In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Verses 1-59. - The Lord, after leaving the Pharisee's house, speaks at great length to a numerous crowd waiting for him, addressing his words principally to his own disciples. The foregoing scene (ch. 11.), when the Master addressed his bitter reproaches to the learned and cultivated of the great Pharisee party, took place in a private house belonging to an apparently wealthy member of this, the dominant class. The name of the large village or provincial town where all this happened is unknown. The crowd who had been listening to the great Teacher before he accepted the Pharisee's invitation still lingered around the house. Many from the adjoining villages, hearing that Jesus was in this place and was publicly teaching, had arrived; so, when the Lord came out from the guest-chamber into the street or market-place, he found a vast crowd - literally, myriads of the multitude - waiting for him. The words descriptive of the crowd in ver. I indicate that a vast concourse was gathered together. His fame then was very great, though his popularity was on the wane. Verse 1. - Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. In dwelling on this and similar expressions used by our Lord in respect to the life and work of this famous section of the people who were generally so bitterly hostile to him and his teaching, we must not condemn their whole character with a condemnation more sweeping than the Master's. Utterly mistaken in their views of life and in their estimate of God, whom they professed to know, our Lord here scarcely charges them with dell-berate hypocrisy. These mistaken men dreamed that they possessed a holiness which was never theirs; unconscious hypocrites they doubtless were, without possibly even suspecting it themselves.
For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
Verses 2, 3. - For there is nothing covered, that shall not he revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light. The day would come when his estimate of this now popular teaching of the Pharisees would be found to have been correct. Its real nature, now hid, would be revealed and fully known and discredited; while, on the other hand, the words and teaching of his disciples, now listened to but by few, and those of seemingly little account, would become widely and generally known and listened to. Upon the housetops. These were flat, terrace-like roofs, and, the houses generally being low, one who spoke from them would easily be heard in the street beneath. "These words have a strong Syrian colouring. The Syrian house-top (in Matthew 10:27 and here) presents an image which has no sense in Asia Minor, or Greece, or Italy, or even at Antioch. The fiat roofs cease at the mouth of the Orontes; Antioch itself has sloping roofs" (Renan, 'Les Evangiles,' p. 262, note 1).
Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
Verse 4. - And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. All this the Master knew was true and would shortly happen, His words were verified before fifty years had passed. The triumphant success of the great Christian preachers and the discredited condition of the old rabbinic schools is testified to by snell words as we find in St. Paul's letters. "Where is the wise? where is the scribe?" (1 Corinthians 1:20). But this success the Master well knew would be accompanied with many a suffering on the part of the heralds of his message. Persecution in its many dreary forms would dog their footsteps; a death of agony and shame not unfrequently would be their guerdon. It was, for instance, we know, the earthly recognition of that devoted servant of the Lord (Paul) who, we believe, guided the pen of Luke here. This painful way, which his disciples must surely tread, had already been indicated in no obscure language by the Master ("some of them" - my apostles - "they shall slay and persecute," Luke 11:49). A triumph, greater than any which had ever been given to the sons of men, would surely be theirs, but the Master would not conceal the earthly price which his chosen servants must pay for this splendid success. There was a point, however, beyond which human malice and enmity were utterly powerless; he would have his servants turn their thoughts on that serene region where men as men would have no power.
But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
Verse 5. - But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; literally, into Gehenna. This is simply Gee-hinnom, "valley of Hinnom," translated into Greek letters· This valley was situated in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, and originally was noted for the infamous rites practiced there in the worship of Moloch, in the times of the idolatrous kings of Judah. King Josiah, to mark his abhorrence of the idol-rites, defiled it with corpses; fires were subsequently kindled to consume the putrefying matter and prevent pestilence. The once fair valley, thus successively defiled with hideous corrupting rites, by putrefying corpses, and then with blazing fires lit to consume what would otherwise have occasioned pestilence, was taken by rabbinical writers as a symbol for the place of torment, and is used not unfrequently as a synonym for "hell." The translators of the Authorized Version have done so here. The reminder is, after all, we need not fear men. When they have done their worst, they have only injured or tortured the perishable body. The One whom all have good reason to fear is God, whose power is not limited to this life, but extends through and beyond death. Some have strangely supposed, not God, but the devil, is intended here to be the real object of human fear. The devil can be no object of fear to the Master's disciples.
