Saturday, June 3rd, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts Expositor's Dictionary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 4". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ edt/ matthew-4.html. 1910.
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 4". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
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The Temptation of Jesus
Whether the devil appeared objectively to Christ or not, it was in the realm of spirit that the temptation took place. Mark even says that Jesus was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. This is at first a hard saying, but probably it only means that God wished His Son to meet the tempter at once and have it out once for all. Not that the devil would not try again, but the line for future conflict would be clearly defined.
I. The devil has an evident allusion to the approval of the Father at Christ's baptism when he said 'if Thou art a son of God,' as God had said. Not that the devil denies that this is so; in fact, the form of the condition implies that it is true, and he says 'a son of God,' not 'the Son of God,' as God had said. But he suggests to Jesus that it would be just as well for Him to test what God had said. That would do no harm. He would then have personal experience to sustain him. He was very hungry, and, if He was God's Son, surely He could do creative work as God did. It was a subtle appeal. Jesus would work miracles for others. Why not begin by working one for Himself? In a word, shall Jesus be a selfish Messiah? But the temptation would have been no temptation put in that form. That is the peril with a temptation, that its real character is at first concealed and difficult to see. There was here concealed distrust of God.
The Jews expected the Messiah to come with a great spectacular display. They will often ask Jesus to do a sign, not merely work miracles, but some great portent in the heavens, for instance. The devil suggests that Jesus accommodate Himself to the popular expectation and let them see Him come sailing down from the pinnacle of the temple, right out of heaven. They would hail Him with acclaim. But Jesus was to be no mere performer of tricks, no balloon or parachute aeronaut The devil grows pious and quotes Scripture, not misquotes it as some good people do, but he misapplies it. In that also the devil has no monopoly. But Jesus saw that He would be presumptuous and not trustful if He dared such a feat. Besides, He might as well settle now as later whether He was to be the kind of a Messiah that the people wished or the one that the Father had planned. Every preacher in a humbler way has to meet a similar problem. It is so easy to fall in with the drift of things, so easy as to fall over a great height when nervous and afraid.
II. But the devil was not done. He appealed to the ambition of Jesus. He would help Him to be king of the world. The devil was an old hand at it. He would not exactly abdicate; he and Jesus could run it together. That would be better than open war. He offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. It was a fascinating picture as it passed before the mind of Jesus. He only asked in return that Jesus bow down before him up there on the mountain. Nobody else was there, and it would be merely a recognition of the facts of the case. The devil did have the kingdoms of the world in his power, the great Roman Empire, for instance. Was it not better to make peace and be friends than to fight it out? He could turn this great Roman Empire against Jesus, who had no disciples as yet, and, if He should win some, he could use this empire against the kingdom of Jesus. This was the heart of the temptation. Jesus wanted the world. In fact, He had come to win the world, but He was to win the world from the devil, not take the world on the devil's terms and with the devil as dictator. Christ was not confused by the issue. He knew what His decision meant. But he loved the world too well to betray it in that fashion. He would not have a mixture of the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of the world. He would die for the world. Strange to say, the devil did fight Jesus with the Roman Empire, and did graft much of the world on the Church of the Middle Ages. But Jesus brushed aside all compromise and surrender and ordered Satan to go hence. He did go, cowed for the moment, but he will bide his time and wait for another chance. Death then faces Jesus at the very beginning. He must be willing to die for men before He can save men. So Jesus chose the high and stony path that led to Calvary, a lonely way and a weary one. His decision meant eternal conflict with Satan till He has conquered and the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.
A. T. Robertson, Epochs in the Life of Jesus, p. 1.
In temptation there are three factors: God, the power of evil, and the tempted man himself.
I. The first of these is God. I suppose that looking at temptation in the abstract this is easily acknowledged. It is indeed asserted in many passages of God's Word. And yet in the concrete experience, in the very grip and breath of the temptation itself, this is the hardest thing of all to believe. We are rushed and blinded. The heart feels left to itself and cruelly forsaken. Universal as temptation is, we go into it as we go into death, each of us for himself and absolutely alone. A besetting sin, a strong passion will suck the reality out of all else: out of love and truth and honour and God. Like our Lord we draw into the wilderness. The grass and the flowers cease, comradeship and sympathy are gone. God Himself seems gone, and we are 'alone with wild beasts'.
