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 note #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 note #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 note #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 note #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.