1. The Choice of the Twelve. Ch.6:12-19
12 And it came to pass in these days, that he went out into the mountain to pray; and he continued all night in prayer to God.13 And when it was day, he called his disciples; and he chose from them twelve, whom also he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he also named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor; 17 and he came down with them, and stood on a level place, and a great multitude of his disciples, and a great number of the people from all Judaea and Jerusalem, and the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; 18 and they that were troubled with unclean spirits were healed.19 And all the multitude sought to touch him; for power came forth from him, and healed them all.
The choice of the twelve apostles marks a new and important period in the public ministry of our Lord. The deep significance of the act is indicated by Luke in his statement that Jesus passed the entire preceding night in prayer to God. One reason for his decision may have been the mad hatred of the Pharisees whose anger had now reached a murderous height. To give more assured permanence to his work Jesus saw the necessity of organizing his followers. He had been surrounded by a multitude of disciples, some of whom were his constant companions, but he now determined to appoint officers who would act as trained leaders, who would be his official messengers accredited by miraculous powers.
In all four places in the New Testament where the names of these twelve apostles are found, they are arranged in three invariable groups, possibly in accordance with their intimacy with Jesus and their real service to him. In all ages there have been among his followers such concentric circles, such inner groups, who have been blessed by peculiar intimacy with their Lord, not due to his arbitrary choice, but to their peculiar capacities for love and obedience and faith.
The first six mentioned by Luke were men who under the influence of John the Baptist had become the first followers of Christ. Other things being equal, those who have known Jesus longest are able to serve him best.
The chief place in the first group is always assigned to Simon Peter, bold, impulsive, fickle, but possessing the peculiar powers of leadership which qualified him for the place of primacy among the apostles of our Lord.
With him Luke names his brother Andrew, probably a man of less ability and strength, but one who will ever be remembered as having brought Peter into fellowship with Jesus. None can ever tell what share in the reward of a more famous worker will be enjoyed by one more obscure to whom the greater leader owes his Christian career.
The next to be mentioned are James and John, the |sons of thunder,| the courageous, loving, faithful companions who with Peter form the inmost circle of the followers of Christ. James was the first to suffer martyrdom for the sake of his Master, while John lingered longest of all the apostolic band, testifying to the cause of him who had chosen John as his closest friend, and for whose return John continued to watch and to wait.
Of the second four, the first to be mentioned are Philip and Bartholomew; the latter is supposed to be the same as Nathanael, the Israelite without guile whom Philip won as a disciple for Christ.
The next were Matthew and Thomas. The former had been a despised publican, but his training had prepared him to become a careful recorder of facts, so that after his intimate fellowship with Christ he became one of his biographers and wrote that which is numbered as the first of the Gospels. Thomas has won the reputation of being a doubting disciple. He was certainly naturally despondent and incredulous. The fact, however, that such a man became convinced of the resurrection of Christ so soon after the event is one of the most important testimonies to the reality of the fundamental fact of our Christian faith.
As to the last group, we know nothing of James, the son of Alphaeus, commonly called |James the less| in contrast with James the brother of John; but it is surely a mistake to identify him with James the brother of our Lord who became the head of the church in Jerusalem and wrote the Epistle which bears his name. |Simon who was called the Zealot| was by this latter title distinguished from Simon Peter. If this title is correctly interpreted, he had formerly belonged to that fanatical party of Jews who were promoters and supporters of the revolt against Rome, which finally resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem.
Judas, the son of James, is carefully distinguished in the narrative from the traitor whose infamous name always comes last on the list of apostles and is never mentioned in Scripture without some designation of disgrace and shame. Why he should have been chosen as a follower of Christ no one can sufficiently explain, yet there must have been in him original elements of good. There was surely the possibility of development into usefulness and sainthood, but he tried to cherish the passion of greed while companying with Jesus, and the inevitable reaction was so great and rapid that he soon degenerated into a thief and a traitor. His fate serves as a warning to all the followers of Christ and his testimony to the character of Jesus has been repeated through all the years, |I have ... betrayed innocent blood.|
All of the Twelve were men of modest means and humble stations in life; they were men of moderate ability, and most of their names are still obscure; yet they were the first leaders and the real organizers of the most important society the world has known, and their names are yet to be graven on the foundations of the holy city, the light of which is to fill the earth with glory.
2. The Great Sermon. Ch.6:20-49
20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed are ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same manner did their fathers unto the prophets.24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.25 Woe unto you, ye that are full now! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you, ye that laugh now for ye shall mourn and weep.26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets.
27 But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, 28 bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.29 To him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and from him that taketh away thy cloak withhold not thy coat also.30 Give to every one that asketh thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.32 And if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for even sinners love those that love them.33 And if ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for even sinners do the same.34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? even sinners lend to sinners, to receive again as much.35 But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.36 Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful.37 And judge not, and ye shall not be judged: and condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: release, and ye shall be released: 38 give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.
