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a St. Matt. xii. 38
4. Both logically and morally the Words of Christ were unanswerable; and the Pharisees fell back on the old device of challenging proof of His Divine Mission by some visible sign. But this was to avoid the appeal to the moral element which the Lord had made; it was an attempt to shift the argument from the moral to the physical. It was the moral that was at fault, or rather, wanting in them; and no amount of physical evidence or demonstration could have supplied that. All the signs from heaven would not have supplied the deep sense of sin and of the need for a mighty spiritual deliverance, which alone would lead to the reception of the Saviour St. Matt. Christ. Hence, as under previous similar circumstances, He would
b ver. 39
offer them only one sign, that of Jonas the prophet. But whereas on the former occasion Christ chiefly referred to Jonas' preaching (of repentance), on this He rather pointed to the allegorical history of Jonas as the Divine attestation of his Mission. As he appeared in Nineveh, he was himself 'a sign unto the Ninevites;' the fact that he had been three days and nights in the whale's belly, and that thence he had, so to speak, been sent forth alive to preach in Nineveh, was evidence to them that he had been sent of God. And so would it be again. After three days and three nights in the heart of the earth'-which is a Hebraism for in the earth "-would His Resurrection Divinely attest to this generation His Mission. The Ninevites did not question, but received this attestation of Jonas; nay, an authentic report of the wisdom of Solomon had been sufficient to bring the Queen of Sheba from so far; in the one case it was, because they felt their sin; in the other, because she felt her need of the better wisdom and longed after it. But these were the two elements wanting in the men of this generation; and so both Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba would stand up, not only as mute witnesses against, but to condemn, them. For, the great Reality of which the preaching of Jonas had been only the type, and for which the wisdom of Solomon had been only the preparation, had been presented to them in Christ.e
d St. Luke xi. 30
e St. Matt. xii. 39-42
one side, and the Pharisees on the other, said concerning Christ and the Spirit of God.
5. And so, having put aside this cavil, Jesus returned to His former teaching concerning the Kingdom of Satan and the power
This is simply a Hebraism of which, similar instances, may be quoted, Exod. xv. 8 ('the heart of the sea'); Deut. iv. 11 (the heart of heaven'); 2 Sam. xviii. 14 (the heart of the
terebinth'). Hence I cannot agree with Dean Plumptre, that the expression 'heart of the earth' bears any reference to Hades.
ISRAEL THE HOUSE 'EMPTY, SWEPT, AND GARNISHED.'
of evil; only now with application, not, as before, to the individual, but, as prompted by a view of the unbelieving resistance of Israel, to the Jewish commonwealth as a whole. Here, also, it must be remembered, that, as the words used by our Lord were allegorical and illustrative, they must not be too closely pressed. As compared with the other nations of the world, Israel was like a house from which the demon of idolatry had gone out with all his attendants-really the 'Beel-Szibbul' whom they dreaded. And then the house had been swept of all the foulness and uncleanness of idolatry, and garnished with all manner of Pharisaic adornments. But all this while the house was really left empty, God was not there; the Stronger One, Who alone could have resisted the Strong One, held not rule in it. And so the demon returned to it again, to find the house whence he had come out empty, swept and garnished indeed-but also empty and defenceless. The folly of Israel lay in this, that they thought of only one demon-him of idolatry-Beel-Szibbul, with all his foulness. That was all very repulsive, and they had carefully removed it. But they knew that demons were only manifestations of demoniac power, and that there was a Kingdom of evil. So this house, swept of the foulness of heathenism and adorned with all the self-righteousness of Pharisaism, but empty of God, would only become a better, more suitable, and more secure habitation of Satan; because, from its cleanness and beauty, his presence and rule there as an evil spirit would never be suspected. So, to continue the illustrative language of Christ, he came back with seven other spirits more wicked than himself '-pride, self-righteousness, unbelief, and the like, the number seven being general-and thus the last stateIsrael without the foulness of gross idolatry and garnished with all the adornments of Pharisaic devotion to the study and practice of the Law-was really worse than had been the first with all its open repulsiveness.
