Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1-3. meantime--in close connection, probably, with the foregoing scene.
Our Lord had been speaking out more plainly than ever before, as
matters were coming to a head between Him and His enemies, and this
seems to have suggested to His own mind the warning here. He had just
Himself illustriously exemplified His own precepts.
his disciples first of all--afterwards to "the multitudes"
covered--from the view.
2. hid--from knowledge. "Tis no use concealing anything, for all will
one day come out. Give free and fearless utterance then to all the
1Co 4:3, 5).
4, 5. I say, &c.--You will say, That may cost us our life. Be it so;
but, "My friends, there their power ends." He calls them "my friends"
here, not in any loose sense, but, as we think, from the feeling He then
had that in this "killing of the body" He and they were going to be
affectingly one with each other.
5. Fear Him . . . Fear Him--how striking the repetition here!
Only the one fear would effectually expel the other.
after he hath killed, &c.--Learn here--(1) To play false with
one's convictions to save one's life, may fail of its end after all,
for God can inflict a violent death in some other and equally
formidable way. (2) There is a hell, it seems, for the body as
well as the soul; consequently, sufferings adapted to the one as well
as the other. (3) Fear of hell is a divinely authorized and
needed motive of action even to Christ's "friends." (4) As Christ's
meekness and gentleness were not compromised by such harsh notes as
these, so those servants of Christ lack their Master's spirit who
soften down all such language to please ears "polite." (See on
6, 7. five . . . for two farthings--In
it is "two for one farthing"; so if one took two farthings' worth, he
got one in addition--of such small value were they.
than many sparrows--not "than millions of sparrows"; the charm and
power of our Lord's teaching is very much in this simplicity.
8, 9. confess . . . deny--The point lies in doing it
"before men," because one has to do it "despising the shame."
But when done, the Lord holds Himself bound to repay it in kind
by confessing such "before the angels of God." For the rest, see on
10. Son of man . . . Holy Ghost--(See on
Mt 12:31, 32).
13. Master, &c.--that is, "Great Preacher of righteousness, help;
there is need of Thee in this rapacious world; here am I the victim of
injustice, and that from my own brother, who withholds from me my
rightful share of the inheritance that has fallen to us." In this most
inopportune intrusion upon the solemnities of our Lord's teaching, there
is a mixture of the absurd and the irreverent, the one, however,
occasioning the other. The man had not the least idea that his case was
not of as urgent a nature, and as worthy the attention of our Lord, as
anything else He could deal with.
14. Man, &c.--Contrast this style of address with "my friends,"
who, &c.--a question literally repudiating the office which Moses
The influence of religious teachers in the external relations of
life has ever been immense, when only the INDIRECT effect of their teaching; but whenever they
intermeddle DIRECTLY with secular and
political matters, the spell of that influence is broken.
15. unto them--the multitude around Him
of covetousness--The best copies have "all," that is, "every kind of
covetousness"; because as this was one of the more plausible forms of
it, so He would strike at once at the root of the evil.
a man's life, &c.--a singularly weighty maxim, and not less so
because its meaning and its truth are equally evident.
16-19. a certain rich man, &c.--Why is this man called a "fool?"
(1) Because he deemed a life of secure and abundant earthly enjoyment
the summit of human felicity. (2) Because, possessing the means of
this, through prosperity in his calling, he flattered himself that he
had a long lease of such enjoyment, and nothing to do but give himself
up to it. Nothing else is laid to his charge.
20, 21. this night, &c.--This sudden cutting short of his career is
designed to express not only the folly of building securely upon the
future, but of throwing one's whole soul into what may at any moment be
gone. "Thy soul shall be required of thee" is put in opposition to
his own treatment of it, "I will say to my soul, Soul," &c.
whose shall those things be, &c.--Compare
"He heapeth up riches and knoweth not who shall gather
21. So is he, &c.--Such is a picture of his folly here,
and of its awful issue.
and is not rich toward God--lives to amass and enjoy riches
which terminate on self, but as to the riches of God's favor,
which is life
of "precious" faith
of good works
of wisdom which is better than rubies
--lives and dies a beggar!
22-31. (See on
25, 26. which of you, &c.--Corroding solicitude will not bring you the
least of the things ye fret about, though it may double the evil of
wanting them. And if not the least, why vex yourselves about things of
29. of doubtful, &c.--unsettled mind; put off your balance.
32. little flock, &c.--How sublime and touching a contrast between
this tender and pitying appellation, "Little flock" (in the original a
double diminutive, which in German can be expressed, but not in
English)--and the "good pleasure" of the Father to give them the
Kingdom; the one recalling the insignificance and helplessness of that
then literal handful of disciples, the other holding up to their view
the eternal love that encircled them, the everlasting arms that were
underneath them, and the high inheritance awaiting them!--"the kingdom";
grand word; then why not "bread"
[BENGEL]). Well might He say, "Fear not!"