39 And he spake also a parable unto them, Can the blind guide the blind? shall they not both fall into a pit? 40 The disciple is not above his teacher: but every one when he is perfected shall be as his teacher.41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 42 Or how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me cast out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.43 For there is no good tree that bringeth forth corrupt fruit; nor again a corrupt tree that bringeth forth good fruit.44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? 47 Every one that cometh unto me, and heareth my words, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who digged and went deep, and laid a foundation upon the rock: and when a flood arose, the stream brake against that house, and could not shake it: because it had been well builded.49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that built a house upon the earth without a foundation; against which the stream brake, and straightway it fell in; and the ruin of that house was great.
It might seem difficult to prove that the Sermon on the Mount is the same as this discourse which has been called by some the Sermon on the Plain. The exact relation between the sermon reported by Matthew and this great address recorded by Luke has long been a subject of debate. It is quite probable, however, that they are identical. After Jesus had chosen the twelve apostles on the summit of the mountain where he had spent the night, he descended to a level place on the mountain side and there met the multitude and delivered the sermon which holds first place among all the discourses in the world.
If this address is the same as the Sermon on the Mount, it is to be noted that each account begins with beatitudes and closes with a warning, while the main body of the discourse differs only in the aspect of truth emphasized by the two writers. In Matthew the essence of the Christian life is described as true righteousness in distinction from the formalism of the Pharisees. In Luke the essence of righteousness is found in love. Matthew was writing with Jewish Christians in mind. The Gospel of Luke was for the world and many of his readers would not have appreciated the distinction which Matthew was emphasizing. The word which would describe the sermon as recorded by Matthew is spirituality, but the substance of the Christian life as here indicated by Luke is charity.
The Beatitudes here recorded are four in number, while Matthew mentions eight or nine; but Luke adds four woes, each one of which is in striking contrast with the parallel Beatitude, vs.20-26. The sermon begins, therefore, by pronouncing blessings upon the followers of Christ and contrasted woes upon those who reject him. Those who are declared to be blessed are the poor, the hungry, the mourners, and the despised; while woes are pronounced upon the rich, the satisfied, the joyous, and the praised. It is, of course, understood that there are spiritual implications in these different terms. Poverty, hunger, sorrow, reproach, have no merit in themselves and issue in present and eternal blessedness only when accompanied by humility, trust, and patience, and when endured for the sake of Christ. So, too, there is no wrong in riches and satisfaction and laughter and praise unless these are accompanied by the selfishness and greed and frivolity and unworthiness with which they are so often identified. By these blessings and woes the Master indicated the real character as well as the abiding blessedness of those who are his true disciples.
The burden of the discourse, vs.27-45, sets forth the Christian life as being in essence a life of love. This sermon on love might be accompanied properly by the |hymn of love| composed by Paul, 1 Cor., ch.13, and by the |Scripture lesson| on love written by John, 1 John 4:7-21.
First then, in place of all revenge, vs.27-30, Jesus established the Golden Rule: |As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.| V.31. Then, in contrast with the self-interest and desire for recompense which so often passes among men as charity, vs.32-34, he pointed to the perfect example of God and intimated that his mercy should incline us to kindly judgments of our fellows, assuring us of the boundless liberality with which our Father will reward our unselfish love. Vs.35-38.
The second portion of the main discussion, vs.39-45, dwells still more definitely upon the fault of unkindly judgments to which Jesus had just referred and which constitutes such a common infraction of the law of love. A man who is unkind in his criticisms and unconscious of his own faults cannot help his fellow man; he is like a blind man trying to lead the blind, like one in whose eye there is a beam trying to help one in whose eye there is a mote. As good fruit is produced only by good trees, only out of hearts full of love can real helpfulness come.
To warn men against calling themselves Christians while they do not observe the law of love, and to encourage his disciples in faithfully keeping his commandments, Jesus concluded this sermon with the familiar figure of the two houses, founded one upon the sand and the other upon the rock. Amid the storms and tempests and floods of the time of judgment, only the latter will stand secure.
3. The Centurion of Capernaum. Ch.7:1-10
1 After he had ended all his sayings in the ears of the people, he entered into Capernaum.
2 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick and at the point of death.3 And when he heard concerning Jesus, he sent unto him elders of the Jews, asking him that he would come and save his servant.4 And they, when they came to Jesus, besought him earnestly, saying, He is worthy that thou shouldest do this for him; 5 for he loveth our nation, and himself built us our synagogue.6 And Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: 7 wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say the word, and my servant shall be healed.8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to this one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.9 And when Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned and said unto the multitude that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole.
