MATTHEW manifests the Messiah as the Son of David and the Son of Abraham. He is the King of Israel and the Owner of the land. His genealogy is presented to prove His title to the throne and attest His inheritance from the father of the faithful. This account is occupied with the kingdom to Israel and the land of promise. It is concerned with the covenants made with Abraham and with David.
The four accounts or portraitures of Christ give four discriminated aspects of their common subject: and are not intended to be “harmonized”. Each writer has his peculiar principles of selection and arrangement. Matthew's account, ever recognized as the Hebrew gospel, is the true commencement of the Greek scriptures, showing how they grow out of the Hebrew writings. It quotes at every step from the older scriptures. It is both a history and a fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew never rises above the plane of Israel's interests and hopes.
The characteristic phrase is “the kingdom of the heavens”. This refers to Daniel's prophecy, “And in the days of these kings the God of the heavens shall set up a kingdom which shall not be harmed for the eon, and the kingdom shall not be left to another people. It shall crush and terminate all these kingdoms.... (Dan.2:44). “And the kingdom and the authority and the majesty of the kingdom under all the heavens is granted to the people of the saints of the supremacies...” (Dan.7:27) It is a kingdom in the sense that Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece were kingdoms; it is still future; it is the rule of one people over other nations; yet it will not be destroyed as its predecessors in world dominion, but will last for the eons.
Notwithstanding the fact that Messiah is sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (15:24) and that He forbade His apostles to go to the nations or Samaritans (10:5), the few instances in which the aliens are mentioned are most significant. Four gentile women enter the genealogy (1:3,5,6). Tamar's sin introduced her into the line of ancestry, Rahab came in by faith. In Ruth's case, grace triumphed over the law that would ban a Moabite from the congregation of Jehovah. Bathsheba reminds us of David's great transgression and shows us grace reigning despite sin. The magi come to worship Him, while Herod seeks His life (2:1-12). The centurion exhibits a faith unknown in Israel (8:5-12). The Canaanitish woman is commended for her confidence in Christ (15:21-28). Pilate and his wife refuse responsibility when the Jews seek to condemn Him (27:10,24). The centurion at the cross acknowledges that He is the Son of God (27:54). It is only at the end of the account, after all authority on earth is in the hands of the King, that the disciples are commissioned to go and make disciples of all nations. This cannot occur until the kingdom comes. Thus the proclamation of the kingdom of the heavens is restricted to the people of whom the prophet Daniel spoke.
The narrative is divided into two distinct periods, each of which begins with His acknowledgement as Son of God by a voice from heaven and closes by its acknowledgment by men, the first by the disciples the second by the nations. The first extends from John's baptism 3:16-17), and closes with Peter's confession (16:16). During this period the kingdom is proclaimed and rejected, so that He forbids its further proclamation. The second period is occupied with His priestly preparation for the sacrifice on Golgotha. It begins with the transformation on the mount (17:1-5) where Moses and Elijah spoke of His decease, and continued to the crucifixion, where the centurion said, “Truly this was God's Son!” (27:54).
1-6 Compare Lu.3:23-38.
6-11 Compare 1 Chr.3:10-16
12-16 Compare 1 Chr.3:17-19.
This is the royal lineage of the Son of David as well as the title to the land granted to Abraham. In contrast to the genealogy given by Luke, we are given the actual physical descent by the male line to Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of our Lord. The three sections bring before us three distinct phases of rule and the failure of each. First, we have the theocracy until David, which ended when the people clamored for a king (1 Sam.8:6-22). Then comes the period of the kingdom, which was a series of failures, until the Babylonian exile. Since then the nations ruled Israel, until the birth of Messiah, when they were under the Roman yoke. It was a dismal descent, and proved conclusively that no male issue of this line would ever be competent to sit upon the throne of Messiah.
David was the greatest of the kings, yet his son Solomon was a living evidence of his terrible sin. And so degenerate did the line of his sons become that at the time of the exile Jechoniah drew down upon himself the curse of Jehovah:
“Thus saith the Lord,
'Write this man bereft,
A master who shall not prosper in his days:
For no man of his seed shall prosper,
Sitting on the throne of David
And ruling any more in Judah'.” (Jer.22:30)
Neither Joseph, nor any of his progenitors since the exile, were eligible to the throne. If Christ were his natural son, He also would be debarred. The Messiah cannot be of the seed of Jechoniah. Hence the absolute necessity of the virgin birth. Being begotten by God, the sins of progenitors did not taint His blood, and the curse of Coniah had no claim on Him. Yet, as the Son of Joseph, He inherited the title to the throne and all the honors of the house of David.
8 Between Joram and Ozias, there were three kings, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, but their names were blotted out according to the law (Deut.29:20), because they introduced idolatry into Israel. Ahaziah (or Azariah or Jehoahaz) walked in the ways of Ahab and was slain by Jehu (2Chron. 22:3,9). Joash served Jehovah as long as the priest Jehoiada lived, but afterwards the princes of Judah served idols. He slew the son of Jehoiada, who remonstrated. Hence the servants of King Joash slew him and would not bury him in the tombs of the kings (2 Chr.24:17-25). Amaziah also bowed down to the gods of the sons of Seir, and was slain by the people of Jerusalem (2 Chr.25:15-27).
10 Jehoiakim (or Shallum) is omitted from the list of kings because he refused Jeremiah's warnings, forsook the covenant, and turned to other gods (Jer.22:1-7). In Chronicles mention is made, not only of his abominations, or idolatry, but to “that which was found on him” (2Chr.36:8). He made cuttings or marks on his flesh as a sign of his allegiance to other gods (Lev.19:28). Hence he was denied human burial and his name is blotted out of the register of kings (Deut.29:18-20).
Jechoniah's name is shortened to Coniah (Jer.22:24) to show that Jehovah withdrew His support from him. He is not included in the line of kings. None of his seven sons (1Chr.3:17-18) succeeded to the throne. As no man of his seed can prosper, sitting on the throne of David, yet the regal rights are in his line, Messiah must be his Son, but not his seed.
17 In each group there are fourteen generations. From Abraham to, and including, David, are fourteen. From David to and including Josiah are fourteen. From Jechoniah to and including Christ are fourteen.
By this peculiar Hebrew system of enumeration, the true spiritual values are emphasized. David, as the most important progenitor, is counted twice. By substituting an event in place of a man for the link between the second and third group, Jechoniah is degraded to a place among the private persons of the third group. As a result, the twenty kings of Judah are divided into two groups of ten each, the first seven of whom are counted and the last three are blotted out, as on the list herewith. Each period began with a revival and closed in apostasy. At the end of the first the land was oppressed by the Philistines; at the end of the second it was beneath the feet of Babylon: at the end of the third it was under the Roman yoke,
18 Compare Lu.1:26-38
19 The law was very strict in an ordinary case of this kind, and demanded that the woman be taken to the entrance of her father's house and the men of her city be required to stone her until she died (Deut. 22:21). Joseph could not bring himself to this, so intended to divorce her according to the law that when a man had taken a wife and has found some uncleanness in her then he was to write her a bill of divorcement and send her out of his house (Deut.24:1).
23 In Isaiah, the prophet does not use the usual word for virgin, But olme, damsel (Isa.7:14). It is not likely that it was a virgin when it first came to pass in the prophet's day. But in this, the proper fulfillment, the spirit changes the word to virgin, as it is in the Septuagint also.
1-6 Bethlehem, the House of Bread, can be traced back in the family of our Lord to the time of Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 1:1,2). Here David dwelt. It was so insignificant that it is not even mentioned among the cities of Judah by Joshua or Nehemiah. This is seized on by the prophet Micah (5:2) to form a background for its future greatness. Nor has any other event of importance transpired there. Its solitary and surpassing glory is the birth of the Shepherd of Israel.
1 The magi represent those who are learned in the lore of nature. All nature leads the true devotee to the worship of Him Whose handiwork it is. Many attempts have been made to explain the star of Bethlehem as a purely normal occurrence-a meteor, a comet, the conjunction of a number of planets, etc. But no such star could guide the magi for a long period and then take its place above Bethlehem, as distinct from Jerusalem. It is much easier to believe that it was an extraordinary star, for it heralded the birth of a most extraordinary Babe.
3 Herod the Great, as this king was usually called, may have been of Philistine extraction, his ancestors having been brought to Idumea as prisoners of war. He was the first sovereign of the Edomites who reigned over Judea, under Roman supremacy, and began about 40 B.C. His father, Antipater, had been procurator of Judea when Hyrcanus II., the Maccabean, was king. He died not long after these events. He received his kingdom from Antony and the Roman Senate. After the fall of Antony, he found favor with the emperor Augustus. His actions tell us that he feared for his throne when the Messiah should come. In this, he was in striking contrast with the Maccabean dynasty which he displaced. They took the royal authority with the express reservation of the rights of the Messiah (1 Macc.14:41). He massacred helpless infants in a futile effort to murder the Messiah.
7 It is evident, from the anxiety of Herod to get the exact time when the star first appeared, and his order to kill all the babes under two years, that the magi did not visit Bethlehem when Christ was born, but a long time afterward. He is now a little Boy, and Herod does not consider it safe to allow any child under two years to live. It is probable that they saw the star in the east at His birth, and, after some time for preparation, took their slow journey to Judea.
12 There is a startling contrast between the worshipful adoration of the magi, and the cruel conduct of His own people. The priests and scribes and populace should have exulted at His coming, but they are disturbed and uneasy. The priests should have worshiped Him, but they would not go a two-hours' journey to see Him. The magi traveled for months and brought Him presents. The scribes knew where be was born, but none went thither. The people followed their leaders. His own received Him not!
13 The Khan at Bethlehem was the starting point of caravans for Egypt. Such it was in the days of Jeremiah, who lodged with Chimham at Bethlehem on his way to Egypt (Jer.41:17). And in his day many Jews went down into Egypt so that there were large Jewish colonies there to which Joseph could go during his exile. Here the true Image of God would find the first objects to strike His dawning intelligence, and these would probably be the false images and gigantic temples of their idolatrous worship. Here was the center of the world"s wisdom but we do not read that any of the wise man recognized Him in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are concealed (Col,2:3). But here also was the home of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the sacred scrolls which He used in His ministry. From here He, like the nation before Him, was called out of Egypt (Hos.11:1).
18 Compare Jer. 31:15.
18 The name “Rama” was a common one for a site on a hill. There was probably such a place near Bethlehem beside the tomb of Rachel, who died there in sorrow (Gen. 35:19-20). There is a beautiful connection between her sorrow and that of the bereaved mothers whose infants Herod slew.
23 “He will be called a Nazarene” was spoken prophecy. There is no reason to believe it was written or is to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures. Much that was spoken by the prophets was never committed to writing, but was preserved by tradition.
1-12 Compare Mk.1:1-8, Lu.3:1-18; Jn.1:6-8,10-34.
3 The wretched roads in the East were seldom repaired unless in preparation for some royal visitor. To see the peasants employed in removing the stones and straightening the road, and leveling its rough places was a sure sign that someone of high rank was expected. John the baptist was the herald of the King, calling on His subjects to prepare His path before Him (Isa.40:3).
4 There is no reason why this should not be taken literally. The Arabs of those regions still feed on locusts. The American Indians of the western deserts have been known to subsist for weeks on locusts alone. The insect was included among those which it was lawful for a Jew to eat (Lev.11:22). The monks of the dark ages thought this incredible, so they planted locust trees near the grotto in the desert which was supposed to be John's home. The carob is also found in this region and pilgrims have given it the name “St. John's bread” in order to shield him from the charge of eating insects.'
6 Baptism, or ceremonial washing, was a recognized rite in the Jewish ritual. It was usually performed by the person himself. Since Moses consecrated Aaron and his sons (Ex.29:4) no one did it for another. The priests washed themselves at the laver (Ex.40:31) Defiled clothes were to be washed by the man himself (Lev.11:40). Naaman dipped himself in the Jordan (2Ki.5:14). But, because John did the baptizing, he was called “the baptist”.
7 John came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Mt.11:14; Lu.1:17). The superficial ceremonial without a corresponding condition of the heart was offensive to his spirit. He loathed hypocrisy. So he refused to baptize the religious zealots whose lives were not in accord with their profession. True repentance alone could avail to prepare them for the Coming One. Water could only symbolize the inward cleansing. It was not a substitute.
9 Compare Jn.8:33-39.
11 See Ac.1:5; 11:16; 19:1-4).
11 There are three baptisms here, water, spirit, and fire. John used water only. This method was continued during our Lord's ministry. But after His resurrection, He told them “John, indeed, baptizes in water, yet you shall be baptized in holy spirit after not many of these days (Ac.1:5). From Pentecost onward two baptisms obtained. At first, those who were baptized in water received the baptism of the spirit also. Cornelius received the spirit before he was baptized in water (Ac.10:44-48). Now there is only one baptism (Eph.4:5). In one spirit we all were baptized into one body (1 Cor.12:13). It is for cleansing, not for power.
12 The baptism of fire is the burning of the chaff. Such was the only baptism which the Pharisees and Sadducees deserved. Those whom He does not baptize in holy spirit, in grace, He will baptize in fire, in judgment. All of this is eonian, and does not determine their ultimate destiny after the eons have passed by.
13-17 Compare Mk.1:9-11; Lu.3:21-22.
13 The Lord needed no cleansing, for He had no sin. But He needed to identify Himself with those who were cleansed. It was a foreglimpse of His baptism on Golgotha, when He became sin for the sake of His own.
16-17 Compare Jn.1:32-34.
16 As God's Spirit has no material form it is figured to us in various ways, which suggest its force and significance. It is usually presented as a blast of air, for this is the primary meaning of the word pneuma, or spirit (Jn.3:8 Ac.2:2 Heb.1:7). Other spirits are represented as torches (Un.4:5), and horns or eyes (Un.5:6) to indicate their power and perception. Unclean spirits are figured as frogs (Un.16:13). The exquisite picture presented to the spiritual Israelite by the descending dove is largely lost on us. Our Lord Himself commended their artlessness to the emulation of His disciples. But doubtless a deeper thought lay in its universal use for sacrifice, especially by the poor. When He was presented to the Lord they offered two squabs of the doves (Lu.2:24). The Spirit of God endues Him with power for the proclamation of the kingdom, not by presenting Him with a sword and mace, not by mounting Him on a white horse or crowning Him with a diadem, but by investing Him with the far more godlike powers of gentleness, artlessness, and sacrifice.
1-11 Compare Mk.1:12,13; Lu.4:1-13.
1 If Christ is to be the King of Israel, He must not only overcome the opposition of men, but first of all, He must conquer the spirit that operates in them and rules the darkness of this world. Christ came to save others, not to please Himself. He refuses to use His power to provide food for Himself, but depends on God alone. He will not go out of His way to try and see if God will perform a miracle to save Him. Neither will He avoid the suffering and shame which lie between Him and the kingdom by accepting it at the Slanderer's hands. The Dove meets the Serpent in the wilderness and conquers it. Utter dependence on God's provision, absolute confidence in His words and ways, and the fullest fealty to His love, are more than a match for the Slanderer.
4 Compare Deut.8:3.
6 Compare Ps.91:11,12.
7 Compare Deut.6:16.
8 Satan is evidently the real head of the fourth kingdom of Daniel's image. Rome's dominion was limited.
10 Compare Deut.6:13, 10:20.
12 Compare Mk.1:14-15; Lu.4:14-15.
12 It is not likely that John was “cast into prison” at this time. The Lord had not yet called His disciples, and John was not yet cast into prison (Jn.3:24) until some time later. Several attempts seem to have been made to put him in ward. This is probably the first of these. Hence the Lord left Judea, and spent most of His ministry in Galilee. In John, His messenger, He was rejected in Judea before He even began His proclamation.
13-16 Compare Mk.1:21-22; Lu.4:31-32.
15 Compare Isa.9:1-2.
15 Nazareth, Cana, and the region about, where the Lord commenced His ministry, were in Zebulon. This did not touch the sea of Galilee, but it bordered on Naphtali in the northeast, in which was Capernaum, “His own city,” as well as Chorazin and Bethsaida, where so many of His mighty works were done.
17 Compare Mk. 1:14-15.
17 “The kingdom of the heavens” would mean but one thing to a Jew in the days of our Lord. In the explanation of the marvelous dream of Nebuchadnezzar, in which he saw a succession of world empires, Daniel says that the last kingdom shall be set up by the God of the heavens (Dan.2:44). “And in the days of these kings the God of the heavens shall set up a kingdom which shall not be harmed for the eon, and the kingdom shall not be left to another people. It shall crush and terminate all these kingdoms, and it shall rise for the eon.” Babylon fell to Medo Persia, and Medo Persia to Greece, Greece had broken up, and the fourth kingdom, in which the prophet's people under the figure of clay, were to be mingled with mankind, was due to appear. And this was to be followed by the indestructible kingdom of Messiah, for which all the Jews longed. Again, under the figure of rapacious beasts, Daniel had portrayed the kingdoms of the end time (Dan.7:2-27). They are displaced by the kingdom of the heavens. “And the kingdom and authority and the majesty of the kingdom under all the heavens is granted to the people of the saints of the supremacies. The kingdom is an eonian kingdom, and all authorities shall serve and hearken to it.”
“The kingdom of God” suggests subjection direct to the Deity, whether as individuals or nations. Its sphere cannot be circumscribed. “The kingdom of the heavens”, is, however, always concerned with the sovereignty of Israel over the other nations. Just as Babylon ruled the whole earth, so Israel will be supreme. As Medo-Persia brought all nations beneath its sway, so Israel will subjugate every other dominion. As Alexander found no field for further conquest, so Messiah will rule all nations with a club of iron, and all peoples and languages and nations will serve Him and bring their tribute to the land of Israel and the nation He has chosen. This is the kingdom which Christ proclaimed.
The kingdom was proclaimed as “near”. This does not imply that must come soon. The nearness was only tentative. The same word is used of Epaphroditus (Phil.2:30), who draws near to death for the work of Christ, but God was merciful, and he drew away from death again. Nearness is a relative term, indicating that not much more is needed to cause contact. Israel was near the land of promise thirty-eight years before they actually entered. Had they believed Caleb and Joshua they would have drawn nearer instead of returning to the wilderness, far from its borders. So it was with Israel and the kingdom. As it was when their forefathers came out of Egypt, so they come near to the national hope, but for thirty-eight years they wandered in the wilderness of unbelief, and perished without entering the land of promise.
18-19 Compare Mk.1:16-18; Lu.5:1-11; Jn.1:40-42.
21-22 Compare Mk.1:19,20; Lu.5:10-11.
23 See Mk.1:21-39.
25 Compare Mk.3:7-8.
1-2 Compare Lu.6:20.23.
1 The “Sermon on the Mount” was probably varied and repeated many times. Luke gives one of these. That was given on an “even place” (Lu.6:17) after His calling of the apostles. It is much abridged. Mark gives scattered allusions here and there. It is fitting that the fullest proclamation of the laws of the kingdom should be given in this account, for it is concerned with the Son of David.
5 The Beatitudes will find their fulfillment in the kingdom of the heavens, when Messiah comes again and establishes His millennial reign. Till then most of them prove to be a practical disappointment. The merciful often do not obtain mercy. The meek do not receive an allotment in the land or the earth. Not only that, but they never shall. A meek unbeliever will receive no allotment whatever. A meek believer is promised every blessedness among the celestials (Eph.1:3). It would be a bitter disappointment to him to have an allotment on the earth or in the land of Israel. There is no happiness in this beatitude for us.
12 All blessing comes from heaven, but it is not all enjoyed in heaven. The kingdom will be the days of heaven on earth, for the blessing will be heavenly in source and character, though located on earth. The heavenly city, new Jerusalem, is heavenly but comes down out of heaven to the earth. English has no way of distinguishing that which is heavenly in character from that which has its place in heaven, so special care is needed to avoid confusion in thought on this theme.
13 See Mk.9:50 Lu.14:34-35.
13 The salt of Palestine was usually gathered from marshes. Contact with the ground or exposure to rain or sun soon spoiled it, so that it lost its saltness. As it was very harmful to growing vegetation it was carefully swept up and thrown into the street, and thus trodden under foot.
14 Compare Mk.4:21-22; Lu.8:16-17, 11:33
17 See Lu.l6:16-17; Rom.3:31.
18 See 24:35.
18 The yod or iota was the smallest of the Hebrew letters. The ceriphs were probably the small projections which distinguished some of the Hebrew letters. The idea of the Massorah, that they were small meaningless ornaments like horns is hardly in line with the spirit of Christ's teaching. He denounced unwarranted, uninspired additions to the Scriptures.
19 To obey is always better than sacrifice. The very least precept of the Lord calls for implicit, unquestioning response.