33, 34. Sell, &c.--This is but a more vivid expression of
35-40. loins . . . girded--to fasten up the long outer garment, always
done before travel and work
The meaning is, Be in readiness.
lights, &c.--(See on
36. return from the wedding--not come to it, as in the parable of
the virgins. Both have their spiritual significance; but
preparedness for Christ's coming is the prominent idea.
37. gird himself, &c.--"a promise the most august of all: Thus will
the Bridegroom entertain his friends (nay, servants) on the solemn
Nuptial Day" [BENGEL].
38. second . . . third watch--To find them ready to receive Him at any
hour of day or night, when one might least of all expect Him, is
peculiarly blessed. A servant may be truly faithful, even though taken
so far unawares that he has not everything in such order and
readiness for his master's return as he thinks is due to him, and both
could and would have had if he had had notice of the time of his coming,
and so may not be willing to open to him "immediately," but fly to
preparation, and let his master knock again ere he admit him, and even
then not with full joy. A too common case this with Christians. But
if the servant have himself and all under his charge in such a state
that at any hour when his master knocks, he can open to him
"immediately," and hail his "return"--that is the most enviable,
"blessed" servant of all.
41-48. unto us or even to all?--us the Twelve, or all this vast
42. Who then, &c.--answering the question indirectly by another
question, from which they were left to gather what it would be:--To you
certainly in the first instance, representing the "stewards" of the
"household" I am about to collect, but generally to all "servants" in My
faithful and wise--Fidelity is the first requisite in a servant,
wisdom (discretion and judgment in the exercise of his functions),
steward--house steward, whose it was to distribute to the servants
their allotted portion of food.
shall make--will deem fit to be made.
44. make him ruler over all he hath--will advance him to the
highest post, referring to the world to come. (See
Mt 25:21, 23).
45. begin to beat, &c.--In the confidence that his Lord's return will
not be speedy, he throws off the role of servant and plays the master,
maltreating those faithful servants who refuse to join him, seizing on
and revelling in the fulness of his master's board; intending, when he
has got his fill, to resume the mask of fidelity ere his master appear.
46. cut him in sunder--a punishment not unknown in the East; compare
the unbelievers--the unfaithful, those unworthy of trust
"the hypocrites," falsely calling themselves "servants."
48. knew not--that is knew but partially; for some knowledge
is presupposed both in the name "servant" of Christ, and his being
liable to punishment at all.
many . . . few stripes--degrees of future punishment proportioned to
the knowledge sinned against. Even heathens are not without knowledge
enough for future judgment; but the reference here is not to such. It is
a solemn truth, and though general, like all other revelations of
the future world, discloses a tangible and momentous principle in its
49-53. to send--cast.
fire--"the higher spiritual element of life which Jesus came to
introduce into this earth (compare
with reference to its mighty effects in quickening all that is akin to
it and destroying all that is opposed. To cause this element of
life to take up its abode on earth, and wholly to pervade human hearts
with its warmth, was the lofty destiny of the Redeemer" [OLSHAUSEN: so CALVIN, STIER, ALFORD, &c.].
what will I, &c.--an obscure expression, uttered under deep and
half-smothered emotion. In its general import all are agreed; but the
nearest to the precise meaning seems to be, "And what should I have to
desire if it were once already kindled?" [BENGEL and
50. But . . . a baptism, &c.--clearly, His own bloody baptism, first
to take place.
how . . . straitened--not, "how do I long for its accomplishment,"
as many understand it, thus making it but a repetition of
but "what a pressure of spirit is upon Me."
till it be accomplished--till it be over. Before a promiscuous
audience, such obscure language was fit on a theme like this; but oh,
what surges of mysterious emotion in the view of what was now so near at
hand does it reveal!
51. peace . . . ? Nay, &c.--the reverse of peace,
in the first instance. (See on
The connection of all this with the foregoing warnings about hypocrisy,
covetousness, and watchfulness, is deeply solemn: "My conflict hasten
apace; Mine over, yours begins; and then, let the servants tread in
their Master's steps, uttering their testimony entire and fearless,
neither loving nor dreading the world, anticipating awful wrenches of
the dearest ties in life, but looking forward, as I do, to the
completion of their testimony, when, reaching the haven after the
tempest, they shall enter into the joy of their Lord."
SIGNS OF THE
54. to the people--"the multitude," a word of special warning to
the thoughtless crowd, before dismissing them. (See on
Mt 16:2, 3).
56. how . . . not discern, &c.--unable to perceive what a critical
period that was for the Jewish Church.
57. why even of yourselves, &c.--They might say, To do this requires
more knowledge of Scripture and providence than we possess; but He sends
them to their own conscience, as enough to show them who He was, and win
them to immediate discipleship.
58. When thou goest, &c.--(See on
Mt 5:25, 26).
The urgency of the case with them, and the necessity, for their own
safety, of immediate decision, was the object of these striking