whomsoever it fell, utter destruction would be the result. The past sins of Jerusalem illustrate the first; for the second we must wait for the execution of judgment when the Lord appears.

Verse 19. The question of tribute to Caesar was very subtle. They used the effect of their own wickedness to tempt the Lord. Abstractedly the Jews ought not to have been subject to the Gentiles. And, moreover, the Messiah was come, the Deliverer of Israel. If He said, Obey the Gentiles, where was His delivering power? If He said, Rebel, they would have had an excuse to deliver Him to Pilate. Because of Israel's sin, God has broken down the key-stone of nations, and given power to the Gentile. The Jew has been rebellious under the sentence, and ever craving deliverance from their thraldom. But the Lord answered with divine wisdom. He put them exactly in the place where their sin had put them: Caesar's things are to be rendered to Caesar, and God's things to God.

165 After settling the question as to this world between God and the people, He next meets the Sadducean or sceptical difficulty as to the next world; verses 27-38. The Lord shews the place of the risen saints in entire contrast with the world. The idea of a general resurrection is set aside. If all rise together, there is uncertainty, a common judgment, etc.; but if the saints are raised by themselves because they are children of God, leaving the rest of the dead for another and distinctive resurrection - a resurrection of judgment, all is changed. No passage of scripture speaks of both rising together. The resurrection is that which most of all distinguishes, and this for ever. It is the grand testimony to the difference between good and bad. The saint will be raised because of the Spirit of Christ that dwells in him - the application to his body of that power of life in Christ which has already quickened his soul. It is a resurrection from among the dead, as was Christ's. So here, "they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that age," for such it is, "and the resurrection from the dead." "They are equal to the angels, and are the children of God." Luke adds another characteristic point omitted elsewhere; "all live unto him." It is the present blessed living unto God of those who have died, and await the resurrection from among the dead.

Then in verses 41-44 the Lord puts His question, How is David's Son, David's Lord? This was just what the Jews could not understand. It was the hinge on which turned the change in the whole moral system. He had taken the place of the holy dependent One, a pilgrim as others, and He had drunk of the brook by the way. He was going on in meekness and quietness, but living by the refreshments which came from God His Father. Thus having emptied Himself, humbled Himself, He is now exalted by God. This great universal principle, "he that humbleth himself shall be exalted, and he that exalteth himself shall be abased," is fully exemplified in the two Adams. The first Adam, man's nature, would exalt itself to be "as God," until in its full ripeness Antichrist will exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped.

166 Satan tempted man at the beginning to make himself like God, and at the end God shall send them strong delusion to believe a lie. Satan, not being able to exalt himself in heaven, will attempt to do it through the seed of man; but in the end shall be abased; Isaiah 14:12-15. In the last Adam we have Him who was God humbling Himself, going down, becoming obedient unto death, even the vilest, and then we see that humbled One going back to the place of power at God's right hand, but as man as well as God. God highly exalted Him, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. Having been obedient all through, in humiliation, He is exalted to be David's Lord. This took Him out of the line of Jewish promises, though as David's Son of course He had them.

The Jews did not understand the Scriptures, and fulfilled them through not understanding them. God's ways have gone on through all, manifesting His grace and patience towards man. He placed man on the earth, and then sent law, prophets, etc., until man gets to the end in rejecting all. God tries man and then brings in the new man, who is the fulfilment of all His blessed counsels - the second Man. Then He takes up the last Adam as the heavenly man into a heavenly place and all now depends not on the responsibility of man, but on the stability of God. Life, righteousness, and glory descend from heaven. Is it life that is needed? God gives the life of Christ in resurrection. Is it righteousness? It is a divine righteousness that God gives. Is it a kingdom? It is the kingdom of heaven. All flows down not simply from God in grace, but from the place which man has in glory, from the counsels of God about the heavenly man in glory. He has first taken Him up, and thence the blessing flows down. The man Christ Jesus has fully met all man's responsibilities. This is the reason of the fulness of the blessing of the gospel, and also that of the kingdom to come. The gospel is the power of God, and the kingdom is to be set up in heaven. The king is gone into the far country; and when He returns, it will be to bring in the kingdom of heaven. All the counsels of God now take their centre and seat in heaven. Thus, in the largest way, the turning-point in all the plans and counsels of God is Jesus being set at the right hand of God. All the character, the stability, and the perfectness of our blessing takes its source from the exalted Jesus. The character of it is heavenly; the stability is what God has done; and the righteousness that fits me for it is God's.

167 The Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, has come down to bear witness to Him, on whom peace of the soul rests, even on the accomplished righteousness of Him who is taken up into glory. His office is to work within, and make us down here manifest what God is. All this we have as the result of Christ, instead of accomplishing the promises as David's Son, bringing them in as David's Lord.

Mark the moral blessedness of this general principle: "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Christ humbled Himself - not was humbled, that is another thing. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." That is what we are to do - take the lowest place. We cannot do this till we are Christians; but it is our glory to take the lowest, and hear Him say, "Come up higher." "He hath left us an example that we should follow his steps." The Lord Jesus has been rejected as David's Son; He will come forth as David's Lord.