No more perfect picture of faith has been recorded than that in which Luke sketches the centurion of Capernaum who sent to Jesus the request to heal a favorite servant then lying at the door of death. This military commander, a heathen by birth, was evidently a man of the same high character as is attributed in the New Testament to all soldiers of a similar rank. It may be helpful to notice some features of his faith which was so great that our Lord |marvelled at him.| First of all, the centurion was confident that Jesus could cure, because of what he had heard concerning our Lord. This is the very essence of faith, namely belief founded upon evidence. Faith is not credulity or fancy or caprice; it is a purely rational exercise of the mind; it is reasoning from the reports of credible witnesses. The centurion had heard enough of the power and goodness of Jesus to convince him of his ability to heal. Unbelief in the face of evidence is stupidity or sin.
Again, the centurion revealed the sincerity of true faith. He had accepted light as far as this had been revealed. He had been attracted by the pure worship of Judaism and had shown his sympathy with its adherents by building for them a synagogue. When one lives in accordance with the light he has, more light is sure to break.
Then again, he revealed the humility of faith. He regarded himself as unworthy to come into the presence of Jesus to present his request; and when Jesus offered to come to his home, he sent word that he was not worthy to have the Master come under his roof.
Most explicitly of all, he expressed the trust in Christ and the dependence upon his power which characterize true faith. He said that it was unnecessary for Jesus to come to his house; as a soldier and an officer he knew what could be accomplished by a word of command; he knew what it was to obey and to be obeyed, and he had accredited to Jesus such control over the unseen powers of disease that he sent his surprising message, |But say the word, and my servant shall be healed.| It was just this aspect of his faith which so impressed our Lord, and it is such humble trust that he still regards with favor and is certain to reward. It is not strange that they |that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole,| or that Luke rejoiced to tell this story which reveals belief in Christ on the part of one who was found outside of Israel, a belief which was prophetic of the blessings which faith was to bring to men of all the nations in the world.
4. Jesus Raising the Widow's Son. Ch.7:11-17
11 And it came to pass soon afterwards, that he went to a city called Nain; and his disciples went with him, and a great multitude.12 Now when he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, there was carried out one that was dead, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city were with her.13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.14 And he came nigh and touched the bier: and the bearers stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.16 And fear took hold on all: and they glorified God, saying, A great prophet is arisen among us: and, God hath visited his people.17 And this report went forth concerning him in the whole of Judaea, and all the region round about.
If it was the purpose of Luke to impress upon his readers the sympathy and tenderness of the Man Christ Jesus, it is easy to understand why he alone of all the evangelists records this touching story of the raising from the dead of the son of the widow of Nain. No picture could be more full of pity and compassion. Jesus had not been asked to perform the miracle; he was moved wholly by the mute appeal of human sorrow and distress. As he drew near to the gate of the little city, he met the sad procession wending its way out to the place of burial. He was touched by the tears of the lonely mother who had lost her only son; moved with deep compassion he spoke to her the word of hope, |Weep not.| Then he came near and touched the bier on which the lifeless body was being borne. It was a sign more eloquent than a spoken word. Then came the command: |Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.| In view of such miracles, possibly we dwell too exclusively upon their purpose as authenticating the mission of Jesus, or as demonstrating his divine message. These purposes are real, but we must never forget that such works were also manifestations of the nature of the ministry of Jesus and revelations of the very heart of God. Such recitals dry the tears of mourners and bind up broken hearts and inspire the despondent with eternal hope. Surely Jesus is the Lord of life and he will yet wipe away all tears from the eyes of those that trust him.
5. Jesus Praising John. Ch.7:18-35
18 And the disciples of John told him of all these things.19 and John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to the Lord, saying, Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? 20 And when the men were come unto him, they said, John the Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? 21 In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits; and on many that were blind he bestowed sight.22 And, he answered and said unto them, Go and tell John the things which ye have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good tidings preached to them.23 And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me.
24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to behold? a reed shaken with the wind? 25 But what went ye out to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts.26 But what went ye out to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.27 This is he of whom it is written,
Behold, I send my messenger before thy face,
Who shall prepare thy way before thee.
28 I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there is none greater than John: yet he that is but little in the kingdom of God is greater than he.29 And all the people when they heard, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized of him.31 Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation, and to what are they like? 32 They are like unto children that sit in the marketplace, and call one to another; who say, We piped unto you, and ye did not dance; we wailed, and ye did not weep.33 For John the Baptist is came eating no bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a demon.34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold, a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! 35 And wisdom is justified of all her children.
Due to the darkness of his dungeon or to the long delay of Jesus in fulfilling his cherished hopes, the mind of John the Baptist became clouded with doubt and he sent messengers to Jesus to ask whether or not he was really the Messiah whom John had declared him to be, |Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another?| John had not lost faith in God or in his promises; he believed that if Jesus were not the Messiah, the Messiah was still to come.
