Whether the parable of the importunate widow was uttered as the sequel to the preceding discourse, I am not prepared to say; but this at least is plain, that the parable connects itself very naturally with what had just gone before, though there seems to me a more general form of the truth also (as is common with our Evangelist) so as to fit in admirably with what follows. It forms, therefore, a pendant as well as a transition.
But the connection with Luke 17 is of importance if it were only to guard from the unfounded idea that its direct application is ecclesiastical, that the widow is the Church, and the judge her God and Father in heaven. Such notions are as far as possible from the context, as well as the contents of the parable; and the error lies incomparably deeper than missing the scope of the Scripture before us. It is of the deepest moment to understand as a Divine truth, in our estimate of relationship with God, that Israel was in the position of the married wife (Jeremiah 2; Ezekiel 16) with Jehovah; whereas the marriage-supper of the Lamb is not celebrated till after the saints, changed into His likeness, are translated to heaven, and Babylon has been judged under the last vial of God's wrath. (Revelation 19.) Hence, whatever the anticipative power of faith in realising our place as the bride before the consummation, and whatever the closeness of exhortation founded on Christ's relation to the Church, the apostle speaks of betrothing us to one man or husband to present as a chaste virgin to Christ. So, on the other hand, the specific form of Israel's unfaithfulness was adultery, as we hear so often in the prophets. But it is not so in Christendom, where the grievous corruption is designated under the figure of a great harlot, not an adulteress. (Revelation 17.) The assumption that we are like Israel, the married wife, falsifies our attitude both toward our Lord Jesus and toward the world. it Judaises the Church instead of leaving her in her proper place of waiting for Christ in holy separateness from the world.
Babylon the great, who falsely arrogates this place to herself, naturally follows it up by saying in her heart, "I sit a queen and I am no widow" (as poor Zion is) "and shall see no sorrow"; and so she has glorified herself and lives deliciously. "Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death and mourning and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her." (Rev_18:7f.) But here have we no continuing city, though we seek one to come; and in this world we look for tribulation, and through much tribulation to enter the kingdom, being content, yea joyful, to show Christ's rejection where He was put to shame and death, and assured of appearing with Him when He appears in glory. Hence, though we suffer meanwhile with Christ, and glory in affliction, distress, and insult for His name's sake, it is not as orphans or as widowed; for we enjoy the adoption of sons to our God and Father., and are one spirit with the Lord; but for this very reason we are in the secret of the Divine counsels, and await His coming who is on high, not of the world as He is not, till the day arrives for Him to take the world-kingdom and for us to reign with Him. Thus we "reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us." (Rom_8:18.) Refusing to assume the air of the wife in rest and possession of His inheritance, we feel that our sorrow here is joined with the communion of His love before He comes to receive us to Himself and to display us with Himself before the world.
In short, then, the parable touches the godly Jewish Remnant rather than the Christian when we come to the exact application of the widow; and this falls in aptly with those saints involved in the judgment of the quick described just before, where one shall be taken and the other left - an earthly scene, it is plain, without a word implying translation to heaven. Still, the Holy Spirit gives the exhortation a more general bearing and with the moral purpose we have so often remarked in our Evangelist. Every saint should profit by it.
"And he spoke also* a parable to them, to the purport that they† should always pray, and not faint, saying, There was a judge in a city, not fearing God, and not respecting man. And there was a widow in that city, and she came445 to him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary; and he would not for a time; but afterwards he said within himself, If even I fear not God, and respect not man,446 at any rate because this widow annoys me, I will avenge her, that she may not by perpetual coming completely harass447 me."
*The καί "also" [in AD, etc.] is omitted by some of the best authorities [BLM, some cursive manuscripts [13, 69, etc.], besides Old Lat.]. But, without it the reference or address is certainly to the disciples (αὐτοῖς and αὐτούς not about other men, as in the A.V. (B.T.)
†"They": so Edd., following ABKL, etc., 69, Memph. Arm. It is omitted in DEG, etc., and many cursives (as 1).
The reflection which the, Lord adds as its second part and application makes all plain to the instructed ear. "And the lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God at all avenge his elect, who cry to him day and night, and he bears* long as to them.448 "I say unto you that he will avenge them speedily. But when the Son of man cometh, shall he indeed find faith on the earth?" It is an à fortiori analogy, which no more views the unjust judge as God than the unjust steward449 in Luke 16 means the disciple. In the two cases it is a powerful or a consolatory appeal. Jesus would encourage one always to pray without fainting if the answer seem to tarry and evil to abound. Even the unrighteous judge would rather see to the right of the most friendless and feeble than be ever stunned with appeals. How much more shall not God interfere on behalf of His elect against their enemies! It is true that He bears long as to His own; but he will avenge them soon, as all will own when the blow falls.
*"And he bears": so Edd., after ABDL, etc., 1, Syrrcu sin Arm., although "bearing" (T.R.) is found in ΓΔΛ 69.
The attentive reader will note that the deliverance as well as the prayers are Jewish in character,* not patient grace like the Christians. It is not by their going up to meet the Lord, but by Divine judgment on their foes. Still, there is real faith in thus crying day and night to God, Who, if He delay, is not slack concerning His promises, but is bringing souls to, repentance that they too might be saved. And there is perseverance till the answer is given. When the Lord comes, there are elect saints already glorified with Him (Rev_17:14; Rev_19:14); but here they are on earth crying to God till He takes vengeance on those who wronged them. It would seem also, from the question which the Lord puts and does not answer, that faith will be rare then as in the days of Noah and Lot, when few were saved and some nearest to the saved were lost - so feeble and fluctuating the faith, too, that only He could find it.450
*I cannot agree with Mr. [Bp. J. C.] Ryle (who seems to follow, in this, "Trench on the Parables"), that Irenaeus and Hippolytus were far astray in seeing earthly Jerusalem in the widow, though it is hard to say why the unjust judge is Antichrist in particular [see note 449 in App.]. Vitringa's notion that the early Church is the widow, and the Roman Emperors the judge, is in my opinion not only more fanciful, but unsound in principle for reasons already given. There can be no doubt that the parable is meant only to encourage individuals in persevering prayer at any time.