6. Once more was the Discourse interrupted, this time by a truly Jewish incident. A woman in the crowd burst into exclamations about the blessedness of the Mother who had borne and nurtured such a Son. The phraseology seems to have been not uncommon, st. Luke since it is equally applied by the Rabbis to Moses, and even to a great Rabbi. More striking, perhaps, is another Rabbinic passage, in which Israel is described as breaking forth into these words on beholding the Messiah: Blessed the hour in which Messiah was created; blessed the womb whence He issued; blessed the gene
b Shem.R 45
e Chag. 14 b
a Pesikta, ed. Buber,
p 149 a, last lines
b St. Matt. xii. 46, 47
• St. Luke xi. 33-36
ration that sees Him; blessed the eye that is worthy to behold Him.' a
And yet such praise must have been peculiarly unwelcome to Christ, as being the exaltation of only His Human Personal excellence, intellectual or moral. It quite looked away from that which He would present: His Work and Mission as the Saviour. Hence it was, although from the opposite direction, as great a misunderstanding as the Personal depreciation of the Pharisees. Or, to use another illustration, this praise of the Christ through His VirginMother was as unacceptable and unsuitable as the depreciation of the Christ, which really, though unconsciously, underlay the loving care of the Virgin-Mother when she would have arrested Him in His Work, and which St. Matthew relates in this connection. Accordingly, the answer in both cases is substantially the same: to point away from His merely Human Personality to His Work and Mission -in the one case: 'Whosoever shall do the Will of My Father Which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother;' in the other: 'Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.' 3
7. And now the Discourse draws to a close by a fresh application of what, in some other form or connection, Christ had taught at a St. Matt. v. the outset of His public Ministry in the Sermon on the Mount.'
15; vi. 22,
Rightly to understand its present connection, we must pass over the various interruptions of Christ's Discourse, and join this as the conclusion to the previous part, which contained the main subject. This was, that spiritual knowledge presupposed spiritual kinship. Here, as becomes the close of a Discourse, the same truth is practically applied in a more popular and plain, one might almost say realistic, manner. As here put, it is, that spiritual receptiveness is ever the condition of spiritual reception. What was the object of lighting a lamp? Surely, that it may give light. But if so, no one would put it into a vault, nor under the bushel, but on the stand. Should we then expect that God would light the spiritual lamp, if it be put in a dark vault? Or, to take an illustration of it from the eye, which, as regards the body, serves the same purpose as the lamp in a house. Does it not depend on the state of the eye whether or not we have the sensation, enjoyment, and benefit of the light?
For the full quotation, see Book II. ch. v., and the Appendix to it.
2 See Book III. ch. xxii.
In view of such teaching, it is indeed difficult to understand the cultus
of the Virgin-and even much of that tribute to the exclusively human in Christ which is so characteristic of Romanism. See above, page 199 &c.
THE LAMP IN A VAULT.
Let us, therefore, take care, lest, by placing, as it were, the lamp in a vault, the light in us be really only darkness. On the other hand, if by means of a good eye the light is transmitted through the whole system-if it is not turned into darkness, like a lamp that is put into a vault or under a bushel, instead of being set up to spread light through the house-then shall we be wholly full of light. And this, finally, explains the reception or rejection of Christ: how, in the words of an Apostle, the same Gospel would be both a savour of life unto life, and of death unto death.
It was a blessed lesson with which to close His Discourse, and one full of light, if only they had not put it into the vault of their darkened hearts. Yet presently would it shine forth again, and give light to those whose eyes were opened to receive it; for, according to the Divine rule and spiritual order, to him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that he hath.
In some measure like the demon who returned to find his house empty, swept and garnished.
a St. Matt. xxiii.
b St. Matt. xxiii.
THE MORNING-MEAL IN THE PHARISEE'S HOUSE-MEALS AND FEASTS AMONG
(St. Luke xi. 37-54.)
BITTER as was the enmity of the Pharisaic party against Jesus, it had not yet so far spread, nor become so avowed, as in every place to supersede the ordinary rules of courtesy. It is thus that we explain the invitation of a Pharisee to the morning meal, which furnished the occasion for the second recorded Peræan Discourse of Christ. Alike in substance and tone, it is a continuation of His former address to the Pharisees. And it is probably here inserted in order to mark the further development of Christ's anti-Pharisaic teaching. It is the last address to the Pharisees, recorded in the Gospel of St. Luke. A similar last appeal is recorded in a much. later portion of St. Matthew's Gospel," only that St. Luke reports that spoken in Peræa, St. Matthew that made in Jerusalem. This may also partly account for the similarity of language in the two Discourses. Not only were the circumstances parallel, but the language held at the end may naturally have recurred to the writer, when reporting the last controversial Discourse in Peræa. Thus it may well have been, that Christ said substantially the same things on both occasions, and yet that, in the report of them, some of the later modes of expression may have been transferred to the earlier occasion. And because the later both represents and presents the fullest anti-Pharisaic Discourse of the Saviour, it will be better to postpone our analysis till we reach that period of His Life.2
Some distinctive points, however, must here be noted. The remarks already made will explain, how some time may have elapsed between this and the former Discourse, and that the expression, And as He spake' must not be pressed as a mark of time (referring
1 Even St. Luke xx. 45-47 is not an exception. Christ, indeed, often afterwards answered their questions, but this is His last formal address to the Pharisees.
2 See the remarks on St. Luke xi. 39-52 in our analysis of St. Matt. xxiii. in chap. iv. of Book. V.