(St. Luke xiii. 23-30, 31-35; xiv. 1-11, 25-35; xvii. 1-10.)


From the Parables we now turn to such Discourses of the Lord as belong to this period of His Ministry. Their consideration may be the more brief, that throughout we find points of correspondence with previous or later portions of His teaching.

Thus, the first of these Discourses, of which we have an outline,47084708    St. Luke xiii. 23-30. recalls some passages in the ‘Sermon on the Mount,’47094709    ver. 24; comp. St. Matt. vii. 13, 14; vv. 25-27; comp. St. Matt. viii., 21-23. as well as what our Lord had said on the occasion of healing the servant of the centurion.47104710    vv. 28, 29; comp. St. Matt. vii. 21-23. But, to take the first of these parallelisms, the differences are only the more marked for the similarity of form. These prove incontestably, not only the independence of the two Evangelists47114711    St. Matthew and St Luke. in their narratives, but, along with deeper underlying unity of thought in the teaching of Christ, its different application to different circumstances and persons. Let us mark this in the Discourse as outlined by St. Luke, and so gain fresh evidential confirmation of the trustworthiness of the Evangelic records.

The words of our Lord, as recorded by St. Luke,47124712    St. Luke xiii. 23 &c. are not spoken, as in ‘The Sermon on the Mount,’ in connection with His teaching to His disciples, but are in reply to a question addressed to Him by some one - we can scarcely doubt, a representative of the Pharisees:47134713    See also ver. 31. ‘Lord, are they few, the saved ones [that are being saved]?’ Viewed in connection with Christ’s immediately preceding teaching about the Kingdom of God in its wide and deep spread, as the great Mustard-Tree from the tiniest seed, and as the Leaven hid, which pervaded three measures of meal, we can scarcely doubt that the word ‘saved’ bore reference, not to the eternal state of the soul, but to admission to the benefits of the Kingdom of God - the Messianic Kingdom, with its privileges and its judgments, such as the Pharisees understood it. The question, whether ‘few’ were to be saved, could not have been put from the Pharisaic point of view, if understood of personal salvation;47144714    It is difficult to understand how Wünsche could have referred to Sukk. 45 b as a parallel, since anything more thoroughly contrary to all Christ’s teaching can scarcely be imagined. Otherwise also the parallel is inapt. The curious reader will find the passage in detail in Schöttgen, on 1 Cor. xiii. 12 (p. 652). while, on the other hand, if taken as applying to part in the near-expected Messianic Kingdom, it has its distinct parallel in the Rabbinic statement, that, as regarded the days of the Messiah (His Kingdom), it would be similar to what it had been at the entrance into the land of promise, when only two (Joshua and Caleb), out of all that generation, were allowed to have part in it.47154715    Sanh. 111 a. Again, it is only when understanding both the question of this Pharisee and the reply of our Lord as applying to the Kingdom of the Messiah - though each viewing ‘the Kingdom’ from his own standpoint - that we can understand the answering words of Christ in their natural and obvious sense, without either straining or adding to them a dogmatic gloss, such as could not have occurred to His hearers at the time.47164716    Thus, Canon Cook makes this distinction: ‘They who are said to seek, seek (i.e. desire and wish) and no more. They do not struggle for admission.’ But would any one be refused who sought, in the sense of desiring, or wishing?