The next section of our Gospel sets forth, first by a parable, then by facts, lastly by the words which passed between the Lord and the twelve, the characteristics which suit the kingdom of God. The connection is with this as we know it now, rather than with its display when the Son of man comes in judgment of the quick as in the preceding parable. Indeed, the exceeding breadth of the lesson about to be taught we learn in the words with which the Evangelist opens: "And he spoke also to some, who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and made nothing of all the rest [of them], this parable." It is no dispensational picture of the Divine ways with Jews and Gentiles; it is a moral delineation which tells us how God regards those who plume themselves on their correctness of ways as a ground of confidence with Him, and what His estimate is of those who are broken before Him because of their conscious and now to themselves loathsome sinfulness.
"Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee, standing, prayed thus to himself: God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men, rapacious, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax-gatherer. I fast twice in the week, I tithe every thing that I acquire.* And the tax-gatherer, standing afar off, would not lift up even his eyes to heaven, but was striking upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me the sinner. I say unto you, this [man] went down to his house† justified rather than that [other]; for every one who exalteth himself shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
*"Possess" is the force of the perfect. Here it is rather "to come into possession of" (κτῶμαι (B.T.)
†"To his house": so most Edd. with mass of authority. Blass omits, as D and Sah.
The Pharisee represents the religious world in its most respectable shape; the tax-gatherer, such as had no character to lose, but whatever he may have been, now truly penitent and looking to God's compassion in self-judgment. How different are the thoughts of God from those of men! A delicate difference is implied in the two forms of the word which we translate "standing" in each case. With the Pharisee the form (σταθείς implies a stand taken, a putting himself in position, such as one might naturally do in addressing a speech to an assembly. With the tax-gatherer it is the ordinary expression for standing in contradistinction to sitting (ἑστώς
Again, the essence of the Pharisee's prayer, if prayer it can be called, is not a confession of sin nor an expression of need even, but a thanksgiving; and this, not for what God had done and been for him, but for what he himself was. He was not, like the rest of men, violent and corrupt, nor even as the tax-gatherer, of whom he cannot speak without a tinge of contempt - "this tax-gatherer." He finally displays his own habits of fasting452 and of religious punctiliousness. Not that he laid false claims; not that he excluded God, but he trusted, as a ground for acceptance, to his righteousness, and he made nothing of others'. He never saw his own sins in the sight of God.
The tax-gatherer, on the contrary, is filled with shame and contrition. He stands afar off with not even his eyes raised to heaven, and beats withal on his breast, saying, "God be compassionate to me, the sinner if ever there was one."453 There is no solid reason to infer that he pleads the Atonement in the word ἱλάσθητι No doubt the idea of propitiating is expressed by the verb; but it is used far more widely, like its kindred word in Mat_16:22, where no one could suppose such an allusion. Whatever the origin or usage of the word, we are not to suppose that the tax-gatherer in employing it thought of the day of atonement, or of the mercy-seat in the holiest; still less are we warranted to attribute to him an intelligence of the mighty work of redemption which Jesus was soon about to accomplish. The word might allude to propitiation; but that he did so in his crying to God thus is another matter altogether. We easily transfer to souls before the death of Christ a knowledge which, however simple and clear to us since the Cross, could not be possessed before.
And this misapprehension has led to another, that the Lord was here pronouncing the tax-gatherer justified as we are who believe in the Lord Jesus and His blood. But this is not the teaching of the passage. The strong assertion of Archbishop Trench that it is, and the fact that Roman Catholic theologians deny it, need neither allure nor deter. It is in vain to say that the sentence of our Lord is that the publican was justified by faith at the time when he is described as going down to his house. There is a distinct comparison with the Pharisee, and it is affirmed that the tax-gatherer went down justified rather than the former. Had justification by faith been meant as in Romans 3-5, no such statement could have been made. There are no degrees in the justification of which Paul speaks
the Lord implies that there are in what He speaks of. Besides the form of the word differs. He is said to have gone down, not dikaiwqeiv" absolutely, but dedikaiwmevno" . . . garj ejkei'non.*454 I do not doubt that this is the true text.†
*The perfect is used as to the state of the Christian viewed as dead with Christ to sin - discharged or cleared from it in God's sight (Rom_6:7). (B.T.)
† "Rather than" (ἤ so A and all the later uncials. W.H., after Treg., adopt the neutral text γαῤ ἐκεῖνον above or beside that (other), in BL, Old Lat. Sah. Memph. Blass adds μᾶλλον as D. See, further, note 454, in App.
The common English version seems quite correct, though founded, no doubt, on the vulgarly received text, ἢ ἐκεῖνος The great mass of uncials and cursives join in giving the strange reading ἢ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος followed even in his eighth edition by Tischendorf, spite of the Sinai MS. which casts its weight into the scale of the Vatican (B) and Parisian 62 (L), not to speak of D with its not infrequent additions, and some few other authorities.
