1. The Samaritan Leper. Ch.17:11-19
11 And it came to pass, as they were on the way to Jerusalem, that he was passing along the borders of Samaria and Galilee.12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off: 13 and they lifted up their voices, saying, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go and show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were cleansed.15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, with a loud voice glorifying God; 16 and he fell upon his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.17 And Jesus answering said, Were not the ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 Were there none found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger? 19 And he said unto him, Arise, and go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
The healing of ten lepers begins the closing cycle of incidents which marked the last journeys of Jesus toward Jerusalem. It is quite like Luke to record this miracle, for the chief feature of the story is the gratitude and the blessing of a Samaritan, and Luke is ever describing Jesus as the Saviour, not only of the Jews, but of the whole human race.
There is in this miracle, however, another peculiar feature; before the lepers were cured they were bidden to go to the priests and to declare that the cure had been effected, and |As they went, they were cleansed.| It required no little faith to start upon that journey; but they started, and their faith was rewarded. So to-day when men come to Christ with their request to be delivered from sin, he commands them to act as though the petition already were granted, and with the act of faith comes the answer to the prayer. The command of Christ involved a promise and upon his promises we can always rely with absolute safety.
One of the lepers |When he saw that he was healed, turned back, with a loud voice glorifying God; and he fell upon his face at his feet, giving thanks: and he was a Samaritan.| There is something of surprise and sadness in the question of Jesus as he saw this restored leper lying at his feet: |Were not the ten cleansed? but where are the nine? Were there none found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger?| It is always surprising to find that ingratitude is so common among men. Nine out of ten probably will forget every favor they may receive. It is rare that one realizes and acknowledges his debt. Still more sad it is to see so few among those who have accepted the salvation of Christ showing real gratitude in lives of joyous service and declaring that they are constrained to live for him who died for them.
There was, however, for the Samaritan a glad word of blessed assurance and promise, |Arise, and go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.| Jesus either meant to call attention to the means of the cure, namely faith in himself, and so to nurture that germ of new life into fuller trust in his divine person; or he meant to say that the faith which first had secured the healing of the body and which was manifested in the man's return and his gratitude now secured for him the salvation of his soul. In either case we are reminded that gratitude is often found where least it is expected; that it is always pleasing to our Lord; and that it is the certain condition of further blessedness and joy.
2. The Coming of the Kingdom. Ch.17:20-37
20 And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God cometh, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you.
22 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.23 And they shall say to you, Lo, there! Lo, here! go not away, nor follow after them: 24 for as the lightning, when it lighteneth out of the one part under the heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall the Son of man be in his day.25 But first must he suffer many things and be rejected of this generation.26 And as it came to pass in the days of Noah, even so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.27 They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.28 Likewise even as it came to pass in the days of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29 but in the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all: 30 after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed.31 In that day, he that shall be on the housetop, and his goods in the house, let him not go down to take them away: and let him that is in the field likewise not return back.32 Remember Lot's wife.33 Whosoever shall seek to gain his life shall lose it: but whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.34 I say unto you, In that night there shall be two men on one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.35 There shall be two women grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.37 And they answering say unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Where the body is, thither will the eagles also be gathered together.
Either in mere curiosity or with a desire for debate the Pharisees approached Jesus with a question as to when the Kingdom of God would come. Jesus replied that it would not come in such manner as they were expecting, nor would it appear as a visible development of which they could say, |It is here,| or |there,| for, in the person of the King, it was already |in the midst| of them and they did not recognize it. Thus when Jesus said, |The kingdom of God is within you,| he could hardly have meant that it was in the hearts of the hostile and godless Pharisees; nor is the familiar and beautiful conception of the Kingdom as |a reign of God in human hearts| thus expressed in the New Testament. Jesus more probably meant that in his own person and work the Kingdom was present. The essence of this Kingdom is always spiritual and consists in |righteousness and peace and joy.| It is to have, however, a future, visible manifestation at the appearing of the King. The question as to the time and manner of its coming is not to be asked either to satisfy mere curiosity or to arouse controversy; for men of the world, like the Pharisees, the important fact is that Christ, who is ever a divine and spiritual presence, is to be accepted as Master and Lord; his service always issues in new and more blessed life.
To the disciples, who trusted him, it was possible for Jesus to answer more in detail the question as to the coming of the Kingdom which is to be inaugurated in splendor on his return. He told them that they must expect first a period of long delay in which their weary hearts would often yearn for a single day of the coming glory and that many deceivers would point to places and times of his appearing. However, when he did appear it would be with suddenness and unmistakable splendor, like the lightning which in an instant flashes across the whole heaven.