Now, while He is thus hidden, we see the church's place. We are "hid with Christ in God," and have our portion by faith, as united to Him, while He is out of sight. The Holy Ghost, having come down, gives us a place as associated with Him in all the blessedness of the Father's house, and in all the glory which He has to be displayed by-and-by.

The place of Eve was one of union with Adam in the dominion over all things; Genesis 1:26-28; 5:2. We find the church in the display of Christ's glory, only as by grace, the bride and companion of Christ, never as part of the inheritance. Viewed even individually, we are "joint-heirs with Christ." It is of the last importance to the saints in these days to apprehend the distinct place which we have, as one with Christ, the heavenly Man.

168 Luke 21.

At the close of chapter 20 and the beginning of chapter 21 we have a most instructive, though painful, contrast between the selfish hypocrisy of the scribes, whom He condemns before the people, and the real devoted love of the widow, whom He singles out for honour. Remark also that the Lord knows how to separate the intention of a sincere soul from the system that surrounds it, judging the whole state of that with which the individual is associated. Observe, further, the difference of giving one's living and one's superfluity. It is easy to compliment God with presents, and thus really minister to self; but she who gives her living gives herself in devotedness to God, and proves her dependence on God. Thus, the two mites of her who had these only expressed all this perfectly: for there was need and everything else to hinder, while the applause of men and the pride of the donor found no place here. For Jewish splendour the act had little worth; but the Lord saw, and bore witness of, the poor widow, blessed in her deed.

Verses 5 and following. The account which the Lord gives in this Gospel of the sorrows of Jerusalem is also, like the preceding, much more allied to the simple fact of the judgment on the nation and the change of dispensation. It differs much from Matthew 24, which fully refers to what is to arrive at the end; while our Gospel bears, more than the first two, on the then present time and setting aside of Jerusalem. Hence, Luke plainly sets forth the siege and destruction by Titus, and the times of the Gentiles. Let it be observed also that the question in verse 7 extends only to the predicted destruction. Consequently, in what follows, we have the judgment on the nation taken as a whole, from its then destruction till the times of the Gentiles (with whose economy this Gospel is so much occupied) be fulfilled. Nation should rise against nation, signs from heaven and sorrows on earth follow. And before all these the disciples would be objects of hostility, but this would turn for a testimony instead of destroying theirs. They were to go on testifying, while the unhappy devoted city where they were filled up its iniquity. The Lord would permit trial, but not a hair of their head would be lost. But this would close. The sign given here is in no wise the abomination of desolation, but an historical fact - Jerusalem encompassed with armies. Its desolation now approached. They were then to flee, not to return. These were days of vengeance (it is not said of the unprecedented tribulation, as in Matthew, which is only in the latter day). All that was written was to be fulfilled. Great distress there was in the land, and wrath on this people. Slaughter first and captivity afterwards wrought their cruel work of devastation, and Jerusalem till this hour abides, the boast and prey of Gentile lords, and so must it be till their day is over.

169 In these earlier verses (8-19) the Lord dwells on the dangers, duties, and trials of the disciples before the sack of Titus. Specially were they to beware of a pretended deliverer, and of the cry that the time (that is, of deliverance) was at hand. Neither were they to be terrified by wars or commotions, any more than seduced by fair promises. These things must first be, but the end not immediately. Besides, it was not only confusion and woes and signs of coming change and evil outside. Before all these they themselves were to be in affliction and persecution for Christ's sake.

Then in verses 20-24, comes the actual judgment of the city and people, already judged virtually by His rejection. This extends down to our own days in principle. But all is not yet fulfilled. For in verse 25 begins the Lord's description of the closing scene - a judgment not on the Jews merely, but on the Gentiles also; for the powers of the heavens, the source of authority, shall be shaken, as in Haggai 2 and Hebrews 12 This is not said to be immediately after the siege of Titus; but on the contrary, room is left for the long course of treading down of Jerusalem under Gentiles, till their times are run out. It is in Matthew that we must look for the great tribulation of the last days, occupied as the first evangelist is with the consequences of Messiah's rejection, especially to Israel. Therefore it is said there, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days," that is, the short crisis of "Jacob's trouble" yet to come. Here, however, after mention of the times of the Gentiles, it is said that "there shall be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and waves roaring, men's hearts failing them," etc. Men were astounded because they saw not the end, and trembled as they were dragged along to some unknown awful conclusion. For principles were at work, they knew not how, dragging them along whether or no.

170 The coming of the Son of man disclosed all the scene to the disciples. But it is clear from the circumstances, and especially from the character of the redemption spoken of (v. 28), that it is a question, not of Christians, but of earthly disciples, and of an earthly deliverance by judgment here below. The Lord in mercy turns the terror of man into a sign of deliverance for the remnant of that day.

Verses 31, 32 are interesting in this point of view here, because they furnish remarkable evidence, first, that the kingdom of God does not mean the gospel of His grace; and, secondly, that this generation cannot refer to the space of time from the prophecy to the destruction of Jerusalem.