The Master lovingly reassured his great herald by sending back the report of the mighty works which he was accomplishing. John was already familiar with these acts but the recital must have dispelled his fears. Jesus sympathizes with us also in our hours of darkness, but his relief usually consists in reminding us of facts we already know concerning his power and love and presence and the truths of his written Word.
Jesus, however, does not praise us for our doubts; he sent to John a gentle and loving rebuke: |And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me.| This benediction he pronounces upon all who in spite of darkness, imprisonment, delay, and mystery still confidently put their trust in him.
It was upon this occasion when John seems to have failed that Jesus pronounced upon him unparalleled praise, declaring that |among them that are born of women there is none greater than John.| He vindicated this deliberate judgment and thereby, showed wherein true greatness lies. He spoke first of the character of John and then of his career. He praised the man and then the messenger. He described his moral and then his official greatness.
His expression as to the character of John is voiced by two questions, to each of which a negative answer of course must be given: first, |What went ye out into the wilderness to behold? a reed shaken with the wind?| Surely true greatness does not lie in the moral cowardice which bends before every breeze; quite on the contrary, John was like a rock which no storm could move.
Then there was a second question: |What went ye out to see? a man clothed in soft raiment?| Surely greatness does not lie along the line of self-gratification and indulgence. John endured all hardships and was oblivious to all human delights because he was so devoted to his divine task. Courage and consecration -- these constitute prime factors in moral greatness.
The real greatness of John consisted, however, in his mission. Jesus declared that he was the messenger whom Malachi had predicted should prepare the way of the Lord. Other prophets had appeared and had predicted the coming of the Messiah. It was given to John not only to declare that the Christ would come, but to point to him and to say, |Behold, the Lamb of God! ... this is the Son of God.| No greater dignity had ever been conferred upon a human soul; and no higher privilege can now be enjoyed than that of turning the thoughts and hearts of men to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. The present followers of Christ have a larger knowledge of him than was possessed by John. What their relative positions will be in the glory of the perfected Kingdom will depend upon the comparative faithfulness with which they serve their Master.
The praise of John is sharply contrasted with the condemnation of the Pharisees which Jesus now turned to express. He declared that these professed leaders were like children sitting in the market place, complaining one to another that they are willing to play neither at mock funerals nor at mock weddings, for when John came they refused to follow him because his aspect and message were too severe, and when Christ came they criticized him as being too genial, |a friend of publicans and sinners.| The trouble with the Pharisees was that they made an excuse of the demeanor of John and the conduct of Jesus for refusing what was essential in their mission and message. They were unwilling to repent at the command of John or to put their trust in Christ in response to his promise of grace and life. Thus some men are still refusing to accept the salvation which is offered because of something in Christianity which is purely external, while they fail to appreciate its true essence; but there were those in the days of Jesus, and there are those to-day who are willing to accept both the call to repentance and the offer of life, |And wisdom is justified of all her children.|
6. A Sinful Woman Forgiven. Ch.7:36-50
36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he entered into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.37 And behold, a woman who was in the city, a sinner; and when she knew that he was sitting at meat in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster cruse of ointment, 38 and standing behind at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with ointment.39 Now when the Pharisee that had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have perceived who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, that she is a sinner.40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Teacher, say on.41 A certain lender had two debtors: the one owed five hundred shillings, and the other fifty.42 When they had not wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. Which of them therefore will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, He, I suppose, to whom he forgave the most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.44 And turning to the woman, he said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thy house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath wetted my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair.45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but she, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet.46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but she hath anointed my feet with ointment.47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that even forgiveth sins? 50 And he said unto the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
The Gospel of Luke appears to place special emphasis upon the grace and forgiveness manifested by Jesus. It alone records his sympathy with the sorrowing widow of Nain, and it is also alone in expressing the sympathy which Jesus felt for the sinful woman who anointed his feet in the house of Simon, the Pharisee. It is a picture, however, not only of the loving mercy of our Lord, but of the unbounded gratitude felt by one who truly appreciated the priceless gift of his pardoning grace.
By an unfortunate error of interpretation this woman has been confused with Mary of Magdala or with Mary of Bethany. These three persons should be, however, absolutely distinct. It is true that Jesus delivered the first of these from demoniac possession, and that the second, like the woman in this story, anointed his feet with perfume, but there is every reason for believing that of the three only this woman was reputed to be a sinner. She seems to have met Jesus on some previous occasion, to have repented of her sins, and to have received from the Lord his word of forgiveness.
