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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

Luke 20

 

 

Verse 1-2

CHAPTER 22

CONSPIRACY AGAINST JESUS

Mark 14:1-2; Luke 20:1-2; Matthew 26:1-5. “And it came to pass, when Jesus finished all these discourses, He said to His disciples, You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of man is delivered to be crucified.” It is now late Wednesday afternoon, after our Lord has preached constantly all day, beginning in the temple and bidding it adieu about noon; halting and preaching to the Greeks waiting for Him at the gate; and going on over to Mount Olivet, where He delivered that indescribable and inimitable sermon on the judgments. Though He now tells them, as He had so frequently and so positively done, that He is to be crucified, they do not understand it.

“Then the chief priests, scribes, and elders of the people were assembled in the hall of the high priest, called Caiaphas. And they issued a verdict that they would take Him by stratagem, and kill Him. But they said, Not at the feast, lest there may be an uproar among the people.” Luke: “For they were afraid of the people.” This conspiracy of the rulers took place Wednesday evening, in the Sanhedrin hall on Mount Zion, in which they passed an edict for His arrest and execution. They were in a serious dilemma because of His popularity, fearing that the people would arise in an incorrigible mob and take Him out of their hands.


Verses 1-4

CHAPTER 5

THE DISCIPLE’S PRAYER

Luke 20:1-4. And it came to pass, that He was in a certain place, praying; as He ceased, a certain one of His disciples said to Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” We have this same lesson in the Sermon on the Mount, which he preached near Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee, early in His ministry, and we have expounded in Volume 6. I have repeatedly visited the spot on Mt. Olivet where this prayer was offered. A few years ago, Aurelia de Rossa, a French princess, expended a great sum of money in the erection of a beautiful, snowy-white, stone church-edifice on this very spot. It is really magnificent and charming, having in front a great open court, on whose surrounding walls of white marble this prayer (popularly denominated the Lord’s Prayer, but really given to His disciples for their use till He comes in glory) is superscribed in every language under heaven, so that every one of the thirty thousand pilgrims, annually coming to Jerusalem to explore the footprints of Jesus, can there read the Lord’s Prayer in his own language. The marble tomb and statue of this noble saint, who, at her own expense, erected this memorial edifice, is also at the south Side of this great veranda. He said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father who art in the heavens, let Thy name be hallowed.” Hence it is never to be spoken except in the deepest reverence, humility, and godly fear. Let Thy kingdom come.” The kingdom is already here, in the hearts of all saints. While we should pray for it to come to all aliens in the whole earth, the moment of this prayer contemplates the kingdom of glory coming down to earth in millennial triumphs, as the kingdom of grace had already come in the first advent of Jesus. How strange that a species of infidelity has ever crept into the Church, ignoring and rejecting the coming of the glorious kingdom! There never was a dissenting voice on this subject raised in the first three centuries, till after the Constantinean apostasy had so secularized the Church as to disqualify her to meet her descending Lord and enter the glorious kingdom. Consequently, during the Dark Ages, the millennium was repudiated, and, as a necessary consequence, the whole Book of Revelation repudiated as spurious. It is the glory of the present holiness movement now to preach the coming kingdom in all the earth. Thy will be done, as in heaven, even upon the earth.” This is a beautiful standard of entire sanctification, which alone can qualify people to do the will of God on earth as the angels do it in heaven. While multitudes of preachers stand in their pulpits and preach against sanctification and the coming kingdom, it is very gratifying to know that they all pray on the side of truth, when, on their knees, they repeat the Lord’s Prayer, in concert with their congregations, Sabbath after Sabbath. O that they would preach what they pray for, thus bringing heaven down to earth! Give us this day our daily bread.” This is to be understood spiritually, in a very pre-eminent sense, while in a secondary significance it includes temporal sustenance. Forgive us our sins; for we truly forgive every one who is indebted to us.” We have no promise of pardon unless we actually forgive everybody else; thus all unforgiving spirit actually rearing between us and the mercy-sea, a mountain, high as heaven, deep as hell, and broad as the universe. Whole Churches are dragged by Satan into apostasy black as midnight by an unforgiving spirit. Lead us not into temptation;” i. e., Suffer us not to go into temptation, an Orientalism we frequently meet in the Bible. We have the blessed assurance that if we are true to the triple Divine leadership — God’s Word, Spirit, and providence — He will never suffer us to be tempted beyond our ability, by His wonderful grace, to bear it for His glory, and receive a blessing thereby; i. e., strength from the conflict and courage from the victory. The ponderous blows develop the Herculean muscles of the blacksmith’s arm. These awful fights we have with the strong intellect of the devil are a wonderful means of grace, constituting the grandest spiritual gymnasium in probationary life. Temptation from within, when “each one is drawn out by his own lust and enticed,” should be utterly dispensed with, as entire sanctification eliminates all that inward lust, putting all of our enemies on the outside, and giving us the down-hill pull against them. Deliver us from the evil one.” The E. V. is too weak, rendering this, “Deliver us from evil;” i. e., giving the abstract, whereas the Greek gives the concrete; not simply meaning evil, but the evil one — i. e., the devil. What a glorious privilege, not only to be delivered from everything the devil ever put in us, but from the devil himself! This prayer goes up from pulpit and pew throughout all the Churches of Christendom, and the people at the same time ridden and debauched by the devil, without the remotest apprehension of the glorious privilege, not only to get rid of all their sins, but even the devil himself. Will you not go and tell them this wonderful news? The Omnipotent Christ is ready, by their side, responsive to their perfect consecration and doubtless faith, to confer on them this glorious triumph, not only delivering them from everything in them belonging to Satan — i. e., all sin, actual and original — but, best of all, delivering them from the devil himself, so he never again can put his black hand on them, and they can go shouting on their way:

“Hallelujah! ‘t is done! I believe on the Son, I am saved by the blood of the Crucified One!”


Verses 1-8

THE HIGH PRIESTS DEMAND HIS AUTHORITY

Matthew 21:23-27; Luke 20:1-8; Mark 11:27-33. “And again they come into Jerusalem. And He, walking round in the temple, file high priests, scribes, and elders come to Him, and say to Him, By what authority do You these things? And who gave You this authority that You may do these things? And Jesus, responding, said to them, I will also ask you one question; answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or from men? Tell Me. And they reasoned among themselves, If we may say, It is from heaven, He will say, Wherefore then did you not believe on him? But if we may say, It is from men; they feared the people: for all held John, that he was truly a prophet. And responding, they say to Jesus, We do not know. And Jesus, responding, says to them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Those high priests considered the authority He exercised in the purification of the temple outrageous, intrusive, and usurpatory in the extreme. Consequently they look Him in the face, with the scribes and Pharisees holding up their hands, and publicly demand His authority, feeling that it was their prerogative to manage affairs in the temple. See how inconsistent their attitude, as they were really Satan’s preachers, worshipping him as God; while the Son of God, with all authority in heaven and in earth, was there, and they were too blind to see Him! How does history repeat itself! The Lord’s true people, saved, sanctified, and filled with the Spirit, alone have authority this day to preach and labor to save souls, going where He leadeth. Do we not see the authority of such called in question by the high priests and Pharisees on all sides? Jesus simply referred them to the ministry of John, under which He was baptized with water, and thus inaugurated into His official Messiahship, the Holy Spirit immediately descending and filling Him, thus qualifying Him for His work. As Jesus said to John, “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” i.e., to verify every injunction of the Levitical law, which required the high priests to be anointed before entering upon the duties and exercising the authority of their office — so, pursuant to the example of our Great Leader, we should all conform to the ritual law of the New Testament, and be sure that, like Jesus, we get filled with the Holy Ghost, thus silencing criticism and disarming our enemies. You see all the high priests, Pharisees, and elders here dumfounded. They were in a dilemma, and dare not take either horn. If they denied the Divine authority of John, they were afraid of a riot, as the people all regarded him as truly a prophet, there being no dissenting voice, but unanimity of opinion as to the Divine prophetical commission of John, whose ministry was a sunburst on Israel after a dark interregnum of four hundred years. Again, they were afraid to acknowledge the Divine authenticity of John’s ministry lest Jesus would say, Why did you not believe on Him? Consequently they took a neutral position. O what a succession these blind, unspiritual high priests, ruling eiders, and Pharisees have this day! Do you not know that, as a rule, their successors in the Churches are now playing neutrality in reference to God’s mighty works in the great current revival shaking all nations, and denominated the “Holiness Movement?”


Verses 9-19

THE WICKED HUSBANDMAN

Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19. Matthew: “Hear another parable: A man who is a landlord planted a vineyard, and placed a hedge round it, and dug a wine-trough in it, and built a tower.” The dense thorn-hedge was to protect it from the intrusion of animals as well as thieves. The wine-trough was located deep down beneath the press, in order to catch the sweet juice of the delicious grapes expressed and running into it. The tower was for rest and recreation, and especially for vigilance against thieves, who might stealthily intrude into the vineyard and spoliate the fruit. It is difficult for Occidentals to conceive the paradoxical abundance of grapes produced by a Palestinian vineyard. I have seen the whole earth burdened with the great clusters of grapes, almost sweet as honey. I could not forbear making myself sick eating them. American grapes, with the exception of California, have no such flavor and sweetness. Truly, the land abounds in corn and wine.