1. For when they see these things coming to pass (and He had spoken of the final, universal trouble for the whole habitable earth, and not merely of what has befallen the Jews), they are to conclude that the kingdom of God is nigh. Now, even if it were only the Romans taking away their place and nation, and still more if it include the latter-day trouble, it is undeniable that the gospel had extended far and wide before the first. In fact, the manifestation of its influence was declining rather before that time, as we see in the later epistles. But the things here seen were signs like the budding of the trees, and the kingdom of God is evidently to be at the coming of the King, when the Lord God Almighty takes His great power and reigns. That there was a partial analogous judgment, when Jerusalem fell, is true, but verses 25-28 ought to leave no doubt of a wider subsequent judgment, with signs which introduce, not the sorrows of the Jews, but the Son of man coming in His kingdom.

2. For a similar reason, "this generation" does not apply to a mere lifetime, but is viewed morally, as in Deuteronomy 32, Psalm 12, and many other scriptures. It is here expressly put at the close, after not only the fall of Jerusalem, but the totally distinct scene of Christ's coming in power and glory. The expression in verse 33 is very solemn. Deeper interests were involved than a casual change as to Jerusalem. The time was wrapped up in purposed obscurity, but nothing more sure than the facts predicted.

The Lord has provided for His then disciples what was needful, but also in the written word for the like times to come. Still, though the principle be always true, verse 34 clearly applies to a day to come on the earth. The privilege is to escape the judgments, and stand before the Son of man. This again is earthly, not the rapture to heaven. The great moral principles, of course, remain true for all; specially indeed for those who, by virtue of a higher calling, can enjoy them in a more excellent way.

171 Verses 37, 38. The Lord yet returned to give testimony, walking and working in the day; but His resting-place was there, whence He did depart, and where His feet shall stand in that day. Patient in service, He taught daily and early in the temple; at night He was separate from the judged city. His time was now come.

Luke 22.

How the carnal mind was shewn to be enmity against God in the rejection of Christ! Wickedness was summed up and brought out in all - people, priests, rulers. If a friend, he is a traitor; if disciples, they either fled when danger approached, or denied Him when near. The religious chiefs who ought to have owned the Messiah took Him to the infidel power of the world. He who was in the place of judgment washed his hands, owning Christ's innocence, but gives Him up to man's will and rage. Thus man's evil was brought into complete juxtaposition with that which was perfect, and this in putting Him to death. It is no use to look for good in man. Not that there are no amiable traits of nature, but God has no place at all if man is put to the test.

Along with this is the picture of the Lord's perfect patience through it all. Not man only, but Satan was there in temptation. It was the power of darkness, as well as man's hour. And the Lord Jesus passes through this scene of men's wickedness and Satan's power; His heart melted like wax, but the effect always being the manifestation of perfectness. An angel strengthens Him; for He was really man, but perfect man, enduring all that could try Him, and nothing brought out but perfect grace and perfect obedience. Whenever there was sorrow, His love surmounts the suffering to help and comfort others.

Verses 3-6. It is a solemn thought that the nearer to Jesus, if there is not spiritual life, the more a man resists God, and the more sure and sad an instrument of the enemy he becomes. If truth has been presented and not received, nowhere has Satan so much power.* Covetousness was the means used; but though they plotted to betray and crucify Him in a corner, this could not be; they were obliged to accomplish it according to God's purposes.

{*This is a sample of Luke's manner as to dates. The entrance of Satan into Judas was what was morally necessary to present here; not so the particulars. Strictly, he put it into Judas' heart then, and entered after the sop was received.}

172 Then the light from behind the scene (v. 8-13) makes a passage. It is the Lord; and no matter what He suffers, or what is before Him, yet we find the divine knowledge and power. There is the chamber! What calm and peaceful dignity! It is no effort, nothing to display a character. All yields before the unwitnessed authority of this rejected Saviour - all but that to which it had been most manifested, the unrenewed heart of man. To the householder, unknown it seems to every eye but one, it is enough to hear, "The Master saith to thee."

Verses 14, 15. How blessed to see such perfect human affections combined with His divine knowledge of all things! "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer" - like one leaving his family and first desiring a farewell meeting. When we see the divine glory in the person of Christ, we find the human affections shining out. (Compare Matt. 17:27.) It is this which gives Him a power and charm which no object else has: so that God can delight in man and man can delight in God. The Lord breaks every link with the old thing (v. 16). It is not setting up the kingdom here, but setting up man with God when the old connection was impossible. He was taking a new place where flesh and blood could not enter. His death and resurrection introduce a new relation with God.

The Lord distinguishes here between the paschal lamb and the wine, and both from the institution of His supper. He entered in the fullest way into all the feelings of Israel - the Israel of God, into the interests of the people as such, till His rejection put them on other ground, and divine favour passed into another scene by the resurrection, becoming Himself the Substitute, the true Paschal Lamb. His disciples held the foremost rank as to this fellowship, as we have Hushai the king's friend. With them He desired the last testimony of parting and love. But while thus expressing His affection to them, He assumes manifestly (v. 18) the Nazarite character, which was always His morally, but now externally and painfully: "I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God come." He postpones His joy with them as in the common enjoyment of the kingdom, till then.