Thus viewed, we can mark the characteristic differences between this Discourse and the parallels in ‘the Sermon on the Mount,’ and understand their reason. As regarded entrance into the Messianic Kingdom, this Pharisee, and those whom he represented, are told, that this Kingdom was not theirs, as a matter of course - their question as to the rest of the world being only, whether few or many would share in it - but that all must ‘struggle47174717    The word implies a real combat to get at the narrow door, not ‘a large crowd ... struggling for admission.’ The verb occurs besides in the following passages: St. John xviii. 36; 1 Cor. ix. 25; Col. i. 29; iv. 12; 1 Tim. vi. 12; 2 Tim. iv. 7. [agonise] to enter in through the narrow door.’47184718    So according to the best reading. When we remember, that in ‘the Sermon on the Mount’ the call was only to ‘enter in,’ we feel that we have now reached a period, when the access to ‘the narrow door’ was obstructed by the enmity of so many, and when it needed ‘violence’ to break through, and ‘take the Kingdom’ ‘by force.’47194719    St. Matt. xi. 12. This personal breaking through the opposing multitude, in order to enter in through the narrow door, was in opposition to the many - the Pharisees and Jews generally - who were seeking to enter in, in their own way, never doubting success, but who would discover their terrible mistake. Then, ‘when once the Master of the house is risen up,’ to welcome His guests to the banquet, and has shut to the door, while they, standing without, vainly call upon Him to open it, and He replies: ‘I know you not whence ye are,’ would they begin to remind Him of those covenant-privileges on which, as Israel after the flesh, they had relied (‘we have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets’). To this He would reply by a repetition of His former words, now seen to imply a disavowal of all mere outward privileges, as constituting a claim to the Kingdom, grounding alike His disavowal and His refusal to open on their inward contrariety to the King and His Kingdom: ‘Depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity.’ It was a banquet to the friends of the King: the inauguration of His Kingdom. When they found the door shut, they would, indeed, knock, in the confident expectation that their claims would at once be recognised, and they admitted. And when the Master of the house did not recognise them, as they had expected, and they reminded Him of their outward connection, He only repeated the same words as before, since it was not outward but inward relationship that qualified the guests, and theirs was not friendship, but antagonism to Him. Terrible would then be their sorrow and anguish, when they would see their own patriarchs (‘we have eaten and drunk in Thy Presence’) and their own prophets (‘Thou hast taught in our streets’) within, and yet themselves were excluded from what was peculiarly theirs - while from all parts of the heathen world the welcome guests would flock to the joyous feast. And here pre-eminently would the saying hold good, in opposition to Pharisaic claims and self-righteousness: ‘There are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.’47204720    Comp. also St. Matt. xix. 30; xx. 16.

As a further characteristic difference from the parallel passage in ‘the Sermon on the Mount,’ we note, that there the reference seems not to any special privileges in connection with the Messianic Kingdom, such as the Pharisees expected, but to admission into the Kingdom of Heaven generally.47214721    St. Matt. vii. 21, 22. In regard to the latter also the highest outward claims would be found unavailing; but the expectation of admission was grounded rather on what was done, than on mere citizenship and its privileges. And here it deserves special notice, that in St. Luke’s Gospel, where the claim is that of fellow-citizenship (‘eaten and drunk in Thy Presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets’), the reply is made, ‘I know you not whence ye are;’ while in ‘the Sermon on the Mount,’ where the claim is of what they had done in His Name, they are told: ‘I never knew you.’ In both cases the disavowal emphatically bears on the special plea which had been set up. With this, another slight difference may be connected, which is not brought out in the Authorised or in the Revised Version. Both in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’47224722    St. Matt. vii. 23. and in St. Luke’s Gospel,47234723    St. Luke xiii. 27. they who are bidden depart are designated as ‘workers of iniquity.’ But, whereas, in St. Matthew’s Gospel the term (ͺνομͺα) really means ‘lawlessness,’ the word used in that of St. Luke should be rendered ‘unrighteousness’47244724    It is characteristic of ‘higher’ criticism when Hilgenfeld declares that the ‘lawlessness’ in St. Matthew’s Gospel is intended as a covert hit at Pauline Christianity, and the ‘unrighteousness’ in St. Luke’s as a retort upon Petrine or Jewish Christianity! (ͺδικͺα). Thus, the one class are excluded, despite the deeds which they plead, for their real contrariety to God’s Law; the other, despite the plea of citizenship and privileges, for their unrighteousness.47254725    Rom. ii. And here we may also note, as a last difference between the two Gospels, that in the prediction of the future bliss from which they were to be excluded, the Gospel of St. Luke, which had reported the plea that He had ‘taught’ in their ‘streets,’ adds, as it were in answer, to the names of the Patriarchs,47264726    St. Matt. viii. 11. mention of ‘all the prophets.’

2. The next Discourse, noted by St. Luke,47274727    St. Luke xiii. 31-35. had been spoken ‘in that very day,’47284728    Perhaps we should rather read ‘hour.’ as the last. It was occasioned by a pretended warning of ‘certain of the Pharisees’ to depart from Peræa, which, with Galilee, was the territory of Herod Antipas, as else the Tetrarch would kill Him. We have previously47294729    See Book III. chap. xxviii. shown reason for supposing secret intrigues between the Pharisaic party and Herod, and attributing the final imprisonment of the Baptist, at least in part, to their machinations. We also remember, how the conscience of the Tetrarch connected Christ with His murdered Forerunner, and that rightly, since, at least so far as the Pharisees wrought on the fears of that intensely jealous and suspicious prince, the imprisonment of John was as much due to his announcement of the Messiah as to the enmity of Herodias. On these grounds we can easily understand that Herod should have wished to see Jesus,47304730    St. Luke ix. 9. not merely to gratify curiosity, nor in obedience to superstitious impulses, but to convince himself, whether He was really what was said of Him, and also to get Him into his power. Probably, therefore, the danger of which these Pharisees spoke might have been real enough, and they might have special reasons for knowing of it. But their suggestion, that Jesus should depart, could only have proceeded from a ruse to get Him Out of Peræa, where, evidently, His works of healing 47314731    as spoken of in St. Luke xiii. 32. were largely attracting and influencing the people.