1. The first rally, which it is possible to sound to our hearts under this awful loneliness of temptation, is that which is also the first to be sounded under those other solitudes, which await us all, of pain and death that they are universal and pails of the appointed order of things. Temptation, too, is part of the destiny of man. Suddenly though the assault surge upon him, it is no accident. Solitary as he feels in his battle, he does not in fact fight alone. He is one of an innumerable army of warriors.
2. See how all this general belief is heightened and enforced upon us by the sight of Jesus Himself in our battle. That even He did not escape the strife, how infinitely more sacred must it make our own position there. We take temptation not as the curse of our individual wills, too worthless for a higher fate, but as the debt and obligation of our manhood glorified in Him.
II. Though led by the Spirit into the wilderness Jesus was led up to be tempted of the devil.
To Jesus evil was a force and an intention outside of man, though it had its allies within him. In the earthly life of our Lord there are no moments so intense as those in which He felt the attempts of evil upon Himself. And it was out of this horror, that, in spite of all His illustrations of the necessity and Divine uses of temptation, He bade His disciples pray not to be led into it.
Temptation however much employed in the Divine Providence is not only from God; not only an examination set by the Great Master to His pupils: a problem and exercise in morals. It is a real encounter with a real foe.
III. There is a third agent: the tempted man himself. I do not mean that there are three personages in the drama; of whom God and the devil set the problem, and man has got to solve it. But I mean that all three have the setting of the problem: that man himself has, in his own degree, the determining of his temptations; that, to what may be deliberately called an awful extent, each of us is his own tempter.
For temptations, broadly speaking, are of two kinds. They may be little short of penal; pursuing us from our past, the results of old indulgences, and never coming upon us but with that added force to them, and weakness to us, which springs from the recollection of our former defeats of them. Or like Christ's they may be not punishments but discoveries, opportunities, and tests: the vision to us of our greatness, that two worlds are in contest for our souls; the proof that we are trusted and called of God; the obligation to some higher task; the signals of a growing and a destined nature.
George Adam Smith, The Forgiveness of Sins, p. 51.
The Interruptions of Life (Lent)
The Son of Man Who 'came eating and drinking' why did He make this break in His life? Why did He forsake its innocent gaieties, the companionship in which He delighted for the dreary solitudes of the Dead Sea?
Our only answer can be that He felt the need of an interruption to His ordinary life. It was the greatest and longest, the most impressive and solemn of all those breaks in His ordinary life which from time to time He was making. He felt the need of these interruptions, of these temporary surrenderings of things lawful in themselves, of the sacrifice of the good for the better, of the losing of the life that He might find it more abundantly.
I. And it is just this that Lent comes to remind us of the perils which may be in things lawful and good in themselves; and the danger is all the greater because it is so much less obvious and more subtle than many more dangers which face us. There is a peril to the fibre of character. And this may be true either of a nation or of an individual. A nation with trade advancing by leaps and bounds, with wealth increasing, with the standards of life rising, may be a nation gradually but surely becoming more and more incapable of heroism and self-sacrifice. And it is for that reason that moralists have sometimes defended war.
I would contend that what war sometimes does for a nation, interrupting its even, ordinary pursuits, shaming its quiet selfishness, stirring it up to see the sterner and more heroic sides of life which calm prosperity may hide or obscure, this is what such a period as Lent does or may do for the individual. It calls upon us to have something of the soldier's spirit of self-denial, of freedom and detachment from those things which may interfere with the supreme end of life, to be more daring, more venturesome, more unworldly, than we are apt to be in our everyday career.
II. What are likely to be its benefits:
1. We shall learn to depend less on things which, though harmless or excellent in themselves, are not necessary to a true life.
2. By going into the wilderness readily and voluntarily we may be, as it were, ourselves anticipating the inevitable work which the swiftly passing years are doing and must do for all of us. For may we not say that every year we live the Spirit seems to be driving us into the wilderness? driving us out of the things which we have most loved and cared for and enjoyed, forcing us, as it were, to surrender them, and to go, as it was said to St. Peter, 'whither we would not'?