“He gave it out to husbandmen, and went away. But when the time of the fruits drew nigh, he sent his servants to the husbandman to receive his fruits; and the husbandmen, taking his servants, beat one, slew one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did unto them likewise.” These servants were the prophets. Isaiah was cut in two with a cruel saw; Jeremiah, imprisoned in a deep well to starve to death; King Ahab ordered the imprisonment and starvation of the prophet Micaiah; John the Baptist, the greatest of the prophets, was beheaded by King Herod.

“And afterward he sent unto them his own son, saying, They will reverence my son. But those farmers, seeing the son, said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and take possession of his inheritance.” This is precisely what they did. The leading preachers and official laymen regarded him as a competitor, who, if successful, would deprive them of their fat offices. Consequently they conspired against him, and slew him, thus taking possession of the Church, to conduct it in their own way, and receive the emoluments of office. “Having taken him, they cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” They actually arrested Him at midnight of the ensuing day, and on the following morning cast Him out of the city, and nailed Him to the cross on Calvary.

“Then, when the lord of the vineyard may come, what will he do to those farmers? They say to Him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and give out the vineyard to other farmers, who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” This was literally done very quickly. God the Father has no incarnation, and is consequently invisible to mortal eyes. He actually came in those vast and formidable Roman armies, who slew a million of Jews with sword, pestilence, and famine, doubtless every one who had been guilty of the above crimes falling in the awful death-harvest that rolled over the city. Then, you see, the Church was turned over to the Gentiles — the new people becoming the cultivators of the vineyard during the time of their fidelity to the Proprietor. Otherwise, the same awful calamity awaits them. Here you see clearly that the gospel Church is not a de novo institution, but substantially identical with the Church organized in the house of Abraham, and perpetuated nearly two thousand years under the prophetical and Mosaic economy. You see that the vineyard was not destroyed, but, surviving, was given into the hands of other husbandmen; showing clearly and demonstratively that the identical Church of the patriarchs and prophets, in which Jesus lived and died, was perpetuated and given to the Gentiles. Precisely as those wicked farmers, who met the awful fate, were not the vineyard, so the carnal, self-righteous priests, elders, and Pharisees who killed the prophets and Jesus were not the Church. God has had a holy people in all ages, who have eaten the delicious grapes and drunk the sweet wine of His spiritual kingdom.

“Jesus says unto them, Have you not read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same has become the head of the corner: this was wonderful with the Lord, and was marvelous in our eves? Therefore I say unto you, that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given unto a nation bringing forth the fruit of the same. The one falling on this rock shall be dashed to pieces; and on whomsoever it may fall, it will grind him to powder. [<19B822>Psalms 118:22; Isaiah 8:14; Zechariah 12:3; Daniel 2:34-44] And the chief priests and Pharisees hearing His parables, knew that He was speaking concerning them. And seeking to arrest Him, they were afraid of the multitudes, since they had Him as a prophet.” The impression that the Jewish people killed Jesus is a slander on them which they do not deserve. You see here, the leading preachers and Church officers were anxious to arrest Him, and were only restrained through fear of the people. Jesus was an exceedingly popular preacher with the common people, but awfully unpopular with the higher clergy and ruling elders, because they looked upon Him as an official rival, feeling satisfied that if He succeeded, deposing all of them, He would promote His friends to office. You see in the above Scriptures that Jesus is that Chief Corner-stone rejected by the builders — i.e., the Jewish officials rebut by the power of the Holy Ghost becoming the Head of the corner. All houses in that country are stone. At the corner a great, solid, and elegantly-dressed stone is laid, with both walls built on it, and thus held together: as they both rest on this one corner-stone, and consolidate the house, since the wonderfully tenacious calcareous cement of that country actually unifies the different stones of the wall into one grand conglomeration. Thus Jesus, the Chief Corner-stone of the gospel Church, not only unites Jews and Gentiles, but all sects, races, and nationalities. How momentous the awful responsibility of dealing with this Stone, since if you fall on it, you are dashed to pieces; and if it falls on you, you are ground to powder! People may be saved, if sincere and true, despite multitudes of heresies. Meanwhile heresy on the Christhood of Jesus, as here you see, is necessarily fatal. O the infinite importance of preaching Christ, as all are necessarily lost who have the misfortune, through Satanic intrigue, to assume position either antagonistical to Him or depreciative of Him. Let us take the alarm. Unitarianism is rapidly, though occultly, everywhere stealing into the Protestant Churches. It bears blight and desolation in its wake.


