And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
Verses 1-13. - The Lord's teaching on the subject of prayer. Again the scene is far away from Jerusalem; no special note of time or place enables us to fix the scene or date with any exactness. Somewhere in the course of the last journeyings towards Jerusalem, related especially in this Gospel, did this scene and its teaching take place. Verse 1. - Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. It seems as though some of his disciples - we know at this period many were with him besides the twelve - heard their Master praying. It appeared to them - no doubt, as they caught here and there a word and expression as he prayed, perhaps partly alone, partly to him-self - as though a friend was speaking to a friend; they would pray like that: would not the Master teach them his beautiful secret? In reply, Jesus repeats to them, in rather an abbreviated form, what, at an earlier period of his ministry, he had taught to the multitudes and the twelve. It was very likely one of the seventy who made this request, who had not been present on the first occasion, when the Lord gave his prayer of prayers to the people. We have already remarked that at this time the twelve, who had heard it, were probably often absent on mission work. It was a usual practice among the more famous rabbis to give prayer-formulas to their pupils. We have no tradition extant of John the Baptist's prayer here alluded to.
And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
Verse 2. - And he said unto them, When ye pray, say. The older authorities leave out the clauses erased. The prayer, as originally reported by St. Luke, no doubt stood as follows. The erased clauses were filled in by early scribes from the longer formula supplied by St. Matthew, and spoken at an earlier period by the Master: -
"Our Father which, art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins;
for we also forgive every one
that is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil."
It has been said that our Lord has derived from the Talmud the thoughts embodied in this prayer. If this could be shown to be the case, it would in no way detract from its admitted value and beauty. Indeed, the earthly training of Jesus would naturally lead him to make use of whatever was true and practical in the teaching of the schools of his people. There is no doubt that in the New Testament many a gem of exquisite beauty could be found, drawn from that strange, weird Talmud, where the highest wisdom is mingled with the wildest errors and conceits. But in the matter of the "Lord's Prayer," it must be borne in mind that only a comparatively small portion of its thoughts can be traced to Talmudical sources, and there can be no positive certainty as to their priority, since the Mishna was not committed to writing before the second century of the Christian era, and the Gemara later still. The Lord's Prayer, in the report of St. Luke, contains five petitions. Two have reference to the love of God, and three to human needs. Our Father which art in heaven. It was not now uncommon in Jewish liturgies and prayers to invoke the Eternal of Israel under the dear name of "Father." "Thou, O Lord, art our Father." Hallowed be thy Name. Not only do we pray that the Name of God may be to us a sacred precious thing, not lightly used in trivial speech, still less in bitterness and anger, only in holy reverent prayer; but we include in these words a prayer, too, that tho our thoughts of God may be pure, lofty, holy. Thy kingdom come. No Messianic kingdom, in the old Jewish meaning of the word, is signified here. It is a far onlook to the close of this dispensation, which close, we believe, is hindered by human sin and perversity. It is the prayer for the end, when there will be no more tears and partings, no more sorrow and sin. It tells of the same feeling which John, at the close of the Revelation, expressed in "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Instead of these words, Gregory of Nyssa, in his manuscript of St. Luke, appears to have read, "Thy Holy Spirit come upon us, and purify us."
Give us day by day our daily bread.
Verse 3. - Give us day by day our daily bread. There would need no comment upon this - at first sight - quite simple prayer, but for the word ἐπιούσιος, rendered "daily." This word, in all Greek literature, occurs only in these two evangelists, in SS. Matthew and Luke's report of the Lord's Prayer. Now, does this strange word mean "daily," as our translation gives it; or is it the rough Greek rendering of some Aramaic word of a loftier signification? Most probably our Lord was speaking Aramaic in this place, far away from the capital, in the heart of Palestine. Jerome attempts to Latinize literally the Greek compound word with supersubstantialis; hence the Rheims Version renders it "supersubstantial," and Wickliffe "over other substance." Generally speaking, the patristic expositors interpret this famous word in such a way that the petition prays, not for the common bread of everyday life, but for a spiritual food, even the Bread from heaven, which giveth life unto the world. So, with unimportant differences, interpret Origen, Tertullian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, Ambrose, and Augustine. Among the moderns who adopt the same view may be cited Olshausen, Stier, and Dean Plumptre. The last-named scholar's words are an admirable answer to any who would abandon this higher and nobler meaning, for the sake of preserving the reference to the commonplace of everyday life. "So taken, the petition.., raises us to the region of thought in which we leave all that concerns our earthly life in the hands of our Father, without asking him even for the supply of its simplest wants, seeking only that he would sustain and perfect the higher life of our spirit." If, however, the interpretation (on the whole unlikely) of common, everyday bread, be accepted, and the simple reference of Luke 10:42 to the necessity for only one dish at table be adopted, then, with the charge to the seventy contained in Luke 10:7, to eat and drink "such things as they give," and the further instruction to "take no thought... what ye shall eat" (Luke 12:22), we have, in this last period of our Lord's public life, clear expressions on the part of the Master of his wish that his followers should ever content themselves with the simplest human food, avoiding not only all excess, but all extravagance, and even consideration and thought, in providing for anything beyond the simplest daily sustenance.