21 Compare Ex.20:13.
22 Gehenna, the valley of the son of Hinnom, just below the city of Jerusalem, where idolatrous worship was once carried on and where the city offal was burned, will once more become the incinerator for Jerusalem. In the kingdom, it will consume the carcases of criminals as well as the rubbish of the city. It should not be confounded with the unseen, or hades, which is often translated “hell”, or with tartarus, similarly translated. Neither is it the lake of fire (Un.20:14), which follows the great white throne judgment for wicked. Its operation is confined to the temporal judgments of the millennial kingdom. It does not fix ultimate destiny, for it disappears long before the consummation.
22 Raka seems to be a contemptuous epithet from the Aramaic, meaning empty.
23 Instead of removing His hearers from beneath the thunders of the law (as grace has since done), He makes its precepts more pressing, its prohibitions more searching. The appearance counts for nothing with Him unless the heart is also right. He will not even allow them to approach God by means of an oblation unless they are on terms with their brethren. There is no lenience in this kingdom proclamation. Those who are cast into jail are not delivered until the demands of righteousness have been fully met. A lustful look is a sin of the heart which will not be tolerated in His dominions. The criminals of that day will be executed and their corpses consigned to the vale of Hinnom, where the offal of Jerusalem is burned. So stringent is this law that if a member of the body sins, the whole is in danger of death in the kingdom.
27 See Ex. 20:14.
31 See 19:3-9 Deut.24:1-2; Mk.10:2-12; Lu.16:18; 1Co.7:10-11.
31 Because of the hardness of their hearts, Moses made divorce an easy matter. Not so in the kingdom of the heavens. Only one cause will be a ground for separation then. Now, in grace. death alone can come between those whom the Lord has made one flesh (1Co.7:39). We are not living under the law of Sinai or under the kingdom code, but under the far more beneficent reign of grace (Ro.5:21).
25-26 Compare Lu.12:58-59. See Prov.25:8.
33 Compare Lev.19:12. See Nu.30:2; Deut.23:21-23.
34-37 From our Lord's time down to the present, cursing and swearing have been so common in Palestine that little notice is taken of it. They continually profane the name and attributes of God, and swear by anything that comes into their minds. In fact, to swear fluently and artistically is considered quite an accomplishment which deserves cultivation.
38 Compare Ex.21:23-25; Lev.24:19-20; Deut.19:21.
38 Many futile attempts have been made to carry out the principle of nonresistance here laid down, by those who did not see its relation to the kingdom. When the righteous King is on the throne such conduct will be not only right but rational. Grace, however, goes much further than more non-resistance. It demands active effort on behalf of those who seek to injure or oppress. Recognizing the grave practical difficulty of practicing those precepts at the present time, theologians assure us that “these expressions, in their paradox form, must not be taken literally.” If these are not plain examples, it is impossible to form any definite idea of the Lord's meaning. It is ideal conduct for an ideal government, such as will be in actual operation when Christ comes again and Satan is bound for the thousand years.
39 Compare Lu.6:27-31.
43 Compare Lev.19:18. See Deut.23:6.
43 We are exhorted to imitate God, as beloved children, and walk in love, even as Christ loves us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a fragrant odor (Eph. 5:1-2). The sons of the kingdom are here exhorted to imitate Him in His beneficence in nature. The sun and rain bring all blessing in the physical sphere. Christ brings all blessing in the spiritual sphere. Great is the gift of sunshine, yet how much greater is the gift of Christ! Yet so much brighter is the standard for conduct today as compared with the longed-for millennium. The saints should always imitate God; yet this should ever be in accord with the particular revelation of Himself given for the time.
44 Compare Lu.6:27-28,32-36, 23:34; Ac.7:60; 1Pt.2:18-23.
The kingdom will be, in a special sense, the display of God's goodness on earth; we will be the highest exhibition of God's grace among the celestials (Eph.2:7). Hence it is most fitting that conduct, in each case, should correspond to the sphere and character of God's operations. The standard for us is as far beyond these precepts as these are beyond the law. The law demanded love but limited it to neighbors. In their hard-heartedness, they inferred that others should be hated. The Lord does not hesitate to enlarge the law. God is good to all. But we look to the cross and know that there are none righteous in His sight, and see His sacrifice for all. Here alone do we find the motive which should control our conduct. God's perfection in nature is not sufficient to provide the sweet-smelling perfume which pleases Him today. It seems to be without any practical effect on the hard hearts of humanity.
1 The Pharisees deemed alms-giving, prayer and fasting the three most eminent exhibitions of piety, for alms was the ideal expression of their relation to their neighbor, prayer of their intercourse with God, and fasting of self-discipline. Hence the Lord takes up these three and exposes the hypocrisy which performs them in public and provokes the applause of men, rather than the praise of God.
2 The word alms denotes an accompaniment of mercy. Hence we are not surprised that it is entirely absent in the exhortations for the nations which are based on grace. We do not “do” alms, as a work of righteousness, in order to get the approval of men or even the smile of God, but give gratuitously in thankful response for benefits already received by grace. We are not working for wages, but offer our services as a thank-offering for gratuities already ours in Christ, even though we know that He will reward those who serve and suffer for His sake.
5 These instructions regarding prayer come very close to us, for our abhorrence of hypocrisy should be much more pronounced than theirs. Perhaps a succinct way of putting it is, Never say your prayers; always pray them. Real prayer is possible only under the urge of the holy Spirit, and shuns the possible approbation of men, for it is meant for God alone [(Confer Philemon, 15).]
9-13 Compare Lu.11:2-4.
9 This is not the Lord's prayer, but His model for the disciples' petitions. Since He has just been condemning wordiness and loquacity in prayer, He gives them an example of how to say much with few words. It was far from His intention that this should become a form for repetition, especially in this day of grace when part of it is meaningless and contrary to present truth. “The forgiveness of offenses in accord with the riches of His grace” (Eph.1:7) is far, far beyond the measure in which we forgive others. Moreover, our forgiveness is not at all dependent on our extending this favor to others. With them it was probational and temporary; with us, it is irrevocable and eternal. The prayers for our emulation are found in Ephesians. The latter half of the first chapter and the whole of the third chapter of that epistle will teach us what to pray for. It is all concerned with a later outpouring of grace which was a profound secret during our Lord's sojourn on earth.
This marvelous prayer is exquisite in its perfections. Its seven petitions are divinely divided into three for the glory of God, and four for the frailty of man. His name, His kingdom, His will. It is His future kingdom which will come when His will is done on earth. At that time we will have our portion in His celestial administrations so that our prayers should be much wider in scope than this. Man's needs are sustenance, release from past failures and future trials, and, especially in relation to the kingdom, deliverance from the power of that wicked one who will do his utmost to corrupt and destroy it.
Our Lord would not have them pray for that which God would not give. Every petition in it will be fulfilled, but not until the kingdom has come. Then, and not till then, will they be safe from the wicked one, for he will be bound in the submerged chaos. Not till then will their trials be over, their debts remitted, their daily sustenance assured; not till then will His will be done on earth, or His name be hallowed by a holy nation. We may rest assured that every prayer indited by His Spirit will be fulfilled in due course. The only uncertain element is time, and that is well known to God.
14-15 Compare Mk.11:25-26.
14 Forgiveness now is according to the riches of His grace (Eph.1:7), not according to our forgiveness of others. The believers in Israel failed at this point. Their forgiveness was withdrawn because they refused the same mercy to the other nations. But the believers of the nations were never forgiven in this probationary fashion.
19-21 Compare Lu.12:33-34.
19 Treasures were often hid in concealed pits in the ground, where thieves would need to dig to find them. But nothing is safe on earth. Only that which we give is ours beyond the possibility of loss.
22-23 Compare Lu.11:33-36. See Prov.28:22; Mk.7:22.
22 The Pharisees tried to make the best of both worlds. They wanted treasure on earth as well as in heaven. Their eyes were afflicted with double sight, which is worse than blindness. They wanted to worship both God and mammon.
24 Compare Lu.16:13. See Ja.4:4; 1Jn.2:15.
25 There is a blessed progression in the experience of God's saints as the purpose of His grace becomes more fully known. The Psalmist could sing (Ps.55:22)
“Fling what He grants you on Jehovah,
And He will sustain you:
He will not allow the righteous to
slip for the eon.”
Peter sounds a higher strain when he writes to the dispersion, “tossing your entire worry on Him, seeing that He is caring concerning you” (1Pt.5:7.). But how much loftier is the position of Paul, as he exhorts us, “Let nothing be worrying you, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, that is superior to every frame of mind, shall be garrisoning your hearts and your apprehensions in Christ Jesus” (Phil.4:6,7). The Psalmist struggled Under a burden with the help of God, Peter got rid of the weight, but Paul prevents and replaces it with peace and thanksgiving.
25-34 Compare Lu.12:22-31.
29 We cannot be certain of the exact flower intended by our Lord from the somewhat general term used, but the brilliant scarlet anemone, which flourishes in all parts of Palestine in great profusion seems to be the only one which fully answers all the conditions. Its great abundance and rich beauty fit it perfectly for the illustration used by our Lord. The figure is full of spiritual refreshment. Clothing is that which meets the eye and corresponds to the character of the wearer. Solomon's robes were tokens of his royal station. Pharisaic righteousness He has shown to be a hypocritical pretense. The anemones suggest that God can supply His saints with divine apparel more beauteous than that of Solomon. In a word, He not only can clothe them in splendid style, but He can make them kings to rule the nations of the earth.
30 1Tim. 4:8
33 See 1 Ki.3:13; Ps.34:9, 37:25, 84:11; Mk.10:29
1-2 Compare Lu.6:37-38.
1 This has no reference to God's judgment, but to the relations of man with man, as explained in the next paragraph. Should self-judgment precede the judgment of others it would probably do away with judging. One who has a beam in his eye, and knows it, will think little of the mote in another's eye, So the Lord sought to turn the censorious critics of His day to an examination of their own shortcomings.
3-5 Compare Lu.6:41-42.
6 See Prov.9:7-8, 23:9.
6 Both dogs and hogs were unclean according to the law. The Lord Himself followed this principle when He spoke in parables to those without and kept the holy and precious truth for His own disciples. We are hardly justified in “applying” these opprobrious terms to immature saints who are not yet able to bear more than milk.
7-11 Compare Lu.11:9-13.
7 See 21:22 Jn.14:13-14, 15:7; 1Jn.3:22, 5:14-15.
7 This, of course, is limited to prayer to God. He can and will respond to those who ask for what they need, or seek what is hid, or knock at closed doors. But the answer may not be realized until the kingdom comes. We have no right or reason to expect God to change His plans and purposes in order to carry out our whims. We are not aware what we should be praying for, but the spirit is pleading for us with inarticulate groanings (Ro.8:26).
12 Compare Lu.6:31.
12 To do as we would be done by is an ethical standard far above the world's attainment, yet far beneath the monitions of grace. The law and the prophets demand compliance with this code, yet supply no power to carry it out. Grace gives the ability, yet makes no demands, but rather entreats us to do as we have been done by in our dealings with God, rather than man.
13-14 Compare Lu.13:24.
13 The crowds enter a city by the broad road which passes through the wide gate. The narrow side-paths leading to a narrow gateway in some retired corner were seldom used and were always shut in the daytime and locked at night. Few find or use these paths. This is not an illustration of the gospel, but of the law. It represents an effort to attain life. It is not stated that few find life, but few find the path to it. All life is God's gift and can never be made by man, either in the sphere of religion or of science.
15-23 Compare Lu.6:43-46.
15 The law was exceedingly severe on false prophets. Death was their penalty (Deut.13:5). It is generally supposed that a prophet is false if his sign or prediction does not come to pass. Not so. If it comes to pass, yet leads away from the Lord, they were not allowed to hearken (Deut.13:1-5). This is being written at the very time when a modern prophetess predicts the end of the world. That prophetess is not false because her vision is not being verified, but because her dreams were not of God and led away from His word. This, however, is a day of grace, and false prophets are not stoned.
But the term prophet includes all who claim a direct revelation from God, apart from His written revelation. As prophets are only in the foundation of the ecclesia (Eph.2:20), the mere claim to a personal and direct message from God is evidence in itself that it is false. The word of God is complete (Col.1:25), and only those who do not fully apprehend what God has revealed crave further communications. The latest revelations given to the apostle Paul make all further prophecy useless and round out the whole realm of revelation.
16 The figures are finely chosen. The fig tree stands for the righteous government of Messiah and the vine the spiritual cheer of His kingdom. In that day each one will sit under his own vine and fig tree (Mic.4:4). The kingdom of God is not only feeding on figs and drinking wine, but what these symbolize-righteousness and peace and joy in holy Spirit (Ro.14:17 These are the fruits that do not grow on thorns and thistles, and that characterized the true prophet.
21 See 25:11-12; Lu.13:25-30.
21 Many will need to read this passage twice, for it is the popular conviction that anyone who can prophesy or cast out demons and do other supernatural deeds is necessarily in the highest intimacy with God. Many will claim these powers, yet He refuses to acknowledge them. In itself, supernaturalism is no index of divine activity, for the powers of evil win their greatest triumphs in mimicking the manifestations of the holy Spirit.
24 That the Lord has not been preaching the evangel of God's grace, but proclaiming the constitution of His kingdom, is convincingly clear from His conclusion. He is not seeking for faith but works. The prudent man is doing them, and the stupid man is not doing them. Now the evangel for us is for him “who is not working, yet is believing'' (Ro.4:5). “Now if it is out of works, it is no longer grace, else work is no longer work” (Ro.11:6). The great storm of which our Lord speaks suggests the terrible judgments which usher in the kingdom. Then it will be “he who endures...will be saved”.
24-27 Compare Lu.6:47-49.
28-29 Compare Mk.1:22; Lu.4:32.
29 Jewish scribes always say that Rabbi So-and-so says, or that he says that another Rabbi says, etc. All their teaching is tradition.
2 Our Lord cleansed many lepers, and probably dealt similarly with them all. The “parallel” accounts in Mark (1:40-44) and Luke (5:12-14) do not “disagree” in details, for they record different occurrences. Our Lord's first testimony must be to the priests. It is not a direct one, for the priests had already rejected the testimony of John the baptist, who was one of them--by birth, if not by office.
4 See 9:30; Mk.5:43; Lev.14:1-32.
They will not hear Him, so He sends these lepers to them, as a sign that He is the One Who can cleanse the leprosy of the sinful nation. They should have known that the One Who can do this is the long-desired Messiah. There is no intimation that they heeded this testimony, so that here we have, in a parable, the same truth with which John begins his evangel: His own people do not accept Him (Jn.1:11). Indeed, this is more striking. For the priests had before them continually the lesson of the suffering sacrifice. If no other class in the nation could understand His rejection and sorrow and death, they should have recognized that this is the One Who was to be led as a lamb to the slaughter. But, in that deeper wisdom of God, they were also the ones who were ordained to be the slayers of the great Sacrifice.
5-13 Compare Lu.7:1-10.
5 This is followed by an intimation that, though rejected by His own, He would be accepted by the nations, as is the case in the book of Acts. The priest was at one end of the religious scale, and the alien centurion at the other. Yet it was the far-off gentile who believed and received, without a sign, without even the Lord's presence, rather than the privileged priest, who had ample opportunity to examine the reality of His cures and to test His claims by the divine oracles of which the priests were the repositories.
10 Like the centurion's servant, the nations who believed, when the evangel went forth after His resurrection, as recorded in Acts, had no personal contact with Him, and never knew His presence. They are saved at a distance, by a faith unequaled in Israel. So, also there will be many in the future who will find a place in the kingdom, while many even of the priests will be left out.
The paralytic who was healed is appropriately delineated. He has no strength and needs none. He does nothing. All his salvation is outside his own efforts. It was, of necessity, not of works. It was all of God. Such was the salvation of the nations. In contrast with this the leper called on Him and entreated for the blessing, He came to Him and worshiped Him. Such was the case with the Jewish disciples.
14-17 Compare Mk.1:20-34; Lu.4:38-41
14 There is considerable marshy land near Tell Hum, the probable site of Capernaum. This might account for the fever.
17 Compare Isa.53:4. See 1Pt.2:24.
18 Compare Mk.4:35; Lu.8:22.
19-22 Compare Lu.9:57-62.
20 This, the first time He takes the title “Son of Mankind”, is full of deep pathos. After He has become wearied with His works of healing, a scribe knows no better than to call Him his “Teacher”. How little had he apprehended of His power and glory! His words have shown Him to be capable of coping with all that Adam's sin has brought into the world. He is his greater Son. He has regained the sovereignty lost by the first man. His realm extends over all mankind and over the beasts of the field and the birds of heaven. They are among the lowest of His subjects. The jackals have their burrows and may retire to rest; the winged denizens of heaven have their roosts on which to spend the night, yet His weary head, Whose dominion includes all earthly creatures, was denied even the possession place of repose! What a contrast is this to the last time we meet this title in the sacred records! Then we see His holy head wreathed with the chaplet of a conqueror (Un.14:14). The victor's wreath adorns the brow they crowned with thorns. And then, as Daniel had foretold, will be given Him authority, and esteem, and a kingdom, that all peoples, races, and languages should serve Him, for His authority is an eonian authority, which shall not pass away (Dan.7:14).
The title “Son of Mankind” is significant in every occurrence, even though our dull minds may miss it. It is always suggestive of the dignities which devolved on Adam as the sovereign of all earthly creatures and head of the human race, He inherits all these glories and restores them to far more than their pristine perfection in the coming eon.
24 This event probably occurred at an earlier date than the similar accounts in Mark and Luke. The cause here was an earthquake which started immense tidal waves. In the other cases, it was a squall (Mk. 4:35-41; Lu.8:23-25).
25 Ever and anon, while revealing His own glory and exercising the faith of His followers, our Lord presents a marvelous prophetic picture of the course of the kingdom proclamation. Here we have a preview, on a small scale and in physical symbols, of that terrible time of affliction, which will threaten to engulf His disciples at the end of the eon, just before His advent. The winds are the spiritual forces of wickedness, figured by the great dragon (Un.12:3), the sea stands for the nations of mankind, led by the wild beast (Un.13:1). Together they will well-nigh destroy all hopes of the kingdom. Then it is that Christ will come and rebuke the nations and the spirit powers and usher in the calm of the kingdom, where there will be no more war, the nations will be subdued and Satan will be bound. Till then there will be no possible guarantee of peace among the nations of the earth, notwithstanding every effort to stop war.
28-34 Compare Mk.5:1-20; Lu.8:26-39
28 Vaticanus reads this “Gadarenes”. Sinaiticus reads “Gazarenes”, but the editor (S2) changed this to “Gorgesenos”, as we have it. Gadara was a well-known city, but is so far from the shores of Galilee, that it was quite impossible for the narrative to have been enacted there. The hogs would have had to run down a mountain, cross the Jermuk river, itself enough to drown them, up its banks, then several miles across a level plain into the water. At one place on the eastern shore of the lake, at a ruined town called Chersa by the Arabs, all the topography is in perfect keeping with the narrative. Behind the town tombs were cut in the rock. A steep mountain rises almost immediately out of the water, so that the hogs, rushing down, could not step on the narrow beach, but plunged headlong into the lake. It seems evident that this is the true locality and the name Gergesone seems most likely to have been the original off the traditional “Chersa”, as it is now known. Gadarene seems misleading, hence we do not use it.
31 As swine's flesh was unclean, the keeping of hogs was illegal, and no wrong was done to their owners by sending them to destruction in the waters of the lake.
1-8 Compare Mk.2:1-12; Lu.5:17-26.
5 Paralysis and all other human ills are but an effect, of which sin is the cause. Not, indeed, the personal sins of the paralytic, but the sins of mankind in general, for all men are born with a heritage of sin and live in an atmosphere heavy with wrong-doing. But the great truth here taught is that the physical blessings of the coming kingdom have a secure basis in the pardon of sins. So, in this scene, which suggests the believing remnant of Israel who receive Him as their Messiah, the Lord seems to overlook the paralysis at first and pardons his sins. The delay, and the unbelief of the scribes, suggest the apostasy of the nation and the consequence postponement of physical blessings till the kingdom comes and the authority of the Son of Mankind to pardon sins is in full exercise, followed by the health, strength, and vigor which will be the portion of mankind in the millennium. If human governments would get beyond the outbreaks and symptoms and deal with sin they would not need to be concerned with all its evil effects. They can never bring health and righteousness.
9-15 Compare Mk.2:13-20; Lu.5:27-35.