First, however, this King who will then come to reign must suffer and die; and the world which has rejected him will not be expecting his return. When he does reappear the race will be in the same carnal security, careless and indifferent and absorbed in the usual occupations of life, as were the men in the time of the Flood or the inhabitants of Sodom in the day of its doom.
On the contrary, those who are to share the glories of the Kingdom must be looking for their returning Lord. Their proper attitude of mind is pictured by a series of acts; one who is on the housetop is not to come down to secure his goods; one in the field will not return to his house; they will not look backward, but will go forth eagerly to meet their Master in whom alone is their safety and their hope.
It will be a time of certain separations even for those most closely related; for example, two men will be sleeping in the same bed: one will be taken and the other left; two women will be sharing a common task: one will be taken and the other left. This word |taken| is the same beautiful expression found in the Gospel of John, where is recorded Jesus' promise, |I ... will receive you unto myself.| It speaks of the peace and joy and blessedness of those who gladly welcome the coming of the King.
At a question from the disciples as to where such judgment would take place, our Lord replied that it will be universal; wherever the carcass is there the vultures will be gathered together; where there is corruption and sin, there will judgment fall. Yet this judgment will be followed by the splendor of the Kingdom for which the followers of Christ watch and pray and labor and wait.
3. The Unrighteous Judge. Ch.18:1-8
1 And he spake a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2 saying, There was in a city a judge, who feared not God, and regarded not man: 3 and there was a widow in that city; and she came oft unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest she wear me out by her continual coming.6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unrighteous judge saith.7 And shall not God avenge his elect, that cry to him day and night, and yet he is longsuffering over them? 8 I say unto you, that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
The parable of the Unrighteous Judge was spoken in direct connection with the instructions given to the disciples by their Master in reference to his return. It is, therefore, not merely a general exhortation to prayer, but to prayer for the coming of Christ, and more specifically to the confident expectation of this event and of the blessedness which will result.
It does, however, contain a very real encouragement to prayer and for all Christians and at all times. The argument is this: If an unjust judge, who has regard for neither God nor man, would yield to the importunity of an unknown widow because he feared that she would annoy him by her repeated requests, how much more will a just God be ready to reward the persevering petitions of his own loved ones who cry to him continually!
In spite of all the mysteries involved, the followers of Christ should pray without ceasing, and with all importunity should present their petitions with the assurance that God does hear and in his own time will answer.
The particular force of the parable relates, however, to the Church in her conscious weakness and loneliness, in the age between the crucifixion and the second coming of Christ. Jesus had just given a description of the world at the time of his return. He had pictured the prevalent carelessness and indifference and absorption in earthly pursuits, and now he wished to encourage his followers to be patient and to turn their hearts toward him in expectation and prayer. The widow in the parable is not so much requesting that an enemy should be punished as that she should be given her property rights for which she is applying to the judge. So the Church is pictured, not simply as crying for vengeance upon persecutors, but rather as longing and praying for all those blessings which have been promised and which will be received at the coming of the Lord.
There is a deep mournfulness in the question which Jesus asked after expounding his parable, |Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?| Will there still remain those who are true to Christ, who love him and are looking for his return? The very question is a solemn warning against the peril of being overcome by prevalent worldliness and unbelief. However, the answer is not to be given in a spirit of hopelessness and pessimism and despair. The Church will always have her adversaries, she ever will need to be on her guard against the worldly influences by which she is surrounded. However, there will always be those who are true to him who has chosen them out of the world, and after long days of weary waiting their hearts will rejoice in the sudden appearing of the righteous judge who will bring with him glories brighter than they have dared to ask or to expect.
4. The Pharisee and the Publican. Ch.18:9-14
9 And he spake also this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and set all others at nought: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.12 I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get.13 But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God, be thou merciful to me a sinner.14 I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled: but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican was designed to teach humility not only in prayer but in every estimate of oneself and in every approach to God. It further contrasts the religion of form with the religion of the heart. It shows that the way of penitence is the only path to pardon and to peace.