It was her gratitude which gave her courage to enter unbidden into the house of Simon, where Jesus was being entertained as a guest. She had come to anoint his feet but as she beheld him, she thought again of her sins and her hot tears of penitence fell upon the feet of her Lord. She hastily unbound her hair and with it dried his feet and then poured upon them a flask of fragrant ointment. No truer expression could have been given to her gratitude and passionate devotion. The fact that Jesus allowed a woman of such notorious character to express her love for him made Simon conclude that Jesus could not be a prophet, for otherwise he would have been able to discern the nature of so depraved a woman.
By his reply Jesus showed his ability to read even the secret thoughts of his host. The words of Jesus not only answered the silent criticism of Simon but also rebuked him for his own impenitence and lack of faith. Jesus proposed to his host a parable of two forgiven debtors, illustrating the fact that gratitude depends upon the realization of the amount which has been forgiven, and then he applied this principle to Simon and to the woman whom Simon had been regarding with scorn. Jesus showed how keenly he had felt the lack of love shown him by his host, and he contrasted it with the affection shown by the woman. When he had entered the house Simon had neglected the customary service of providing a bath for his feet; the woman had washed his feet with her tears. Simon had withheld the kiss with which a host usually welcomed his guests; the woman had passionately kissed his feet. Simon had not furnished the perfume with which it was usual to anoint an honored guest; the woman had come to the house with the special purpose of pouring fragrant oil upon the feet of her Lord.
In view of the parable the message of Jesus is plain, |Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much; but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.| Jesus did not mean to say that until now she had not been pardoned, nor yet that her pardon was conditioned upon her love. He meant that her love resulted from her pardon, and his words have been rightfully interpreted thus: |I say unto thee that her many sins are forgiven, as thou mayest infer from this exhibition of her love.| The remainder of the sentence was devoted to Simon, |To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.| The words do not prove that Simon had been pardoned; they rather indicate that his lack of love had proved his lack of penitence and so of forgiveness. Jesus then turned to the woman with a word of benediction: |Thy sins are forgiven.| He thus assured her of the pardon previously granted, but still more he vindicated her in the eyes of the guests and assured them of the new life upon which the woman already had entered. They marveled as they heard him pronouncing pardon. That is a divine function; but the ideal Man whose sympathy Luke records was likewise the Son of God. Last of all, Jesus turned to the woman with the final word of blessing: |Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.| This is a clear statement of the fact that faith had secured pardon and pardon had awakened gratitude and gratitude had been expressed by a deed of devoted love. Such a penitent can rightfully go away |into peace,| that is, to its present and continual enjoyment.
7. The Ministering Women. Ch.8:1-3
1 And it came to pass soon afterwards, that he went about through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good tidings of the kingdom of God, and with him the twelve, 2 and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary that was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna the wife of Chuzas Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, who ministered unto them of their substance.
Luke writes the Gospel of womanhood. He alone records those tender incidents in the lives of Elisabeth, Mary, and Anna which are associated with the infancy of Jesus; he alone tells us of the widow of Nain whose son Jesus restored to life; of the woman bowed down by Satan but relieved by Jesus; of the penitent sinner who anointed his feet; of the domestic scene in the home of Mary and Martha; of the woman who congratulated the mother of Jesus; and of the women who condoled with him on his way to the cross. Perhaps most significant of all is the statement of Luke that as Jesus and his apostles moved about Galilee preaching the gospel, they were attended by a company of women |who ministered unto them of their substance.|
Among these women Luke mentions |Mary that was called Magdalene,| probably so designated from the town of Magdala where formerly she had lived. By this title she was distinguished from Mary the mother of Jesus, from Mary of Bethany, and from other women of this same name.
It is a cruel error to confuse her with the sinful woman of whom Luke has just been writing. Mary had suffered from demon possession, as here stated, but there is nothing in the Gospels to indicate that she had ever been a woman of notoriously evil life.
Luke also mentions Joanna, whose husband, Chuzas, had charge of the household and personal estates of King Herod, evidently then a woman of some social standing; but of her and her companions nothing further is known, excepting this important fact, that their motive in ministering to the Master was that of gratitude; they |had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities.|
This statement by Luke is brief but illuminating. It throws light upon an interesting question to which no other answer is given in the Gospels: How did Jesus and his followers secure financial support during the years of his ministry? Evidently those who had received from him spiritual help gladly supplied his temporal wants and rendered to him all needful service. Thus this passage indicates not only what Jesus did for women, but what women did for him. It suggests a question: Who can estimate how far the gifts and sacrifices of grateful women have been making possible, through the passing ages, the preaching of the gospel in all the world?
8. The Parable of the Sower. Ch.8:4-18
4 And when a great multitude came together, and they of every city resorted unto him, he spake by a parable: 5 The sower went forth to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden under foot, and the birds of the heaven devoured it.6 And other fell on the rock; and as soon as it grew, it withered away, because it had no moisture.7 And other fell amidst the thorns; and the thorns grew with it, and choked it.8 And other fell into the good ground, and grew, and brought forth fruit a hundredfold. As he said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
9 And his disciples asked him what this parable might be.10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to the rest in parables; that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.12 And those by the way side are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved.13 And those on the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.14 And that which fell among the thorns, these are they that have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.15 And that in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience.