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
Verse 4. - And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. Unforgiving is unforgiven. Nothing apparently more easy to frame with the lips, and to desire intensely with the heart, than this petition that the Father would forgive us our sins, only, in praying the prayer, how many forget, or at least slur over, the condition of that forgiveness - a condition they impose themselves! We forget the ten thousand talents as we exact the hundred pence, and, in the act of exacting, we bring back again the weight of the great debt on ourselves. And lead us not into temptation. The simple meaning of this concluding petition in St. Luke's report of the prayer is, "Thou knowest, Father, how weak I am; let me not be tempted above that I am able."
And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
Verses 5-13. - Prayer continued. The wisdom of perseverance in prayer is pressed. The Lord introduces his argument by the short parable of the selfish neighbor. Verse 5. - And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves. This whole passage follows naturally the Lord's own formula of prayer. The teaching contained in vers. 1-13 may be well summarized as the Master's lesson on prayer. The disciples, when they heard Jesus pray, asked him to instruct them in the holy art. The Lord then suggested to them a series of short subjects for constant prayer, and further gave them words in which they could embody these subjects, and then proceeded to press upon them that this constant seeking help from God should never be interrupted; no discouragements were ever to prevent their praying. "See," said the Master, "this" (telling them the little parable) "is what God appears to be when prayer receives no answer." Of course, he is not what he appears to be (see ver. 9). The truth concerning God does not really come out before the words of ver. 9; but the parable, grotesque and quaint, and picturing a common scene of everyday life, arrested the attention then as it has done in many a million cases since, and told men out of heart and despairing of receiving any answer to their prayers, to think. Well, here is a case in point; but is God like this? The Lord replies shortly to this mute heart-query. At midnight. The whole picture is drawn from a poor man's house - children and parents sleeping in one room. "With me in bed" probably suggests what is common in an Eastern house, where a divan or raised platform (rendered here "bed") often filled well-nigh half the room. The hour midnight has nothing strained in it - it was frequently the practice in the East to travel by night, and so to escape the great heat of the day.
For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
Verse 8. - Because of his importunity, he will rise. The one idea left upon the minds of the hearers of this little quaint homely parable is - importunity is completely successful. The borrower had only need to keep on knocking to get all he wanted.
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
Verses 9, 10. - And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall he opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Then the Lord - taking advantage of the state of mind into which his strange words had brought his hearers - made, as Professor Bruce well points out, the solemn declaration on which, and not on the parable, he desired the tried soul to lay the stress of its faith: "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you," etc. Jesus here pledges that those who act in accordance with this counsel shall find the event justify it. This statement, that those who pray to God shall surely be heard, rests absolutely on Christ's authority. It is not given as a fact which is self-evident, but as a fact which he, the Speaker, knows to be true. The man in bed is pictured in the parable as utterly selfish, regardless of his poorer neighbor's wants and sufferings. So God seems to us often, as we pray to him day after day, month after month, and our prayer receives no answer; he merely appears to us then as a passionless Spectator of the tragedies and comedies of time. "Children," said the Savior," the selfish man of my story yields to constant importunity. Think ye God, who only seems to be deaf to man's pleading voice that he may deepen his faith and educate his soul - think ye God is not listening all the while, and will not in the end, in all his glorious generosity, grant the prayer? Only pray on."
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
Verse 11. - If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? The Master keeps on adducing instances of the loving Fatherhood of God. All the while men were thinking hard things of him and his sovereignty. "Children," urged the Savior, "such things, such a cruel part as you would in your dark sad thoughts ascribe to the loving heavenly Father, is simply unthinkable in the case of earthly parents. They never really turn a deaf ear to their children's pleading; think you that your Father which is in heaven will refuse to listen to you when you indeed call on him?"
Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
Verse 13. - How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? In St. Matthew we find the last portion of this teaching related as having taken place at a much earlier period of the Lord's ministry. It is more than probable that much of Jesus Christ's general instruction was repeated on more than one occasion. There is an important difference between the words reported by the two evangelists. St. Matthew, instead of the "Holy Spirit," has the more general expression, "good things." In both accounts, however, is the Master's assurance that prayer, if persisted in, would ever be heard and granted, and there is the all-important limitation that the thing prayed for must be something" good" in the eyes of the heavenly Father. How many requests are made by us, poor, shortsighted, often selfish men, which, if granted, would be harmful rather than a blessing to the asker! Here the Lord, the Reader of hearts, having taken notice of some of the deep earnest longings, perhaps scarcely crystallized into prayer, of his own disciples, of a John or a James, pictures the case of one who deserves a special deepening of the spiritual life, and prays some prayer for the presence of the Holy Spirit. Such a prayer, says Christ, must be granted.
And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered.