It was not addressed to Pharisees, although it is a severe exposure of the hypocrisy and self-deception of Pharisaism of every kind. Jesus seems rather to have had in mind some of his own followers; but whatever their class or profession, Pharisees have their representatives in every age and land. They are described as |certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and set all others at nought.|
Such, indeed, was the Pharisee here described. He had gone up to the Temple to pray; he stood in some conspicuous place; he addressed God but he uttered no true prayer. He began by saying, |I thank thee,| but he really addressed himself. He rejoiced that in comparison with other men he formed a class by himself. He declared all others to be |extortioners, unjust, adulterers,| and as an example of such sinners he pointed to the poor publican at whom he was looking instead of looking to God. He boasted that he had refrained from the sins of other men and also that he had performed more good deeds than the law required. Moses instituted no obligatory fast; but the Pharisee fasted twice in the week. Moses exempted certain things from the tithe; the Pharisee had tithed his entire income. In other words, he had been better than God required. He had placed God under obligation to him. How little does such a man understand the real holiness of God, of the requirements of that law the essence of which is love!
In striking contrast the publican was standing at a respectful distance from the supposed saint whose formal piety had impressed his fellow men. He did not venture even to look toward heaven. He beat upon his breast, as a sign of mourning, and cried out in anguish, |God, be thou merciful to me a sinner.| The original words seem to imply that he regarded himself as likewise distinct from all other men. He felt and confessed himself to be |the sinner;| but as he acknowledged his guilt and turned to God in penitence, he was accepted as righteous in the sight of God and received pardon and peace.
There can be no misunderstanding as to the lesson which the Master wished to impress. |This man went down to his house justified rather than the other.| A sense of guilt and a yearning for pardon and a cry to God for mercy -- this is the very beginning of a new life; and however far one may progress in holiness there is ever need of similar humility. The nearer one is to God, the more conscious is he of his sinfulness and the less likely to boast of his own moral attainments. The more one acknowledges his unworthiness, the better is he prepared to serve his Master and his fellow men. The pride of Pharisaism on the part of nations, as well as in the lives of individuals, stands in the way of helpfulness and brotherhood and the favor of God. What is needed to-day is universal repentance, a manifestation of the humble and the contrite heart; |For every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.|
5. Jesus Receiving Little Children. Ch.18:15-17
15 And they were bringing unto him also their babes, that he should touch them: but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.16 But Jesus called them unto him saying, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for to such belongeth the kingdom of God.17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein.
This charming picture of Jesus blessing little children is sketched by Matthew and Mark as well as by Luke. Its attractiveness has given it a place on the canvas of many an artist. Its symbolic message is being accepted by the modern Church, |They were bringing unto him also their babes.| The parents were probably carrying these children in their arms. They realized that not only the lepers and the infirm needed the touch of Christ, but that the power of the Master would bring blessing to the children as well.
This touch may properly picture that personal relation and spiritual contact with Christ which to-day, with equal eagerness, should be sought for their children by all parents. |When the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.| They seemed to have felt that children were too insignificant to be allowed to interfere with the work or to demand the attention of Christ. At this present time there are many things which tend to keep parents from bringing their children to the Master: custom and carelessness and indifference and fear and diffidence; even friends seem to play the part of those |disciples| and to conspire to prevent and rebuke those who really long to see their children brought into a sanctifying relationship to the Lord. No problem of to-day is more important than the removal of such barriers and obstacles. The Christian nurture of children is the supreme need of the times. |But Jesus called them unto him, saying, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.| This reply of the Master has cast an unfading halo about the faces of all children. Their innocence and their need made a special appeal to the Master. Should it not affect us in like manner, and should we not feel that no work is more Christlike and none more blessed than the care of these little ones whom our Lord so truly loves? We are the real servants of our Master only as we feel the appeal of childhood and as we seek to supply to children their physical and mental and spiritual needs.
|For to such belongeth the kingdom of God.| It is theirs by right. It belongs not only to those particular children whom Jesus was then blessing, not only to all children in general, but to all of whatever age who are childlike in their trust and dependence and purity. All those who are intrusted to the care of the Master and who accept his saving grace will find a place in his Kingdom.
As the crowds gazed in wonder and sympathy on this tender scene, our Lord added this word of warning, |Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein.|
6. The Rich Ruler. Ch.18:18-30
18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, even God.20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and mother.21 And he said, All these things have I observed from my youth up.22 And when Jesus heard it, he said unto him, One thing thou lackest yet: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.23 But when he heard these things, he became exceedingly sorrowful; for he was very rich.24 And Jesus seeing him said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.26 And they that heard it said, Then who can be saved? 27 But he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.28 And Peter said, Lo, we have left our own, and followed thee.29 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or wife, or brethren or parents, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, 30 who shall not receive manifold more in this time, and in the world to come eternal life.