16 And no man, when he hath lighted a lamp, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but putteth it on a stand, that they that enter in may see the light.17 For nothing is hid, that shall not be made manifest; nor anything secret, that shall not be known and come to light.18 Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he thinketh he hath.
Because of its greater length and more elaborate workmanship and greater fullness of detail, this story of the sower is rightly regarded as the first parable of our Lord, even though he had previously used brief illustrations which were designated by the same name. Parables henceforth formed a prominent part of his teaching, and that he was now beginning a somewhat new method of instruction is evident from the fact that the disciples now asked him to explain his meaning, v.9, and from the fact that he here gave the reason for the use of all his parables. This reason is twofold: these inimitable illustrations would enable those who were attentive and rightly disposed toward him to remember more easily the teachings of the Master; while to inattentive or hostile minds the meaning would be veiled. V.10. This twofold purpose met the demands of the crisis which had arisen, due on the one hand to the increasing popularity of Jesus' teachings and on the other to the murderous hatred and dark plots of the Pharisees and scribes.
The parable of the Sower thus forms a proper introduction to all the parables for they are vehicles of truth, and our Lord here made it clear that the effect of truth depends upon the spiritual state of the hearers. This is sometimes called the parable of the Soils, for it illustrates the various states of heart found among men to whom the Christian message comes.
In some cases |the word of God,| whether preached by Christ or by his followers, falls on hearts which are pictured by the hard-trodden footpath which runs through the field of grain. No possible impression can be made. The Word finds no entrance and Satan snatches it away as a bird picks up the grain which falls by the wayside. Faith and salvation cannot result.
Other hearers are compared to the thin layer of earth which covers a ledge of stone. Seed which falls into such soil springs up most quickly because warmed by the underlying rock; but as the roots cannot strike downward, the grain soon withers beneath the scorching sun. So there are hearers who receive with joy the message of life, but when subjected to the persecution and trials which followers of Christ must endure, they quickly desert his cause.
Other hearers are compared to seed which falls where thorns are growing. This seed springs into life but it has not room for development. It is robbed by the thorns of its needed nourishment. Thus some Christians are so preoccupied by |cares and riches and pleasures| that they can bear no spiritual fruit.
There are those, however, who are like seed which fell on |good ground| and |brought forth fruit a hundredfold;| they receive the truth |in an honest and good heart| and patiently and perseveringly they produce in their lives a golden harvest of grain.
The great message of the parable is summarized in the words of our Lord, |Take heed therefore how ye hear.| V.18. The purpose of his parables, as of all his teachings, was to give spiritual light. Those who love him and obey his word will have their understanding quickened and their knowledge increased; but one who is careless or disobedient to the truth, will lose |even that which he thinketh he hath.| It is a great privilege to hear the gospel of Christ, but it involves a great responsibility as well.
9. Kinship with Jesus. Ch.8:19-21
19 And there came to him his mother and brethren, and they could not come at him for the crowd.20 And it was told him, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee.21 But he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these that hear the word of God, and do it.
It is only from the other Gospels that we learn the exact nature and purpose of the visit paid to Jesus by his mother and brethren. Luke does not reveal the fact that it occasioned one of the most delicate and difficult dilemmas by which our Lord was ever confronted. The real purpose of these relatives was to interrupt his work. They feared that his mind was unbalanced and they wished to take him home. Should Jesus repudiate them, or should he allow his work needlessly to be interrupted? This situation Luke does not sketch, but he does state clearly the impressive message which Jesus found occasion to deliver. When Jesus was told that these relatives desired to see him, he pointed to his disciples with the reply, |My mother and my brethren are these that hear the word of God, and do it.| Thus Luke connects this incident with the parable of the Sower which he has just related. The parable shows the need of careful attention to the gospel truth, and, according to Luke's account of this incident, the same fact is emphasized, namely, the blessed result of heeding the divine Word. According to the statement of Christ, such obedience to him and such true discipleship as was shown by his followers results in a relationship with him more intimate and close than is secured by any human ties. This spiritual kinship is more vital than any relationship of blood or of nature. It results in a fellowship, at once blessed and forever abiding, which is possible for all. The reply of our Lord could not have offended his brethren even though it did contain a delicate rebuke. Only those have a right to claim relationship with him who submit to him as their Lord and are ready to do his will.
10. Jesus Stilling the Storm. Ch.8:22-25
22 Now it came to pass on one of those days, that he entered into a boat, himself and his disciples; and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake: and they launched forth.23 But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.24 And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. And he awoke, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.25 And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And being afraid they marvelled, saying one to another, Who then is this, that he commandeth even the winds and the water, and they obey him?