9 It is a most striking exhibition of God's grace and wisdom, that such a man as Matthew should be chosen for an apostle, and furthermore should be empowered to write this account of Israel's King. This was contrary to all the dictates of human wisdom. Matthew was a “publican” or tribute collector, a class more hated, perhaps, than aliens, and more despised than sinners. The Roman government did not collect its tribute from the nations under its yoke directly but farmed it out to subordinates. A district was sold for what it would bring, and the collector received his wages by assessing as much more as he could get. Hence they amassed wealth at the expense of their poor countrymen and for the benefit of a foreign government. Yet God chose such a traitor to his country to describe the glories of the King! His fitness was not by birth but of God.
11 See 11:19 Lu.15:2.
12 The strong need to be taught their weakness, and the just their sinfulness. Then, and not till then, are they in conscious need of a Saviour.
13 See 12:7; Hos.6:6; Mic.6:6-8; 1Ti.1:15.
14 It is a most difficult lesson for the saints to learn, that God's dealings with His creatures change, and that their conduct should change accordingly, John's disciples thought that the Lord's followers should do as they did. But the coming of Christ entirely changed the circumstances. He was the Bridegroom. They were the Bride. John had introduced them. How unbecoming it would be for them to fast! They should feast! And this they did. The Lord appeared at Cana and at many another feast.
16-17 Compare Mk.2:21-22; Lu.5:36-39.
16 John's ministry was the old cloak, the old wineskins. The Lord's ministry was the unshrunk cloth, the new wineskins. They cannot be associated without disaster. How much more true is this today! Since John's time and our Lord's teaching, transcendent truth has been revealed which He could not impart to them then. Our conduct should be conformed to this higher and later revelation. Yet most of the saints seem satisfied with doing as John's disciples, or as our Lord's. No wonder the cloth tears, and their covering is ragged. No wonder the wine bursts the skins and their joy is spilled. Let us keep the new wine which we have received in the new containers God has provided. Let us live and act in accord with the highest revelation, given in Paul's epistles.
18-23 Compare Mk.5:22-43; Lu.8:41-56.
20 See Nu.15:37-41.
20 How often is there a significant interruption in the performance of a miracle! The dead daughter, representing Israel as a nation, waits for His coming. So Ezekiel portrays Israel before His glorious appearing. They are dead. But on the way a woman secretly touches the tassel of His cloak. The tassel speaks of that which finishes the cloak and corresponds to His work on Golgotha, where He finished the robe of righteousness which clothed Him. Contact with that finished work saved many a sinner during the interval between His promise to come again and His advent. While the present interval of grace was a profound secret and was not even intimated in this touching scene, yet we have here a definite hint of the direction in which God's grace would flow if hindered by the apostasy of Israel.
27 Blindness is to this day a very common affliction in eastern lands. The glare of the sun or lack of care in infancy costs many their sight. These men evidently had become blind physically, yet had spiritual sight sufficient to see their Saviour, Hence He casts the burden of belief on them. This is in marked contrast to the next case, for the deaf-mute was incapable of faith so long as he was obsessed by the demon.
32 One of the chief features of the coming kingdom will be the absence of Satan and other evil spirits. So every case of casting out demons is a demonstration of His power to take the throne. There could be no better proof that He was the Messiah than His power over the unseen domains of darkness. In the time of the end, His great opponent will be the wild beast on the human side (Un.13:1). But it is the dragon that gives the beast his power and throne, and authority (Un.13:2). Hence, not only is the wild beast arrested (Un.19:20), but the dragon is bound for the thousand years (Un.20:2).
34 On another occasion we are told that this chief of the demons is Beezeboul (12:24). This is the blasphemy against the holy Spirit, which cannot be pardoned in this eon or that which is to come (12:31). The reason for this is very easily seen. These signs were the powers of the coming eon, intended to convince the nation that Messiah was present and induce them to believe on Him. Now, if the very signs which should have demonstrated His Messiahship are taken to indicate that He is in league with the powers of darkness, it is impossible that they should repent and believe. The unpardonable sin consists in ascribing to sinister spirits what is the work of God's holy Spirit. In this day there is the opposite danger of ascribing all supernatural manifestations to the holy Spirit. The spirits must be tested by the word of God. That their teaching and work is a very close imitation, so close as to deceive the great majority of the saints, is according to Paul's predictions concerning the end time. We know that, somewhere in Christendom today, the demons are deceiving the saints, and the fact that they do not know it does not alter it.
35 Compare Mk 6:6; Lu.8:1-3.
1 Compare Mk.3:13-19; Lu.6:12-16. See Lu.9:1.
2 There is some variation in the order of the names, as well as of the names themselves, in the lists of the twelve apostles, but they are always found in three groups, headed by Peter, Philip and James, as follow:
Bartholomew is usually identified with Nathanael (Jn.1:44-46, 21:2). Judas James, in order to distinguish from Judas Iscariot, was called Thaddeus, and Simon (not Peter), was termed the Zealot, or its Hebrew equivalent the Cananite (not Canaanite). Of course, Matthias takes the place of Judas Iscariot in Acts.
5 Compare Mk.6:7-15; Lu.9:1-11.
5 The Lord had been heralding the kingdom alone and had confirmed the proclamation by signs which indicated its nearness. Now He associates twelve of His disciples with Him in this work and dispatches them with authority over disease and death and the demons so that they could prove its proximity by both their words and their works. This is the first kingdom proclamation. The second is not given until after His resurrection (28:16-20). They differ on almost every point. This was to be exercised in the land alone. Not even Samaria was to hear it. It was strictly for the lost sheep of Israel's fold and included no others. The second kingdom proclamation is for all nations, except Israel.
This first kingdom proclamation was carried on until the crisis in our Lord's ministry when it became evident that the nation had rejected Him and His message. Then He charged His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus, the Messiah (16:20). Even though Peter and John are given a foretaste of the kingdom on the mount of transformation, He charged them not to tell of the vision until the Son of Mankind should be risen from among the dead (17:9). From this time until Pentecost this proclamation was interrupted.
Anticipating the renewal of its proclamation during His absence, our Lord gave the keys to Peter when he, in contrast to the apostate nation, acknowledged Him to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God (16:19). The door to the kingdom is locked when its proclamation is forbidden. At Pentecost, Peter uses the keys and once more proclaims the proximity of the kingdom, conditioned on the repentance of the nation. At first, a small proportion of the people accept the message, but it is not long ere the nation, as such, by the murder of Stephen, and the attempts on Peter and Paul, signifies its rejection. At the end of Acts, it is formally set aside by Paul's public proclamation of their apostasy.
When God once more turns to Israel in the future it will be proclaimed again and, in the midst of great affliction, the nation, represented by the hundred and forty-four thousand celibates (Un.7:3-8) and the vast throng (Un.7:9-17), will accept the proclamation and enter the kingdom. Then Peter's epistles will unlock the door. Then all Israel will be saved (Ro.11:26), and the presence of the kingdom will preclude its further proclamation.
This gospel of the kingdom is not concerned with sin or individual salvation. The pardon of sins, based on the sufferings of Christ, is in the commission for mankind in Luke's account (Lu.24:46-49). It was not confined to Israel. Christ had not suffered when this gospel of the kingdom was first proclaimed. It can refer to nothing else than the kingdom promised to Israel in the Hebrew scriptures.
10 Compare Lu.10:1-16.
14 See Neh.5:13 Ac.13:51, 18:6.
16-22 Compare Mk.13:9-13 Lu.21:12-18.
19 Compare Lu.12:11-12 See Ex.4:12 Jer.1:7.
24 See Lu.6:40 Jn.15:20.
26 See Mk.4:22 Lu.8:17, 12:2,3
32 See Lu.12:8,9 Un.3:5.
33 See Mk.8:38 2Ti.2:12.
34-36 Compare Lu.12:39-53. See Mic.7:6.
23 The mood of the verb is most important here. The Lord is not telling what would but what may occur. His apostles were frail mortals, easily discouraged, so He does no more than hint at a possible failure of their mission. The common version, by ignoring the subjunctive form of the verbs, has given rise to much perplexity and speculation. This proclamation brought the kingdom very near, so that the Lord's coming in glory and power should not have been delayed much longer. That He did not come at that time is no proof that He was mistaken, but rather of His foreknowledge, for He was careful to phrase the prospect so as to provide for this contingency.
25 Our Lord calls Beezeboul a householder, which, probably, is the meaning of the name. (See note on 12:24). The disciples should expect no better treatment than their Lord had received, yet He exhorts them not to be afraid, for even the unseen powers shall be manifested.
28 The soul is the seat of sensation but is popularly confounded with the spirit. A soulish man is one who is swayed by his senses. He may even be sensual, for such is the usual rendering of Jas.3:15. Those of the apostles who were killed later will lose nothing in the kingdom. Their souls will be surfeited with joy in that day. Their death will only add to their soul's delight in the resurrection. They, however, who come under God's judgment in the kingdom will not only have their bodies destroyed in the vale of Hinnom, just below Jerusalem, where the offal of the city was incinerated, but they will miss all the joys which their souls long for in the millennium. The martyrs who die for the sake of the kingdom have nothing to fear. So far as their souls are concerned, death gives them an immediate entrance into the delights of that earthly paradise, even though at their martyrdom it was thousands of years in the future.
29 The greatness of God is as evident in the minute details of His creation as in the vast immensities of stellar space. His microscopic care meets the needs of His creatures and reaches their hearts. Nothing is too trivial for Him Whose presence pervades the universe. The ultimate electron is as much His providence as the cosmos in its entirety.
34 The natural inference arising from the proclamation of the kingdom would be that, when Israel believed, the era of the millennium would immediately commence. But it is never wise to reason from God's apparent procedure. He may have deeper plans which do not appear on the surface. The proclamation of the kingdom was made in all good faith, yet we know now, as God always has known, that it was not intended to introduce the kingdom at that time. Moreover, He had also revealed that, before it could come, there would be a time of great distress in which His faithful followers would endure such affliction as had not been known on the earth before. Since the kingdom must be established by force, He thrusts in His sword, that peace may follow.
37 See Lu.14:26,27.
38 See 16:24; Mk.8:34,35; Lu.9:23,24.
39 This has special reference to the time of Jacob's trouble, at the time of the end, when many will suffer and die rather than worship the image of the wild beast (Un.13:15). They will avoid suffering, or save their souls, only at the risk of God's indignation, and the loss of the pleasures of the kingdom. Those who endure affliction for the kingdom will enjoy the bliss of the kingdom. They destroy their souls to find them. Those who avoid suffering by yielding to the pressure of the adversary will have no portion in the kingdom. They find their souls for a brief period only to destroy them for the thousand years.
40 When the Son of Mankind comes in His glory to sit upon His throne, then judgment will proceed on the basis, not of personal sinfulness, but of the treatment of His disciples during the time of their need. This principle is a fitting close to His instructions for proclaiming the kingdom. It shows that they are not commissioned to preach the evangel of God, which is for us today.
41 See 1Ki.17:10 18:4; 2Ki.4:8; Heb.13:2.
2-4 Compare Lu.7:18-23.
2 John Was the greatest of all the prophets. Yet even he was not fully aware of the mind of God. If Christ is Messiah, and this he does not doubt, why is he allowed to languish in prison? The Jews had difficulty in reconciling the prophecies concerning the Messiah. Some seemed to set Him forth as the Suffering One; others made Him a glorious King. So some looked for two Messiahs; one, Messiah ben Joseph to suffer, and another, Messiah ben David, to reign. Perhaps
some such thought came to John. He had openly rebuked Herod, but the Lord made no effort to get him out of Herod's hands and did nothing to assert His own power. Was He the Suffering One, and was there to be another to rule with an iron club? We can now see that both Joseph and David were a combination of suffering and glory and that there was in each case an interval between the two. But this could hardly be made known at the time He was sending out His apostles. It would have disheartened them to know that their proclamation was not destined to succeed. So our Lord does not give a definite reply to John's messengers but bids them testify to what they saw. He hints that John might be snared by His course. Yet, however inexplicable it may appear to him, He assures him that it is his happy portion to trust where he cannot understand.
7 Compare Lu.7:24-30.
7 The Lord might well have spoken disparagingly of John at this juncture. Instead, He gives him a eulogy which places him on the highest pinnacle of human fame. He gives him a name greater even than Moses and Elijah. The Jews have never accorded him this place, partly because he was the forerunner of the Messiah they have rejected, and partly because his career is eclipsed by the coming and presence of his Lord.
10 Compare Mal.3:1.
12-15 Compare Lu.16:16,17.
12 John's methods were drastic and violent. He would have forced the kingdom on the nation, just as our Lord will do when the two witnesses will withhold rain, and turn waters into blood, and smite the earth with calamities (Un.11:3-6). John came in the spirit and power of Elijah. For the time, our Lord was of an entirely different spirit.
14 See 17:10-13; Lu.1:17; Mal.4:5.
16-19 Compare Lu.7:31-35.
16 The difference between John's ministry and that of our Lord is further evident by the different charges against them. The people were sulky, like little children who will not play at any game, grave or gay. John wailed, yet they would not grieve. The Lord fluted, yet they refused to dance. John was an ascetic, and they charged him with having a demon. Our Lord was the opposite, yet they called Him a glutton and a tippler. They would not be suited. Yet it was the wisdom of God to play these opposites against one another, thus to manifest the incurable stubbornness of the people.
20 The emphatic statement that Tyre and Sidon would have repented if they had been favored like the cities of Galilee makes it quite impossible to doom them to endless destruction without compromising the justice of God, quite apart from His mercy. The unqualified assertion that Sodom would not have been destroyed had it been privileged as Capernaum brings into question God's wisdom and love. Did He stint His favors so that these cities should not repent? The answer is that all is according to that deeper expression of His love which wisely provides for its ultimate display. God's justice will be vindicated in adjusting judgment to accord with privilege. In the consummation, His love will be revealed in their salvation.
20-24 Compare Lu.10:13-16.
23 This is a most instructive illustration of the meaning of the word unseen, usually rendered hell or hades. Sodom had subsided to the unseen even in our Lord's day. And today the very site of Capernaum is uncertain. As a city, it has passed beyond the sphere of human perception. The unseen is not confined to the death state but is applied to invisible spirit powers and vanished cities. It is used here in the same sense as heaven in the preceding sentence.
25-27 Compare Lu.10:21-24. See Ps.8:2; 1Co.1:19-27.
25 Though His ministry seems to be a failure, the Lord recognizes the fact that this is in accord with God's unrevealed purpose. He acquiesces in God's evident delight in hiding the truth from those who were wise and intelligent in the things of this life. He does not fret because He cannot reach them, because God's work is apparently without the anticipated results, for He has the consciousness that, in the final analysis, it is God Himself Who is operating all for His own purpose and glory. It is not that those who rejected Him were blinded by some act of their own for which God disclaims responsibility. They do not see because God positively hides it from them.
27 See Jn.3:35, 17:2.
28 It is this God-consciousness, this recognition of His hand in all things, and more especially in that which is opposed to His apparent will, which gives His slaves heart's ease and rest in spirit. This is especially needed in days of apostasy. When we see the success of His enemies, the failure of His friends, when His own are enmeshed in the delusions of the last days, shall we blame those who must bear this load as they toil? How hard it is for their pride to be involved failure! How great the temptation to throw off the yoke and insure success by methods of their own! O that they would learn to yoke themselves with Him, to bow humbly beneath the failure that is according to God's underlying purpose! Then they will acquiesce when He blinds, as well as when He blesses. Then the yoke will no longer gall, and the load will float from their aching shoulders. The false thought that failure is not of God and that success is His hallmark, has led His saints to imagine that any flagrant disobedience to His will is fully justified if it only results in apparent success. Let us remember that He has characterized these as days of apostasy, so that it is His will that many should depart from the faith, and, consequently, great success may result in great loss to any slave of His who does not contend lawfully. Our business is to please God by suffering rejection along with Him.
1-8 Compare Mk.2:23-28; Lu.6:1-5. See Deut.23:25.
1-8 One of the most significant points in many of the miracles accomplished by our Lord is the fact that they were done on the sabbath. How else could He indicate the great truth that, when Israel is cured of all her ills, it would introduce that great sabbatism which is left for the people of God? Instead of stumbling them, it should have proved His Messianic claims. Moreover, the law of the sabbath was not operative in the sanctuary, and He was the real Temple of God.
3 See Lev.24:5-9; 1Sam.21:1-6.
5 See Nu.28:9,10 Jn.7:22,23.
7 See 9:13; Hos.6:6; Mic.6:6-8.
9-13 Compare Mk.3:1-5; Lu.6:6-10. See Lu.13:10-17, 14:1-6; Jn.9:16.
10 Israel is the man with the withered hand. Instead of being punctilious about doing good on the sabbath, they should have been concerned with the fact that they could not work for God on any day. They will not be healed until the millennial rest, during which they will be busy “breaking” the sabbath.
11 See Ex.23:4-5; Deut.22:4.
14.21 Compare Mk.3:6-12; Lu.6:11,17-19.
16 Hitherto He wished to be known, but now He enters a new phase of His ministry, in accord with the fact that God had hid His proclamation from those who would have made it effective. Before this, His voice was heard in the squares, so that Isaiah's prophecy could not be truly applied to Him then. Now, however, He is given a special token of God's approbation, not because He has succeeded, but because He has been faithful in failure. It is especially precious to appreciate the comforting fact that God preferred Him and delighted in Him when all the signs indicated that His marvelous ministry was almost unheeded. Only a crushed reed here, or a smouldering flax there, were the results of His efforts. Contrite hearts and feeble flickers of faith were all He could show, when His message, humanly speaking, should have aroused the whole nation and made them His ardent disciples.
18 Compare Isa.42:1-4.
22-23 Compare Lu.11:14.
22 It is a fact that all human ills have come to the race through the interference of outside malignant spirit forces. Satan introduced sin through Adam. He Who is superior to these invading forces is capable of curing all the ills which man is heir to.
24 Compare Mk.3:22-26.
25 See 9:4; Jn.2:24,25; Un.2:23.
24 It is usual to associate this chief of the demons with the god of Ekron, called Baalzebub, Owner or Lord of Flies (2 Ki.1:2). This the Septuagint renders Baal muian, Baal fly. But all the Greek texts have a different ending -boul. This is supposed to be derived from a Rabbinic word meaning dung. But it is not likely that a god Ekron should be the chief of the demons, though doubtless, he was one of them (1Co.10:20). There is a Hebrew verb zabal (Gen.30:20) which means reside. It may be that the name of the chief of the demons is Owner-residence, the equivalent of Master of the house. Our Lord calls him a householder (10:25). There is no real reason for identifying him with Satan, but rather, like Apollyon, he seems to be subordinate, though head of that division of Satan's kingdom which includes the demons.
29 Compare Mk.3:27; Lu.11:21,22. See Isa.49:24 53:12.
30 Compare Lu.11:23. See Lu.9:50.
31-32 Compare Mk.3:28-30; Lu.12:10.
31 The blasphemy of the Spirit consists in attributing the works of Christ, done by the power of God's Spirit, to demons or unclean spirits. As these works were the means used to produce repentance and pardon, and this was essential for entrance into the kingdom, it is readily seen that pardon is quite impossible in such a case. The time, however, is limited to this eon or the coming eon of the kingdom. Eventually, all mankind will be far more than pardoned. They will be justified (Ro.5:18) and reconciled (Col.1:20). But this will not take place until a full eon later when the kingdom is given over to the Father (1Co.15:24). We cannot commit the sin against the holy Spirit because our salvation is not based on miracles and signs. It follows faith, not sight. And we are not pardoned but justified (Ro.3:24,26). Condemnation is impossible (Ro.8:1). Moreover, we are explicitly told that, in the latter eras, some will be withdrawing from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and the teaching of demons. Any spirit manifestation in perfect accord with the scriptures should be given the most severe tests, lest we be among those who are deceived by them.
33-37 Compare Lu.6:43-45. See Jn.3:6,7
39 What sign can be given to those who attribute His wonderful works to the agency of the demons? No sign shall be given them. They, instead, will provide themselves with a sign by murdering the Messiah. His death, entombment, and resurrection is the only sign He will give them. Briefly, they will have one more opportunity to repent after He has been roused from the dead. This is given them in the Pentecostal era.
38 Compare Mk.8:11,12 Jn.2:18-22. See 1Co.122,23.
39-40 Compare Lu.11:29-30.
40 Twelve times in the four accounts of our Lord's life we read that He would be roused “the third day”. When speaking to Romans it is twice “after three days”. Here only, quoting from the Hebrew, it is “three days and three nights”. The designation of time varies much in all languages. Hebrew chronology always counts the smallest part of a year or a day as a whole. The twelve times repeated testimony of our Lord, besides Peter (Ac.10:40), and Paul (I Co.15:4), shows that “the third day” is a literal and this phrase an idiomatic expression.
