THE FIRST PERAEAN DISCOURSES
TO THE PHARISEES CONCERNING THE TWO KINGDOMS
WHAT QUALIFIES A DISCIPLE FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AND HOW ISRAEL WAS BECOMING SUBJECT TO THAT OF EVIL
Matthew 12:22-45 ; Luke 11:14-36
It was well that Jesus should, for the present, have parted from Jerusalem with words like these. They would cling about His hearers like the odour of incense that had ascended. Even ‘the schism’ that had come among them 1 concerning His Person made it possible not only to continue His Teaching, but to return to the City once more ere His final entrance. For, His Peræan Ministry, which extended from after the Feast of Tabernacles to the week preceding the last Passover, was, so to speak, cut in half by the brief visit of Jesus to Jerusalem at the Feast of the Dedication. 2 Thus, each part of the Peræan Ministry would last about three months; the first, from about the end of September to the month of December; 3 the second, from that period to the beginning of April. 4 Of these six months we have (with the solitary exception of St. Matthew xii. 22-45), 5 no other account than that furnished by St. Luke, 6 7 although, as usually, the Jerusalem and Judæan incidents of it are described by St. John. 8 After that we have the account of His journey to the last Passover, recorded, with more or less detail, in the three Synoptic Gospels.
It will be noticed that this section is peculiarly lacking in incident. It consists almost exclusively of Discourses and Parables, with but few narrative portions interspersed. And this, not only because the season of the year must have made itinerancy difficult, and thus have hindered the introduction to new scenes and of new persons, but chiefly from the character of His Ministry in Peræa. We remember that, similarly, the beginning of Christ’s Galilean Ministry had been chiefly marked by Discourses and Parables. Besides, after what had passed, and must now have been so well known, illustrative Deeds could scarcely have been so requisite in Peræa. In fact, His Peræan was, substantially, a resumption of His early Galilean Ministry, only modified and influenced by the much fuller knowledge of the people concerning Christ, and the greatly developed enmity of their leaders. This accounts for the recurrence, although in fuller, or else in modified, form, of many things recorded in the earlier part of this History. Thus, to begin with, we can understand how He would, at this initial stage of His Peræan, as in that of His Galilean Ministry, repeat, when asked for instruction concerning prayer, those sacred words ever since known as the Lord’s Prayer. The variations are so slight as to be easily accounted for by the individuality of the reporter. 9 They afford, however, the occasion for remarking on the two principal differences. In St. Luke the prayer is for the forgiveness of ‘sins,’ while St. Matthew uses the Hebraic term ‘debts,’ which has passed even into the Jewish Liturgy, denoting our guilt as indebtedness. Again, the ‘day by day’ of St. Luke, which further explains the petition for ‘daily bread,’ common both to St. Matthew and St. Luke, may be illustrated by the beautiful Rabbinic teaching, that the Manna fell only for each day, in order that thought of their daily dependence might call forth constant faith in our ‘Father Which is in heaven.’ Another Rabbinic saying places our nourishment on the same level with our redemption, as regards the thanks due to God and the fact that both are day by day. 13 Yet a third Rabbinic saying notes the peculiar manner in which both nourishment and redemption are always mentioned in Scripture (by reduplicated expressions), and how, while redemption took place by an Angel, nourishment is attributed directly to God.
- The concluding Doxology should be omitted from St. Matthew’s report of the prayer. As regards the different readings which have been adopted into the Revised Version, the reader is advised, before accepting the proposed alterations, to consult Canon Cook’s judicious notes (in the Speaker’s Commentary ad loc.).
But to return. From the introductory expression: ‘When (or whenever) ye pray, say’ – we venture to infer, that this prayer was intended, not only as the model, but as furnishing the words for the future use of the Church. Yet another suggestion may be made. The request, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples,’ 17 seems to indicate what was ‘the certain place,’ which, now consecrated by our Lord’s prayer, became the school for ours. It seems at least likely, that the allusion of the disciples to the Baptist may have been prompted by the circumstance, that the locality was that which had been the scene of John’s labours – of course, in Peræa. Such a note of place is the more interesting, that St. Luke so rarely indicates localities. In fact, he leaves us in ignorance of what was the central place in Christ’s Peræan Ministry, although there must have been such. In the main, the events are, indeed, most likely narrated in their chronological order. But, as Discourses, Parables, and incidents are so closely mixed up, it will be better, in a work like the present, for clearness’ and briefness’ sake, to separate and group them, so far as possible. Accordingly, this chapter will be devoted to the briefest summary of the Lord’s Discourses in Peræa, previous to His return to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple.