Dean Alford shows us the danger of misapplying the case to justification, which is his own view, by the remark he adds: "Therefore, he who would seek justification before God must seek it by humility and not by self-righteousness." It is the more to be regretted that this glaring error should have been made by one who had just confessed that we are not to find any doctrinal meanings in ἱλάσθητι It would have been more consistent not to have pressed δεδικαιωμένος similarly.455
Luke 18: 15-17.456
From the homily on lowliness in view of our sins we are now to receive another, lowliness because of our insignificance. "And they brought to him also infants that he might touch them; but the disciples when they saw [it rebuked them. But Jesus calling them to [him] said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter into it."457 (Mat_18:3.) The babes were of great price in the eyes of Jesus, not of the disciples, who, if not rabbis themselves, would have lowered their Master to the level of such an one in contempt of little ones. But this could not be suffered, for it was not the truth. Neither the Son nor the Father so feel toward the weak and evidently dependent. Nor is this. all: "of such is the kingdom of God." Those who enter into His kingdom must by grace receive the Saviour and His word as a child that of its, parents. Self-reliance is excluded and replaced by dependence on God in the sense of our own nothingness.
Next comes the young and rich ruler, who went away sorrowfully from Christ rather than give up the self-importance attached to his manifold possessions. "And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Teacher, having done what shall I inherit life eternal? 457a And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, God.*458 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honour thy father and thy mother.458a And he said, All these things have I kept from my† youth. And Jesus on hearing [this]‡ said to him, One thing is lacking to thee yet: sell all that thou hast and distribute to poor [men], and thou shalt have treasure in the heavens§; and come, follow me. But he on hearing these things became very sorrowful, for he was exceedingly rich. And Jesus having seen him [become very sorrowful]|| said, How difficult shall those who have riches enter¶ into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to enter through a needle's eye than for a rich [man] to enter into the kingdom of God."
*"One, God": so most authorities (versions and MSS.), as AD, etc., Syrr., etc., followed by Edd. in text. X and Bpm omit and thus read "one God."
†"My": so A, etc., Syrsin Latt., etc. Recent Edd. omit, as BD Syrcu.
‡["This"]: so A, etc.; but Edd. omit, following BDL, 1, 33, 69, Syrrcu sin pesch Memph.
§"The heavens": so Edd. after BD, Memph. (ALR having "heavens" without the article: so Tisch.). "Heaven" is the reading of PX, etc., Old Lat. Amiat.
||"Having seen him [become very sorrowful]": so ADΓΔ etc., most cursives, Syrr. Old Lat. Edd. adopt "Seeing him, said," following BL, 1, Memph.
¶ "Shall . . . enter": so ADR, and later uncials in general, most cursives, Syrr. Old Lat. Edd. "do . . . enter," after BL.
The case is plain. The young ruler had no sense of sin, no faith in Christ as a Saviour, still less did he believe that a Divine person was there, which indeed He must be to save sinners. He appealed to Jesus as the best expression of goodness in man, the highest in the class in which he counted himself no mean scholar. The Lord answers him on the ground of his question. Did he ask the Lord as the good master or teacher, what thing doing he should inherit eternal life? He took his stand on his own doing; he saw not that he was lost and needed salvation. It had never occurred to him that man as such was out of the way, none good, no, not one. That Jesus was the Son of God and Son of man sent to save was a truth to him unknown. The Lord brings in the commandments of the second table: but his conscience was untouched: "All these things have I kept from my youth."458b "One thing is lacking to thee yet," said Jesus to the self-satisfied yet dissatisfied ruler, conscious that he had not eternal life and that he had no solid security for the future - "Sell all that thou hast, and distribute to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me." The conscience which had resisted the test of law fell at the first touch of Jesus. "And hearing this he became very sorrowful, for he was exceedingly rich."459
Yet how infinitely did the demand fall short of what we know and have in the Master, good indeed, God indeed, who never laid on others a burden which He had not borne,"" who bore one immeasurably greater and under circumstances peculiar to Himself, and for ends redounding to the glory of God, and with the result to every sinful creature on earth of a testimony of grace without limit, and of a blessing without stint where He is received! To the ruler it was overwhelming, impossible, the annihilation of all he valued; for indeed now it was evident that he loved his riches, money, mammon, a thing he had never suspected in himself before; but there it had been all along, discovered now in presence of and by Him Who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. 2Co_8:9. The ruler valued his position and his property, and could not bear to have nothing and be nothing. Oh, what a contrast with Him who "counted it not a matter of robbery to be on equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking a bondsman's form, born in likeness of men; and who, when found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself by becoming obedient as far as death, yea death of the cross." Php_2:6ff.
How plain, too, that worldly prosperity or wealth, fruit of fidelity according to the law, is a danger of the first magnitude for the soul, for eternity! And Jesus did not fail to draw the searching moral for the disciples, ever slow, through unjudged selfishness, to learn it. They knew not yet to what Christians are called, even to be imitators of God as dear children, and to walk in love according to the pattern of Christ. (Eph_5:1f.) It is all but impossible, it is impossible, as far as man is concerned, for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.461 "And who can be saved?" is the remark of those who heard a sentence so counter to their secret desires.462 Jesus replied, "The things that are impossible with men are possible with God."462a There, is no other hope of salvation. It is of God, not of man. Yet to save cost God everything, yea His own Son. And "if the righteous are with difficulty saved, where shall the impious and the sinner appear?" (1Pe_4:18.) And why wonder at the danger to a rich man through the unrighteous mammon? None can serve two masters. Happy he who through grace makes wealth to be only for Christ's service, looking to have the true riches his own in everlasting glory
Luke 18: 31-34.464
"And Peter said, Behold we have left all* things and have followed thee. And he said to them, Verily I say unto you, There is no one who hath left home, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who shall not get manifold more at this time, and in the age that is coming life eternal."463 But if Peter was thus prompt to speak of their losses for Christ, who certainly repays as God only can both now and through eternity according to the riches of His grace, "he taking the twelve to [him] said to them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all the things written by the prophets of the Son of man shall be accomplished; for he shall be delivered up to the nations and shall be mocked, and insulted, and spit upon; and when they have scourged him they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again." Again, what a contrast even with the thoughts and hopes of disciples! Alas! "they understood none of these things; and this word [or matter] was hidden from them, and they did not know what was said." So it ever is where the eye is not single. By faith we understand. Where nature is still valued by saints, the plainest words of Jesus are riddles even to such.465
*"All (πάντα and": so Treg. (text) following APRXΔΛΠ etc., most minuscules (33), Goth. Some excellent authorities [BDL, 1, etc., most Old Lat. Amiat. Memph.] have τὰ ἴδια "our own" (so most Edd. and the Revv.). (B.T.)
