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Words from GOD – Words to GOD

St.Luke, Chapter 17-19, Archbishop Rosary

Archbishop S.E.Uwe RosenkranzEXPOSITION
CHAPTER 17

Vers. 1–37.—The Master’s teaching on the subject of the injury worked on the souls of others by our sins. The disciples pray for an increase of faith that they may be kept from such sins. The Lord’s reply. His little parable on humility. The healing of the ten lepers. The ingratitude of all save one. The question of the Pharisees as to the coming of the kingdom. The Lord’s answer, and his teaching respecting the awful suddenness of the advent of the Son of man.
Vers. 1, 2.—Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. The thread of connection here is not very obvious, and many expositors are content with regarding this seventeenth chapter as simply containing certain lessons of teaching placed here by St. Luke without regard to anything which preceded or succeeded them in the narrative, these expositors regarding the contents of this chapter as well authenticated sayings of the Master, which were repeated to Luke or Paul without any precise note of time or place, and which appeared to them too important for them to omit in these memoirs of the Divine life. Notwithstanding this deliberate opinion, endorsed by Godet and others, there does seem a clear connection here with the narrative immediately preceding. The Divine Master, while mourning over the sorrowful certainty of offences being committed in the present confused and disordered state of things, yet pronounces a bitter woe on the soul of the man through whose agency the offences were wrought. The “little ones” whom these offences would injure are clearly in this instance not children, although, of course, the words would include the very young, for whom Jesus ever showed the tenderest love; but the reference is clearly to disciples whose faith was only as yet weak and wavering—to men and women who would be easily influenced either for good or evil. The offences, then, especially alluded to were no doubt the worldliness and selfishness of professors of godliness. The sight of these, professedly serving God and all the while serving mammon more earnestly, would bring the very name of God’s service into evil odour with some; while with others such conduct would serve as an example to be imitated. The selfish rich man of the great parable just spoken, professedly a religious man, one who evidently prided himself on his descent from Abraham the friend of God, and yet lived as a heartless, selfish sinner, who was eventually condemned for inhumanity, was probably in the Lord’s mind when he spoke thus. What fatal injury to the cause of true religion would be caused by one such life as that! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea. This was a punishment not unknown among the ancients. The ancient Latin Version, and Marcion in his recension of St. Luke, read here, “It were better for him that he had never been born, or that a millstone.” etc. The awful sequel to a life which apparently had given the offence to which the Lord referred, endorses this terrible alternative. Yes; better indeed for him had that evil life been cut short even by such a death of horror as the Master pictures here, when he speaks of the living being cast into the sea bound to a millstone.
Ver. 3.—Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. “But do you take heed,” the Lord went on to say, “my disciples; you too are in danger of committing deadly sin yourselves, and of doing my cause irreparable injury. Soft living in selfish luxury, about which I have been speaking lately, is not the only wrong you can commit; there is sore danger that men placed as you are will judge others harshly, even cruelly, and so offend in another way ‘the little ones’ pressing into the kingdom: this is your especial snare.” Things Jesus had noticed, perhaps congratulatory, self-sufficient comments he had heard them make on the occasion of the lately spoken parable of Dives, very likely had suggested this grave warning. So here he tells them, the future teachers of his Church, how they must act; while ever the bold, untiring, fearless rebukers of all vice, of every phase of selfishness, they must be never tired of exercising forgiveness the moment the offender is sorry. The repentant sinner must never be repelled by them.
Ver. 5.—And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. The disciples, moved by the severe and cutting rebuke of their Master—a rebuke they probably felt their harsh, self-congratulatory state of mind had well merited—come to him and ask him to give them such an increased measure of faith as would enable them to play better the difficult and responsible part he had assigned them. They evidently felt their weakness deeply, but a stronger faith would supply them with new strength; they would thus be guided to form a wiser, gentler judgment of others, a more severe opinion too of themselves.
Ver. 6—And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. The Lord signifies that a very slight real faith, which he compares to the mustard seed, that smallest of grains, would be of power sufficient to accomplish what seemed to them impossible. In other words, he says, “If you have any real faith at all, you will be able to win the victory over yourselves necessary for a perpetual loving judgment of others.” The sycamine tree here mentioned in his comparison is not the sycamore; he was probably standing close by the tree in question as he spoke. The sycamine is the black mulberry, Morus nigra, still called sycamenea in Greece.
Vers. 7, 8.—But which of you, having a servant ploughing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by-and-by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? and will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? And here we have the Lord’s answer to his disciples’ request to increase their faith. They were asking for a boon he would not, nay, could not, grant them yet. A small measure of real faith was sufficient to teach them that God would give them strength enough to keep themselves from committing this offence against love and charity of which he warned them so solemnly; but they prayed for more. “They were asking for faith, not only in a measure sufficient for obedience, but for a faith which would exclude all uncertainty and doubt. They were looking for the crown of labour before their work was done, for the wreath of the conqueror before they had fought the battle.… In other words, the ‘increase of faith’ for which the apostles prayed was only to come through obedience to their Master’s will” (Dean Plumptre). The little parable was to teach them that they were not to look to accomplishing great things by a strong faith given to them in a moment of time, but they were to labour on patiently and bravely, and afterwards, as in the parable-story, they too should eat and drink. It was to show them that in the end they should receive that higher faith they prayed for, which was to be the reward for patient, gallant toil. And gird thyself, and serve me. It is scarcely wise, as we have before remarked, to press each separate detail of the Lord’s parables. Zeller, quoted by Stier, “makes, however, an application of this to the ‘inner world of the heart,” in which there is no going straightway to sit down at table when a man comes from his external calling and sphere of labour, but we must gird ourselves to serve the Lord, and so prepare ourselves for the time when he will receive us to his supper.” This is interesting, but it is doubtful if the Lord intended these special applications. The general sense of the parable is clear. It teaches two things to all who would be, then or in the ages to come, his disciples—patience and humility. It reminds men, too, that his service is an arduous one, and that for those really engaged in it it not only brings hard toil in the fields during the day, but also further duties often in the evening-tide. There is no rest for the faithful and true servant of Jesus, and this restless work must be patiently gone through, perhaps for long years.
Vers. 9, 10.—Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. And for the loyal, patient, unwearied worker there must be no saying, “What shall we have therefore?” (Matt. 19:27). No spirit of self-complacency and of self-satisfaction must be allowed to brood over the faithful servant’s thoughts. In much of the Lord’s teaching at this period of his life the position of man as regards God seems to have been dwelt on. God is all; man is nothing. In God’s great love is man’s real treasure; man is simply a steward of some of God’s possessions for a time; man is a servant whose duty it is to work ceaselessly for his Master, God. There are hints of great rewards reserved for the faithful steward in heaven, promises that a time should come when the unwearied servant should sit down and eat and drink in his Master’s house; but these high guerdons were not earned, but were simply free, gracious gifts from the Divine Sovereign to his creatures who should try to do his will. This patient, unwearied toil; this deep sense of indebtedness to God who loves man with so intense, so strange a love; this feeling that we can never do enough for him, that when we have taxed all our energies to the utmost in his service, we have done little or nothing, and yet that all the while he is smiling on with his smile of indescribable love;—this is what will increase the disciples’ faith, and only this. And in this way did the Lord reply to the disciples’ prayer, “Increase our faith.”
Ver. 11.—And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem. Just a note of time and place inserted by St. Luke to remind the reader that all these incidents took place, this important teaching and the momentous revelations concerning man’s present and future were spoken, during those last few months preceding the Crucifixion, and generally in that long, slow progress from the north of Palestine through Galilee and Samaria to the holy city.
Vers. 12, 13.—And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. These met him somewhere outside the village, separated, by the fact of their unhappy malady, leprosy, from their fellows, in accordance with the old Mosaic Law of Lev. 13:46, “He is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.” These had no doubt heard of the many lepers who had been healed by the Galilæan Teacher who was then drawing nigh the village. They did not venture to approach him, but they attracted his attention with their hoarse, sad cry. The legal distance which these unfortunates were compelled to keep from passers-by was a hundred paces. He does not seem to have touched them, or talked with them, but with an impressive majesty bids them go and return thanks for their cure, which his will had already accomplished. They evidently believed implicitly in his healing power, for without further question they went on their way as he had commanded, and as they went the poor sufferers felt a new and, to them, a quite strange thrill of health course through their veins; they felt their prayer was granted, and that the fell disease had left them. They were not sent to the capital city; any priest in any town was qualified to pronounce on the completeness of a cure in this malady (Lev. 14:2–32).
Ver. 16.—And he was a Samaritan. Apparently nine of these lepers were Jews, and only one a Samaritan. This man would not have been allowed to associate with Jews but for the miserable disease with which he was afflicted, and which obliterated all distinction of race and caste. It is the same now at Jerusalem; in the leper-houses, termed “Abodes of the Unfortunate,” Jews and Mohammedans will live together. Under no other circumstances will these hostile peoples do this.
Ver. 17.—Where are the nine? It has been suggested that the priests, in their hostility to Jesus, hindered the return of the nine. The one who was a Samaritan would naturally pay little heed to a remonstrance from such a quarter. From the terms of the narrative it is, however, more likely that the strange Samaritan, as soon as he felt he was really cured, moved by intense, adoring gratitude, at once turned back to offer his humble, heartfelt thanks to his Deliverer. The others, now they had got what they so earnestly required, forgot to be grateful, and hurried off to the priests to procure their certificate of health, that they might plunge at once again into the varied distractions of everyday life—into business, pleasure, and the like. The Master appears especially moved by this display. He seems to see in the thanklessness of the nine, contrasted with the conduct of the one, the ingratitude of men as a whole, “as a prophetic type of what will also ever take place” (Stier).
Ver. 19.—Thy faith hath made thee whole. This was something more than the first noble gift, which he, in common with his nine fellow-sufferers, had received. A new power was his from that day forth. Closely united to his Master, we may think of the poor unknown Samaritan for ever among the friends of Jesus here and in the world to come. There are degrees in grace here. The nine had faith enough to believe implicitly in the Master’s power, and in consequence they received his glorious gift of health and strength; but they cared to go no further. The one, on the other hand, struck with the majesty and the love of Jesus, determined to learn more of his Benefactor. From henceforth we may consider the Samaritan was one of “his own.” SS. Luke and Paul gladly recorded this “memory,” and no doubt not once or twice in the eventful story of their future lives used the incident as a text for their teaching when they spoke to the stranger Gentiles in far cities. Being a hated Samaritan, they would say, argued no hardness of heart, nor was it any bar to the bestowal of Jesus’ most splendid gifts, first of life here, and then of life glorious and full in the world to come.
Ver. 20.—And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come. The following discourse of the Lord in reply to the Pharisee, question, ‘When cometh the kingdom?” was delivered, clearly, in the closing days of the ministry, probably just before the Passover Feast, and in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. The query was certainly not put in a friendly spirit. The questioners had evidently caught the drift of much of our Lord’s late teaching, and had seen how plainly he was alluding to himself as Messiah. This seems to have been the starting-point of their bitter, impatient inquiry. We must remember that the great rabbinic schools in which these Pharisees had received their training connected the coming of Messiah with a grand revival of Jewish power. If in reality this Galilæan Rabbi, with his strange powers, his new doctrines, his scathing words of reproach which he was ever presuming to address to the leaders in Israel,—if in reality he were Messiah, when was that golden age, which the long looked-for Hope of Israel was to introduce, to commence? But the words, we can well conceive, were spoken with the bitterest irony. With what scorn those proud, rich men from Jerusalem looked on the friendless Teacher of Galilee, we know. We seem to hear the muttering which accompanied the question: “Thou our King Messiah!” The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. This answer of our Lord’s may be paraphrased: “The kingdom of God cometh not in conjunction with such observation and watching for external glorious things as now exist among you here. Lo, it will burst upon you suddenly, unawares.” The English word “observation”answers to the signification of the Greek as meaning a singularly anxious watching.
Ver. 21.—Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. That kingdom will be marked out on no map, for, lo, it is even now in your midst. It may be asked—How “in your midst”? Scarcely not as Godet and Olshausen, following Chrysostom, think, in your hearts. The kingdom of God could not be said to be in the hearts of those Pharisees to whom the Master was especially directing his words of reply here. It should be rather understood in the midst of your ranks; so Meyer and Farrar and others interpret it.
Ver. 22.—And he said unto the disciples. The Master now turns to the disciples, and, basing his words still upon the question of the Pharisees, he proceeds to deliver a weighty discourse upon the coming of the kingdom which will be manifest indeed, and externally, as well as internally, exceeding glorious, and for which this kingdom, now at its first beginning, will be for long ages merely a concealed preparation. Some of the imagery and figures used in this discourse reappear in the great prophecy in Matt. 24 (a shorter report of which St. Luke gives, ch. 21:8–36). Here, however, the teaching has no reference to the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish polity, but only to “the times of the end.” The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. In the first place, our Lord addressed these words to the disciples, who, in the long weary years of toil and bitter opposition which lay before them, would often long to be back again among the days of the old Galilæan life, when they could take their doubts and fears to their Master, when they could listen without stint to his teaching, to the words which belonged to the higher wisdom. Oh, could they have him only for one day in their midst again! But they have a broader and more far-reaching reference; they speak also to all his servants in the long Christian ages, who will be often weary and dispirited at the seemingly hopeless nature of the conflict they are waging. Then will these indeed long with an intense longing for their Lord, who for so many centuries keeps silence. These will often sigh for just one day of that presence so little valued and thought of when on earth.
Ver. 23.—And they shall say to you, See here; or, See there: go not after them, nor follow them. Again addressed to the disciples in the first instance, but with a far more extended reference. In the early days of Christianity such false reports were exceedingly frequent; false Messiahs, too, from time to time sprang up; unhealthy visions of an immediate return disturbed the peace and broke into the quiet, steady work of the Church. Nor have these disturbing visions been unknown in later ages of Christianity. Dean Alford has a curious comment here. He sees in the words of this verse a warning to all so-called expositors and followers of expositors of prophecy who cry, “See here! or, See there!” every time that war breaks out or revolutions occur.
Ver. 24.—For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. “Yes,” went on the Master, “let not delusive expectations interrupt you or turn you aside out of the narrow way of patient faith, for my coming will, like the lightning, be sudden, and will gleam forth on every side. There will be no possibility of mistake then.”
Ver. 25.—But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. But, and here again he repeats “as a solemn refrain to all his teaching,” the warning to his own of the, fearful end fast coming on him. If he is to come again with glory, he must first go away with shame, persecuted, forsaken, by the generation then living. The suffering Messiah must precede the glorified Messiah. After this rejection and suffering would begin the period alluded to above (ver. 22) as the time when men should long to have him only for one day in their midst. During this period Messiah should continue invisible to mortal eye. How long this state was to continue, one century or—(eighteen have already passed), Jesus himself, in his humiliation, knew not; but he announced (vers. 26–30) that a gloomy state of things on earth would be, brought to a close by his reappearance. Ah! “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
Vers. 26–28.—As it was in the days of Noe (Noah) … as it was in the days of Lot. The prominent sin of the antediluvian, he reminds them, was sensuality in its varied forms. The torch of religious feeling will have waned in that unknown and possibly distant future when Messiah shall reappear, and will be burning with a pale, faint light. The bulk of mankind will be given up to a sensuality which the higher culture then generally reached will have been utterly powerless to check or even to modify. Men, just as in the days when the ark was building and Noah was preaching, as in the days when the dark cloud was gathering over the doomed cities of the plain and Abraham was praying, will be entirely given up to their pursuits, their pleasures, and their sins. They will argue that the sun rose yesterday and on many yesterdays; of course it will rise to-morrow. Perfect security will have taken possession of the whole race, just as, on a smaller scale, was the case in the days of Noah and of Lot, when the floods came and the fire, and did their stern, pitiless work; so will that day of the second coming of Messiah, with its bloody and fiery dawn, assuredly come on man when he is utterly unprepared.
Ver. 30.—Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. “Is revealed,” that is to say, he has been present all along, through those long ages of waiting; only an impenetrable veil has hid him from mortal eyes. In that day will the veil be lifted, “and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10).
Vers. 31, 32.—In that day, he which shall be upon the house-top, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. The Lord, with this striking imagery, describes, not the attitude which men who would be saved must assume when he appears with power and great glory—there will be no time then to shape any new way of life—but it pictures the attitude they must always maintain, if they would be his servants, towards the things of this world. His servants must be ready to abandon all earthly blessings at a moment’s notice; none but those who have been sitting loosely to these will be able, when the sudden cry comes, at once to toss away all, and so to meet the long-tarrying Bridegroom. The reminder of Lot’s wife—a very familiar story to Jews—warned all would-be disciples of the danger of the double service, God and the world, and how likely the one who attempted it would be to perish miserably.
Ver. 33.—Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. Very deep must have been the impression which this saying made upon the early Church. So literally did many interpret it, that the wiser and more thoughtful men in the congregations during the days of persecution had often to prevent persons of both sexes recklessly throwing away their lives in the conflict with the Roman authorities. Very many in the first three centuries positively courted martyrdom.
Vers. 34, 35.—I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, the other left. How taken? Not, as some scholars have supposed, taken only to perish, but taken away by the Lord in the way described by St. Paul in 1 Thess. 4:17, where he paints how the faithful servant who is living when the Lord returns in glory, will be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. The other will be left. Thus, as it has been strikingly observed, “the beings who have been most closely connected here below shall, in the twinkling of an eye, be parted for ever.”
Ver. 36 is wanting in nearly all the oldest authorities. It was subsequently inserted in this place by copyists from Matt. 24:40—a passage in which much of the imagery here used was repeated by the Master. In one important feature this discourse differs from that delivered at Jerusalem a little later, and reported at length by St. Matthew in his twenty-fourth chapter. There is no reference here (in St. Luke) to the siege of Jerusalem; the whole teaching is purely teleological, and deals exclusively with what will take place at the close of this age.
Ver. 37.—And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? The disciples were still unable to grasp the full meaning of their Master’s words when he spoke of his second advent being visible in all parts of the world, comparing it to a flash of lightning which gleams at the same instant in every point of the horizon. “Where, Lord, will all this take place which thou hast been telling us about?” And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. The imagery is taken from Job 39:30, “Where the slain are, there is she” (the eagle); the bird intended being most probably the great vulture, well known in Syria. It is seen, for instance travellers tell us, in hundreds on the Plain of Gennesaret; it is a hideous-looking bird, equal to the eagle in size and strength, and acts as a scavenger to purify the earth from the putrid carcases with which it would otherwise be encumbered. “Do you ask where all this will take place? As the curtain of the future rolls up before my inward eye, I see the vultures of Divine vengeance flying in flocks athwart the whole area of the earth; the sky is darkened with their numbers; far as my eye can reach, I still see them. Alas! for the habitable earth, my Father’s goodly world … it is rank everywhere with corruption … wheresoever the carcase is, there the vultures will gather together” (Dr. Morrison). The Lord’s answer to the question—“Where?” was that his words applied to the whole earth. The terrible and awful scenes he had pictured would take place everywhere. The carcase, as Godet phrases it, is “humanity, entirely secular and destitute of the life of God … The eagles (vultures) represent punishment alighting on such a society.” There is another interpretation of these words, which, although many great expositors favour it, must be rejected as improbable, being so alien to the context of the whole passage.” The dead body (the carcase), according to these interpreters, is the body of Christ, and the eagles are his saints, who flock to his presence, and who feed upon him, especially in the act of Holy Communion.
HOMILETICS

Vers. 1–10—The addition besought. We are not informed of the circumstances which called forth the discourse condensed in the first ten verses of the chapter. An occasion was, by some incident, provided for a solemn warning against the sin of an unforgiving and uncharitable spirit. And this warning apparently intensified a conviction which had been simmering in the minds of the disciples, and led to the prayer, “Lord, Increase [or, ‘add to us’] faith.” Have we not a part in this cry? Are there not some of us who feel that, although we live in the light of Christ’s Word and kingdom, we yet need one great addition—faith?—

“The childlike faith that asks not sight,
Waits not for wonder or for sign.”