40 In Jonah this sea monster is called a large fish. The Greek name is now used as a scientific term for sea mammals, such as the whale. We are not told what species of sea monster it was, nor is there any good reason why we should know. Among the Greeks there was a tradition that it was a shark. There is a species in the Mediterranean some of which are so large that a man could stand upright in their outstretched throat. Men have been found whole in their stomachs. There are marine monsters in the depths of the sea, which are seldom seen. These are so large that they could swallow several men at one time.
It is said that an English seaman, thrown into the water when a gigantic sperm whale capsized the boat, was given up for drowned. But two days later, when the whale was cut up, he was found in the stomach of the sea monster, unconscious, but alive. He recovered completely. In some ways, this is more remarkable than Jonah's case, for his sea monster had been specially prepared for his reception.
41 Compare Lu.11:32. See Jonah 3.
42 Compare Lu.11:31. See 1Ki.10:1; 2Chr.9:1
42 “The ends of the earth,” an expression which does not include the sea, would describe any location on Eurasia or Africa not far from the further coast line.
43-45 Compare Lu.11:24-26
43 Actual idolatry had no place in Israel. That evil spirit had been cast out since the captivity. They were like the empty house, for the spirit of God had not displaced the unclean spirit. Though untenanted, like the temple on Moriah's mount, they kept to the outward form of cleansing and ceremony. But during the time of the end, they will receive the false christ and will worship the miracle-working image, and bring down upon the apostates the judgments of the bowls (Un.15:5-16:21).
46-50 Compare Mk.3:31-35; Lu.8:19-21. See 13:55; Mk.6:3; Jn.2:12 7:3,5 Ac.1:14; 1Co.9:5; Ga.1:19.
46 This is not intended to show disrespect and disregard for His own family. Rather it is brought up just at this juncture to indicate the change coming over His ministry. He no longer recognizes a merely physical relationship.
1-9 Compare Mk.4:1-9; Lu..8:4-8.
1 The action is significant and corresponds with His repudiation of His relatives. He takes Himself outside the artificial Jewish system. Though vast throngs come, He does, not proclaim the nearness of the kingdom but speaks so they cannot comprehend, concealing His meaning in parables. His subject is still the kingdom, but He is concerned with its past and future history, not its present proclamation. He utters secrets hitherto unrevealed, which even His own disciples could not understand.
3-5 See verses 18 to 21.
3 The removal of the kingdom to a distance in time is indicated by comparing it with the sowing and growing and harvesting of a crop. Had it still been imminent, He would not have called Himself a Sower, but a Reaper, as in the Unveiling, when the kingdom is about to appear (Un.14:14).
The Lord is Himself the Sower, and the parable gives us the results of His past ministry. It shows us why His proclamation had not swept the whole nation into the kingdom. We must now wait until the sowing is ready for the harvest.
The picture presented is true to the life of the Orient. The unfenced fields were allotted to farmers, and the roads ran right through the grain, so that it was quite impossible to avoid sowing some on the hard ground. There were often outcroppings of the country rock and shallow soil near it, and in many places thorns were so thick that the farmers despaired of eradicating them. As their soil, so the people. It takes the sun and rain of heaven to change the rocks into fertile soil. The heart of the people was still hard. It will take the storms of persecution and the fire of affliction to prepare it for the kingdom of Christ.
7-8 See verses 22 and 23.
10-13 Compare Mk.4:10-13; Lu.8:9-10.
11 It cannot be too strongly emphasized that our Lord's parables were not intended to explain, but to mystify. He veiled His message in figures lest they should understand.
12 Compare Mk.4:24-25; Lu.8:18.
12 This somewhat enigmatic statement must be understood in connection with its context. Our Lord's disciples had received spiritual gifts which enabled them to receive more. Those who had not believed on Him had no means of receiving what He was now dispensing, for they had no spiritual discernment. Not only would they lose these spiritual benefits but, as a result of the national apostasy, they would also lose the privileges which they had as the people of God.
14 This quotation from the sixth chapter of Isaiah is quoted more frequently than any other passage from the prophets. It occurs at the two great crises in the spiritual history of Israel, the rejection of the kingdom ministry of Christ, and the repudiation of its renewal by the holy spirit in Acts (Ac.28:25-27). It always marks the cessation of the evangel of the kingdom, not seeking to open their eyes, but to blind them. After Paul's pronunciation of Israel's doom the kingdom proclamation ceased. The history of the kingdom ended. It will not be resumed until the present administration of God's grace, in which the evangel goes direct to the nations apart from Israel's mediacy, is finished. Then once more the evangel will not only go to Israel, but through them to all the nations.
14 Compare Isa.6:9-10, Septuagint. See Jn.12:37-40; Ac.28:25-27; Ro.11:7-10; 2Co.3:14-16.
16-17 Compare Lu.10:23-24. See 16:17.
18-23 Compare Mk.4:14-20; Lu.8:11-15.
19 Lack of understanding lays the heart open to the inroads of malignant spirit powers. The chief opposition to our Lord's ministry came from superhuman sources. Before He could even enter on His work, Satan tried to turn Him aside. He was continually casting out demons. This satanic opposition continued to the end. Satan sifted Peter and obsessed Judas. Before the kingdom will be established he will be bound (Un.20:2). Then no evil spirit will mislead mankind until the close of the thousand years.
20 God's present evangel of pure grace expects nothing from man. It thrives in any soil. One who really receives it is never temporary. It will bear fruit in the midst of stones or thorns, for it expects no sustenance from beneath. This parable has no application whatever to the evangel of today. It refers exclusively to the proclamation of the kingdom by our Lord Himself up to the time when it was spoken. Of the many who had heard Him only one class out of four became His disciples.
24-30 See verses 36-38.
24 This parable is concerned with the future course of the kingdom proclamation before it comes. There is the same Sower as in the previous parable. There is no question of the kind of ground, but the kind of seed. The Sower put in ideal seed. His enemy sowed that which was similar in appearance, but poisonous. Darnel is so like wheat or barley before it heads out that it is practically impossible to separate them. It was customary to weed grain fields, but darnel was too like the good stalks to distinguish them. It is a strong soporific poison, and was winnowed and picked out of the wheat, grain by grain, before being ground up for meal.
The darnel represents the horde of hypocrites who took their place with true disciples. There was one even among the twelve apostles. Their number greatly increased in the later years of the Pentecostal era. They will flourish at the time of the end, and perish in the Judgments which usher in the kingdom.
31-32 Compare Mk.4:30-32 Lu.13:18-19. See Dan.4:10-12.
31 Mustard, like darnel, is a menace to the grain farmer. It is not a healthful food but a condiment. Its quick growth from a small beginning is in striking contrast to the parable of the Sower. Its sinister import is confirmed by the place it gives to the birds. In the first parable, these represent the wicked spirits in their opposition to our Lord's proclamation. Now they actually take their place in the branches. At the time of the end, there will be an exceedingly rapid development of the kingdom among the Jews, which will head up in false Babylon, which becomes the cage of every hateful bird (Un.18 3), and supports the wicked spirits who once opposed the kingdom proclamation.
33 Compare Lu.13:20,21. See Zech.5:5-11.
33 Leaven, in scripture, is always a symbol of evil and corruption. The Jews cleanse all leaven out of their houses once a year at the festival of Unleavened Bread (26:17; Ex.11:15). This the apostle calls evil and wickedness (1Co.5:8). All types of Christ had to be without leaven (Ex.23:18, 34:25; Lev.2:11, 6:17). The meal was good. But the woman covertly introduces evil, which causes it to expand, and makes it palatable for men. The woman can hardly be any one but that false figure of the end time, great Babylon. The apostate nation will so corrupt the proclamation as to please the unregenerate in Israel. Instead of looking to Messiah to establish His reign and give them a place in it, they do as they did in the days of old, when they leaned on Egypt or Assyria, instead of on Jehovah. At the end time Babylon will be supported in millennial splendor by all the nations of the earth. It is true that the leaven of insincerity and falsehood is working in Christendom today, swelling it into a great world force, palatable to men but abominable in the sight of God, but this parable has reference to the kingdom only. Leaven typifies evil, and evil only, at all times.
34-35 Compare Mk.4:33-34.
35 This refers to the disruption of the kingdom from the house of David. This is the subject of the so-called seventy-eighth psalm, from which this quotation is taken.
37 The history of the kingdom proclamation in Acts and what is predicted the circumcision epistles and the Unveiling fully bears out our Lord's forecast. There were the seven sons of Sceva (Ac.19:15), the wolves in Ephesus (AC.20:29), the rich in James (5:1), the false prophets of second Peter and those who follow them, those who slip in, according to Jude (4), and many in the Unveiling, such as the false apostles (2:2), those who are of the synagogue of Satan (2:9), the Nicolaitans (2:15), Jezebel (2:20), and great Babylon (18-19:5)-a11 these hypocrites were as darnel in the field, and have been allowed to flourish hitherto. But when the harvest comes the wicked will be severed from among the just and given up to judgment. No such severance shall take place in the body of Christ. Its members are beyond the sphere of condemnation (Ro.8:1). There is no excuse for their having fellowship with unbelievers (2Co.6:14). They should be separate. This passage has no bearing on our conduct. It is concerned with the Circumcision alone.
44 In a country subject to revolutions, invasions, and robbers, it was customary to hide money and valuables in secret cistern-like vaults in the fields. Such are not seldom found by accident, and often cause much excitement. It would be dangerous to dig in another man's field. Hence the buying. Israel is the treasure. The field is the world (see 38). In order to possess Himself of the treasure, the Son of Mankind gives His all and purchases the world. He has overpaid its price by His blood.
45 The parable of the pearl is another aspect of the truth revealed by the parable of the treasure hid in the field. The sea is a picture of the nations, among whom Israel is scattered. The dispersion among the nations is the precious pearl sought by the Merchant, Who gave up all His riches to purchase it for Himself. They will be His special treasure in that day.
There is no ground for the popular idea that Christ is the pearl, found by the sinner seeking salvation. He is, indeed precious, but sinners are not, seekers. It is always the Saviour Who finds the lost. He is not lost nor hidden. Here is another aspect of Israel's dispersion among the nations. In the conclusion of this eon-still future-Israel will be drawn from among all peoples. There will be a separation, such as was indicated in the parable of the darnel, and the bad will be destroyed in the terrible judgments of the seven bowls (Un.15:5, 16:21).
53-58 Compare Mk. 6:1-6.
53 Notwithstanding the treatment He had received when He visited Nazareth before (Lu.4:15-30), when they had actually tried to put Him to death, and the fact that His own brethren had declared Him to be mad, He graciously returns to the home of His youth, staying this time as long as He desired, and meeting no open hostility. It may be that He wished to refute the rumors His brethren had spread concerning Him by His presence and by healing their sick. But the Nazarenes found it impossible to put aside their prejudices. How could He, a mere townsman of theirs, amount to anything? They knew all about Him and His family. So it was with the prophets, and continues to this day. No man of God need expect recognition from those with whom he is familiar.
54 See Jn.7:16,17.
55 See Isa.49:7 53:2,3 Ac.1:14.
1-5 Compare Mk.6:14-20 Lu.9:7-9.
1 There are a number of the Herodian family referred to in the Scriptures. This one, usually called Herod Antipas, was one of the sons of Herod the Great (Mt.2:1 Lu.l:6) who had sought to kill our Lord soon after His birth. Two of his half-brothers are also mentioned, Herod Philip I. who had first married Herodias (Mt.14:3 Mk.6:17 Lu.3:19), and Herod Philip II. (Lu.3:1). Archclaus (Mt.2:22) was his full brother. Another half-brother, Aristobulus, was the father of Herod, king of Chalcis (Ac.25:13), Herod Agrippa I. (Ac. 12:1-23), and Herodias, whose marriage, first to Herod Philip I. and then to Herod Antipas, was the cause of John the baptist's death. Agrippa II. (Ac.25:13) was a son of Agrippa I. Bernice (Ac. 25:13) and Drusilla (Ac.24:24) were his sisters.
Herod the tetrarch, here referred to, was a son of Herod the Great by a Samaritan woman named Malthace. After his father's death, the Romans appointed him tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, so that by far the greater part of our Lord's ministry was carried on
in his dominions. His first wife was a daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia, who made war with him and conquered him because he had repudiated his daughter in order to marry Herodias, his half-brother Philip's wife. This woman brought him to his ruin. She was exceedingly ambitious and induced him to go to the emperor at Rome and seek the title of king. But Herodias' brother, Herod Agrippa I. brought accusations against him, so that Caligula banished him to Gaul, where he seems to have died.
3 See Lev.18:16 20:21.
6-12 Compare Mk. 6:21-29.
13-15 Compare Mk.6:30-36; Lu.9:10-12 Jn.6:1-7.
13 Herod's insistence that the Lord was John the baptist was not very reassuring, for He was almost continually within Herod's jurisdiction, and nothing could be simpler than to arrest Him and imprison Him, as John the baptist had been. His time had not yet come, so He quietly retires to avoid further publicity. But the throngs follow Him into the wilderness.
16 Man shall not live by bread alone, but by the words which issue from the mouth of God. However great may be the marvel of providing food for such a multitude in the wilderness, it cannot compare with the miracle of which was the sign. The kingdom has been rejected. The Lord's path is now a spiritual parallel with the interval between His rejection and His return to reign. His people will need to be sustained in the wilderness, just as Israel of old needed the manna after they had left Egypt and could not enter the land because of unbelief. The kingdom had come very near to them, just as their fathers had come to Kadesh, only to turn back into the wilderness for forty years. Then they needed physical food. Now they need spiritual sustenance. This provision is supplied by means of twelve cakes of bread, five on this occasion, and seven a little later, representing the twelve portions of scripture which have been given the Circumcision during the period which precedes the kingdom. The two fishes suggest that there is a testimony to the sons of Ham and Japhat who are proselytes in the nations.
In these writings there is more than sufficient to sustain the believing Israelites and a considerable surplus for the nations. It does not, however, make any direct provision for the nations, such as is suggested at the end of Acts(28:28). We are no longer called upon to eat the left-overs from Israel's feast (Eph.2:19). The writings to the Circumcision, represented by the twelve cakes, are not for the nations. The Lord has given us a banquet such as Israel never knew. We have thirteen of Paul's epistles which, if we would only satiate ourselves with them, would keep us from so much as tasting the scraps which they refuse, or trying to purloin what pertains only to them.
16-21 Compare Mk.6:37-44 Lu.9:13-17 Jn.6:8-13.
22.23 Compare Mk.6:45,46 Jn.6:14,15.
23 His ascent into the mountain alone, while His disciples are sent into the midst of the sea, is a lovely little likeness of His ascension and session in the heavens while His disciples are left to the mercy of the nations. Not for naught is the word “torment” used here. It may not fit the effect of the billows, but it certainly is a forceful description of the fearful trials which are the portion of His followers during His absence.
24-27 Compare Mk. 6:47-50 Jn.6:16-20.
25 The Romans divided the night into four watches. There is a hint here that the Lord's absence will be prolonged until near morning. For them it will be night until the day of the Lord dawns.
26 No one will question the actual reality of this miracle who realizes how much greater is the wonder of His control over the turbulent peoples who threaten to swallow up His disciples during His absence in heaven. Some have tried to explain such prodigies on purely natural grounds. Nature is itself a continuous miracle to which we have become accustomed. Even in our present debased condition there are feeble intimations of powers we will possess in resurrection. It is said that consciousness decreases the weight of the body. It is heavier when asleep. It would seem that a sufficiently great increase in its vitality or power would overcome the force of gravitation. This is seen in a much intensified form in His ascension, where He practically became able to walk on air.
Peter here symbolizes the sovereignty of Israel over the turbulent gentiles in the time to come. They are made afraid by the spiritual power of evil, typified by the wind. Peter's cry will be theirs when He reappears in glory. Then all Israel shall be invoking the name of the Lord and shall be saved (Ro.10:13, 11:26). Then Satan will be bound (Un.20:2), even as the wind flags. And then the nation as a whole will worship Him as they never have done before.
32-33 Compare Mk.6:51 Jn.6:21.
34-36 Compare Mk.6:53-56.
36 See Lu.6:19.
36 As millennial bliss follows the terrors of the end time, so this lovely scene of abounding blessing succeeds the night of stress and storm. His presence dispels disease. They simply touched the tassel off His robe. This is not merely indicative of the most casual contact or a sign of the strength of their faith. It had a deeper significance, derived from Jehovah's instructions in the law (Nu.15:38-40). The garment of an Israelite was bordered by a fringe or tassel, in which was a ribbon of blue. The word blue is from the root meaning to finish. It was to remind them to do all His precepts. It may well be the sign of His complete obedience, especially of its finish on Golgotha. Contact with the cross is the basis of all blessing,
1-6 Compare Mk.7:1-13.
1 Our Lord came to fulfill the law. When He taught that which seemed to be other than its precepts it was because He was above it. He could make it more searching (5:27-48). Being the Temple of God, He and all in His presence could profane the sabbath (12:1-8). Now, however, He is charged with violating the oral precepts which the Rabbis had not only added to the law, but actually placed above the law. In fact, while they rejected His supremacy above Moses, they arrogated it to themselves. Their choice of a test is most unfortunate for them. While they were hypocritically concerned with the ceremonial cleansing of their hands, their mouths were defiling themselves and all about them with thoughts dishonoring to God. The Lord did not take them up on the subject of washing before meals. He may have thought it a harmless rite, to be complied with or not, according to the finer dictates of courtesy. But He does attack the very idea that a tradition is binding, and that He or His were obliged to conform to any human precept. So He chooses one of their traditions, which was nothing less than an attempt to elude their legal obligations, and exposes their hypocrisy in placing their own precepts above the divine enactments. They called it “a hedge around the law”, but it was a dagger thrust at the revealed will of God. It did not guard the law, but explained it away. His law was just and good, their perversions of it were unjust and bad.
The fifth precept was a most salutary provision for both parents and children. It is a sign of the degeneracy of our times that little honor is shown to father or mother. The law included in this the parental control of time or talent. The only way to avoid this was to claim that it was dedicated to God, the very One Who had demanded that it be dedicated to parents! The “corban” or approach offering was an oblation intended to win the favor of God. They thought to bribe Him with the results of their disobedience to His word! The same principle applies to all times. To hearken is better than sacrifice, to attend than the fat of rams (Isa.15:22). Let no one suppose that He is pleased with their oblations, whether it be success in service, or even suffering for His sake, if it is not in fullest accord with His will. It is one of the most insidious and deceitful of delusions to imagine that, since His grace bears with such evil, and sends blessing through it, it receives His approval. Let us not take advantage of His grace or presume upon His love. Such is not the leading of His Spirit. Our Lord not only denounces the oblations of disobedient sons, but plainly refutes the teaching that contamination comes from unwashed hands.
4 See Ex.20:12 21:17
7-9 Compare Mk.7:6-8.
8 See Isa.29:13, Septuagint.
10-20 Compare Mk.7:14-23.
14 See Isa.9:16; Mal.2:7; Lu.6:39.
21 Compare Mk.7:24-30.
21 The incident of the Canaanitish woman is of surpassing interest to us, for it shows clearly what was the status of the nations in our Lord's ministry. Her very mistakes are instructive. The nations have no part in the Son of David. He is Israel's King. No matter how much she may implore the Son of David, He answers her not a word. Let no one suppose that His heart was not touched or that He did not wish to be gracious. She has come to the wrong door. Yet He will not dismiss her. Finally, He tells why He cannot help. The Son of David, the character she approached, has no commission outside the nation of Israel. An oriental king is considered the father of his people. They are his children. The Canaanitish woman had no claim on His bounty. This is the key to Christ's earthly mission. He was a Servant of the Circumcision, not of the Uncircumcision (Ro.15:8). During His ministry the nations did not even have the place they received in the Pentecostal era. When, after much preparation, the apostles were taught that proselytes, such as Cornelius, could share a little of Israel's spiritual blessings (Ac.10). Later, at Pisidian Antioch, the door was opened by Paul, to some who were not proselytes (Ac.13:46-47). But it was not until the end of the Acts era that the salvation of God is sent directly to the nations (Ac.28:28). The latter half of the second chapter of Ephesians (2:11-22) is an elaborate statement showing that, in the present administration of God's grace, the nations are no longer in the inferior position accorded them in Paul's earlier ministry.
Christ is Lord of all (Ac.10:36). Under this title even the Canaanitish woman was within His jurisdiction. She worships and calls for help. Yet even thus, she is by no means on an equal footing with the favored nation. Only the scraps are for her. If she will take the place of a cur, she can have a little of the leavings. This is the place we gentiles have in the ministry of Christ. Our position was improved in the succeeding Pentecostal era. But it was not until Paul's imprisonment that we were brought nigh and enter the family of God (Eph.2:18-19). Until then we were still guests at Israel's table, if not puppies under it.
