The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE DESCENT: FROM THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
INTO THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION AND DEATH.
CHRIST'S DISCOURSES IN PERAEA
CLOSE OF THE PERAEAN MINISTRY
(St. Luke 13:23-30,31-35, 14:1-11,25-35, 17:1-10.)
From the Parables we now turn to such Discourses of the Lord as
belong to this period of His Ministry. Their consideration may be the more
brief, that throughout we find points of correspondence with previous or later
portions of His teaching.
Thus, the first of these Discourses, of which we have an
some passages in the 'Sermon on the Mount,'2
as well as what our Lord had said on the occasion of healing the servant of the
centurion.3 But, to
take the first of these parallelisms, the differences are only the more marked
for the similarity of form. These prove incontestably, not only the
independence of the two Evangelists4
in their narratives, but, along with deeper underlying unity of thought in the
teaching of Christ, its different application to different circumstances and
persons. Let us mark this in the Discourse as outlined by St. Luke, and so gain
fresh evidential confirmation of the trustworthiness of the Evangelic records.
Luke xiii. 23-30.
24; comp. St. Matt. vii. 13, 14; vv. 25-27; comp. St. Matt. viii., 21-23.
28, 29; comp. St. Matt. vii. 21-23.
Matthew and St Luke.
The words of our Lord, as recorded by St. Luke,5
are not spoken, as in 'The Sermon on the Mount,' in connection with His
teaching to His disciples, but are in reply to a question addressed to Him by
some one - we can scarcely doubt, a representative of the Pharisees:6
'Lord, are they few, the saved ones [that are being saved]?' Viewed in
connection with Christ's immediately preceding teaching about the Kingdom of
God in its wide and deep spread, as the great Mustard-Tree from the tiniest
seed, and as the Leaven hid, which pervaded three measures of meal, we can
scarcely doubt that the word 'saved' bore reference, not to the eternal state
of the soul, but to admission to the benefits of the Kingdom of God - the
Messianic Kingdom, with its privileges and its judgments, such as the Pharisees
understood it. The question, whether 'few' were to be saved, could not have
been put from the Pharisaic point of view, if understood of personal salvation;7
while, on the other hand, if taken as applying to part in the near-expected
Messianic Kingdom, it has its distinct parallel in the Rabbinic statement,
that, as regarded the days of the Messiah (His Kingdom), it would be similar to
what it had been at the entrance into the land of promise, when only two
(Joshua and Caleb), out of all that generation, were allowed to have part in
it.8 Again, it
is only when understanding both the question of this Pharisee and the reply of
our Lord as applying to the Kingdom of the Messiah - though each viewing 'the
Kingdom' from his own standpoint - that we can understand the answering words
of Christ in their natural and obvious sense, without either straining or
adding to them a dogmatic gloss, such as could not have occurred to His hearers
at the time.9
Luke xiii. 23 &c.
also ver. 31.
is difficult to understand how W�nsche could have referred to Sukk. 45 b
as a parallel, since anything more thoroughly contrary to all Christ's teaching
can scarcely be imagined. Otherwise also the parallel is inapt. The curious
reader will find the passage in detail in Sch�ttgen, on 1 Cor. xiii. 12
Canon Cook makes this distinction: 'They who are said to seek, seek
(i.e. desire and wish) and no more. They do not struggle for admission.' But
would any one be refused who sought, in the sense of desiring, or
Thus viewed, we can mark the characteristic differences between
this Discourse and the parallels in 'the Sermon on the Mount,' and understand
their reason. As regarded entrance into the Messianic Kingdom, this Pharisee,
and those whom he represented, are told, that this Kingdom was not theirs, as a
matter of course - their question as to the rest of the world being only,
whether few or many would share in it - but that all must 'struggle10
[agonise] to enter in through the narrow door.'11
When we remember, that in 'the Sermon on the Mount' the call was only to 'enter
in,' we feel that we have now reached a period, when the access to 'the narrow
door' was obstructed by the enmity of so many, and when it needed 'violence' to
break through, and 'take the Kingdom' 'by force.'12
This personal breaking through the opposing multitude, in order to enter in
through the narrow door, was in opposition to the many - the Pharisees and Jews
generally - who were seeking to enter in, in their own way, never doubting
success, but who would discover their terrible mistake. Then, 'when once the
Master of the house is risen up,' to welcome His guests to the banquet, and has
shut to the door, while they, standing without, vainly call upon Him to open
it, and He replies: 'I know you not whence ye are,' would they begin to remind
Him of those covenant-privileges on which, as Israel after the flesh, they had
relied ('we have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our
streets'). To this He would reply by a repetition of His former words, now seen
to imply a disavowal of all mere outward privileges, as constituting a claim to
the Kingdom, grounding alike His disavowal and His refusal to open on their
inward contrariety to the King and His Kingdom: 'Depart from Me, all ye workers
of iniquity.' It was a banquet to the friends of the King: the inauguration of
His Kingdom. When they found the door shut, they would, indeed, knock, in the
confident expectation that their claims would at once be recognised, and they
admitted. And when the Master of the house did not recognise them, as they had
expected, and they reminded Him of their outward connection, He only repeated
the same words as before, since it was not outward but inward relationship that
qualified the guests, and theirs was not friendship, but antagonism to Him.