173 Then (v. 19, 20) He institutes the memorial of His better redemption, of His self-sacrificing dying love. If He separated Himself now to God in His joy, it was not want of love to His disciples, but its fullest display. It was to be done "in remembrance" of Him. We remember Him suffering, dead, absent; we know Him as a present living Saviour. The new covenant is established in His blood. We cannot, in all the joy of fellowship with Christ above, forget what brought us into it. On one side, it is a body broken and blood shed; on the other, it is Himself and all the perfectness of love in dying for us. We are united to Him as a risen Christ, but He calls us to remember Him as a dead Christ. The blessedness of this last is in the work He did alone, by virtue of which I am put in union with Himself, alive again for evermore. As to man's part in it (v. 21-23), it was treachery and wickedness.

The Lord then distinctly sets forth this calling to walk in His own lowliness and not as the world. Earthly grandeur was recognised among the Jews, but now it was sentenced, like all their system, as the rudiments of the world. All other greatness, though under the form of being benefactors, was worldly. He was one that served. The grace of His heart sets them right without a reproach. He lets them know that whatever high place they sought, He took a low one. He might have said, Nothing will break down this horrid selfishness; yet says He, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations." And He is the same now. What we should seek is to have as much of the burden of the church as we can. Suffering thus with Him, His heart goes on with us.

Verse 31. Peter was bold enough in the flesh to enter temptation. But it is impossible for man to stand where it is a question of good and evil. He is a sinner and cannot go through that trial. If God judges, flesh comes to nothing. There is the weakness of human nature, but, besides, Satan's title and power over man, who had brought out his own condition in God's presence, and come under death as the judgment of God. I may have learnt in grace that the flesh is thus profitless, but it must be learnt by intercourse with the enemy, if not with God. For Simon, the Lord prayed that his faith should not fail; all his self-confidence must perish. Nor did he distrust Christ like Judas, who had no faith. What enabled him afterwards to strengthen his brethren? He discovered that there is perfect grace in Christ even when he did worst.

174 Verses 35-38 shew an entire change of circumstances. Previously He had protected them and supplied all, as Messiah disposing of everything here. That was now gone, since the Righteous One was being more and more rejected. He had come, able to destroy Satan's power, but it was the Lord, and man would not have Him; that is the condition the world is in. He must be reckoned among the transgressors! What link could there be between God and man? Humanity is a condemned thing, because it refused Christ. You may find a scrupulous conscience as to putting the money in the treasury, but no conscience in betraying and crucifying Him. But it is in a rejected, dead Christ that faith delights. The Christ that man scorns, it requires faith and grace to own. But the disciples still rested on man's strength, not on Messiah crucified in weakness, and said "Here are two swords." The Lord in saying "It is enough," alludes to their words, and implies that they did not enter into His mind. He did not want to say more.

Verses 39-46. There are siftings needed to exercise us and to judge flesh. Christ, of course, did not need this, but dealt with all in communion with His Father. To Him it was a path of obedience, a blessed opportunity of doing God's will; to Peter it was Satan's power. Christ did not speak of the wickedness of the priests, the will of the people, or the injustice of Pilate, but of the cup His Father gave Him. There was positive intercourse with God about the trial, before the time came. And so it must ever be. It is late to put the armour on when we ought to be in the battle. A man living with God, when he gets into trial, goes through it, in his measure, as Christ did. He stands in the evil day, because he has been with God when there was no evil day. On the cross it was not a question of communion; in the garden Christ is in communion with the Father, as to Satan's power, which was about to fall on Him. He felt all, but succumbed under nothing. Thus, instead of entering into temptation, He was in the highest exercise of spirituality, accomplishing the will of God in the most difficult circumstances, and the most perfect submission where it cost everything. Our Father never can lead us into sin, but He may into temptation, that is, into the place of sifting, where the flesh is exposed, when this is needful, because hardness, or levity, or inattention to His patient warnings, has come in. It is the last, and often necessary, means of self-knowledge and discipline. Though it is great grace that He should take such pains, yet seeing our weakness, and the terribleness of the conflict with the enemy, it well becomes us to pray that we may not be cast into the furnace. In such times a bad conscience drives to despair. The flesh, in its undiscerning carelessness, meets the trial in uncertainty, or carnal opposition, and falls. If, on the other hand, trial comes, we learn our position before God - watching, prayer, entreaty, spreading all before Him in child-like confidence, but submissive desire that His will be done.

175 The Lord was thoroughly man in this, for an angel appears and ministers, strengthening Him; for the conflict of His soul was great; but it urged Him, in the realisation of the trial, to pray more earnestly. The effect of this is to see more clearly the power of evil and the sorrow; and that so as to act on the very body. He was in agony Himself, but always says "Father." He is, and speaks, in His relationship as Son; not yet the victim before God, but the sufferer in spirit, feeling all the depths of the waters He is passing through, but crying out of them to His Father. Satan tried to stop Christ with the difficulty, when he could not beguile Him with the pleasure. But He went through all with His Father. At the cross was another thing - the power of God against sin.

