Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
MISSION OF THE
1. power and authority--He both qualified and
7. perplexed--at a loss, embarrassed.
said of some, that John was risen--Among many opinions, this was the
one which Herod himself adopted, for the reason, no doubt, mentioned on
9. desired to see him--but did not, till as a prisoner He was sent
to him by Pilate just before His death, as we learn from
RETURN OF THE
24. will save--"Is minded to save," bent on saving. The pith of
this maxim depends--as often in such weighty sayings (for example, "Let
the dead bury the dead,"
--on the double sense attached to the word "life," a lower and a
higher, the natural and the spiritual, temporal and eternal. An entire
sacrifice of the lower, or a willingness to make it, is indispensable
to the preservation of the higher life; and he who cannot bring himself
to surrender the one for the sake of the other shall eventually lose
26. ashamed of me, and of my words--The sense of shame is one of
the strongest in our nature, one of the social affections founded on our
love of reputation, which causes instinctive aversion to what is
fitted to lower it, and was given us as a preservative from all that is
properly shameful. When one is, in this sense of it, lost to shame,
he is nearly past hope
Jer 6:15; 3:3).
But when Christ and "His words"--Christianity, especially in its more
spiritual and uncompromising features--are unpopular, the same
instinctive desire to stand well with others begets the
temptation to be ashamed of Him, which only the 'expulsive power' of a
higher affection can effectually counteract.
Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh, &c.--He will render to that
man his own treatment; He will disown him before the most august of all
assemblies, and put him to "shame and everlasting contempt"
"Oh shame, to be put to shame before God, Christ, and angels!" [BENGEL].
27. not taste of death fill they see the kingdom of God--"see it come
or see "the Son of man coming in His kingdom"
The reference, beyond doubt, is to the firm establishment and
victorious progress, in the lifetime of some then present, of that new
Kingdom of Christ, which was destined to work the greatest of all
changes on this earth, and be the grand pledge of His final coming in
28. an eight days after these sayings--including the day on which this
was spoken and that of the Transfiguration. Matthew and Mark say
"after six days," excluding these two days. As the "sayings" so
definitely connected with the transfiguration scene are those
announcing His death--at which Peter and all the Twelve were so
startled and scandalized--so this scene was designed to show to the
eyes as well as the heart how glorious that death was in the
view of Heaven.
Peter, James, and John--partners before in secular business; now sole
witnesses of the resurrection of Jairus' daughter
the transfiguration, and the agony in the garden
a mountain--not Tabor, according to long tradition, with which
the facts ill comport, but some one near the lake.
to pray--for the period He had now reached was a critical and
anxious one. (See on
But who can adequately translate those "strong cryings and tears?"
Methinks, as I steal by His side, I hear from Him these plaintive
sounds, "Lord, who hath believed Our report? I am come unto Mine own
and Mine own receive Me not; I am become a stranger unto My brethren,
an alien to My mother's children: Consider Mine enemies, for they are
many, and they hate Me with cruel hatred. Arise, O Lord, let not man
prevail. Thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth: Show Me
a token for good: Father, glorify Thy name."
29. as he prayed, the fashion, &c.--Before He cried He was answered,
and while He was yet speaking He was heard. Blessed interruption to
prayer this! Thanks to God, transfiguring manifestations are not quite
strangers here. Ofttimes in the deepest depths, out of groanings which
cannot be uttered, God's dear children are suddenly transported to a
kind of heaven upon earth, and their soul is made as the chariots of
Amminadab. Their prayers fetch down such light, strength, holy
gladness, as make their face to shine, putting a kind of celestial
radiance upon it
with Ex 34:29-35).
raiment white, &c.--Matthew says, "His face did shine as the sun"
and Mark says
"His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller
on earth can white them"
The light, then, it would seem, shone not upon Him from
without, but out of Him from within; He was all
irradiated, was in one blaze of celestial glory. What a contrast to
that "visage more marred than men, and His form than the sons of men!"
30, 31. there talked with him two men . . . Moses and Elias . . .
appeared in glory--"Who would have believed these were not angels had not their human names been subjoined?"