Terrible would then be their sorrow and anguish, when they would see their own
patriarchs ('we have eaten and drunk in Thy Presence') and their own prophets
('Thou hast taught in our streets') within, and yet themselves were excluded
from what was peculiarly theirs - while from all parts of the heathen world the
welcome guests would flock to the joyous feast. And here pre-eminently would
the saying hold good, in opposition to Pharisaic claims and self-righteousness:
'There are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.'13
word implies a real combat to get at the narrow door, not 'a large crowd ...
struggling for admission.' The verb occurs besides in the following passages:
St. John xviii. 36; 1 Cor. ix. 25; Col. i. 29; iv. 12; 1 Tim. vi. 12; 2 Tim.
according to the best reading.
Matt. xi. 12.
also St. Matt. xix. 30; xx. 16.
As a further characteristic difference from the parallel
passage in 'the Sermon on the Mount,' we note, that there the reference seems
not to any special privileges in connection with the Messianic Kingdom, such as
the Pharisees expected, but to admission into the Kingdom of Heaven generally.14
In regard to the latter also the highest outward claims would be found
unavailing; but the expectation of admission was grounded rather on what was done,
than on mere citizenship and its privileges. And here it deserves special
notice, that in St. Luke's Gospel, where the claim is that of
fellow-citizenship ('eaten and drunk in Thy Presence, and Thou hast taught in
our streets'), the reply is made, 'I know you not whence ye are;' while in 'the
Sermon on the Mount,' where the claim is of what they had done in His Name,
they are told: 'I never knew you.' In both cases the disavowal emphatically
bears on the special plea which had been set up. With this, another slight
difference may be connected, which is not brought out in the Authorised or in
the Revised Version. Both in the 'Sermon on the Mount'15
and in St. Luke's Gospel,16
they who are bidden depart are designated as 'workers of iniquity.' But,
whereas, in St. Matthew's Gospel the term (anomia)
really means 'lawlessness,' the word used in that of St. Luke should be
(adikia). Thus, the one class
are excluded, despite the deeds which they plead, for their real contrariety
to God's Law; the other, despite the plea of citizenship and privileges,
for their unrighteousness.18
And here we may also note, as a last difference between the two Gospels, that
in the prediction of the future bliss from which they were to be excluded, the
Gospel of St. Luke, which had reported the plea that He had 'taught' in their
'streets,' adds, as it were in answer, to the names of the Patriarchs,19
mention of 'all the prophets.'
Matt. vii. 21, 22.
Matt. vii. 23.
Luke xiii. 27.
is characteristic of 'higher' criticism when Hilgenfeld declares that
the 'lawlessness' in St. Matthew's Gospel is intended as a covert hit at Pauline
Christianity, and the 'unrighteousness' in St. Luke's as a retort upon Petrine
or Jewish Christianity!
Matt. viii. 11.