Verses 20-26

TRIBUTE TO CAESAR

Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26. “And lying in wait for Him, they sent sharpers, hypocritically claiming to be righteous, that they may catch His word, in order to deliver Him up to the tribunal and authority of the governor. And they asked Him, saying, Teacher, we know that Thou dost speak and teach correctly, and that Thou dost not receive the face, but teachest the Word of God in truth: is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar or not? And He, knowing their rascality, said to them, Why do you tempt Me? Show Me the denarion. Whose image and superscription hath it? And they responding, said, That of Caesar. And He said to them, Therefore render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s. And they were not able to capture His word before the people. And being astonished at His answer, they kept silent.” We have given you Luke’s narrative, who simply states that sharpers — i.e., critical tricksters — waited on Him in this adroit interview, hoping to perplex Him, and get some clew at Him, deduced from His phraseology of and Mark state that these critics were Pharisees and Herodiana — the former the most loyal and enthusiastic Jewish party, and the latter consisting of a political faction favorable to Roman rule. Though diametrically opposed either to other, in this instance, as ever and anon hitherto, they united their forces against Jesus. How common it’s for the belligerent sects to make peace among themselves and unite their forces against holiness! They felt sure of success in this united hypocritical assault on Jesus, as the Pharisees represented the Jewish interest and the Herodians the Roman. In case that He had decided in favor of paying tribute to Caesar, the Pharisees aimed to prefer treasonable charges against Him, and arraign Hint before the Sanhedrin for disloyalty to the Theoeratic Government. On the contrary, if He answered the question in the negative, the Herodians were ready to have Him arrested and brought before Pilate to answer charges of treason against the Roman Empire. Now, you see how easily and conveniently He foils them both by simply asking them to show Him the denarion, a Roman coin, worth fifteen cents, and used to pay regular poll-tax, as well as the revenue to the Roman Government. Now, asking “Whose image and superscription is on this coin?” they respond, “Caesar’s.” Then He simply says, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.” As the Jews claimed to be under the Divine government, while they were also subject to Roman rule, this answer covered all the ground in both cases, at the same time showing up absolute equity in behalf of each, so that no exception could be taken. Consequently the sharpers were all dumfounded.

Matthew 22:22. “And hearing, they were astonished, and leaving Him they went away.” We see most indubitable manifestations of His Divinity thus cropping out on all occasions. Here, He is besieged by the most intellectual and cultured men of Church and State, criticizing every utterance, and doing their best to lasso Him, and all are signally foiled, defeated, and dumfounded. No other man ever trod the globe whose ordinary utterances, day by day, were utterly invulnerable.


Verses 27-40

THE RESURRECTION

Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40. “And certain ones of the Sadducees coming to Him, who deny that there is a resurrection, interrogated Him, saying, Teacher, Moses wrote to us [Deuteronomy 25:5], If the brother of any one may die, having a wife, and he may die childless, that his brother must take his wife, and raise up seed to his brother. Then there were seven brothers; the first taking a wife, died childless. And the second. took the wife, and he died childless. And the third received her; and likewise also the seven; and they left no children, and died. And last of all the woman also died. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife is she? for the seven had her a wife. And Jesus, responding, said to them, The children of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those considered worthy to reach that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are they given in marriage; for they are not able to die any more: for they are equal to the angels, and they are the sons of God, being the sons of the resurrection. And that the dead rise, Moses mentioned at the bush, as he says the Lord is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto Him. And certain ones of the scribes, responding, said, Teacher, you spoke well. And no one any more dared to ask Him anything.” While the Sadducees were the richest denomination of the Jewish Church, they leaned much to materialism, being heterodoxal on the resurrection, as well as the great spiritual truths of the Bible generally. The Pharisees, boasting of their orthodoxy, were rivals and antagonists of the Sadducees, as well as the Herodians. While these three parties were all antagonistical, either to other, it is remarkable how they united and cooperated in their constant and uncompromising opposition to Jesus. They felt that in the case of the woman surviving the seventh husband, they certainly. would get Him into a puzzle. But while in this they were signally mistaken, the multitude are astounded over the deep truths brought out in His answers to their questions.

a. He here corroborates the Scripture with reference to another age following this, as He says, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those being found worthy to attain unto that age, indeed the resurrection which is from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage;” showing up the/act that the present probation and the resurrection state constitute two distinct ages, yet contrastive either with other, the resurrection age beginning at the second coming of Christ, when He will raise the saints, who shall reign with Him during the millennium. (Revelation 21.)

b. We see from these utterances of our Lord that matrimony is peculiar only to these material bodies in this probationary age, there being no such thing as sexual distinction in the kingdom of grace and glory. In Him there is neither male nor female. (Galatians 3:26.) Consequently the matrimonial state does not survive the present probationary, age.

c. Our Lord also says that in the resurrection state, we are isaggeloi, from isos, “equal,” and aggelos, “an angel.” Therefore you see that the glorious resurrection confers on us angelic perfection. Angels have often been seen upon the earth. Hence they must have some kind of a body or form. While in the resurrection we will receive these identical bodies in which we now live, yet they will be perfectly free from matter or anything like physical organism. They will be pure spiritual entities, yet identical with themselves in the present life, but having all ponderable matter eliminated away. Hence you see that in the resurrection age we will be like the angels, and immortal forever.

d. How beautiful, and yet how conclusive, His argument deduced from the burning bush, proving the resurrection in a way never thought of by mortal man, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!” Now, as He says, He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. God does not do a fragmentary work, but solid and complete. Hence these patriarchs, as well as all the rest of us, must have bodies in order to completion in the highest sense. In the Divine estimation, the future is all present and under His eye. Hence He looks upon Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the resurrection state. It is equally true that He thus contemplates all. Here, again, we see His critics so dumfounded that they interrogate Him no more.