Verses 47-53. It is blessed to see these two things brought together - patience with men, and yet power to stop every thing. Having been in agony with God, He is calm before man. When the servant's ear was cut off, He puts forth His hand to heal. What a picture of man, what a picture of God, if we look here at Christ!

Verses 54-62. When we tremble before men, it is when we have not been with God. Peter breaks down, proving the deceitfulness of the flesh. In Jesus suffering as He was, there was nought to disable the perfect and simple action of grace at each moment required. When the cock crew, He turned and looked on Peter, who remembered His word, went out and wept bitterly.

176 Verses 63-71. The Lord spent the night, not before His judges, who took their ease till morning, before they judged the Lord of glory, but with the men whom they employed, the object of all injury and insult. Then, when it suited the convenience of the Jewish rulers, they brought Him to their council; but the Lord knew it was not the time of testimony, and left them to their weakness. The presenting of Messiah to the Jews was finished; from this the Son of man was to be seated at the right hand of God. All was settled with God - they could go on. They draw the right conclusion, and He conceals nothing. He was the Son of God. They must be guilty, not of mistake, but of condemning Him because He was the Son of God and owned it.

Luke 23.

Verses 1-25. Religious iniquity had now only to lead on the world to finish the wickedness in which itself had taken the lead. The civil power must give in to the wilful evil of the apostate people of God. This is the history of the world, and of the two, the religious side is always nearest to Satan. The chief priests manifested their enmity by their accusation, which was calculated to arouse the jealousy of the governor; charging on Christ what was entirely false as to Caesar, but with the subtle groundwork of that which they knew (reckoning on His truth) He could not deny. The guilt of the Jews was complete, as was also that of the Gentiles, for Pontius Pilate declared Him innocent, and desired to release Him. Cruel enough himself, the Roman governor disliked cruelty in others, but he would not go so far as to save Him from the malice of His enemies: it would have cost something to do this; it threatened his interest, and Pilate gave way. The one thing that is strong in the world is enmity against Christ.

But there was another form of evil to be introduced, to wit, Herod, the apostate king of apostate Israel; and in rejecting Jesus all are friends, however jealous and divided. How terrible the union between the fourth beast and God's external people! But if the Gentiles failed shamefully in protecting the just and hence fell into basely unrighteous judgment, the activity of an evil will was with the Jews. Three times the opportunity of a relenting voice was given; but while the governor's indifference was as plain as the disappointed insolence of Herod, every time the cry of the people increased in ardour for the death of the Messiah. Pilate, therefore, released the guilty Barabbas, whom they desired, to appease the Jews, and delivered Jesus to their will.

177 Verses 26-31. It was a terrible time and full of violence. It mattered little whom they met, if they could only force them to help in their iniquity. Their hour was struck, and all fell into the same mass of rejection and insult of Christ, save that the Jews acted with more knowledge. The forms of privilege became sorrows and harbingers of terror; they must be laid low, for all was untrue now. The natural feelings, touched by affecting circumstances, as we see in the weeping daughters of Jerusalem, did not change this. They understood neither the cross of Christ nor the ruin which awaited themselves. One may be affected with comparison, as if one were superior to Christ, and fall under the judgment consequent on His rejection and death. No humiliation of Jesus put Him out of His place of perfect capability of dealing with all others from God. Alas! it was not only on Pilate and Herod, nor on the chief priests, that judgment was coming, but on the women that lamented Him, unconscious of their own state, which was under condemnation. Neither natural conscience, nor natural religiousness, nor natural feelings will do - nothing short of the glory of God in Jesus. And if He, the living and true vine, who indeed bore fruit to God, was thus dealt with, what must be the lot of the fruitless and unprofitable, for such branches were they? Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Man rejects the green tree, and God rejects the dry. Life was there in the person of Jesus, and they would not have it, and are therefore given up; it cannot be had now but through a dead and risen Christ.

Verses 32-43. There is the setting aside of all they looked for here in present deliverance, for Christ must die. But if we are also to see how low man can go morally, we learn, at the same time, that Christ in His grace can go lower still. "Except the corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." Therefore, whenever you see an attempt (and it is the attempt of man's religion) to connect a living Christ, before death and resurrection, with living sinners, be sure there is error. It unites sin with the Lord from heaven, and it denies that its wages is death. Had Christ delivered Himself as the rulers, with the people, said in derision, He would not have delivered us. He must pass through death, and take a higher place, even in resurrection, and there He takes us. By itself, the incarnation cannot bring life and redemption to those who are dead in trespasses and sins. We need to be set beyond all in resurrection-life in Christ.