The first of these was on the occasion of His casting out a demon, 18 and restoring speech to the demonised; or if, as seems likely, the cure is the same as that recorded in St. Matt. xii. 22, both sight and speech, which had probably been paralysed. This is one of the cases in which it is difficult to determine whether narratives in different Gospels, with slightly varying details, represent different events or only differing modes of narration. It needs no argument to prove, that substantially the same event, such as the healing of a blind or dumb demonised person, may, and probably would, have taken place on more than one occasion, and that, when it occurred, it would elicit substantially the same remarks by the people, and the same charge against Christ of superior demoniac agency which the Pharisees had now distinctly formulated. 19 Again, when recording similar events, the Evangelists would naturally come to tell them in much the same manner. Hence, it does not follow that two similar narratives in different Gospels always represent the same event. But in this instance, it seems likely. The earlier place which it occupies in the Gospel by St. Matthew may be explained by its position in a group denunciatory of the Pharisees; and the notice there of their blasphemous charge of His being the instrument of Satan probably indicates the outcome of their ‘council,’ how they might destroy Him. 20 21
It is this charge of the Pharisees which forms the main subject of Christ’s address, His language being now much more explicit than formerly, 22 even as the opposition of the Pharisees had more fully ripened. In regard to the slight difference in the narratives of St. Matthew and St. Luke, we mark that, as always, the Words of the Lord are more fully reported by the former, while the latter supplies some vivid pictorial touches. 23 The following are the leading features of Christ’s reply to the Pharisaic charge: First, It was utterly unreasonable, 24 and inconsistent with their own premisses, 25 showing that their ascription of Satanic agency to what Christ did was only prompted by hostility to His Person. This mode of turning the argument against the arguer was peculiarly Hebraic, and it does not imply any assertion on the part of Christ, as to whether or not the disciples of the Pharisees really cast out demons. Mentally, we must supply – according to your own professions, your disciples cast out demons. If so, by whom are they doing it?
But, secondly, beneath this logical argumentation lies deep and spiritual instruction, closely connected with the late teaching during the festive days in Jerusalem. It is directed against the flimsy, superstitious, and unspiritual views entertained by Israel, alike of the Kingdom of evil and of that of God. For, if we ignore the moral aspect of Satan and his kingdom, all degenerates into the absurdities and superstitions of the Jewish view concerning demons and Satan, which are fully described in another place. 26 On the other hand, introduce the ideas of moral evil, of the concentration of its power in a kingdom of which Satan is the representative and ruler, and of our own inherent sinfulness, which makes us his subjects – and all becomes clear. Then, truly, can Satan not cast out Satan – else how could his kingdom stand; then, also, is the casting out of Satan only by ‘God’s Spirit,’ or ‘Finger:’ and this is the Kingdom of God. 27 Nay, by their own admission, the casting out of Satan was part of the work of Messiah. 28 29 Then had the Kingdom of God, indeed, come to them – for in this was the Kingdom of God; and He was the God-sent Messiah, come not for the glory of Israel, nor for anything outward or intellectual, but to engage in mortal conflict with moral evil, and with Satan as its representative. In that contest Christ, as the Stronger, bindeth ‘the strong one,’ spoils his house (divideth his spoil), and takes from him the armour in which his strength lay (‘he trusted’) by taking away the power of sin. 30 This is the work of the Messiah – and, therefore also, no one can be indifferent towards Him, because all, being by nature in a certain relation towards Satan, must, since the Messiah had commenced His Work, occupy a definite relationship towards the Christ Who combats Satan. 31 32
It follows, that the work of the Christ is a moral contest waged through the Spirit of God, in which, from their position, all must take a part. But it is conceivable that a man may not only try to be passively, but even be actively on the enemy’s side, and this not by merely speaking against the Christ, which might be the outcome of ignorance or unbelief, but by representing that as Satanic which was the object of His Coming. 33 Such perversion of all that is highest and holiest, such opposition to, and denunciation of, the Holy Spirit as if He were the manifestation of Satan, represents sin in its absolute completeness, and for which there can be no pardon, since the state of mind of which it is the outcome admits not the possibility of repentance, because its essence lies in this, to call that Satanic which is the very object of repentance. It were unduly to press the Words of Christ, to draw from them such inferences as, whether sins unforgiven in this world might or might not be forgiven in the next, since, manifestly, it was not the intention of Christ to teach on this subject. On the other hand, His Words seem to imply that, at least as regards this sin, there is no room for forgiveness in the other world. For, the expression is not ‘the age to come’ , but, ‘the world to come’, or, which, as we know, does not strictly refer to Messianic times. but to the future and eternal, as distinguished both from this world, and from ‘the days of the Messiah’.
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 Virgin-Mother 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, 48 and which (perhaps for this very reason) St. Matthew relates in the same connection. 49 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.’
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.