29-31 Compare Mk. 7:31-37.
32-39 Compare Mk.8:1-10
32 The feeding of the four thousand on this occasion is the complement of His previous miracle, when five thousand were satisfied (14:16). There are two great lessons to be learned from it which can only be discerned by carefully comparing the two. As a sign, the seven cakes, added to the five, make twelve, which corresponds with the spiritual provision for Israel during their stay in the wilderness or before they enter the kingdom. The five cakes are for Israel in the past, being the first three accounts of our Lord's life, Acts and Hebrews. John's account was probably written later and is for the kingdom itself. The interval between the two miracles indicates the period of Israel's dispersion. The seven cakes are the seven epistles provided for their sustenance at the end of this eon. James, first and second Peter, the three epistles of John, and Jude will be their manna in the time of the end. The need was much greater on this occasion, for the throng had been three days without food. They were faint and in danger of collapse. These conditions will be repeated in Israel in the time to come. Then the believers will be glad to avail themselves of the Circumcision epistles which meet their needs and minister to their wants.
It is sheer robbery for us to take this provision from God's covenant people. Should we purloin their spiritual provision it will not, indeed, diminish their store, but it will reduce our own enjoyment of the superabounding sufficiency supplied to us in Paul's epistles, for we cannot appreciate our own riches while we filch from them.
1-4 Compare Mk.8:11-13. See 12:38-40; Lu.12:54-56; 1Co.1:22.
1 Blind mouths! What was the feeding of the four thousand but a sign from heaven? But if they cannot read a sign from above, He will see that they provide themselves with a sign from beneath. Undoubtedly these very Pharisees and Sadducees were instrumental in putting Him into the heart of the earth. His death and burial and resurrection constituted the great sign to the unbelieving nation. Jonah was a type of their disobedience as well as of His passage through death and of blessing to the nations through Israel.
5-12 Compare Mk.8:14-21.
6 Leaven stands for corrupt doctrine (12). Our Lord was concerned that the disciples should not be tainted by digesting the teaching of His enemies. But all that they were concerned about was the possible lack of a meal! And this just after seeing Him feed such a multitude! Even if they had no bread, a little calculation in highest mathematics would show them how well provided they were with Him on board. Leaving out of our reckoning the women and children, our Lord satisfied each man of the first five thousand with one-thousandth part of a cake, with a remainder of twelve packed panniers (14:20). Now He distributes seven cakes among four thousand. Each man would get nearly two-thousandths, or twice as much as on the former occasion. Surely we may expect a much larger surplus! Not so. There are only seven hampers, probably not half as much as before! The more He had to work with, the less there is left! The less He had, the greater the surplus! If we develop these equations to their limits, there would have been no left-overs if they had bought the bread. But, on the other hand, no one can limit the amount of food remaining, if they had not found a single crumb for Him to bless! This is a form of infinitesimal calculus which our mathematicians cannot grasp, yet is well within the range of an infant in the school of God. God needs our lack to display the plenitude of His provision.
6 See Lu.l2:1; Ac.23:8.
9-10 See 14:17-21, 15:34-38.
13-20 Compare Mk.8:27-30; Lu.9:18-21.
14 See 14:1-2; Lu.9:7-9.
16 See Jn.6:69 1Jn.4:15.
17 See 11:25-27; Ga.1:15-16
17 We have come to the climax of our Lord's proclamation of the kingdom. The people know Him not. Only a few, led by Peter, recognize Israel's Messiah. These are the new ecclesia, called out from the nation, and separated from them by loyalty to Him. Our Lord's ministry commenced with the descent of the spirit in form as a dove. Peter is inaugurated into his new office by being named the “Son of a Dove”. Then our Lord plays on the meaning of “Peter,” which is “rock.” As such this new ecclesia would be built on him. The forms Petros and petra differ only in gender. In the new Jerusalem the twelve will be associated with him in the foundation (Un.21:14). But he alone is the foundation in this ecclesia. He took this place in the Pentecostal era. This is the same ecclesia which will pass through the terrors of the end time, for whom Peter's epistles are especially intended. Then the great dragon and his hosts will not prevail against this ecclesia. Peter used the keys on the day of Pentecost to open the kingdom to Israel. From Peter's confession forward the doors into the kingdom were shut and the Lord no longer proclaimed it. As He would not be present when they were to be opened again, He gave Peter the keys. Peter's dealings with Ananias and Sapphira show the power he possessed. None of this has any connection with the present ecclesia, the body of Christ. We are not built on Peter. None of his teaching is for us. We are associated with Paul. Peter's keys would not be any service to us, for we do not enter that kingdom. Before the powers of the unseen hurl themselves against that ecclesia, we will be safely at home with our Lord (1Th.4:17).
20 The proclamation of the kingdom is definitely postponed, to be taken up again by Peter on the day of Pentecost.
21-28 Compare Mk.8:31-38; Lu.9:27,
22 Peter was doubtless elated at his wonderful honors, but his spiritual enduement had not yet enabled him to sympathize in his Lord's sufferings. Indeed, he would not hear of them. Herein he was imitating the very tactics of Satan, who proposed to give Christ the kingdom without the suffering. Hence Peter is called a satan, which is Hebrew for adversary.
Our Lord now proclaims the evangel of suffering. Those who shirk-these will save their souls in the meantime, but lose them in the kingdom. Those who suffer these will reign. There is much in common between the interval reaching from our Lord's rejection to His crucifixion and the present administration. In both the kingdom proclamation gives place to the evangel of His sufferings. In both service is associated with suffering and rejection with reigning. It is never said that the successful servant will reign, but, if we are enduring, we shall also be reigning together (2Ti.2:12).
28 See 2 Pt.1:16-18.
28 This prediction was fulfilled about a week later when He took His most intimate disciples with Him and they saw His power and presence and were spectators of His magnificence (2Pt.1:16). It is fitting that, at this juncture, there should be some plain intimation of the postponement of the kingdom. In the record the promise is immediately followed by its fulfillment, but there is a week's delay. Another cycle must run its course before the proper conditions reappear which precede the kingdom.
1-9 Compare Mk.9:2-10 Lu.9:28-36.
1 This was not merely a transfiguration but a transformation. Satan is, at present, transfigured into a messenger of light (2Co.11:14). We should be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Ro.12:2). Transfiguration deals with the temporary fashion. Transformation is the permanent appearance. The Lord's flesh was a veil or curtain, which hid His innate splendor. On the mount, the glory shone out so that it became visible to mortal eyes.
3 The mystery concerning Moses' body and the translation of Elijah explains their presence here. While this is a glorious kingdom scene, it is also a preparation for the “exodus” which He was about to complete at Jerusalem (Lu.9:31). The scene was glory but the theme was shame. So we do not see David on the holy mountain, but Moses, the great mediator, who led the exodus out of Egypt, and who wrote so much concerning His sacrifice, and we see Elijah, the premier prophet, who must come ere the kingdom is accomplished fact. These men sympathized with the sufferings which were before Him, but Peter has not yet learned the lesson. He wished to make this a permanent display and thus avoid the cross. But he foolishly places Moses and Elijah in the same class with our Lord. Just as Israel's unbelief dispelled the hope of the kingdom, so now his words draw down a cloud and the glory vanishes.
5 See Mk.1:11; 2Pt.1:16-18; Isa.42:1.
9 Even during our Lord's ministry the kingdom could not be proclaimed because He had been rejected. He has once more been rejected by the nation, recorded in the book of Acts, hence the kingdom proclamation is once more in abeyance.
10 Though John the baptist was not Elijah, who will probably be one of the two witnesses at the time of the end (Un.11:3-12), he came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Lu.1:17), and could have performed his mission if the people had been ready to receive him.
11 See Lu.1:16-17; Ac.3:21.
12-13 See 14:3-10, 11:14.
12 John the baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, but without his mighty deeds. He did not call down fire on his enemies nor lock heaven as Elijah did (1Ki.17:1) and as he will do again when he reappears as one of the two witnesses (Un.11:6). The prophetic testimony closes with the prediction that he must reappear “before the great and fearful day of Jehovah comes” (Mal.4:5).
14-18 Compare Mk.9:14-27' Lu.9:37-42.
16 Intimations abound in this period of our Lord's ministry which point to a temporary failure of the kingdom testimony. When the disciples were left alone with epileptic Israel, in the Pentecostal era, they found it impossible to cure them, for lack of faith. The cure will not be effected until His return. If they had had a modicum of faith they could readily have removed the mountain of Roman supremacy far from them and put in its place the mountain of Jehovah. All the future fortunes of the kingdom were known to God, and, in His inimitable way, He is giving us a foreview of its history in the vale of unbelief, as well as a glimpse of its glory on the mountaintop. These hidden hints, conveyed by His acts as well as by His words, are full of delightful food for reflection, and glorify the failures that follow.
19.21 Compare Mk.9:28-29.
20 See 21:21; Lu.17:5,6; 1Co.12:9, 13:2.
22-23 Compare Mk.9:30-32; Lu.9:43-45.
22 The gloomy shadow of the cross lies athwart the pathway of our Lord throughout the second period of His ministry. More than that, His disciples were blind to it. As the Jews did not understand or accept Him as their King, so now His disciples refuse to entertain the revelation of Himself as their Priest and Sacrifice. So today His own saints turn from Him as the Saviour and seek to press His kingship, which is in abeyance.
24 See Ex.30:11-16, 38:25-26.
24 According to the law every one who was numbered in Israel, being over twenty years of age, paid half a shekel to shelter his soul (Ex.30:12-14). It was used for the temple service, and was known as the temple tribute. This must not be confused with the tribute paid to Caesar. There never was any question as to its payment by a patriotic Jew, until after the destruction of Jerusalem, when it was sent to Rome. The question is peculiarly appropriate at this time. It certainly was not incumbent on the Lord to support the empty forms of an obsolete sacrificial system, when He Himself was the true Temple of God and the real Sacrifice. He could justly demand the tribute, but give it, never. Peter has not yet learned the great truth of His coming sacrifice or he would not have consented so readily to pay such a tribute. Yet, while the Lord does not pay it from the funds, for the sake of His enemies He condescends to submit to law which was far beneath Him. But, in doing so, He gives a little inkling of how the temple ought to be supported and how it will be upheld in the coming eon. The sea represents the gentiles. In that day the riches of the nations will flow to Jerusalem (Isa.49:22, 60:5-11,16; 61:6), and then they will come to the sacred festival of tabernacles each year (Zech.14:16-19). The sons of the kingdom will be free from the payment of tribute or poll tax. They will be ransomed, not with corruptible silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ (1Pt.1:18). So we see that the miracle was not only a marvel of practical power (for who else could catch a fish with exactly the proper amount in its mouth?), but is an even more marvelous sign, indicating the fiscal policy of the great King.
1-8 Compare Mk.9:33-37, 42; Lu.9:46-48; 22:24-26.
1 It seems very strange and sad that the disciples should choose such a time to inquire about their own greatness. He was trying to engage their hearts with His humiliation. They were sorry when He spoke of it, but His words did not sink in. Little did they dream that the only path to true greatness lay through these very sufferings.
6 Compare Lu.17:2.
3 See Mk.10:14,15; 1Pt.2:2; Ps.131:2.
7 Compare Lu.17:1; 1Co.11:19.
7 The application of these sayings apart from their context can only lead to confusion. The Lord is speaking of a place in the millennial kingdom. There will be much to hinder entrance there, hence He impresses on them the need of thrusting aside everything which would interfere. If anything done by the hand is in the way, it should be abandoned. If their foot is leading them astray, the path should not be longer pursued. If their perception is imperiling the prospect of eonian life, it should be repudiated.
8-9 Compare Mk.9:43-48. See 5:29-30.
9 Gehenna, just below the city of Jerusalem, where the city offal was incinerated, will receive the bodies of criminals in the kingdom (Isa.66:24).
10 Such a ministry of messengers is never hinted at outside the favored nation. Israel, in its physical standing, is the only nation, as such, which may claim angelic ministration.
12 See Lu.15:3-7.
12 This is a beautiful picture of Israel at the time, and of the work in which He was now engaged. Let us not think that the ninety-nine lay safely in the fold. He left them out on the mountains, subject to the storms and to the attacks of wild beasts. Even thus had He left the nation while He went after the sheep which had strayed. To find it, He too must go into the dark ravine of death, where He went on Golgotha. Thus it was that He found the sheep which had gone astray. The rest of the self-righteous nation, who thought they were safe without Him, give Him no joy. But His bewildered, sin-sick disciples, with all their waywardness, are the joy and rejoicing of His heart. When the nations appear in the judgment which takes place at the commencement of the kingdom, they are called kids, in contrast to Israel. The nations are never known as sheep. Nothing in this illustration corresponds with God's present work of grace. The evangel of today is for all. None are left on the mountains. The parable is perfect only in its proper place.
15 Compare Lu.17:3. See Lev.19:17.
15 Our instructions, in such a case, are found in the latter parts of Paul's epistles (Gal.6:1). There is no need to go to the writings intended for the Circumcision under circumstances entirely foreign to us. It can only lead to confusion. This course of procedure is clearly confined to one nation, for there is no point to the punishment should we be treated as “one of the nations”, or a gentile, for such we are. Neither is it unpatriotic or criminal to be classed among tax collectors. The ecclesia here spoken of was composed of His kingdom disciples who had been called out of the nation of Israel. They were just as prejudiced against the gentiles as the other Jews. And they were even more antagonistic to tribute collectors, though Matthew himself had been one.
16 See Deut.l9:15; Jn.8:17; 2Co.3:1.
18 See 16:19.
19 The Lord continues in the same vein. If we should attempt to apply these privileges and promises now it would only bring reproach on His name and His word. Our actions are not ratified in heaven. Two or three may solemnly agree in their request, yet now, in this secret administration of God's grace, of which our Lord breathed not a single syllable, and for which He gave no instructions, we sink our own requests and agreements in a profound appreciation of the will of God and acquiescence in the ways of God.
21-22 Compare Lu.174. See 6:14-15.
21 A more harmonious note is struck in our Lord's answer to Peter. Pardon, or forgiveness, is extended almost to the beginnings of grace. Singularly, the verb, pardon or forgive, does not even occur in Paul's epistles except as a quotation from the Hebrew Scriptures (Ro.4:7). A term is used which goes beyond the seventy times seven of this passage. We are to deal graciously with one another even as God, in Christ, deals graciously with us (Eph. 4:32; Col.3:13). There are no limits to such grace.
33 The parable of the ten thousand talent debtor is a most graphic illustration of the true meaning of pardon or forgiveness. Though so great a debt was remitted, the pardon was afterwards recalled. The permanence of pardon depends on the conduct of the one receiving it. It may be withdrawn. Our “pardon” of sins is in the kingdom of the Son of His love.
We are justified or vindicated or acquitted, in our judicial standing, for there is no charge against us. God, as Judge, has cleared us of guilt by the blood of Christ (Ro.3:24). A judge cannot pardon. That is the prerogative of a governor or king. Only when a kingdom is in view can the pardon of sins be proclaimed. Justification puts us beyond the sphere of condemnation. It is based entirely on the blood of Christ, is received by faith, apart from works, in order that it may accord with grace (Ro.8:1; 4:5, 16). Pardon leads to probation. Unbecoming conduct causes it to be withdrawn. God cancelled it in every case where it was not extended to others.
Those who were pardoned in the Pentecostal era are the ten thousand talent debtor. They had crucified Christ, the Lord of glory, and were under incalculable obligations to God. Nevertheless, out of the compassion of His heart He pardoned their sins, as Peter proclaimed at Pentecost (Ac.2:38). The nations, who had none of the light and privilege which was Israel's special portion, did not owe nearly so much. They are the debtor who owed only one hundred denarii. But the pardoned believers in Israel had no thought of sharing the mercy they had received with the despised aliens. It took much persuasion before Peter would go to Cornelius, a convert who was already a proselyte to Judaism (Ac.10). And when he did he found his brethren most antagonistic to the very thought (Ac.11:3). But they are far more antagonistic to Paul's ministry among the nations. At his final appearance in Jerusalem, these pardoned believers sought to stone him for the very mention of the name of the gentiles. Paul in his speech to them gets as far as the word “nations” (Ac.22:21), and they refuse to listen further. Consequently, their pardon is revoked. It is important to note that this does not apply to the unbelieving part of the nation, for they had not been pardoned. It was true only of those who had “believed”. Pardon is probational because it is based on behaviour. Justification is irrevocable because it is based on the blood of Christ, which is ever precious and potent.
35 See 6:12-15; Ja..2:13..
1-2 Compare Mk.10:1; Jn.10:40-42.
3-12 Compare Mk.10:2-12.
4 Compare Gen.1:27. See Mal.2:15.
4 Man was originally bi-sexual. Adam had both male and female functions (Gen.1:27). Before the woman was taken out of Adam, the sexes were actually one flesh. Marriage is the reverse of this. The woman was not formed from a “rib”. The Hebrew word is nowhere else so rendered. It is used of the chambers in the temple building (1Ki.6:5), and denotes an angular vault. Hence the woman is the complement of the man, and both together constitute the human unit. One is incomplete without the other. The physical union, moreover, is not a mere legal agreement, but actual oneness of flesh, in which each is merged in the other. It is not the work of man merely, but of God. It is contrary to nature and to nature's God to destroy this unity. Originally no separation was contemplated. It is a concession to the hardness of their hearts. Only the infraction and destruction of the physical unity by union with another is given by our Lord as a just cause of separation (9), for, in that case, the unit is already marred beyond repair, in the offending party. It is in fullest harmony with the present grace, in which physical unity has no standing, that even the cause allowed by our Lord is not a valid basis for separation. This corresponds with the overflowing grace in which we are submerged. The only cause now given is where the unbelieving husband or wife gets a divorce. Then the believer is free (1Co.7:15). The believer today is to act in perfect grace even to the acknowledgment of a wrongful separation.
5 See Gen.2:24; lCo.6:16; Eph.5:31.
7 See 5:31-32; Deut.24:1.
9 Compare Lu.16:18; 1Co.7:10-11.
12 As we have no standing in flesh, such matters are not within our sphere. They do not affect our place in Christ. Not so with the kingdom. We read of a male son who will shepherd the nations in that day (Un.12:5), and of the hundred and forty-four thousand who are celibates (Un.14:4) out of the twelve tribes (Un.7:3). It is more than likely that these are those to whom the special saying of which He spoke has been given.
13-15 Compare Mk.10:13-16; Lu18:15-17.
14 See 18:3.
16-22 Compare Mk.10:17-22; Lu.18:18-23.
16 See Lu.10:27.
16 When Israel entered the land, each one received an allotment sufficient for a living. This could not be sold outright. It could only be mortgaged till the next jubilee. With some exceptions, no one could acquire much land without encroaching on the allotments of others. That is why it is so difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom. He must of necessity lose his riches and enter poor. That is the position of this rich youth. He had great acquisitions. This was land which God had allotted to others for their living, but which they had lost through poverty. His superfluous wealth meant distress for them. He claimed to keep the law, and no doubt he had never murdered or robbed anyone, for he had no provocation to commit flagrant offenses. He even maintained that he loved his associates as himself! The Lord very simply suggests that he act in accordance with his profession. He did not ask him to give up his own means of livelihood. He could never expect him to relinquish his own allotment, for that was given by God. All He desired was that he should return to others their allotments. This is what God's law does at the jubilee. This is what will occur when the kingdom is established. The believing disciples in the Pentecostal era, recognizing the impossibility of carrying possessions and acquisitions, over and above their inherited allotments, into the kingdom, sold all such property and put the proceeds into the common fund (Ac.2:45). None of these acts have any bearing on present conduct. for our allotment is among the celestials. The Israelite might possibly carry his allotment into the kingdom, but we can take nothing of earth into the realms above. The shrewdest saint is the one who exchanges his terrestrial real estate for celestial currency before it all is taken from him. He knows that his acquisitions on earth will all be forfeited and decrease his balance in the celestial bank.
18 Compare Ex.20:12-16.
19 See Lev.19:18.
21-22 See 6:19-21; Ac.2:45; 1Ti.6:17-19.
23-26 Compare Mk.10:23-27; Lu.l8:24--27.
23 See 13:22.
23 As the political constitution of the Jewish commonwealth rendered it practically impossible to acquire great possessions without oppressing others, riches were a hindrance and are largely lost in the readjustments of that day. No rich man, as such, will enter.
26 See Jer.32-17; Lu.l:37.
27-30 Compare Mk.10:28-31; Lu.18:28-30.