2. The next Discourse, noted by St. Luke,20
had been spoken 'in that very day,'21
as the last. It was occasioned by a pretended warning of 'certain of the
Pharisees' to depart from Per�a, which, with Galilee, was the territory of
Herod Antipas, as else the Tetrarch would kill Him. We have previously22
shown reason for supposing secret intrigues between the Pharisaic party and
Herod, and attributing the final imprisonment of the Baptist, at least in part,
to their machinations. We also remember, how the conscience of the Tetrarch
connected Christ with His murdered Forerunner, and that rightly, since, at
least so far as the Pharisees wrought on the fears of that intensely jealous
and suspicious prince, the imprisonment of John was as much due to his
announcement of the Messiah as to the enmity of Herodias. On these grounds we
can easily understand that Herod should have wished to see Jesus,23
not merely to gratify curiosity, nor in obedience to superstitious impulses,
but to convince himself, whether He was really what was said of Him, and also
to get Him into his power. Probably, therefore, the danger of which these
Pharisees spoke might have been real enough, and they might have special
reasons for knowing of it. But their suggestion, that Jesus should depart,
could only have proceeded from a ruse to get Him Out of Per�a, where,
evidently, His works of healing24
were largely attracting and influencing the people.
Luke xiii. 31-35.
we should rather read 'hour.'
But if our Lord would not be deterred by the fears of His
disciples from going into Jud�a,25
feeling that each one had his appointed working day, in the light of which he
was safe, and during the brief duration of which he was bound to 'walk,' far
less would He recede before His enemies. Pointing to their secret intrigues, He
bade them, if they chose, go back to 'that fox,' and give to his low cunning,
and to all similar attempts to hinder or arrest His Ministry, what would be a
decisive answer, since it unfolded what He clearly forsaw in the near future.
'Depart?'26 - yes, 'depart' ye to tell 'that fox,' I
have still a brief and an appointed time27
to work, and then 'I am perfected,' in the sense in which we all readily
understand the expression, as applying to His Work and Mission. 'Depart!' 'Yes,
I must "depart," or go My brief appointed time: I know that at the goal of it
is death, yet not at the hands of Herod, but in Jerusalem, the slaughter-house
of them that "teach in her streets."'
John xi. 8.
word poreuesqai, ver. 31, is
also used in ver. 32 'go,' and ver. 33 'walk.'
words 'to-day, and to-morrow, and the third day,' must not be taken as a
literal, but as a well-known figurative expression. Thus we are told (Mechilta,
Par. Bo, 18, towards end, ed. Weiss, p. 27 b), 'There is a
"to-morrow" which is now [refers to the immediate present], and a
"to-morrow" of a later time,' indicating a fixed period connected with the
present, The latter, for example, in the passage illustrated in the Rabbinic
quotation just made: Ex. xiii. 14, 'It shall be when thy son shall ask thee
[literally] to-morrow,' in our A.V. 'in time to come.' So also Josh. xxii. 24.
'The third day' in such connection would be rxmd )rxm.
And so, remembering that this message to Herod was spoken in
the very day, perhaps the very hour that He had declared how falsely 'the
workers of wickedness' claimed admission on account of the 'teaching in their
streets,' and that they would be excluded from the fellowship, not only of the
fathers, but of 'all the prophets' whom they called their own - we see peculiar
meaning in the reference to Jerusalem as the place where all the prophets
perished.28 One, Who
in no way indulged in illusions, but knew that He had an appointed time, during
which He would work, and at the end of which He would 'perish,' and where He
would so perish, could not be deterred either by the intrigues of the Pharisees
nor by the thought of what a Herod might attempt - not do, which latter was in
far other hands. But the thought of Jerusalem - of what it was, what it might
have been, and what would come to it - may well have forced from the lips of
Him, Who wept over it, a cry of mingled anguish, love, and warning.29
It may, indeed, be, that these very words, which are reported by St. Matthew in
another, and manifestly most suitable, connection,3031
are here quoted by St. Luke, because they fully express the thought to which
Christ here first gave distinct utterance. But some such words, we can scarcely
doubt, He did speak even now, when pointing to His near Decease in Jerusalem.
the death of John the Baptist may, as indicated, be said to have been compassed
Matt. xxiii. 37-39.
words will be considered in connection with that passage.
3. The next in order of the Discourses recorded by St. Luke32
is that which prefaced the Parable of 'the Great Supper,' expounded in a previous
Rabbinic views on the Sabbath-Law have been so fully explained, that a very
brief commentation will here suffice. It appears, that the Lord condescended to
accept the invitation to a Sabbath-meal in the house 'of one of the Rulers of
the Pharisees' - perhaps one of the Rulers of the Synagogue in which they had
just worshipped, and where Christ may have taught. Without here discussing the
motives for this invitation, its acceptance was certainly made use of to 'watch
Him.' And the man with the dropsy had, no doubt, been introduced for a
treacherous purpose, although it is not necessary to suppose that he himself
had been privy to it. On the other hand, it is characteristic of the gracious
Lord, that, with full knowledge of their purpose, He sat down with such
companions, and that He did His Work of power and love unrestrained by their
evil thoughts. But, even so, He must turn their wickedness also to good
account. Yet we mark, that He first dismissed the man healed of the dropsy
before He reproved the Pharisees.34
It was better so - for the sake of the guests, and for the healed man himself,
whose mind quite new and blessed Sabbath-thoughts would fill, to which all
controversy would be jarring.