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
Verses 6, 7. - Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. Though persecution and bitter suffering, even death, may be the guerdon of the Lord's true servants here, none of these things can happen without the consent of God. This thought will surely give them courage to endure. Suffering undergone in God's service, inflicted, too, with his entire consent, so that the suffering becomes part of the service, - what an onlook is afforded to the brave, faithful servant by such a contemplation! Oh the welcome from God he is sure to meet with when such a death has been endured! These extreme instances of God's universal care - his all-knowledge of everything, however little and insignificant, belonging to his creatures - are chosen to give point to the Master's words. If he knows of the death of these little, almost valueless, birds - ay, even of the falling of one of the many hairs of your head - surely you cannot doubt his knowledge of, his caring for, the life or death of one of his proved and gallant followers. These little sparrows were sold in the markets, strung together, or on skewers.
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
Verse 8. - Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God. The great Teacher pursues the subject of the future of his disciples. It is by no means only to a wise fear of that God, whose hand stretches beyond this life, that he appeals as a mighty inducement for his servants utterly to disregard all dangers which may meet them in the course of their service; he tells them, too, of a splendid recompense, which will assuredly be the guerdon of all his true followers. Before that glorious throng of heavenly beings, whose existence was a part of the creed of every true Jew; before the mighty angels, the awful seraphim; before that countless crowd of winged and burning ones who assisted at the awful mysteries of Sinai, would they who witnessed for him, and suffered because of him, be acknowledged by him. Their sufferings in the service of the King of heaven, whom they knew on earth as the poor Galilee Teacher, would be recounted before the angels by the same King of heaven, when he returned to his home of grandeur and of peace in heaven.
But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.
Verse 9. - But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. Splendid as would the recompense be to the faithful and the loyal, equally shameful would be the guerdon meted out to the cowardly and faint-hearted. Before the same glorious throng would the King detail the failure, through slavish fear, of those whom he had chosen for so royal a service. Such an announcement as this proclamation of glory and of shame before the holy angels, in which stupendous scene he, the poor Galilaean Rabbi, was to play the part of the Almighty Judge, could only have been made in the last weeks preceding his Passion. All reticence was then laid aside. Before friend and foe, in public and in private, in these last solemn weeks Jesus tore away the veil of reticence with which he had been pleased hitherto in great mea- sure to shroud his lofty claims, and the Master now declared before all that he was the King of kings, the Lord alike of angels and of men. In the face of such an announcement, his prosecution by the priests and the Pharisee party for blasphemy naturally follows. He was either a daring impostor or . In the latter ease, to the poor Galilee Rabbi belonged the Name of names which no Jew dared to pronounce.
And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.
Verse 10. - And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him. And yet even that offense, which consisted in playing the renegade and the coward; which refused to suffer for him here; which, out of slavish fear of man, consented to abandon his pure and righteous cause; - that offense, which would be proclaimed before the angels of heaven, would in the end find forgiveness. Some commentators point, as an illustration of this, to the fact of the dying Lord praying on the cross for his murderers; but the offense alluded to here, which should in the end be blotted out, was of far deeper dye. He prayed on his cross for those Romans who sinned, but sinned in the face of little light. But this forgiveness was to be extended to men who, through fear of men and love of the world, should deny him whom they knew to be their Redeemer. This is one of the most hopeful passages which treats of sin eventually to be forgiven, in the whole New Testament. But even here there is no so-called universal redemption announced, for in the next sentence the Lord goes on to speak of a sin which he emphatically said shall never have forgiveness. But unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. What is this awful sin? We have only to speak of its connection in this place. Here there is no possibility of mistake; it was that determined hatred of holiness, that awful love of self, which had induced the Pharisee leaders to ascribe his beneficent and loving works to the spirit of evil and of darkness. The accusation was no chance one, the fruit of impulse or of passion. They who accused him knew better. They had beard him teach, not once, but often; they had seen his works; and yet, though they knew that the whole life and thoughts and aspirations were true, who were conscious that every word and work was holy, just, and pure, in order to compass their own selfish ends, simply because they felt his life and teaching would interfere with them, they dared to ascribe to the devil what their own hearts told them came direct from God. This sin, now as then, the merciful Savior tells us has no forgiveness.
And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
Verse 11. - And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer. The Master comes back again to his old calm, and continues his loving instructions to his disciples; and turning again to the little group of his friends, he says. to them." When they bring you before hostile tribunals, special help, you will find, will be given you. Have no fear, then, that you will be wanting in wisdom or courage; the Holy Spirit of God will be your Advocate, and will whisper to you words for your defense." The best example of this supernatural aid to the accused followers of Jesus which we possess is the grave and stately apology of Stephen before the Sanhedrin. Peter's speech before the same tribunal, and Paul's before Felix and Festus, are also fair instances.