178 Thus, then, in spite of the grace of Jesus in intercession, Jews and Gentiles joined in mockery of the crucified; yet God had prepared, even here, the consolation of His mercy for Jesus in a poor sinner. But no sorrow, no shame, no suffering brings the heart too low to scorn Jesus; a gibbeted robber despises Him! There is an instinct, so to speak, in every unrenewed heart, against Jesus, which was not quelled even by that power of love in which He was going down into the deepest humiliation, to suffer the wrath due to sin. Say not that you are one whit better than this wretched man. "There is none righteous, no, not one: none that understandeth; none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are altogether become unprofitable." In two words, there is no difference. You are as bad, in God's sight, as the railing impenitent thief. See now the fruit of grace in the other. Grace works in a man who was in as low a condition as he who, notwithstanding his own dying agony and disgrace, had pleasure in outraging the Lord of glory; indeed both had done it (Mark 15:32). But what more blessed and certain than the salvation of this thief, now that he bows to the name of Jesus? He is going to Paradise in companionship with the Lord whom he owned.

It is often idly said, that there was one saved in this way, that none might despair, and but one, that none might presume. The truth is, that this is the only way whereby any poor sinner can be saved. There is but one and the same salvation for all. There was evidently no time for him to do anything, had this been the way; but all is done for him. That very day his knees were to be broken. But how could he get into Paradise! Christ wrought his deliverance through His own death, and his eye was opened in faith to what Christ was doing.

Nor was it only that Christ's work was wrought for him - the ground on which his soul rested for salvation. There was a mighty moral work wrought in him through the revelation of Christ to his soul by the Spirit who convinced him of his utter sinfulness. "Dost not thou fear God," is his rebuke to his railing fellow, "seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we, indeed, justly." It was not all joy. Conscience had its place. There is a real sense of good and evil; for he has got in spirit into God's presence, and this, making him forget circumstances, elevates him into a preacher of righteousness. And if he owns the rightness of his own punishment in honest confession of sin, what a wonderful testimony he bears to Christ! "This man hath done nothing amiss." It was just as if he had known Christ all his life. He had a divine perception of His character; and so with the Christian now. Have you such jealousy about the spotlessness and glory of Christ, that you cannot help crying out when you hear Him slighted? He believed that He was the Lord, the Son of God, and so could answer with assurance for what He had been as a man. As completely a man as any other, the holy obedience of Christ was divine. "This man hath done nothing amiss." What a response in the renewed heart to the delight of sinlessness! His eye glances, as it were, over the whole life of Christ; he could answer for Christ anywhere, because he has learnt to know himself.

179 Then he says, turning to Jesus, "Lord, remember me, when thou comest in thy kingdom." As soon as he can get rid of what was sad, when he has done with his testimony to the other thief, his heart turns to Christ instinctively. How undistracted he was! Was he thinking of his pain? or of the people around the cross? As is always the case, where God's presence is realised, he was absorbed. In the extremity of helplessness, as to outward appearance, he hears the Shepherd's voice, and recognised Him as the Saviour and King. He wants Christ to think of him. The judgment of men was that Christ was a malefactor. The weeping women saw not who He was. But no degradation of circumstances could hide the glory of the Person who hung by his side. He owned Jesus as the Lord, and knows that His kingdom will certainly come. The other malefactor thought only, if he thought at all, of present deliverance; but this one saw the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. His mind was set, not on being free from bodily pain, but on the loving recognition of Christ in glory. He looks not to earth, nor nature, but to another kingdom, where death could not come. There was not a cloud, not a doubt, but the peaceful settled assurance that the Lord would come in His kingdom.

180 And the Lord gave him more than his faith asked. There was the answer of present peace. It was not only the kingdom by-and-by, but "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." As if He said, You shall have the kingdom when it comes, but I am giving now soul-salvation; you are to be associated at once with Me in a way far better and more than the kingdom, blessed and true as it is. For indeed the work was accomplished on the cross, which could transport a soul into Paradise. If the Saviour had taken the sinner's place, the sinner is by grace entitled to take the place of the Saviour. The poor thief might know but little of Christ's work and its effect, but the Holy Spirit had fixed his heart on the person of Christ. The words of the Lord (v. 43) imply the atonement, by virtue of which we are made fit to be His companions in the presence of God. The work of Christ is as perfect now for us, as then for him; it is as much accomplished for us as if we were already caught up into Paradise. How distinct this is from anything like progress of the soul to fit it for heaven! And how wonderful that such a soul should be a comfort to the Saviour! He had come into the condemnation; yea, and wrath was on Him to the uttermost. And now the converted thief was a bright witness of perfect grace and eternal salvation through His blood.

Verses 44-49. The scene was closed which let in the light beyond through the portals of a heart now purged by faith, and the darkness proper, to the hour took now its suited course - specially over Israel, it would seem; "and the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst." Thus the way into the holiest was made manifest by the act which had its place in this darkness, and God in the grace of Christ's sacrifice shone forth upon the world. Darkness of judgment as it was to one, the light broke through, and access was opened within the veil. All was finished, and the Lord with no hesitating voice but aloud cried, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." This was not Jewish blessing, (for the living, the living, they shall praise Thee), but it was much higher; it was sonship, death overcome, and the occasion merely of presenting the spirit, safe, happy, confident, notwithstanding death, into the Father's care and presence. This is an immense principle, and, short of resurrection, of the highest possible importance. Death in the hands of Jesus - what a fact! The centurion, in the course of duty, struck at least in natural conscience, glorified God and owned a righteous man on the cross. The masses were troubled and went away, auguring no good. Those who knew Him, and the women from Galilee, were more nearly interested, but in fear stood afar off.