I. THE PRAYER SUPPOSES A WANT. Trace this want from two or three positions. 1.
Reflect how sorely we are wanting in a lively sense of the great truths of our holy faith. These truths are not mere opinions; they are facts. The seat of the doctrine is the fact; it is with the facts that faith has primarily to do. Are we receiving the facts with our whole mind and strength? That God is; that Jesus Christ is; that the Holy Spirit of God is witnessing with our spirits and helping our infirmities;—what of these fundamental verities? Realize what a thorough grasp of these facts would involve; what manner of persons they ought to be to whom they are matters of experience and consciousness. And what are we? Alas! is it not too certain that, between the truths in which we declare our belief, and the affections and attitudes of our minds, there is a sad disproportion, that whilst we say, “Lord, I believe,” we have need of the addition, “Help our unbelief; add to us faith”? 2. Reflect again, how constantly we are reminded that the words of Christ are “too deep, too high,” for us. Even when we follow him as our Master, how dim are our apprehensions of his truth! Perhaps this was the immediate reason of the apostles’ prayer. They had been listening to wonderful teaching—e.g. the cycle of parables in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters—and after hearing all, how poor was the vision of the realities with which the sayings were charged! And the demand made on them in respect of forgiveness, how could they meet such a demand in a world like this? “O Lord, thy thoughts are very deep, thy commandment is exceeding broad; add faith!” Can we not sympathize? Do we not often feel that Christ’s doctrine is pitched on a note far above the level of our mind? We think that it will not do to interpret it too literally, that we must take only broad and general views. The teaching as to conduct seems too fine, too pure and otherworldly for the state of things about us. How can we realize it? “Lord, add to us faith.” 3. Reflect, once more—when we look around, what is one of the chief wants of the time? Is it not faith? How much of the instruction given in Christian churches is halting and confused!—the sceptic too evidently looking over the shoulder! Religion is a thing talked about rather than lived in. And when we scrutinize the countenances of the “anonymous many-sided” force which we call society, what furrows appear in it! what lines betokening the absence of trust—man in man, having its root in the absence of trust; man in the living God! Is not this signified in the conflict of interests—labour and capital, class against class. To bridge the yawning social chasms, oh for a new spirit of faith! We need a chasm-bridging Church—a Church presenting, with a new force, the ideal of Christian brotherhood. “Lord, add to those who call on thy Name the faith by which the just live, through which ‘they work victories, obtain promises, stop the mouths of lions’!” It is because of the lack of an heroic trust in the living God and his government that so few sycamine trees are plucked up by the root, so few mountains of sin and pride are cast into the sea. “Lord, bid us stretch forth our palsied hand, that we may take the fulness of thy grace! Add to us faith!”
II. So much for the want which the prayer supposes. Consider THE SCOPE AND IMPORT OF THE PRAYER ITSELF. First, it suggests the way of the addition; secondly, it reminds us of the conditions on which the increase sought is realized. 1. The way of the addition. “The apostles said unto the Lord.” It is the only example of a common appeal, the only instance of the apostles, as distinct from the disciples, having a special concerted supplication. Sometimes there was a holy restraint on them, and they durst not ask him. But this is a matter on which they could speak; it came out of the sense of their relation to him that they should go, with their great weakness, direct to his presence. Sometimes, when the hard saying was uttered, they reasoned one with another. But this is not a matter for conference. Only the hand of the Lord opened wide can supply the needed addition. For so it is. In pressing with the little we have to the Lord himself, we get the addition, we have the faith. Any faith, any trust whatsoever in the eternal love and righteousness, is a gift of God, a hold which God has on you, and which, if you only go whither it would lead, will bear you to a confidence more complete and unreserved. The one thing is, do not stop, mourning over what you have not; use what you have; it is enough to lead you to the Lord. Little-faith, at least thou canst cry. Cry the more, the more that the noisy world within or without bids thee hold thy peace. Cry the more, the less thou dost seem to have. “To them that have no might, he increaseth strength.” “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” 2. Further, connecting the apostles’ prayer with the Lord’s reply, we see the condition on which the increase sought is realized. The reply is given in vers. 8–10. There is a twofold type, with a twofold promise. (1) The mustard seed, smallest of all seeds, which yet grows into the tallest of trees. Let there be faith, even of the dimensions of this seed, any measure whatsoever, then be sure of a Divine power co-operating, which is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that can be asked. As the seed is the promise of the tree, so is this your small faith the promise of a greater and ever greater. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” (2) Nay, says the Lord, pointing to some mulberry tree at hand, “does that seem strong? Strength which may be compared to that of tearing the tree up by the roots and casting it into the sea is, through Divine co-operation in that grain-like faith. It can tear up by the roots and cast into the sea the selfishness against which the commandment of love has struck.” But now follows the condition. What I take the words from ver. 7 to mean is, “If you would have that faith, if you would have more faith, you must cease from all self-trust, you must renounce all self-complacency, you must be as nothing before God. The highest possible excellence is only the fulfilment of an obligation. You are only unprofitable servants. Your life is a bright life only when, instead of thinking of what you are to get from God, or of thanks from God for service, you take the servant’s place, and are only and wholly God’s. Do not aim at accomplishing great things. Let your one point be an unwearied continuance. Work now, and rest afterwards when all is done. The less there is of self and self-feeling, the more you are busied with him as his servants and sons, the purer, larger, and more victorious will be your faith. All true faith has the certainty of addition; and this addition will be in the measure in which the faith leaves the heart alone with God, worshipping and obeying his holy will.

“So in the darkness I may learn
To tremble and adore,
To sound my own vile nothingness,
And thus to love thee more.

“To love thee, and yet not to think
That I can love so much,
To have thee with me, Lord, all day,
Yet not to feel thy touch.”

Vers. 11–19.—The ten lepers. Our minds have been so occupied by the fulness of teaching contained in the three last chapters, that we have almost lost sight of the progress of our Lord to the capital. Now the evangelist recalls our attention. He presents the little party, followed no doubt by many who were attracted from one motive or from another, as “passing through the midst of,” or rather “between Samaria and Galilee”—Samaria on the right, Galilee on the left, and before them the river Jordan. It is in the immediate neighbourhood of a certain village, no name given, that the company are met by the fellowship of misery. A sad spectacle indeed, but one not unfrequent in the sunny isles of Southern seas, and in Eastern cities and thoroughfares. “Sauntering down the Jaffa road,” says Dr. Thomson, “on my approach to the holy city, in a kind of dreamy maze, with, as I remember, scarcely one distinct idea in my head, I was startled out of my reverie by the sudden apparition of a crowd of beggars, without eyes, nose, hair. They held up to me their handless arms, unearthly sounds gurgled through throats without palates; in a word, I was horrified.” It is a group of these miserables which clamours to Jesus as he nears the village walls. Those with him had heard the wild “Tamé, tamé! Unclean, unclean!” when suddenly the cry was exchanged for “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” These ten, each a homeless man; some with the recollection, perhaps, of happy homes, of other days, of the solaces of human love,—all drawn together by virtue of that gregarious instinct which acts on even the wretched. Class distinctions, even the estrangement of opposite nationalities, are forgotten in the one uniting circumstance—a common woe. No man would have allowed the dust of the Jew to have the same place of sepulture as the dust of the Samaritan; but these men, dead while they live, may herd as they please. Oh, what a sight to that heart in whose consciousness there survived the feeling of the morning stars and the triumph of the sons of God over the creation on which God had pronounced his “Very good”! What resistless eloquence in the cry, “Jesus, Master, have mercy”! He hears, and he answers in his own way; for in the Gospels there is a striking variety in the dealings of the Lord with those who call on him. Each person is a specialty to him. His way with these ten is not to respond as he did to the leper who knelt to him, beseeching, “If thou wilt, thou canst.” To them he gives no direct answer; he bids them at once go and show themselves to the priests. This was the trial of their faith. The priests could only pronounce a person cured; for the ten to obey was equivalent to a trust that the power of the cure lay with Jesus the Master. They go; and shortly the limbs no longer drag, the sensations of health, as of new fresh currents coursing through the frame, tell them that they are cleansed. And now for the point of the incident. One, and only one, turns back, and he a Samaritan; and with a loud voice he gives God the glory, and, falling down before his Benefactor, renders thanks and praise, “Were there not the ten cleansed? Where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” It is the old story of the thankless heart. Note some of the lights and shadows of the picture of ingratitude.
I. ALL HAD BEEN EARNEST UNDER THE PRESSURE OF THE GREAT WANT AND IN THE PRESENCE OF THE DELIVERER. There was faith enough for prayer, not for praise. Is this uncommon? We have heard that, overtaken by unexpected calamity—fire, shipwreck, etc.—knees which for long years refused to bow, have bowed, and lips that uttered the adorable Name only in blasphemy have uttered the most fervent pleadings for mercy. The record of the great plague in London is a most graphic description of a new earnestness which nearly the whole population manifested, so that there were not clergy enough, services enough, to meet the demand for prayer. Have we not the tokens of this same state of feeling in ourselves? Oh, there is no difficulty in a cry when the life hangs in doubt, when the shadow of death creeps up the wall of the home and lies across the bed of the dearly beloved. The heart needs no book then to teach to pray; it will cling to any plank; somehow, anyhow, the voice must rise like a fountain, “Jesus, Master, have mercy!”
II. WHERE ARE THE NINE WHO WERE EARNEST?

“Even he who reads the heart—
Knows what he gave and what we lost,
Sin’s forfeit, and redemption’s cost—
By a short pang of wonder crost,
Seems at the sight to start.”

They are cleansed. The need is relieved. They are so far on their way. Perhaps there had been some discussion between the one and the nine, and they may have argued, “Let us get to our homes. Grateful to him? Certainly; but he will never miss us.” Have we not all illustrated the reasoning? How did the writing of Hezekiah when he was sick condemn him when he was well! “I will go softly all my days” was part of the writing which contained the reflections and purposes of the recovery. How did that harmonize with his pride and ostentation to the messengers of Baladan? Alas! how quickly is the love which special moments originate overborne by the return of the old things, or the influence of new scenes and circumstances?

“Not showers across an April sky
Drift when the storm is o’er,
Faster than those false drops and few
Fleet from the heart, a worthless dew.”

Most of all is this true when the record borne is of blessings bestowed, when the prayer which brought to the feet of Jesus has been answered even in a manner which can be traced. What healings are received! and yet there is no turning back of the soul to glorify the Healer! What plenteousness of redemption! and yet there is no loud voice to confess the Redeemer! The proportion is the nine thankless to the one thankful. And is not ingratitude among the most common of vices?—the Aaron’s rod which swallows up and comprises in itself all the baser vices? Archdeacon Farrar quotes the lines of Wordsworth—

“I’ve heard of hearts unkind
Kind deeds with coldness still returning:
Alas! the gratitude of men
Hath left me oftener mourning.”

And he adds, “If Wordsworth found gratitude a common virtue, his experience must have been exceptional.” “Give thanks unto the Lord at the remembrance of his holiness. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his Name. Bring an offering, and come into his courts.”
Vers. 20–37.—The kingdom and the day of the Son of man. This passage is not to be isolated as if it were a definition complete in itself of Christ’s view of the kingdom of God. Some, doing this, have found in it a justification of the teaching that God’s kingdom has no external character, that the coming of the Lord is only a revelation of truth in and to the heart of man. This is to do violence to the language of Jesus. In what he says afterwards to his own, in the solemn discourse reported two chapters hence, he refers to the coming of the Son of man as a fulfilment which would have its outward signs and effects, and for which his people are to wait. On the occasion before us he sets his Word in the sharpest possible antagonism to the carnal and unworthy notions which prevailed among the Pharisees who had demanded a statement from him as to how the kingdom should come. E.g. the Pharisees conceived of this kingdom as a victorious world-power. “Not so,” is the assertion (ver. 20); “God’s kingdom does not come with observation, does not lend itself to such outwardness as your vision contemplates.” The Pharisees separated the citizenship in the Divine kingdom from character. The right to partake of its glories was a political right. It measured the extravagance of their social caste. It was not a chastening and purifying expectation. It was a dream of conquest and outward abundance which kept their minds on the stretch, which made them dupes of those who claimed to be Messiahs or forerunners of Messiahs. “The kingdom of God,” says Jesus, “is not heralded by loud professions, by cries of, ‘Lo here! or, lo there!’ Unobserved, often unthought of, are its marches and movements, its surprises and its conquests” (ver. 21). As the concluding touch of the answer, Jesus warns against a restless asking “when the kingdom shall come,” as if it were a prospect wholly future. He reminds us (ver. 21) that the kingdom is here and now, that it is verily and indeed among us. And the caution is as timely for us to-day as it was for the Pharisee then. For we are all apt to associate God’s kingdom with some distant prospect or some condition removed from the world in which we live. And the doctrine of the Lord’s advent is too often mixed up with schemes of prophecy, with calculations of catastrophes and the like, which men profess to expound or to forecast, crying, “Lo here! or, lo there!” Not, therefore, without meaning for more than the old Hebrew separatists is the counsel, “Look into the region of character for the reality of the kingdom. Where the King is, there is the court. If God has possessed your souls, his kingdom is among, is in you.” Observe the solemn discourse to the disciples Suggested by the demand which he has met. The words which follow from ver. 22 may be regarded either as an epitome of longer addresses, or as an address in itself complete. Look on it as an instruction preliminary, and preparatory, to the fuller opening up of the time of the end. The shadows are getting longer and longer; Jerusalem is not far ahead; the night is at hand in which, under the form of his first appearing, the Son of man cannot work. The look forward in the verses before us is to (1) a day of distress; (2) a day calling for patient faith; (3) a day of retribution and judgment.
I. A DAY OF DISTRESS. When (ver. 22) the mind would cast a regretful retrospect on the time when the Lord was with them—their Sun and Shield. Ah! would that he, the Bridegroom of our souls,

“Our Shepherd, Husband, Friend,
Our Prophet, Priest, and King,”

were going before us as in the days of old! But no; the shadow on the dial of time cannot be put back. The Church must face perplexities and follow its path through them. It hears voices crying, “Lo here! and lo there!” and the voices are So delusive that even the elect are often bewildered. The Master’s word is, “Onwards!” He bids us look up where Stephen beheld him—standing, bending forward in sympathy and help. In the struggle, through the din, although it seems as if he were not, he is with his Church until the end of the age.
II. A DAY CALLING FOR PATIENT FAITH. There are incertitudes and excitements which sometimes almost suspend the action of faith. There are complications in the Church and the world which induce a feverishness of tone. What the Lord enjoins (ver. 25) is a calm, although wakeful, vigilance. He reminds his followers that the way to the crown is by the cross, that the offence of the cross must be exhausted, and then the end shall come. Thus, whilst the sentence is (vers. 26–30), “The coming may be at any moment, it will be, as was prefigured in the days of Noah and Lot, when men are least expecting it,” the balancing thought is added, that a testimony must be given to all the nations. And the right kind of waiting is that which seeks to fill up what remains of his sufferings, so that, when he shall appear, his people may be found “not sleeping in sin, but diligent in his service, and rejoicing in his praises.” It is in this connection that the reference is made (ver. 29) to the tradition concerning the wife of righteous Lot. “She looked back, and became a pillar of salt.” The worldclinging heart was stiffened into a very column of worldliness. Remember, there are to be no regrets, no glances behind. A heart single, and free for the Lord, is the condition of the disciple who shall escape all these things that shall come to pass, and stand before the Son of man. “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (ver. 33).
III. A DAY OF JUDGMENT. The revelation of Christ is a judgment—in the fuller meaning of the word, a making manifest, a bringing to light of the hidden bents of mind and separation of the true from the false. Whenever Christ is presented, the judgment is set and the books are opened. The end is simply the full apocalypse of the judgment which is now proceeding. The lightning (ver. 24) “that lighteneth out of the one part of heaven, shining to the other,” is the manifestation of the electricity with which the atmosphere is charged. What of this day of judgment? It is (vers. 27, 28) the condemnation of the world as to its worldliness in both its more sensual and its more cultured aspects—the sensuality typified in the days of Noah; the culture, with coarseness, typified in the wealthy citizen of Sodom. It is (vers. 34, 35) the disjunction of the closest of life’s fellowships—the two in the bed, the two at the mill, the two in the field. The issues that, unobserved by many, are being adjusted and completed will be set forth in their reality. What men would not believe men will be brought to know. “The Lord cometh; he cometh to judge the earth.” “Where?” ask these simple men, affrighted—“where, Lord?” and the enigmatical response (ver. 37) is given. Wherever there is corruption, wrong, death, there is the scene of the judgment of God. Jerusalem was the carcase more immediately in view, and the eagle, sign of the Roman empire, that was raised over its battlements was the sign of other eagles that were already gathering. But may we not ask whether the Jerusalem that is in bondage, the Christendom that is, is not ripening for judgment? “Receiving the kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.”
HOMILIES BY VARIOUS AUTHORS

Vers. 1, 2.—Spiritual resistance. Our lord here delivers very weighty truth of a practical kind to the whole body of his adherents—to “the disciples.” It is truth which remains as appropriate and as necessary as it was when it was uttered.
I. OUR NEED OF THE POWER OF SPIRITUAL RESISTANCE. “It is impossible but that offences will come.” Knowing the human world as Christ knew it, he perceived that his disciples would, through many generations, be subjected to continual and severe trial of their faith. With such error, such selfishness, such despotism, such heartlessness, such iniquity in the world, it was inevitable that temptations should abound. The path of Christian life must lie through a country beset with moral evil; the journey home must be attended by the most serious perils. 1. The aim of the enemy. This would be, as it is still, to lead the disciples of Christ into (1) doubt, disbelief, denial, apostasy; (2) indecision and irreligion; (3) half-heartedness in worship, in sacred service, in domestic and individual devotion; (4) worldliness of tone and spirit; (5) unworthy and (ultimately) injurious and even fatal methods of presenting the truth and advocating the cause of Christ; (6) laxity of speech and of behaviour, leading down to positive and destructive sin. 2. The weapons of his attack. These are (1) evil suggestion; (2) bad example; (3) specious argumentation; (4) commandment and constraint. 3. Our resources of resistance. These are (1) a simple sagacity; such a knowledge of the evil that is in men as will ensure vigilance, a wise carefulness, a hesitation to commit ourselves to every plausible spokesman, to every inviting and well-sounding doctrine (1 John 4:1). (2) A spirit of fidelity; a steadfastness of purpose and earnestness of spirit that is born of pure devotedness to a Divine Saviour, and that is sustained by intimacy of fellowship with him. (3) Strength in God—that strength which comes from God’s own indwelling in the soul and direct action upon it (Isa. 40:29–31).
II. OUR LORD’S REGARD FOR HIS DISCIPLES OF HUMBLER RANK. “Woe unto him” through whom it results that the stumbling-block is in the way and the weak disciple falls! “It were better for him” that the worst disaster should befall him than that he should contract such guilt as that and be open to such condemnation. Nothing could more strongly mark the deep interest our Lord takes in his humbler disciples than the severity of this his indignation against those who wrong them. The intensity of his wrath is the measure of the depth and tenderness of his love. Among his followers are those who occupy high places—in ecclesiastical position, in social honour, in mental equipments, in constitutional strength. But there are also those who take the lower place; not the children only—the “little ones” in years and size—but the inexperienced, the unsophisticated and unsuspecting, the mentally weak, the spiritually feeble; those who are much at the mercy of the strong; those who, for some cause and in some one respect, are unendowed and unequipped with the ordinary means of defence. These “little ones” are often: 1. The object of disregard. Many pass them by as unworthy of consideration; they will not repay attention; they will not contribute anything considerable to the cause in hand. 2. The mark at which iniquity aims. For it is one that can be easily hit; it is a victim ready for the blow. 3. But it is for us to remember that they are always the object of our Lord’s peculiar interest and affection. He cares for them the more that men care for them so little. He remembers them in “their low estate;” and as a mother lets her heart go most freely to her weakest child, so does he bestow upon these members of his Church all the fulness and all the tenderness of his Divine love. He indicates to us here how he feels toward those that do them harm; and, conversely, it is safe for us to infer that he is peculiarly pleased with those who, entering into his own spirit, love and guard and guide these disciples of lowlier rank.
III. CHRIST’S ESTIMATE OF SIN AND SUFFERING. “It were better,” etc. We have sometimes to choose between sinning and suffering; e.g. the martyr in time of persecution; the son or servant commanded to do that which to him would be sin because “not of faith.” This word of our Lord reminds us that any physical suffering, any bodily evil, any temporal misfortune, of whatever magnitude it be, is much to be preferred to any serious sin. Be sunk in the sea, be utterly extinguished, let the worse come to the worst, but do not descend to anything which is mean, which is unholy or impure, which would stain your own conscience or injure and perhaps slay a brother’s or a sister’s character, which would grieve the Father and Saviour of us all.—C.
Vers. 3, 4.—Our duty when wronged. The opening words of this passage, “Take heed to yourselves,” point to our Lord’s sense of the great difficulty we are likely to experience in learning the forthcoming truth, or to the great stress he lays upon its illustration in our lives—it might well be either or both of these. For it is a difficult lesson to learn well; and our Master does make much, as other passages show, of this particular grace.
I. OUR OPENNESS TO INJURY. 1. We come into the world with a strong sense of what is due to us. We all feel that there is due to us a certain measure of respect as human beings, as those made in the image of God; also that we can claim just and equitable treatment. Men may not withhold or remove from us that which we consider to belong to us. If they do we are aggrieved; we have a sense, more or less deep, of having been wronged—our sense of injury rising and falling with the sensitiveness of our nature and the Character of the offence. There is neither virtue nor vice, honour nor shame, in this. It is an instinct of our nature which we have in common with our kind. 2. There are many possibilities of offence. In our present condition we touch one another at so many points that there is great likelihood of offence being given and taken. At home; in all the complications of our business life; in all our social relations; in the Church of Christ and the worship of God; in the field of philanthropy.—in all these domains we “have to do” with one another; and it is improbable in a very high degree, it is almost impossible, that we should always comport ourselves as our neighbours would expect; it is inevitable that we should occasionally differ as to what is due from one to another.
II. OUR DANGER UNDER A SENSE OF INJURY. 1. The mistake we are likely to fall into when we have a sense of injury is that of instantly concluding that we have been wronged; we are apt to hurry to the conclusion that some one has slighted or injured us. But before we give way even to a strong feeling, we should make quite sure that things are as they seem to be. There are many possibilities of mistake in this world of error and misunderstanding. 2. The sin into which we are tempted to fall is that of giving way to unbecoming anger and unchristian retaliation—a feeling of bitter resentment, vindictive, passionate, such as does not become the children of God; and action which is intended to result in suffering on the part of the wrong-doer; we proceed to “avenge ourselves.”
III. OUR DUTY WHEN WRONGED. 1. Direct communication, and, where it is necessary, friendly remonstrance. Matthew tells us that Christ enjoined upon us that, under a sense of injury, we should “go and tell our brother his fault between ourselves and him alone.” This is surely most wise. Instead of dwelling upon it and magnifying it in our own mind; instead of talking about it and causing it to be spread abroad and discoloured and misrepresented,—the one right thing to do is to go at once to our offending neighbour and tell him our grievance. It is very likely he will explain everything, and there will be no need of any overlooking on our part; or, if wrong has been done, it is very likely he will appreciate our fairness and friendliness in coming straight to him, and will make the apology that is due on his part. Then must come: 2. Free and full forgiveness. “If he repent, forgive him.” If he should refuse to repent, we must pity him and pray for him, that his eyes may be opened and his action amended, and himself raised by doing the right and honourable thing. But if he repent, then it is our high and Christian duty to forgive. And how shall we forgive? Even as God, for Christ’s sake, forgives us (Eph. 4:32). (1) Immediately. (2) Frankly and heartily; reinstating the one who has wronged us in the place he occupied before in our confidence, affection, kindness. (3) Uncalculatingly. “Seven times in a day.” However often our child, our servant, our neighbour, may offend, if there be sincere penitence on his part, and therefore an honest effort to amend, we do well to forgive. The more of this grace we have in our heart and life, the closer is our resemblance and the fuller is our obedience to our forgiving Saviour.—C.
Vers. 5, 6.—Effective faith. It is the part of a wise teacher to endeavour both to elevate and to humble his disciples. He will not discharge his whole duty nor realize his full opportunity unless he imparts elevating aspirations and unless he promotes a deep humility of heart; he will thank God and congratulate himself when he knows that his hearers are happily sensible of progress, and also when he learns that they are profoundly dissatisfied with their attainments. Both these results ensued from the teaching of our Lord.
I. THE DISCIPLES’ DISSATISFACTION WITH THEMSELVES. Evidently the apostles of our Lord felt that there was something lacking in their souls which they would gladly possess. The doctrine of the great Teacher, perhaps, was not so clear to them as they could have wished; or perhaps they felt themselves a painfully long distance behind their Leader in their spirit and bearing; or it may be that they found themselves unable to do such works as they judged they ought to be able to do, in and through the Name of the great Healer. But whencesoever their source of dissatisfaction, they agreed that they were in spiritual want.
II. THEIR CONCLUSION AS TO THE REMEDY THEY NEEDED. They agreed that what was wanted was an increase of faith. And they were perfectly right in their judgment. 1. They wanted to believe in Christ in a way not then open to them. They became “greater in the kingdom of heaven” afterwards, more enlightened, more spiritual, more devoted, more useful, because afterwards they had a deep and a firm faith in Jesus Christ as their almighty Saviour, as their Divine Lord. But they did not know him yet as such; for as such he had only begun to reveal himself to them 2. But they needed a fuller faith in him as they did then know him. A more complete and implicit confidence in him (1) would have led them to eject from their minds all their own old prejudices and prepossessions, and so have made way for the reception of his truth in its fulness and in its power; (2) would have evoked a profounder reverence and a more fervent affection, and thus have led to a nearer likeness to him in spirit and in character; (3) would have given them power over the forces of evil outside them, and made them equal to the emergencies to which they were unequal (see Matt. 17:19, 20). They did well, therefore, to make of their Lord the request they made, “Increase our faith.”
III. THE TRUTH CONTAINED IN OUR LORD’S REPLY. “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed,” etc. This truth is surely not that the possession of a faith as slight as the mustard seed is small will suffice, but that the faith which is full as is the mustard seed of life and power of appropriation will avail for all occasions. For it is not true that a slight and feeble faith does suffice. It failed the apostles on one memorable day (ch. 9:40). It has been failing ever since. Only a faith which is a living and a growing power, like the mustard seed in the soil, will triumph over the difficulties to be met and mastered. The fact is that: 1. A formal faith is worth nothing at all; indeed, less than nothing, for it deludes and misleads. 2. A feeble faith will accomplish little. It sinks in the hour of trial (Matt. 14:30); it shrinks from open avowal, and makes feeble fight in the hour of battle (John 3:1; 7:50; 19:38); it enters upon, but abandons, the goodly enterprise (Acts 13:13). 3. A living, appropriating faith is the only effective power. A faith that, like the mustard seed in the soil, puts forth the power of life, and appropriates to itself the riches that are around it in order that, further on, it may hear fruit—this is a power that will be felt. It will accomplish great and even wonderful things; it will surprise the unbelieving as much as if it actually did the very thing which the Master speaks of in his illustrative language. (1) It will uproot great evils in God’s Name and strength. (2) It will upraise noble structures of good, when inspired at the same source.
1. Is there anything seriously lacking in our spirit, character, life, work? 2. May it not be traced to the absence or to the feebleness of our faith? If we believed more truly in Jesus Christ, if we realized more thoroughly what we accept, should we not be more to God and do more for him? 3. Shall we not come to our Saviour, unhesitatingly, earnestly, perseveringly, with this prayer of the apostles?—C.
Vers. 7–10.—The spirit of Christian service. The hardest nut may have the sweetest kernel; the least inviting and most difficult parable may have the most strengthening and stimulating truth beneath the surface. So with this passage. We may be even repelled from treating it because it seems to represent our Father in a light in which we do not like to look at him. It seems as if we were required to regard him as a hard taskmaster, indifferent to the past labour and present weariness of his servants, accepting their service without sign or token of recognition. We don’t recognize the portrait in this picture. But when we look longer and see more, we understand that Jesus Christ did not for a moment intend to convey this impression of his Father and ours. 1. It is inconsistent with the revelation of God which Christ gave us both in his doctrine and in his own Person and life. For in both of these God is revealed to us as a Father who gives rather than receives. Jesus Christ himself was “amongst us as he that serveth;” he “came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life;” it is not from him that we can receive the impression that God is one that exacts everything and makes no response. 2. Christ’s method of teaching does not require us to interpret the parable in this sense. He argued not only from comparison, but from contrast; not only from the less to the more worthy, but also from the unworthy to the excellent. He said, “If an unjust judge for a bad reason will do right, how certainly will the just Judge for a high one!” He said, “If an ungracious neighbour, prompted by a selfish consideration, will listen and comply, how much more surely will the gracious God, from beneficent considerations!” So here. The slave, when he returns from his day’s laborious duties, prepares, unthanked, for his master’s comfort before he thinks of his own necessities; and he does this unquestioningly, uncomplainingly. How much more ready, more eager, should we be to serve our God!—we who are not slaves, but children; to serve him, who is no unresponsive and inconsiderate taskmaster, but who is Considerateness itself, who is Responsiveness itself, who is Encouragement itself. We should be ready and eager to serve him to the uttermost, and when we have done everything we can do, be prepared to say, “It is nothing of all that we should do and would do for thee.” Now, there are certain occasions to which this more particularly applies; and here we have a touch of resemblance in the parable. As the master there requires of his slave something over and above his day’s work in the field, so does our Lord sometimes ask of us more than we thought he would when he first said to us, “Follow me,” and we said, “Lord, I will.” This may be in the way—
I. OF ACTIVE SERVICE; e.g. when parents have clothed and fed, taught and trained their own children, they may be directed, in God’s providence, to take charge of the children of others; or when the minister, superintendent, missioner, teacher, finds that the duty he has undertaken involves a great deal more of costly work than he had counted upon—more time, trouble, patience, self-mastery, self-sacrifice.
II. OF SACRIFICE; e.g. when the young man leaves home or college for work in the foreign field, he finds that the privations he has to endure, the scenes he has to witness, the discouragements he has to bear, the parting with his children he has to go through, are a great deal more than he realized when he started on his way.
III. OF SUBMISSION. When life seems to have been lived through, its strength spent and its work done, the weary human spirit craves rest, the rest of the heavenly home; but God may allot many months or even years of patient waiting before the summons is sent to “come up higher.” And in whatever way, or to whatever degree, the heavenly Father may ask of his children the service which they did not look for, such should be and may be their spirit of (1) perfect trustfulness, and of (2) fervent love, that they will gladly and faithfully respond; doing with alacrity and bearing with cheerfulness all his holy will, and quite disposed at the end to say, “All is not half enough to give unto the ‘Lamb that was slain,’ who is worthy to receive the riches of our hearts and of our lives.”—C.
Vers. 11–19.—The commonness of ingratitude, etc. Under the guidance of this narrative, we think of—
I. THE COMMONNESS OF INGRATITUDE. Only one of these ten men had a sufficient sense of indebtedness to return to Christ to offer thanks. The ingratitude of the remaining nine touched, smote, wounded our Lord, and he used the reproachful words of the text (ver. 17). This ingratitude was not a remarkably exceptional illustration of our nature; it is one of those things in respect of which “he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” For that which youth refuses to believe, experience obliges us to acknowledge, viz. that to accept a great boon from the hand of love, and to show no proper sense of gratitude, is not a rare but a common thing. It is likely enough that we may go much out of our way to do a man a kindness, and that when we look for his response we shall be disappointed. What then? Shall we be diverted from the path of beneficence by this unlovely fact? Shall we say, “Since it is very likely that my services will not be appreciated, they shall not be rendered”? Certainly not. For: 1. There is gratitude to be gained and to be enjoyed. This proportion is not representative. It is not the case that nine men out of ten are insensible to kindnesses shown them. It is as likely as not, perhaps more likely than not, that if we do help our brother in his hour of need, if we do sustain him in sorrow, succour him in distress, stand by him in temptation, lead him into the kingdom of God, we shall win his gratitude, and we may secure the profound, prayerful, lifelong affection of a human heart. And what better reward, short of the favour and friendship of God, can we gain than that? 2. If we fail to obtain this, we shall stand by the side of our Divine Master; we shall share his experience; we shall have “fellowship with the sufferings of Christ.” He knew well what it was to serve and be unappreciated, to serve and be disparaged. To be where he stood, to