Luke xiv. 1-11.
Luke xiv. 4.
And, after his departure, the Lord first spake to them, as was
His wont, concerning their misapplication of the Sabbath-Law, to which, indeed,
their own practice gave the lie. They deemed it unlawful 'to heal' on the
Sabbath-day, though, when He read their thoughts and purposes as against Him,
they would not answer His question on the point.35
And yet, if 'a son,36
or even an ox,' of any of them, had 'fallen into a pit,' they would have found
some valid legal reason for pulling him out! Then, as to their Sabbath-feast,
and their invitation to Him, when thereby they wished to lure Him to evil -
and, indeed, their much-boasted hospitality: all was characteristic of these
Pharisees - only external show, with utter absence of all real love; only
self-assumption, pride, and self-righteousness, together with contempt of all
who were regarded as religiously or intellectually beneath them - chiefly of
'the unlearned' and 'sinners,' those in 'the streets and lanes' of their city,
whom they considered as 'the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the
blind.'37 Even among
themselves there was strife about 'the first places' - such as, perhaps, Christ
had on that occasion witnessed,38
amidst mock professions of humility, when, perhaps, the master of the house had
afterwards, in true Pharisaic fashion, proceeded to re-arrange the guests
according to their supposed dignity. And even the Rabbis had given advice to
the same effect as Christ's39
- and of this His words may have reminded them.40
- and not 'ass' - according to the best reading.
precisely the same sayings occur in Ab. de Rabbi Nathan 25 and Vayyikra R. 1.
But further - addressing him who had so treacherously bidden Him to
this feast, Christ showed how the principle of Pharisaism consisted in
self-seeking, to the necessary exclusion of all true love. Referring, for the
fuller explanation of His meaning,41
to a previous chapter,42
we content ourselves here with the remark, that this self-seeking and
self-righteousness appeared even in what, perhaps, they most boasted of - their
hospitality. For, if in an earlier Jewish record we read the beautiful words:
'Let thy house be open towards the street, and let the poor be the sons of thy
house,'43 we have,
also, this later comment on them,44
that Job had thus had his house opened to the four quarters of the globe for
the poor, and that, when his calamities befell him, he remonstrated with God on
the ground of his merits in this respect, to which answer was made, that he had
in this matter come very far short of the merits of Abraham. So entirely
self-introspective and self-seeking did Rabbinism become, and so contrary was
its outcome to the spirit of Christ, the inmost meaning of Whose Work, as well
as Words, was entire self-forgetfulness and self-surrender in love.
de R. Nathan 7.
4. In the fourth Discourse recorded by St. Luke,45
we pass from the parenthetic account of that Sabbath-meal in the house of the
'Ruler of the Pharisees,' back to where the narrative of the Pharisees' threat
about Herod and the reply of Jesus had left us.46
And, if proof were required of the great influence exercised by Jesus, and
which, as we have suggested, led to the attempt of the Pharisees to induce
Christ to leave Per�a, it would be found in the opening notice,47
as well as in the Discourse itself which He spoke. Christ did depart -
from that place, though not yet from Per�a; but with Him 'went great
multitudes.' And, in view of their professed adhesion, it was needful, and now
more emphatically than ever, to set before them all that discipleship really
involved, alike of cost and of strength - the two latter points being
illustrated by brief 'Parables' (in the wider sense of that term).
Substantially, it was only what Christ had told the Twelve, when He sent them
on their first Mission.48
Only it was now cast in a far stronger mould, as befitted the altered
circumstances, in the near prospect of Christ's condemnation, with all that
this would involve to His followers.
Luke xiv. 25-35.
Matt. x. 37, 38.
At the outset we mark, that we are not here told what
constituted the true disciple, but what would prevent a man from becoming such.
