THE OPENING VERSES show the thorough and systematic way in which the Lord Jesus evangelized the cities and villages. He announced the kingdom of God, which involves God's authority being established and man's salvation secured through judgment. It was too early as yet for the Gospel of 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4 to be preached, though, now that we have that Gospel, we can still preach the kingdom of God in its present form. The twelve were with Him, and being trained under His eye. The other Gospels show us this, but only Luke tells us how certain women, who had experienced His delivering power, followed Him and ministered to Him of their goods. This comes in very fittingly after the story of the salvation of the sinful woman of the city.
In verses 4-15, we have the parable of the sower and its interpretation. This reveals to us the agency which Divine grace uses to accomplish its benign results-the Word of God. The fruit of which the parable speaks is not something which is natural to man: it is only produced by the Word, as that Word is received into prepared hearts. In our natural condition our hearts are marked by insensibility, like the hardened wayside, or they are shallow without conviction, or preoccupied with cares or pleasures. The heart prepared like the good ground is one that has been awakened and exercised by the Holy Spirit of God. When the heart is thus made "honest," the Word is retained and treasured, and ultimately fruit is produced.
Verse 16 adds the fact that light as well as fruit is produced by the true reception of the Word. Every real conversion means the lighting of a fresh candle in this dark world. Now just as cares and riches and pleasures choke the word, so may some "vessel," speaking of work and daily toil, or "bed," speaking of ease, hide the candle which has been lit. Every candle lit by the reception of the Word is to be conspicuously displayed for the benefit of others. Let us all take this home to ourselves, for the fact is that if the light be really there it cannot be altogether hid, as verse 17 indicates. If year after year nothing is manifested, only one conclusion can be drawn -there is nothing to he manifested.
All these considerations lead us to conclude how imperative it is that we hear the Word rightly. Hence, how we hear is of all importance. What we hear is of equal importance, and this is emphasized in Mark 4: 24. If we do not hear aright we lose that which we seem to have possessed. This is stated in verse 18, and it is illustrated above, in the case of the wayside, the stony ground and the thorny ground hearers.
Verses 19-21 add a further striking fact: if the word be rightly received it brings the recipient into relationship with Christ Himself. The Lord plainly shows here that the relationship He was going to acknowledge was not based upon flesh and blood, but upon spiritual realities-upon the hearing and the doing of the Word. This thought is amplified in the epistles: Paul speaking of "the hearing of faith," (Galatians 3: 2; Romans 10: 8-17); James of the works of faith, for "faith without works is dead" (James 2: 20). If we consult Matthew and Mark we shall probably conclude that this incident, as to the Lord's mother and brethren, did not take place exactly at this point, but Luke here again observes an order which is moral rather than historical. The Word received in faith produces fruit for God, light for men, and introduces into true relationship with Christ himself. There is a moral sequence in these things.
Now we come, verses 22-25, to the storm on the lake which was so miraculously calmed. Here again we believe we see a moral sequence. He had just pointed out that the relationship that He acknowledged had a spiritual basis, and the disciples were those who had entered into it. Now they have to discover that relationship with Him means opposition and trouble in the world. The water of the lake was lashed into rough waves by the power of the wind, just as Satan, who is "the prince of the power of the air," lashes men and nations into furious opposition against Christ and all that are connected with Him. The disciples came into that particular storm because of their identification with Him.
It was for the moment a terrifying experience, but one which afterwards must have yielded them much encouragement. It served as an opportunity for Him to display His complete mastery of wind and sea, and of the power that lay behind them. At the moment the faith of the disciples was small. They were thinking of their own safety, and had as yet but little understanding of who He was. When later the Spirit was given, and they saw all things clearly, they must have marvelled at their own obtuseness, that they had so little grasped the majesty of His action. If only they had grasped it, their hearts would have been calmed, equally with the waters of the lake.