181 Verses 50-56. But the providence and operation of God, the righteous Judge, took measures for the body of the Holy One. If the more prominent witnesses were set aside, others feeble in the faith are found active and faithful in the post of danger, confession, and attachment to the Lord. How often the difficulties which frighten those force these forward! So was it with Joseph of Arimathea, for Jesus must be "with the rich in his death." The women too, in true but ignorant affection, make useless preparation, awaiting the just Jewish time for a Lord who had passed far beyond their faith. The resurrection was soon to usher in the dawn of a bright morrow: for the honour of the grave, like the intentions of the women from Galilee, was of a Jewish character, and all this was now closed in death.

Luke 24.

What now occupies our evangelist is the Risen Man again with His disciples and the testimony to the world founded on the resurrection - this new truth and power above all the principles of natural life. The door of the cross is shut on all that man in the flesh is, and the new thing is introduced in this risen Christ. Resurrection is an entirely new condition; but even the Jew could not have the sure mercies of David without it. Man, lawless and under law, has had the sentence of death pronounced on him. He may pride himself on his natural powers, but he is without God. He has rejected the One who came to him, a man in perfect divine grace, and in so doing has fully shewn what he is. Therefore says the Lord, "Now is the judgment of this world."

An entirely new ground appears, and this is here brought out in Christ Himself. Our bodies are still the same, but the life, character, motive, means, end are altogether new in the Christian. "Old things are passed away, and all things are become new." The women, pre-occupied with their own thoughts and affections, come with their spices to anoint the dead body of Jesus, while He was already living in the perfume of His work and offering before God, having effected all that placed man anew before God the Father, the last Adam in living acceptance. Then they were thrown into an unlooked-for difficulty at first, for they did not find the Lord's body. Neither did they know He was risen. They understood not that there was neither judgment nor sin remaining. There may be real and great love to Jesus without understanding this. But soon the question was put which involved the answer to all. "Why seek ye the living One among the dead?" These women, faithful if ignorant, were not forgotten of the Lord; and He whose ways are grace has preserved their memorial and their early seeking of the Lord, thence to bear the message to the apostles themselves, but to them the words were as idle tales. Peter's heart, broken and contrite, was the more affected by what he heard, and ran to the sepulchre, and having seen the linen clothes laid aside there, went away wondering. Surely it was a marvellous secret, baffling and rising above all human thought! (v. 1-12).

182 Luke's statements of circumstances are always general. In John we have more details, especially developing Mary Magdalene's devoted affection to His person, but shewing also how little she as yet knew of the power of God in resurrection.

Verses 13-27. The touchingness of this interview with the Lord on the journey to Emmaus need not be spoken of. How the Lord draws out all their thoughts! But He is here altogether as a man, and presenting the truth they speak of Jewishly. How naturally their minds rested always in the same circle! He was a prophet, and they hoped He might redeem Israel. The fact of the resurrection occupied their attention, but it had no link with the counsels of God. They were astonished, and, like others before them, there they rested. Christ takes up quite other ground, though it was only in the way of intelligence and not yet the power of the Holy Ghost. "O fools," says He, "and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have written." These He expounds, and opens their understanding to them; for though viewed completely as man, He operates divinely and spiritually on their mind. "Ought not," said He - was it not the counsel of God plainly revealed in His word? What He presses is the mind of God in the scriptures relative to the Christ. This was an immense step; it took them out of their egotism and the egoistical character of Judaism. Their thought was of the redemption of Israel by power. They had no idea of a new and heavenly life, though of course they had it. Even as to the Christ, death must come in if God were to be vindicated and man really blessed, and so Moses and all the prophets had taught. "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?" - not set up His kingdom down here, but "enter into his glory."

182 Verses 28-35. Then we have a most graphic account of the scene at Emmaus. "He made as though he would have gone further." Why should He, to their eye "a stranger," intrude? "But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And it came to pass as they sat at meat with him, he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him, and he vanished out of their sight."

This was not celebrating the Lord's supper with them; yet was it taking up that part of it - the act of breaking the bread - which was the sign of His death. He was not now merely as the living Bread that came down from heaven, but as He had said, "this is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world" not which I will take, but give. He did take flesh, of course, in order to give it; but it was His death that became the life of the world. For Jew or Gentile there was no other way. The condition of man was such that he could be quickened only in connection with the cross. All that was in man, as a child of Adam, was under sentence of death and judgment. Christ, by grace, entered into the place of man - came where I am, that I might be on equal terms with Him, as far as acceptance with God; His broken body shews me that I have got that which brings me to God. A dead sinner can find life and divine favour only in a dead Christ. So the Lord had taught in John 6. To eat His flesh and drink His blood must be in order to have life.