Storms were common on the surface of the little lake which Jesus so often crossed with his disciples; and storms are still frequent in the lives of his followers. To accompany the Master does not exempt us from struggles and tempests, from dark skies and angry waves. This, however, was no usual storm. Even the sturdy fishermen of Galilee, who were familiar with all the changeful moods of that inland sea, were filled with terror. Jesus at the time was quietly resting and had fallen asleep in what seemed to his followers to be an hour of greatest peril.
Their fear may have been foolish but it was wise in them to come to the Master in their moment of pressing need. They awoke him with the cry, |Master, master, we perish.| The followers of Christ are not saved from encountering storms but in the hour of peril they should be comforted by his presence and they can ever turn to him for relief. |He awoke, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.| Then when he had rebuked the disordered elements Jesus turned to rebuke his followers, |Where is your faith?| He did not find fault with them for awakening him, or for crying out for help; he rebuked only their lack of trust which should have relieved them from distress of mind while he was so near and so abundantly able to save. Such a miracle must have strengthened their faith but its first effect was to fill them with wonder and with awe. Every new manifestation of his power came as a surprise to these disciples, and now for the first time they saw his control over the blind forces of nature; thus once again they felt themselves in the presence not only of a perfect Man -- but of One who was divine.
11. A Demoniac Healed. Ch.8:26-39
26 And they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is over against Galilee.27 And when he was come forth upon the land, there met him a certain man out of the city, who had demons; and for a long time he had worn no clothes, and abode not in any house, but in the tombs.28 And when he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the Most High God? I beseech thee, torment me not.29 For he was commanding the unclean spirit to come out from the man. For often-times it had seized him: and he was kept under guard, and bound with chains and fetters; and breaking the bands asunder, he was driven of the demon into the desert.30 And Jesus asked him, What is thy name? And he said, Legion; for many demons were entered into him.31 And they entreated him that he would not command them to depart into the abyss.32 Now there was there a herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they entreated him that he would give them leave to enter into them. And he gave them leave.33 And the demons came out from the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd rushed down the steep into the lake, and were drowned.34 And when they that fed them saw what had come to pass, they fled, and told it in the city and in the country.35 And they went out to see what had come to pass; and they came to Jesus, and found the man, from whom the demons were gone out, sitting, clothed and in his right mind, at the feet of Jesus: and they were afraid.36 And they that saw it told them how he that was possessed with demons was made whole.37 And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes round about asked him to depart from them; for they were holden with great fear: and he entered into a boat, and returned.38 But the man from whom the demons were gone out prayed him that he might be with him: but he sent him away, saying, 39 Return to thy house, and declare how great things God hath done for thee. And he went his way, publishing throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done for him.
The sufferings of a demoniac were so similar to those of mental disease that by many they are regarded as identical. Those who observe the distinction are faced with a further problem as to whether demon possession exists at the present day. What is most important of all is to note the exact parallel existing between the demoniacs described in the New Testament and those persons who at all times are tormented by envy and lust and anger and greed and other evil passions which dominate the human soul.
On the eastern shore of the Lake of Gennesaret Jesus was encountered by a man whose suffering and nakedness are types of the anguish and shamelessness of sin. He could not be controlled; he was dwelling among the tombs, and these, too, are pictures of the helplessness and loneliness and hopelessness which evil passions produce. Most of all it is interesting to note that while the demon cried out in dread, the man drew near to Jesus, really hoping for help. The experience was like that of those who suffer from mental disease where a dual consciousness is manifested. Likewise most of us have experienced such a conflict of desires; we have longed for liberty at the very moment when we have felt the controlling power of some passion. Some tell us that we must cease to love the sin before Christ will give us help, but this picture sketched by Luke gives a more hopeful message. It intimates that as we cry out for relief, or even before we speak, Jesus sees the heart and recognizes the longing and assures release.
Jesus asked the sufferer for his name. He wished the real man to be awakened and to be conscious of the distinction between himself and the evil spirit by which he was possessed. The reply of the demoniac was full of pathos. He declared that his name was |Legion,| the reason assigned being that |many demons were entered into him.| His case was particularly desperate; but the evil spirits realized that they stood before One whose power was absolute. Certain that they were to be expelled from the sufferer, they asked permission to enter into a herd of swine which was feeding on the mountain side. A question has often been raised as to why Jesus granted this request. Probably one reason was that the sight which followed assured the sufferer of his cure; another may have been that the destruction of the herd would give to the men of the region an arresting message both of their own peril and of the power of Christ. However, when |They went out to see what had come to pass,| they were full of terror and they requested Jesus to leave their land. They were evidently more concerned for the beasts which had been lost than for the soul that had been saved, when they saw their countryman sitting clothed and in his right mind as a disciple at the feet of Jesus. Their request was granted; our Lord never continues the gracious manifestations of his presence when these are not desired. However, he refused the request of the man whom he had healed. The latter wished to accompany Jesus as he entered the boat to cross to the other side of the lake; but Jesus bade him to remain as a witness for Christ in his own home and among his own people. It is ever the desire of the Master that the testimony of those who have known his power should be given first to those by whom they are best known.