For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
Verse 13. - And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. Apparently there was a pause here in the Lord's teaching. The Master was about to enter on a new subject, and at this juncture one of the crowd, waiting for such a break in the Master's discourse, came forward with a question. It was purely connected with his own selfish interests, He seems to have been a younger brother, discontented with the distribution of the family property, of which, most likely, in accordance with the usual Jewish practice, a double portion had been taken by the elder brother. This was likely enough the point which he submitted to the Lord. Such a reference to a scribe and rabbi of eminence was then not uncommon. Jesus, however, here, as on other occasions (see John 8:3-11), firmly refuses to interfere in secular matters. His work was of another and higher kind. The word he addresses to the questioner has in it a tinge of rebuke. The utter selfish worldliness of the man, who, after hearing the solemn and impressive words just spoken, could intrude such a question, comes strongly into view. Was not this poor unimpressionable Jew, so wrapped up in his own paltry concerns that he had no thought or care for loftier things, perhaps a specimen of most of the material upon whom the Lord had to work? Is he an unknown figure in our day and time?
And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
Verse 15. - And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. The older authorities read, "beware of every kind of covetousness." No vice is more terribly illustrated in the Old Testament story than this. Prominent illustrations of ruin overtaking the covetous man, even in this life, are Balaam, Achan, and Gehazi. Has not this ever been one of the besetting sins of the chosen race, then as now, now as then? Jesus, as the Reader of hearts, saw what was at the bottom of the question: greed, rather than a fiery indignation at a wrong endured. "A man's life." His true life, would be a fair paraphrase of the Greek word used here. The Master's own life, landless, homeless, penniless, illustrated nobly these words. That life, as far as earth was concerned, was his deliberate choice. The world, Christian as well as pagan, in each succeeding age, with a remarkable agreement, utterly declines to recognize the great Teacher's view of life here. To make his meaning perfectly clear, the Lord told them the following parable-story, which reads like an experience or memory of something which had actually happened.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
Verse 16. - The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully. The unhappy subject of the Lord's story was a common figure in Palestine in an ordinarily prosperous time. We have the portrait of a landowner whose farms do not seem to have been acquired by any unjust means. This man, after years of successful industry, having acquired great wealth, wholly devotes himself to it and to its further increase. He does not give himself up to excess or profligacy, but simply, body and soul, becomes the slave of his wealth; utterly, hopelessly selfish, he forgets alike God and his neighbor.
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
Verses 17, 18. - And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater. "No place to bestow my fruits." Well answers St. Ambrose," Thou hast barns - the bosoms of the needy, the houses of the widows, the mouths of orphans and of infants." Some might argue, from the sequel of the story, that God looks with disfavour on riches as riches. St. Augustine replies to such a mistaken deduction, "God desires not that thou shouldest lose thy riches, but that thou shouldest change their place" ('Serm.,' 36:9). The Greek word rendered "barns" (ἀποθήκας - whence our word "apothecary") has a broader signification than merely barns; it signifies store or warehouses of all kinds, thus suggesting that the hero of the story was more than a mere wealthy farmer - he was probably also a trader. And there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. As he grew richer, he grew more covetous. Absolutely no care or thought for anything save his loved possessions seems to have crossed the threshold of that poor mistaken heart of his. This strange hunger after riches for riches' sake is, alas! a very usual form of soul-disease. Can it be cured? Alas! it is one of the most hopeless of soul-maladies. This unhappy love in countless cases becomes a passion, and twines itself round the heart, and so destroys all the affections and higher aspirations.
And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
Verse 19. - And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years. "What folly!" writes St. Basil. "Had thy soul been a sty, what else couldst thou have promised to it? Art thou so ignorant of what really belongs to the soul, that thou offerest to it the foods of the body? And givest thou to thy soul the things which the draught receives?" Many years. How little did that poor fool, so wise in all matters of earthly business, suspect the awful doom was so close to him! He forgot Solomon's words, "Boast not thyself of to-morrow" (Proverbs 27:1). Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. "Extremes meet," suggests Dean Plumptre; "and the life of self-indulgence may spring either from an undue expectation of a lengthened life" (as was the case here), "or from unduly dwelling on its shortness, without taking into account the judgment that comes after it. The latter, as in the 'carpe diem' of Horace ('Odes,' 1:11. 8), was the current language of popular epicureanism" (see St. Paul's reproduction of this thought, 1 Corinthians 15:32); "the former seems to have been more characteristic of a corrupt Judaism."