“Tread the path our Master trod,
To bear the cross he bore,”

—this is an honour not to be declined. 3. If man our brother does not bless us, Christ our Saviour will. The most heroic deed of love may go, has gone, unrewarded of man. But the smallest act of kindness rendered to the humblest child will not go unrewarded of him. “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only … shall in no wise lose his reward.”
II. THE UNCOUNTED DEBT DUE TO JESUS CHRIST. These nine men having received the greatest good one man could receive from another—deliverance from a living death—failed to recognize their obligation, did not stop to consider it. They were not the last to be guilty in this respect. 1. How much more do many owe to Christ than they think they do! They say, “We do not choose to range ourselves under him and call him ‘Master;’ we can construct our own character, can build up rectitude and purity and benevolence of spirit apart from his truths or his will; we can do without Christ.” But suppose we subtract from the elevating and purifying influences which have made these men what they are all those elements which are due to Christ, how much is left? How little is left? The influences that come from him are in the air these men are breathing, in the laws under which they are living, in the literature they are reading, in the lives they are witnessing; they touch and tell upon them at every point, they act silently and subtly but mightily upon them; they owe to Jesus Christ the best they are and have; they ought to come into direct, living, personal relations with the Lord himself. 2. How much more do some men owe to Christ than they stay to consider! These nine men would not have disputed their obligation had they been challenged, but they were so anxious to get home to their friends and back to their business that they did not stay to consider it. Have we stayed to consider what we owe to him who, though he has not indeed cured us of leprosy, has at infinite cost to himself prepared for us a way of recovery from that which is immeasurably worse—from sin and death? to him who, “though he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich”?
III. THE PERIL OF EARLY PRIVILEGE. It is significant enough that the tenth leper who did return to give glory to God was a Samaritan—was “this stranger.” Taking this fact with that concerning the Roman soldier whose faith surprised our Lord, and that of the Syro-Phœnician woman whose importunity prevailed over every obstacle, we may conclude that the Hebrew mind was so familiarized with “signs and wonders,” that those outside the sacred circle were far more impressed by what they witnessed than the people of God themselves. It is well to be the children of privilege; but there is one grave peril connected with it. We may become so familiar with the greatest of all facts as to become insensible to their greatness. The Swiss peasant who lives on the Alpine slopes sees no grandeur in those snow-clad summits on which his eyes are always resting; the sailor who lives by the sea hears no music in “old ocean’s roar.” We may become so familiar even with the story of the cross that our minds are unaffected by its moral grandeur, by its surpassing grace. It behoves us to take earnest heed that we fall not into this fatal snare; lest many should come “from the north, and the south, and the east, and the west, and sit down in the kingdom of God,” and we, the children of the kingdom, be excluded. We must do our utmost to realize the great truths which have so long been uttered in our hearing.—C.
Vers. 20, 21.—Radical mistakes respecting the kingdom of God. Pharisaism took its hostile attitude toward Christianity because it entirely failed to understand it. It made two radical mistakes which completely misled it.
I. THE MISTAKES WHICH PHARISAISM MADE. 1. As to the character of the coming kingdom. It thought it was to be outward, earthly, political, temporal; it was looking and longing for the time when another David, another Judas Maccabæus, should come, should liberate the Holy Land from the grasp of the pagan power, and make Jerusalem the metropolis, the centre and glory of the earth. 2. As to the evidences and signs of its coming. It looked for a grand display of power, for overwhelming evidences that would strike every eye and startle and convince every mind that One was at hand who should assume the sovereignty awaiting him. And so it came to pass that when Jesus was born at Bethlehem, a Babe cradled in a manger; when he grew up to be a Carpenter at Nazareth; when he gathered no army, and struck no blow for national deliverance; when there was no ostentation about his method; when he lived to bless and teach individual men and women, and wrought his work quietly and unpretendingly;—Pharisaism decided that he was not the Coming One, and that his reign was not to prove the kingdom of God. Pharisaism entirely mistook God’s purpose, and fatally misinterpreted his procedure.
II. THE MISTAKES INTO WHICH WE ARE LIABLE TO FALL. Not, of course, the same but similar, and equally disastrous. 1. When we look for blessedness in outward circumstances instead of in inward peace. We say, “If I could but win that prize, gain that post, secure that friendship, earn that income, how bright would be my lot, how glad my heart, how radiant my life!” But we are wrong. Gladness of heart and excellency of life are not to be found in sunny circumstances, but in a pure heart, a heart that is at rest, a heart at home with God. “Out of the heart are the issues of life;” the fountain of lasting joy rises from our own breast; the kingdom of God is within us. 2. When we look for blessedness in the time that is beyond. “Man never is, but always to be blessed.” There is even an unchristian longing for the heavenly future. When “to abide in the flesh” is more needful for those for whose welfare we are largely responsible, then the “kingdom of God” for us is not in the distance; it is in the present sphere of duty; it is in present peace, present joy, present service, in the blessedness which Christ gives to his servants

“Before they reach the heavenly fields,
Or walk the golden streets,”

in those “heavenly places” of holy service and happy fellowship in which he “has made them to sit” (Eph. 2:6). 3. When we wait for heavenly influences to fall upon us instead of availing ourselves of those we have. Not only is there no need for any soul to wait for some remarkable and overwhelming influences before entering the kingdom, not only is it wholly unnecessary, but it is positively wrong to do so. It is in those quiet influences which are now working within your heart that God comes to you. He will never be nearer to a human soul than when his Spirit fills it with a holy longing, and makes it eager to know what it must do to enter into life. Wait not for anything that is coming: act on the promptings that are within you, and your feet shall then surely stand within the kingdom of God.—C.
Vers. 22–25.—The brief day of opportunity. The thought of our Master in this passage (as I understand it) is this: “I have been asked when the kingdom of God will come: my reply is that it has come already; that you have not to look about in this and that direction; here, in the midst of you, impersonated in him that speaks, is the kingdom. It is present in the Present One. But,” he says to his disciples, “he is present in a very strict sense. The time will soon be here when you will greatly long for his fellowship, and you will not be able to possess it. Do not believe those who will tell you that the Son of man is still on earth; it will not be true. His life below will be of the very briefest; it will be but as a lightning-flash which passes through the darkened heavens in a moment, and is gone again; so brief will be his stay, so soon will he be gone. But before he goes he must suffer many things; much must be done, for much must be endured, before his short day is done.”
I. THE BRIEF DAY OF OUR LORD’S OPPORTUNITY. When we think of the long centuries that preceded, and of those that have already succeeded, the day of Christ, we may well regard his short visit to our world as a mere flash of light for transitoriness. What were those few months of his short stay among men compared with all those dark ages, and to all those that have been illumined by the light which his truth has shed upon them! But, transient as it was, it sufficed. It does not take long to utter or to illustrate the most Divine and the most vital truths; it did not take long to undergo the most mysterious and the most availing sorrows—it took but a few agonizing hours to die the death of atonement. Into that short day of opportunity our Divine Redeemer compressed: 1. The utterance of all needful truth—all the truth we need for our guidance into the kingdom of God, and for our passage through life and death into the kingdom of glory. 2. The illustration of every human grace; the living of a human life in all its perfect loveliness and grandeur. 3. The endurance of sorrow such as constituted him for ever the Man of sorrows, and the High Priest of human nature, touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Heb. 4:15). 4. The dying of that death which is the all-sufficient sacrifice for sin. A few months of time sufficed to complete his work and make him the Divine Teacher, Leader, Friend, Saviour, of the whole race of man for all time to come.
II. OUR BRIEF DAY. 1. Measured by hours, our day is very brief. Human life is short at the longest. We are “but of yesterday,” and to-morrow we shall not be. The rocks and even the trees look down on many generations. And in all the bustle and battle, in all the pursuits and pleasures of our life, the little time we have hastens away and is gone far sooner than we thought it would go. It is not only our poetry that sings, but our experience that testifies of the swiftness of our course beneath the sun. 2. Yet it holds manifold and precious opportunities of regaining our position as the children and heirs of God; of doing “many things” that shall tell even in future years for truth and God; of “suffering many things” after Christ our Lord, and in holy and noble fellowship with him (Phil. 3:10). 3. Its transiency is an urgent reason for (1) immediate decision, and (2) constant and earnest action in the cause of righteousness. whilst we have the light that shines, let us walk and let us work in the light.—C.
Vers. 26–30.—The unlearnt lesson. Man differs from the brute creation in that he learns and profits by experience—he advances. He passes through stage after stage toward the perfection of his life upon the earth. He is the hunter at one period, then the shepherd, then the agriculturist. From the lowest barbarism he reaches, in time, the most refined civilization. But he is very slow indeed to learn, if he does learn at all, moral and spiritual truths. The excellency of thrift, of temperance, of purity, of patience,—how long a time it is taking man to acquire these virtues! Our text opens to us the truth of the danger of spiritual trifling, and indicates that what men were long ages ago, that they still are in this respect.
I. SPIRITUAL TRIFLING. The men of the time of Noah were living in a state of utter worldliness and impiety. They were not without remonstrance and rebuke; Noah was himself “a preacher of righteousness” unto them. But they hearkened not, nor heeded; they made light of his admonitions and his warnings. They found some pretext under which they could easily hide the truth he reminded them of, and they went on their way of materialism and enjoyment. The same with the people of Sodom, and the character and instruction of Lot. And so with us. 1. Men are living in sinful selfishness and worldliness—many in crime, many more in vice; but a very large multitude in practical godlessness. God is not in all, he is not in many if in any of their thoughts. His will is not the object of their inquiry, is not the rule of their life. 2. The religious teacher comes and admonishes; he says, “Man cannot live by bread alone;” the claims of the Divine Father, of the holy Saviour, are the supreme claims, etc. 3. But still the same course is pursued; the better thoughts that are momentarily stirred in the heart are silenced; sacred truths are extinguished; the truth of God is treated lightly; the world and the things that are in the world are upper-most and are victorious.
II. THE PALPABLE FOLLY OF SUCH TRIFLING AS THIS. 1. It is attended with immediate and certain injury. For it is impossible for a human soul to reject the truth or to quench the Spirit of God, and not be seriously the worse for such an act. 2. There is the grave peril of a great disaster. The generation is eating and drinking and marrying, and behold! the Flood sweeps them away. The cities are trading and feasting, and lo! the fires of heaven come down and consume them. They who trifle with the most sacred things are sure to find that, suddenly, in such an hour as they think not, the end arrives. The business plans are all broken off; the brilliant career is concluded; the flow of pleasures is arrested. Death suddenly appears, and deals his fatal blow. These sacred opportunities which have been so little prized, so much disparaged, recede with terrible rapidity and disappear. Opportunity that waited by the side, and waited all in vain, melts and vanishes in a moment. The soul awakes from its long lethargy to see that its powers have been wasted and that its chance is gone!
III. THE ELUSIVENESS OF THIS SOLEMN LESSON. Men have always known this, and they have always acted as if they were ignorant of it. “As it was … so shall it be.” So is it to-day. By spiritual trifling men fritter away the golden chance that Divine love puts into their hands. Be wise in time. Realize what you are doing, what injury you are working, what risk you are running.—C.
Vers. 34–36.—Accidents. “The one shall be taken, and the other left.” And who or what is it that decides which one shall be taken and which left? Events are often occurring which convey to us the impression of—
I. THE LARGE AMOUNT OF ACCIDENT which enters into the fabric of human life. Take, for example, a bad railway accident. How accidental it seems that one man should just miss that train and be saved, and that another should just catch it and be killed; that one should take a seat in the carriage which is crushed, and another in the carriage which is left whole; that one should be sitting exactly where the bent and twisted timber pierced him, and another exactly where no injury was dealt, etc.! It is the same with the battle-field, with the thunderstorm, with the falling house. One is taken, and another left; and the taking of the one and the leaving of the other seems to be pure accident—not the result of reason or forethought, but entirely fortuitous.
II. OUR CORRECTED THOUGHT CONCERNING IT. 1. Of accident in the sense of chance we know there is nothing. Everything is “under law;” and even where there is no law apparent, we are assured, by the exercise of our reason, that there must be the operation of law, though it is out of our sight. In this world of God’s, pure chance has not an inch of ground to work upon. 2. There is usually much more play of reason and habit in “accidental events” than seems at first sight. Things result as they do because habit is stronger than judgment, or because foolish men disregard the counsel of the wise; because thoughtful men take the precautions which result in their safety, and because thoughtless men take the action which issues in their suffering or death. 3. The providence of God covers the entire field of human life. May we venture to believe that the hand of God is in the events and issues of life? I think we may. (1) It is clearly within the range of the activities of an Infinite Being to whom nothing is small as nothing is great. (2) His Fatherhood would lead him to follow the course of every one of his children with parental interest, and to interpose his hand wherever he saw it was wise to do so. (3) Scripture warrants the conclusion: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints;” “The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps;” “Not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
III. THE LARGE MEASURE OF UNCERTAINTY THAT REMAINS AND MUST REMAIN. Human science has introduced many safeguards, but it has also introduced new perils. The “chapter of accidents” is as long as it ever was in the contemporary history of mankind. God is supreme, but he lets many things happen we should antecedently have supposed he would step in to prevent; he lets good men take the consequence of their mistakes; he permits the very holy and the very useful to be overtaken by sad misfortunes and even by fatal calamities. We cannot guarantee the future; we cannot ensure prosperity, health, friends, reputation, long life. To one that seems to be heir to all these good things they will fall; to another who seems equally likely to inherit them they will be denied: one is taken, the other left. Therefore let us turn to—
IV. THE ONE GOOD THING ON WHICH WE CAN ABSOLUTELY COUNT. There is “a good part which shall not be taken away.” This is a Christian character; its foundations are laid in repentance and faith; it is built up of reverent study, of worship, of the obedience of love. Its glory is in resemblance to Jesus Christ himself. This is within every man’s reach, and it cannot be taken; it must be left. He who secures that is safe for ever. No accident can rob him of his heritage. His treasure and himself are immovable; for “he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”—C.
Vers. 1–19.—Graces stimulated and strengthened. The preceding chapter urges most powerfully, by precept and parable, consideration for others. Money is to be used for this end. But consideration may be shown in many other ways. And want of consideration may be one of those “occasions of stumbling” (so in Revised Version) to the Lord’s little ones which shall be visited with such overwhelming retribution. Our Lord consequently begins by teaching—
I. THE GREAT DANGER OF CAUSING A LITTLE ONE TO STUMBLE. (Vers. 1, 2.) In this way he urges his disciples to watchfulness. He plainly implies that defenceless individuals who fall through stumbling-blocks placed in their path shall have in God a most terrible Avenger. Better the most fearful physical death than the fate of those who cause them to stumble. Of Judas it was expressly stated it would have been better if he had never been born; and the same might be said of every one who, like him, throws stumbling-blocks in his brother’s way. The ruin of the innocent, through exposing them to temptation, will be visited by God’s most terrible indignation.
II. THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MUST GUARD AGAINST AN UNRELENTING AND UNFORGIVING TEMPER. (Vers. 3, 4.) The disciples are to take heed to themselves. They are not to be avengers. They have not the solidity of judgment or of character to exercise vengeance. It is to he left to God. If, therefore, a brother trespass against us, we are to pursue such a path as will result in forgiveness and reconciliation. We are to rebuke him courageously; then, if he repents, if he shows signs of sorrow and confesses his fault, even though it should be repeated seven times a day, we are to forgive him. Now, this forgiving spirit is Divine. It is God-like. It is the spirit God has manifested in Christ, and which we should cultivate most diligently.
III. OUR LORD’S EXHORTATIONS LED THE DISCIPLES TO SEEK AN INCREASE OF FAITH. (Vers. 5–10.) When we have discovered how small our forgiving spirit is, we then begin to see how small other graces are, and to cry, “Lord, Increase our faith.” It is most instructive to notice how our Lord responds to the disciples’ desire. And: 1. He shows them how very small their faith is. His statement implies that it was less than a grain of mustard seed, for, if they had even so little a measure of genuine faith, they could remove any difficulty out of their path. Even a sycamine tree might be plucked up by the roots, or any difficulty which such an obstacle would represent, and be cast by faith into the sea. The first lesson we have got to learn is how small our faith is, and then it will soon increase. 2. He impresses on them the cultivation of a sense of their own unprofitableness to God. He likens them to a farm-servant who, when he has finished in the field, comes home and is then put to wait at table on his lord. His work is never done. He turns from one occupation to another; and only laments at the close that he could not do more and better. Now, this sense of unprofitableness really arises out of the magnificence of the Christian ideal. The Christian system sets before us such incomparable excellency, that we are always coming short of it. All Christian progress is just conditioned upon this sense of unprofitableness. Our faith will grow exceedingly when this sense of unprofitableness has been secured and is maintained. Of course, this teaching of our Lord is quite consistent with the reward promised in his grace, of “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The servant looks at his labours in the light of strict justice, and acknowledges his shortcoming. The Master looks at them in the light of grace and love, and rewards them with overflowing bounty. Even when receiving the reward at last, it will be with surprise, and with the consciousness that we have been but unprofitable servants.
IV. THE DISCIPLES ARE INSTRUCTED AT THE SAME TIME REGARDING HUMAN INGRATITUDE. (Vers. 11–19.) It so happened that ten lepers cross the Saviour’s path, and their cry for mercy meets with immediate response. But their cure is given on their way to the priests, who could only give them a certificate of cure. The sense of cure came upon the ten, we may believe, at the same time. But only one, and he a Samaritan, returned to express his gratitude. The other nine, all Jews, passed on to the priest with a joyful sense of cure, but little sense of gratitude. It was such ingratitude as called for the animadversion of Jesus, while the Samaritan’s gratitude led our Lord to say his faith hath made him whole. It seems clear that he became attached to Jesus in a way the others did not. The expression of his gratitude led to an assurance of faith. Now, this was a wholesome lesson for the disciples, as it is also for us. How many blessings have we all got from the hands of Christ, for which we have returned no thanks at all! And, if we have been ungrateful to our Lord, should we not put up with a good deal of ingratitude? It is a sense of personal ingratitude which will stimulate the grace within us, and make us less surprised when we are the objects of ingratitude on the part of others we have befriended. In this plain and practical fashion our Lord stimulated and strengthened the graces of his disciples, and indicates how our graces may be stimulated likewise.—R. M. E.
Vers. 20–37.—The advent of the kingdom and the King. Jesus was on journey to Jerusalem when the ingratitude of the nine lepers, just noticed, took place, and this gave rise to speculation as to the near approach of his kingdom. His enemies, the Pharisees, put the sarcastic question when the kingdom of God should come, as much as to say, “We have heard of it long; we should like to see it.” This leads our Lord to unfold the nature of his kingdom’s advent and of his own.
I. HIS KINGDOM COMES IN THE HEARTS OF MEN. (Vers. 20, 21.) The characteristic of worldly kingdoms has always been ostentation. They try to impress the senses by noisy advents, brag, advertisement, the blare of bugle and roll of drum. And some think that there is nothing worth talking about which can come in any milder way. The Jews expected a kingdom of God to supersede the Roman, and that its advent would be seen in the defeat and expulsion of the conquerors of Canaan. But, no; the kingdom was coming in men’s hearts; it was there it had its sphere and home. 1. How superficial is the sovereignty which is not founded in the heart! This is the world’s experience daily. The outward sovereignty is a name and based on fear. 2. How noble is the sovereignty which is based upon people’s hearts! It is here Jesus reigns. We love him. We would die for him. Thus his kingdom progresses wherever a heart is touched by Christ’s love. His triumph is over the selfishness of mankind. He conquers them by self-sacrificing love.
II. THE KING HIMSELF IS TO COME AS SUDDENLY AS THE LIGHTNING-FLASH. (Vers. 22–24.) He is not to give warning of his approach. There will be no need to go here or there under the impression that he has come quietly and privately, to prepare for his public manifestation; but suddenly like the lightning-flash, and publicly like its heaven-enlightening beam, is he to come for judgment. Hence the awful suddenness of his advent is distinctly implied. He will give no premonitory warnings, but overwhelmingly sudden and awful will be his approach. No wonder in such circumstances that many shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, one of those seasons of quiet philanthropy such as the Saviour was now leading among men. The Pharisees were mistaking altogether the significance of his present mission.
III. THE RESULTS OF THE PRESENT MISAPPREHENSIONS. (Vers. 25–30.) 1. The first sad result will be the rejection and martyrdom of Jesus (ver. 25). Misapprehending the significance of his meek and lowly philanthropic life, his generation united in rejecting him, and secured his crucifixion on the tree. They would not have the King when actually among them in flesh and blood. 2. Men will act like the antediluvians and Sodomites up to the very time of our Lord’s advent. A sense of carnal security characterized these sinners. They thought in Noah’s day that no harm would overtake them. There was no sign of the Deluge except Noah’s precautions against it, and they would not act upon such signs. In Sodom it was the same. The inhabitants thought no change would come over their selfish, sensual dream. But the Deluge came, and the fire and brimstone descended, notwithstanding. So will it be with the advent of Christ—it will come as a sudden, unexpected judgment upon many. And this carnal security is a present danger with many. They fancy they are safe, that nothing will interfere with their security; but the Saviour makes his advent suddenly, and they are overwhelmed.
IV. THE REALITIES OF THE ADVENT. (Vers. 31–37.) Now, the truth is clearly brought out that some shall be saved and others lost at the advent. 1. Let us look at the lost. They are brought under our notice here in several ways. Thus Lot’s wife is taken as a type of the lost. Now, we know that she was lost through looking longingly back to her worldly things. God, by his angels, had set the family’s faces towards the mountains and himself. Were they prepared to take him and his favour as their portion, and give up all their property in Sodom? If they looked longingly behind them, it would show that the world was still more to them than God. The poor wife could not resist the temptation, and so she was changed into a pillar of salt. She is, then, the type of those who are almost saved, but worldliness gets the better of them, and they are lost. Again, the lost ones are represented as food for eagles (ver. 37). This brings out the corruption characterizing them. They have become moral carrion, which only the eagles can consume. There is, doubtless, a reference to the Roman invasion under Titus, and to the destruction of corrupt Jerusalem. The Roman armies were God’s scavengers to destroy a corrupt people. This was one way in which Christ made an advent to judgment. Lastly, we have the lost described as those who are continually seeking to save themselves (ver. 33). Those whose one aim in life is self-preservation, the saving of themselves at every turn, who think of self as the supreme concern, are only losing themselves. The curious paradox is that those who save themselves at every turn lose themselves; while those who do not count their lives dear, but Christ’s concern as supreme, find themselves safe at last. Let us see to it, therefore, that we are neither worldly minded, nor corrupt, nor given up to selfishness, else we are among the lost. 2. But let us look at the saved ones. These are those who have kept Christ before them as their Lord and Master, whose interests should be supreme (ver. 33). They valve him more than life, and so he saves them. The nature of salvation is thus plainly unfolded. The saved ones are those with whom Christ is all in all. They prefer him to everything else. The instinct of self-preservation has in them given place to an instinct to preserve the honour and promote the kingdom of the Master. And those who have trusted him and honoured him so thoroughly shall find that he will not disappoint them. Let us wait for his appearing, then, and love it; and when it flashes across the world, we shall be allowed to escape the judgments that come upon the earth, and to stand before the Son of man.—R. M. E.
EXPOSITION
CHAPTER 18