H. R. Gamble, The Ten Virgins p. 91.
The Temptation in the Wilderness ( a Lenten Sermon )
Recurring anniversaries add a pathos and a nobility to life. There are days when all must be sacred. Birth and death, some sacred blessing or some great sorrow, as the day may come, what matter it? The heart sings with joy or it becomes still with sorrow, as the case may be. It is not strange, then, that Christian people should mark the recurring season of Lent; it is an anniversary which is limited to no nation, no people, no age. It marks an epoch for the great human family for all time.
I. The Challenge. 'Led up of the Spirit to be tempted of the devil.' It is the history of mankind. It was the challenge of the Spirit of God to the spirit of evil; it was the struggle which was bound to take place for the supremacy of the world. It is vain to speculate upon the form or character of the spirit of evil, for whatever theory we may have as to its origin or form, whether it be a permeating essence or a person, nothing alters the universal result of all experience that it is a fact. Man has been too often driven from Eden by the selfsame spirit of evil to have any doubt as to its reality. And it is just as vain for man to speculate upon its nature as to mistake what that nature is. Poverty, obscurity, disappointment, care these things are often deemed evil by the world, and yet they are not evils in themselves. They are often the stepping-stones to kingdoms where men may reign. Many a man afflicted with poverty becomes servile and mean; and it is just as true that men of wealth may become hard, cynical, and selfish. There is no evil in these things in themselves. Many of them have proved the greatest of blessings with which God has endowed the human family; but it is the material which goes into the crucible that shows in the result. If mean spirits go in, it is mean spirits that come out; if nobility goes in, it is nobility refined and purified that comes forth.
II. The Struggle. The Lord Jesus Christ, Who looked into the very eyes of the tempter, never made light of evil, and it is well for us to remember that men who succeed in this great battle, only succeed after a struggle, a struggle with a really terrible enemy. We read in the history of days gone by in the land of slaves, how that they were tracked by blood-hounds, but no blood-hound ever tracked its victim as the spirit of evil tracks the footsteps of its slaves. The trouble is that men are so often their own tempters. Bad as he is, the devil is often falsely charged and falsely accused; when men are to be blamed alone they cast on him the sins that are their own. It is not only that man is his own tempter, but man is his own penalty. The evil of disease is one of the scourges with which the spirit of evil rends those who fail in the great conflict. The pitiful thing is that so many of us go through the world, and see its evil, and forget that, sooner or later, evil comes home to them that give it an abiding place within them.
III. The Discipline. In Lent it is well that we should withdraw ourselves from the world, that we should gather together, and see the evil within us, that we should face the penalties that go with the evil and cry aloud for penitence and for pardon. Those who have known the struggle will welcome this season as a means of grace, and for those who have been amongst the fallen, there will be the pleasing remembrance that Lent is not only the recruiting ground for the good, but it is a fresh start-ing-place for those who have done wrong. It may mean to them that God will use it as a means of instruction; that He will help them to reckon rightly, to estimate accurately the blessings and the evils that are around them; and when men do that there is little doubt that, however busy they may be with their work, however engrossed with their pleasures, they will at least find some time in which to remember the petition of the Litany, 'That it may please Thee to give us true repentance, to forgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances, and to endue us with the grace of Thy Holy Spirit, to amend our lives according to Thy Holy Word'.
IV. The Victory. The threefold temptations of our Lord show us that body, soul, and spirit of man each the abiding temple of the Holy Ghost may be assaulted in its turn. 'Command that these stones be made bread 'was the voice of the tempter to the body of the hungering Saviour. 'All these things will I give Thee' is the appeal to the desires of the soul. 'Cast Thyself down' this was the temptation of pride to the intellect. Body, soul, and spirit were all assaulted, and these, each in its turn, are the universal temptations Today. And so Jesus Christ has given us as He gave to His disciples that short pattern prayer on which men have moulded their petition to God from that time to this: 'Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil'.