But if our Lord would not be deterred by the fears of His disciples from going into Judæa,47324732    St. John xi. 8. feeling that each one had his appointed working day, in the light of which he was safe, and during the brief duration of which he was bound to ‘walk,’ far less would He recede before His enemies. Pointing to their secret intrigues, He bade them, if they chose, go back to ‘that fox,’ and give to his low cunning, and to all similar attempts to hinder or arrest His Ministry, what would be a decisive answer, since it unfolded what He clearly forsaw in the near future. ‘Depart?’47334733    The word πορεͺεσθαι, ver. 31, is also used in ver. 32 ‘go,’ and ver. 33 ‘walk.’ -  yes, ‘depart’ ye to tell ‘that fox,’ I have still a brief and an appointed time47344734    The words ‘to-day, and to-morrow, and the third day,’ must not be taken as a literal, but as a well-known figurative expression. Thus we are told (Mechilta, Par. Bo, 18, towards end, ed. Weiss, p. 27 b), ‘There is a “to-morrow” which is now [refers to the immediate present], and a “to-morrow” of a later time,’ indicating a fixed period connected with the present, The latter, for example, in the passage illustrated in the Rabbinic quotation just made: Ex. xiii. 14, ‘It shall be when thy son shall ask thee [literally] to-morrow,’ in our A.V. ‘in time to come.’ So also Josh. xxii. 24. ‘The third day’ in such connection would be {hebrew}. to work, and then ‘I am perfected,’ in the sense in which we all readily understand the expression, as applying to His Work and Mission. ‘Depart!’ ‘Yes, I must “depart,” or go My brief appointed time: I know that at the goal of it is death, yet not at the hands of Herod, but in Jerusalem, the slaughter-house of them that “teach in her streets.”’

And so, remembering that this message to Herod was spoken in the very day, perhaps the very hour that He had declared how falsely ‘the workers of wickedness’ claimed admission on account of the ‘teaching in their streets,’ and that they would be excluded from the fellowship, not only of the fathers, but of ‘all the prophets’ whom they called their own - we see peculiar meaning in the reference to Jerusalem as the place where all the prophets perished.47354735    Even the death of John the Baptist may, as indicated, be said to have been compassed in Jerusalem. One, Who in no way indulged in illusions, but knew that He had an appointed time, during which He would work, and at the end of which He would ‘perish,’ and where He would so perish, could not be deterred either by the intrigues of the Pharisees nor by the thought of what a Herod might attempt - not do, which latter was in far other hands. But the thought of Jerusalem - of what it was, what it might have been, and what would come to it - may well have forced from the lips of Him, Who wept over it, a cry of mingled anguish, love, and warning.47364736    vv. 34, 35. It may, indeed, be, that these very words, which are reported by St. Matthew in another, and manifestly most suitable, connection,47374737    St. Matt. xxiii. 37-39. 47384738    The words will be considered in connection with that passage. are here quoted by St. Luke, because they fully express the thought to which Christ here first gave distinct utterance. But some such words, we can scarcely doubt, He did speak even now, when pointing to His near Decease in Jerusalem.

3. The next in order of the Discourses recorded by St. Luke47394739    St. Luke xiv. 1-11. is that which prefaced the Parable of ‘the Great Supper,’ expounded in a previous chapter.47404740    Chapter xvi. The Rabbinic views on the Sabbath-Law have been so fully explained, that a very brief commentation will here suffice. It appears, that the Lord condescended to accept the invitation to a Sabbath-meal in the house ‘of one of the Rulers of the Pharisees’ - perhaps one of the Rulers of the Synagogue in which they had just worshipped, and where Christ may have taught. Without here discussing the motives for this invitation, its acceptance was certainly made use of to ‘watch Him.’ And the man with the dropsy had, no doubt, been introduced for a treacherous purpose, although it is not necessary to suppose that he himself had been privy to it. On the other hand, it is characteristic of the gracious Lord, that, with full knowledge of their purpose, He sat down with such companions, and that He did His Work of power and love unrestrained by their evil thoughts. But, even so, He must turn their wickedness also to good account. Yet we mark, that He first dismissed the man healed of the dropsy before He reproved the Pharisees.47414741    St. Luke xiv. 4. It was better so - for the sake of the guests, and for the healed man himself, whose mind quite new and blessed Sabbath-thoughts would fill, to which all controversy would be jarring.