Vers. 1–14.—The Lord speaks the two parables on prayer—the importunate widow, and the Pharisee and publican.
Ver. 1.—And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint. The formula ἔλεγε δὲ καί, literally, “and he spake also,” calls attention to the fact that the parable-teaching immediately to follow was a continuation of what had preceded. Indeed, the connection between the first of the two parables, which urges restless continued prayer, and the picture which the Lord had just drawn of men’s state of utter forgetfulness of God, is obvious. “The Son of man has been rejected; he has gone from view; the masses are plunged in gross worldliness; men of God are become as rare as, in the days of Abraham, they were in Sodom. What, then, is the position of the Church? That of a widow whose only weapon is incessant prayer. It is only by means of this intense concentration that faith will he preserved. But such is precisely the disposition which Jesus fears may not be found even in the Church at his return” (Godet).
Ver. 2.—There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man. Probably enough the whole scene was a sketch from life; under such a rule as that of Herod Antipas there were, doubtless, judges of the character here portrayed.
Ver. 3.—And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. The petitioner was a woman and a widow, the latter being in the East a synonym for helplessness. With no one to defend her or plead her cause, this widow was ever a prey to the covetous. Not once nor twice in the noble generous words of the chivalrous Hebrew prophets we find this readiness on the part of those in power to neglect, if not to oppress these helpless widow-women, sternly commented upon. So in Isaiah we read (1:23), “They judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.” While Jesus (Matt. 23:14) includes this cowardly sin among the evil deeds of the rulers of the Israel of his day: “Ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer.” A more desperate situation, as regards any hope of obtaining the object of her earnest prayer, could not well be pictured—a careless, corrupt judge of the lawless Herod period for the tribunal in Israel, and a poor helpless widow for the suppliant. The forlorn woman of the parable represents the Church or people of God in dire straits, overborne by an unbelieving world and seemingly forgotten even of their God. The story is a reminder that there is hope even in that extreme situation sketched in the parable, if the petitioner only continues persistent in her prayer. The argument which lies on the surface of the parable-teaching is obvious: if such a judge will in the end listen to the prayer of a suppliant for whom he cares nothing, will not God surely listen to the repeated prayer of a suppliant whom he loves with a deep, enduring love? Such is the argument of the story. Importunity, it seems to say, must inevitably triumph. But underlying this there is much deep teaching, of which perhaps, the most important item is that it insists upon the urgent necessity for us all to continue in prayer, never fainting in this exercise though no answer seems to come. “The whole life of the faithful,” as Origen once grandly said, “should be one great connected prayer.” That is the real moral of the story; but there are a number of minor bits of Divine teaching contained in this curious parable setting, as we shall see. Avenge me of mine adversary. We must not suppose that mere vengeance in the vulgar sense is what the widow prayed for; that would be of no use to her; all she wanted was that the judge should deliver her from the oppression which her adversary exercised over her, no doubt in keeping from her the heritage to which she was lawfully entitled. Of course, the granting her prayer would involve loss and possibly punishment to her fraudulent oppressor.
Ver. 7.—And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him? The Master tells us that God permits suffering among his servants, long after they have begun to pray for deliverance. But we are counselled here to cry day and night unto him, and, though there be no sign of reply, our prayers shall be treasured up before him, and in his own good time they will be answered. Though he bear long with them. With whom does God bear long? With the wrong-doers, whose works and words oppress and make life heavy and grievous to the servants of God; with these who have no claim to consideration will God bear long. And this announcement gives us some clue to the meaning of the delay we often experience before we get an answer to many of our prayers. The prayer is heard, but God, in the exercise of mercy and forbearance, has dealings with the oppressors. It were easy for the Almighty to grant an immediate answer, but only at the cost often of visiting some of the oppressors with immediate punishment, and this is not his way of working. God bears long before his judgments swift and terrible are sent forth. This has ever been his way of working with individuals as with nations. Was it not thus, for instance, that he acted towards Egypt and her Pharaohs during the long period of the bitter Hebrew bondage? We who would be God’s servants must be content to wait God’s time, and, while waiting, patiently go on pleading, sure that in the end “God will avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him.”
Ver. 8.—I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. “Non bientôt, mais bien vite” (Godet). It means that God will act in accordance with his servant’s prayer, not soon, but suddenly; sure and sudden at the crisis the action of Divine providence comes at the last “as a thief in the night.” Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? These difficult words seem to point at least to a fear lest, the second coming being long delayed, true faith would have died out of the hearts even of the godly. Such a fear might be Jesus’; for we know, from his own lips, that to him, while on earth and wearing the body of humiliation, the day and hour of the second advent was not known. Was not our Lord speaking with the same sad onlook in his parable of the virgins, when he said, “they all slumbered and slept,” wise virgins as well as foolish (Matt. 25:5)? “It is often the case that God’s action as a Deliverer is delayed until his people have ceased to hope for deliverance. So it was with Israel in Egypt; so was it with her again in Babylon. ‘Grief was calm and hope was dead’ among the exiles when the word came that they were to return to their own land; and then the news seemed too good to be true. They were ‘like them that dream’ when they heard the good tidings. This method of Divine action—long delay followed by a sudden crisis—so frankly recognized by Christ, is one to which we find it hard to reconcile ourselves. These parables help us so far, but they do not settle everything. They contain no philosophy of Divine delay, but simply a proclamation of the fact, and an assurance that, in spite of delay, all will go well at the last with those who trust in God” (Professor Bruce).
Ver. 9.—And he spake this parable. With this parable, “the Pharisee and the publican,” St. Luke concludes his memories of the last journeyings toward Jerusalem. The incidents which directly follow took place close to Jerusalem; and here St. Luke’s narrative rejoins that of SS. Matthew and Mark. No note of time or place assists us in defining exactly the period when the Master spoke this teaching; sometime, however, in these last journeyings, that is, in the closing months of the public ministry, the parable in question was certainly spoken.
Ver. 10.—Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. This parable constitutes an important chapter in Jesus’ apology or defence—if we may dare use the word—for loving the sinful, for consorting with publicans and sinners. It tells men, in very simple language, how they are saved; not by works of righteousness which they have done, but of grace; in other words, by God’s free mercy. Jewish religious society in the time of our Lord, as represented by the great Pharisee sect, totally misunderstood this Divine truth. They claimed salvation as a right on two grounds; (1) because they belonged to the chosen race; (2) because they rigidly and minutely obeyed the precepts of a singular code of laws, many of them devised by themselves and their fathers. Upon these two grounds they claimed salvation, that is, eternal blissful life. Not content with this claim of their own, they condemned, with a sweeping, harsh condemnation, all other peoples, and even those of their own race who neglected rigidly to observe the ordinances and ritual of a law framed in great measure in the schools of their own rabbis. Two extreme instances are here chosen—a rigid, exclusive, self-satisfied member of the religious society of Israel; and a Jewish officer of the hated Roman government, who knew little or nothing of the Law, but yet who longed after a higher life, and craved for an inward peace which he evidently was far from possessing. These two, the Pharisee and the publican, both went up to God’s holy house, the temple, with a view of drawing near to the eternal King.
Ver. 11.—The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are. How closely drawn from the life is this picture of a Pharisee will be seen by a comparison of the prayer here with the prayer of a rabbi contained in the Talmud. When Rabbi Nechounia Ben Hakana left his school, he used to say, “I thank thee, O Eternal, my God, for having given me part with those who attend this school instead of running through the shops. I rise early like them, but it is to study the Law, not for futile ends. I take trouble as they do, but I shall be rewarded, and they will not. We run alike, but I for the future life, while they will only arrive at the pit of destruction” (from the treatise ‘Berachôth’).
Ver.12.—I fast twice in the week. There was no such precept in the Law of Moses. There only a single fast-day in the year was enjoined, the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29). By the time of Zechariah the prophet (8:19) the one fast-day had grown into four. But this fasting twice every week was a burthensome observance imposed in the later oral Law. Thursday and Monday were the appointed fasting-days, because tradition related how, on those days, Moses ascended and descended from Sinai. Compare the Talmud (treatise ‘Bava Khama,’ fol. 82. 1). I give tithes of all that I possess. Here, again, the Mosaic ordinance only enjoined tithes of corn, wine, oil, and cattle. The later rabbinic schools directed that everything should be tithed, down to the mint and anise and cummin. And so this poor deluded Pharisee dreamed he had earned his eternal salvation, forgetting that the tithes he so prided himself on paying were merely tithes of goods of which he was steward for a little time, tithes, too, given back to their real Owner—God. Could this be counted a claim upon God? He boasted, too, that he was no extortioner: did he forget how often he had coveted? He was no adulterer: what of those wicked thoughts which so often found a home in his heart? He rejoiced that he was not like the publican and others of that same class: did he think of the sore temptations to which these and the like were exposed, and from which he was free? He gloried in his miserable tithes and offerings: did he remember how really mean and selfish he was? did he think of his luxury and abundance, and of the want and misery of thousands round him? did his poor pitiful generosity constitute a claim to salvation? All this and more is shrined in the exquisite story of Jesus, who shows men that salvation—if it be given to men at all—must be given entirely as a free gift of God.
Ver. 13.—And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner! Utterly sad and heart-broken, the publican neither recounts nor thinks of good kind deeds done, or special sins committed; no thoughts came into that poor heart, such as, “I have done some fair deeds; I am not altogether vile and sinful.” He felt that with him evil so far overbalanced good that he could make no plea for himself, and yet he, too, longed for salvation, so he threw himself wholly upon God’s mercy and love in his sad prayer, “God be merciful to me the sinner!” for so the words should be rendered. Different to the Pharisee, who thought himself better than his neighbours, this man, in his sad humility, evidently thought other men better than himself, but still he so trusted in God that he felt even for him, the sinner, there might be mercy.
Ver. 14.—I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. And the publican was right: there was mercy even for him, all sin-stained though he was. The words with which the Lord closes his teaching are full of comfort. That prayer he tells us was heard and granted. The “I tell you” of Jesus here means, as Stier well puts it, “I tell you, for I know, I have seen, I have heard all this in many such a case, and in many such prayers.” With this example of prayer favourably heard, there is surely no sinburthened soul on earth who may not take courage in seeking God’s face. One great object of this parable, we may believe, was to suggest some such thoughts, to embolden sorrowful, heart-broken sinners simply to go to God, trusting in his great pitying love. It should not be forgotten that the publican’s prayer was heard in the temple; a silent approval seems given to his having thus sought out the appointed consecrated place of prayer.
Vers. 15–30.—Jesus and the children. The young ruler refuses to give up his riches. The Lord speaks of the reward of them that leave all for his sake.
Ver. 15.—And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them. Our Lord’s noticing children is several times alluded to in the Gospels. There was something evidently in his look and manner which singularly attracted little ones to him. SS. Matthew and Mark both recount this blessing of the children immediately after the teaching on divorce. Our Lord thus sanctifies the bond of marriage and its legitimate offspring. It was a silent but powerful reply to the mistaken inference which his disciples had drawn from his words. They had said, “It is not good to marry” (Matt. 19:10). But when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. Something of what the Master had said concerning the marriage state affected the disciples. Had he not just (see Matt. 19:10–12) been claiming high honour for the solitary life where there were no family ties to claim attention? Surely, then, these women and their children had better stand aloof: what had that grave and earnest Teacher of theirs to do with these? He had higher and more important matters on his mind!
Ver. 16.—But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. St. Mark, who gives us here the memories of a faithful eye-witness—St. Peter—records how much displeased Jesus was when he saw them pushing back the mothers and their little ones, eager to win a smile or perhaps a touch from him whom the people justly regarded as the children’s Friend. It seems also to have been the practice for Jewish mothers to bring their babes to famous rabbis, and to ask these teachers to bless their little ones. Christ’s “interest in the little children was real, and for their own sakes. It was primary; not merely secondary, and because of the childlikeness of his subjects. If they who are like little children belong to the kingdom of heaven, why should we for a moment doubt that the little children themselves belong to the kingdom? Doubtless they all do. And if that change which men call death happen to them while they are still little children, we may rest assured that it will be to the little ones life everlasting. They will not be shut out from the higher province of the kingdom of heaven when they are snatched away from the lower” (Dr. Morrison). St. Mark’s account, being that of an eye-witness, is fuller and more graphic. It is read in the Office of the Church of England for the Baptism of Infants, wherein young children are in like manner presented to Christ. It is considered that the Master’s words and act here justify the Church in commending infants, as such, to the blessing of their Father. Surely if little ones were capable of spiritual blessings then, they are so now. It is noticeable that these children were not brought to the Lord to be taught, but “that be should put his hands upon them, and bless them” (Mark 10:16).
Ver. 17.—Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. Jesus here reminds men that if they hope to enter the kingdom, it must be in the spirit of children, who never think of putting forward any claim of merit or paying any price for kindness showed them. His late parable of the Pharisee and publican was evidently in the Master’s mind when he said this.
Ver. 18.—And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? This incident is related in the three synoptical Gospels. St. Matthew speaks of him as the young man. St. Luke here styles him a ruler; by some the title is supposed simply to denote that he was the ruler of a synagogue or congregation; others, however, consider that it denotes that the subject of the narrative was a ruler of the Jews, and possibly, but this is of course doubtful, a member of the Sanhedrin. His youth (Matt. 19:20) is not at variance with this inference. Youth is defined by Philo as including the period between twenty-one and twenty-eight. All the three evangelists mention his great wealth. Dean Plumptre suggests that his large possessions and evident devotion had probably opened to him, at a comparatively early age, a place in the great council. His question concerning eternal life indicates that he was a Pharisee, and he evidently represented the noblest phase of this religious party. He had sedulously followed out the precepts of the best rabbinic schools of his day, but there was something lacking, he felt, and his intercourse with Jesus and the influence of the Master’s words led him to take this question point-blank to the famous Teacher, who he felt—alone of any master whom he had met—was able to satisfy this longing desire of his heart.
Ver. 19.—And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. The title “good” was a singular one for the young ruler to have used. It was never used to the most famous rabbis by their pupils. It implied an intense reverence, but nothing more. The young man distinctly did not then believe the Master was Divine, else he had never made the great refusal recorded directly afterwards. “To be a good man is impossible.… God alone could have this honour” (Plato, ‘Phæd.,’ 27). “You are looking at me,” said the Master, “as a man: why give me this strange, lofty title? You are looking on me only as an earthy Teacher.” The great Heart-reader was reading the young man’s thoughts, thoughts which soon crystallized, as we shall see, into the refusal to do what he, whom he chose to style “good,” directed him to carry out.
Ver. 20.—Thou knowest the commandments. The report in St. Matthew is some-what fuller. There the ruler, when directed to the commandments, replies by asking “which?” expecting most likely to be referred to some of the elaborate traditional laws of the rabbinic schools, which were difficult to keep even by men in the position of a wealthy Pharisee; but to his surprise Jesus mentions the most general and bestknown of the ancient ten.
Ver. 21.—And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. He listens to the Master with something like impatient surprise. There is a ring of concealed indignation in his “All these have I ever kept. What do you take me for? I am a religious, God-fearing Jew; from my child-days have I kept these.” Kept these! How little the poor questioner knew the secrets of his own heart! Yet he had answered Jesus in the true spirit of a Pharisee trained carefully in the rabbinic schools. We read, for instance, in the Talmud how “when Rabbi Chaninah was dying, he said to the angel of death, ‘Go and fetch me the book of the Law, and see whether there is anything in it which I have not kept.’ ”
Ver. 22.—Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing. St. Mark (10:21), who had St. Peter’s memories to draw from, adds here a very touching detail. “Jesus beholding him [looking earnestly at him] loved him.” There was something noble and true in that life, struggling in the imperfect light of the rabbinic teaching after eternity and heaven, and feeling that in all its struggles some element was surely wanting; and Jesus, as he gazed on the young earnest face, loved him, and proceeded to show him how far removed his life was as yet from the perfect life he dreamed of attaining to. He would show him in a moment how selfish, how earthly, were his thoughts and aims; how firmly chained to earth that heart of his, which he thought only longed for heaven. Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me: “Well,” the Master said, “I will test you. You say you have from your child-days kept your whole duty to your neighbour; you say that you hunger after the higher righteousness. Do you really? Will you indeed be perfect (Matt. 19:21)? Then I will tell you what you lack. Go, sell those great possessions which I know you love so dearly, and give all to the poor, and come, take up the cross (Mark 10:21), and follow me, the homeless, landless Teacher whom you call by the Divine title ‘good.’ ” The “cross” of St. Mark only Jesus understood then in all its dread significance. It was coming then very near; and the great Teacher saw that his true servants, if they would indeed follow him, must follow him along that lonely road of suffering he was then treading. “Via crucis, via lucis.” The young ruler, with his great wealth, thought he had from his youth done his whole duty to his neighbour. The Galilæan Master, whom he so reverenced and admired, reminded him that out of those wide domains, those storedup riches, out of the mammon of unrighteousness, he had forgotten to make to himself friends who, when he died, should receive him into the eternal tents of heaven. This is what he lacked. He had probably heard the Lord’s teaching in the parables of the unjust steward and of Lazarus.
Ver. 23.—And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. St. Mark adds (a memory of Peter’s) that when he heard this the ruler went away frowning, with a lowering look. This was too much. He could not, even at the bidding of that loved Teacher, give up the pleasant life he loved so well, the things he prized so highly; so silently and sadly he turned away. The ‘Gospel of the Hebrews,’ a very ancient document, dating from the first days of the faith, a few fragments only of which have come down to us in quotations in the Fathers, thus describes the scene: “Then the rich man began to scratch his head, for that was not to his mind. And the Lord said to him, How then canat thou say, I have kept the Law; for it is written in the Law, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; and, lo! many of thy brethren, children of Abraham, live in the gutter, and die of hunger, while thy table is loaded with good things, and nothing is sent out to them?” (quoted by Origen, in Matt. 19). Dante calls this “The Great Refusal,” and represents the shade of the young ruler among the throng of the useless, of those who faced both ways (‘Inferno,’ x. 27). It is worthy of notice that there was no angry retort from the wealthy ruler, no scornful, cynical smile of derision, as we read of among the covetous, wealthy Pharisees (ch. 16:14). Still, in the heart of this seeker after the true wisdom there was a sore conflict. Grieving, sorrow-stricken, with gloomy looks, he turned away in silence.
Ver. 24.—And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! The temptations which beset a rich man are so many and so various. The poor, indeed, with all their trials, stand fairer for the kingdom than do their envied richer brothers and sisters.
Ver. 25.—For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. This simile, taken in its plain and obvious sense, appears to many an exaggerated one, and various explanations have been suggested to soften it down. The best is found in Lord Nugent’s ‘Lands Classical and Sacred,’ who mentions that in some modern Syrian towns the narrow gate for foot-passengers at the side of the larger gate by which waggons, camels, and other beasts of burden enter the city, is known as the “needle’s eye.” It is, however, very uncertain whether this term for the little gate was known in ancient times. But the simile was evidently a common one among the Jews. The Talmud, for instance, gives us the parallel phrase of an elephant passing through a needle’s eye. The Koran repeats the very words of the Gospel. It is the object of the proverb to express human impossibility.