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
Verse 20. - But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee. The literal rendering of the Greek here is more solemn and impressive in its awful vagueness: This night they require thy soul of thee. Who are meant by they? Most likely the angels: not necessarily "avenging," as Trench would suggest; simply those angels whose special function it was to conduct the souls of the departed to their own place. So we read in the parable of Lazarus and Dives how angels carried the soul of Lazarus into Abraham's bosom. On the words, "they require," Theophylact writes, "For, like pitiless exactors of tribute, terrible angels shall require thy soul from thee unwilling, and through love of life resisting. For from the righteous his soul is not required, but he commits it to God and the Father of spirits, pleased and rejoicing; nor finds it hard to lay it down, for the body lies upon it as a light burden. But the sinner who has enfleshed his soul, and embodied it, and made it earthy, has so prepared it to render its divulsion from the body most hard; wherefore it is said to be required of him, as a disobedient debtor that is delivered to exactors." Then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? Our Lord here reproduced the thought contained in passages with which no doubt he had been familiar from his boyhood. "Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool?" (Ecclesiastes 2:18, 19). "He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them" (Psalm 39:6). The parallel in the apocryphal book, Ecclus. 11:18, 19, is very close.
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Verse 21. - And is not rich toward God; better rendered, if he is not. And this slight change helps us, too, in drawing the right lesson. The being rich is never condemned by Jesus Christ; nor even the growing richer. Among the saints of God in both Testaments are many notable rich men, whose possessions seem to have helped rather than hindered their journey to the city of God. The lesson which lies on the forefront of this parable-story is the especial danger which riches ever bring of gradually deadening the heart and rendering it impervious to any feeling of love either for God or man. The directions which immediately followed upon this parable were addressed to the inner circle of disciples. The general instruction, it will be seen, belongs to all who in any age wish to be "of his Church;" but several of the particular charges cannot he pressed as general commands, being addressed to men whose work and office were unique.
And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
Verse 22. - And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. A better rendering for "Take no thought" is Be not anxious about. This, too, suggests a more practical lesson. "What ye shall eat." How repeatedly in the Master's sermons do we find the reminder against the being careful about eating! We know from pagan writers in this age how gluttony, in its coarser and more refined forms, was among the more notorious evils of Roman society in Italy and in the provinces. This passion for the table more or less affected all classes in the empire.
The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
Verses 24-27. - Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them... Consider the lilies... they toil not, they spin not: and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. What a contrast between the life of the rich and prosperous landowner just related, whose whole heart and soul were concentrated on a toil which should procure him dainty food and costly raiment, and these fowls fed by God so abundantly, and those flowers clothed by God so royally! The ravens knew nothing of the anxious care and the restless toil of the rich man in the midst of which he died, and yet they lived. The lilies simply grew, and God's hand painted the rich and gorgeous clothing for each golden-jewelled flower; Solomon, the splendid Jewish king, the example of all that was magnificent, was never arrayed, men knew, like one of these lilies. With such a God above them, who surely loved each one as he never loved a bird or flower, was it worth while to wear a life away in toiling for tess than what God simply gave to raven and to lily? Such was the Master's argument, adorned, we may well conceive, with all the beauty and force of Eastern illustration. We possess, after all, but a scant resume of these Divine sermons. To apostle and chosen missionary his words had a peculiar interest. He bade them, in coming days of poverty and abandonment, never to lose heart. They would remember then their loved Teacher's words that day when he spoke of the fate of one whose life had been wasted in filling his storehouses and his barns; would remember how he turned from the foolish, toiling rich man, and told them of the birds and flowers, and how God tenderly cared even for such soulless things. Did they think he would ever lose sight of them, his chosen servants? They might surely reckon on the loving care of that Master to whose cause they were giving their life-service. Yet have these and other like words of the great Teacher been often misunderstood; and St. Paul's earnest and repeated exhortations to his converts - not to neglect honest toil, but by it to win bread for themselves, and something withal to be generous with to those poorer than they - were his protest against taking the Masterwords in too literal a sense, and using them as a pretext for a dreamy and idle life. Paul's teaching, and perhaps still more Paul's life - that life of brave, simple toil for himself and others - were his comment upon this part of the Master's sermon. The lilies. It is a little doubtful whether our Lord meant to speak of the red anemone, a very common but beautiful flower, with which the meadows throughout all Palestine are enamelled (Anemone coronaria), or the great white lily (Lilium candidum), or the exquisite red lily (Lilium rubrum); these latter are more rare. The Savior, probably, had each of these and other specimens of the flora of Palestine in his mind, when he spoke of the inimitable beauty and the matchless splendor of these flowers of God.