The final scene approaches. Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem and to present Himself in the flesh to the Jews for the last time. Our Evangelist slowly traces this journey (Luk_9:51; Luk_13:22; Luk_13:31; Luk_13:33; Luk_17:11; Luk_18:31; Luk_19:28-29; Luk_19:37; Luk_19:41), with the infinite consequences which flow from that cross which, to human eyes, was His rejection, but which faith knows to be the glorifying of God for ever, as well as the only possible ground of salvation for sinners.
Jericho held a remarkable place as the way to Jerusalem from the Jordan, and of old, when it stood in its might, the key of the position. Hence its solemn destruction under Joshua; hence the curse pronounced on him who should dare to rebuild it. But there Elisha, after the translation of Elijah and his own crossing through the miraculously parted river, healed the waters. So here the Lord, drawing towards the close of His long and last journey, after the transfiguration, performs a miracle of mercy on the blind man. It was an especial sign of His Messiahship; and rightly, therefore, led of God, did the blind man call on Him as Son of David: so the three synoptic Gospels carefully record.
It is to be observed, however, that not Mark nor Luke, but Matthew records the fact that two blind men were healed at this time. Further, Mark, who as usual adds details of the most graphic description, lets us know that the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, was thus healed as the Lord was going out of Jericho, Matthew also intimating that it was on leaving, not entering, the place. Luke, on the other hand, has been generally supposed to say that the miracle was performed on entering Jericho. So all the old English translations, Wickliff, Tyndale, Geneva, Cranmer, the Rhemish, as well as the Authorised: so the Latin, Syriac, and other ancient versions, with most moderns.
But it appears to me that the Greek phrase is so constructed as to avoid any such conclusion, and that the genuine, unforced meaning is "while he was near to Jericho." According to the usage of the New Testament there might have been ground for the objection raised, if Luke had employed the genitive absolute. In strict grammatical nicety there is nothing to tie the sense to the entry into Jericho; it means equally well, as far as language is concerned, while the Lord was in the neighbourhood.
I cannot doubt that what weighed with translators in general is the fact that Luke 19 opens with the Lord's entering and passing through Jericho. Hence it was assumed that the previously mentioned circumstance must have preceded this in time. And it must be owned if Luke, as a rule, adhered to the order of occurrence in his account, it would be most natural to translate Luk_18:35 as in the Authorised Version. But it has been shown throughout our Gospel that he adopts another and deeper order than the mere sequence of events, and habitually groups the words, works, and ways of our Lord in moral connection, whenever it is needful to this end, putting together what may have been far apart in time.
In the present case it seems to have been in the mind of the Spirit that all three who dwell on the Galilean ministry of Christ should mark Jericho and the healing of the blind there as a common starting-point before His formal appearance in Jerusalem. We can understand, therefore, why Luke, even if the incident of Zacchaeus occurred after the miracle, should, according to his manner, postpone his account of it till he had told us of the blind man healed. But there seems to have been a yet stronger reason of a similar character in the fact that, if the healing had been introduced after Zacchaeus, when (I have no doubt) it really took place, adherence to the mere chronology of the facts would have spoilt the very impressive order actually adopted, in which we see the tale of Zacchaeus, with salvation brought to his house though a chief tax-gatherer, followed at once by the parable of the pounds, which together beautifully set forth the general character and differing objects of the two advents of the Lord, who was about to suffer as the Ground of righteousness and salvation for the lost, instead of at once establishing His throne in Zion as others fondly thought. If this were the design of the inspiring Spirit, as I conceive it certainly to be, gathered from the special character traceable throughout its course, it does not seem possible to suggest any other order so admirably calculated to convey it as that which is pursued. Hence the point in verse 35 was to choose a phrase which, while not breaking the thread of the narrative, and, of course, in words thoroughly consistent with the exact truth, should nevertheless convey the thought of a time or state during which the particular act related took place. This, in my opinion, has been done perfectly in the language of Luke: so much so that, granting the aim to be as I suppose, no man can desire better words to combine what is intimated, or to avoid a false inference for all aware of that design. If, on the contrary, men, however learned, assume a bare order of fact, this naturally would influence their translation; and so I think we may fairly account for the common mistake.
Accordingly there is no need of resorting to any of the various methods of reconciling Luke's account with Matthew and Mark. We are not driven to the harsh supposition that Luke's blind man was healed before entering Jericho, and that the news of this reached Mark's blind man, Bartimaeus, so that he went through a similar process of appeal on the Lord's exit, as Origen and Augustine supposed in early days, Greswell, etc., in our own time. Nor is it necessary (though undoubtedly quite legitimate, and the fact elsewhere) to suppose that Matthew combined the two instances in one summary. Less reasonable is the view of Euthymius, who will have it that all three instances were distinct, and, therefore, that four blind men were healed at this time near Jericho. Nor is there any substantial ground to argue, as men have done from Calvin to Wordsworth, that the blind man began crying as our Lord approached Jericho, but was not healed till another joined him outside, and both received sight as Jesus left the place. Still more violent are the hypotheses of Markland and of Macknight. The truth is that there is nothing in this to reconcile, all that being evidently harmonious, when the language of Luke is seen to be such as falls in with the time and place described more precisely by Matthew and Mark. It may be well, however, to add that Matthew elsewhere names two where Mark and Luke as here speak only of one, as in the case of the demoniacs. (Compare Mat_8:28-34 with Mar_5:1-20 and Luk_8:26-39.) See also Mat_9:27-31. This was all right, when the fact (as here) warranted it, in one writing especially for Jews, with whom it was a maxim to demand at least two witnesses. The other Evangelists were each led to dwell only on the one that best suited the design of his own Gospel.