Again, it was now no longer (as in the earlier address to the Twelve), that he
who loved the nearest and dearest of earthly kin more than Christ - and hence
clave to such rather than to Him - was not worthy of Him; nor that he who did
not take his cross and follow after Him was not worthy of the Christ. Since
then the enmity had ripened, and discipleship become impossible without actual
renunciation of the nearest relationship, and, more than that, of life itself.49
Of course, the term 'hate' does not imply hatred of parents or relatives, or of
life, in the ordinary sense. But it points to this, that, as outward
separation, consequent upon men's antagonism to Christ, was before them in the
near future, so, in the present, inward separation, a renunciation in
mind and heart, preparatory to that outwardly, was absolutely necessary. And
this immediate call was illustrated in twofold manner. A man who was about to
begin building a tower, must count the cost of his undertaking.50
It was not enough that he was prepared to defray the expense of the
foundations; he must look to the cost of the whole. So must they, in becoming
disciples, look not on what was involved in the present following of Christ,
but remember the cost of the final acknowledgement of Jesus. Again, if a king
went to war, common prudence would lead him to consider whether his forces were
equal to the great contest before him; else it were far better to withdraw in
time, even though it involved humiliation, from what, in view of his weakness,
would end in miserable defeat.51
So, and much more, must the intending disciple make complete inward surrender
of all, deliberately counting the cost, and, in view of the coming trial, ask
himself whether he had, indeed, sufficient inward strength - the force of love
to Christ - to conquer. And thus discipleship, then, and, in measure, to all
time, involves the necessity of complete inward surrender of everything for the
love of Christ, so that if, and when, the time of outward trial comes, we may
be prepared to conquer in the fight.52
He fights well, who has first fought and conquered within.
Luke xiv. 26.
Or else, and here Christ breaks once more into that pithy
Jewish proverb - only, oh! how aptly, applying it to His disciples - 'Salt is
good;' 'salt, if it have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?'53
We have preferred quoting the proverb in its Jewish form,5455
to show its popular origin. Salt in such condition was neither fit to improve
the land, nor, on the other hand, to be mixed with the manure. The disciple who
had lost his distinctiveness would neither benefit the land, nor was he even
fit, as it were, for the dunghill, and could only be cast out. And so, let him
that hath ears to hear, hear the warning!
the Talmud: hl yxlm y)mb [has an evil odour, is spoiled] `yrs yk )xlym.
5. We have still to consider the last Discourses of Christ
before the raising of Lazarus.56
As being addressed to the disciples,57
we have to connect them with the Discourse just commented upon. In point of
fact, part of these admonitions had already been spoken on a previous occasion,
and that more fully, to the disciples in Galilee.58
Only we must again bear in mind the difference of circumstances. Here, they
immediately precede the raising of Lazarus,59
and they form the close of Christ's public Ministry in Per�a. Hence they come
to us as Christ's parting admonitions to His Per�an followers.
Luke xvii. 1-10.
1-4, comp. St. Matt. xviii. 6-35; ver. 6, comp. St. Matt. xvii. 20.
Thus viewed, they are intended to impress on the new disciples
these four things: to be careful to give no offence;60
to be careful to take no offence;61
to be simple and earnest in their faith, and absolutely to trust its
and yet, when they had made experience of it, not to be elated, but to remember
their relation to their Master, that all was in His service, and that, after
all, when everything had been done, they were but unprofitable servants.63
In other words, they urged upon the disciples holiness, love, faith, and
service of self-surrender and humility.
Luke xvii. 1, 2.
Most of these points have been already considered, when
explaining the similar admonitions of Christ in Galilee.64
The four parts of this Discourse are broken by the prayer of the Apostles, who
had formerly expressed their difficulty in regard to these very requirements:65
'Add unto us faith.' It was upon this that the Lord spake to them, for their
comfort, of the absolute power of even the smallest faith,66
and of the service and humility of faith.67
The latter was couched in a Parabolic form, well calculated to impress on them
those feelings which would keep them lowly. They were but servants; and, even
though they had done their work, the Master expected them to serve Him, before
they sat down to their own meal and rest. Yet meal and rest there would be in
the end. Only, let there not be self-elation, nor weariness, nor impatience;
but let the Master and His service be all in all. Surely, if ever there was
emphatic protest against the fundamental idea of Pharisaism, as claiming merit
and reward, it was in the closing admonition of Christ's public Ministry in
Per�a: 'When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say,
We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.'