It was not any longer a question of His bodily presence merely as incarnate. Redemption was absolutely necessary, and faith in it. Christ is to be fed upon, not alone as a living Messiah, nor only as One alive again for evermore in resurrection; but, besides that, as He who died, His body broken and blood shed in atonement. Thus it was the Lord was known to the disciples at Emmaus, though it was not the Lord's supper. Their hearts had been opened by what encouraged them in connecting the truth of God with the facts of human unbelief and Christ's rejection, and thus turning the cause of their despair into joy and peace by the sight of the counsels of God in it. But His actual revelation was by the affecting circumstance of personal association in the breaking of bread. It was Himself who broke the bread. There could be no mistake. He was gone in a moment - "vanished out of their sight." But His object was gained. They had life through His death.

184 And He was risen. The body was a spiritual body, and had flesh and bones, which a spirit has not. He had shewn them not only the fact, but its necessity. Why does He not say "did," but "must rise from the dead?" Because all the sentence must be passed on the first Adam. All that I have now is in the last Adam: I am not only quickened, but quickened together with Christ, having all trespasses forgiven. Christ, by His death, put them away for all who believe, and for such, all that belonged to the first Adam is clean gone. This is power over the principle of sin, which as a fact is still within. And hence the apostle bids the believers reckon themselves dead to sin. In the power of the Holy Ghost, giving me the consciousness of new life in Christ, I am to mortify my members here below, because I have to apply the death of Christ to my old nature. The monkish principle tries to kill sin in order to get life, but the apostle shews that we must have life by faith in Christ in order to treat sin as a dead thing. See Romans 6, 7, 8.

The holding of the disciples' eyes was of importance. To have recognised Jesus would have been in their state to have satisfied their thoughts. The Lord, on the other hand, engaging their hearts by all God said of Him, furnished them with scriptural intelligence; and then in the act of intimate friendship, which recalled the great truth of His death, brought to mind His great deliverance. "We walk by faith, not by sight." Filled with the concentrating event which began a new world, they hastened back to Jerusalem, where the eleven and others were occupied. "The Lord," said the latter, "is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon." Then the two told the tale of their wondrous journey, and still more wondrous recognition of Jesus in breaking of bread. The Lord was proving that there should be independent witnesses.

185 Verses 36-53. Thus their hearts were prepared. Yet in the fact of this new thing, "the beginning, the firstborn from the dead," there was that to which earthly hearts could ill assort themselves. The Lord presents Himself as the very same man, all through and in every way. In His intercourse with the two, it had been just the same; all was human, though what no man ever was, and what none but God could be, was shewn in and through it. Here also His hands, His feet, His previous wounds are presented. He takes of fish and of an honey-comb, and eats before them. Two sentiments had overpowering possession of the disciples - joy to see Himself again, and astonishment. The Lord presents the truth of resurrection, not as a doctrine, but in living reality, thus restoring their souls and making them know Him most familiarly, risen indeed, but yet a man properly and truly. "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures."

This shewed the standing before God in justification of life and liberty. But another thing was wanted before men-power. This is not the question before God, where the Christian stands as Christ stands, "accepted in the beloved." But the testimony of the Christian here below, whether preaching or anything else, needs power to be given. This power was promised to the disciples, but even yet they must wait for it. We must not confound service of any kind with standing. The power of the Spirit is requisite to live before man - power over and above the new birth, and distinct from spiritual understanding. This last is needed to give us the apprehension of our standing in Christ; and when He opens our understandings to understand the Scriptures, it does not puff up. It is a revelation of Himself and leads to communion with Him. Yet the other want still remains. Even this knowledge is not necessarily power. The testimony and purpose of God in the word has to be fulfilled.

The great truth of a suffering and risen Christ reaches out to the Gentiles. In Matthew His association with the Jewish remnant is taken up. Consequently He meets them in Galilee after, as before, His resurrection; and thence flows the commission to go and disciple all the Gentiles. But all this is dropped in Luke. Jerusalem, Emmaus, and Bethany, above all, are prominent; from thence He ascends to heaven, where He has to do with poor sinners. The testimony was to begin at Jerusalem expressly: the riches of His grace must be shewn first where there was the deepest guilt. The cross broke this link with the Jews as a Jewish Messiah, but opened the door of repentance and remission of sins, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. "And ye are witnesses." Then came in the need of power. "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." This all-important sign of Christ's exaltation could only be obtained for man by the reception of Jesus in heaven when redemption was effected. The Holy Ghost had ever acted in creation, in providence, in revelation, in regeneration, and in every good thing, but He had never been given before. It hung on the glory of Jesus: to this the Holy Ghost could become a servant in man; for it was the divine counsel and the perfection of love.

186 Meanwhile, before this endowment, they returned with great joy to the city which their Lord had left. Their hearts were filled with the influence of the great fact, that their Master was glorified, though it was still associated with Jewish thoughts. And these two elements reproduce themselves in the Acts of the Apostles, particularly in the earlier part.