In contrast with the penitent publican and with the loving trust of little children which Luke has been depicting, there steps upon the scene a young man, rich, upright, morally earnest, but apparently unconscious of the sinful greed which threatened his soul and of that trust in riches which might prevent his entering the Kingdom of God. In spite of his riches, his youth, his position, and his power, his heart was not satisfied. He had come to Jesus with the question, |Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?| Jesus at once rebuked him, |Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, even God.| By this reproof Jesus was neither defending his own divinity nor denying his sinlessness. He wished to convince the young man of his moral need. He intimated that the thoughtless use of the word |good,| addressed to one whom he regarded as a human teacher, was a proof that the young man had a superficial view of goodness. Judged by a divine standard the young inquirer could not claim to be good, nor can any man regard himself as righteous in the light of divine holiness.
In order to awaken the conscience and to disturb the complacent self-righteousness of the young inquirer, Jesus now tested him in the light of the commandments in which God has revealed his holy will. The youth at once replied, |All these things have I observed from my youth up.| Jesus now applied the deep probe which showed that the man had never observed the spirit of the Law, even though he believed that he had kept the letter. Jesus disclosed the real selfishness of the heart as he proposed a supreme test: |One thing thou lackest yet: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.| In this sentence Jesus convicted the man of having broken the Law, the essential requirement of which was to love his neighbor as himself.
Jesus promised an eternal recompense for sacrifice, and he offers by his personal companionship the influence and power which will make the keeping of the Law more possible and complete. No one can claim to be righteous when judged by the commandments as interpreted by Christ. Our only hope is to come to him for guidance and help. He will lay bare the secret selfishness of our hearts, and will develop the spirit of love and service which forms the essence of eternal life, and in heaven he will ultimately recompense his followers for every loss.
Jesus does not demand that all who obey him must literally leave their worldly possessions. In his command to the rich ruler he was dealing with a specific case. He does demand, however, that each one shall give up anything which prevents open, honest discipleship and fellowship with himself. In the case of this inquirer the obstacle was his wealth. It was impossible for him to retain it and yet to follow Christ. The Master made plain to him that his goodness had been superficial and inadequate. He showed him that love of money was the canker which had been hidden in his soul. He plainly placed before him the necessity of choosing between his wealth and the eternal life which Jesus alone can give. No wonder that when the young ruler heard the stern requirements and realized for the first time that he was controlled by his wealth, |He became exceeding sorrowful; for he was very rich.| He kept his wealth and he rejected his Saviour. He saw the possibility of eternal life, but he was not willing to pay the price. He retained his riches, but he lost his soul.
As Jesus looked upon him in pity, he startled his disciples by the statement of a truth which the scene had illustrated: |How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!| This was particularly surprising to the Jews. They imagined that wealth was a positive proof of divine favor. What then did Jesus mean? He did not intend to teach that wealth is sinful or that private property is a social wrong. He meant that riches may possibly keep their possessor from Christian discipleship and that one who seeks to satisfy himself with such wealth as keeps him from Christ can never enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus even added a pardonable hyperbole, |It is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.| One who would enter that Kingdom must become as a little child; he must abandon all trust in self, and be willing to sacrifice anything which prevents his becoming an obedient servant of Christ. When the disciples heard this, they were astonished and asked, |Then who can be saved?| Our Lord replied, |The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.| It does require resolution and decision and sacrifice, but God is ready to supply all needed grace. His spirit can strengthen those who turn to him in their conscious need and with a real desire for a higher life.
As the rich man moved away sorrowfully in his costly robes, Peter looked upon him with apparent scorn, and turned to Jesus with the self-complacent remark, |Lo, we have left our own, and followed thee.| The reply of Jesus was not intended to encourage men to follow him in hope of gain. His salvation is a matter of grace. We are not to think that by any sacrifice of worldly goods we can purchase eternal life. However, the tender words of the Master do remind us that a rich recompense will be received for all that we may surrender in becoming his disciples. Even in this present time one receives a hundredfold reward, not in literal kind but in experiences which now satisfy the soul and |in the world to come eternal life.|
7. Jesus Again Foretelling His Death. Ch.18:31-34
31 And he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all the things that are written through the prophets shall be accomplished unto the Son of man.32 For he shall be delivered up unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and shamefully treated, and spit upon: 33 and they shall scourge and kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.34 And they understood none of these things; and this saying was hid from them, and they perceived not the things that were said.