12. The Daughter of Jairus and the Woman with an Issue of Blood. Ch.8:40-56
40 And as Jesus returned, the multitude welcomed him; for they were all waiting for him.41 And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him to come into his house; 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. But as he went the multitudes thronged him.
43 And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, who had spent all her living upon physicians, and could not be healed of any, 44 came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately the issue of her blood stanched.45 And Jesus said, Who is it that touched me? And when all denied, Peter said, and they that were with him, Master, the multitudes press thee and crush thee.46 But Jesus said, Some one did touch me; for I perceived that power had gone forth from me.47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people for what cause she touched him, and how she was healed immediately.48 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
49 While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Teacher.50 But Jesus hearing it, answered him, Fear not: only believe, and she shall be made whole.51 And when he came to the house, he suffered not any man to enter in with him, save Peter, and John, and James, and the father of the maiden and her mother.52 And all were weeping, and bewailing her: but he said, Weep not; for she is not dead, but sleepeth.53 And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.54 But he, taking her by the hand, called, saying, Maiden, arise.55 And her spirit returned, and she rose up immediately: and he commanded that something be given her to eat.56 And her parents were amazed: but he charged them to tell no man what had been done.
As Jesus returned to Capernaum after curing the demoniac across the lake, he was welcomed by a great multitude in the midst of which were two sufferers for whom the Saviour showed his sympathy as he perfected their faith and relieved their distress. They were strangely contrasted in circumstances, alike only in their desperate need. One was Jairus, a man of prominence in his community, |a ruler of the synagogue,| a person of comparative wealth and power and social position, whose home for twelve years had been brightened by the presence of a little daughter, an only child, who was now lying at the point of death.
The other was a woman, poor, weak, ceremonially unclean, friendless, who for twelve years had been suffering from an incurable disease and who knew that by no human power could her life be prolonged.
As Jesus was starting for the home of Jairus this woman came up behind him, touched the border of his garment, and was instantly healed. Her faith was imperfect but it was real. She had supposed the power of Christ to be merely magical and mechanical. Jesus showed that it is inseparable from divine knowledge and love. He had felt the touch of her trembling finger. He had distinguished it from the press of the jostling throng; and now for her own sake he required the woman |in the presence of all the people| to acknowledge her cure. Jesus would have us know that faith is a dependence upon his gracious person and purpose, and also that only after public confession of our relation to him can we receive the assurance that we are saved and can hear his blessed word, |Thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.|
The faith of Jairus was likewise imperfect. It was more intelligent than the faith of the woman but it fell short of that revealed by the centurion in the same city who felt it unnecessary for Jesus to come to his house but only to speak a word and a cure would be effected. Nevertheless this faith was genuine and so Jesus strengthened it and rewarded it. The very fact that Jesus started toward his home was reassuring to the father, but his faith was tested by the delay caused in curing the woman. However, it was also strengthened by this proof of divine wisdom and power. Most terribly was his faith tested by the message which then reached him, |Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Teacher.| Yet again, it was confirmed by the word of Jesus, |Fear not: only believe, and she shall be made whole.| As he entered the house, Jesus spoke another word which rebuked the faithless mourners and cheered the agonized parents, |Weep not; for she is not dead, but sleepeth.| He meant that in his presence and in virtue of his power death loses its reality and is robbed of its victory. Nor has the word lost its meaning and its comfort for the followers of Christ during all the subsequent years.
Jesus showed clearly what he meant as he took into the death chamber his three closest friends and the two trembling parents, as he stood before the sleeping child and |taking her by the hand, called, saying Maiden, arise. And her spirit returned, and she rose up immediately: and he commanded that something be given her to eat.| The record indicates the supreme thoughtfulness and tenderness of the Master. He took with him only three disciples for he would not have the awakened child terrified by the sight of more strangers. When the miracle had been performed he requested that the little girl should be given food; this was for her own comfort but also to break for the parents the spell of awe and terror which had been cast upon them by the presence of death, and also as a proof not only that life had returned but also that complete recovery from disease had been secured. One other command is recorded, |He charged them to tell no man what had been done.| The three disciples would be competent witnesses of the miracle but a widespread report by the parents and their friends might arouse such an outburst of excitement as to interrupt his work and precipitate a crisis before the earthly ministry of our Lord was complete.