And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
Verse 29. - And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink. Again, after the moving, touching words we have been commenting on, does the Lord return to the pressing injunction with which he began his lessons to his disciples upon the parable of the "rich fool." Trouble not yourselves about your eating and drinking. This repeated insistence of the Master upon this point in the future lives of his disciples has evidently a deeper significance than a mere injunction to cast all their care on him, and not to be over-anxious about their poor earthly maintenance. This was, of course, the first lesson they had to learn from these words; but beneath all this they could, and no doubt often in later days did, read in the words a clear expression of their dear Lord's will in favor of the utmost simplicity in all matters of food and drink. His own must be marked men here, ever frugal and temperate even to abstemiousness. It is a grave question whether his Church has ever fully grasped the Master's meaning here. Neither be ye of doubtful mind; literally, do not toss about like boats in the offing (so Dr. Farrar very happily). The word is not found elsewhere in New Testament writers, but it is known in classic writers. Its use here is one of the many signs of St. Luke's high culture.
For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Verse 32. - Fear not, little flock. Another term of tender endearment addressed to his own who were grouped near him. In the earlier part of this discourse (vet. 4) he had called them "my friends." He had told them of the troublous life which awaited them, but at the same time wished to show them how dear they were to him. It was as though he said, "Endure the thought of these necessary trials for my sake; are you not my chosen friends, for whom so glorious a future, if ye endure to the end, is reserved?"
Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
Verse 33. - Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wan not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not. "Those of you who have riches, see, this is what I counsel you to do with them." In considering these much-disputed words of the Master, we must remember
(1) to whom they were spoken: they were addressed to men and women who, if they would follow him, must set themselves free from all worldly possessions; they must literally forsake all to follow him.
(2) We must bear in mind
(a) that the only community which attempted, as a community, to obey this charge literally was the Church of Jerusalem, and the result was that for long years this Church was plunged into the deepest poverty, so that assistance had to be sent even from far-distant Churches to this deeply impoverished Jerusalem community. [This we learn from Paul, the real compiler of this very Gospel, where the charge is reported. See many passages in his letters, notably the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, passim.]
(b) The mendicant orders in the Middle Ages, with no little bravery and constancy, likewise attempted to carry out to the letter this direction. The impartial student of mediaeval history, while doing all justice to the aims and work of these often devoted men, can judge whether or no these mendicant orders can be reckoned among the permanently successful agencies of the cross. We conclude, then, that these words had a literal meaning only for those to whom they were specially addressed, viz. the disciples. While to the Church generally they convey this deep, far-reaching lesson, a lesson all would-be servants of Christ would do well to take to heart - it is the Master's will that his followers should sit loose to all earthly possessions, possessing them as though they possessed not. Thus living, the heart will be free from all inordinate care for earthly treasure, and will, in real earnest, turn to that serene region where its real and abiding riches indeed are - even to heaven.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
Verses 35, 36. - Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. The Master goes on with his teaching on the subject of covetousness, still addressing himself primarily to the disciples. "There is another reason why my chosen followers should treat the amassing of earthly goods with indifference; no man knows when the end of this state of things may come; their hearts must be fixed on something else than perishable things. They must act as servants on the watch for the return of their lord. See now, my own," Jesus proceeds to say; "your attitude in life must be that of servants, at once loyal and devoted, whom their employer has left in his house while he is absent at a great wedding-feast. The day of his absence passes into evening, and evening shades into night; and even the night wears slowly and tediously away, and still the master of the house comes not back from his festival." But the faithful servants all this while never slumber, or even lie down to rest. All the time of his absence, with their loose flowing Eastern robes taken up, and the skirt fastened under the girdle, with their lamps all trimmed and burning, these watchers wait the coming of their lord, though he tarry long, that they may be ready to receive him and serve him the moment he arrives. All kinds of busy house service, too, carried on during the long night of watching, is implied by the girt-up robes and the lit lamps of the tireless watchers.
And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
Verse 37. - Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. The title "blessed," when used by our Lord, is ever a very lofty one, and implies some rare and precious virtue in the one to whom this title to honor is given. It seems as though the house-master of the parable scarcely expected such true devotion from his servants; so he hastens to reward a rare virtue with equally rare blessedness and honor. He raises the slaves to a position of equality with their master. These true faithful ones are no longer his servants; they are his friends. He even deigns himself to minister to their wants. A similar lofty promise is made in less homely language. The final glorious gift to the faithful conqueror in the world's hard battle appears in the last of the epistles to the seven Churches: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne" (Revelation 3:21).