Verses 14-36. - The bitter attack of the Pharisees. Their accusation of the Lord that he was in league with the evil one. His reply. The grave and terrible charge which was formally made by persons evidently of rank and position sent down from the capital to watch, and if possible to entrap, the hated Galilaean Teacher, was a charge no doubt brought against the Lord on more than one occasion. Of this we have clear evidence in the Gospel narratives. Puzzled and dismayed by the marvellous acts of power worked by Jesus, it was only too easy to say that he had friends and helpers among these spirits of evil which the Jew knew well were working unseen on earth. The circumstances under which the accusation was made, and the reply of the Lord spoken, were as follows: The scene is still in the provinces, the time somewhere in the period between October and the spring of the last Passover the period which the Master spent in that slow solemn progress, through as yet unvisited places, towards Jerusalem. Learned and experienced members of the Pharisee party, scribes and doctors of the Law, had been told off to watch the dangerous and popular Galilaean Teacher, and, whenever it was possible, to lessen his influence among the people. Jesus (ver. 14) had been occupied in one of his (probably) daily works of healing. He had expelled an evil spirit from a sufferer whose malady had assumed the grave form of insanity which refused to speak. The people around were wondering at this gracious act of power; then broke in voices of accusation, voices to challenge him to show them some sign from heaven, saying that his power was only derived from evil sources. To this the Master replies with consummate skill, knowing the trained minds with whom just then he had to do. He is interrupted by murmurs of approval from the crowd (vers. 27, 28). He notices these for a me-merit, and then proceeds in detail to reply to that subtle request that he would prove his claims by showing them some sign from heaven. Verse 14. - And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. Some very terrible and apparently helpless form of possession which manifested itself in a mute, possibly in a motionless, melancholy insanity. And the people wondered. Not improbably the professional exorcists had tried here and signally failed; hence the special wonder of the people.
But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.
Verse 15. - But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. The accusation seems to have been whispered among the people by the Pharisee emissaries from the capital; the words of the charge were evidently not addressed to Jesus. These men could not deny the reality of the work of healing, so they tried to suggest that the great Healer had dealings with some great evil angel, whom they call, from some old Jewish tradition, Beelzebub. In 2 Kings 1:3 we read that this idol-deity was the god of Ekron. The name signifies "lord of flies." He was very likely worshipped in the low-lying cities of the sea-coast of Philistia as a god who would be likely to avert the plague of flies and insects which infested that locality. So Zeus was adored as Apomuios (the averter of flies), and Apollo as Ipuktonos (the slayer of vermin).
And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.
Verse 16. - And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. As in the case of Manoah or Elijah. Some such sign as the pillar of fire these cavilling Jews probably referred to. No doubt, in the course of the public teaching, in the presence of his mighty acts, Jesus was asked for such a sign on several occasions. His questioners would argue after this fashion: "We suspect that these great works of yours, especially your strange power over spirits of evil, are derived from the realm of darkness; now, show us that our suspicion is baseless by some splendid sign of the visible approval of Heaven."
But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.
If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.
Verse 18. - If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. Throughout this argument Jesus assumes the existence of a kingdom of evil, all armed and thoroughly organized to carry out its dread purposes. He concedes, too, in language which admits of no questioning, the existence of a chief of this evil confederacy. Throughout his reply, the Master, while carefully bearing in mind the ability and skill of his enemies who had suggested this questioning to the people, addresses himself to the common sense of the mixed multitude who were present on this occasion. The argument is perfectly simple. It is not thinkable that the prince of evil would fight against himself, which he would be doing if he put such mighty weapons into Jesus' hands.
And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges.
Verse 19. - By whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But he goes further in his skillful line of argument. "I am not the only one," said Jesus, "who claims to cast out devils. There are those in the midst of you, your sons, who make a similar assertion. Have they too entered into a league with this evil angel?" A question has been raised respecting these professed exorcists of evil spirits whom Jesus here styles "your sons." Who were they? Some, notably the older patristic expositors, have supposed that our Lord here alluded to his own apostles, to whom a measure of this power over unclean spirits was certainly given. Others, that they are identical with the "pupils of the wise," disciples of the great rabbinical schools, such as were presided over by the famous doctors of the Talmud. This is quite possible; but we have no proof that professional exorcists were pupils in any of the known rabbinical schools. It is more likely that by this general term Jesus alluded to the exorcists. These were, at this period of Jewish history, numerous. They are alluded to in Acts 19:13; by Josephus ('Ant.,' 8:02, 5); mention of them is also specially made in the Talmud, which even describes something of their mode of procedure. Our Lord seems to affirm in some cases, to a certain extent, the efficacy of the power of these exorcists. "These, Jews like yourselves," argued Jesus, "some of them, you know, belonging to your own Pharisee sect, - these have in certain cases apparently driven out the evil spirit of insanity: you do not accuse them, do you, of working with an evil angel?" Godet, in the next seven verses, has suggested a new line of interpretation, which, while generally preserving the traditional exposition of the various details, supplies the connecting thought between ver. 23 ("He that is not with me is against me," etc.) and the verses which precede and follow. This, apparently, has never been done satisfactorily by any commentator. Indeed, some, e.g. De Wette and Bleek, are frank enough to confess that they abandon the attempt. In these seven verses Jesus draws two pictures, in which he contrasts one of those expulsions of evil spirits which he works with that of a cure worked by an exorcist.