As Jesus moved southward through Perea, nearing the end of his last journey to Jerusalem, he was accompanied by admiring multitudes, but his own heart was heavy with the knowledge of the suffering that awaited him and he clearly saw before him the outline of the cross. Many of his followers to-day share his experience in part; even in surroundings which all observers envy, their hearts are crushed by secret sorrows and by the knowledge of approaching pain.
Those who then were nearest to him were quite unconscious of his thoughts or his need of sympathy. Then for the third time Jesus clearly predicted his approaching death. He declared that his sufferings were to be in accordance with written prophecy and now more clearly than ever he described the details of all the anguish he must endure. He was to be |delivered up unto the Gentiles| and therefore to be crucified, and with all the sickening accompaniments of mockery and spitting and scourging, he was to be killed.
Such a clear vision of what awaited him enhances for us the revelation of his matchless heroism as he moved forward with unfaltering tread, giving an inspiring example to each one who may be asked to take up the cross and come after him.
Such knowledge reveals one who consciously was more than man, such a confidence that he was fulfilling the prophecies of the inspired Scriptures shows that he regarded himself as the Saviour of the world. Such a willingness to suffer demonstrates the fact that he believed his atoning death to be an essential part of his redeeming work.
The grave, however, was by no means his goal. With absolute definiteness he declared that on the third day he would rise again. This vision of triumph was in part the explanation of his courage. It was in virtue of such a resurrection victory that he could be the Saviour of mankind.
His disciples, however, understood none of these things; with threefold emphasis Luke describes their dullness of apprehension. They did not believe that his death was necessary and for them the resurrection was not even a dream. Their lack of expectation only made them more credible witnesses of that resurrection when it did occur. However, would not a clearer vision, unclouded by false notions of their own, have enabled them to understand their Master and to bring some cheer to his lonely soul; and does he not always desire his followers to accept his predictions with implicit faith and to rest upon his promises with triumphant hope?
8. The Blind Man at Jericho. Ch.18:35-43
35 And it came to pass, as he drew nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: 36 and hearing a multitude going by, he inquired what this meant.37 And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.38 And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.39 And they that went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried out the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.40 And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, 41 What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath made thee whole.43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.
As for the last time Jesus was journeying through Jericho, he healed a blind man whom Mark in his record names Bartimaeus. This miracle was a proof of divine power and an expression of human sympathy, but it was also a parable of the ability which Jesus alone has of giving sight to the morally blind and of imparting that spiritual vision which is absolutely necessary if men are to live in right relations to one another and to God. In certain minor details Luke's account differs from those of Matthew and Mark. The former mentions two blind men and agrees with Mark in stating that the miracle occurred as Jesus was leaving the city. Possibly Mark and Luke refer to the best known of the two men and Luke may designate the older of the two towns which bore the name of Jericho. All agree, however, in picturing the pitiful condition of the helpless man who because of his blindness was reduced to beggary and was a true symbol of the misery to which one is brought by the lack of spiritual sight.
Then there is the picture of the obstacles to be overcome, of the doubts and difficulties that lie in the way of those who seek to come under the healing influence of our Lord. |They that went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace.| Often do those who yearn for light and healing hear words which dishearten and suggestions which lead to hopelessness and despair!
Again there is the picture of eager determination and of unshaken faith. |He cried out the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.| He had been told that |Jesus of Nazareth| was passing by. He, however, called him |Jesus, thou son of David.| He recognized the Prophet of Nazareth as the promised Messiah, the Saviour of the world, and when rebuked for crying to him for mercy, he continued steadfast in his faith and his confident trust that Jesus would sympathize and heal.
