INSTEAD OF BEING provoked by the vehement opposition of the scribes and Pharisees, the Lord improved the occasion by calmly instructing His disciples in the presence of the enormous crowd, that the controversy had drawn together. He had just been fuming the searchlight of truth on the religious leaders: He now turned the same light on the disciples and their path.
In the first place He warned them against the hypocrisy, which He had just been unmasking in the Pharisees. It is indeed a "leaven;" that is, a type of evil which, if unjudged, ferments and grows. The hypocrite aims at having things "covered" from God in the first place, and then from the eyes of his fellows. Everything however is coming into the light, so that in the long run hypocrisy is futile. Still, while it exists, it is absolutely fatal to the soul having to do with God in any way. Hence from a moral point of view the warning against it must come in the first place. For the disciple of Christ there must be no covering of anything from the eyes of the Lord.
In the second place He warned them against the fear of man-verses 4-11. He did not hide from them the fact that they were going to encounter rejection and persecution. If they were to be free of hypocrisy in a world which is so largely dominated by it, they could not expect to be popular. But, on the other hand, if they were to have nothing covered from the eyes of God, they would be able to stand forth with no cowardice in the presence of persecuting men. They who fear God much, fear men little.
The Lord did not merely exhort His disciples to have no fear of men, He also made known to them things which would prove great encouragements to that end. In verse 4 He addressed them as, "My friends." They knew that they were His disciples, His servants, but this must have set matters in a new and very cheering light. In the strength of His friendship they, and we, can face the world's enmity. Then, in verses 6 and 7, He set before them in a very touching way the care of God on their behalf. So intimate is it, that the very hairs of our head are not merely counted but numbered.
In verse 12 He assures them that in their moments of emergency they could count upon the special teaching of the Holy Ghost. They would have no need to prepare an elaborate defence when arraigned before the authorities. The hatred and opposition of men was to lie as a liability upon them: but what marvellous assets are these - the friendship of Christ, the care of God, the teaching of the Holy Ghost. And in addition to this, their confession of Christ before hostile men would be rewarded by His confession of them before holy angels.
At this point in His discourse the Lord was interrupted by a man who wished Him to interfere on his behalf in a matter of money. Had He been the social reformer or socialist, that some imagine Him to have been, here was the opportunity for Him to have laid down correct rules for the division of property. He did nothing of the kind: instead, He unmasked the covetousness which had led to man's request, and spoke the well-known parable concerning the rich fool. To reconstruct his barns, so as to conserve all the fruits given to him by the bounty of God, was just ordinary prudence. To lay all up for himself, and to neglect all the Divine riches for the soul, was the substance of his folly.
The rich fool was filled with covetousness, since he regarded all his goods as guaranteeing the fulfilment of his programme - "take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." This is precisely the programme of the average man of the world today - plenty of leisure, plenty to eat and drink, plenty of fun and amusement.
Now the believer is "rich toward God," as verse 32 makes very plain. So, when the Lord resumed His discourse to His disciples, in verse 22, He began to relieve their minds of all those cares which are so natural to us. Since we are enriched with the kingdom, no covetousness is to characterize us; and we are to be burdened with no care, since God's care on our behalf is all-sufficient. His words were, "Your Father knoweth." Thus He taught His disciples to know God as One who took a fatherly interest in them, and in all their needs as relating to this life.
But this He did, in order that they might be set free in spirit to pursue things that at the present moment lie outside this life. There is no contradiction between verses 31 and 32. The kingdom is given to us and yet we are to seek it. We must seek it because it is not yet in manifestation; consequently it is not found in the things of this life, but lies in the spiritual and moral realities connected with the souls of those who are brought under the Divine authority. Nevertheless the kingdom is to be a manifested reality in this world, and the title-deeds of it are already sure to the people of God. As our thoughts and our lives today are filled with the things of God and the service of God, we seek the kingdom of God.
Hence the lives of the disciples were to run on lines diametrically opposed to those of the votaries of this world. Instead of laying up goods for an easy time of pleasure, the disciple is to be one who is a giver, one who lays up treasure in heaven, one whose loins are girded for activity and service, and whose light of testimony is shining. He is, in fact, to be like a man waiting for the return of his master. We have already noticed the things which are not to characterize us: here we have the things which are to characterize us.
As servants we are to be waiting for our Lord, and not only waiting but "watching" (verse 37), "ready" (verse 40), and "doing" (verse 43)-doing that which is our allotted task. The time of reward will be when our Lord returns. Then the Lord will Himself undertake to minister to the full blessing of those who have watched for Him. This, which we find in verse 37, indicates a reward of a general sort. Verse 44 speaks of a reward of a more special sort to be given to those marked by faithful and diligent service in their Master's interests.
The Lord's discourse to His disciples extends to the end of verse 53. A few salient points are these:
(1) Heaven is again set before the disciples. In Luke 10, as we noticed, they are instructed that their citizenship is to be in the heavens. Now they are taught so to act that their treasure may be in heaven, and consequently their heart there too. They are to live on principles altogether opposed to those governing the rich fool.
(2) The Lord assumes His rejection all through, and speaks of it yet more plainly towards the end-verses 49-53. "Fire" is symbolic of that which searches and judges, and it had been already kindled by His rejection. By His "baptism" He indicated His death, and until that was accomplished He was "straitened," that is, narrowed up, or restrained. Only when expiation had been accomplished could love and righteousness flow forth in full power. But then, the fire being kindled and the baptism accomplished, all would be brought to an issue, and the line of demarcation clearly drawn. He would become the test, and division take place even in the most intimate circles. In the anticipation of all this, the Lord assumes His absence, and consequently speaks freely of His second coming.
(3) To Peter's question (verse 41) the Lord did not give a direct answer. He did not definitely limit His remarks to the small circle of His disciples, nor enlarge the circle to embrace the thousands of Israel who were standing round. Instead He rested the whole weight of His words upon the responsibility of His hearers. If men were in the place of His servants-no matter how they got there-they would be recompensed according to their works, whether they proved to be faithful or evil. The evil servant does not desire the presence of the Lord, and consequently in his mind he defers His coming. Being thus wrong in relation to the Master, he becomes wrong in his relations with his fellow-servants, and wrong in his personal life. When the Lord comes his portion will be with the unbelievers, inasmuch as he has proved himself to be only an unbeliever. Verses 47 and 48 clearly show that penalty as well as reward will be graduated with equity in keeping with the degree of responsibility.
(4) The marks of the true servant are that he devotes himself to his Master's interests while He is absent, and he waits for his reward until He returns. Three times in this discourse does the Lord refer to eating and drinking, as a figure of having a good time. The worldling has his good time of merriment (verse 19), which ends in death. The false servant has his good time when he begins "to eat and drink, and to be drunken" (verse 45), which ends in disaster at the coming of his Master. The worldling was not only merry; he was drunk, which is worse. As a matter of fact, when unconverted men take the place of being servants of God, they seem to fall more easily under the intoxicating influence of seductive religious and philosophic notions than anyone else. The true servant waits for his Master, who will make him to sit down to eat and drink and be the Servant of his joy (verse 37). His good time will be then.
In verse 54 the Lord turned from His disciples to the people with words of warning. They were in a most critical position and did not know it. They were well able to read the signs of the weather, but unable to read the signs of the time. By their rejection of the Lord they were forcing Him into the part of their "adversary," that is, the opposing party in a law-suit. If they persisted in their attitude, and the case came before the Judge of all, they would find themselves altogether in the wrong and the penalty to the uttermost would come upon them. They would have to pay "the very last mite."
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