And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
Verse 38. - And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so. Among the Jews at the time of our Lord, the old division of the night into three watches had given place to the ordinary Roman division into four. They were reckoned thus: from six to nine, from nine to midnight, from midnight to three, and from three to six. In this parable the second and third watches are mentioned as necessary for the completeness of the picture; for the banquet would certainly not be over before the end of the first watch, and in the fourth the day would be breaking. The second and third watches, then, represent the still and weary hours of the night, when to watch is indeed a task of difficulty and painfulness; and here again the Lord repeats his high encomium on such devoted conduct in his second "blessed are those servants." It is perfectly clear that in this parable the master's return signifies the coming of Christ. The whole tone, then, is a grave reminder to us, to all impatient ones, that the great event may be long delayed, much longer than most Christian thinkers dream; but it tells us, too. that this long delay involves a test of their loyalty. "The parousia does not come so quickly as impatience, nor yet so late as carelessness, supposes" (Van Oosterzee).
And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.
Verses 39, 40. - And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. The Lord abruptly changes the scene of his parable imagery, and with another striking and vivid example enforces his teaching on the subject of the urgent necessity of his servants keeping a sleepless and diligent watch and ward against his coming again in judgment. Very deeply must this image of the Lord's sudden return, as a thief breaks into the house in the still hours of the night, have impressed itself on the hearts of the awe-struck, listening disciples, for we find in the case of SS. Paul and Peter the very words and imagery, and in the case of St. John the imagery again made use of (see 1 Thessalonians 5:1, 2; 1 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15). The meaning of the simile is obvious. The disciples and all followers of Jesus would do well to remain always on the watch for the second advent of the Lord. The time of that awful return was unknown, never could be known; men, however, must not be deceived by the long tarrying; the clay of the Lord would surely come on the world as a thief in the night.
Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?
Verse 41. - Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? Peter's question here referred evidently to the longer and more important parable-story, where the reward which the faithful watchers were to receive is mentioned (ver. 37). The grandeur of that reward seems deeply to have impressed the impulsive apostle. Some true conception of the heaven-life had entered into Peter's mind; we know, too, that now and again dimly Peter seemed to grasp the secret of his Master's awful Divinity. What meant, then, thought the faithful, loving man, the figure in the parable of the lord? Who was that lord - himself serving his faithful followers? The same curious perplexity evidently passed through Peter's mind when, on the evening before the death, in a symbol-act the Master repeated the words of the great promise made here, and washed his disciples' feet. Then we read how Peter said to him, "Lord, dost thou wash my feet?" Were all who followed Jesus to share in that strange, mighty promise; or only a few, such as Peter and his companions, called for a special purpose?
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
Verses 42-44. - And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. Jesus goes on with his discourse. Apparently he pays no heed to Peter's question, but really he answers it fully, giving in fact more details on the subject of rewards to the faithful in the life to come than even Peter's question required. "Who then," asks the Lord, "is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler ever his household?" Who? Peter must answer the question. This steward should be Peter himself and each of Peter's chosen companions. This high position of steward in the household of the Lord should be filled by those whom Jesus had specially chosen. If, when he came again, the Lord found these faithful to their solemn trust, then these should receive a still higher and grander recompense even than that inconceivably splendid reward (mentioned in ver. 37) which had so struck Peter; and the higher recompense which these, the faithful and wise stewards, should then receive would be the being made rulers over all that the Lord hath. The answer of the Master then told Peter that all his followers, if found true and loyal, should receive the reward promised (in ver. 37) to the watching servants, who in the world to come would be not the servants but the friends of God. While the few, the chosen apostles of the Lord, if they endured to the end, if they were found wise and faithful, to them would be given in the new life a yet more glorious recompense; they would be set in some special position of government and dominion in the glorious city of God. This teaches, too, indirectly, but with great clearness, that in the heaven-life all Christ's redeemed will enjoy in the friendship of God a perfect blessedness. Still, in that perfect blessedness which will be the heritage of all the redeemed, there will still be degrees in glory.
Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
Verses 45, 46. - But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware. "But," continued the Master, "although certain of my servants have onlooks to higher degrees of glory than the great mass of their fellows, these seemingly favored ones have at the same time more perilous responsibilities; and only if in these graver responsibilities they are faithful to the end, will they receive their high and peculiar reward." If, on the other hand, they fail in their perpetual watch for the coming of their Lord, and instead of the restless toil which the Master has assigned to these stewards, these servants, weighted with higher responsibilities, give themselves up to worldly pleasures and passions, terrible will be their doom. Again the excesses of the table are specially mentioned. If, instead of spending themselves in the cares of their high office, they make a profit out of that office, if they live as oppressors of the flock rather than as shepherds, then to these unfaithful stewards will the Lord suddenly come, as pictured in the parable imagery, a thief in the night. And will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. The terrible punishment here specified was not unknown among the ancients (see Herodotus, 7:39; and Hebrews 11:37). Isaiah was said to have been sawn asunder. Bengel's comment is curious: "Qui cor divisum habet, dividetur." It has been suggested, to bring the punishment into harmony with the statement immediately following, which speaks of a definite and, perhaps, of an enduring position for the guilty one, a "portion with the unbelievers," to understand the word as an equivalent for scourging; so in the Latin we find flagellis discindere, to scourge the back with the rod. There is, however, no known instance of the Greek word διχοτομεῖν being used in this sense. The expression is, however, used as simply implying that a terrible doom is surely reserved in the life to come for those who have so sadly misused their high opportunities and neglected their great responsibilities. "The image of the parable itself is blended with the reality which the parable signifies; this thought of the human master who can punish his slaves with temporal death passes into that of the Divine Judge who can punish with spiritual death" (Dean Mansel).
The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
Verses 47, 48. - And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. These verses are easy to understand. They explain the broad principles upon which the foregoing statements, in parable and in direct teaching, are based. Rewards and punishments will be allotted in the coming world with strict justice. To some, great knowledge of the Divine will is given and splendid opportunities of work are afforded; to such, if only they are faithful and true, will indeed a high place in the city of God be allotted; but alas for them in the life to come if they fail, if they miss the splendid chance of being true toilers with and for God! Their portion will be the many stripes. To others a knowledge of the Divine will, scanty compared with these just spoken of, is given, and opportunities of doing high and noble work are here comparatively few; if these use the little knowledge and seize the few opportunities, they will, while occupying a lower grade in the hierarchy of heaven, still enjoy the perfect bliss of friendship with God. The punishment for failure here is designated by the few stripes. In this solemn passage it is notable that degrees or grades in punishment as well as degrees or grades in glory are distinctly spoken of.
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?
Verse 49. - I am come to send fire on the earth. It is still the same train of thought that the Master pursues - a train which had been only slightly diverted by Peter's question. The text, so to speak, of the whole discourse was "the strange attraction which riches possess for men, and the palsying effect which this attraction, when yielded to, exercises over the whole life." The Master's argument was as follows: "Beware of covetousness; let your attachment to earthly possessions sit very lightly on you all; and as for you, my disciples, do you have nothing to do with these perishable goods." And here, with an abrupt solemnity, probably the voice changing here, and ringing with an awful emotion, he enforces his charge to the disciples with the words, "I am come to send fire on the earth." "My stern, sad work is to inaugurate a mighty struggle, to cast a firebrand on the earth. Lo, my presence will stir up men - you will see this in a way none now dream of; a vast convulsion will rend this people asunder. In the coming days of war and tumult, what have you, my disciples, who will be in the forefront of this movement, - what have you to do with earthly goods? Toss them away from you as useless baggage. The pioneers of the army of the future, surely they must be unencumbered in the war, which is about to break out; for remember, 'I am come to send fire on the earth.'" And what will I, if it be already kindled? better rendered, how I would that it had been already kindled! That is to say, "How I wish that this fire were already burning!" (so Olshausen, De Wette, Bleek, and Farrar). Through all the woe, however, the Redeemer could see, shining as it were through a dark cloud, the unspeakable glory and blessedness of his work. But this fire could not be kindled into a flame until something had happened. The cross must be endured by him; till then his work was not finished; and in his pure human nature - it is with stammering tongue and trembling pen we speak or write here - he felt, we believe, the bitter stinging pain of dread expectation of what was coming. With this onlook he was weighed down, we know, at times; witness especially the Gethsemane agony. He goes on to say -
But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
Verse 50. - But I have a baptism to he baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! The baptism he here speaks of was the baptism of pain and suffering and death - what we call the Passion of the Lord. He knew it must all be gone through, to bring about the blessed result for which he left his home in heaven; but he looked on to it, nevertheless, with terror and shrinking. "He is under pressure," says Godet, "to enter into this suffering because he is in haste to get out of it, mournfully impatient to have done with a painful task." This passage of the discourse of Jesus here has been called "a prelude of Gethsemane."
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
Verse 51. - Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division. But the Master quickly leaves himself and his own sad forebodings. He puts by for a season his own holy impatience and continues his warnings. "I have been dwelling on the troublous times quickly coming on. Do not deceive yourselves, my disciples; the great change about to be inaugurated will only be carried out in war and by divisions in the individual house as in the nation. I bring not peace, but a sword, remember." And then follows a curious picture of a home torn asunder by the conflict of thought which would spring up as the result of the cross and of the preaching of the cross.