“I would ride the camel,
Yea leap him flying, through the needle’s eye
As easily as such a pampered soul
Could pass the narrow gate.”
(Southey.)

It seems strange that the three evangelists, SS. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, who tell this story of the young questioner and the Master’s conversation with him, do not mention his name. And yet he must have been a conspicuous personage in the society of the time. First of all, his riches were evidently remarkable. One account tells us that he was “very rich.” Two of the Gospels mention his “great possessions.” St. Luke tells us that he was “a ruler.” He was, then, certainly a very wealthy Jew holding a high official position, not improbably a member of the Sanhedrin council. Why is he nameless in the three Gospels? Dean Plumptre has a most interesting theory that the young wealthy ruler was Lazarus of Bethany. He bases his hypothesis upon the following data: He begins by stating that “there is one other case in the first two Gospels which presents similar phenomena. In the narrative of the supper at Bethany, St. Matthew and St. Mark record the passionate affection which expressed itself in pouring the precious ointment of spikenard upon our Lord’s head as the act of ‘a woman’ (Matt. 26:7; Mark 14:3), leaving her unnamed. In John 12:3 we find that the woman was Mary, the sister of Lazarus. The train of thought thus suggested points to the supposition that here also there may have been reasons for suppressing in the records a name which was familiar to the narrator. What if the young ruler were Lazarus himself? The points of agreement are sufficiently numerous to warrant the conjecture. The household of Lazarus, as the spikenard ointment shows, were of the wealthier class. The friends who came to comfort the bereaved sisters were themselves, in St. John’s language, ‘of the Jews,’ i.e. of the chief rulers (John 11:19). The young ruler was obviously a Pharisee, and the language of Martha (John 11:24) shows that she, too, believed in eternal life and the resurrection of the dead. The answer to the young ruler, ‘One thing thou lackest’ (as given by St. Mark and St. Luke), is almost identical with that to Martha, ‘One thing is needful’ (ch. 10:42). In such a case, of course, nothing can be attained beyond conjectural inference; but the present writer must avow his belief that the coincidences in this case are such as to carry the evidence to a very high point of probability.”
Ver. 26.—And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? This hard saying appeared to the disciples to be terribly comprehensive in its scope; the longing to be rich was confined to no one class or order, it was the universal passion. Were they guiltless here? Were they not looking for riches and glory in the Messianic kingdom of the immediate future? And of all peoples the Jews in every age have been credited with the blindest devotion to this idol, wealth. In St. Mark (10:24) we find certainly an explanatory statement: “How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” But this explanatory and softened statement is not found in the older authorities; these read instead, in Mark 10:24, simply the words, “How hard is it to enter the kingdom of God!” Hard alike, the Master meant, for rich and poor, though harder for the former.
Ver. 27.—And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Yes, impossible, the Divine Teacher repeated, from a man’s point of view; impossible from the platform of legal obedience on which the young ruler (ver. 21) had taken his stand, or the Pharisee in his prayer (vers. 11, 12); but it was not impossible with God. He might give this salvation as a perfectly free gift, utterly undeserved, perfectly unmerited, as he did to the prodigal son when he returned, or to the publican when he beat his breast in almost voiceless mourning, or still more conspicuously, not many days later, to the penditent thief dying on the cross.
Ver. 28.—Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. Again the question of Peter, evidently acting as spokesman of the twelve, is repeated by the first three evangelists. Strangely faithful in their accounts of their own dealings with their adored Master, they never veil or hide any human weakness or error of their own which led to an important bit of teaching from their Lord. Now, in this place, they, in the person of Peter, gave utterance to a very worldly, but a very natural, thought. The ruler had failed when the test was applied to him; he was a conspicuous example of failure in the rich to enter the kingdom. But they had not failed when the test had been applied to them; they had given all up for his sake: what would be their reward?
Vers. 29, 30.—And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. Evidently, from the reports of the three evangelists, the reply of Jesus was a lengthy one, and contained much deep teaching. St. Luke only gives us, however, one section, so to speak, of the great discourse which followed upon Peter’s question. Here and in St. Mark Peter and the twelve receive a quiet rebuke in this general promise. The Master seems to say, “My promises are not especially to you, my first followers, but to all who, not for any selfish hope of recompense or reward, but for the kingdom of God’s sake, give up what they hold dearest; there will be real, true happiness for them even in this world, and in the world to come unspeakable joy will be their portion; theirs will be the life that knows no ending.” St. Mark adds, with rare truth, that the happiness which his faithful are to enjoy in this world will be accompanied with persecutions. It is the same beautiful thought which the Master had put out before, only the gem now is set in different words. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10; see, too, vers. 11, 12). St. Matthew deals especially with another division of the Lord’s discourse. Here Jesus speaks of the future of the twelve; and, looking forward to the generally noble and self-devoted lives he saw these would live, he tells them of the great destiny surely reserved for them if they remained faithful to the end. But even here, in his words, “the first shall be last” (Matt. 19:30), and still more pointedly in the parable of the labourers which followed (Matt. 20:1–16), he warned these devoted but often mistaken men of the danger of self-complacency. It was only because he foresaw that in these really great ones this spirit would in the end be overcome (at least in eleven of them) that he made the grand and mysterious promise of Matt. 19:28.

The narrative here, in the three synoptical Gospels, is not continuous; at this point there is a break. There is little doubt but that the sickness and death of Lazarus of Bethany, and the summons of the sisters to Jesus, took place about this period. The three synoptical evangelists are silent here for reasons we have discussed elsewhere.
Between vers. 30 and 31 there probably should be inserted the hasty journey to Bethany. The Master was not far when the news of his friend’s death reached him. Immediately after the miracle there appears to have been a meeting of the Sanhedrin, when it was decided to put Jesus to death, though not during the ensuing Passover, with such precautions as were possible. The terrible decision became known. Jesus then retired to Ephraim, an obscure village about twenty miles from the city. Here a very short time was spent in absolute retirement and seclusion. But the Passover Feast was nigh at hand. In company with some of the crowded pilgrim caravans, and secure under their protection till his last few days of work were accomplished, Jesus journeys to Jerusalem At this point the three synoptical Gospels take up the story again. The eleventh chapter of St. John fills up this gap in the connected story.

Vers. 31–42.—Jesus again tells them of his Passion. The healing of the blind at Jericho.
Ver. 31.—Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them. St. Mark (10:32) prefaces this announcement with the words, “And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid.” There was something unusual, evidently, in the manner and behaviour of the Master; silently, wrapped up in his own lofty meditations, he strode on in front of the company of his followers. A feeling of awe and fear stole over them as they watched the silent Master with the shadow of the coming cross falling, perhaps, across his countenance. Much had happened lately: the teaching growing more and more solemn as the end drew near; the raising of Lazarus; the intense enmity of the great men of the nation; the fixed determination to put the Master to death; his short retirement; then the announcement that he was going up to face his enemies at the great feast in Jerusalem; and now alone and silent he walked at their head. What was coming? thought the twelve and their friends. He read their thoughts, and, calling them round him, told them what was about to happen. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.
Vers. 32, 33.—For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. The outlines of the Passion he had sketched for the disciples before on two occasions, but never so clearly as now. He even tells them the manner of his end, and how his own countrymen would give him up to the Romans, and how these Gentiles, amidst every conceivable circumstance of horror, would do him to death. And the Master closed his dread revelation by predicting his speedy resurrection.
Ver. 34.—And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. But they listened all dazed and confused; they could not take it in, neither the shame of the death of their loved Leader, nor the glory of the Resurrection which was to follow immediately after. They could not persuade themselves that the hopes of an earthly Messianic glory in which they were to share must positively he given up. “We must learn to love Divine truths before we can understand them,” said Pascal. “Toward everything which is contrary to natural desire,” wrote Riggenbach (in Godet), “there is produced in the heart a blindness, which nothing but a miracle can heal.”
Ver. 35.—And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho. Jericho was once called “the City of Palms,” afterwards “the City of Perfumes.” It was about eighteen miles from Jerusalem. In the Herodian times it became a popular resort, owing to the affection the great Herod entertained for it. Its palm-groves and balsam-gardens were a present from Antony to Cleopatra. Herod the Great bought them from her, and made it one of his royal cities, and adorned it with many stately buildings, and eventually died there. It is now a miserable village. A certain blind man sat by the wayside begging. An apparent discrepancy exists in the three accounts given of this act of our Lord. St. Luke speaks of one blind man who was healed as our Lord was entering the town. St. Matthew and St. Mark mention that the miracle took place as our Lord was leaving the place, and St. Matthew mentions that two blind men received their sight at the bidding of Jesus. Several solutions of this little difficulty have been proposed. Perhaps the most probable is that the sufferers were sitting near the town gates as the Lord entered. They, hearing who was passing by, eagerly called to him for help. Surrounded by the crowd, he probably did not hear the cry, or possibly wished to test the earnestness of their faith by allowing them to wait. They follow him through the place, and in the open space outside the city they attract his attention, and he heals them. Or, in the words of Dr. Morrison, “the case seems to have begun as he entered into the city, but it culminated in all likelihood as he departed.” A later explanation, apparently preferred by Godet and Farrar, is that, as Josephus and Eusebius distinguish between the old and the new Jericho—the old town on the ancient site, and the new Herodian town which had sprung up at a little distance from it—the blind man might, according to some traditions, have been healed as Jesus was leaving old Jericho; according to others, as he was entering the new town. The fact of SS. Mark and Luke only mentioning one blind man is easily explained. There was one evidently (as we shall suggest further on), a well-known character in Christian story—Bartimæus. Two of the evangelists recorded his cure, as being of special interest to the Church, leaving the second among the numberless unrecorded miracles of healing of Jesus. A certain blind man. St. Mark names him Bartimæus. It may be inferred that, as St. Mark specially names him, this man was well known in early Christian story. We know that after the cure he joined the company as one of the followers of Jesus.
Ver. 37.—And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. The Lord’s name was by this time a household word in Palestine, and among the sick and afflicted a most precious and welcome sound.
Ver. 38.—Jesus, thou Son of David. This form of address distinctly shows that the idea that the Rabbi of Nazareth, the great Wonder-worker, the wise kind Teacher, was in some way, or other the long looked-for Deliverer, was now taking possession of the people’s mind. “Son of David” was distinctly a Messianic salutation.
Ver. 39.—And they which went before rebuked him. It must be remembered that our Lord was surrounded by a great heat of Passover pilgrims, by many of whom he was reverenced as “some great One,” perhaps the King Messiah. Such a low wailing cry on the part of a blind beggar, asking to be brought into the presence of him they wondered at and admired and hoped so much from, seemed a great presumption: hence these rebukes.
Vers. 40, 41.—And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him. St. Mark here adds, “And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.” These kindly sympathizing words of the disciples to the beggar, doing their loving Master’s behest, were one of Peter’s own memories of the scene under the walls of Jericho. And when he was come near, he asked him, saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? Many besides the governor Pilate, who a few days later put the query to him, “Art thou a King, then?” during this period must have often asked silently the same question. We shall soon see the whole multitude carried away with enthusiasm, giving him a royal welcome as he entered the city. Here, with a majesty truly royal, as Godet well remarks, Jesus seems to open up to the beggar the treasures of Divine power in “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” and to give him, as it were, carte blanche. And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. There is a curious variation in the terms of this request in that ancient Syriae Version known as “the Curetonian,” in the account of St. Matthew, “That our eyes might be opened, and we shall see thee.”
Ver. 42.—And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight. “Magnifique aumône du Christ” (Pressensé). Thy faith hath saved thee. The American Longfellow has united the cry for mercy of the blind, the kindly sympathizing words of the disciples (reported by St. Mark), and the gift of Jesus Christ, in his exquisite poem of ‘Blind Bartimæus.’

“Those mighty voices three—
Ἰησοῦ, ἐλέησόν με!
Θάρσει, ἔγειρε· φωνεῖ σε!
Ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέ σε!”
HOMILETICS