Verses 41-44

CHRIST THE SON OF DAVID

Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44; Matthew 22:41-46. “And the Pharisees being assembled, Jesus asked them, saying, What do you think concerning the Christ? Whose Son is He? They say to Him, The Son of David. He says to them, How does David in the Spirit call Him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My fight hand, until I make Thy enemies Thy footstool? [<19B001>Psalms 110:1.] If therefore David calls Him Lord, how is He his Son? And no one answered Him a word, neither did any one from that day dare to ask Him anything.” Whereas on many occasions hitherto our Lord so dumfounded all of His critics as to silence all batteries, now we have really reached the finale of all their quizzical assaults against Him, vainly hoping to capture some remark dropped from His lips. Any other man in all the ages would doubtless have suffered more or less embarrassment, and probably entanglement, if thus beset from day to day by capricious, hostile critics, all combined, their wits under heaviest contribution, to entangle Him if possible. Amid all He is perfectly tranquil, and proves utterly imperturbable, by all the powers of earth and hell, throughout all the vicissitudes of His ministry, arrest, arraignment, and suffering. We see here they readily respond that Christ is the Son of David; but why he calls Him Lord, none of them can answer. This is plain and simple, setting forth in this terse manner His humanity and Divinity, the former being the Son of David, and the latter his Lord.


Verse 45-46

WARNINGS AGAINST THE EVIL EXAMPLE OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES

It is still Wednesday, and the last day our Lord ever spoke in the temple. These scribes and Pharisees are thronging Him on all sides, being the great and influential people of the Church. He acquits Himself of all responsibility by publicly exposing their evil example, and warning the people against following them. N.B. — All this He did boldly in their presence; meanwhile they got so awfully mad that they laid violent hands on Him and took His life. Two hundred millions of martyrs have traveled the same road to bloody death. Lord, help us to be true, and tell the whole truth, even under the most embarrassing environments, fearless of men and devils!

Luke 20:45-46; Mark 12:38-39. “And He spoke to them in His teaching, Beware of the scribes, who wish to walk about in robes, and receive salutations in the markets, and the first seats in the synagogues, and the first couches in the suppers.” All this pompous display panders to pride, feeds vanity, and grieves the Holy Spirit now as in the days of Christ; and is more abominable in preachers and Church members than in debauchees and prostitutes.

Matthew 23:1-12. “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, The scribes and Pharisees sat in the seat of Moses. Therefore, all things so many as they may say to you to observe, keep and perform; but do not according to their works; for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and difficult to be borne, and place them on the shoulders of the people; and they do not wish to touch them with their finger.”

How lamentably do we see this identical maladministration on the part of many leading clergymen this day, taxing their members heavily, and even oppressively, while they do not tax themselves! It is a shame for a pastor to enforce the tithe law among his members and not personally lead the way in keeping it. The truth of it is, the tithe is the minimum. We all ought to go vastly beyond it, even to the half of our income in many instances; but the preachers, true to their attitude as leaders of the flock, ought to excel all their members in self-denial, frugality, economy, and consequent liberality to the heathen, the poor, and every laudable philanthropy.

“They do all their works to be seen by the people.” O what abominable pride! Who is guilty? But Jesus is speaking of the preachers. “They broaden their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments.” These phylacteries were strips of parchment, on which passages of Scripture were written, and swinging about as they moved hither and thither, made quite a conspicuous display. Lord deliver us from all needless ornamentation of every sort!

“They love the first couch at the suppers, and the first seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the forums, and to be called by the people, Doctor, Doctor. Be ye not called Doctor: for one is your Teacher, even Christ: and you are all brothers.” Doctor is a Latin word, from doceo, “to teach,” and literally means a teacher. Here you see that our Savior forbids the use of the honorary epithet, as no man has anything to teach, Christ being our only Teacher, while we are all disciples — i.e., students; for this is the meaning of disciple. This is certainly a final settlement of all questions appertaining to the honorary appellation of “Doctor” as applied to a minister of the gospel. Of course, we can not control the people in their salutations; but we certainly should never recognize the title, nor use it in its application to ourselves, nor encourage the use of it on the part of others. As Jesus well says, none of us preachers are Doctors — i.e., teachers — but all students at the feet of Jesus, who is our only Teacher. As Jesus here well says, we are all “brothers.” So let us lay aside all of this Babylonian pomposity, which sacrifices to pride and grieves the Holy Spirit, and henceforth salute one another by the humble and loving appellation of “Brother” and “Sister.”