And, after his departure, the Lord first spake to them, as was His wont, concerning their misapplication of the Sabbath-Law, to which, indeed, their own practice gave the lie. They deemed it unlawful ‘to heal’ on the Sabbath-day, though, when He read their thoughts and purposes as against Him, they would not answer His question on the point.47424742    vv. 3, 4. And yet, if ‘a son,47434743    So - and not ‘ass’ - according to the best reading. or even an ox,’ of any of them, had ‘fallen into a pit,’ they would have found some valid legal reason for pulling him out! Then, as to their Sabbath-feast, and their invitation to Him, when thereby they wished to lure Him to evil - and, indeed, their much-boasted hospitality: all was characteristic of these Pharisees - only external show, with utter absence of all real love; only self-assumption, pride, and self-righteousness, together with contempt of all who were regarded as religiously or intellectually beneath them - chiefly of ‘the unlearned’ and ‘sinners,’ those in ‘the streets and lanes’ of their city, whom they considered as ‘the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.’47444744    ver. 21. Even among themselves there was strife about ‘the first places’ - such as, perhaps, Christ had on that occasion witnessed,47454745    ver. 7-11. amidst mock professions of humility, when, perhaps, the master of the house had afterwards, in true Pharisaic fashion, proceeded to re-arrange the guests according to their supposed dignity. And even the Rabbis had given advice to the same effect as Christ’s47464746    ver. 10. - and of this His words may have reminded them.47474747    Almost precisely the same sayings occur in Ab. de Rabbi Nathan 25 and Vayyikra R. 1.

But further - addressing him who had so treacherously bidden Him to this feast, Christ showed how the principle of Pharisaism consisted in self-seeking, to the necessary exclusion of all true love. Referring, for the fuller explanation of His meaning,47484748    vv. 12-14. to a previous chapter,47494749    Chapter xvi. we content ourselves here with the remark, that this self-seeking and self-righteousness appeared even in what, perhaps, they most boasted of - their hospitality. For, if in an earlier Jewish record we read the beautiful words: ‘Let thy house be open towards the street, and let the poor be the sons of thy house,’47504750    Ab. i. 5. we have, also, this later comment on them,47514751    Ab. de R. Nathan 7. that Job had thus had his house opened to the four quarters of the globe for the poor, and that, when his calamities befell him, he remonstrated with God on the ground of his merits in this respect, to which answer was made, that he had in this matter come very far short of the merits of Abraham. So entirely self-introspective and self-seeking did Rabbinism become, and so contrary was its outcome to the spirit of Christ, the inmost meaning of Whose Work, as well as Words, was entire self-forgetfulness and self-surrender in love.

4. In the fourth Discourse recorded by St. Luke,47524752    St. Luke xiv. 25-35. we pass from the parenthetic account of that Sabbath-meal in the house of the ‘Ruler of the Pharisees,’ back to where the narrative of the Pharisees’ threat about Herod and the reply of Jesus had left us.47534753    xiii. 31-35. And, if proof were required of the great influence exercised by Jesus, and which, as we have suggested, led to the attempt of the Pharisees to induce Christ to leave Peræa, it would be found in the opening notice,47544754    ver. 25. as well as in the Discourse itself which He spoke. Christ did depart - from that place, though not yet from Peræa; but with Him ‘went great multitudes.’ And, in view of their professed adhesion, it was needful, and now more emphatically than ever, to set before them all that discipleship really involved, alike of cost and of strength - the two latter points being illustrated by brief ‘Parables’ (in the wider sense of that term). Substantially, it was only what Christ had told the Twelve, when He sent them on their first Mission.47554755    St. Matt. x. 37, 38. Only it was now cast in a far stronger mould, as befitted the altered circumstances, in the near prospect of Christ’s condemnation, with all that this would involve to His followers.