Vers. 1–8.—The importunate widow. The importance which Christ attaches to prayer is evidenced by the frequency with which he recurs to it in his teaching, and the variety of his illustration of its duty and blessedness. The sermon on the mount enforces it as one of the cardinal virtues of the perfect disciple. In the eleventh chapter of this Gospel both the manner after which we are to pray, and the assurance on which faith should rest, are presented. Again, towards the close of the ministry we are introduced to two parables bearing on it, each with the lesson which the Master would teach clearly defined. The former of these two has this as its object (ver. 1), “that men ought always,” i.e. unremittingly, “to pray, and not to faint;” i.e. not to be scared by hindrances, or induced to desist by the sickness which comes through hope deferred. The structure of the parable is very simple. There is a judge who neither fears God nor regards man. A poor widow, who has been wronged, claims his interposition. He pays no regard to her suit. But she importunes him; day by day she presents herself, until, though he has no regard to the justice of her case, he listens to her pleading in order that he may be relieved of her solicitations. If man, unjust and selfish, thus yields to unceasing prayer, how much more, argues Jesus, will he, who is the Absolutely Just and the Infinitely Loving, yield to the cry, day and night, of his own people! Notice three features in the delineation.
I. GOD IN CONTRAST WITH THE HUMAN AVENGER. The latter consults his own ease. He acts in mere selfishness. The Eternal Righteousness is ever consistent with itself. “To this man will I look, even to him that is humble and contrite in spirit.”
II. GOD’S PEOPLE IN CONTRAST WITH THE WIDOW. They resemble her in one thing—in the sense of need, of helplessness. But the widow stands in no special relation to the judge. God’s people are his own elect. They are part of the blood-bought, ransomed family. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God;” and “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.” Each of them is in the most intimate relation to the Eternal. “I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh on me.”
III. THE LONG-SUFFERING OF GOD IN CONTRAST WITH THE LONG-SUFFERING OF MAN. The long-suffering of man is in consequence of the indisposition to act; if in the end it is dispelled, if the action after a lengthened interval follows, it is only that repose may be purchased by the effort, and that the mind may be free to carry out its unloving projects. God bears long with his elect, not because he is unwilling to bless, but that he may draw them closer to himself, that he may prepare them for fuller measures of blessing, that he may chasten their wills into completer union with his will, and so ultimately bestow the higher gifts of his Fatherhood. When they cry, there is much that needs to be corrected; they desire only what they regard as the beat or what will relieve them from some pressure. There is still a distance between their will and his; he delays the answer that they may be brought in true self-emptiness to his heart, and that, their faith being purified, they may be enriched out of his exceeding abundance. So the Lord bore long with Job; in him patience had its perfect work; he learned to “abhor himself, and repent in dust and ashes;” he was “attuned also to finer issues” by the charity which led him to pray for his friends. And the Lord turned his captivity when his prayer was thus disciplined and enlarged, and he received “twice as much as he had before.” So, too, the woman of Canaan cried, and “the Lord answered her not a word” (Matt. 15). Then came she “and worshipped him.” She bowed her whole soul before him, and she received the reward of the “great faith.” “Therefore,” says the Lord, “faint not.” “Pray without ceasing.” The heavens above are not brass. There is a flexibility in the ordering of the universe which admits of the answer, direct and real, to prayer. “More things are wrought by prayer than the world dreams of.” “O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.” The Lord anticipates a decadence in the belief as to the efficacy of prayer, for he adds a “nevertheless” (ver. 8). Is this loss of faith true of the Church and of Christians in this day?
Vers. 9–14.—The Pharisee and the publican. The lesson as to prayer is continued. The parable which follows exhibits the spirit and conditions of effectual prayer. Mark the two features of the audience specially addressed. He speaks to certain (1) who trusted in themselves as being righteous; (2) who, as the outcome of this trust, despised others. He spoke in the previous parable of “God’s own elect.” Now, the Pharisees accounted themselves the elect of God. They were puffed up by this confidence. They regarded themselves as the righteous, who kept the Law, both oral and written. And, indeed, they were most scrupulous as to every requirement; nay, they were willing to burden themselves with minute and vexatious observances. And the sin which beset them was the pride shadowed forth in one of the two who went up to pray. As the illustration of the elect, the Lord chooses a tax-gatherer, one of a hated class, for whom, in Pharisee-thought, there was no place in the kingdom of heaven. The instruction is suitable to every time. Pharisee separation and pride are features to be recognized in the Church of this day, as they were prominent in the Jewish Church of our Lord’s day. Ever to be studied is the antithesis—respectability in the Pharisee, non-respectability in the publican. See the two. The one, with his broad phylactery, his supercilious bearing, his Pharisaism reflected in every feature of his sallow countenance, as with measured step he proceeds to the temple. In its inner court he stands erect; he arranges his prayer-robe, he looks around, the face darkened by a scowl as he observes the publican in a distant corner of the sacred building. And then he lifts his eye. No prayer trembles in any tone; no pleading escapes through any word; he “speaks with himself” rather than with God. It is a soliloquy, a self-gratified recital of his own piety. If he says, “God, I thank thee” (vers. 11, 12), it is not for any grace that he has received, it is not in acknowledging that only through a higher mercy and strength he is what he is; nay, with something of familiarity in the address, he bids the Almighty join him in admiration of his virtues, on account of which he is lifted above other men. Only by certain averages of his own striking does he measure his excellence, the climax being reached, when there comes the contemptuous “even as this publican.” Oh, what a superior person, to be sure! With what satisfaction must highest Heaven regard one who fasted twice in the week, and gave tithes of all he possessed! The other, with hurried gait, as one intent only on pouring out his heart before God, takes his place far off. He has no wish to disturb the complacency of his fellow-worshipper. He claims nothing; self-assertion in every form is absent from his heart. The only presence with him is the Holy One of Israel. Beneath the vision of his holiness all that is of the earth must keep silence. He will not even lift up his eyes. He has not much to record; human righteousness even is but a filthy rag when held up to the light of that Perfect Holiness. And as for him, oh, there can be only the one prayer, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” (ver. 13). He is overpowered with the conviction of sin. His only refuge is the mercy of the Eternal. “I tell you” (ver. 14), concludes Christ, “this man is manifested to be one of God’s elect. He, not the other, returns to his house the one accepted and justified.” The parable is most suggestive.
I. IT IS THE EXPOSURE OF SPIRITUAL PRIDE IN ITS ROOT AND FRUIT. Its root, the measurement of self by “other men.” God is not in the thought. The song of the seraphim, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts,” sounds faintly in the ear. The mind is not occupied with him and his holiness. It looks around rather than above. The standard is a social one. There is “a zeal for the Law, but not according to knowledge.” Having settled the constituents of righteousness, and having in conduct realized these constituents, it looks from the legal vantage-ground on others. And, seeing the many below the elected level, it whispers within itself, “I thank thee that I am not as they.” The I struts abroad with a distinct sense of superiority. This pride is the parasite of religiosity. And religiosity is the whole religion of many. Religiosity means the performance, punctilious and sincere, of acts and offices, functions and services. It may comprehend a wide area of the existence. It may fill up much of time and much of thought, and he who abounds in it is held to be a religious man. But it is a morality untouched by the emotion of the broken and contrite spirit. There is no distinctively evangelical motive force. On an earlier occasion, the contrast between the routine religiosity and the warm religion of the heart was presented at the dinner-table where Simon the Pharisee presided, and the woman washed the Lord’s feet with her tears. Of her he said, “She hath loved much.” Here the Pharisee is in opposition to the publican, who had the inner spirit of poverty. Now, one who has the religiosity, not the religion, is apt to rest on the duties which he discharges, on the zeal which he manifests. He trusts in himself as being righteous, and, wherever there is this trust, there creeps around it a feeling of superiority. “I am not as other men are.” It engenders the separatist’s haughty spirit. It brings in the sentiment of a caste. The “I” belongs to the religious world, “others” are without. Let us beware lest we rest satisfied with a righteousness like that of the Pharisee, lest we substitute the outward for the inward—what we do for what we are. Let us beware of that which always develops with this tendency—the habit of comparison of self with others on levels lower than our own, instead of realizing “the vision splendid” of that righteousness which demands the entire self. It is this trust, this self-elevation, this pride of righteousness, which vitiates the sacrifice of many who go up to the temple to pray.
II. It is the COMMENDATION OF HUMILITY, IN ITS ESSENTIAL NATURE AND BLESSEDNESS. What is humility? It is not so much a self-consciousness as a God-consciousness; not so much a mean thinking of ourselves as a thrilling, penetrating consciousness of him who is perfect holiness and truth. There is a self-abhorrence, but that follows the seeing of God with the opened inner eye. The Pharisee had no conviction of sin, because he had no real discernment of the Eternal. His god was the property of his caste, one on whom he had a claim because of his belonging to the caste and doing what was required by it. The publican felt God at his heart; and the sight awoke the longing to be holy as God is, and the longing to be holy called out the sense of wrongness. Oh, how he had offended! how selfish and grasping and wicked he had been! All else fades into indistinctness; in that temple there are to him but the two presences, God and his soul, and the soul cries, “God be merciful!” It is the first cry of the soul which God has appropriated. There is no real prayer until that cry. A genuine earnest pleading is evoked. The beginning of all prayer, Christ reminds us, is the taking of the sinner’s place, and the simple appeal to mercy. And as it is the first, so it is the cry ever pulsing through prayer. It is never wanting from the justified. The pardon has been received. The blood cleanses from all sin; but not the less, all the more, is the knowledge of sin and the need of the ever-renewed application of mercy. This is humility—sinful self cast on Divine mercy, and, forgiven much, loving much. There is no measurement with other men, for God is the all in all. And this is blessed. The Pharisee returns—his pride more deeply written into his nature, its blight and curse; no spring in the heart, no visitation of any day-spring from on high. Remaining in his pride, he was truly abased. The publican returns—a burden rolled off from his heart, a new elasticity in his step, a new light is his countenance. “The winter is past, … the flowers appear on the earth.” He is at peace with God, justified, sanctified, righteous in the communion of the Righteous One. “I, yet not I, for he lives in me.” In his humility he was exalted.
Vers. 18–25.—The ruler who refused the crown. It is a certain ruler, a young man, who accosts our Lord. And the question which he asks represents one of the deepest cravings of the human breast. Is it only in the Gospels that we find this question? It is written into all the religions, into the best of all the philosophies, the poetries, the guesses at truth, which have commanded the thought of the ages. It is as old as human nature, as manifold in its complexion as the human experience, as abiding in its persistence as the human need. It is our question—one compared with which the hundred things which claim our attention are only as strivings after wind. Let us listen. The eternal life: what is it? and how is it realized?
I. WHAT DID THE YOUNG MAN MEAN when he came running and kneeling and asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer may indicate the essential features of the desire that has haunted the breast. Clearly he meant three things: 1. A real, personal existence—one implying distinct consciousness and activity. He is too prosaic, too selfishly in earnest, to mean less than this. 2. An existence removed from the imperfections of the present time. His notions of immortality may have been crude; but he certainly desired a life which, as contrasted with the changeful and limited, is an eternal life. 3. A life in relation to a moral or spiritual system. He has possessions. Sirens are ever luring him to the fateful shores of pleasure. Against them “the categorical imperative” of conscience is ever dominant. It says, “Root thy conduct in the everlastingly true. The eternal life is not mere endlessness. It is endless goodness, truth. And to be in harmony with this is to live eternally.” Now, such being the contents of his thought, the burden which he brings to the Master is—how it comes that, although the harmony of his conduct with this system is complete, he is still unsatisfied; nay, that the more he seems to approach the ideal the more conscious he is that it is far ahead of him. “Explain it to me” is the passionate entreaty; and who does not love him for this sublime passion? “What is the missing quantity? What is the plus yet to be possessed that I may have eternal life?”
II. Turning to THE ANSWER OF CHRIST, and connecting it with words elsewhere, WHAT IS CHRIST’S EXPOSITION OF THE ETERNAL LIFE? The question is, “What shall I do?” And to this the specific reply is, “Be free. Your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions. Can you part with them, that you may the more unreservedly obey the vision which has dawned on you?” (ver. 22). Thus the truth probed him. He might not have been called actually to sell his estate, any more than Abraham was called to offer up Isaac. But the trial of his will was made; and, in the trial, he was found wanting (ver. 23). Do we blame him?—we whom the truth is proving every day, only to find that we are caught up by all kinds of vanities! He turned away; and, alas! what of us? But the demand of the Lord reminds us of the requirement essential to the eternal life. Life, we are told by scientists, consists in an adaptation of organism to surrounding. When the adaptation is complete, and the surrounding nourishes the organism, there is health. When it is impaired, there is sickness; when it is broken, there is death. Human life has both a spiritual and a material environment. As the ruler rightly supposed, the eternal life implies correspondence to the spiritual environment. Where there is no such correspondence, where, in Scripture phrase, the life is “without God,” there is death. Where the correspondence has been formed, and the inner life is nourished by the system which surrounds it, there is spiritual, eternal life. But are not the phrases, “systems,” “environments,” too vague and abstract? Do we not need something more concrete, something nearer us, than such abstractions? This is more concrete, this is nearer us, “Take up the cross; come, follow me” (ver, 22). A perfect Man has walked this earth—One in whom the correspondence with the heavenly environment was complete, who lived in and with a Father in heaven, and whose meat was to do his will. His existence, in its details, we cannot copy; but his life, in its principles, inspirations, in all that gave it its beauty and glory, we can realize, under varying conditions. To be joined to him; to live in his light; to be the manner of person that he was; to be affianced to him as the Lord and Friend and Brother of our perfect choice; and have his flesh as meat indeed, and his blood as drink indeed;—this is the way to the eternal life. But what is this life whose way is thus defined? It must be kept always in view that eternal is not merely another name for endless. Endless time would not he eternity. The eternal is the timeless. Everlasting existence may be involved; but this is because the life is what it is—Divine, and therefore imperishable. Christ has supplied many unfoldings of this Divine life (see John 3:1–13; 6:32–53; 17:3). May the guidance of the Holy Spirit illumine this teaching! and may we all realize the secret of St. John: “He that hath the Son hath the life!”
III. THIS RULER INTERESTS US. The narrative concerning him suggests reflections which may be dwelt on with profit. 1. The difficulty, the hindrance, to salvation that is interposed by riches. (Vers. 24, 25.) Great possessions, Christ declares, increase the risk of losing the true spiritual health, are apt to stand in the way of the eternal life. It is not the riches themselves that are evil; it is, as one of the evangelists explains, the trust in them, the sensation of them, that is the evil. And may there not be a trust in riches, even when they are not actually possessed? We may have very little, and yet have such a craving for more as proves that the ungotten wealth stands for our best. More than this, with little there may he as much of earthliness and love of the world as when there is much. It is a wretched slavery which one often sees, and the feeling of which one often detects in one’s own breast. Persons are miserably ruled over by the sense of wealth. Neither do they get the good, nor does the world get the full good, of what they have. On the other hand, the poor cannot rise to the real dignity of their being because they set possessions on the height which they regard as the summum bonum. Social life is honeycombed by that trust in riches. “How hard it is,” says Christ, “for those that have riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” (ver. 24). 2. A crown is refused. Who the ruler was we cannot tell. On a sudden he appears, on a sudden he disappears. Is he wrecked, like a ship with full sail, at the harbour-bar? It is noticeable that Jesus “loved him;” in this distinction he is bracketed, in the Gospels, with Martha and Mary and Lazarus. For a moment the crown hangs over his head. Did he finally reject it? But he waves it aside. Oh, not the last who has missed the flood-tide—the blessing offered to the man, and the man turning from it! Young men, all, reflect!
Vers. 35–43.—Bartimæus. Here are two noises suggestive of the human life with which we are all familiar. There is the tramp, tramp, tramp, of the swaying multitude, the din of the many minds, many experiences, many mouths, all moving in obedience to a common impulse. Men and women, when they become mere units of a crowd, forget for the time their personal histories. They are swept on by the current, sharing and adding to its excitement. There is nothing more unaccountable sometimes than the impulses which are communicated from person to person, and pass by infection to the multitude. Different days have their different idols. Those who are shouting themselves hoarse with their hosannahs at Jericho will shout themselves hoarse with the cry, “Away with him! Crucify him!” at Jerusalem. Oh, fickle popularity! The Lord knew what the applause of the crowd was worth. The children crying in the temple were far more to him than the loud voice and the tremendous enthusiasm of the thousands who had swelled the triumph of the entry into the city of David. But through that tumult, in the midst of that noise, there is another—that which always reaches the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Only one voice, at most two voices, shrill and clamorous—the voice of misery and want and prayer! Had he not heard that same voice to highest heaven? Had it not pierced through the praises of angel and archangel, of cherubim and seraphim—the cry of a sinful and weary world? A little one only in the system of the universe, but the least in need has a special way of access to the Eternal Love. Far off the great Shepherd hears the bleat of the sheep that has strayed into the wilderness. He who heard the sigh of the world from the excellent glory will not turn from the piteous pleading of the poor and needy. God’s tenderness individualizes. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”
I. REGARD THIS POOR MAN. Perhaps we shall realize that he is our near kinsman. 1. He has been sitting by the wayside begging. And what are we all but beggars at the world’s wayside? Even the mind most richly endowed, the heart most wealthy in love and imagination, needs “the life more and fuller.” Is there no begging from heaven? no consciousness of a fountain of living waters? This Bartimæus, taking his place day by day on the thoroughfare and asking an alms, is only too faithful a picture of me, wanting, desiring, and, alas! too often trying to satisfy my soul with some dole of happiness or excitement thrown to me—a beggar all the while, blind. 2. What is this? An unusual bustle and din. What does it mean? We can imagine the question addressed, with only a languid interest, to some person at band—a languor which vanishes when the answer is given, “It is Jesus of Nazareth who is passing by.” Ah! the newness of cry, sign of newness of life! What and how he had heard of this Jesus we know not; but he had heard enough to open the gates of the soul. The one argument is need, the one reasoning, “I am here; he is there. Son of David, have mercy on me!” It is the great hour of a human life when speech is begun between the soul and heaven. Such speech arrests the love of God in the way. “We enter heaven by prayer.” 3. Those around bid the one who cries hold his peace. So speak the many to the one in earnest. Notice how often in the Gospels the disciples are represented as keeping back from Christ instead of helping to him (see ver. 15). They did not know the heart of God. And men do not know it still. There is often a “send away” in the minds of even the well-disposed. Earnestness meets discouragements where it leasts expects them. Cry on, thou who hast felt the breath of the passing Saviour. If those about thee are unsympathetic, throw thyself the more on thy Lord; the more they protest, cry thou the more, “Son of God, they will not take me up. Father and mother even forsake me. Thou, thou only art my hope. Make no tarrying, O my God.”
II. THINK OF THE SAVIOUR, IN WHOM THE LIVING GOD IS REVEALED. 1. There is the Christ-commandment. “Bring him hither to me.” It is the commandment to an often misunderstanding and misinterpreting Church. Christ has much to bear at the hand of the world; he has much also to bear at the hand of his Church. How frequently those who are his repel rather than attract, send away rather than bring! “Bring”—there is no gainsaying this charge. Instantly the tone of the multitude changes. Now it is, “Rise, be of good comfort; he calleth thee.” And what alacrity in the Bartimæus-obedience! The old tattered garment connected with the past time of, it may have been, a sinful life is thrown away. There is no stopping to inquire how the blind can reach that blessed presence. He has called. In the call there is the pledge of a sufficient grace. O mirror of Divine condescension! O word, preparing for work, of power! “The blind, the poor, bring to me!” 2. There is the Christ-question. “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” The question is put when the presence is reached. The presence is the help to the answer. Now, the great underlying want is expressed, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” Is it not the prayer of the human heart when the quickening presence of God is realized? It is to prepare for the revelation that the will is gently besieged. He cannot force; he can only draw. Stooping to thee, the person thou art, and as thou art, the word of grace and truth is, “What wilt thou?” 3. And then the Christ-action. “He touched the eyes,” says St. Matthew. “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee,” says St. Luke. His faith had been a trust in the dark. He could not make the light, but he could call for it. And he had called, he had pressed to Christ, awfully in earnest, unboundedly confident. The faith saved through what it did. It brought him to the Lord; and that is salvation. The first use of the new sight was to behold the Deliverer. The first face that wrote its image in the heart was the face of God in Christ. Saved, whole, because that face was formed in the heart of hearts, never more to fade from it. “I was blind; now I see.” “Go thy way,” says the Lord. “Nay, dearest Master, where thou goest I will go. Where thou dwellest I will dwell. Thy way is mine. Mine the new song which thou hast given. Thou hast touched my eyes—

“ ‘And in that light of life I’ll walk
Till travelling days are done.’ ”
HOMILIES BY VARIOUS AUTHORS

Vers. 1–7.—Continuance in prayer: Divine delay. We have first to consider what is—
I. THE ARGUMENT IN THE TEXT. It is one from the less to the greater, or rather from the unworthy to the worthy. If a bad man will, for a poor reason, accede to the request of one for whom he cares nothing, how much more certainly will the Righteous One himself, for a good reason, espouse the cause of those who are so dear to him! The reasons for confidence in God’s faithfulness and interposition are therefore threefold. 1. If an unprincipled judge amongst men will finally do justice, assuredly the righteous Judge of all the earth will do so. His character is something which cannot fail; we may build on that as on the most solid rock. 2. If justice is granted by us for so poor a reason as that of fearing vexatious annoyance, surely God will listen and will respond to reverent and believing prayer. He is far more certain to be won by that in us which pleases him than is an unjust judge by that in his appellant which annoys him. And our approach to him in prayer, our reverent attitude, our faith in his goodness, our trust in his Word,—all this is very pleasing unto our Father. 3. If a man will yield a demand made by one to whom he does not feel himself related, and in whom he is absolutely uninterested, how confident we may be that God will interpose on behalf of those who, as his own sons and daughters, are dear to his parental heart, and who, collectively, constitute “his own elect”—those who are most tenderly and intimately related to him in Jesus Christ his Son!
II. THE SERIOUS FACT OF THE DIVINE DELAY. “Though he bear long with them” (ver. 7), or, “and he delays [to interpose] in their cause” (Dr. Bruce). It is certain that, from our point of view, God does delay to vindicate his people; his answer does not come as soon as we expect it; it is held back so long that we are ready “to faint” (lose heart). Thus was it many times in the history of Israel; thus has it been frequently in the history of the Church of Christ. How many times have suffering bands of noble martyrs looked up piteously and despondently to heaven as they cried, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood?” Thus has it been in multitudes of individual instances; men have been oppressed, or they have been embarrassed, or they have been disappointed, or they have been otherwise afflicted; they have appealed to God for his delivering grace; and they have looked long in vain for the Divine response. They say, “O my God, I cry, … but thou hearest not” (Ps. 22:2).
III. THE EXPLANATION THAT WILL BE FOUND. The time will come when we shall understand why God did delay to answer us. But we may be quite sure that when it comes it will be seen: 1. That it was not in him—not in his absence from us, nor his indifference to us, nor his unreadiness to help us. 2. That it was in us—in our unreadiness to receive his interposition, or in the misuse we should make of it, or in the greater and truer good to be gained by our patience than by our relief; and thus in the ultimate gain to our own well-being by his withholding.
IV. THE BLESSED FACT THAT IT IS ONLY A DELAY. “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.” 1. It is probable that when God does manifest his power he will work speedy and overwhelming destruction to the guilty; he will avenge “speedily,” i.e. quickly, instantaneously. “How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image” (Ps. 73:19, 20). 2. It is certain that in his own time and way God will defend his people, that he will relieve his children, that he will redeem and bless his “own elect.” His faithfulness to his Word; his love for them that love him; his intimacy of relation to those who are “in Jesus Christ;”—this is a sure and absolute pledge that the appeal to him cannot be and will not be in vain. Men ought continuously, perseveringly, to pray, and never to lose heart. The day of Divine appearing is entered in the books of God.—C.
Ver. 8.—Our unbelief. “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” These words have no special reference, if they have any at all, to the condition of the world at the “second coming” of Christ. In order to understand and appreciate them, we must consider—
I. WHAT IS THE FORCE AND RANGE OF THIS EXPRESSION, “the coming of the Son of man.” And it will be found on investigation that it signifies any special manifestation of God’s power or any special appearance of Christ either in Person or in providence. This may be: 1. In mercy; including the Incarnation, when the Son of man came “not to destroy but to save” the world; the Resurrection, when he came in power and triumph from the other world; the Day of Pentecost, when he came in marvellous outpouring of Divine influence upon the world. 2. In judgment; including the destruction of Jerusalem; the day of death to each human being; the day of judgment itself, when “before him shall be gathered all nations.”
II. WHAT IS THE APPLICATION OF IT IN THE TEXT. A widow appeals for redress against “her adversary” (the defendant) to an unprincipled judge. He puts her off until her importunity makes him listen and respond in order to save himself from annoyance. Arguing à fortiori, our Lord contends that God, the righteous Judge, will most certainly grant to his own people (children) the requests they make of him (see previous homily). But, continues the great Teacher, who had such a perfect insight into our nature, when he does that, and “comes” in judgment to his foes and in mercy to his friends, will he find his friends expecting him? will they be looking for his appearing? will their attitude be one of holy expectation, of instant recognition, and of devout thankfulness? or will they not, after all their asking, be positively surprised and even incredulous at his manifestation? He will come most assuredly, but when he comes, will he find faith on the earth?
III. WHAT ILLUSTRATIONS WE HAVE OF THE TRUTH OF IT. 1. We have two striking scriptural illustrations. (1) Christ’s own coming, after his resurrection, to his disciples. Instead of looking for him and welcoming him, according to his word (ver. 33), they were astounded and incredulous (ch. 24:11, 22, 23, 37). He did not “find faith” in them. (2) His coming in providential deliverance to Peter. when the Church had been praying without ceasing for him, they should have been hoping for a Divine visitation in response to their prayer. Nevertheless, When it came, were they not found unbelieving and astonished (Acts 12:5, 15)? Are we much better than they? 2. Christ’s coming in judgment. Such narrow and false interpretations as the Jews were apt to put upon sudden and sad calamities (ch. 13:1–4) we must scrupulously avoid. But when we see a man who has defied all laws, human and Divine, brought down into shame and ruin, or when we see a guilty empire which was founded on violence, sustained by force, and nourished in corruption, stricken down by defeat and reduced to dishonour and disaster, shall we be surprised as if a strange thing had happened? or shall We not rather feel that this is precisely what we had every reason to expect from the righteousness of the Divine Ruler? 3. Christ’s coming in grace and mercy. When the Christian family, in answer to earnest and continued prayer, is just saved from serious embarrassment and perhaps from disgrace; when the Christian Church, after much pleading for God’s Spirit, receives marked and manifest tokens of the presence and power of God in the midst of it; when the Christian teacher or preacher, as the issue of much devout and faithful work, finds many souls to be seeking the life which is of God;—is the attitude of that family, that Church, that teacher, one of calm expectation and devout acquiescence? or is it not rather one of surprise, if not even of incredulity? When we have been imploring the Son of man to come, and he comes at our appeal, does he find us awaiting and expecting him? Surely, with fuller and deeper faith on our part, there would be a more frequent coming on the part of our gracious Lord in life-giving power and blessing.—C.
Vers. 9–14.—The Pharisee and the publican. The scene indicated by our Lord’s opening sentences is easily realized. We readily picture to our minds the place and the two persons in whom we are interested—the haughty Pharisee and the humbleminded publican. We readily imagine their demeanour as they enter, their posture as they pray, their reception as they pass through the courts going and returning. But we ask how and why was it that the Pharisee was rejected and the publican accepted. And in reply we say: 1. In some respects the two men stood on the same ground. Both were free from the taint of idolatry and were worshipping God; both appreciated the privilege of prayer; both came to the same building, and, using the same invocation, each uttered the uppermost thought in his mind. 2. In some aspects the Pharisee seemed to have the advantage. (1) He had the respect of the public, the good and God-fearing public, of the respectable people of his day; (2) he had lived the worthiest life in all social and political relations; (3) he was much the more “religious” of the two, in the sense that his habit of life was devout and charitable, while that of the publican had been godless and avaricious. 3. The terms of their respective prayers are not decisive of their acceptableness in the sight of God. (1) A truly humble man might speak to God in the strain, though not in the spirit, of the Pharisee. It is quite right to thank God for being preserved from presumptuous sins and being kept in the path of rectitude and devotion (see Ps. 41:12, 13). (2) A thoroughly formal worshipper might present the petition of the publican. How often, since then, have these or very similar words been used by “penitents” who have been impenitent, by those who have taken the language of humility on their lip while they “have regarded iniquity in their heart”! A modern writer (T. T. Lynch) represents these two men as going up again to the temple; but this time the Pharises, adopting the publican’s form of words in hope of acceptance, is again rejected; while the publican, giving thanks to God for his reconciliation and renewal, is again accepted—

“For sometimes tears and sometimes thanks,
But only truth can please.”