“Call no one father upon the earth: for one is your Father, who is in the heavens.” This sweeps away the vanity of Romanism, calling their priests “Father;” while the Protestants salute their preachers with “Doctor,” which means teacher. “Be not called teachers: for one is your Teacher, Christ.” Lord, help us all to abide with Thee in loving obedience in this matter as in all others!

“But let him who is the greater of you, be your servant: for whosoever shall exalt himself, shall be abased; and whosoever shall humble himself, shall be exalted.” All these manifestations of pride grieve the Holy Spirit away and ruin religion. The leading preacher should invariably lead the way in self-denial, self-sacrifice, humility, and meekness; otherwise he is utterly unworthy to be a leader. Why will not the preachers and Church members hear the voice of Jesus, and govern themselves accordingly? If we do not learn of Him, and walk in His commandments, we will erelong encounter the awful embarrassment of the guest at the marriage feast without the wedding garment.


Verse 47

WOES AGAINST THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES

Luke 20:47, Mark 12:40; Matthew 23:13-39. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you devour the houses of widows, and through pretense make long prayers; therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” You see He withers them awfully for oppressing the widows. You must not here understand a condemnation of long prayers. Jesus Himself sometimes prayed all night. The condemnation is on the hypocrisy, because through pretense they made long prayers. However, we should all take warning and condense our prayers, throwing away all forms and routines, introductories and conclusions, except the simple “Amen,” and by the help of the Spirit focalize and concentrate our prayers, making them multum in parvo; i.e., “much in little.”

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut up the kingdom of the heavens against the people: for you do not come in, neither do you permit those coming in to enter.” What awful preaching to the pastors of the Churches, ruling elders, and leading members, while looking them in the face! How terrible was the grip of Satan on them, that they did not heed the warning, but got violently mad, and killed Him for telling them the truth! Lord help us to walk in Thy footprints! There is a world of truth in this accusation. Those were the very men who would not enter the kingdom nor permit others. If they had repented under the preaching of John the Baptist, instead of getting mad at him for telling them the truth (Matthew 3:7), and received their own Christ with open arms, thus passing exultantly from the Mosaic dispensation into the kingdom of heaven, the people would have followed them in solid columns, the whole Jewish nation receiving their own Christ, turning evangelist, preaching Him to all the Gentiles, and actually bringing on she millennium, far back in the early centuries of the Christian era, the Lord returning on the throne of His glory, as He said He would when the gospel was preached to all nations. The same sad phenomenon you may observe this day. If the leading preachers and Church officers throughout Christendom would receive the Holy Ghost and get sanctified wholly, as Jesus is now calling them, the Churches would follow in swelling multitudes, the revival tide of holiness to the Lord inundate the globe like a mighty swelling sea, and bring on the millennium in the present generation. The rank and file of people will follow their leaders. The climacteric trick of Satan in all ages has been to lead the leaders, and thus populate hell with the downward rush of millions lost.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he may become, you make him twofold more the son of hell than yourselves.” This poor, deluded, heathen proselyte, not only retains his own sins, but takes on those of hypocrisy and formality peculiar to his Jewish leaders. The deader a Church is, the more proselytic, ready to do almost anything to get a member, especially if he has money. Misery loves company. When people have God with them, they are satisfied to walk alone. When they are without God, they seek comfort in all the company they can get, going for the popular Church.