Moses represented "the law," Elijah "the prophets," and both together
the whole testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures, and the Old
Testament saints, to Christ; now not borne in a book, but by
living men, not to a coming, but a come Messiah,
visibly, for they "appeared," and audibly, for they
31. spake--"were speaking."
of his decease--"departure"; beautiful euphemism (softened term) for
death, which Peter, who witnessed the scene, uses to express his own
expected death, and the use of which single term seems to have recalled
the whole by a sudden rush of recollection, and occasioned that
delightful allusion to this scene which we find in
which he should accomplish--"was to fulfil."
at Jerusalem--Mark the historical character and local
features which Christ's death assumed to these glorified men--as
important as it is charming--and see on
What now may be gathered from this statement? (1) That a dying
Messiah is the great article of the true Jewish theology. For a
long time the Church had fallen clean away from the faith of this
article, and even from a preparedness to receive it. But here we have
that jewel raked out of the dunghill of Jewish traditions, and by the
true representatives of the Church of old made the one subject of talk
with Christ Himself. (2) The adoring gratitude of glorified men for
His undertaking to accomplish such a decease; their felt dependence
upon it for the glory in which they appeared; their profound interest
in the progress of it, their humble solaces and encouragements to go
through with it; and their sense of its peerless and overwhelming
glory. "Go, matchless, adored One, a Lamb to the slaughter!
rejected of men, but chosen of God and precious; dishonored, abhorred,
and soon to be slain by men, but worshipped by cherubim, ready to be
greeted by all heaven. In virtue of that decease we are here; our all
is suspended on it and wrapped up in it. Thine every step is watched by
us with ineffable interest; and though it were too high an honor to us
to be permitted to drop a word of cheer into that precious but now
clouded spirit, yet, as the first-fruits of harvest; the very joy set
before Him, we cannot choose but tell Him that what is the depth of
shame to Him is covered with glory in the eyes of Heaven, that the
Cross to Him is the Crown to us, that that 'decease' is all our
salvation and all our desire." And who can doubt that such a scene
did minister deep cheer to that spirit? It is said they
"talked" not to Him, but "with Him"; and if they told
Him how glorious His decease was, might He not fitly reply, "I
know it, but your voice, as messengers from heaven come down to tell it
Me, is music in Mine ears."
32. and when they were awake--so, certainly, the most
commentators: but if we translate literally, it should be "but
having kept awake" [MEYER, ALFORD]. Perhaps "having roused themselves up"
[OLSHAUSEN] may come near enough to the literal
sense; but from the word used we can gather no more than that they
shook off their drowsiness. It was night, and the Lord seems to
have spent the whole night on the mountain
saw his glory, &c.--The emphasis lies on "saw," qualifying them to
become "eye-witnesses of His majesty"
33. they departed--Ah! bright manifestations in this vale of tears are
always "departing" manifestations.
34, 35. a cloud--not one of our watery clouds, but the
Shekinah-cloud (see on
the pavilion of the manifested presence of God with His people, what
Peter calls "the excellent" of "magnificent glory"
a voice--"such a voice," says Peter emphatically; "and this voice
[he adds] we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount"
(2Pe 1:17, 18).
35. my beloved Son . . . hear him--reverentially,
36. Jesus was found alone--Moses and Elias are gone. Their work is
done, and they have disappeared from the scene, feeling no doubt with
their fellow servant the Baptist, "He must increase, but I must
decrease." The cloud too is gone, and the naked majestic Christ, braced
in spirit, and enshrined in the reverent affection of His disciples, is
kept it close--feeling, for once at least, that such things were
unmeet as yet for the general gaze.
ANNOUNCEMENT OF HIS
43-45. the mighty power of God--"the majesty" or "mightiness" of God
in this last miracle, the transfiguration, &c.: the divine grandeur
of Christ rising upon them daily. By comparing
and Mr 9:30,
we gather that this had been the subject of conversation between the
Twelve and their Master as they journeyed along.
44. these sayings--not what was passing between them about His grandeur
[MEYER, &c.], but what He was now to repeat for the second time about
His sufferings [DE
ALFORD, &c.]; that is, "Be not carried
off your feet by all this grandeur of Mine, but bear in mind what I have
already told you, and now distinctly repeat, that that Sun in whose
beams ye now rejoice is soon to set in midnight gloom." "The Son of
man," says Christ, "into the hands of men"--a remarkable
antithesis (also in
and Mr 9:31).
45. and they feared--"insomuch that they feared." Their most cherished
ideas were so completely dashed by such announcements, that they were
afraid of laying themselves open to rebuke by asking Him any questions.