How, then, do we explain the fact that “this man went down to his house justified rather than the other”?
I. THE PHARISES HAD FORMED A RADICALLY FALSE ESTIMATE of his own character, and the publican a true one of his. The Pharisee thought he was everything God wished him to be, and was miserably wrong in his estimate; he was reckoning that God cared chiefly if not exclusively for the outside in religion, that his favour was secured by ceremonies, by proprieties, by punctualities, by utterances of prescribed forms. He failed to understand that this was only the shell and not the kernel, and that the shell of correct behaviour is nothing without the kernel of a reverent and loving spirit. The publican, on the other hand, believed that he was very far from right with God; that he had been living a guilty life, and was condemned of God for so doing; and his thought was true.
II. THE PHARISEE’S FALSE ESTIMATE LED HIM INTO SELF-FLATTERY; the publican’s true estimate into frank, penitential acknowledgment. Under the cover of gratitude, the one man paid himself handsome compliments, and held on high his great meritoriousness, thus confirming in his own mind the delusion that he was a favourite of Heaven; the other, moved by a deep sense of personal unworthiness, made honest confession of sin, and sought the mercy he knew he needed.
III. GOD HATES THE PROUD, AND HONOURS THE HUMBLE-HEARTED. Old and New Testaments may be said to be full of this truth. God has said and has repeated, he has most plainly and emphatically declared, that pride is odious and unpardonable in his sight; but that humility shall live before him (ver. 14; see also Ps. 32:5; 138:6; Prov. 28:13; Isa. 57:15; Matt. 5:3; 1 Pet. 5:6; 1 John 1:8, 9). Here is: 1. A message of solemn warning. It concerns those who are the spiritual descendants of the Pharisee; who are satisfied with their spiritual condition but have no right to be so; who are building the hope of their hearts on things which are external, but in whom the love of God does not dwell. And here is: 2. A message of gracious encouragement. It concerns those who are burdened with a sense of sin and need not remain so. The way of mercy is open to every penitent soul. Jesus Christ is the “Propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” and the grace of God in him far more than suffices for every guilty heart. In him we have forgiveness of sins; in him we have peace and hope and joy, even eternal life.—C.
Vers. 15, 16.—Christ and the children: a sermon to children. This familiar and attractive scene is well conceived and described in the lines commencing, “Over the hills of Jordan.” It contains valuable lessons for the young.
I. THE KINDLINESS OF JESUS CHRIST. Some kind men are not kindly. They will do a great deal for you, will give much to you, will run serious risks or even make serious sacrifices on your behalf; but they are not gracious, genial, winning. They are not approachable; you are not drawn to them; you are not inclined to address them and make friends with them; they rather repel than invite you. Such was not Jesus Christ. He was not only kind at heart, but kindly in manner and in bearing. The children of his day went freely and gladly to him. That “he was never seen to smile” is a wholly unauthorized and, we may be quite sure, an entirely false statement. Did he not take those infants into his arms with a smile upon his face? Did he not frequently, ay, constantly, smile as he looked upon innocency, upon hopefulness, upon childhood? Think of Jesus Christ as not only the kind but the kindly One, as not only the good but the gracious One, as not only the wise but the winning One. Think of him as that One to whom, if he were with us now as he was with men of old, you would be drawn with an irresistible attraction, and to whom you could, without any effort, unburden your heart. And believe that just what he was on earth he is in heaven.
II. JESUS CHRIST STILL RECEIVES US TO THE SHELTER OF HIS LOVING POWER. He took them up into his arms. The arms of the parent are the place of shelter to the child; to them in all time of danger or of distress he naturally and eagerly resorts. It is the place of strength, of defence, of succour. But youth needs more than human sympathy and help; it needs a refuge in Divine tenderness and power. It does so always; but more particularly when parental care is lost, because the parents themselves have “passed into the skies.” Very seriously is this need felt when parental care is left behind, when youth or young manhood goes forth from the shelter of the home. Then how priceless is the shelter of the loving power of the Divine Friend! In that unknown “world” which lies beyond the home-life are perils that cannot be anticipated, and that are all unknown. Take care to secure the invaluable refuge of the Divine arm; for only in the protection of the all-wise Leader and almighty Friend will safety be found.
III. JESUS CHRIST STILL LAYS HIS HAND UPON US. Mark tells us (10:16) that he “put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” You still sing, “I wish that his hands had been laid on my head.” It is a right and becoming thought. But the laying of the hand of flesh on those children’s heads may not have wrought any great spiritual change in them; they may have grown up to reject him. Of far more consequence is it that Christ should now lay the hand of his Divine power and grace upon your heart; that he should so act upon you by his Divine Spirit that your mind should be illumined, and that you understand what is the good and the wise thing to do; that your heart should be touched so that you will live to love him who is worthiest of all that is best. “His touch has still its ancient power.” Yes; and more than the healing touch which gave sight to the blind and wholeness to the poor leper is that benignant power which opens the closed mind and cleanses the unholy heart.
IV. JESUS LOOKS AND WAITS FOR YOUR SUBMISSION. He says that it is you who, of all people, can most readily enter his holy kingdom. He must have your free and full consent. When he made the world, and sent the sun on its course, and gave to the sea its bounds, “he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” He compels all things in nature to do his bidding; but he asks, he invites your trust, your worship, your love. He cannot bless you as he would unless you consent to receive him as your own personal Lord and Saviour and Friend. But he assures you that this is open to you as it is not to others; the young can readily give their attention, their docility, their love, their obedience. Fewer and slighter hindrances are in your way than are in the path of those who have travelled further. Of such as you are now “is the kingdom of God.” This is the golden chance of your life.—C.
Ver. 17.—The child of man and the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ not only opened the gate of his kingdom to the little child as he opened his arms to the little children whom the mothers of Judah brought to him; he also took the little child as a type of the true disciple. He taught us that if we wish to enter his kingdom, our spirit must be the child-spirit. “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as,” etc. And what is this spirit? It is that of—
I. DOCILITY, or readiness to accept what is told us. The ideal child is teachable; it will learn because it is ready to receive; it has not found out the way of distrust and of rejection; it takes in the light, the truth, which is offered and it grows thereby. Men of mature years and powers, who have had all the advantages of Christian privileges, often stand without the kingdom because they will not receive the truth that is offered them; their mind is preoccupied with theories, systems, imaginations, of their own. They seem to know much; they believe they know much, for they are familiar with some things of which many (perhaps most) are ignorant; they could easily puzzle their neighbours by asking questions which these could not answer; they have a number of facts and laws, and a much larger number of names at their command; they “seem to be wise” (1 Cor. 3:18). But their knowledge is very small in comparison with all that has to be acquired; it is partly (largely) local, temporary, evanescent (1 Cor. 13:8); it is nothing to the wisdom of God. It becomes them, as it becomes us all, to feel toward God as our little children feel towards us—to cherish a spirit of docility. How much more he has to tell us than we have to teach them! How much greater is our ignorance in his sight than theirs is in ours! He who will not accept the doctrine of the Divine Fatherhood; he who will not yield himself to a Divine Saviour; he who will not pursue the path of holy service, hoping to find at the end of it a heavenly home,—because this does not square with some favourite theories, or because it transcends the range of some intellectual faculties, cannot enter the kingdom of truth, and therefore shuts himself out of the kingdom of God. We shall fail to stand on the first rung of the ladder that reaches heavenly wisdom unless we realize that we are all of us but very little children in the presence of our Father, and unless with docile spirit we come to his feet and say, “Lord, we are very ignorant; wilt thou teach us?”

“Lead us, O Father, in the path of truth;
Unhelped by thee, in error’s maze we grope.”

II. SIMPLICITY. The little child (of our thought and our affection) is simple, transparent, sincere; he says just what is in his mind, does not pretend he is naughty when he believes himself to be good—is real. This God demands of us—“truth in the inward parts,” sincerity of spirit. It does not further our cause with him to affect a piety that is not genuine; to simulate a penitence of which our heart knows nothing; to use the language of humility while pride is reigning within. He would rather we tell him just what we feel, just what we are, than adopt the most appropriate confessions or petitions. We must be like the children of our home; we must mean what we say when we draw nigh to him.
III. TRUSTFULNESS. Christianity is a religion which centres in a Person, in one Divine Being. “He that believeth in me,” “that abideth in me,”—that is the prevailing note. Trust in Jesus Christ as the Teacher, Saviour, Sovereign of the human soul, is the way of life. He who has that stands within “the kingdom of God.” Where shall we learn to trust? Is it not of the little child? As the child flees for refuge to its parent’s arms, confides itself and all it has or hopes for to its parent’s wisdom and love, so the human soul is invited to commit itself and all its everlasting interests to the Almighty Saviour, to say with implicit, childlike confidence and self-surrender—

“Jesus, Refuge of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly.”
C.

Vers. 18–22.—The, golden chance: a sermon to the young. Many features combine to make this incident one of peculiar interest.
I. THE PRINCIPLE ACTOR IN THE SCENE A YOUNG MAN. Matthew tells us this quite incidentally (19:22), but it adds great interest to the occurrence. For our hearts are drawn towards youth. Youth is innocent, ingenuous, frank, trustful, hopeful, loving. There is, moreover, some mystery about it. we know what the old man has been; We know what the man of middle life will be; but of youth we cannot tell; it may accomplish great things; it is covered with the delicate buds, with the beautiful flowers of promise.
II. A YOUNG MAN OF WEALTH AND INFLUENCE. This might not make him more interesting to Christ; but it does to us. The rich young heir may be of no more intrinsic worth than the beggar by the wayside; but because he is the heir of fortune, we care about him, we watch his career; we are specially glad if he takes a wise course, and are specially grieved if he goes astray.
III. A YOUNG MAN WITH SOME OF THE NOBLER QUALITIES OF YOUTH. 1. We note his reverence. Youth should be reverent. Ignorance and inexperience should pay to knowledge and wisdom the regard which is their due. We like this young man because he saw in that homeless Teacher a wisdom superior to his own, and came and prostrated himself before him in becoming homage. 2. We note his ardour. He came running (Mark 10:17) to meet and to learn of Christ. Youth should be, as in the person of this inquirer it was—eager, ardent, enthusiastic, sanguine of good things. 3. We note his religiousness. “Heaven lies about us in our infancy,” etc. Youth is the time when heavenly visions are most and best seen; When Divine claims, spiritual realities, are strongest and clearest to the soul; then “life eternal” has the deepest meaning. So was it with him. To him life held something larger and better than all his lands and houses; other and higher voices than those of debtors and stewards reached his ear; he had a vision of a holy service in which he might be engaged; of a Divine life he night be living; and running in his eagerness, and kneeling in his reverence, he looked up into the face of Christ and said, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
IV. A YOUNG MAN IN THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST, exciting his special interest. A young man, with his life before him and a soul not yet stained by the evil which is in the world, standing in the very presence of him who knew what human life might include and what the human soul was worth, who could tell him how to enlarge the one and how to ennoble the other, and who (Mark 10:21) took a tender and loving interest in this earnest spirit,—what could we have more profoundly interesting than this?
V. JESUS CHRIST REVEALING TO HIM THE TRUE STATE OF HIS HEART. Our Lord’s treatment of inquirers differed much; it was, no doubt, determined by the state of their heart, as he alone knew it. He replied to this young man as he did, because he wished him to know where he actually stood; he wished to show him that, in order to be prepared to lay hold on eternal life, it was not only necessary to have such sincerity as he had, and such earnestness as he had, but such earnestness as would make him ready to yield everything to the Lord of his life; and that this he had not. So, after leading him up to the point, he said, “Sell all that thou hast,” etc. And then the inquirer knew that he lacked one thing—one essential thing; he wanted that thoroughness of purpose toward God which made self-surrender possible to him. It was a glorious, golden chance, then used or then lost when this interview was held. It must have been the crisis of his career, on which everything hung for all the future. Similar in its nature, though not alike in its circumstances, is the opportunity offered to each one of us. 1. All the life of Christian privilege is the golden chance of our existence. “Now is the accepted time,” the period when everything, is open to us, when a noble and immortal future stretches out before us and is within our power. 2. Youth is the golden chance of life. It is in the days that are now passing, when the heart is warm, and the mind is open, and the conscience tender, and the life unburdened and unembarrassed, that Christ should be approached and his lasting friendship gained. 3. The day of Divine visitation is the golden chance of youth—that day when the truth and the grace of Jesus Christ are most powerfully felt, and a voice from heaven is heard saying of the path of life, “This is the way: walk ye in it.”—C.
Ver. 24.—Wealth and piety. Wherein lies the difficulty of a rich man entering the kingdom? This young ruler shrank from parting with his property; but Jesus Christ does not ordinarily ask men of wealth to “sell all that they have, and give to the poor.” His difficulty, therefore, is not the common one. 1. It is not that the rich man is not as welcome to the friendship of Christ as the poor man. He does not make distinctions in his invitation, or in his desire that men should come to him. In him to whom is neither male nor female, bond nor free, there is neither rich nor poor. The poor as much as the rich, and also the rich as much as the poor, are the objects of his love and of his seeking. The Lord of our nature regards us, and concerns himself for us, not on account of our circumstances, but because he knows the value of our souls. 2. Not because the rich man cannot illustrate the distinctive graces of Christianity. The sale and distribution of property in apostolic times was an expedient which was adopted for the occasion; but it was not insisted upon as necessary even then (Acts 5:4), and it was very soon abandoned. Paul, writing to Timothy, wrote on the supposition that the Christian Church included many wealthy men (1 Tim. 6). Every age and every country has witnessed the lives of wealthy Christian men, who have illustrated every grace that the great Teacher has commended. It is clear that a rich man may be as humble, as generous, as temperate, as pure, as devout, as any poor man can be; and he sometimes is so. The explanation of our Lord’s language is found in the fact that riches are apt to put a serious obstacle in the way of entrance into the kingdom. If we would find our way into that holy and blessed kingdom, it is necessary that we should have a sense of our personal emptiness and need. We come to Christ to be filled with his fulness, to be enriched by his grace and love. He is a Physician, and it is they who feel that they are, sick that are likely to apply for his healing power. He is the Divine Source of all wealth and enrichment (Rev. 3:18), and they must know themselves to be poor who come to buy of him gold that they may become rich. Hence the difficulty. It is for this reason that—
I. A MAN WHOSE MIND IS FULL OF KNOWLEDGE finds it hard to receive distinctive Christian truth. He is rich, as compared with his fellows, in the acquisition of knowledge. He is proud of this possession of his, and is bent on making the most of it. Jesus Christ comes to him, and says that he must lay aside his own views and notions, and sit at his feet and receive the truth he brings to him from God. Then the “rich” man has to sacrifice his favourite theories, has to make nothing of his learning, that he may admit to his mind the wisdom that is from above; and he finds it very “hard”to do this.
II. A MAN WHO IS CLOTHED WITH HONOUR finds it hard to take a very humble view of himself. For honour is an order of wealth, and one that is highly prized. But the natural and common effect of it is to lead those who are the objects of it to form a flattering view of themselves; it is hard to get them to believe that in God’s sight they may be as sinful as those held in very much less regard by their fellow-men. But the ground on which human souls must come to Christ is that of humility. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
III. A MAN WHOSE CHAMBERS ARE FULL OF TREASURE is tempted to seek his satisfaction in the lower good. We have to make our choice, as Divine truth is presented to us, whether we will live for the service of Christ or for our own personal enjoyment and aggrandizement. To the poor, to the afflicted, to the suffering, to those who know they have not long to live, the temptation to live for this present world is not so strong; on their ear the overtures of the gospel of grace fall as that very thing they need for their comfort and their peace; they have little to surrender, they have much to gain. But to those to whom every avenue of enjoyment is open; to those who may look hopefully, perhaps confidently, for place, for power, for society, for pleasure, for honour,—the inducement is very strong and urgent to cast in their lot with those “whose portion is in this life.” Many voices very close to their ear, very clear and convincing, call for their strength to be given to the material rather than the spiritual, to the temporal rather than the eternal, to the human rather than the Divine; and it is “hard” for them to resist and to overcome. 1. Let poverty find its ample consolation in the accessibility of the riches that always satisfy and never flee. 2. Let those who know neither poverty nor riches thank God for the happy mean in Which his providence has placed them—not subjecting them to the temptations of either. 3. Let wealth beware lest it make a sad, a supreme, mistake; lest, in the great spiritual strife, it—

“Clutch the tinsel gilding, and let go the crown of life.”
C.

Vers. 28, 29 (comp. Mark. 10:29, 30).—Christ’s estimate of a Christian life. It is certain that no literalist could ever understand Jesus Christ. Men of this order of mind utterly failed to understand him in his own time (see particularly John 6:41–46), and they are equally at fault to-day. It is clearly impossible to give a literal interpretation to these words of the Lord; the facts of the case do not permit it. But going to the heart of this Divine utterance, we understand that any one who for Christ’s sake suffers the loss of kindred and of worldly goods shall have that which, in the sight of God and in the light of his truth, is worth a hundred times more than any human or earthly blessings can be. We shall better see the truthfulness of this declaration if we approach the main thought from a little distance, and consider that human life is something the value of which depends not on the quantity but on the kind of it. A small quantity of human life outweighs in value a large amount of animal life. A very small portion of the higher human life transcends in value a large extent of lower human life. “Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.” Bailey has well written—

“Life’s more than breath and the quick round of blood;
It is a great spirit and a busy heart.
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.”

And there is wisdom as well as strength in the lines—

“One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.”