“Woe unto you. blind guides, saying, Whosoever may swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever may swear by the gold of the temple, he is debtor. Ye foolish and blind: for which is the greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifies the gold? Whosoever may swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever may swear by the gift which is upon it, he is debtor. Ye blind, for which is the greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore he that sweareth by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things which are on it; and he that sweareth by the temple, sweareth by it, and by Him that dwelleth in it; and he that sweareth by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by Him that sitteth upon it.” That our Savior is not here condemning judicial oaths,: we have abundant proof, as He Himself responded to Caiaphas when he administered to Him a solemn oath (Matthew 26:63), and Paul administered a solemn oath to the Thessalonians that the epistle should be read to all the brethren. But Jesus is here speaking of profane swearing, condemning the use of bywords, which is incitive to profanity at least, and all superfluous language, as indicative of evil and conducive to sin, cutting down our phraseology to simple statements of fact. We have in this paragraph a very important specification, certifying that the altar sanctifies the gift, which has in all ages been a prominent battle-cry in God’s holiness movements. Consecration is man’s work, just as the Jew brought the sheep, with his own hands, and placed it on God’s altar, neither daring to take it off nor thinking of a doubt as to God’s acceptance of it, believing unhesitatingly and unwaveringly that everything on God’s altar was thereby sanctified and holy. Therefore consecration is man’s work, assisted by the Holy Ghost. When we make the clear, unequivocal, and eternal consecration, we should never doubt the sanctification, as we know God is infallible. He never fails to do His work, while doubt is grievous and dishonoring to Him. All we have to do is to keep all on the altar, consecrated for this world arid all other worlds, to live or to die. Then believe without a doubt that God accepts and sanctifies, going on undeviatingly in the line of joyful obedience, never again listening to the devil, who would destroy your experience by the injection of doubts. Once you move out on this line, and abide, your life will quickly become a constant sunshine, a sweet heaven in which to go to heaven, victory night and day brightening the escutcheon of your joyful experience, and proclaiming Satan’s signal and perpetual defeat.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites l because you tithe mint, anise, and cumin, and you pass by the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: it behooveth to do these, and not to leave those undone.” When preachers and Church members have no salvation, they are apt to be very particular about little things, and ready to criticize harshly all who do not conform to their little, silly notions punctiliously. Jesus does not object to their tithing everything, even these garden vegetables, giving one-tenth of all their produce to the Lord; but lie commends it. Meanwhile lie denounces them awfully for neglecting the great issues of the law; e.g., judgment — i. e., doing right by everybody, vindicating truth and righteousness, at home and abroad, with all classes indiscriminately, exhibiting to the world a life irreproachable from the standpoint of all rectitude. Mercy also must characterize all our deportment, reaching out to man and beast to friends and enemies, Jews and Gentiles, indiscriminately; full of kindness, pity, sympathy, and love for everything that hath feeling; and always holding up the banner of truth. in harmony with the blessed Word of God, enforcing it, not only by precept, but by example, in small matters as well as great, alway and everywhere on the side of truth and righteousness. While those preachers and Church officers were particular about little non-essentials, they were awfully delinquent in the grand and indispensable, item of true and genuine Holy Ghost religion. Our Savior: even charges these scribes and Pharisees with neglecting faith, which is the basis of all salvation, and without which it is impossible to please God. Now, these were the bon tons of the Jewish Church, both clerical and laical, claiming to be paragons of faith, the boasted children of faithful Abraham. But you see they really had no faith. They had plenty of intellectual and doctrinal faith, but were destitute of spirituality. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” (Romans 10:10) None but spiritual faith has any availability, or even possesses the essence of faith, in the Divine estimation.

“Ye blind guides, who are straining out the gnat, but swallowing down the camel.” As the gnat was unclean, and condemned by the Levitical law, they were very careful to strain their wine and milk lest a gnat might happen to be in it; thus straining it out, and not straining at it as in E. V., The camel is an unclean animal, and the largest in that country. Now, what is meant by straining out the gnat and swallowing down the camel? Be sure you understand it. This is a logical conclusion from the preceding verse, in which, calling them hypocrites, He denounces them for tithing mint, anise, and cumin, garden herbs, and at the same time neglecting judgment, mercy, and faith, these grand, cardinal, spiritual graces. If I had the wings: of an angel and the trump of an archangel, I would fly from ocean to ocean, and warn the blind guides in pulpits and Amen-corners who are this clay straining out gnats — i. e., very punctilious about all sorts of Church finances and duties harmonical with the popular shibboleth of Church loyalty — and at the same time deplorably delinquent with reference to the momentous relations to the Divine government, and the immeasurable obligations arising out of the same; and the poor widows, orphans, and. slumites in the neighborhood, are ready witnesses to their deplorable deficiency of that sweet grace denominated mercy; and as to the faith inspired by the Holy Ghost, the only medium through which we can possibly receive anything from God, and without which all are doomed and lost, it has actually become a dead-letter in their Creed. Those Church bon tons, to whom Jesus did this awful preaching, rejected it as an insult, and killed Him for what they regarded as insolence, and even blasphemy. O how the clergy and ruling elders are this day straining out gnats and swallowing down camels I If you are all right on the gnat question — i. e., little Church duties — you can be an acceptable member or preacher though you have a devil in you as big as a camel. You see. here the gnat represents the little items of practical obedience to the moral and ritual law, like tithing everything, Small as well as great; while the camel represents your delinquency in the great and momentous graces of the Spirit; i. e., like justice, mercy, and faith. While our Savior says we should do all the former, so as not to swallow gnats, as they are unclean, you see how your deficiency in, the graces of the Spirit is illustrated by swallowing do the great camel, which is unclean as well as the gnat, and a thousand million times larger. Good Lord, help us to see this truth, and preach it fearlessly, like Jesus!