But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.
Verse 20. - But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. Here Jesus points to a fact well known and thoroughly established. There was no question here; the most obstinate cases of possession had yielded to that "finger" be spoke of here; the fiercest of the, alas! (then) great company of the insane, at the bidding of that quiet, humble Rabbi, for ever shook off the spirit of madness, in whatever form of terrible possession it had been dwelling in his body. There was no question here; the only point raised by his enemies how had that quiet Rabbi done these strange, mighty works - Jesus had answered; and now draws a picture of one of these acts of his. The "finger of God" in St. Matthew, where the same or a similar discourse is related, is called the "Spirit of God." The expression is strange, but is one not unusual in ancient Hebrew phraseology. So the Egyptian magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God" (Exodus 8:19). The ten commandments are described as written on the two tables of stone with the "finger of God." "You have seen by what power the devils obey me; yea, the kingdom of God, for which you are waiting and looking, lo, it is come upon you."
When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:
Verses 21, 22. - When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. The exegesis is easy here. The strong man is the devil; his palace is the world; his goods especially here the poor possessed; the stronger than he is Jesus himself, who, as he paints this feature in the picture, is thinking of the scenes of the temptation, when in good earnest he overcame his ghostly adversary, then he took from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and now he, the Conqueror, divideth his spoils, among which are these unhappy possessed ones now being rescued from the power of their tormentor.
But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.
He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.
Verse 23. - He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. Our Lord here is referring to the exorcists, and contrasting their imperfect work with his, showing how hopeless a task it was to attempt to combat the evil one and his satellites apart from him - Christ. It is particularly to be noticed that Jesus neither here nor elsewhere charges these with imposture. Pretence and ridiculous spells and incantations were doubtless constantly mixed up with their attempts to exorcise; indeed, the term used to describe them in Acts 19:13 is one of contempt; but Jesus assumes in his argument here, what was no doubt the fact, that in these cases there was often, in the person of the physician-exorcist, earnestness and prayer mingled with the deepest pity for the unhappy sufferer, and before these there is no doubt that, in the less severe cases of possession, the evil influence or spirit yielded, and for a time at least let go his victim. "See," said the Master, "he that is not with me is against me in this dire conflict against evil;" for these would-be exorcists were utterly unable, even in those instances where they expelled the devil, to render him powerless to do mischief for the future. "My power sent these dread beings to the abyss, there to wait. The would-be exorcists were unable to replace the hellish tenant which they expelled by another and a holier influence. I bring back the once-tormented soul to its old relations with its God-Friend, and replace the unclean spirit by the Holy Spirit." He goes on to say -
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.
Verses 24, 25. - When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. The devil, expelled for a season, watches his opportunity and quickly returns; the exorcist-physician was powerless without the aid of Christ to accomplish anything more than a half-cure; the relapse, as we shall see, was worse than the original malady. The imagery of the "dry place" through which the devil walked (luring his temporary absence from the afflicted soul, was derived from the popular tradition that spirits of evil frequented ruins and desert places (see the Talmud, 'Treatise Berachoth,' fol. 3, a; and Tobit 8:3).
And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.
Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
Verse 26. - Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. As instances of such a terrible possession, not improbably the result of a relapse such as is above portrayed, might be cited the cases of Mary Magdalene, out of whom we are told went seven devils, and of the Gergesene demoniac, who was possessed by a swarm or legion of these unclean spirits. There is another well-known historical reference contained in these words of Jesus, which speak of the triumphant return of the temporarily banished devil. In this, the chosen people represent the one possessed; the expelled devil was the one besetting sin which from the time of the Exodus to the Captivity - that fearsome idolatry with its attendant mischief - exercised over Israel a strange and horrible fascination. After the return from exile, idolatry seemed driven out for ever. But the house was only empty; there was no indwelling Presence there of the Holy Spirit of the Lord, only an outward show of ceremonies and of rites, only a religion of the lips, nor; of the heart; and so the old state of possession returned under the form of hypocrisy, envy, narrowness, jealousy, covetousness. The Jewish historian, Josephus, has dared to paint the picture of national degradation which closed in the sack and burning of the city and temple (A.D. 70). But this striking application belongs to St. Matthew, who represents our Lord closing his sad sketch of the return of the devils with the words, "Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation." It may have been that Jesus prolonged on this occasion the terrible sermon, and drew out lesson upon lesson suggested by his words; but it is more likely that St. Matthew is writing of another occasion, when, taunted with working with the aid of the devil, the Master spoke similar words, drawing from them other lessons. The general lesson to be learned - if the above exegesis be in the main followed - is the utter hopelessness of attempting any work which has as its object the amelioration of the human race without the aid of Christ. Earnestness and imposture will alike in the end fail here. The case of the one of whom the disciples complained to their Master as casting out devils, but who followed not with them, was very different. Here the Lord said, "Forbid him not: he that is not against us is for us." The good work in this case was done, we read, in the Name of Christ: hence the Divine approval.