At the outset we mark, that we are not here told what constituted the true disciple, but what would prevent a man from becoming such. Again, it was now no longer (as in the earlier address to the Twelve), that he who loved the nearest and dearest of earthly kin more than Christ - and hence clave to such rather than to Him - was not worthy of Him; nor that he who did not take his cross and follow after Him was not worthy of the Christ. Since then the enmity had ripened, and discipleship become impossible without actual renunciation of the nearest relationship, and, more than that, of life itself.47564756    St. Luke xiv. 26. Of course, the term ‘hate’ does not imply hatred of parents or relatives, or of life, in the ordinary sense. But it points to this, that, as outward separation, consequent upon men’s antagonism to Christ, was before them in the near future, so, in the present, inward separation, a renunciation in mind and heart, preparatory to that outwardly, was absolutely necessary. And this immediate call was illustrated in twofold manner. A man who was about to begin building a tower, must count the cost of his undertaking.47574757    vv. 28-30. It was not enough that he was prepared to defray the expense of the foundations; he must look to the cost of the whole. So must they, in becoming disciples, look not on what was involved in the present following of Christ, but remember the cost of the final acknowledgement of Jesus. Again, if a king went to war, common prudence would lead him to consider whether his forces were equal to the great contest before him; else it were far better to withdraw in time, even though it involved humiliation, from what, in view of his weakness, would end in miserable defeat.47584758    vv. 31, 32. So, and much more, must the intending disciple make complete inward surrender of all, deliberately counting the cost, and, in view of the coming trial, ask himself whether he had, indeed, sufficient inward strength - the force of love to Christ - to conquer. And thus discipleship, then, and, in measure, to all time, involves the necessity of complete inward surrender of everything for the love of Christ, so that if, and when, the time of outward trial comes, we may be prepared to conquer in the fight.47594759    ver. 33. He fights well, who has first fought and conquered within.

Or else, and here Christ breaks once more into that pithy Jewish proverb - only, oh! how aptly, applying it to His disciples - ‘Salt is good;’ ‘salt, if it have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?’47604760    vv. 34, 35. We have preferred quoting the proverb in its Jewish form,47614761    Bekhor. 8 b, lines 14, 13 from bottom. 47624762    In the Talmud: {hebrew} [has an evil odour, is spoiled] {hebrew}. to show its popular origin. Salt in such condition was neither fit to improve the land, nor, on the other hand, to be mixed with the manure. The disciple who had lost his distinctiveness would neither benefit the land, nor was he even fit, as it were, for the dunghill, and could only be cast out. And so, let him that hath ears to hear, hear the warning!

5. We have still to consider the last Discourses of Christ before the raising of Lazarus.47634763    St. Luke xvii. 1-10. As being addressed to the disciples,47644764    xvii. 1. we have to connect them with the Discourse just commented upon. In point of fact, part of these admonitions had already been spoken on a previous occasion, and that more fully, to the disciples in Galilee.47654765    vv. 1-4, comp. St. Matt. xviii. 6-35; ver. 6, comp. St. Matt. xvii. 20. Only we must again bear in mind the difference of circumstances. Here, they immediately precede the raising of Lazarus,47664766    St. John xi. and they form the close of Christ’s public Ministry in Peræa. Hence they come to us as Christ’s parting admonitions to His Peræan followers.

Thus viewed, they are intended to impress on the new disciples these four things: to be careful to give no offence;47674767    St. Luke xvii. 1, 2. to be careful to take no offence;47684768    vv. 3, 4. to be simple and earnest in their faith, and absolutely to trust its all-prevailing power;47694769    ver. 6. and yet, when they had made experience of it, not to be elated, but to remember their relation to their Master, that all was in His service, and that, after all, when everything had been done, they were but unprofitable servants.47704770    vv. 7-10. In other words, they urged upon the disciples holiness, love, faith, and service of self-surrender and humility.

Most of these points have been already considered, when explaining the similar admonitions of Christ in Galilee.47714771    See Book IV. chap. iii. The four parts of this Discourse are broken by the prayer of the Apostles, who had formerly expressed their difficulty in regard to these very requirements:47724772    St. Matt. xviii. 1-6, &c., 21, 22. ‘Add unto us faith.’ It was upon this that the Lord spake to them, for their comfort, of the absolute power of even the smallest faith,47734773    St. Luke xvii. 6. and of the service and humility of faith.47744774    vv. 7-10. The latter was couched in a Parabolic form, well calculated to impress on them those feelings which would keep them lowly. They were but servants; and, even though they had done their work, the Master expected them to serve Him, before they sat down to their own meal and rest. Yet meal and rest there would be in the end. Only, let there not be self-elation, nor weariness, nor impatience; but let the Master and His service be all in all. Surely, if ever there was emphatic protest against the fundamental idea of Pharisaism, as claiming merit and reward, it was in the closing admonition of Christ’s public Ministry in Peræa: ‘When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.’

And with these parting words did He most effectually and for ever separate, in heart and spirit, the Church from the Synagogue.

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