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites because you cleanse the exterior of the cup and the plate, but within they are full of extortion and impurity. Ye blind Pharisee, first purify that which is within the cup, in order that its exterior may also be pure.” The holiness movement is everywhere shouting the battle-cry of a clean heart. You see that is precisely what Jesus is here preaching; i.e., inward purity. O this is the crying need of the Churches — heart holiness. They all want their members to be externally obedient, prompt, faithful, and dutiful in every ramification of Church work, interest, and enterprise. This is all right; the outside of a cup ought to be clean. But Jesus charged the Church leaders in His day with neglecting heart purity. When the people want inward purity, you can not preach entire sanctification too forcefully to suit them. Here the Savior commands them to purify the interior, assuring them that in that case the outside would also be clean. The interior is your immortal spirit, the eternal self, that must live with God in heaven forever or with demons in the regions of woe. Hence, when the immortal spirit is clean, the exterior always falls in line, and everything is right.

“Woe unto you. scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites because you are like whited sepulchers, which indeed appear fair without, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all impurity.” It is still customary in that country of whitewash the sepulchers. You can see them a fire at way off, because they are white as snow. What a vivid illustration of a fair external profession and inward rottenness! If the leading preachers of the Jewish Church were in that awful condition, and so blind that they were utterly unconscious of it, should we not all fall on our knees before God, and ask Him for the light needed to see our heads as God sees them? I am witness that the sepulchers in that country, externally, appear most beautiful and fair, while within they are full of putrefying bodies.

“Thus you also indeed appear righteous unto the people; but within, you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” What awful preaching to the pastors and leading members of the popular Churches while looking them in the face. “Yes; but the Churches at the present day are more spiritual than those to whom Jesus preached.” I hope that is so; yet there is no doubt but multitudes of preachers, Church officers, and leading members, this day, stand precisely where those did. The only remedy for this awful state of things is experimental holiness; i.e., entire sanctification. The very fact that preachers and members kick against the plain truth when preached in its purity, is demonstrative proof that they. are not right.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you build the tombs of the prophets, and ornament the sepulchers of the righteous; and you say, If we were in the days of our fathers, we were not their comrades in the blood of the prophets. So you witness to yourselves, that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets.” Here Jesus turns on them the homogeneity argument; i.e., the very fact that they build the tombs, shows them up as carrying forward the work which their predecessors began, though they aim it to signify the very opposite. Multitudes of preachers and members who now honor John Wesley, close the doors against the men who preach precisely what Wesley did. The same is true of all the great Protestant Churches. John Bunyan among the Baptists, and John Knox among the Presbyterians, would this day meet a very cold reception.

“You fill up the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, generations of vipers, how can you escape from the damnation of hell?” If the loving Jesus could look people in the face and thus preach, we need not be afraid of using language too strong, if we are sure we are telling the truth. Of course, we can not read their hearts as He did; but the Holy Ghost can, and He will apply the truth Where it belongs.

“Therefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, wise men, and scribes; some of them you will slay and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city.” This awful prophecy was literally verified. Soon afterward those same people murdered Stephen and many others in the bloody persecution which followed, doing their utmost to exterminate the Nazarenes in blood. “In order that all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, the son of the blessed, may come upon you.” The very fact that those people, who, in less than forty-eight hours after that awful sermon, actually killed Him, and subsequently put Stephen and many others to death, showed them up in the same line with their bloody predecessors, and consequently particeps criminis.

“But Jehoiada waxed old, and was full of days when he died; a hundred and thirty years old was he when he died. And they buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, both toward God and toward his house. Now, after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them. And they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass. Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord; and they testified against them but they would not give ear. And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood before the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye can not prosper? Because ye have forsaken the Lord, He hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord. Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, The Lord look upon it,. and require it.” (2 Chronicles 24:15-21)

King Joash was only seven years old when he began to reign, his life having been preserved from the cruel Athaliah, who had murdered all of his brothers; and through the kindness of Jehoiada the priest, he reigned and did well during the lifetime of Jehoiada, his foster-father. But, as you see, after the death of Jehoiada, he was led into idolatry by the princes of Judah, and when God put the spirit of prophecy on Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, so that he boldly told them the truth, the king encouraged an evil conspiracy against him, and they stoned him to death, as Jesus here says, “between the temple and the altar;” i. e., the brazen altar for burnt offerings, which stood outside of the temple. While this prophet of God was dying, he said, “The Lord look upon it, and require it;” i.e., he turned over the case to the Lord. “Barachias,” in E. V., a proper name, is evidently a mistake, as Zacharias was not the son of a man by that name, but the son of Jehoiada the priest. The plain solution of the matter is, Barachias is a Hebrew word, and simply means “the blessed.” Therefore I translate it, “Zacharias, the son of the blessed,” — an epithet of Jehoiada. That bloody scene took place right there on the spot where they were standing when Jesus referred to it.

“Truly I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation;” i.e., the awful Divine retribution for the martyrdoms of God’s prophets and saints, from Abel down, was coming on that generation, because God had sent them all to prepare the people for His Son; and now that He has come, they are rejecting Him, and going to kill Him, thus climaxing all the murders of their predecessors.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Luke 20:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/luke-20.html.

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