For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.
Verse 54. - And he said also. A note of the compilers, SS. Luke and Paul, which seems to say, "Besides all the important sayings we have just written down, which were spoken on this occasion, the Master added as a conclusion the following words." It is probable that the expressions used in the next seven verses were called out by the general apathy with which his announcement of the coming woes was received by the listening multitude. Possibly he had noticed a smile of incredulity on the faces of some of the nearer by-standers. The words had already been used on other occasions in a different connection. Here he used them as a last appeal, or rather as a remonstrance. He seems to say to the people, "O blind, blind to the awful sins of the times! You are weather-wise enough, and can tell from the appearance of the sky and the sighing of the wind whether a storm is brewing or no: why not use the same faculty of discernment in higher and more important matters? Ah! be wise; make your peace with God without delay; it will soon be too late; there is an awful judgment close at hand!" When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. To the west of Palestine lay the great Mediterranean Sea, from which, of course, came all the rains which fell on that country.
And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.
Verse 55. - And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will he heat; and it cometh to pass. To the south of Palestine lay the desert; when the wind blew from that direction, it was usually a time of heat and drought.
Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
Verse 56. - Ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time? These things had an interest for them. Heat and drought, wind and rain, affected materially the prospect of their wheat-harvest and vintage, the fruitfulness of their orchards and oliveyards, therefore they gave their whole mind to the watching of the weather; but to the awful signs of the time in which they were living they were blind and deaf. What were these signs?
(1) The low state of morality among public men. Did none of them notice how utterly corrupt were priests and scribes and people, how hollow and meaningless their boasted religious rites, how far removed from them was the presence of the God of their fathers?
(2) Political situation. Did none of them notice the terribly strained relations between the Roman or Herodian, and the great national party? Were they blind to the bitter, irreconcilable hatred to mighty Rome which was seething scarcely beneath the surface of Jewish society? Were they deaf to the rumbling noises which too surely heralded a fierce and bloody war between little Palestine, split up into parties and sects, and the mighty world of Rome which had seized them in its own grip? What could be the result of such a war? Were they devoid of reason as well as blind and deaf?
(3) Heavenly warnings. What had they done with John the Baptist? Many in Israel knew that man was indeed a great prophet of the Lord. His burning words had penetrated far and wide; vast crowds had heard the awful sounds with breathless awe; but no one heeded, and the people watched him die. And now - they had listened to him who was speaking to them. He had told them all; no sign of power was wanting to his ministry, and it was just over, and the people had not repented.
Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?
When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.
Verses 58, 59. - When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison. I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite. And then the Master passed into one of those parable illustrations with which his hearers were now familiar, and which in a homely way taught the crowd the same grave truth which he had been dwelling upon - the impending terrible judgment which was coming on the people. The lesson, "be reconciled to God while it is yet time," is, of course, applicable to all lives, precarious and hanging seemingly on a thread as they all are, but it was especially spoken to that generation in view of the awful ruin which he knew was so soon to fall on every Jewish home. The genera] meaning of the parable illustration was obvious; no hearer could fail to understand the Lord's meaning. It is before arriving at the judgment-seat that you must be reconciled, with the one who accuses you, otherwise it will be too late, and nothing would remain for the guilty accused but the eternal prison-house. At that moment, when the Master was speaking, individual or nation might have turned to the Lord and lived. There was no time, however, for hesitation. The sands in the hour-glass, which marked the duration of God's longsuffering with Israel, were just running out. Theologians in different ages and of varied schools have made much of the concluding sentence (ver. 59). Roman Catholic divines see in it a strong argument in favor of the doctrine of purgatory, arguing that after death condemnation would be followed by liberation, when a certain payment had been made by the guilty soul; strange ways of paying this debt by means of others we know have been devised by the school of divines who teach this doctrine of purgatory. But the Lord's words here are terribly plain, and utterly exclude any payment of the debt of the soul by others. The Master emphatically says, "till thou hast paid the very last mite." The advocate who pleads for universal redemption, and shrinks from a punishment to the duration of which he can see no term, thinks that in the words, "till thou hast paid," he can discern the germ at least of eternal hope. But the impenetrable veil which hangs between us and the endless hereafter prevents us, surely, from even suggesting that any suffering which the soul may endure in the unseen world will ever pay "the very last mite," and so lead to pardon and peace.
I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.