The circumstances related in chapter 6:1-10 have reference to the same truth, and in an important aspect. The sabbath was the sign of the covenant between Israel and God-rest after finished works. The Pharisees blame the disciples of Christ, because they rub out the ears of corn in their hands. Now a rejected David had overleapt the barrier of the law when his need required it. For when God's Anointed was rejected and cast out, everything became in a manner common. The Son of man (Son of David, rejected like the son of Jesse, the elect and anointed king) was Lord of the sabbath; God, who established this ordinance, was above the ordinances He had established, and present in grace the obligation of man yielded to the sovereignty of God; and the Son of man was there with the rights and the power of God. Marvellous fact! Moreover the power of God present in grace did not allow misery to exist, because it was the day of grace. But this was setting aside Judaism. That was the obligation of man to God, Christ was the manifestation of God in grace to men. [See Footnote #18]
Availing Himself of the rights of supreme goodness, and displaying a power that authorised His pretension to assert those rights, He heals, in a full synagogue, the man with the withered hand. They are filled with madness at this manifestation of power, which overflows and carries away the dykes of their pride and self-righteousness. We may observe that all these circumstances are gathered together with an order and mutual connection that are perfect. [See Footnote #19] The Lord had shewn that this grace-which had visited Israel according to all that could be expected from the Lord Almighty, faithful to His promises-could, nevertheless, not be confined to the narrow limits of that people, nor be adapted to the ordinances of the law; that men desiredthe old things, but that the power of God acted according to its own nature. He had shewn that the most sacred, the most obligatory, sign of the old covenant, must bow to His title superior to all ordinance, and give place to the rights of His divine love which was in action. But the old thing was thus judged, and passing away. He had shewn Himself in everything-in the calling of Peter especially-to be the new centre, around which all that sought God and blessing must gather; for He was the living manifestation of God and of blessing in men. Thus God was manifested, the old order of things was worn out and unable to contain this grace, and the remnant were separated-around the Lord-from a world that saw no beauty in Him that they should desire Him. He now acted on this basis; and if faith sought Him in Israel, this power of grace manifested God in a new way. God surrounds Himself with men, as the centre of blessing in Christ as man. But He is love, and in the activity of that love He seeks the lost. None but one, and one who was God and revealed Him, could surround Himself with His followers. No prophet ever did (see John 1). None could send out with the authority and power of a divine message but God. Christ had been sent; He now sends. The name of "apostle" (sent), for He so names them, contains this deep and marvellous truth-God is acting in grace. He surrounds Himself with blessed ones. He seeks miserable sinners. If Christ, the we centre of grace and happiness, surrounds Himself with followers, yet He sends also His chosen ones to bear testimony of the love which He came to manifest. God has manifested Himself in man. In man He seeks sinners. Man has part in the most immediate display of the divine nature in both ways. He is with Christ as man; and he is sent by Christ. Christ Himself does this as man. It is man full of the Holy Ghost. Thus we see Him again manifested in dependence on His Father before choosing the apostles; He retired to pray, He passes the night in prayer.
And now He goes beyond the manifestation of Himself, as personally full of the Holy Ghost to bring in the knowledge of God among men. He becomes the centre, around which all must come who sought God, and a source of mission for the accomplishment of His love-the centre of the manifestation of divine power in grace. And, therefore, He called around Him the remnant who should be saved. His position, in every respect, is summed up in that which is said after He came down from the mountain. He comes down with the apostles from His communion with God. In the plain [See Footnote #20] He is surrounded by the company of His disciples, and then by a great multitude, drawn together by His word and works. There was the attraction of the word of God, and He healed the diseases of men, and cast out the power of Satan. This power dwelt in His Person; the virtue that went out of Him gave these outward testimonies to the power of God present in grace. The attention of the people was drawn to Him by these means. Nevertheless we have seen that the old things, to which the multitude were attached, were passing away He surrounded Himself with hearts faithful to God, the called of His grace. Here therefore He does not, as in Matthew, announce strictly the character of the kingdom, to shew that of the dispensation which was at hand, saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, etc.; but, distinguishing the remnant, by their attachment to Himself, He declares to the disciples who followed Him that they were these blessed ones. They were poor and despised, but they were blessed. They should have the kingdom. This is important, because it separates the remnant, and puts them in relationship with Himself to receive the blessing. He describes, in a remarkable manner, the character of those who were thus blessed of God.
The Lord's discourse is divided into several branches.
Verses 20-26 The contrast between the remnant, manifested as His disciples, and the multitude who were satisfied with the world, adding a warning to those who stood in the place of disciples, and in that gained the favour of the world. Woe be to such! Remark also here, that it is not a question of persecution for righteousness' sake, as in Matthew, but only for His name's sake. All was marked by attachment to His Person.
Verses 27-36. The character of God their Father in the manifestation of grace in Christ, which they were to imitate. He reveals, note, the Father's name and puts them in the place of children.
Verses 37, 38. This character particularly developed in the position of Christ, as He was on earth at that time, Christ fulfilling His service on earth. This implied government and recompense on God's part, as was the case with regard to Christ Himself.
Verse 39. The condition of the leaders in Israel, and the connection between them and the multitude.