And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.
Verse 27. - And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked! This woman seems to have expressed the popular feeling. The crowds who had seen the great miracle, had listened to the cavilling suspicions, and then heard the Master's wise and skillful reply, were evidently impressed with the wisdom as with the power of the famous but hated Teacher, for they no doubt echoed the lofty and sublime blessing of the woman here. She, perhaps, had in her own person experience of the two kinds of healing just contrasted by the Master; at all events, she had rightly comprehended his words. "How many women have blessed the holy Virgin, and desired to be such a mother as she was! What hinders them? Christ has made for us a wide way to this happiness, and not only women, but men may tread it - the way of obedience; this it is which makes such a mother, and not the throes of parturition" (St. Chrysostom). It has been ingeniously noticed that this is the first direct fulfillment of the "Magnificat" - "all generations shall call me blessed."
But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
Verse 28. - But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it. As was invariably his practice, he declines to enter into any discussion respecting the peculiar blessedness which earthly relationship to him might bring. It was not for public discussion. The Lord, in his reply, tells her? however, that there was something even more blessed than that earthly relationship to which she was alluding, and to that something all, if they pleased, might attain.
And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.
Verses 29, 30. - And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. Jesus now proceeds - the crowd was, we read, become denser - to reply to the unbelieving suggestion that he should show by a sign from heaven that it was not by the help of Satan and the powers of hell that he was enabled to exercise so mighty a power over the spirits of evil. No sign of the startling nature demanded would be given to the Jews of his day. Evidence in support of his high claims and lofty assertions was then in process of being supplied. What were their eyes beholding day by day, and their ears hearing? Evidence still more complete would vet be given them, but it would avail nothing! Lo, the solemn sign of the Prophet Jonas, who preached to wicked Nineveh after his strange resurrection - that would be given them. It is clear that St. Luke's account of our Lord's words is abbreviated. To make the symbolism of the resurrection-sign complete, we must compare St. Matthew's report (Matthew 12:39, 40), where in plain terms the Lord's death, and the resting in the tomb, and subsequent resurrection is foretold, and compared to the well-known story of the entombment of Jonah at sea for three days. This simile of the Master's was no doubt one repeated on several occasions. It is likely enough that it was so well-known a comparison when St. Luke wrote his memoir of the life that the evangelist felt it was not needful to go into all the details of the comparison; to mention the simile was enough; no Christian individual, household, or congregation but could at once fill up the details originally spoken by the Lord here. In the catacombs the Jonah-story is, owing to its use by our Lord, an oft-repeated and very favourite representation on those long galleries of tombs of Christian men and women of the first three centuries.
For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.
The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
Verse 31. - The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The Queen of Sheba, her visit to King Solomon, and its subsequent results made a lasting impression throughout the East; probably the immediate consequence was that a great commerce was opened up between Yemen, of which she was queen, and other parts of Arabia and the far East. The Talmud and Koran, for instance, have various legends respecting this Eastern queen who was so dazzled and impressed by the magnificent Israelitic sovereign. Such a simile would be singularly attractive to the common folk who were then, we know (from ver. 29), crowding round Jesus. King Solomon's wisdom charmed and attracted from far countries the famous queen. Lo! One wiser than Solomon was in their midst: can we not hear from the honest, plain folk around him a murmur of assent here? Hadn't they been just listening to his wise words when the Pharisees tried to prejudice them against him? Hadn't they burst out, in the person of the woman of vers. 27, 28, with an irrepressible sign of admiration? Lo! the great Arabian queen, when at the day of judgment she arose, would condemn Israel for their blind folly.
The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Verse 32. - The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. And these poor sinners of the wicked city of Nineveh, they, too, will join in approval of the sad condemnation of the chosen people. In Nineveh. when Jonah appeared among them and bade them repent, they obeyed the solemn warning voice. Lo! a greater Preacher far than Jonah was in their midst; but, alas! Israel was deaf.
No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.
Verse 33. - No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. The Lord continues his reply to those who asked him to support his claims by a visible sign from heaven, "Do not think for a moment that the sign I speak about, and which was prefigured in the story of the Prophet Jonah, will be an obscure or secret thing. No man lights a lamp to hide: so will it be with that sign which will be given to you." Jesus was speaking all the while of the mighty sign of his resurrection.
The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.
Verses 34, 35. - The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. He goes on, though, with his solemn warning words. Plainly visible though the sign would be - shining bright as a lighted lamp set on high - still it, too, was possible to miss seeing it. If the eye, the organ of the body which perceives the light, be sound and healthy, then the illumination given by the lamp is seen, and the whole body, so to speak, is full of light; but if the eye was diseased, purblind, no bright shining light would be seen - the body then would be full of darkness. The word rendered "single" denotes the eye in its natural healthy state; that translated "evil" speaks of the eye as diseased, as incapable of perceiving the rays of light. The imagery to those Orientals, accustomed to parable and allegory in the stories and poems they had listened to from their childhood, was easily translated into the language of everyday life. If they gave way to passion, jealousy, prejudice, impurity, lawlessness in its hundred forms, then for them the spiritual eye of the soul would become diseased, and therefore incapable of rightly discerning any heavenly sign. It was this danger that the Master was pointing out to the crowd. "Ah!" he seems to say, "you ask a heavenly sign which will substantiate my lofty claims; that sign, in a grander and more stately form than ever you have dreamed of, shall, indeed, be given you. Have no fear on that score; rather dread that blindness, the punishment of a hard and evil heart, will come upon you, and render you incapable of seeing the sign you ask for, and which I mean to give you." He was speaking still of his resurrection. Alas, for them! the blindness of which he warned them was the unhappy lot, we know, of very many of those listening then.
Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.
If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.
Verse 36. - If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light. The Lord here completes his allegory, still preserving the same images, with a sketch of the condition of a holy and humble man of heart, who with a "single eye," that is, honestly, trustfully, lovingly, has looked upon the sign and believed. Godet's comment on this hard and mystic saying of the Blessed is very beautiful: "When, through the fact of the clearness of thine eye, thy whole body shall be penetrated with light, without there being in thee the least trace of darkness, then the phenomenon which will be wrought in thee will resemble what takes place on thy body when it is placed in the rays of a luminous focus. Jesus means that from the inward part of a perfectly sanctified man there rays forth a splendor which glorifies the external man, as when he is shone upon from without. It is glory as the result of holiness. The phenomenon described here by Jesus is no other than that which was realized in himself on the occasion of his transfiguration, and which he now applies to all believers." There is little doubt that this teaching had been spoken by the Master on one, if not on more than one, previous occasion. In St. Matthew's report, in almost identical language (Matthew 5:15 and Matthew 6:22), the immediate application was different, and the reference of the lamp put in a prominent place was not to the Resurrection.
And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.
Verses 37-54. - In the Pharisee's house. The Lord's stern denunciation of the Pharisee teaching and life. The day was not far advanced, and the Master was probably weary and faint after the long and exciting discussion just related; taking advantage, probably, of this evident weariness, some of the Pharisee emissaries from the capital, to whose presence we have before alluded, suggested to one of their friends, who had a residence in the town where the events just related had taken place, that he should invite the Master to come in and rest awhile and partake of a repast. They wished, no doubt, to get him away from the fast increasing crowd, and, when alone with him, they hoped to entangle him in a fresh discussion, and entrap him into some statement which they would be enabled subsequently to make use of, when they formally accused him of heretical, blasphemous teaching. There is no doubt that at this period of his ministry a deep-laid plot had been formed to compass in some way or other the death of this Teacher, whose words and acts were beginning so deeply to compromise their position and influence in the nation.
And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.
Verse 38. - He marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. An elaborate system of utter meaningless ablutions, each carried out with particular gestures, had been instituted by the rabbinical schools. All these senseless forms and ceremonies had been developed out of the original simple directions to secure cleanliness in the Levitical Law. It is probable that our Lord, intending to bring about this discussion. pointedly abstained from even the ordinary ablution on this occasion. The language of ver. 37 seems to point to his entering the house and at once sitting down at the table. The Talmud has many references to these practices. R. Akhibha, it proudly relates, died of thirst rather than pass over these preliminary washings. In the same compilation we read that it was currently supposed that a demon sat on hands unwashed.
And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.
Verses 39, 40. And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? Many of the words spoken on this occasion had been uttered by the Master previously. The variations in them, slight though they be, necessitate often quite a different interpretation. This helps us to come to the conclusion that in these cases the Lord must have spoken such sayings on different occasions. In this place, for instance, in the report of a similar accusation levelled against the Pharisees reported by St. Matthew (Matthew 23:25), the second clause of the verse, which treats of the outside of the cup and the platter, reads thus: "but within they are full of extortion and excess." The meaning of this is - while every care had been taken to purify the cup and the dish, no pains whatever had been paid to the source whence came the contents of these. They were too often the proceeds of extortion, they were too frequently consumed with self-indulgence. But here, in St. Luke, the second clause reads, "your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness." The meaning of these words is, "In spite of your extreme care for the vessels of your table, your whole moral life is unclean and defiled. Are you not," argues the Master, "fools to lay down such strict rules to avoid outward defilement, while within, in the soul, you allow all manner of wickedness? Surely God, who created the things we see and touch, created the soul also!"
Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?
But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.
Verse 41. - But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. The translation here should run, but rather give the things that are in them as alms, etc. The thought of the contents of these cups and dishes - a thought which came out, as we have seen, so prominently in St. Matthew - here is evidently in the Lord's mind. "Ah!" he seems to say, "what you Pharisees and your schools of formalism indeed want is the knowledge of that great law of love" (the law Jesus was ever teaching in such parables, for instance, as that of the good Samaritan). "I will tell you how really to purify, in the eyes of God, these cups and dishes of yours. Share their contents with your poorer neighbors." "Let them do one single loving, unselfish act, not for the sake of the action itself, not for any merit inherent in it; but out of pure good will towards others, and their whole inward condition would be different" (Bishop Basil Jones, in the 'Speaker's Commentary').