It is striking also to note that as there was a reason why Matthew, and not Mark nor Luke, should record pairs which were healed, so there is the strongest indirect evidence in this against the very poor theory that the omissions of the first Evangelist were supplied in measure by the second, and yet more by the third and so on. For it was the earliest who in these instances speaks of the two; which is irreconcilable, on the supplementary theory,466 with the second and third mentioning but one. The Holy Spirit made them by His power the vessels for setting forth the various glories of Jesus the Son of God on the earth. Each had his own line given and perfectly carried out, and facts or sayings are recorded by each, whether reported by the others or not, as they bore on his proper objects.
"And it came to pass when he was in the neighbourhood of Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting by the wayside begging; 467 and when he heard the crowd passing, he asked what this might be. And they told him that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by, and he called aloud, saying, Jesus, Son of David, pity me. And those in advance rebuked him that he should be silent; but he kept crying much more, Son of David, pity me. And Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, What wilt thou that I should do for thee? And he said, Lord, that I should receive my sight. And Jesus said, Receive sight: thy faith hath healed thee. And immediately he received sight, and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people saw, and gave praise to God."
The Lord was still the rejected One, not understood even by His disciples, yet with a heart towards the most lowly and wretched in Israel who cried to Him in faith. The blind man near Jericho was one of them, and seized the moment of His presence, made known to his sightless eyes by the heedless noise of those who seeing saw not. Blindness in part had happened to Israel in good sooth, blindness most of all to such of them as least acknowledged it. Here was one who, near the city of the curse, dared to confess Him to be the Messiah Whom the religious chiefs had long desired to destroy, and sooner than they hoped were to be allowed to do so, and yet they dared to ask of Him that sign of opening the eyes of the blind peculiar to the Son of David, as even rabbinical tradition confessed. The story of His gracious power was not lost on the blind man. Now was his opportunity: might it not be the last? He called aloud; and the more rebuked, the more by far he cried. If to others Jesus was but the Nazarene, to him none other than David's Son. "Son of David, pity me." And never in vain goes forth the appeal of distress to Him. How pleasant in His ears the persistent call on His name! Jesus stops, commands him to be brought, inquires into his want, and gives all he asks. So will He in the day of His power when Israel (the remnant becoming the people) shall be made willing, shall call on Him and find sight, salvation, and every other good thing to the praise and glory of God.468
But it was still the day of His humiliation, of Israel's blind and wilful unbelief; and Jesus steadily pursued His sorrowful path to the Holy City about to perpetrate the most unhallowed deed of this world's sad history.
446 Luk_18:4. - "The creed of a powerful atheist" (Bengel).
447 Luk_18:5. - "Completely harass" or "plague." Cf. R.V., "wear out," ὑπωπιάζειν (Cf. 1Co_9:27.) Weymouth: "pester." D. Smith: "It is a pugilist's term and means hit under the eye."
448 Luk_18:7. - The αὐτοῖς would be either, as the Expositor takes it, the "elect" Remnant (cf. Mat_24:22, Rev_6:9-11); or, the adversaries (cf. 2Pe_3:9). Field: "He deferred His anger on their behalf" (that of the elect). Cf. further, Psa_13:1 f., Psa_55:17 and Psa_94:1-4; also Pro_9:11; Ecclesiasticus xxxv. 18.
For "and he" American Revv. have "and (yet) he."
449 Cf. Psa_36:1; Psa_94:20, which latter some (as B. W. Newton) have understood as predicted of the Beast's legislation, but the Psalmist seems to speak there of judicial, rather than political oppression, "seat" representing tribunal (Jennings and Lowe).
450 Luk_18:8. - See Isa_60:2, Mat_24:12, 2Th_3:2 and 2Th_2:10 of that Epistle for the few believers on the earth then. Cf. Bruce ad loc. Jowett of Balliol, in sermon at St. Mary's, Oxford (1872), paraphrased thus: "What prospect is there of any great moral or religious improvement among mankind?" Farrar well says that such faith as the Son of Man will find among men will be faith in themselves.
Dr. Arnold has a sermon preached from this verse ("Christian Life," p. 20).
"The (or, that) faith," τὴν πίστιν This is variously taken as (a) such faith as the widow's, typical of the Remnant (Exposition, and so very much B. Weiss); (b) personal faith in general; (c) Christianity (Canon Scott Holland, in sermon at St. Paul's). Dr. Frederic Harrison, presumably, would understand it of creeds in general. He closes his autobiographic "Memories" (1911) by saying, "Our age has no abiding faith in any religion at all," which should include that "of Humanity," of which he is himself the English prophet (note 147a).
The Mohammedan Seljuks of the thirteenth century originated a belief that Aissa, the saint said to have preceded the Prophet by some 500 years, will visit every country of Europe, England, and America, but find none faithful to his teaching, until he reaches the Lake of Tiburijeh (art. by Capt. von Herbert in Hibbert Journal, Oct., 1908).
FAITH. - For faith in the word of JESUS, see Mar_1:15: for faith in Himself, Mat_8:10. Cf. note 98 on Mark.
The "Catholic" definition would be found in the "Explanatory Catechism," No. 9. For Cardinal Newman's Theory of Belief, see the psychological analysis of it in Mellone, "Leaders of Religious Thought" (1902). According to Maher, a living Catholic professor, Newman's faith would be no more than opinion ("Psychology," p. 328). See the Cardinal's "Grammar of Assent," chapters 4, 6, 7. Another representative of Catholicism comes near to the Expositor's view in treating Faith as belief on Divine testimony (Rickaby, "First Principles," part ii., chapter viii.).