Lastly, there is the picture of complete relief. The blind man was not disappointed. Jesus said unto him, |Receive thy sight: thy faith hath made thee whole.| How many likewise have found Christ able and willing to give them spiritual vision! Their eyes have been opened to behold things unseen and eternal and they have been enabled to follow the Master with joyful footsteps as they journey toward the celestial city where they will see the King in his beauty and will be like him when they |see him even as he is.|
Such miracles of grace rejoice the hearts not only of those who are healed; they occasion gratitude and joy to countless others also as they are assured of the sympathy and grace and divine power of the Saviour. As Luke here states, |All the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.|
9. The Conversion of Zacchaeus. Ch.19:1-10
1 And he entered and was passing through Jericho.2 And behold, a man called by name Zacchaeus; and he was a chief publican, and he was rich.3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the crowd, because he was little of stature.4 And he ran on before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house.6 And he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully.7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, He is gone in to lodge with a man that is a sinner.8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor: and if I have wrongfully exacted aught of any man, I restore fourfold.9 And Jesus said unto him, To-day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.10 For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.
|And he entered and was passing through Jericho,| a city famous alike for faith and unbelief. |By faith the walls of Jericho fell down,| and in blind unbelief they were rebuilt and the curse which had been pronounced came upon the defiant builder. As Jesus passed through the city he was to witness faith and unbelief, the latter to be shown by multitudes, the former by a single man named Zacchaeus. This name signifies |holiness| but it was a poor designation of the man. Those who knew him best called him a |sinner,| and they were probably right. |He was a chief publican, and he was rich.| A man might be a publican and be honest, but he would probably be poor. Zacchaeus' task was that of a taxgatherer, and when it is remembered that these officials made their wealth by extortion and dishonesty, to say the least, it was suspicious when a taxgatherer was rich.
|He sought to see Jesus who he was.| It may have been curiosity, but there was a certain eagerness in his desire. He possibly had heard of the great Prophet who was so kind in his treatment of publicans and sinners. However, he could not see Jesus |for the crowd, because he was little of stature.| Obstacles often arise in the way of those whose attention is first turned toward Christ. If, however, they are earnest in their desire, they are certain to learn more of him.
The earnestness of Zacchaeus was shown as |he ran on before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him.| There was something undignified in the action of this little man of wealth, but his eagerness received an unexpected reward, for |When Jesus came to the place he looked up, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house.| This is the only time so far as we know that Jesus invited himself to be a guest, but we are certain that he is ever ready to abide with those whose hearts are open to receive him. It has been said that Zacchaeus was converted before he had reached the ground. There can be no doubt that a great change came into his heart as he realized how fully Jesus knew him and anticipated what the Saviour could do for him; and his faith and hope were manifest at once. |He made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.|
What did the crowd say? Exactly what the world always says when a man is turning to Christ and seeking to begin a new life. Men always call to mind the dark past from which the rescued man is turning. |They all murmured, saying, He is gone in to lodge with a man that is a sinner.|
What did Zacchaeus say? What every man says who has found the grace which Christ bestows and who realizes that a new life can begin only with repentance and resolution. |Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.| Thus he determined, as a Christian, to do far more than was required by the Jewish Law; that Law required a tenth; Zacchaeus promised that half of all his income would be used in the service of the Lord. |And if I have wrongfully exacted aught of any man, I restore fourfold.| There can be little doubt that any publican would find large opportunities for such restoration; and nothing more definitely indicates true repentance than the desire to make amends for the past.
What did Jesus say? This is most important of all, |To-day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.| By his faith the publican of Jericho showed himself to be a true son of Abraham, the |father of the faithful.| His trust in Christ secured for him that salvation which is offered to all, even to the lowest and most hopeless and despised. |For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.|
10. The Parable of the Pounds. Ch.19:11-28
11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear.12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.13 And he called ten servants of his, and gave them ten pounds, and said unto them, Trade ye herewith till I come.14 But his citizens hated him, and sent an ambassage after him, saying, We will not that this man reign over us.15 And it came to pass, when he was come back again, having received the kingdom, that he commanded these servants, unto whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading.16 And the first came before him, saying, Lord, thy pound hath made ten pounds more.17 And he said unto him, Well done, thou good servant: because thou wast found faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.18 And the second came, saying, Thy pound, Lord, hath made five pounds.19 And he said unto him also, Be thou also over five cities.20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I kept laid up in a napkin: 21 for I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that which thou layedst not down, and reapest that which thou didst not sow.22 He saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I am an austere man, taking up that which I laid not down, and reaping that which I did not sow; 23 then wherefore gavest thou not my money into the bank, and I at my coming should have required it with interest? 24 And he said unto them that stood by, Take away from him the pound, and give it unto him that hath the ten pounds.25 And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.26 I say unto you, that unto every one that hath shall be given; but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him.27 But these mine enemies, that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
28 And when he had thus spoken, he went on before, going up to Jerusalem.
Jesus felt impelled to deliver the parable of the Pounds because of the mistaken belief among the crowds that on his arrival in Jerusalem he would establish his Kingdom. He well knew that he was to be rejected and crucified, and that a long interval of time would elapse before his return in triumph. In this parable he definitely predicted this rejection and warned the unbelieving Jews of their peril. On the other hand he encouraged his disciples to wait with patience for his return, to watch for his coming, and to be engaged diligently in his service, promising to the faithful, abundant and gracious rewards.