Lifting up this truth to the spiritual level of the teaching of Jesus Christ, we find that in such a life as that which is of him and in him—for the attainment of which We may have to make very great sacrifices—
I. THERE IS AN ELEVANTED AND TRANSPORTING JOY experienced in the very endurance of persecution; and this alone goes far towards fulfilling the Saviour’s word. This statement is simply historical. The apostles returned from the council, condemned and severely scourged, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his Name.” Paul and Silas sang the praises of God in the darkness and foulness of a Philippian dungeon. And under every sky since then, men and women, old and young and in the midst of life, have gone to the dungeon and to the stake and to the open grave in which they were to be buried alive, not with tears in their eyes and lamentations on their tongues, but with songs of praise upon their lips, and with keen, exultant triumph in their hearts. To-day there is far more of real and lasting joy to be found under the roof of the missionary compound than in the palatial buildings of European capitals, profounder and more lasting satisfaction in the self-sacrificing labours of the evangelist than in the lounging idleness of the sons and daughters of fashion and off pleasure.
II. IN TRUE DISCIPLESHIP THERE ARE SOURCES OF JOY which altogether outweigh any losses that may be entailed by fidelity. Some people know just enough of “religion” to find it a weariness, a burden, an anxiety. This is neither piety nor policy; it does not secure God’s favour, and it gives no satisfaction to them. But the true and thorough servant of Jesus Christ, heartily surrendering himself to his Divine Redeemer, and devotedly engaging in his service, has “manifold more” of blessedness than he loses by anything with which he parts. He has (1) the favour, the forgiving and abiding love of God his Father; his lifelong, his unfailing friendship; (2) happy, holy fellowship with Jesus Christ, and, through him, with the true and pure and good amongst men; (3) a share in that holy service, outside of which is no rectitude for man, in which is rightness and wisdom, and therefore peace and joy; (4) the luxury, the blessedness of usefulness, of doing good and communicating, of being a source of strength and healing to the poor and needy; (5) “And in the world to come eternal life;” not the lingering and lasting shadows into which Greek and Roman shrank from descending; not the uninviting sheôl of the Hebrews; but everlasting day, eternal life—life in its fulness, its freedom, its blessedness, its glory, life never ceasing but enlarging and unfolding evermore. What commanding, convincing, constraining reasons are here for choosing the Master’s service! What is it that he asks us to surrender for his sake? Anything in the way of profit, or pleasure, or companionship? Perhaps something in these ways. But what we gain by accepting him as Saviour and Friend is a thousand times more precious than all that we can be called upon to renounce. Even here and now God gives to us far more than he takes from us; and, beside this, in the world to come is “eternal life,” We may welt do as Peter said he and his associates had done—leave all to follow Christ.—C.
Vers. 31–34.—God’s concealing kindness, etc. The clear prevision which the Lord Jesus Christ had of the future which was before him may suggest to us the thought—
I. GOD’S KINDNESS IN CONCEALMENT. We often try to forecast the future, and sometimes wish that we could do so less imperfectly than we can. But our very inability to do this is to us a valuable shield that saves us from great unhappiness. For who of us would care to proceed at all if he knew all the sorrowful experiences through which his path would lie? We sometimes feel a humane satisfaction that the sheep and cattle that browse so contentedly to-day in the field have not their short enjoyment marred by any expectation of the slaughter-house they are to enter to-morrow. And we may well be thankful that so thick a veil hangs over our future, that we cannot possibly tell what are the troubles that will befall us, or where our life will be darkened with its deeper shadows. Even when, as with Paul, we know that “bonds and afflictions abide us,” still, like him, we do “not know the things that will befall us” then. And whilst, on the one hand, we very commonly have enough of premonition to make desirable preparation for coming evil, on the other hand our life is so ordered that we go happily and hopefully on our way, untroubled by the evils which are in front of us but which are mercifully hidden from our view.
II. OUR LORD’S LEADERSHIP IN THE EXPERIENCE OF APPREHENSION. Our happy inability to anticipate the future is not the whole of the truth, though it is a large part of it. It remains true that there is a considerable amount of apprehension in the structure of our life. There are times hen we clearly foresee some trial ahead of us. We may not know precisely the time of its arrival, nor the elements of which it will be composed. But we can tell that “our hour is coming.” Before us, at no great distance, is suffering, is separation, is loss, is loneliness, is heart-ache. The road we are travelling along will soon descend, and we shall go down into the darkly shaded valley. Of that we have no doubt; and our spirit trembles, our heart is full of foreboding and, perchance, misgiving. How shall we pass through that dark valley? How bravely or how weakly, how worthily or how unbecomingly, shall we undergo that experience when it comes? There are many sources of encouragement to which we might resort. But this passage speaks to us of one of the best of them. Christ has gone this way before us—this way of keen and anxious apprehension. He knew that the most trying experiences were only a little way in front of him. He knew that the last extremity of human hatred and of human cruelty would be visited upon him. The Jews would condemn him with all their malignity, and the Gentiles would maltreat him with all their disdainful and powerful heartlessness. The sad and shameful future immediately before him stood clear to his sight, clearer far than any coming sorrow can shape itself to us. Therefore we may feel that: 1. We are treading in the footsteps of our Lord, and it is enough for the disciple to be as his Master. 2. We may he confident of his tenderest and fullest sympathy. He has suffered just what we are suffering now. 3. he will help us in our time of need. As he himself sought of man the succour he did not find, and was glad to receive from heaven the comfort he did not ask (Mark 14:34, 37; and ch. 22:43), we may he well assured that he will not refuse us all the aid we need and ask of him when the trial-hour of our experience shall have come.
III. THE DIFFICULTY OF DISCIPLESHIP—TO LEARN UNWELCOME TRUTH. There was no inherent incomprehensibleness in the words Christ here employed; yet “they understood none of these things:” Why did they not comprehend such intelligible language? Because the truth conveyed was so exceedingly unwelcome. It cut across all their cherished hopes respecting the Messiah; it dashed their natural expectations to the ground; and it went sorely against all that their affection prompted them to believe and cherish. “It could not, must not, did not mean that,” they said in their hearts. It is not the strangeness nor the profundity of truth which is too much for us; it is its remoteness from that on which we have set our heart. We do not understand that which clashes with our prejudices, or our passions, or our affections. The apostles of Christ would have saved themselves from many hours of awful sorrow and abject hopelessness and painful incredulity, if their feelings had allowed them to understand the truth which their Master put so plainly and so repeatedly before them (Matt. 16:21; 17:22; 20:17). Can it be that Jesus Christ is saying something to us which we ought to understand, but do not because it is unwelcome to our hearts, or because it is at variance with all our old and strong habits of thought? Is it possible that he is calling us to repentance, to self-surrender, to a full confession of our faith, to a nobler life, to some field of active work, and we do not understand what he is saying to us? Where his own apostles so greatly failed, may not we be found at fault? Shall we leave it to future darkness and a great surprise and a mortifying discovery of error to set us straight? Or shall we not rather recognize in time our liability to mistake; seek to have an open mind to receive all his holy will concerning us; ask God to help us to remove the bandages of prejudice and of earthly attachments from the eyes of our understanding; seek by docility and devoutness of spirit to be such disciples of the Master that, when he speaks even unwelcome truth to us, we shall understand him and obey?—C.
Ver. 37.—Present but passing opportunity. Pathetic stories are told of those who, in circumstances of the greatest danger or distress, have suddenly found themselves almost within reach of blessed deliverance, but who just failed to realize their hope. It is the captive knight past whose dungeon a friendly host is filing, and the sound of the clarion drowns his pleading cries; or it is the shipwrecked sailor on the lonely island whose laboriously constructed signal the ship that is homeward bound does not descry, and who sees his one chance of rescue vanishing away. Those who have never known a supreme misfortune, together with a possibility, which was only a possibility, of deliverance, cannot realize the thrilling and all but intolerable suspense of such moments of present but passing opportunity as Bartimæus now knew. He was blind, helpless, shut out from all the sights and nearly all the enjoyments of human life; his lot was of the darkest and the saddest; and there was passing by One who could turn darkness into day, dreariness and gloom into blessedness and beauty, if only he could win his ear and make his plea. This glorious Healer was within a few paces of him, would soon be actually in front of him, would all too soon be gone beyond his call. “Jesus of Nazareth was passing by!” We see here—
I. THE SORENESS OF OUR SPIRITUAL NEED. We are blind, helpless, suffering the worst privations, under the dominion of sin. We recognize not our Father, our brethren, our true selves, our true opportunities, our chief perils, our real interests; and our blindness is not only immeasurably reducing the value of our present life, but is leading us to that which is darker still and sadder far.
II. THE NEAR PRESENCE OF JESUS CHRIST. A Divine Deliverer is at hand. Quite near to us, within reach of our voice, within touch of our hand, is One who can open our eyes and make us see clearly all that we need to know. At our very door is One who is not only ready at our entreaty, but even prepared already and eager to supply all our need. Here is One who offers to: 1. Enlighten our mind. 2. Restore the relationship to God our Father we have lost by our sin. 3. Constitute himself our almighty and unchanging Friend and Guide through all our life. 4. Conduct us and receive us to a heavenly home.
III. THE PASSING OF PRESENT OPPORTUNITY. This priceless chance is ours to-day; but how long will it remain within our reach? Jesus of Nazareth is near, but he is passing. 1. We know nothing of Christian privilege beyond the grave, and our life is hastening on; it may close at any hour, and it is hurrying away on the swift wings of duty and of pleasure. 2. The favoured period of youth is still more transient. Christ is very near us in the golden days of youth, when the spiritual nature is so open and so responsive; but how fast these days are fleeing! how soon will they be gone! 3. The hour of special grace and of rare privilege is but an hour—that time when Heaven puts forth its most constraining influences, and we see and feel that the gates into the kingdom of God are opened wide for our entrance. We cannot afford to delay when Jesus of Nazareth is near us. When eternal life is within our grasp, we must compel every other interest to take the second place; and this, not only because it is of such transcendent value, but because we may never have so golden an opportunity again. There is “a tide” in the history of every man which leads on to something more than “fortune;” it leads unto life—the life that is Divine and everlasting. On no account whatever must that be “omitted.” Foolish beyond all reckoning, as well as guilty before God, is the soul that lets Jesus of Nazareth pass by without seeking his feet and finding his favour.—C.
Ver. 41.—What we want of Christ. Our hearts are drawn towards blind Bartimæus; we compassionate him for his long-continued blindness; we enter into his feeling of keen hopefulness when he hears of the passing of Jesus Christ; we like the importunity of the man, his sturdy refusal to be put down by popular clamour; we like also his manly directness in reply to the question asked him, “Lord, that I may receive my sight!” We owe him some gratitude in that it was his necessity which provided our Lord with one more opportunity of illustrating his power and his pity, and of carrying on the great redemptive work he came to accomplish. For these miracles he wrought were a part, and a valuable part, of that work of his. If apprised of less value than they once were, they are very far indeed from being valueless. And amongst other things they illustrate Christ’s personal dealing with men. As he did not heal in troops an companies but addressed himself to each individual man or woman that was sick or suffering, blind or lame, so does he now make his appeal to each individual heart, and say to this man and to that man, “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” And what do we want of him, as he thus approaches us?
I. THOSE WHO WANT NOTHING IN PARTICULAR. They meet with their neighbours to worship him and to hear about him, but they have no sense of need in their hearts; their souls are not suffering and smarting under a painful sense of sin; their hearts are not athirst for the living God and Saviour. They wish for “bread enough,” but it is not the bread of life for which they hunger; they would like much to be wealthy, but they are not careful to be “rich toward God.”
II. THOSE WHO WANT NOTHING OF CHRIST NOW. The time will come when they will be glad of a Saviour and Friend—some future hour of sorrow, or difficulty, or loneliness, and certainly the hour of death; they would like to keep open the line of communication, but at present they do not feel that they want anything of the great Healer of hearts. But let us look rather at—
III. WHAT WE ALL DO REALLY WANT OF HIM. If our Divine Father is not to be disappointed in us, if our lives on earth are not to be miserable failures, then may we all urge, with this blind man, “Lord, that we may receive our sight!” For it is essential to the life of our life that we should be enlightened upon: 1. The transcendent value of the human spirit, and thus understand of how much more value we ourselves are than any of our earthly surroundings, or than the body which is our temporary residence. 2. The intimate and tender relation in which we stand to God. That God is the one Being with whom we have to do, from whom we cannot withhold our love and service without doing him and ourselves the greatest wrong, who is “earnestly remembering” and patiently seeking us in our distance and estrangement. 3. The supreme and abiding blessedness of the service of Christ; that this is the soul’s only true rest and portion, its peace and its inheritance. We want that these great saving truths should stand out before the eyes of our soul as the solid and living facts, in comparison with which all other things are of small account; we want to recognize in them the great verities which alone will satisfy and save us. If we would that Christ should do this for us, we must remember that what he is saying to us is this: (1) “Learn of me;” (2) “Believe in me;” “Have faith in me;” (3) “Abide in me;” (4) “Follow me.”—C.
Vers. 1–14.—Lessons in prayer. Our Lord, in the two parables composing the present passage, gives the disciples encouragement to pray. The one brings out the need of perseverance and importunity in prayer; the other brings out the spirit of selfabasement which should be cultivated in prayer. They are thus linked together as twin lessons in the art of prayer.
I. LET US NOTICE THE NEEDFUL IMPORTUNITY OF GOD’S ELECT AS ILLUSTRATED BY THE IMPORTUNATE WIDOW. (Vers. 1–8.) The story is about an earthly judge of unscrupulous character, to whom a widow in her weakness, but with a deep sense of injury, appeals for redress. The weak woman is able by her importunity to extort from the heartless judge the redress which he would give on no other conditions. He even becomes facetious and humorous over it, and declares that he will avenge her, lest “by her continual coming she strike me.” Having related this story, our Lord makes certain deductions from it. And: 1. He declares that at his coming there will be little faith in his advent. (Ver. 8.) Now, this unbelief about his advent can be accounted for on several grounds. (1) The procession of nature is so uniform. All things seem to continue as they were from the creation. Nature is on so large and grand a scale that we do not appreciate the real progress, and imagine that we are in the midst of a standstill. Uniformity, however, is not standstill. (2) Hope deferred will make many hearts sick. And so what has been so long talked of and yet has never appeared will be thought at last as never to appear. And (3) stoicism will lead many just to take things as they are, and entertain no concern about any change. It is astonishing how easy-going people tolerate manifest wrongs rather than take the trouble either to pray about them or to work for their removal. But: 2. Our Lord acknowledges the wrong to which his elect ones have been exposed. Their cry is for justice, for redress, like the widow. Now, our Lord admits that his people have not got justice from the world. The world has not been worthy of them. The world has made them time after time martyrs. It is a great assurance that the Lord acknowledges his servants’ wrongs. 3. He intimates at the same time that, like the widow, they will need importunity. The one weapon must be wielded and wielded incessantly. He keeps us waiting doubtless for our good. If we got all the moment we asked it, how should we ever learn patience? But: 4. He promises a sudden redress. The idea seems to be not “speedily” but “suddenly” he will avenge them. It will be a sharp and decisive deliverance when it comes. We thus see that all life’s discipline is planned to stimulate prayer. And when we have least taste for it, we should, like Luther, pray on. This is the importunity the Lord loves and will answer.
II. LET US NOTICE THE SPIRIT OF SELF-ABASEMENT WHICH SHOULD CHARACTERIZE OUR PRAYER AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE PARABLE OF THE PHARISEE AND THE PUBLICAN. (Vers. 9–14.) And in this second story we have a Pharisee first presented whose prayer is an outburst of self-confidence. He thanks God that he is so much better than his neighbours. For in these he recognizes extortioners, unjust men, and adulterers. A self-righteous spirit is censorious; its prayer is a criticism; even a publican’s modesty in standing afar off, and his contrition in smiting on his breast, are set down to his disparagement. Then the Pharisee can congratulate himself on fasting twice a week, and on giving tithes of all he possesses. But he was not a bit the better for all this so-called prayer, this bit of blatant self-praise. On the other hand, the publican, though he remained afar off and hardly ventured to look up, but smote on his breast and cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” went down to his house a happier and better man. For the important point is not their consciousness, but God’s attitude towards their respective spirits. To the one spirit God responds by justification and a sense of acceptance. The other is sent empty away. Hence the principles Jesus deduces are twofold. 1. Self-exaltation always precedes abasement. The proud will sooner or later get his fall. The Pharisaic spirit is always humiliated in the end. The man who is filled with self-satisfaction is only demonstrating his own self-ignorance and distance from God and his great ideal. 2. Self-abasement always leads to exaltation. It is when we feel “as a beast” before God, like Asaph in the seventy-third psalm, that we are on the way to spiritual rapture. For God has provided for the abased sinner the pardon he needs, and, besides the pardon, sanctification and everlasting progress. Let us, then, pray in the penitential key continually, and let us pray determined not to be denied; and heights of spiritual exaltation and rapture will be seen rising from our very feet, and inviting us to sit down on them with Jesus.—R. M. E.
Vers. 15–30.—The children of the kingdom. During the progress of the king towards Jerusalem, his personal influence and benediction were greatly valued. It would seem that mothers brought their children to him to be blessed, and ended by producing the very little ones. The disciples thought the line should be drawn somewhere, and so ventured to forbid the anxious mothers, only, however, to receive the significant rebuke from him, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” We are thus introduced to the important principle that—
I. CHILDLIKENESS IS THE QUALIFICATION FOR GOD’S KINGDOM. (Vers. 15–17.) Now, that is only another way of stating that God’s government is paternal, and that his subjects are sons. It is, in fact, “a mighty family” of which he is himself the Head. It is when we recognize in him our Father, and are prepared to accept as little children all he sends, and to do all he commands, that we truly belong to his kingdom. Hence the two characteristics specially brought out are (1) trust, and (2) obedience. It is thus we are to test ourselves. Do we trust God our Father as little children trust their fathers according to the flesh? and do we obey our heavenly Father as little ones obey their earthly parents? Then are we in the kingdom.
II. CHRIST EXPECTS THE RICHEST RULER TO TRUST AND TO OBEY HIM LIKE A LITTLE CHILD. (Vers. 18–27.) We have here an interesting case of anxiety, and how Christ dealt with it. And here we have to notice that: 1. Neither his wealth nor his position satisfied the young ruler. Something more was needed. The heart cannot content itself with either rank or gold. Hence his anxiety to lay hold on eternal life, which he felt was something more than he had yet obtained. 2. He fancied he could entitle himself to it by a stroke of public service. Hence his inquiry, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” His notion was that he could claim it as a right, if he could only find out the additional duty he felt able to discharge. 3. Jesus destroys with a single stroke his overestimate of human nature. The flattery of human nature coincides with self-esteem. The young ruler believed in his own goodness and capabilities, and he complimented Jesus as “Good Master,” because he believed in the existence of any number of good men—himself, of course, included. Now, Jesus will not accept a false compliment. Human nature is not good; and it is not as a mere man that he is going to receive such flattery. Hence he tells the ruler that there is no mere man good; that God alone is good. There is here no repudiation of goodness as belonging to himself, but simply a repudiation of goodness as an attribute of unaided humanity. 4. Jesus insists on examination of past conduct in the light of the Divine Law. He asks the young ruler if he has kept the second table of the Decalogue, and been dutiful to his fellow-men. Looked at from without, the self-sufficient mind imagines it is a simple thing to keep the Law. But when for “law” we substitute “love,” the self-examination does not so assure us. Meanwhile the young ruler is strong in the belief that he has kept the whole Law. 5. Jesus now demands, as a test of his trust in him, the surrender of his riches to the poor, and the subsequent following of him. The demand was for faith. When we consider that Jesus was apparently but a poor artisan, then, unless the young ruler would absolutely and implicitly trust him, he would never think of obeying his demand. The result proved that he was not yet ready to trust Jesus. He trusted his money more! Hence his sorrow as he leaves the Lord. And herein lies the money-danger. It bids for the trust of the soul. Moneyed men find it hard to trust any one more than money. They think it only natural that they should feel independent. But if money leads men away from Jesus, it is a curse, and not a blessing. When tempted to be covetous, let us remember that money has its special dangers, and makes it harder and even impossible for some to enter into God’s kingdom. 6. Jesus, while stating the difficulty which rich men find in entering God’s kingdom, shows that God manifests his great power in saving some of them. Money is such a barrier that we might well despair of the salvation of any rich men. Poor men have a chance. They have so little that they dare not trust in it, but in God only. But the rich man is tempted to trust in the uncertain riches, and leave God out of the account. But for this very reason God magnifies his grace in saving some rich men—in saving some in spite of all their temptation to trust in their abundance. A rich yet real believer is a splendid illustration of the grace of God. He sees through his riches and forbids them to come between his soul and his Saviour.
III. CHRIST INDICATES THE RECOMPENSE AWAITING ALL THOSE WHO HAVE SACRIFICED THEIR ALL FOR HIM. (Vers. 28–30.) Peter, as spokesman for the others, asks Christ what they shall have, seeing they have sacrificed their worldly positions to follow him. They thought that they should have some recompense. Nor were they mistaken; for Christ shows that they shall have: 1. A recompense in kind in this world. Often when a home is left for the sake of Jesus, a happier home is found in the midst of the Lord’s work. When rich prospects are renounced for the Saviour’s sake, unexpected recompense comes round in the shape of riches. When relatives are resigned that Christ’s cause may be promoted, new relations spring up around the devoted soul and bring compensation. And the spirit of loving appreciation which appropriates all things makes ample amends for all our self-denial for our Saviour (1 Cor. 3:21–23). 2. A recompense in the world to come in the shape of eternal life. So that self-denial, self-renunciation, becomes the path to the life eternal. The opportunity of living in God and for God awaits all sincere souls in the other life, and satisfies them. Let us consequently rejoice in hope of the glory, and have grace to fear no evil.—R. M. E.
Vers. 31–43.—Blindness, mental and physical. Having spoken to the disciples about recompense, he balances his consolation by giving them fair warning of his own approaching humiliation and death. But they were so infatuated about the honours that they were totally blind to the humiliation. Christ’s words were no better than idle tales to them. It suggests—
I. THE ONE-SIDED WAY IN WHICH PEOPLE MAY READ THE BIBLE. (Ver. 31.) what was about to happen to Jesus was prophesied ages before. The Old Testament presented a suffering as well as an exalted Messiah. But the Jews totally overlooked the humiliating aspect. And in the very same way people go still to God’s Word, and find there only what they want to find. It needs great trials oftentimes to expound some passages of the Divine Word to us. We are partial students; we do not enter into the wide meaning of the Word as God would have us!
II. GREAT TRIALS ARE NEEDED TO OPEN OUR EYES TO THE OVERLOOKED REALITIES. (Vers. 32–34.) It is plain that they did not take in Christ’s meaning until he was actually taken from them and crucified. In the terrible suffering which seemed to extinguish all their fond hopes, the overwhelmed men got the spiritual vision, and were enabled to see a suffering as well as an exalted Messiah revealed in the Divine Word. And do we not often, when crushed and broken by trial, come to appropriate passages of God’s Word which formerly were blank to us? We ought to bless God for the opened eye, even though the process of opening it be painful.
III. THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST MADE AMENDS FOR ALL THE PREVIOUS SUFFERING. (Ver. 33.) For resurrection was exaltation; it was glory which could only be reached through the tomb. No possibility was there of Jesus being raised if he had never died. It is an experience cheaply purchased, perhaps, through death and the grave.
IV. LET US CONTRAST WITH THIS THE CURE OF BLIND BARTIMÆUS. (Vers. 35–43.) From blind disciples—mentally blind—Luke proceeds to speak of the blind beggar and his physical cure. Jesus was proceeding to Jerusalem to enter it as King. It was a royal progress. Here was one of the splendid accompaniments of it. 1. The condition of the poor blind beggar. He was blind, and, as he could not keep himself by work, he had to beg. He was thus perfectly helpless and dependent. And he knew his deficiencies. There was no unconsciousness of them or indifference to them. 2. The knowledge he possessed of Jesus. He had heard of Christ’s miracles, how he had cured several blind men previously. He knew he was the Son of David, and regarded him as true Messiah. Hence his knowledge of Christ was sufficient to lead him to throw himself upon his mercy as soon as he had the chance. 3. The visit of Jesus to his neighbourhood. Jesus was passing on, and the crowd surged mightily around him. The noise fell upon the blind man’s acute ear, and led him to ask what it all meant. Then, as soon as he learned that Jesus was passing by, he began to cry, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!” Noble example! Should not all who feel their need of mercy cry as Bartimæus did? 4. Discouragement only intensifies his eagerness for blessing. The crowd rebuked him, but Bartimæus persevered. The more discouragement, the more importunity. So let it be with us in our seasons of discouragement. 5. The call of Jesus. The importunate one is summoned to the Saviour’s presence. Those who once discouraged him now urge him forward. 6. The inquiry of Jesus. Bartimæus is asked what mercy he desires; and his whole soul goes forth in the words, “Lord, that I may receive my sight!” It is surely well when we clearly know our need and desire its supply. 7. The cure conferred and its consequences. Bartimæus is thrown upon his faith; according to this is his cure. But his faith was strong enough for the occasion. He consequently sees plainly, and his fresh sight is used to guide him after Jesus. So is it with us if we receive from Jesus our spiritual healing. Then we see the Saviour plainly, and we learn and are proud to follow him. The people, too, in seeing us follow Christ, will learn to glorify the God of grace who has enabled us to do so.—R. M. E.
Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.). (1909). St Luke (Bd. 2, S. 86–134). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

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