A recent work by Dean Inge deals with the psychological aspects of Faith. Sir W. Hamilton wrote: "Knowledge is a certainty founded upon insight; belief is certainty founded upon feeling. The one is perspicuous and objective, the other obscure and subjective."
The theological aspect of Faith has been thus stated by Fairbairn: "Faith is an intellectual act, for it is a form of knowledge; it is an emotional attitude and activity, for it trusts persons and works by love; it is a moral intuition, for it sees obligation in truth and right in duty" ("Philosophy of the Christian Religion," p. 548). Cf. Rom_1:5, Gal_5:6, and note 9 on John, sub init.; and see also Stalker, "The Ethic of Jesus," chapter viii.
For a scientific appreciation of the present state of Religious Belief in "Christian" communities see Pratt, "Psychology of Religion," especially chapter viii. (p. 231 ff.). This writer's third class of believers is composed of those who by the Evangelist are regarded as truly such. A correspondence in the Daily Telegraph some years ago, which has since been republished in a volume edited by W. L. Courtney, revealed the many lights in which this vital subject is now regarded. One of the contributors referred to an aphorism which would be found in Nietzsche's "Antichrist" (§ 52), that "Belief means not wishing to know what is true." (Cf. Herbert Spencer on "Christian Scepticism.")
Newman, from his Oxford pulpit, spoke well when he said, "Unbelief is opposed to Reason . . . criticizes the evidences of Religion, only because it does not like it, and really goes upon presumptions and prejudices as much as Faith does."
In this connection it is odd that Hume, the protagonist of Doubt in the eighteenth century, avowed that he had never read the New Testament! Here it becomes a question of those who live in glass-houses not throwing stones.
Benn, in Literary Guide and Rationalist Review, Oct., 1908, has strikingly written, "Faith is no more than a particular application of Reason. It means confidence in the legitimacy of inferring the future from the past; the unseen from the seen; the unknown from the known." Christian thinkers would acquiesce in this, from passages of Scripture like 1Pe_3:15. The Bishop of Ossory, in Evidential Lecture at King's College, London, in the year 1909, expressed himself in a like sense; emphasizing, of course, the element of trust, which adheres to Benn's view nol. vol. But Christian faith is a gift of God (Eph_2:8), of which JESUS is originator (Heb_12:2; cf. Gal_2:20): and here lies all the difference.
Cf. notes 54 and 58 on Mark, and note 133, in particular, on John.
See Spurgeon's Sermons, 856 and 1963.
451 Luk_18:11. - "The Pharisee." For the "Christian" counterpart, cf. Rev_3:17 f. As J. H. Newman in a parochial sermon said very truly: "The worldly man is a Pharisee."
"Stood." For σταθείς cf. 19: 8, of Zaccheus. Standing was, and remains, the habitual attitude of Jews in prayer: cf. Mar_11:25. The scriptural attitudes are either standing (Abraham, in Gen_18:22: cf. Jer_15:1, of Moses and Samuel), or kneeling (Solomon, Daniel, our Lord in 22: 41, Stephen, Peter, Paul). For the quaint expression "sat" in 1Ch_17:16, cf. Mat_4:16: the Hebrew word and its Greek equivalent being used for abiding, tarrying. Cf. further Luk_21:35.
452 Luk_18:12. - "Twice, etc." That is, on Mondays and Thursdays, according to the Talmud. It is prescribed in Old Testament Scripture only for the Day of Atonement. The Didaché enjoined its observance by Christians on Wednesdays and Fridays (§ viii.).
453 Luk_18:13. -"Was striking upon his breast." Cf. Neander's famous saying, The breast makes the theologian," which carried the sympathy of Schleiermacher. The words of the writer of the well-known Church History were those of a man of genius.
"The sinner"; or, as A.V., retained by Revv., "a sinner." That is, "who is a sinner," the article being then regarded as equivalent to a relative pronoun, as in Rom_7:21.
The same words were on the lips, when dying, of Archbishop Usher and William Wilberforce.
There is a discourse of Bunyan on verses 10-13 ("Works," vol. ii.), also sermons of G. Whitefield and Isaac Williams.
454 "Justified," δεδικαιωμένος Meyer, Godet, and Weiss suppose that it means Pauline doctrinal justification, a view which the Expositor's remarks were designed to meet. Cf. Wellhausen: justified relatively.
455 For verses 9-14, see "Pilgrim's Progress," part ii.: "Greatheart" to the pilgrims; also sermon of Whitefield, and Spurgeon's 1949.
Critics, as the manner is, suppose a duplicate here of Luk_14:11.
456 Luk_18:15. - The connection with Mat_19:13 f. and Mar_10:13 ff. is here resumed.
457 Luk_18:16 f. - The KINGDOM ("moral" aspect).
"To receive" (verse 17); or, "to accept," δέχεσθαι (active). Observe the distinct force of this word in 1Co_2:14, compared with verse 12 there; also 2Co_11:4, where both λαμβάνειν and δέχεσθαι instructively occur in the same verse. The Vulgate in Luke 18 has distinguished δεχ in present verse from λαμβ in verse 30.
Stock: "receiving is not exactly a passive thing" (p. 230).
As to acceptance of the Kingdom (God's Sovereignty, or Christ's Lordship), see Dalman, p. 91, and note 105 on Mark; for entrance, which in Scripture is regularly used of the time of recompense, Dalman, p. 95, and note 99 on the same Gospel.