STRIFE AMONG THE
46-48. (See on
49, 50. John answered, &c.--The link of connection here with the
foregoing context lies in the words "in My name"
"Oh, as to that," said John, young, warm, but not sufficiently
apprehending Christ's teaching in these things, "we saw one casting out
devils in Thy name, and we forbade him: Were we wrong?" "Ye were
wrong." "But we did because he followeth not us,'" "No matter. For (1)
There is no man which shall do a miracle in My name that can lightly
[soon] speak evil of Me'
And (2) If such a person cannot be supposed to be 'against us,'
you are to consider him 'for us.'" Two principles of immense
importance. Christ does not say this man should not have
followed "with them," but simply teaches how he was to be regarded
though he did not--as a reverer of His name and a promoter of
His cause. Surely this condemns not only those horrible attempts by
force to shut up all within one visible pale of discipleship, which
have deluged Christendom with blood in Christ's name, but the same
spirit in its milder form of proud ecclesiastic scowl upon all who
"after the form which they call a sect (as the word signifies,
do so worship the God of their fathers." Visible unity in Christ's
Church is devoutly to be sought, but this is not the way to it.
See the noble spirit of Moses
51. the time was come--rather, "the days were being fulfilled," or
approaching their fulfilment.
that he should be received up--"of His assumption," meaning His
exaltation to the Father; a sublime expression, taking the sweep of His
whole career, as if at one bound He was about to vault into glory. The
work of Christ in the flesh is here divided into two great stages;
all that preceded this belonging to the one, and all that follows it to
the other. During the one, He formally "came to His own," and
"would have gathered them"; during the other, the awful consequences
of "His own receiving Him not" rapidly revealed themselves.
he steadfastly set his face--the "He" here is emphatic--"He Himself
then." See His own prophetic language, "I have set my face like a flint"
go to Jerusalem--as His goal, but including His preparatory visits
to it at the feasts of tabernacles and of dedication
(Joh 7:2, 10; 10:22, 23),
and all the intermediate movements and events.
52. messengers before his face . . . to make ready for him--He had not
done this before; but now, instead of avoiding, He seems to court
publicity--all now hastening to maturity.
53. did not receive him, because, &c.--The Galileans, in going
to the festivals at Jerusalem, usually took the Samaritan route [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 20.6.1], and yet seem to
have met with no such inhospitality. But if they were asked to prepare
quarters for the Messiah, in the person of one whose "face was
as though He would go to Jerusalem," their national prejudices
would be raised at so marked a slight upon their claims. (See on
54. James and John--not Peter, as we should have expected, but
those "sons of thunder"
who afterwards wanted to have all the highest honors of the Kingdom to
themselves, and the younger of whom had been rebuked already for his
(Lu 9:49, 50).
Yet this was "the disciple whom Jesus loved," while the other willingly
drank of His Lord's bitter cup. (See on
That same fiery zeal, in a mellowed and hallowed form, in the beloved
disciple, we find in
fire . . . as Elias--a plausible case, occurring also in
55, 56. know not what . . . spirit--The thing ye
demand, though in keeping with the legal, is unsuited to the
genius of the evangelical dispensation. The sparks of
unholy indignation would seize readily enough on this example of
Elias, though our Lord's rebuke (as is plain from
is directed to the principle involved rather than the animal
heat which doubtless prompted the reference. "It is a golden sentence
of Tillotson, Let us never do anything for religion which is contrary
to religion" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
56. For the Son of man, &c.--a saying truly divine, of which all
His miracles--for salvation, never destruction--were one continued
went to another--illustrating His own precept
The Precipitate Disciple
(Lu 9:57, 58).
Mt 8:19, 20.)
The Procrastinating Disciple
(Lu 9:59, 60).
The Irresolute Disciple
(Lu 9:61, 62).
61. I will follow . . . but--The second disciple had a "but" too--a
difficulty in the way just then. Yet the different treatment of the
two cases shows how different was the spirit of the two, and to that
our Lord addressed Himself. The case of Elisha
though apparently similar to this, will be found quite different
from the "looking back" of this case, the best illustration of which is
that of those Hindu converts of our day who, when once persuaded to
leave their spiritual fathers in order to "bid them farewell which are
at home at their house," very rarely return to them. (Also see on
62. No man, &c.--As ploughing requires an eye intent on the furrow
to be made, and is marred the instant one turns about, so will they come
short of salvation who prosecute the work of God with a distracted
attention, a divided heart. Though the reference seems chiefly to
ministers, the application is general. The expression "looking back" has
a manifest reference to "Lot's wife"
and see on
It is not actual return to the world, but a reluctance to
break with it. (Also see on