27 See 4:18; Lu.5:11.
27 On the other hand, those sons of that kingdom who lose all, even the enjoyment of their own allotment for the time, will find an overflowing recompense in kind, in the kingdom, not only for the brief space of their mortal life, but for the whole of the coming eon. The apostles, who suffered most, will gain most. The government of the nation will be in their hands. This explains in part why there must be just twelve apostles, one for each tribe. The other nations will come under the jurisdiction of the male son (Un.12:5), a company out of Israel distinct from the twelve. It will be seen that Paul has no place in the government of that kingdom. He and those connected with his ministry, have a celestial destiny and will judge messengers (Eph.13 1Co.63),
28 See 20:21; Lu.22:28-30.
30 See 20:16; Lu.13:30.
1 Many of the explanations of this parable ignore the fact that it illustrates the kingdom of the heavens, and not at all intended to be applied to our service for God. If so applied, it can hardly encourage aught but idleness in the hope that a little labor at the end of life will bring an equal, if not greater, reward than a long career of suffering service. The vineyard is Israel. Those who agree for a denarius a day were under law and got what was their due. The others were recipients of various degrees of grace. The third-hour workers were under promise. Though they made no contract, yet they received more than they had a right to expect, because they had mixed their work with a little confidence in the householder. In the sixth and ninth hour we have the same circumstances, but less deserts. The eleventh-hour workers do not seem to have had even a promise on which to base their expectations. They trusted the householder completely, and had very little of their own works to offer him.
At this point, we must insert another class, who do not appear in the parable, for the very good reason that they do nothing at all and are not associated with the kingdom. So far as salvation goes, our works have no part in it. We are the twelfth-hour “laborers”, who have done nothing (Ro.4:5), yet receive much more than those who toil under law. This is because we do not depend on our own efforts whatever, but upon the favor of the great Householder. We were lower than the last in the parable, and have become higher than the first. Such is the nature of grace. May we never seek to make a bargain with God! Let us work without a contract or any assurances, but rest wholly on the innate graciousness which He delights to display when His creatures give Him occasion.
Even in the kingdom, it is not the amount of work which determines the reward, but the amount of faith which is blended with it (Heb.4:2). Since those who worked the full day are displeased with His goodness, and have a wicked eye, and are last, we may well believe that they will have no part in the kingdom. They are not of faith but of law works. They stumble on the Stumbling Stone (Ro.9:32-33):
Lo! I am laying in Zion a Stumbling Stone
and a Snare Rock,
And the one believing on Him will
not be disgraced.
8 See Lev.19:13.
16 See 19:30.
17-19 Compare Mk.10:32-34; Lu.18:31-34.
17 Though the Lord is blinding the eyes of the people by parables, He is seeking to open the understanding of His disciples and to engage their hearts with His great sacrifice. It seems strange that they, who had been accustomed to the thought of blood propitiation all their lives, could not entertain His teaching concerning the great Antitype of all their offerings. He did not perplex them with parables, but spoke to them plainly and persistently, and still they do not seem to have grasped His meaning until all He foretold had occurred, and He was roused from among the dead.
20-28 Compare Mk.10:35-45.
20 See 4:21.
20 James and John were the sons of Zebedee (Mk.:10:35). Our Lord called them “sons of thunder” (Mk.3:17), to indicate their tempestuous and violent disposition. The gentleness and love of John's writings are not the reflection of his character, but of the restraint of the inspiring Spirit. They certainly were the most ambitious and selfish of all the apostles. The request of their mother shows how little fellowship they had with His downward path to the shame and humiliation of the cross. They could not comprehend that this was the only path to glory. Only those who drink His cup can share His honors. So He grants them the boon of a sip of His sorrow. James was the first to follow his Lord. Herod put him to death by the sword (Ac.12:1). But John seems to have lived longer.
21-23 See 19:28, 26:39-42; Lu.12:50; Ac.12:2.
24 It is evident from the resentment of the rest that they also coveted the highest place, even if they could not follow Him to the lowest. So He gives them a sorely needed lesson on the true path to greatness. It consists in service, servility, and suffering, the very opposite of the course they were accustomed to associate with human honors. His own example was their cue. Only those who suffer are qualified to reign. The greatness of His glories finds its source in His service as a slave, and the sorrows of His soul, of which He spoke to them in vain.
25 See Lu.22:24-27.
26 See 23:11; Mk.9:35; 1Pt:5:3.
27 See 18:4.
28 See Jn.13:4, 11:51-52, 14:5; Phil.2:5-7; Isa.53:10-12
29-31 Compare Mk.10:46-48; Lu.18:35-39. See 9:27-31.
32-34 Compare Mk.10:49-52; Lu.18:40-43.
29 The restoration of two blind men was in itself a marvelous manifestation of His messiahship, but we must not miss the deeper current of thought which lies beneath. He was going out of Jericho, the city of the curse. Does this not speak of His resurrection, the exit from the curse of the cross? Two is the number of testimony. He sent the seventy-two in pairs. He was accompanied on His journey by His apostles, who were to testify concerning Him, but they were blind! They could not see the great central sight of all testimony, the cross of Christ. Hence they could not follow Him in spirit, though they accompanied Him in flesh. When shall their blindness be moved? When He emerges from the curse. And so it was. Not till then did He open up their mind to understand the Scriptures (Lu.24:45).
1-9 Compare Mk.l1:1-10; Lu.19:28-44.
1 The animals on which our Lord was supported on His presentation to Israel were representative of the ransomed. The firstlings had to be ransomed with a lamb (Ex.13:13). Thus the whole scene was a typical picture of spiritual truth. The ransomed had been bound, but He has them loosed and brought to own His sovereignty. Only on this occasion does He exercise His prerogative as King and commandeer a mount for His royal entry. He will come someday on a white horse (Un.19:11), in might and majesty, and enforce His claims with a gory sword. But not so now. Only the lowly beasts of burden bear Him. Only His own support Him. They offer Him the humble honors and lowly loyalty of their station. Their garments pave His path. Their leafy offerings carpet the royal roadway. Their acclamations proclaim Him King. But what a feeble few they are! The citizens of His capital do not even recognize their Sovereign! They ask “Who is this?” And the best answer they could get was “This is the prophet.” They should have said “This is Christ, the King, the Son of God !”
This is the day which Daniel predicted. Sixty-nine heptads had passed by, and the scribes, at least, should have known that Prince Messiah would present Himself to the people on that day (Dan.9:25). But they did not expect Him or prepare for Him, so He leaves them until sore affliction shall have taught the nation to say “Blessed is He Who is coming in the name of the Lord.” This is the secret of Israel's present plight. Through discipline, they are being prepared for their Messiah. Their sorest trials are yet to come.
4-5 Compare Jn.12:12-19.
5 See Zech.9:9.
8 See Lev.23:40.
9 Compare Ps.118:25,26.
10 Compare Mk.11:11.
12-17 Compare Mk.11:15-19; Lu.19:45-48. See Jn.2:13-17.
12 His first act as King was to cleanse the temple of idolatry, for covetousness is nothing less (Col.3:5). The temple tax, or double drachma (17:24) had to be paid by even the poorest of the people. Collectors were in each city and in the sanctuary. They began a few weeks before the Passover. The brokers made change at a profit to themselves. They were in the court of the nations, or gentiles, which was added by Herod outside the sanctuary proper. In this, proselytes of other nations might approach with gifts and worship and prayer. It was never intended for a merchant's store (Jn.2:16), or a broker's bank. It was a place for God to give, not for man to rob.
The two cleansings of the sanctuary are typical of the two appearances of Christ. The first (Jn.2:13-22), Was priestly in its nature, and is connected with His death and resurrection (Jn. 2:19). It is found only in John's account. The second follows His presentation as Messiah.
The sullen, yet silent submission of these robbers is mute evidence of the moral majesty and might with which He did this deed. Violent passion on His part would have been met by physical force, and caused His undoing. It was the righteous wrath of the Shekinah glory overawing these idolaters which made them flee from the sublime Presence.
13 See Isa.56:7; Jer.7:11.
14 Having cleansed the sacred precincts, He puts them to their proper use by restoring blind eyes and healing lame legs, so that they can behold the holiness of God and walk in His ways.
15 The chief priests and scribes, however, are not healed. They are too blind to see Him and too lame to keep from stumbling. The little children put them to shame.
16 Compare Ps.8:2, Septuagint. See Jn.12:17-19.
18-19 Compare Mk. 11:12-14.
19 The fig, the olive, and the vine present varied views of the kingdom. Perhaps we should include the bramble also, as Jotham did in his parable (Jud.9:8-15). The bramble is that false flare of authority exercised by great Babylon, which has a kingdom over the kings of the earth (Un.17:18). The vine speaks of that which cheers the heart of God and man. Then will be joy. The olive speaks of light. The fig brings before us its goodness and sweetness. It is national in its scope, and is in contrast with Rome, represented by the wild fig tree (Lu.17:6).
Israel's doom is sealed. It is like a fig tree with leaves but no fruit. The fig tree forms some of its fruit before its leaves, unless it is barren. This fig tree had evidently anticipated the season, and put forth its leaves very early. So were Israel's national pretensions. The Lord's first coming was premature. They made a beautiful show of national righteousness, but there was no genuine reality to their claims. The doom of the fig tree is the doom of the nation. It was withered. But today its branch is tender and it is trying to put forth leaves. In the kingdom, it will bear an abundance of luscious fruit.
20-21 Compare Mk. 11:20-26.
21 See 17:20; Lu.17:6; Ja.1:6; 1Co.13:2.
21 Faith is not confidence in the fulfillment of our prayers, but of God's word. He had promised that the mountain of gentile supremacy should be moved from the midst of Israel. Had they believed Him, it should have occurred. Faith can move no mountains that God has not promised to move. It is His pleasure to accomplish far greater feats in fellowship with the faith of His saints.
22 See 7:7; Ja.5:16; 1Jn.3:22, 5:14.
23-27 Compare Mk.11:27-33; Lu.20:1-8.
23 The chief priests and elders imagined that they were the supreme spiritual authority in Israel. They should have been. When they challenged Him to present His credentials, He exposes theirs by asking a simple question. Had their authority been from above they would have believed John the baptist. That it was from beneath is clear from their fawning at the feet of the populace. The high priest should have been the eldest of the line of Aaron, tracing his priestly prerogatives back to the law. Instead, he was appointed by political parties and Roman procurators.
26 See 14:5; Mk.6:20.
28 This parable was for the priests and elders. They made the greatest protestation of obeying the will of God, but did not do it. The sinners who made no profession, whom they despised, actually obeyed. By His parable He makes the leaders pronounce their own condemnation.
31 See Lu.7:29-30.
32 See 3:1; Lu.3:12.
32 The Lord now proceeds to show them His authority and to expose their abuse of the privileges entrusted to them. They were mere tenants of God's vineyard; He was the Owner's Son. Their predecessors had claimed such authority as they were arrogating to themselves. That is why the prophets were persecuted. These men and almost all of the rulers in Israel, whether kings or priests, chiefs or scribes, sought to use the nation for their own profit and not for the glory God. Had they been faithful, no prophets would have been sent to them. They would have delivered to the Owner of the vineyard the joy and cheer which were His by right. Because they did not do this, because the priesthood was apostate and the rulers rebellious, He raised up men of God to remind them of their obligations to Himself. Israel boasted in Elijah and all the prophets, which were the badge of their shame. Moreover, their treatment of the prophets confirmed their apostate condition, for none of them escaped persecution at their hands.
But by far the most memorable part of the parable is the prediction of the rejection of His authority and His subsequent murder at their hands. That it was possible for them to proceed in their program of putting Him to death after He had given them this preview of their appalling crime proves the utter depravity of the priesthood, the hopeless immorality of religion when its light has become darkness, and its life turned to death.
33-41 Compare Mk.12:1-9; Lu.20:9-16. See Ps.80:8-16; S.S.8:11-12; Isa.5:1-7.
35 See 5:12; 23:37; 2Chr.24:18-21; 36:15-17; Neh.9:26; Ac.7:52; 1Th.2:15.
39 See 26:50; Ac.2:23.
41 See Lu.21:24.
41 As before, they pronounce their own doom. In the kingdom, their rule will be replaced by the sway of the twelve apostles under the Priest-King Whose authority they had dared to question. Then the Lord will enjoy the fruit of His vineyard.
42-46 Compare Mk.l2:10-12; Lu,20:17-19. See Ps.118:22-23; Ac.4:11; 1Pt.2:6.
42 Not long after this these same chief priests and those with them question Peter's authority. He confirms the word here spoken by our Lord. “If we today are being examined as to the benefaction to the infirm man, by what he has been saved, let it be known to you all and to the entire people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, Whom you crucify, Whom God rouses from among the dead, by this One, this man stands by before you sound. This is the Stone that is being scorned by you builders, which is becoming the Head of the corner” (Ac.4:9-11). Yet even this double witness fails to move their hard hearts to repentance.
44 See Isa.8:14-15; Ro.9:33; 1Pt.2:8; Dan.2:34-35,44-45.
45 So long as the chief priests did not fear God the mob did not fear them and had small respect for their authority. Who fears not God fears man. The priests were in an impossible position. Between Pilate and the populace, their vaunted authority practically vanished. All they could do was to appeal to Pilate and persuade the people.
1-9 Compare Lu.14:15-24.
1 This parable should never be used to illustrate the evangel of today. In the first place, none of the nations are called to the wedding in this economy. It will take place in the kingdom, to which we are not invited. Neither is anyone invited in the evangel today and subsequently rejected because of unworthiness. That is true of Israel as a nation, to whom our Lord is speaking. The parable refers to the various proclamations of the kingdom. The first was made by the apostles while He was still with them. It had been rejected when our Lord was speaking. The second was made in the Pentecostal era, after all, preparations had been made by the sacrifice of Christ. That, too, is rejected, and calls for the destruction of Jerusalem. The last proclamation is still future, when the Lord will deal in judgment and compel them to come in. The apparel at such weddings was provided by the host. God will provide His people with a righteousness in that day. No one can remain, in his own righteousness. It must be noted that this is quite a distinct figure from that of the bride. Those who accept the invitation here are the guests. The bride does not appear in the picture and should be left entirely out of view in the interpretation. The same saints who are elsewhere seen under the figure of the bride are here seen under the figure of guests, because the truth here is judgment rather than love, and could not be developed in the closer relationship. The main point is that those invited, or called, are not necessarily chosen. In the proclamation of the kingdom in our Lord's day and in the Pentecostal era many were invited, but few chosen. Some, in that day, came at first, and were later rejected because they fell away. The last invitation by no means goes out to the gentiles. It goes out in the same city. The parable of the virgins (25:1) takes up the relation of the other nations to Israel in the kingdom.
14 See 20:16.
15-22 Compare Mk.12:13-17; Lu.20:20-26.
15 Fulsome flattery has proven the undoing of many men, and seldom fails to throw them off their guard. The man of God should beware off it, for it is far more dangerous than calumny. But it did not deceive our Lord. Was He true? Was He unafraid to teach the way of God in truth? Was He unmoved by men? Were their wiles transparent to His gaze? If this was so, and it was, they did not believe it. But He soon demonstrated that their flattery was plain fact. He saw through their trap, and not only answered their question but convicted them of one of the crimes which they hoped to fasten on Him.
He has shown them how little authority they have. They know their helplessness. They must get Him into conflict with the people or with the government. Then they might manage His destruction. They formulate a leading question. If He says “Yes”, the Pharisees will inform the people and His popularity will be forfeited. If He says “No”, the Herodians will accuse Him to the government and He will be tried for sedition. So He avoids the catch in their question. So long as they accepted the Roman currency they were obliged to acknowledge Rome's ascendency and pay taxes.
The use of Roman currency denoted their subjection to Rome. So long as they were subject they should pay. The use of temple currency showed their subjection to God. To Him, also, they should give His due.
23-33 Compare Mk.l2:18-27; Lu.20:27-40. See Ac.23:8.
23 The Pharisees and Herodians having been silenced, the Sadducees tried their best argument on Him. Like many another theological deduction, it was based on two errors, ignorance of the Scriptures and of the power of God. Yet they sought to find a foundation for it in the law. The principle of error which seemed to give weight to their reasoning is still very widespread. It is the lack of proper apportionment of truth. What Moses said for their guidance in this life is transported into the life to come. Moses did not legislate for the resurrection, especially not in regard to matters which do not reappear in the life that is to be.
Let us by all means avoid their methods. Even if we think we can involve some passages of scripture in doubt and ridicule by a course of reasoning or questioning, it proves nothing except our lack of discernment and our ability to confuse things which are clear when left in their own place.
Moses made provision that a man's name should not be blotted out of Israel by death (Deut.25:5-6). What possible place can this have in the resurrection, where there is no death? Why provide for a contingency which cannot occur? Furthermore, what ground is there for the idea that the marriage state is resumed in resurrection? Nevertheless, a powerful sect in Israel was built on such flimsy bases!
32 Our Lord is proving the necessity of resurrection. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob are dead. God is the God of the dead, if they will not be raised. But He is not the God of the dead. The dead praise not the Lord (Ps.115:17). They know not anything (Ecc.9:5). In death there is no remembrance of Him (Ps.6:5). Apart from resurrection His saints are lost, our faith is vain, we are still in our sins (1Co.15:16-19). The dead have no God. He is the God of the living. There must be a resurrection-which was to be proved (Ex.3:6).
34-36 Compare Mk.l2:28; Lu.10:25-28.
34 From their subsequent course (Ac. 23:8), it is evident that the Sadducees were not convinced. Their difficulty was deeper. It was in the heart. Though they could not answer, they could refuse to believe.
35 The Pharisees had failed in fixing a political crime on Him. Now they try to involve Him in a theological heresy, which, to the Jews, was even worse. That He claimed to be the Messiah was bad, but not so blasphemous as calling Himself the Son of God. The expounder of the law hoped to get Him to convict Himself by quoting the first of the ten commandments, especially, “You shall have no other gods above My face” (Ex.20:3). Or, at least the great rubric, “Hear, O Israel: Jehovah, our God, is one Jehovah!” (Deut.6:4). He does not ask for the second greatest. The Lord significantly omits this and gives him the following precept: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut.6:5). They were prepared to do this in their own way by hating and killing Him. But He forestalls their deduction by quoting another passage which utterly frustrated their argument.
37-40 Compare Mk.l2:29-34; Deut.6:5.
39 See Lev.19:18.
41-46 Compare Mk.12:35-37; Lu.20:39-44.
42 He now confutes the fanatical element in their monotheism by showing them that they did not even know Whose Son Christ is! Had they known, they would not have accused Him of blasphemy when He claimed to be the Son of God. David, whose son the Messiah was to be, knew better than they, for he called Him his Adon, or Lord. If Christ was merely David's son, he assuredly would not call Him by such a title. Who could there be who was so far above David, yet seated at Jehovah's right hand? They had no room for Him in their theology. But He was in their Scriptures. The Pharisees, also, are muzzled. They did not even know that the God of their Scriptures was not the invisible Deity, but His Image (Col.l:15), not the One Whose voice is inaudible to human ears, but His Word (Jn.l:1), or Expression. Their Messiah was the Elohim Whom they feared, the Jehovah Whom they reverenced, the Adonai Whom they claimed to serve.
44 Compare Ps.110:1.
1 Though the Sadducees were probably included in the term scribes, the Pharisees are especially singled out for this final denunciation. For a hundred and fifty years they had enjoyed the highest respect of the populace because of their zeal and rigid observance of the law of Moses. The Sadducees were comparatively few and lacking in influence. It is highly significant that our Lord seldom spoke harshly of the common people. He did not blame the sheep, but the shepherds.
In so far as the Pharisees followed the teaching of Moses our Lord did not censure them, but rather because they did not burden themselves with the observance of the law, but shifted it to the shoulders of others. Their whole religion consisted in self-adulation. It is highly important that we should recognize the fact, that our Lord's woes were not directed against the vice and immorality and crime in the lower levels of the social scale. He did not denounce the corruption in politics, and the oppression and rapacity of rulers. The worst offenders, in His anointed eyes, were the acknowledged religious leaders, those who made the strongest protestations of serving God. It is ever thus. The most heinous criminals are not those who make no pretense of serving Him, but those who make a great profession.
2 See Neh8:4-8; Mal.2:7.
4 See Lu.11:46.
4 Bad as the doctrine of the Pharisees was, their deportment was worse. The Lord now turns from their precepts to warn against their practices.
5-14 Compare Mk.l2:38-40; Lu.20:45-47.
5 See Deut.6:6-8; 22:12; Nu.15:37-41.
6 See Lu.11:43.
11 See 20:25-28.
11 The constant aim of the Pharisees was to receive from men the recognition to which they considered themselves entitled.