Verse 40. That of the disciples in relation to Christ.
Verses 41, 42. The way to attain it, and to see clearly in the midst of evil, is to put evil away from oneself.
Afterwards, in general, its own fruit characterised every tree. Coming around Christ to hear Him was not the question, but that He should be so precious to their hearts that they would put aside every obstacle and practically obey Him.
Let us sum up these things which we have been considering. He acts in a power which dispels evil, because He finds it there, and He is good; and God alone is good. He reaches the conscience, and calls souls to Himself. He acts in connection with the hope of Israel and the power of God to cleanse, pardon and give them strength. But it is a grace which we all need; and the goodness of God, the energy of His love, did not confine itself to that people. Its exercise did not agree with the forms on which the Jews lived (or, rather, could not live); and the new wine must be put into new bottles. The question of the sabbath settled the question of the introduction of this power; the sign of the covenant gave way to it: He who exercised it was Lord of the sabbath. The lovingkindness of the God of the sabbath was not stayed, as if having His hands tied by that which He had established in connection with the covenant. Jesus then assembles the vessels of His grace and power, according to the will of God, around Himself. They were the blessed ones, the heirs of the kingdom. The Lord describes their character. It was not the indifference and pride that arose from ignorance of God, justly alienated from Israel, who had sinned against Him, and despised the glorious manifestation of His grace in Christ. They share the distress and pain which such a condition of God's people must cause in those who had the mind of God. Hated, proscribed, put to shame for the sake of the Son of man, who had come to bear their sorrows, it was their glory. They should share His glory when the nature of God was glorified in doing all things according to His own will. They would not be put to shame in heaven; they should have their reward there, not in Israel. "In like manner had their fathers done unto the prophets." Woe unto those that were at ease in Zion, during the sinful condition of Israel, and their rejection and ill-treatment of their Messiah! It is the contrast between the character of the true remnant and that of the proud among the people.
We then find the conduct that is suitable to the former conduct which, to express it in one word, comprises in its essential elements, the character of God in grace, as manifested in Jesus on the earth. But Jesus had His own character of service as the Son of man; the application of this to their particular circumstances is added in verses 37, 38. In 39 the leaders of Israel are set before us, and in verse 40 the portion of the disciples. Rejected like Himself, they should have His portion; but, assuming that they followed Him perfectly, they should have it in blessing, in grace, in character, in position also. What a favour! [See Footnote #21] Moreover, the judgment of self, and not of one's brother, was the means of attaining clear moral sight. The tree good, the fruit would be good. Self-judgment applies to the trees. This is always true. In self-judgment, it is not only the fruit that is corrected; it is oneself. And the tree is known by its fruit-not only by good fruit, but by its own. The Christian bears the fruit of the nature of Christ. Also it is the heart itself, and real practical obedience, that are in question.
Here then the great principles of the new life, in its full practical development in Christ, are set before us. It is the new thing morally, the savour and character of the new wine-the remnant made like unto Christ whom they followed, unto Christ the new centre of the movement of the Spirit of God, and of the calling of His grace. Christ has come out of the walled court of Judaism, in the power of a new life and by the authority of the Most High, who had brought blessing into this enclosure, which it was unable to acknowledge. He had come out from it, according to the principles of the life itself which He announced; historically, He was still in it.
Footnotes for Luke 6
18: This is an important point. A part in the rest of God is the distinctive privilege of saints-of God's people. Man had it not at the fall, still God's rest remained the special portion of His people. He did not get it under the law. But every distinct institution under the law is accompanied by an enforcement of the sabbath, the formal expression of the rest of the first Adam, and this Israel will enjoy at the end of this world's history. Till then, as the Lord said so blessedly, My Father worketh hitherto and I work. For us, the day of rest is not the seventh day, the end of this world's week; but the first day, the day after the sabbath, the beginning of a new week, a new creation, the day of Christ's resurrection, the commencement of a new state for man, for the accomplishment of which all creation round us waits, only we are before God in Spirit as Christ is. Hence the Sabbath, the seventh day, the rest of the first creation on human and legal ground, is always treated with rejection in the New Testament, though not set aside till judgment came, but as an ordinance it died with Christ in the grave, where He passed it-only it was made for man as a mercy. The Lord's day is our day, and precious external earnest of the heavenly rest.
19: I may remark here that, where chronological order is followed in Luke, it is the same as in Mark and that of the events, not as in Matthew put together to bring out the object of the Gospel; only he occasionally introduces a circumstance which may have happened at another time illustrative of the subject historically related. But in chapter 9 Luke arrives at the last journey up to Jerusalem (v. 51), and, from this on, a series of moral instruction follows to chapter 18: 31, chiefly, if not all, during the period of this journey, but which for the most part has little to say to dates.
20: Properly 'a level place' on the mountain. (topou pedinou)
21: This however does not speak of nature intrinsically, for in Christ was no sin. Nor has the word used for "perfect" that sense. It is one completely thoroughly instructed, formed completely by the teaching of his master He will be like him, as his master, in all in which he was formed by him. Christ was the perfection; we grow up unto Him in all things unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (see Col. 1: 28).