The GOSPEL as popularly used (see note on Luk_8:1) is only the scaffolding of the KINGDOM, not the building itself. Children of at least Christian parents obey them readily, from the heart, so far as they do respond to faithful "nurture and admonition." Cf. Rom_1:5, Rom_6:17, and Eph_6:4: in the last passage they are required to recognize the Lordship of Christ, to be subject to that. In the child as such there is no consciousness of merit; and so for those who entertain the doctrine of the Kingdom and enter upon the path which leads to its attainment.
"As a little child." See Nicoll, "Return to the Cross," pp. 201, 210, and chapter "The Theology of Little Children" (p. 142), quoting Bushnell: "It is the very character and mark of all unchristian education that it brings up the child for future conversion." This American writer also remarks, "Of the Moravian Brethren not one in ten recollects the time when he began to be religious" (quoted ibid., p. 145); in other words, to love the Lord.
457a Luk_18:18. - "Inherit": see note 106 on Mark, and in particular Rom_8:17, where a twofold inheritance is spoken of:-
(i.) "heirs of GOD," obtaining an endless inheritance promised (Tit_1:2, Tit_3:2; Heb_9:15; cf. 1Pe_5:10), which "fadeth not away" (1Pe_1:4 f.) and connected with Pauline justification, by FAITH, "of life" (Act_13:39; Rom_5:18), clenched by "this grace wherein (we) believers stand";
(ii.) "but,"as Vulg. rightly: see Meyer, "joint-heirs with CHRIST, if so be . . . that we may be also glorified with (Him)," where a semicolon after "Christ" obscures the meaning. For this cf. Col_3:24; 2Ti_2:12, and Heb_3:14 (Greek). In Rom_8:17 the μέν and δέ together make up the "but." This distinct inheritance, which is the prelude to the other (verse 30; cf. Rom_2:7), popularly confounded with it, is related to justification by WORKS in Jam_2:18; Jam_2:24.
It is sometimes said by apologists for crude "Reformed" doctrine that, because Paul alone uses "before God" (Rom_4:2), justification in James means before men (cf. Mat_5:16), and appeal is made to Jam_2:24. But that the Apostle James uses the word "see" for ideal sight is proved by verse 11 of his Epistle. Bishop Bull's second Dissertation (chapter 1) on Justification has refuted what he describes as this "foolish scheme." That one believer's works are open to another's human appreciation is clear from Jam_2:18; but James's reference to Gen_22:19 is different from that made by Paul (Gen_15:6): observe in Gen_22:15, "now I (Jehovah) know," when no men were on the scene but Abraham and his son. Luther (like Calvin, note 192) did not apprehend the truth of the Kingdom, any more than that of the Church, which together have come out more clearly during the last eighty years.
See further Luk_21:36 and 1Co_10:12, which, in harmony with other passages, establish the standing in responsibility (obnoxious to Calvinists) alongside of that in grace (obnoxious to Arminians). The statement of Norris that Justification is complete, though liable to be forfeited" ("Rudiments of Theology," p. 125), is misleading: cf. Rom_8:30 and 1Ti_2:4, which strike one note with 1Th_2:12, which strikes another. "Probation," recognized in the New Testament (1Co_9:27, etc.), has to do with standing in responsibility. The Holy Spirit would jealously guard such a scripture as Act_13:39 from an interpretation admitting of antinomianism in any shape or form. See 2Pe_3:16; 1Co_10:11 f., etc.
Controversialists, Roman and Protestant, High Anglican and Evangelicals, too often will but "see" one side of the case; whilst Higher Critics are wont to divorce Gospels from Epistles, and, from Lutheran tradition, to view these as in disharmony (cf. note 617).
Kingdom blessing depends, not on conformity to "the Law," as the term is used by the Apostle Paul (Gal_2:16, "the works of the Law": cf. Rom_6:14), but upon the believer's realisation of, and conformity to, New Testament requirements: see in particular Mat_7:24, Mat_28:20, and 1Co_9:21. The Kingdom in its manifestation will be the sphere of recompense for doing and suffering: see Luk_14:14, comparing 1Th_4:14-17, Php_3:10 f.
"Eternal life," as used by the "ruler," is the "life for evermore" of Psa_133:3, and so always by the Synoptists, who exhibit it in its historical limitations. Not that in the Fourth Gospel any more it is used as equivalent to the Synoptic "Kingdom," as says Garvie (after E. F. Scott). From Luke's treating the Kingdom largely from a "moral" point of view, bearing on the present dispensation (1Co_4:20), he has seemed to some German writers to lead up to what they suppose to be a merging, by the fourth Evangelist, of the Kingdom in Eternal Life; just as early "fathers" thought, on the other hand, that the βασίλεια swamps the ζωὴ αἰώνιος This has resulted from an imperfect induction of passages. The lineaments of the Synoptic Kingdom are engraved indelibly on Joh_15:1-8, where not a word occurs about "life," and where the three stages of fruit-bearing in Mar_4:20 are plainly recognizable. Again, the "abundant" life of Joh_10:10 is as thoroughly Lucan as it is Petrine. Cf. notes 65, 66, and 66a on John.
When Wernle criticizes Hermas amongst sub-apostolic writers for the conviction that many Christians would forfeit Kingdom blessings, on the ground that the writer of the Shepherd "never got quit of Jewish uncertainty of salvation" ("Beginnings," ii., p. 303), it must be remembered that, whilst it is true that none of the spokesmen of that generation laid hold of the Biblical fact that the believer has a "purged conscience" (Heb_10:2; Heb_10:22), their imperfect understanding of Grace arose from the mistake above mentioned, which may have been accentuated by misunderstanding of 2Pe_1:11; this, notwithstanding critics' depreciation of the Epistles as a whole, has become classical.