13 See Lu.11:52
13 Our Lord commenced His ministry with a nine-fold benediction on the poor, the mourners, the meek, those who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, the merciful, the cleanhearted, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted on account of righteousness, and those reproached falsely on His account (5:3-11). Where is there the slightest feature of the Pharisees in these beatitudes? They were as unlike all this as they could be. Hence He closes His ministry with seven maledictions on the hypocrites who hinder others from entering the kingdom, who proselyte for their own party, who elevate that which is hallowed above that which hallows, who distort the proportions of God's precepts, who cleanse the outside but leave the inside full of filth, who outwardly appear just, but are lawless within, who feign themselves more righteous than their progenitors, yet excel them in iniquity.
13 The kingdom of the heavens was locked at that time, not to be opened until Peter uses the keys entrusted to him, on the day of Pentecost. Then once more the Pharisees and scribes lock the kingdom by refusing the testimony of the apostles. It is locked now. It will not be opened until Christ comes again in glory.
16 The Pharisees had practically annulled the Scriptures by false interpretations and especially by human additions. Their commentaries were full of distinctions which destroyed the spiritual force of the law. Externals alone were important. The glitter of the gold on the temple blinded their eyes to the preciousness of the place hallowed by the presence of God. The offering on the altar was, to them, much more sacred than the altar that hallowed it. All the vital values created by contact with God had no appeal to their blind hearts.
19 See Ex.29:37.
21 See 1 Ki.8:13; Ps.26:8.
23-24 See 5:34; Ps.11:4.
23-24 Compare Lu.11:42.
23 It is probable that these were grown in small quantities for home use and so hardly of as much value as the work involved in tithing them, yet it is well to be punctilious in what pertains to God. But to do this and evade the great moral obligations of the law came near the limits of hypocrisy.
25.26 Compare Lu.11:39-41.
27-28 Compare Lu.11:44. See Ac.23:3.
27 It is difficult to imagine a more scathing comparison than the clean, whitewashed tombs and the corrupting corpses within. Yet such is all religion that is outward and ostentatious, that knows nothing of humility of heart and self-abasement.
29-33 Compare Lu.11:47-51.
31 See Ac.7:51; 1Th.2:15-16.
32 Instead of refraining from the evil deeds of their fathers and thus reducing the measure of the nation's guilt, these religious Pharisees were about to go to the very limits of iniquity in the murder of Messiah. All evil is measured by God. When it attains dimensions beyond which it no longer contributes to His purpose, it is restrained.
34 See Ac.5:40; 7:58-59; 2Co.11:24-25.
34 The record in Acts fulfills this promise. James was killed by the sword (Ac.12:2). Peter was probably crucified (Jn.21:18),
35 See Gen.4:8.
35 Judgment will be based on light and privilege. He who commits a crime which he has deliberately condemned is far more guilty than one who has little knowledge of its moral measure. These men who condemned and crucified Christ were not only killing Him but all who came before Him, for they make it abundantly evident that nothing would have restrained them from the actual act except their absence.
35 There was a Zechariah slain in the court of the house of the Lord in the days of King Joash (2 Chr.24:20-22). But he was the son of Jehoiada, while we are expressly told by our Lord that He has reference to another Zechariah, whose father was named Berechiah. He was one of the minor prophets (Zech.1:1), and must have been murdered hundreds of years after the days of Joash. The Pharisees did not actually have a hand in His murder, nor, indeed, did they drive the nails that fastened Him to the cross, but they had the spirit of Cain and all who truly served God were their legitimate prey. The horrors which came upon that generation, up to the destruction of Jerusalem, have hardly had their parallel in the annals of history.
37-39 Compare Lu.13:34-35.
37 This affecting farewell closes His mission to the holy city. If they will not have Him, He must leave them exposed to the powers of darkness. With Him the Presence leaves the temple tenantless. Its empty grandeur continues for forty years and is then laid level with the dust.
1-14 Compare Mk.l3:1-13; Lu.21:5-19.
1 The sanctuary was doomed, for it was no longer even a nominal shrine after He had left its courts. It was almost unbelievable that such buildings, with such enormous stones, so highly venerated, should fail so suddenly into utter ruin. Its destruction was averted for forty years by His prayer upon the cross, and the subsequent Pentecostal proclamation of the kingdom, much of which took place within its walls. At the siege of Jerusalem, not only were the fanatical Jewish factions within the city anxious to save it from destruction, but the Roman general Titus was very desirous of preserving it without damage. But the divine decree had gone forth. Nothing could save it from its doom. And so it was leveled with the ground and no stone remained upon another.
3 This prophetic outline of events to come before the kingdom can be realized entirely ignores the present secret administration of God's grace, so that we must overlook all that occurs during Israel's unbelief (Ro.11) and consider the future time of the end as following immediately after the close of Acts. It is only as we keep the future before us and the present out of sight, that we can view these scenes aright.
4 Many false messiahs have come and will come, but the greatest of all will be the white horse rider who comes forth under the first seal (Un.6:2).
5 See 24; Jn.5:43; Un.6:1-2.
6-7 See Un.63-8.
6 The wars correspond with the second seal (Un.6:3-4), when a red horse comes forth and takes peace from the earth.
7 The famine is the same one that occurs under the third seal, when wheat and barley will be worth about eight times their normal value.
9-14, See 10:17,23; Jn.16:2-3; Jn.6:9-11.
9 The great affliction occurs under the fifth seal (Un.6:9). It begins at that great chronological crisis, the middle of the last seven years of Daniel's seventy heptads, when the covenant with the false christ will be broken and the daily offering stopped. Many will be martyred. It is their blood which calls down vengeance on the world and leads to the awful judgments on the nations and Babylon.
15-18 Compare Mk.l3:14-16; Lu.17:31-33.
15 See Dan.9:27.
15 The Septuagint of Daniel may be closely rendered as follows: “And he shall establish a covenant with many one heptad, and in the middle of the heptad My sacrifice and libation shall be suspended, and on the temple is the abomination of desolations, and till the conclusion of the era a conclusion shall be given to the desolation” (Dan.9:27). It seems evident that, coincident with the breaking of the covenant, the image spoken of in the Unveiling (13:14) will be placed in the holy place as a signal for the greatest anti-Semitic outbreak of all time. Then it is that the dragon is cast out of heaven and persecutes the woman, who flees into the wilderness to be there for the remainder of the seventieth heptad (Un.12 1-16).
Through the terrible afflictions, the faithful of that day will be gathered in the mountainous wilderness southeast of Judea near the scene of their wanderings of old, when they came out of Egypt. There they will be miraculously preserved for the twelve hundred and sixty days until the coming of Christ.
19-22 Compare Mk.13:17-20.
21 See Dan.12:1; Joel 2:2; Un.7:17.
23-28 Compare Mk.13:21-23; Lu.17:23-24.
23 Then will the false prophet give spirit to the image of the wild beast and cause it to speak, and cause as many as should not be worshiping the image to be killed, and all must have the emblem of the wild beast on their right hand or their forehead before they will be able to buy or sell (Un.13:15-17).
24 See Jn.10:28-29; 2Th.2:8-12; 2Pt.2:9; Un.13.
26 The coming of Christ to the earth for Israel is not a secret, invisible event. That is the sign of the false prophets. His presence will be with the utmost publicity and swiftness. Like a lightning flash will His glory appear, so that no one will be unaware of its startling brightness, or fail to apprehend His presence. We can only enjoy His presence before this by being caught up to Him in the air the moment that He is present there.
28 See Lu.l7:37; Job 39:30.
29-31 Compare Mk.13:24-26; Lu.21:26-27.
29 See Un.6:12-17; Isa.13:10; Joel 2:30-31, 3:15; Amos 5:20.
29 Israel goes through the great affliction, and watches for the Son of Mankind, Who will stand on the mount of Olives, from which He ascended. We have a prior expectation (Eph.1:12) and wait (not watch) for the Son of God out of the heavens (1Th.1:10), not to come down to earth, but to meet us in the air (1Th.4:17), according to a secret, not revealed during the ministry of our Lord or His twelve apostles, which tells of the change of our bodies to suit a celestial destiny (1Co.15:52-54), when these bodies of humiliation will be transfigured to conform them to His glorious body (Phil.3:21). In Israel, after His descent to earth, He sends His messengers to gather His saints about Him. Both events will take place with incredible speed. The lightning flash of judgment describes His advent to earth. The upward movement of the eyelid measures the time taken for our transfiguring and gathering together to Him in the air.
30 See Dan.7:13-14; Zech.l2:4-14; Un.1:7.
31 Compare Mk.13:27. See Isa.27:13.
32-35 Compare Mk.13:28-30; Lu.21:28-33.
32 We do not watch for signs, for, except the apostasy, which is already at full tide, none are given. We look for Him. Israel is given indications of His approach. Among His last acts was the withering of the fig tree, indicating the national decadence of the Jews. Among the first signs to be looked for is the national resurgence of unbelieving Israel as foretold by Isaiah (66:8). “Who has seen things as these? Will the land travail in one day? Should a nation be born at one time?” In our day we see leaves which sprout from the tender stem of Jewish national aspirations. Summer is near for that nation. The Lord's return to earth cannot be long delayed. But, as He must come for us some time before His descent to the mount of Olives, His coming for the members of His body is far more imminent than His later descent to earth for His Bride, the redeemed of Israel.
34 His coming to Israel should have taken place in that generation.
35 See Ps.102:26-27; Isa.51:6; Un.20:11.
36-39 Compare Mk.l3:32; Lu.17:26-30.
36 See Ac.l:7; 1Th.5:2.
36 The probable time of the Lord's advent to Israel can only be known by the signs, but the exact time will never be known till it arrives. A day or an hour would have sufficed for many to enter the ark in Noah's day. But no date was given.
37 See Gen.6:3-5, 7:1-10
40-41 Compare Lu.17:34-36.
41 When His messengers gather His elect (31) not all will be taken along to stand before the Son of Mankind. Some will be left.
42 See 25:13.
43 For them there is not the joyous anticipation of being ever with the Lord (ITh.4:17), but a certain dread that, should they not be watching, instead of His coming as a Saviour, He may come as a thief. For us He does not come as a thief (1Th.5:4). Our conduct does not count in His coming for us. Whether we watch or are drowsy we shall live together with Him. The difference between the two events is pictured for us in Peter's recall of Dorcas from death (Ac.9:36-41), and Paul's restoration of Eutychus to life (Ac.20:9-10). Dorcas was deserving, but Eutychus (like many of His saints today) had nothing to commend him, but that he went to sleep while Paul preached. So it will be when we hear His shout. We may be drowsy or dead, yet grace demands that we live together with Him. We will be dealt with on the ground of His death, not of our deserts.
43-51 Compare Lu.12:39-46. See 2Pt.3:10; Un.3:3, 16:15.
45 The conduct of God's slaves is most vitally affected by their attitude toward the return of Christ. If it is an imminent expectation, their course will correspond. They will act as those who are about to give account. If it is far off, the restraining power of His expected presence will be wanting.
50 We, also, must appear in front of the dais of Christ that each should be requited for that which he puts into practise through the body (2Co.5:10), but, though fire will be testing the kind of work we have done, we shall all be saved (1 Co.3:15). In Israel righteousness rather than grace will reign, so that they are subject to condemnation.
1 The parable of the ten virgins applies only to the kingdom at the time specified. When the Lord comes in glory to enter into covenant relationship with Israel at the commencement of the day of Jehovah, then the kingdom of the heavens will correspond to a marriage feast. The Lambkin is the Bridegroom (Un.19:7), redeemed Israel is the Bride. Who are the virgins?
The wedding feast figures the millennium. The nations will be blessed through and with Israel according to the Abrahamic covenant. Hence they are represented as virgins, invited to share the blessings provided for the holy nation by the Lambkin. As in the parable of the sheep and the kids at the close of this chapter, the place of the nations in that day will depend on their treatment of Israel. Those that are sufficiently illuminated to await Messiah's coming will participate with the Bride in the feast that follows. They are invited to the wedding banquet of the Lambkin (Un.l9:9; Ps.45:14). The action of this parable is limited to the period immediately preceding the coming of the Messianic kingdom. To “apply” it to individuals or classes at any other crisis is confusing and corrupts the Scriptures.
The blessing which will come to the nations as brides-maids of Israel is in striking contrast to the present era of grace. They will wait until Israel is blessed and share her blessings with her. Now Israel is forsaken and divorced. She has no marriage feast to which we could be invited. She has no blessings to share with us. Our supernal bliss comes while she is thrust aside, and depends on her apostasy. Our felicity far transcends not only that of the virgins who attend the Bride, but that of the Bride herself. We have a nearer and dearer place than that which is figured by the marriage bond. We are members of Christ's body. Men may or may not love their wives, but no one ever hated his own flesh. So, in the very nature of things, we are dear to Christ as His own body, We are not called upon to watch for signs of His coming, but to wait for God's Son from heaven. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing among the celestials (Ep.1:3).
13 See 24:42; Mk.13:33-37.
14 See 20:1-16; Lu.19:11-27.
15 A talent was a large sum of money, variously estimated at from one to two thousand dollars of our present currency. There is doubtless an intended reference to the well-known money-making propensity which the Jew has developed since this parable was spoken. Especially at the time of the end, many of the apostate nation will be immensely wealthy, while the faithful remnant will be poor in this world's coin. So the Lord confides to them large sums of spiritual currency, to be used in His service. He to whom God has given one precious truth may double it by communicating it to another.
There is nothing in this parable which can be applied to Christ's dealings with us in this present secret administration of God's grace. It fits perfectly when connected with the kingdom of which He was speaking. He was about, to leave them. The nations were not called until long after He had left. There would be no point to His departure if we should seek to apply it now. Nor is it agreeable to the present grace to require service in this manner. And it is most thoroughly out of harmony in the case of the slave who received a single talent. No one who is now called into God's grace could think or act as he did, and no one who has a deposit from God will be condemned for his failure to be faithful. There was a Judas among the twelve apostles but there was no such character among those apostles who were associated with Paul in his later ministries. An administration which is an admixture of faith and works will also have a sprinkling of unbelievers. But an economy of purest grace can lead no one to such an outcome as the slave who hid his talent and hated his lord. For us there is no condemnation (Ro.8:1). We are not only saved by grace but for grace (Eph.2:8). No one who has ever known Him in this day of salvation will be thrust into outer darkness with lamentation and gnashing of teeth.
As our salvation is not based on work, the awards for service at the dais of Christ do not affect our destiny (2Co.5:10). Our deeds will be tested by fire, to determine their quality. Yet even if our work burns up, we shall be saved, even though it be through fire (1Co.3:13-15).
29 See 13:12; Lu..8:18; Jn.15:2.
31 See 19:28; Mk.8:38.
31 The many judgments in the Scriptures should be carefully distinguished as to time and place and participants and the attending circumstances. There is no “general judgment”, for the saints are judged in the cross of Christ. The individual judgment of the unbeliever for his sins does not take place in this life, but in resurrection. All mankind except those who are Christ's will be raised from the dead to stand before the great white throne, which is not set up until after the coming kingdom eon has run its course (Un.20:11). The judgment here presented differs in time, in place, in character and in purpose. It occurs at the commencement of the kingdom, at His coming in glory, while the great white throne session does not take place until after the thousand years. This judgment is on the earth. The earth will flee before the great white throne (Un.20:11). Living nations will appear before the Son of Mankind, but only the dead come before the later tribunal. The nations are judged as such, not their sins, but according to their treatment of Israel during the time of their affliction.
When God is judging the earth no greater act of righteousness can be done than to feed and shelter His oppressed people. Each faithful Israelite stands in the place of Christ toward the nations. Those who help them do so at the greatest risk, for they may be called to account by the powers that oppose them. This tribunal is not concerned with their ultimate destiny, but with their place in the kingdom. The kingdom will be comprised largely of gentiles, subordinate to Israel politically and religiously, but nevertheless the recipients of much blessing. All that they receive comes to them through Israel, while the present grace which we enjoy comes to us because Israel as a channel is choked, yet the super-abundance of the grace overflows all barriers. We have every reason to treat the Jews with the utmost grace, but our conduct toward them is not a factor in our destiny. We do not enter the kingdom, because we have a higher and more honorable allotment among the celestials.
40 See 10:42.
40 The “brethren” of Christ, in the kingdom, are His fellow Israelites, in contrast with those of other nations. These do not appear before this tribunal. Their judgment is dealt with in the preceding parables.
41 The Slanderer and his messengers will be the chief instigators of the fearful anti-Semitic outbreak of the end time. It will be the greatest of all pogroms, and men will be urged on by malignant spirit powers to do all that is possible to exterminate the people who refuse to worship Satan's christ, or to bow down to his image. Being superhuman, the wild beast and the false prophet will have their portion in that lake of fire into which the Slanderer is cast more than a millennium later (Un.20:10).
46 Eonian chastening is here limited to the nations who will not succor the faithful of Israel in their time of sore distress. It has no bearing on the sins of individuals. The justice of fire eonian is disciplinary and corrective (Confer Jude 7).
1-5 Compare Mk.l4:1-2; Lu.22:1-2. See Ps.2:2; Ac.4:25-28.
1 What a transition from the coming glories to the cross of shame! He has been filling their vision with pictures of Himself as an honorable Lord, a happy Bridegroom, a resplendent Sovereign attended by hosts of angelic servitors. No doubt they had little difficulty in accepting such scenes, for such were the characters of Christ which they could understand. All these portrayals are fulfillments of the festival of Trumpets and of Tabernacles, still six months away, suggestive of the long interval which has already intervened between His sayings and their still future realization. But the Passover was not so far away! It must be fulfilled first! The suffering must precede the glories. Only two days and the first great festival of the Jewish year would find its fulfillment in Him, Already the chief priests were choosing the passover Lamb. They do not want to do it in the festival, but that is the time ordained for the slaying of the type and that is the time when the Antitype must suffer. What a marvelous manifestation of God's wisdom, power and love is concentrated about the cross of Christ!
6-13 Compare Mk.14:3-9; Jn.12:1-8.
6 The Lord was twice anointed during the last week of His life, first, six days before the Passover, and on this occasion. One woman anointed His feet, this woman poured the attar on His head. This occurred in connection with presentation to Jerusalem as the King. When a king was crowned in Israel he was anointed with attar. He came, but no one thought of anointing Him. His very disciples resented it. They grudged the price of the attar for the anointing of Messiah! So He applies it to His burial. Yet this unnamed and unknown woman gives Him the honor He deserves!
14-16 Compare Mk.14:10-11; Lu.22:3-6; Zech.11:12-13.
14 What a contrast! The woman “wastes” in value much more than what Judas receives for his Lord. This shows their relative estimates of His preciousness. Nothing is wasted which is for His honor. Philanthropy finds its highest expression in the worship of the Man Christ Jesus.
17-19 Compare Mk.14:12-16; Lu.22:7-13. See Ex.12:6-18.
17 “The first [day] of the unleavened [bread]” is explained in Mark as the day on which the passover must be sacrificed (Mk.14:12). Hence it is not the first day of the festival of Unleavened Bread spoken of in the law (Lev.23:6; Nu.28:17), for that did not come until the day after the Passover proper. It seems that the question was asked at the beginning of the fourteenth of Nisan, just after sundown. As they had little to do in its preparation, but partook of it as guests of an unknown host, there was little time needed to prepare. So that same evening they celebrated it the last time before He Himself became the Passover on the same calendar day. The Jewish days began in the evening and ended the next evening (See Gen.1:5). The passover lamb must be slain on the fourteenth of Nisan “between the evenings” (Lev. 23:5, see verse 32). Hence the Lord fulfilled the law in a double sense. He observed the Passover and was slain as the Passover, all within the limits allowed by the law of Moses. The very wording of the precept was modified to suit the great Antitype.
20-25 Compare Mk.l4:17-21; Lu.22:14, 21-23; Jn.13:18-30.
23 See Ps.41:9.
24 See Ps.22 Isa.53; Dan.9:26.
24 The case of Judas has an important bearing on the ultimate destiny of the human race and all creation. If it were well for Judas if he had not been born, then there can be no justification of all mankind (Ro.5:18) or reconciliation of all creation (Col.1:20). If he is ultimately justified and reconciled it is well that he has been born. The solution of this difficulty will help us to see the bias which pervades our translations. They deliberately recast the sentence and give it a meaning quite foreign to the text. The Lord speaks of Himself as “Him”, and of Judas as “that man”. It were ideal for the Lord if Judas were not born. The Lord's impending suffering is in view, not the punishment of Judas, whose ultimate destiny is not under consideration.
26-29 Compare Mk.14:22-25; Lu.22:19-20; 1Co.11:23-26.