This parable of the Pounds should be studied in connection with the parables of the Unprofitable Servant, ch.17:7-10, the Laborers in the Vineyard, Matt.20:1-16, and the Talents, Matt.25:14-30. The first teaches that no reward can be claimed as a matter of merit; in view of all that the Master has given us, even pouring out his life for our redemption, we never by the most faithful service could begin to pay the debt we owe; even the most loyal devotion would be no ground for claiming a reward.
The parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard likewise warns us against a mercenary spirit in which we might serve the Master for the sake of a reward, bargaining for so much labor for so much pay, jealous of those who may receive as much as ourselves, though deserving, as we believe, less.
However, while no reward may be deserved, and while the hope of reward should not be the motive for service, the Master has assured us that, in absolute grace and with perfect justice, rewards will be granted to those who are found faithful when he returns. The parable of the Talents teaches that while opportunities and abilities for the service of Christ may differ, those who are equally faithful will receive equal rewards. The parable of the Pounds tells us that when opportunities are the same, greater faithfulness will receive greater reward.
This latter parable was delivered, as Luke tells us, because Jesus |was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear.| Jesus therefore compared himself with a nobleman who went into a far country, |to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.| Jesus was always indicating the fact that there would be a long delay after his ascension before he would return, and that meanwhile his followers should be faithful to the opportunities granted them for serving their Master. In this parable Jesus pictured these opportunities under the figure of pounds, that is, sums of money amounting to something like sixteen dollars each. In comparison with a |talent| this was an insignificant sum. Our Lord wished to suggest that to every one of his followers something is intrusted which may be used for the advancement of his cause.
Jesus knew that the Jews were not only to reject him but were to continue in unbelief after his departure; thus in the parable he stated that |his citizens hated him, and sent an ambassage after him, saying, We will not that this man reign over us.| The main portion of the picture, however, is concerned with the return of the nobleman and the reward of his servants. This reward was proportioned to fidelity during the time of his absence. By way of example, one who had so used his pound as to gain ten pounds was made the ruler over ten cities; and one who had gained five, was appointed over five cities. The reward for service is thus shown to be larger service. Faithfulness in that which is very small is a preparation for larger responsibilities and more glorious tasks. This is true in the present, and the principle will be the same in the future.
One man was found, however, who had made no use of his pound. He had kept it |laid up in a napkin.| His excuse was that he feared his master and he said, almost boastfully, that he had not lost what had been intrusted to him. He was giving back that which he had been given him. The nobleman, however, properly rebuked this unfaithful servant in the very terms which he himself had used. If the master was known to be so strict, the servant should have been prepared to give a better account of his stewardship. It is true that one cause for unfaithfulness is an ignorance of the true nature of our Lord. Some are really afraid to undertake Christian service because they do not know, what the parable could not indicate, namely, that he who intrusts us with opportunities and abilities will give us grace, if we seek to do our best and with a real desire to advance the interests of our Lord, try to use the little which we have. Thus the nobleman rebuked the unfaithful servant for not having done the least which was possible. He could have placed the money in the bank and then if nothing more, the master would have received the interest on the loan. There is always something which every servant of Christ can do for him. There is never any real excuse for idleness and inactivity and failure to achieve something in the cause of Christ.
The pound was taken from the unfaithful servant and given to him who had secured the ten pounds, because our Lord wished to illustrate the truth that with our opportunities and privileges and gifts, the principle, use or lose, always applies. The right employment of even small gifts results in their enlargement, but failure to appreciate and employ that which we possess results in its ultimate loss. |Unto every one that hath shall be given; but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him.|
The parable closes with a solemn warning to those who reject Christ. It is not only perilous to be unfaithful in his service but pitiful to be found in the class of those who refuse to acknowledge him as Lord. Jesus describes in these last words not only the destruction of Jerusalem, but the penalty of all who share in rejecting his rule. |But these mine enemies, that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.|
The time of his departure was at hand. The nation was about to reject him. The nobleman was just to start for the far country, for |When he had thus spoken, he went on before, going up to Jerusalem.|