458 Luk_18:19. - The emphasis is on "good," not on "Me." Cf. Ullmann, "Sinlessness of Jesus," p. 148 ff. and note 107 on Mark, which deals with the point raised in such popular books as Schmiedel, "Jesus in Modern Criticism," p. 23. The limitations of the Lord's humanity we cannot determine outside Scripture (Joh_5:19, etc.), they were incidental to His self-imposed humiliation. There is here no more avowal of imperfection than in 20: 41-44 a repudiation of his Davidic Sonship. It is noticeable that the Koran, whilst more than once recording Mohammed's sense of need of forgiveness of sins, nowhere attributes to Aissa any such confession, although apocryphal gospels, from which "the Prophet" received his information, are not free from insinuations of the kind.
For "good" (ἀγαθός applied to the Lord, cf. Joh_7:12. "Goodness" (ἀγαθωσύνη GOD displays specially in sacrifice (verse 22; cf. Rom_8:32). Ethical religionists may talk of "sacrifice in behalf of the race," but JESUS first taught and practised it, as none other could or would do. Treasured have ever been words of the "judicious" Hooker in his great sermon on Justification: "We care for no other knowledge in the world than this, that man hath sinned and God hath suffered; that God hath made Himself the sin of men, and that men are made the righteousness of God." Had Irving and others held to this fundamental truth, we should never have had the unhappy suggestion of peccability of the Lord intruded on the Church.
458a Luk_18:20. - We have here, of course, a summary of the Ethical Code on its manward side, and that alone.
458b Luk_18:21. - In the Talmud the inquiry is raised, "Why did God give so many commandments?" To which a rabbinical answer is, "To multiply Israel's merit"!
459 Luk_18:23. - Matthew adds here, "he went away."
460 Cf. Gal_6:2.
461 Luk_18:24 f. - Difficult as it may be for the affluent to accept the Gospel of salvation, still more is it for such, when already Christians, to conform their conduct to the principles of the Kingdom. But heavenly grace suffices for the one situation as for the other. The same Evangelist, who in this chapter of his record has commemorated the offering of the "poor widow," has in another (Luk_23:50 ff.) told of the loving service rendered to the Master, when He was no longer on the scene to acknowledge it, by one of the class (cf. Mat_27:5, πλούσιος here spoken of, "who was looking for the Kingdom of God" and, we may well suppose, will be awarded a place in it.
"Needle's eye." The small gate for foot passengers is not beside (Adeney), but within the larger one for animals (Schor, p. 30). Both words here (τρῆμα βελόνη are medical terms: see Hobart.
462 "Saved." As to Messianic salvation, see note 361 (13: 23).
462a Luk_18:27. - Cf. Mar_14:36 in another connection.
463 Luk_18:30. - "Manifold more." Garvie: "communion of saints instead of family relationships."
"In this time." Nietzsche: "Buddhism gives no promise, but keeps every one; Christianity gives any promise, but keeps none" ("Antichrist," § 42). This is the language of a man not understanding what he said (1Ti_1:7) in either direction. The Buddhism that he so much lauded occupies novice and grey-haired men alike in a delusive struggle against suffering. Nietzsche wrote of Pascal, that the eminent French Christian's intellect was ruined by his faith; but this miserable man himself, as elsewhere stated, died insane. Again, Stanton Coit writes: "Many have asked and no one has answered, save where the prayer was overheard by some fellow man" ("The Lord's Prayer," p. 12). Myriads of men and women "in this time" can give the lie to this airy statement.
"Receive," λαμβάνειν (passive).
The "age to come" will witness the initial manifestation (cf. references in note 457a, following that to present verse) of the Eternal Life of the Fourth Gospel, which is, or should be, known morally by all believers now. Cf. 1Ti_4:8, "having promise of the life to come" (μελλούσης a word regularly used in millennial contexts [cf. note 355]); and for the manifestation of the sons of God, Rom_8:19.
The promise is made to those who have already acted as Peter says (Boehmer).
464 Luk_18:31-34. - See note 220a on John (12: 1). Verses 31-43 appear in the "Lectionary" as Gospel for Quinquagesima, to accompany 1 Cor. 13: as the Epistle. "The one affords a transcript from actual life of that which the other exhibits as an ideal" (A. W. Robinson).
465 Luk_18:34. - "Understood not"; or, "did not perceive," cf. 24: 25, 46 and Joh_12:34. It is much the same in Christendom now as it was in the Churches of "Asia" to which Paul's declaration of "the whole counsel of God" was addressed, cf. Act_20:27 and 2Ti_1:15.
"Know," get to know (γινώσκειν
466 Luk_18:35 ff. - The variations of the several Evangelists here are set out in Plummer, p. 429. As to the "supplementary theory," see Westcott, "Introduction," p. 183 f.
467 See note 111 on Mark. Luke agrees partly with Matthew and partly with Mark, a feature which is somewhat embarrassing to advocates of the current documentary theory.
Of the various explanations available, that seems to be most worthy of consideration which is derived from the fact that there were two Jerichos, the older site and the city then lately built, at a distance of 1.25 miles from each other. Excavations are being conducted by Prof. Sellin under the auspices of a German, archaeological society.
Nösgen, as the Expositor, has followed Grotius' explanation of ἐγγίζειν εἰς but the present writer is not prepared to resist the suggestion of motion conveyed independently by the preposition (cf. the Greek of 19: 29), and agrees with the remarks ad loc. of Bishop Goodwin, p. 311. Chrysostom: "Such apparent discrepancies between the Evangelists do but tell for their mutual independence. The Holy Spirit has not been pleased to supply us with all the facts." The most satisfactory rendering seems to be the one followed in the present volume, which happens to agree with that of Wellhausen.
468 For Messianic passages on blindness, see Isa_29:18, Isa_35:5, Isa_42:7. Bartimaeus was the first of those outside the apostolic band who addressed the Lord by His Messianic title.
A poem of Longfellow was derived from this narrative.