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Christ as our leader is enough. No other man should be allowed to usurp in our hearts and lives supreme leadership.
23:11. “ He who is greatest among you will be your servant."
He who is really greatest among men will show his superiority, not in assertion, but in his greater abundance of good words and works, in his ministering to the necessities of his fellows, and in all lowliness and Godly fear.
23:14. “ Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”
At the very time the Divine Master was thus confounding under the weight of his anathemas the pride and the ambition of these sectaries, a public scandal was bringing the contempt of the whole world upon them. The historian Josephus tells us a Jew of Rome aided by some Pharisee doctors, had converted to Mosaism a noble woman named Fulvia and had persuaded her to bequeath to the Temple at Jerusalem all her fortune representing an enor. mous value. The legacy was received by the lying hypocrites, but they sent not an obolus to the Temple, and they divided entirely among themselves the spoil plucked by their avarice from the good faith of a stranger. This fact produced a profound impression. Tiberias issued a decree expelling all Jews from the precincts of Rome.
23:22. “ Whoever shall swear by Heaven,” etc.
It is quite evident that the Sanctuary and the Altar, which sanctify the presents are of a greater dignity than the gifts put upon them to be sanctified by them. Yet these blind guides were foolish enough to say the oath taken by the gift and by the gold consecrated in the Sanc. tuary and upon the Altar was more inviolable than that
taken by the Sanctuary and by the Altar itself. Why? Because they desired the gifts and the gold by which they profited to be multiplied. This is the reason they raised the estimation of such things. Yes, they went on blindly to declare the gift preferable to the Sanctuary and to the Altar where it is consecrated:
“ You tithe mint and anise and cummin." Jewish custom extended the law of the tithe to all the aromatic plants and herbs. Jesus blames the Pharisees, not for submitting to it, but for not observing the great precepts of the law with the same fidelity as these lesser observances.
23:24. “ You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.”
“Leviticus 11:20, 23, 41, 42, forbids the eating of impure animals. Through fear of violating this law, it was a custom with the Pharisees never to drink anything not carefully filtered. They were accustomed to filter, therefore, wine and water, for fear of its having in it a little impure animal, a gnat, for instance. Has there never been false piety among Christians? You would be unwilling to lose an Ave Maria from your beads, but the injustices, the slanders, the jealousies,-you swallow them like water. Scrupulous in the little obligations, bountiful beyond measure in the others.”—Bossuet.
“ There shall not be left here one stone on another which shall not be thrown down."
See note on S. Mark 13: 2.
24:4. “ See that no one deceives you."
The discourse on the Mount of Olives is divided into two main divisions, these have each nine stanzas, and these are again divided into threes.
24:22. “But for the sake of the chosen ones."
“ But of that day and hour no one knows not even the angels of heaven.”
As God, Jesus knew this hour, say the theologians, but as man, he, as well as the angels, was ignorant of it, that his nature and intelligence might be perfect human nature and intelligence.
See note on S. Mark 13:32.
“But if that wicked slave shall say in his heart : My master is delaying."
Delay brings temptation to relax zeal. Yielding to this temptation exposes to the risk of surprise. Our Lord's discourse on the last things, therefore, contains frequent exhortations to watchfulness. “ Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour,”—comes in at intervals like a solemn refrain. This lesson is continually enforced. It is enforced, not simply by repetition, but by the use of figurative representations showing vividly the need of such watching.
“ The Kingdom of Heaven will then be like ten bridesmaids."
Forethought is the chief part of wisdom. It is the object of this parable to teach us such a wisdom. It lays before us an instance in which it is put to the test.
The folly of the foolish virgins consists not in bringing no oil but in not bringing enough. They are foolish in the second place in going away at an unseasonable hour to purchase oil instead of taking their place in the marriage
procession as they are. It is true they might well have felt ashamed of their dark lamps. Yet it were better not to commit the worse fault of failing altogether in welcoming the bridegroom and of gaining admission to the wedding feast. And yet like so many of human kind these foolish ones add sin to folly. Lacking forethought in regard to the less important function of the occasion, they lose also the all important part of it.
In their attempt to make up for a past fault they commit a far greater one. We should always be ready and willing to mend our ways. But never should we fail in a greater duty by stopping to patch up a fault in a minor one. For that betokens an altogether false estimation of ourselves and the purpose of our lives.
Let us then learn from this parable to provide for the unusual, to be always on our guard against surprises of all sorts. But if we are suddenly surprised and find ourselves at fault, never let us be deceived into making it a double one by looking back instead of forward. Let us leave those things which are behind and press on to the mark of our high calling in Christ.
25:15. “ To each according to his owor ability.”
The demands of the Kingdom of God are exacting, but they are always reasonable. To each man is given according to his own ability. The degree of the gift is the measure of accountability.
25:21, 23. “ Well, good and faithful slave."
Equal diligence in the use of unequal endowments has an equal value set upon it in the Divine Kingdom. This is a never failing law of Divine Providence.
We have in these two verses, significant touches de scriptive of the character of the faithful ones. They are
described as good and faithful. The former means here, as in the parable of the Sower, devoted, enthusiastic, single hearted. That being the meaning of the one epithet the other goes along with it as a matter of course. One who is generous in the sense of putting his whole heart and soul into his work, cannot fail to be faithful. For the very secret of fidelity is single heartedness. The sole cause of unfaithfulness, on the other hand, is a divided heart.
No fear of neglect when the whole heart is engaged. No need of a taskmaster's eye to keep a man of such devotion to his work. Love is its own taskmaster.
Such is the common character of these two men.
In the pronouncing of these epithets again, we see in this master a type of the Master of us all.
He pronounces perfect and good, men in whom we have no difficulty in seeing moral defect. He is never loath to pronounce such epithets wherever there is a single hearted devotion to his cause. Those who are serving the Lord of this Kingdom should bear this always in mind. It is well for us to think humbly of ourselves. But it is not well for us to imagine God thinks meanly of our endeavors in the right. Such thoughts can only be injurious and degrading in their effect upon us.
True religion has always an elevating effect upon men. But it can have such an effect only in so far as it is a worship of a generous and magnanimous God. Therefore, while in the language of a former parable we think of ourselves as unprofitable servants, and disclaim all selfrighteous pretensions to merit, we need at the same time remember we serve One who will pronounce on every single hearted worker, be his position distinguished or obscure, his success great or small, the distinguished and honorable sentence : “Well, good and faithful slave."