The Gathering of the Eagles
Luke 17:37
And they answered and said to him, Where, Lord? And he said to them, Wherever the body is…

It will be necessary here to compare the ancient and modern interpretations of the verse — "for wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together."

1. The generally received modern interpretation sees here the great law of Divine judgment condensed into one terrible image. The "carcass," according to this, is the putrid carrion; the "eagles" are, strictly speaking, vultures. Thus, to the modern mind, we have here the condensed image of the continuous judgment of God. In hot countries God has so moulded the instincts of the winged scavengers of cliff and peak, that far away, as they wheel and circle over the awful depths into which the traveller looks with reeling brain, they scent the slain in battle, or the bodies that taint the air. So, wherever there is a body of moral and spiritual death — something rotten in Church or State — the vultures of judgment, the punishers and avengers that belong to it in the very nature of things, come mysteriously from their places, and with boding voices, deepening upon the breezes, gather round the spoil. So with Jerusalem falling to pieces in its last decomposition and self-dissolution. The flap of avenging wings was heard overhead by prophetic ears. The vultures were wheeling on the steaming air, under the vault of the Syrian sky, barking in the far mountain glens, and collecting together to gorge themselves upon the "glittering rottenness." This view is not only rhetorically powerful, but something more and higher.

2. Notwithstanding this, the ancient interpretation represents more truly the Divine thought in the symbol of the eagles and their food. And so this image of the eagle belongs to the glorious Lord and to His Christ. And His people are as His eaglets — nay, themselves eagles of God. Is it not written — "Ye have seen how I bare you on eagles' wings"? And more fully — "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did bear him." Is not the Church the woman to whom were given "the wings of the eagle, that great eagle," which is Christ? Even here and now, wherever the corpse is, wherever Jesus is evidently set forth crucified, there, mysteriously raised above earthly things, made lofty and royal in their graces, Christ's eagles "gather round" Him who is the spiritual food and the life eternal of all such eagles. The meaning, then, on the whole, according to this interpretation, is as follows: The "carcass" — the corpse of Jesus Christ as crucified — that is the meeting-point of human souls, the centre of attraction in the world of spirits. The Lord of nature, in the Book of Job, says of the eagle, His creature — "she abideth upon the rock from thence she seeketh the prey; her eyes behold afar off... where the slain are, there is she." The Lord of grace adds His application — as the eaglets gather round the corpse, so the souls of men, and especially of the elect, gather round Jesus. Ay, and round Jesus, not always as the eternal Word, not always as in His glory, but in the pathetic beauty of His weakness, staggering under the weight of His cross. Nay more, dying, with the red drops of the Passion upon His brow; dead — nay, fallen in His sacred helplessness. There are mysterious instincts in every heart that turn to Jesus crucified. Keen and swift as eagles for the prey are Christians for the Lord who died. It is the same underlying thought with that noble utterance in the twelfth chapter of St. John. There the few Greeks are to that prophetic eye the first shoreward ripple of the great springtide of humanity which is to break in thunder at His feet. The lifting up a few feet above the soil of Golgotha becomes, by a majestic irony, the elevation above the earth, the centre of attraction for uncounted souls. "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." So He seems to promise — "I, if I be fallen upon the earth, the helpless, lifeless, ruined thing which men call a corpse, will yet gather round Me every eagle that clasps the crag, or soars upward with the sunlight in his glorious eye."

(Bp. Wm. Alexander.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.

WEB: They, answering, asked him, "Where, Lord?" He said to them, "Where the body is, there will the vultures also be gathered together."

The Carcass and the Eagles
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