But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Verse 42. - But woe unto you, Pharisees: for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Probably the primitive Law of Moses, which directed that a tenth of every income in Israel should be given up to the service of the invisible King alone, referred to such important products as corn, and wine, and oil, and the like; but the present elaboration of the Law and the Pharisee schools had extended the primitive obligation to the smallest garden herbs, such as mint and rue. The Talmud even condescends to discuss whether, in tithing the seeds of these garden herbs, the very stalk too ought not to be tithed! The Master, ever tender and considerate, does not blame this exaggerated scrupulosity, if it were done to satisfy even a warped and distorted conscience; what he does find fault with, though, and in the bitterest terms language can formulate, is the substitution of and the clear preference for these infinitely lower duties for the higher.
Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.
Verse 43. - Ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues. These seats were in a semicircle round the pulpit or lectern of the reader; they faced the congregation. And greetings in the markets. The love of these Jews in the time of our Lord for exaggerated titles of respect and honor is well known.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.
Verse 44. - Ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. Here and in St. Matthew the same imagery was present in the great Teacher's mind - the whitewashed tombs of a cemetery. But in the report of St. Matthew the Master's picture drew a sharp contrast between the fair outward appearance of the clean white tomb, and the decaying, loathsome mass of what represented poor humanity within! When Jesus spoke the saying related by St. Luke here, the imagery was still drawn from the graves in a cemetery; but now he compared his hosts and their school of thought to graves, from the wood and stones of which the whitewash was worn off, and passers-by would walk over them, thus touching them and contracting ceremonial defilement, without being conscious what they were walking over and touching. All contact with sepulchres involved ceremonial defilement; hence the fact of their being constantly whitewashed in order to warn passers-by of their presence. This silent warning of the graves has been compared to the leper's cry, "Unclean, unclean!" with which he warned passers-by of his sad defiling presence. These tombs were whitewashed usually yearly on the fifteenth day of the month Adar (about the beginning of March). Tiberius on the lake was built partly on the site of an old unsuspected cemetery; no true Jew would reside there in consequence.
Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also.
Verse 45. - Then answered one of the lawyers Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also. It did not follow that all these professed jurists were of the Pharisee sect; some, doubtless, were Sadducees. It seems, however, probable that the greater proportion of these professional teachers and expounders of the Law did belong to the Pharisees. The oral and written Law, based upon the comparatively simple Mosaic code, had now become the absolute guide and director of the whole life of the people in all its smaller details. The various copyists, lecturers, teachers, and casuists, who debated the many doubtful points constantly arising in the perplexing and elaborate system, were all known under the general term "scribes." The lawyer was the scribe who had especially devoted his attention to the unravelment of the difficult and disputed questions which arose in the daily life of the people. This lawyer was certainly, considering the company he was associated with, of the strictest sect of Pharisees. This person could not believe that this able Rabbi from Galilee - for that they must all, after the morning's discussion, have allowed Jesus to be - could include him and his holy order in his terrible denunciations, the truth of which the learned scribe not improbably dimly discerned.
And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.
Verse 46. - Ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Then the Lord turned to the accomplished Jerusalem scholar, and with withering emphasis pronounced upon his famous and influential order those scathing reproaches which for eighteen centuries have been the woeful inheritance of all hypocritical self-deceivers. How true was the expression, "burdens grievous to be borne," a very superficial study of the Talmud will amply show; for although even the earliest parts of that stupendous compilation were not committed to writing until some time after, yet very much of what we now peruse in those strange, weary treatises existed then in the oral tradition. which it was the life-work of scholars and pedants, like the lawyer to whom Jesus was then speaking, to learn, to expound, and to amplify; and these vexatious and frivolous ordinances which the lawyers and scribes pressed home upon the people with such urgency were often shirked and avoided by the learned and cultured scribe-class as a body.
Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.
Verses 47, 48. - Ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. There are still existing four singular tombs at the foot of Olivet, in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Remarkable objects now to the modern traveler at Jerusalem, in all their fresh beauty they would be still more striking in the days of our Lord. The peculiar composite nature of the architecture of these great tombs has decided antiquaries to ascribe the building of these to the days of the later Herods. It is, therefore, not improbable that these conspicuous objects in the landscape, seen from the temple platform, and possibly others like them, which have since perished, were the tombs and sepulchres especially in our Lord's mind when he was speaking to the lawyer, and later at Jerusalem, when he' repeated, with some slight variations, the same awful woe (Matthew 23:29). It was, indeed, a speech of awful and cutting irony, these words of Jesus. "Your fathers," he said, "killed the prophets; you complete their evil work by building tombs for these slain men of God. In other words, you pretend to make amends for the crimes of past generations by this show of ostentatious piety; but if you really differed from your wicked fathers in spirit, if you indeed honored, as you profess to do by this gorgeous tomb-building, the holy men of God whom they slew, would you be acting as you now are doing - trying, as you know you are, to take my life? Is not my life like the lives of those old murdered prophets? are not my words resembling theirs?"
Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres.
Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:
Verse 49. - Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets. "'Therefore" - in other words, 'Because of the determined, irreconcilable hatred of you Pharisees, and the people whom you guide, to all that is noble and true and real; because, in spite of your seeming piety, you are fast rooted in impiety' - 'Therefore said the wisdom of God, I will send.'" The expression, "wisdom of God," has been a difficulty to commentators. The words have been referred
(1) to a quotation of the Lord's from a lost apocryphal book of that name; but we have no instance of Jesus ever quoting from an apocryphal book, known or unknown.
(2) St. Luke is here quoting from the similar passage in St. Matthew's Gospel, which, when he was compiling his Gospel, lay before him, and alludes to the earlier memoir as "The Wisdom of God." Against this we have no proof that St. Luke ever saw St. Matthew's Gospel, but a strong probability exists to the contrary; besides which, the expression is never used by an apostolic writer in such a sense.
(3) A reference is here intended to the Book of Proverbs, which in the early Church was known by the title of "The Wisdom of God," and the passage referred to is Luke 1:20 and 31. Putting aside all these, it seems best to consider the expression simply as a solemn utterance of the Lord, in which he identifies himself with the "Wisdom of God." And this certainly is borne out by a comparison with the report of St. Matthew of a similar announcement made by Jesus on another occasion (Matthew 23:34). There we read that the Master said, "Behold, I send unto you prophets," etc. The I is emphatic, and betrays the Divine self-consciousness of Jesus. For a moment the poor Rabbi of Galilee is forgotten, and in his lofty indignation, in his profound sorrow over the stubborn heart of Israel, on both the occasions in which he is reported to have spoken these words of awful prophecy, the Redeemer identifies Himself with God. St. Matthew, "Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets," etc.; St. Luke, "Therefore also said the Wisdom of God, I will send them prophets," etc. The form of the prediction and the original thought were both, no doubt, derived by Jesus from the solemn passage in 2 Chronicles 24:19, "Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord;... but they would not give ear," etc. This was followed immediately by the account of the preaching of Zechariah (the instance chosen here by the Lord, ver. 51), and how the faithful witness was stoned by the people in the court of the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 24:20, 21). And apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute. The title "apostle" is joined here with the well-known title of "prophet." The earthly reward that these his servants, the apostles, will meet with at the hands of the people of Israel will be the same as that meted out to those old martyr-prophets, viz. persecution and death.
That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;
Verse 50. - That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation. He looked on to his own bloody death; to the day of the last witness of Stephen and of James; to the long series of persecutions which his servants would ceaselessly suffer at the hands of the Jews; - he looked on to the state of Israel growing worse and worse, till the day when the storm of Divine anger at last burst over Jerusalem, and overwhelmed the city and the temple and the nation. That terrible day came in less than forty years.
From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.
Verse 51. - From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple. The reason, probably, why these two are selected out of the long red list of the noble army, must be sought for in the special position which the recital of these two deaths occupies in the Jewish canon of Scripture; the death of Abel being related in Genesis, the first book of the canon, that of Zacharias in the Second Book of Chronicles, which occupies the last place in the sacred volume (is the Jewish canon). They were simply two martyrdoms of illustrious men at the beginning and at the close of the long many-coloured story of the chosen race. There is no doubt that the Zacharias here alluded to was Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the high priest - a prophet and preacher of righteousness, who at the commandment of the king was stoned in the court of the house of the Lord. This is related in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22, in the same passage which was evidently in the Lord's mind when he pronounced the awful woe upon the generation then living. This martyrdom of Zacharias was to his Jewish listeners a very familiar and painful memory. It evidently ranked among the most terrible crimes committed by their fathers, and was the subject of some wild strange legends in the Talmud. The martyr's blood would not dry up; it was still bubbling when Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans took the temple. No sacrifices availed to stop the awful flow. Tradition assigns one of the four great sepulchral monuments at the foot of Olivet, alluded to above, to the murdered Zacharias.
Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
Verse 52. - Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. The Talmud gives us the clue to the Master's words of bitter reproach here. There were very many, in that restless age of inquiry, waiting for the consolation of Israel, who longed to enter into the real meaning of psalm and prophecy; but the scribe, the lawyer, and the doctor, with their strange and unreal interpretations, their wild and fantastic legends, their own often meaningless additions, effectually hindered all real study of the Divine oracles. The Talmud - in the form we now possess it - well represents the teaching of these schools so bitterly censured by the Lord.
And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things:
Verse 53. - And as he said these things unto them. The older authorities here, instead of these words, read, and when he was gone out from thence. Thus, after uttering the last "woe," Jesus appears abruptly to have risen and left the house of his Pharisee entertainers. A crowd of angry men, composed of scribes and lawyers and friends of the Pharisee party, appear to have followed the Galilaean Teacher, whose words just spoken had publicly shown the estimation in which he held the great schools of religious thought which then in great measure guided public Jewish opinion. From henceforth there could be only one end to the unequal combat. The bold outspoken Teacher must, at all hazards, be put out of the way.
Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.