On the lake the Lord triumphed over the power of Satan working upon the elements of nature: arrived in the country of the Gadarenes He was confronted by the same power, but much more directly exercised over man by means of demons. Opposition must be expected, but the power of His word was supreme. This man presented a very extreme case of demon possession. It had existed "long time;" it endowed him with super-human strength, so that no ordinary restraints held him; it drove him into deserts and the place of death-the tombs. Moreover he was enslaved not by one demon but by many. For some reason he had become like a fortress, strongly held for Satan by a whole legion of demons; so when Jesus met him there was a trial of strength indeed.
The cry of the demon-possessed man, in which he acknowledged Jesus as "Son of God most high," is strikingly in contrast with the exclamation of the disciples, "What manner of man is this!" The demons had no doubt as to who He was, and they knew that they had met their supreme Master, who could have banished them into "the deep," or "the abyss," with a single word. Instead He permitted them to enter into the swine. This meant deliverance for the man but disaster for the swine. Incidentally too, it must have meant degradation for the demons to change their residence from a man to a herd of pigs; and this new residence was lost to them in a few minutes as the pigs choked themselves in the lake. Satan would have drowned the great Master and His disciples in the lake but an hour or so before; actually it was the swine, of which he had taken possession by his agents that were drowned.
Just as the wind and water had obeyed His word, so the demons had to obey. The man was completely delivered and his whole character changed. In the words, "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind," we may see a beautiful picture of what grace accomplishes for men, who today have been held captive by Satan's power. We may also see in this delivered man another feature which stands good for us today. We too are not permitted as yet to be with our Deliverer: we have to go back to our friends and show what has been wrought in us. The more complete the change wrought, as in the case of this man, the more effective is such testimony.
The testimony was lost however on the Gadarene people, who had lost their swine. Pigs they did appreciate and grace they did not appreciate, so they refused the Deliverer. Jesus accepted their refusal and returned to the other side of the lake to continue the display of His grace there.
The disciples had witnessed the triumph of their Lord over opposition both on the lake and in the Gadarene country, they were now to see further triumphs on the Capernaum side of the sea. The underworld of demons had owned His power as well as the elements of nature: now disease and death are to yield in His presence. It is worthy of note that the one who approached the Lord first was not the first to receive the blessing.
Jairus was a representative son of Israel; death was invading his house, and he appealed to the Lord, meeting with an immediate response. On the way Jesus was intercepted by this unnamed woman suffering from an incurable disease. Her touch of faith brought her instant healing. Though later in coming and irregular in her proceedings she was the first to experience the delivering grace of the Lord. We may trace here an analogy with the present ways of God. While still He is on the way to raise up to life and blessing the "daughter of Israel" others, and those mainly Gentiles, are giving the touch of faith and getting the blessing.
It was only a touch, and it was only the hem of His garment, yet the blessing was hers in full measure-thus illustrating the fact that the measure of our faith does not determine the measure of the blessing that grace bestows-for she was perfectly healed. We also see that a touch in itself brought nothing, for Peter's word of remonstrance showed that many had for various reasons been brought into contact with Him. Only the touch of faith counted. In other words, faith was the all-essential thing, and that we may exercise today, though the touch of faith can now only be given spiritually and not physically.
By His questions Jesus brought the woman to the point of confession. In accord with the spirit of the Gospel the faith of her heart had to be followed by the confession of her lips, and that brought her an accession of blessing, for she got the words, "Thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace." Apart from that word her mind might have been overshadowed by the dread of the recurrence of her plague. Her faith, expressed in the touch, brought the healing; but her confession brought forth the word of assurance that set her mind at ease. How many there may be today who lack the full assurance of salvation because they have lacked courage to confess fully His Name.
At that moment came the news of the death of the damsel, and this furnished a fresh opportunity for the importance of faith to be emphasized. To men death is the dispeller of every hope; yet the word of Jesus was, "Fear not: believe only." To her parents and friends it was death, but it was only sleep to Him: yet the very unbelief of those who bewailed her enables us to see that she really was dead, as we speak. The mocking unbelievers were all put out and only a few who believed saw His work of power. At His word her spirit came again and she was restored to life.
The charge "that they should tell no man what was done" was entirely contrary to all human ideas. Men love notoriety, but not so the Lord. He wrought to make God known, and only faith understood His works, and was confirmed thereby.
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