26 The account given here is for the Circumcision. It is seen as a part of the Passover festival and concerns the new covenant for Israel and the pardon of sins. Were it not that it was given to Paul by a special revelation (1 Co.11:25), after he had been separated to his special ministry (Ac.13:2) among the nations, and with the particular provision that it should continue until the Lord's coming, we would be tempted to class it with the observances intended only for the Circumcision.
26 In Greek, the present tense of the substantive often indicates a figure of speech. If the Lord were speaking literally of His actual body and blood, He would have omitted the word is. It is a metaphor, in which one thing is not merely stated to be like another, but to be another. It is freely used in interpreting parables, as, “the field is the world” (Mt.13:38). Usually it is not used in stating matters of fact. It may be correctly rendered, means, or represents, in practically every place where it occurs. This distinction cannot be carried over into English, for we always express the verb.
28 See Ex.24:8; Lev.l7:11; Jer.31:31-34.
29 Compare Lu.22:15-18.
30-32 Compare Mk.l4:26-28; Lu.22:39; Jn.16:32.
31 See Zech.l3:7; Isa.53:4-11.
32 See 28:7-16.
33-35 Compare Mk.14:29-31; Lu.22:31-34; Jn.13:36-38.
33 The Lord had said distinctly that all of them should be snared. Peter's fall began by refusing to believe that the Lord's all meant all. Of course, it could not include him! By exalting himself above the rest he invited the fate of all who walk in pride, who must be abased. The same spirit is rampant today. We hear the loudest protestations of loyalty and devotion to Christ, which, if carried out, would transform the whole world in one generation. There is no doubt that it is honest. Peter fully intended to stand by his Lord to the very death. But he did not know himself or the impotence of the human will. It is the creature and the sport of circumstance. No man can use the emphatic I, as Peter did, and not fall.
36-38 Compare Mk.14:32-34; Lu.22:39-40 Jn.18:1-2.
36 How different it was with our Lord! He was about to brave the most awful battle with the hosts of darkness and their human minions, yet not a boast proceeds from His lips. He shrank from it. He implored to be spared. It was not His will. Hitherto His will and the Father's had been in perfect accord. He acquiesced in it even though it meant failure and defeat. He delighted in it though it brought Him opposition and hate. Yet with all His unparalleled loyalty and devotion, the terrors of the curse, the abandonment by God, were beyond the concurrence of His will. But there is a deeper and more powerful force than this. The heart can subdue the will. Christ had not come to do His own will. So He prayed the prayer that befits us far more than Him, “Not as I will, but as Thou!” No man can use the emphatic “I”, without the negative, and carry out his vaunting. It is the symbol of defeat, “not I” the banner of victory, though it should lead through the deepest depths to God.
Gethsemane should prepare our hearts for the deep unfoldings of the cross. It transforms it from a mere manifestation of human and satanic hate into a deliberate and foreordained act of God. Our Lord did not beg the chief priests for mercy, or Pilate for clemency. He recognized the fact that God alone could deliver Him from their power, and, since this was not His will, He makes not the slightest effort to appease them. Without in the least minimizing the guilt of man or the sin of Satan, we may look beneath all their hateful deeds and see God using them as His puppets in the preparation of the great Sacrifice which had been promised from the beginning. Though apparently and consciously doing their utmost to oppose the will of God, they were carrying it into effect with the same precision as their Victim Who had renounced His own will in favor of His Father's.
The cross of Christ is the touchstone of humanity. Not only is the cowardice of Pilate and the perfidy of the priests exposed to the gaze of all, but His own little band all find their true value in its vicinity. What should we not expect from His own apostles who have been with Him and have seen His mighty power and have felt the attraction of His love? Judas, who was entrusted with the funds, turns traitor. Boastful Peter forswears his Lord. And all the rest, who but a short time since were loud in their protestations of loyalty, desert Him at the first approach of danger.
30-41 Compare Mk.l4:35-38; Lu.22:41-46. See Heb.5:7; Jn.6:38; Phil.2:8.
42-46 Compare Mk.14:39-42.
45-46 Compare Lu.22:45-46.
47-50 Compare Mk.14:43-46; Lu.22:47-48; Jn.18:2-9.
47 Judas, one of the twelve. It is necessary that snares should be coming (18:7). The Lord deliberately chose one of His apostles for the essential duty of betraying Him. He knew from the beginning that Judas was a traitor.
50 See Ps.41:9, 55:12-14.
51-52 Compare Mk.14:47; Lu.22:49-51; Jn.18:10-11.
51 It is most difficult to receive evil from the hand of God. The disciples evidently could not understand how this could be of God. Their highest thought was to escape evil through divine protection. But our Lord assures them that, however easy it might be to enlist the legions of heaven, it is not His present plan to escape the clutches of His enemies. Evil must needs be, and God controls it so as to accomplish His beneficent purpose.
53 See 2Ki.6:17
55-56 Compare Mk.l4:48-52; Lu.22:52-53.
55 In the daylight they were afraid. They wanted the mantle of darkness to hide their evil deeds. Nothing could have been simpler than to have the temple guards arrest Him in the sanctuary. Why all this show of force to take an unarmed Man Who never did anything but good? It is often difficult to account for the foolishness of human wisdom and action. Yet here we have the key. The Scriptures of the prophets must be fulfilled. And they are given for the revelation of God. Every human action will one day be accounted for and justified by putting it in its right relation to God.
62 Can there be any greater contrast than comes before us in this scene before the chief priest? Christ, the Chief Priest after the new order of Melchisedec, sworn in by God Himself, holy, harmless, undefiled, and higher than the heavens, is about to offer Himself for the sins of the world. Yet He stood alone, forsaken even by His own, charged with blasphemy and liable to death. Caiaphas was appointed for political reasons by the Roman power. He was crafty, deceitful, blasphemous, unfit to officiate at God's altar. Yet such a man dares to condemn the Son of God! Quite shamelessly he seeks for testimony against Him, and accepts what everyone knew was false. No one had heard Him say that He would destroy the temple of God. He said that they would do it. And now their very accusation is itself the crime with which they charge Him! They tried to fasten on Him the destruction of the empty house on mount Moriah. They actually accomplish the destruction of the true Temple, His body.
57-60 Compare Mk.14:53-64; Lu.22:54-71; Jn.18:12-24.
61 See Jn.2:18-22.
62 As the Sacrifice, the Lord was a sign to the priests, for He acted as the animal they were accustomed to lead to the altar (Isa.53:7):
He is hard pressed, and He is humiliated,
Yet He is not opening His mouth:
He is fetched as a flockling to the slaughter,
And as a ewe before its shearers is mute,
So He is not opening His mouth.
63 See Lev.5:1
64 See 24:30; Ps.l:110:1; Dan.7:13; Ac.7:55-56; Un:1:7
64 When the chief priest invoked the presence of God, Christ was not slow in testifying to the truth. So that all the actual testimony against Him was the great truth to which the priests themselves and all their service in the sanctuary and the temple testified. But we must not forget the divine side. The Scriptures must be fulfilled. God's purpose must be served. The business of the priesthood is to slay the sacrifice. All the victims hitherto had been vain repetitions that could only cover sin. They could not take it away. Shall not the priests, therefore, slay the great Antitype, the Lamb Whose blood will yet change all sin into righteousness, all enmity into reconciliation? In the wisdom of God their hatred and malice are simply a knife to slay the true Sacrifice. Can we not see that, in a very real sense, they were carrying out the will of God? And if this is true of the sin of sins, is it not quite possible that God will justify all sins in the same way?
65 See Lev.21:10.
66 See Lev.24:16; Jn.19:7.
67-68 Compare Mk.14:65; Lu.22:63-65. See Isa.50:6, 53:3.
69 Poor Peter! Where is his bravado now? He was quite ready to defend his Lord against the world-but not against a serving maid. His very vehemence betrays him. Now was his opportunity of witnessing for his Lord, and of standing by Him in His trial. He should have shouted “Yes!” and moved forward to take his place beside his Master. But no. He refuses to acknowledge Him. He slinks back to the portal to escape further questioning. But another maid awaits him there, so he adds an oath to his denial, and by his Galilean brogue betrays himself again. And then his exasperation is so great that he actually damns and swears that He is not at all acquainted with the Lord. The cock crows. Its simple sound is the voice of God to Peter. He becomes acquainted with himself, and is sadly disillusioned. Instead of the brave, trusty, faithful disciple and apostle he thought he was, he finds himself to be a cringing, craven coward. He laments bitterly.
69-74 Compare Mk.14:66-71; Lu.22:54-60 Jn.18:15-27.
75 Compare Mk.l4:72; Lu.22:61-62. See 34.
1-2 Compare Mk.15:1; Lu.23:1; Jn.18:28-32. See Ps.2:2.
3-8 The chief priests, by buying the freehold, which had previously been acquired by Judas, but not paid for (Ac.1:16-19), join the betrayer of our Lord in an unlawful act which manifests their lack of faith in God. True believers, who were looking for the kingdom and the consequent redistribution of the land, would not waste money on a freehold which would be worthless in that day. Instead, they sold their freeholds (Ac.4:34), and gave the money to the apostles. The account in Acts views this transaction from the standpoint of Judas, and tells why he was rejected from being an apostle. He made arrangements not only to betray His Lord (Who, he supposed, would use His power to circumvent His enemies), but he arranged to use the “wages of unrighteousness” for buying a freehold, contrary to the law. The chief priests and elders, instead of repudiating this illegal act, confirm it by hypocritically refusing to put the money in the temple offerings, and by using it to complete the purchase which Judas had begun. The death of Judas is likewise passed over briefly in Matthew, but elaborated in Acts. He hanged himself, but the rope broke and he fell so hard that his bowels spilled out. Thus worked the woe pronounced upon him by the Lord.
5-8 See Ac.1:18-19.
9 See Zech.11:12-13.
11 Compare Mk.l5:2-5; Lu.23:2-12; Jn.18:33-38. See 1Ti.6:13.
11 The priests should have been models of justice and truth, for they had the form of truth in the law. The governor had no divine light to guide his steps. Yet Pilate is far more just than the priests. He knew very well that they would not demand the death of a Jew who conspired against his government. They would aid him. His suspicions of their motive were confirmed by the Lord's silence. No ordinary man would stand and hear such charges against him without a reply. At no time did the chief priests deceive Pilate. He thought the easiest way out would be to put it to the people, who, he supposed, would release the prophet. He was so sure of their verdict that he was caught in his own device.
15-18 Compare Mk.l5:6-10; Lu.23:13-17 Jn.18:38-39.
17 Bar-Abbas is another contrast with Christ. A murderer, a leader in sedition, he was just what the chief priests represented the Lord to be. His name is very striking. In Aramaic it means “son of the father”. Christ was the Son of the Father, God. Bar-Abbas was the son of another father, the Slanderer.
19 Of all the actors in this tragedy, only one really pleads the cause of Christ, and this one is the most unlikely that could be. It seems almost incredible, when His own nation is against Him, His own disciples afraid to speak a word in His favor, that an alien woman steps in to plead the cause of a just man she may never have heard of before. True, it was the direct effect of divine intervention. But every other act and attitude in this scene can, in its last analysis, be traced to God's foreordination. It must remain a marvelous intimation off God's ways that she alone should voice a solemn protest against the travesty of justice in which Pilate was weak enough to become involved.
20-23 Compare Mk.l5:11-14; Lu.23:18-23; Jn.18:40. See Ac.3:14.
20 The chief priests were aware that they had failed to convince the governor by fair argument, so now they propose to foil his plan of freeing the Lord by persuading the people. It is not necessary to have facts or truth to move the mob. It is the most unjust and unreasonable appeal possible. Had the priests not interfered they undoubtedly would have shouted for His release, as Pilate anticipated.
23 Now that the priests have caught him in his own device, he tries to persuade the mob. Evil or no evil, they want His blood.
24 See Deut. 21:6-7.
24 Pilate had the power to release Him, but expedience and selfishness are always more potent in human governments than justice.
25-38 Compare Mk.15:24-28; Lu.23:32-43; Jn.19:18-24.
25 See Deut.19:10; Ac.5:28.
25 The Jews today have good cause to shudder when they read these lines. There is a reason for their terrible history from that day to this.
26 Compare Mk.l5:15; Lu.23:24-25; Jn.19:1.
27-31 Compare Mk.l5:16-20; Jn.19:2-16.
29 See Ps.69:19-20; Isa.53:3.
30 See Isa.50:6.
31 See Isa.53:7-8; Phil.2:9-10.
31 In mockery, our Lord went through the mimic ceremony of being invested with imperial dignity. The shining attire with which Herod clothed Him (Lu.23:11) may have been intended to mark Him as a candidate for royal honors. Pilate's soldiers put on Him the scarlet mantle, a sign of His having attained the imperial throne, and add the crown of thorns and the reed for a scepter, and offer Him the homage due to such exalted rank. Little did they dream of His high honors as earth's Suzerain and heaven's supreme Head! And little do His saints discern that this is the essential ceremony of investiture for the King of kings and Lord of lords. He never could assume the place supreme unless He had descended to the depths. Suffering and shame are the divine preliminaries to joy and honor. Those who suffer-they shall reign.
32 Compare Mk.l5:21; Lu.23:26-31. See Heb.13:12-13.
33-34 Compare Mk.15:22-23; Lu.23::33-36; Jn.19:17.
34 See 48; Ps.69:21.
35 Compare Ps. 22:18.
35 The crucifixion of Christ is a holy of holies, where speech seems sacrilegious, and silence sacred.
38 See Isa.53:12.
39-44 Compare Mk.15:29-32; Lu.23:35-43. See Ps.22:7-8.
39 The whole scene is vibrant with the presence of God, not only in the Victim and the feeble few who followed, but in the very words of those who hated Him. They spoke great truths which they could not comprehend. They were demolishing the true Temple of God. They needed salvation. But it could never come if He saved Himself or descended from the cross. The chief priest could not have uttered a more pregnant or more precious truth. How gladly we echo their words! We only change the note of derision into a song of triumph. “Others He saves: Himself He cannot save!” Surely they were inspired!
40 See 26:61-64; Jn.2:19.
44 There were four others crucified with Christ. Two were malefactors. Two were robbers. One of the malefactors believed on Him. The robbers reproached Him.
45:53 Compare Mk.15:33-38 Lu.23:44-46; Jn.19:25-30.
45 The dread darkness was but an indication of the withdrawal of the divine Presence from the silent Sufferer. This was incomparably more awful than the opposition of His enemies or the desertion of His friends. Until this darkness enveloped Him, He had always lived in the light of God's smile. Now He was hanging on a tree, and became accursed of God (Gal.3:13). Sinless, He became sin (2Co.5:21). Then it was that fire from above entered into His bones (Lam.1:13). Then the Lord bruised Him (Isa.53:10), It was the travail of His soul in these dark hours which settled the question of sin. It is only as we see God against Him then that we can appreciate how much He is for us now. Crucified by man at the behest of Satan, and abandoned by God, He was the most forlorn and forsaken creature in the universe. Only after it is past and the light returns is He able to cry to God. And then He utters that most incomprehensible of all questions, unless, indeed, He suffered for the sins of others. For His own sake, God would never have abandoned Him. For my sake (and yours, beloved reader), He endured, not merely the physical pain, the mental torture, the moral degradation which men inflicted, but the deeper, direr despair of the awful enmity of God.
46 See Ps.22:1.
48 See Ps.69:21.
50 His death was different from all others. He did not linger until life ebbed away, but laid down His soul while still strong by committing His Spirit to God. His body was laid in the tomb. His soul went to the unseen. His work was done, and death was His portion until His resurrection.
51 See 2Chr.3:14.
51 The flesh of Christ was figured by the curtain in the temple which hid the presence of God from the holy place. God was not manifest in His flesh, but in its rending. Our union with Christ does not commence until His crucifixion. We were crucified, entombed, raised, and are ascended and seated in Him.
54-61 Compare Mk.15:39-47; Lu.23:47-56 Jn.19:38-42.
54 The kingdom proclamation closed with the acknowledgment of Peter that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God (16:16). His priestly ministry closes with the centurion's declaration that He is the Son of God. Thus we are given a foretaste of the final effect of both of these ministries. In the day of His return, Israel will exultantly acclaim Him King and the nations of the earth will acknowledge Him their Lord.
55 See Lu 8:2-3.
56 See 13:55.
57 The shame and ignominy, as well as the sufferings, are now over. Though they appointed His grave with the lawless, God put Him in a rich man's tomb. The Romans would have left His body till it wasted away or was devoured by birds of prey. The Jews would have put it in a felon's grave. God indicated His mind by providing two honorable men, Joseph and Nicodemus (Jn.19:39), to attend to His entombment. Joseph of Arimarhea, translated, means “He adds the heights.”
62 The morrow after the preparation was the great sabbath which began the festival of Unleavened Bread. But the religions leaders did not rest nor did they allow Pilate peace. They now realized that they had only fulfilled His own predictions, and that, should He rise from the dead, or even appear to do so, they would be in a worse predicament than ever. From the divine side, it was important that they should have ample assurance of His resurrection. Nothing could be more convincing than the story of the guard. Their plan was an excellent one to prove, not disprove, His return to life.
63 See 16:21, 17:23, 20:19.
64 Twelve times we are told that He would rise “the third day”. Why do they tell Pilate “after three days”, and then set the guard hardly more than a day after His death? Pilate was a Roman. They used the Latin idiom. Mark, who wrote for Romans, also uses this form (Mk.8:31; 9:31; 10:34). In Greek it is literal, “the third day”. In Latin, it is idiomatic, “after three days”. In Hebrew, it is an idiom which accords with all their chronological computations, “three days and three nights”.
66 The “detail” of soldiers, was a small squad which, in Latin, was called a custodian. From this, we get our word custody. Pilate uses the Latin military term for which the Greek had no exact equivalent. Hence it is transliterated, rather than translated in the sublinear rendering.
1 Compare Mk.l6:1-4; Lu.24:1-2; Jn.20:1.
1 The enigmatical phrase, “the evening of the sabbaths,” when the Roman watch was set, is the key to a problem which astute theologians have declared to be unsolvable. The Hebrew day, in starting at sundown, commenced in the middle of an “evening”. The evening of one day lasted till sundown, after that, it was counted as the evening of the next day. Thus each day had two evenings, one at its commencement and another at its close. Each evening was in two days. The evening when the watch was set was in two sabbaths. One, the first day of Unleavened Bread, was a special sabbath, coming but once a year. The other was the usual weekly sabbath. The conjunction of these two at their common evening satisfies the phrase “the evening of the sabbaths,” and furnishes the key to the chronology of the passion week.
1 “One of the sabbaths” is the only correct translation of the phrase usually rendered “the first day of the week”. The word first is not there. It is simply one, and is applied to the eleventh hour (Mt.20:12), which, in that case, was last, not first. The word day is not in the text at all. The word “week” is in the plural, and is precisely the same as the form in the preceding sentence. If it is rendered “sabbaths” there it must also be “sabbaths” here. So there is no recourse but to translate “one of the sabbaths.”
The key to this expression lies in the law of the Firstfruits (Lev.23:9-14). Ending with the day before Pentecost there were seven sabbaths (Lev.23:15) from the day before the waving of the “sheaf”. These are referred to in the phrase “one of the sabbaths”. Every mention of this phrase places it between the Passover and Pentecost, (1Co.16:2 and Acts 20:1 and 6). And the other occurrences refer to our Lord's resurrection (Mk.16:2; Lu.24:1; Jn.20:1-19). He was raised on a sabbath, not the first day of the week, which would be our Sunday. His resurrection on the sabbath is a token that His work was complete. Redemption is now a matter of entering into His stopping, not the beginning of a new week of toil and labor.
5-8 Compare Mk.l6:5-8; Lu.24:3-11.
9-10 Compare Mk. 16:9-11. See Jn.20:17
18 This account is principally concerned with the rejection of the kingdom. How fitting that it should close with a preview of its establishment in the coming eon! The place is significant. Satan took Him to a high mountain to show Him the kingdoms of the earth. The transformation was on a mountain. The place speaks of His exaltation. This will not be realized until He comes in glory. He has not yet taken His great power (Un.11:17). The apostles never went out to all nations. On the contrary, Peter was opposed when he went to the proselyte Cornelius (Ac.11:3). They never baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit. They used the titles of Christ intelligently when they baptized. They used “Jesus Christ” in baptizing Israelites, “Lord Jesus” for Samaritans (Ac.8:16). They never used “Christ Jesus,” the title of His present heavenly glory. They never used the formula here given because they knew that it was reserved for the future kingdom proclamation. They never discipled the nations, as such. The Lord was not with them till the conclusion of that eon, but left them soon after, when He ascended. This commission cannot be carried out until His return in power and glory to bless all nations through His people Israel.