References. IV. 1. M. Dods, Christ and Man, p. 13. H. Montagu Butler, Harrow School Sermons, p. 1. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 143. J. Fraser, Parochial and Other Sermons, p. 30. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life, p. 229. R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. i. p. 114. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No. 2997. Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i. p. 137. Henry Wace, Some Central Points of Our Lord's Ministry, p. 59. A. Morris Stewart, The Temptation of Jesus, p. 16. W. P. Balfern, Glimpses of Jesus, p. 62. F. Temple, Church Times, vol. xlvii. 1902, p. 236. R. H. McKim, The Gospel in the Christian Year, p. 175. F. D. Maurice, Christmas Day and Other Sermons, p. 131. F. R. H. H. Noyes, Plain Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 250. S. D. McConnell, A Year's Sermons, p. 252. Bishop J. Percival, The Great Choice or the Great Refusal, p. 3. W. C. Magee, The Gospel and the Age, p. 57. R. Duckworth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. 1893, p. 129. F. Temple, ibid. vol. liii. 1898, p. 129. H. Scott Holland, ibid. vol. lxix. 1906, p. 24. M. G. Glazebrook, Prospice, p. 29. H. E. Manning, Sin and Its Consequences, p. 159. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 146; see also Readings for the Aged (4th Series), p. 34. G. Body, The Life of Temptation, p. 1. J. Vaughan, Sermons (11th Series), p. 61. S.A.Brooke, Sermons, p. 251. W. G. Blaikie, Glimpses of the Inner Life of Our Lord, p. 74. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i. p. 140. Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 51. E. M. Goulburn, Thoughts on Personal Religion, p. 200. C. A. Fowler, Parochial Sermons, p. 61. W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 344. H. Wonnacott, ibid. vol. xiv. p. 59. Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiv. p. 91. J. C. Jones, Studies in St. Matthew, p. 70. E. G. Charlesworth, Church Sermons, vol. i. p. 46. G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 20. H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons. IV. 1, 2. R. W. Church, Village Sermons (2nd Series), p. 175. H. Bushnell, Christ and his Salvation, p. 77. IV. 1-11. George Macdonald, Unspoken Sermons, p. 126. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 76. F. W. Macdonald, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 88. A. B. Davidson, Waiting Upon God, p. 109. T. Champness, New Coins From Old Gold, p. 55. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2613; vol. lii. No. 2997. IV. 2. A. Morris Stewart, The Temptation of Jesus, p. 30. IV. 2, 3. Ibid. p. 54. A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, vol. i. p. 168. IV. 2-4. A. Morris Stewart, The Temptation of Jesus, p. 74. H. Montagu Butler, Harrow School Sermons, p. 13. IV. 3. H. Scott Holland, Church Times, vol. lv. 1906, p. 54. W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 252. F. D. Maurice, Christmas Day and Other Sermons, p. 142. R. Winterbotham, Sermons Preached in Holy Trinity Church, Edinburgh, p. 128. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2613. IV. 3-4. A. Morris Stewart, The Temptation of Jesus, p. 91.
The Office of Religion
Religion rests upon the facts of human nature. What are those facts?
1. Its sinfulness.
2. Its sorrowfulness.
3. Its shortness.
I. They suggest three questions: (1) What is the motive for resisting sin? (2) What is the meaning of sorrow? (3) Does the life of each of us end at his death?
1. What is the revelation of Jesus Christ about human sin? Whatever the faults of Christian men and women, and whatever the merits of those who are not Christians, it is ridiculous to tell me that in the conduct of life, in the hours when temptation is strong and sin can be wrought with but little fear of detection or degradation, he who looks only to himself and his fellow-men for his standard of duty possesses the same powerful motive to morality as he who believes that his life, in its meanest actions no less than its highest, is passed under the searching eye of an omnipotent God.
2. What is the revelation of Jesus Christ about life's sorrow? He does not ignore it. He does not deny it. He weeps for it as He draws near to the grave of Lazarus. But Christ teaches that sorrow is itself a benediction. The world lends no sanction to the theory that 'whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth'. But the revelation of Christ makes it plain.
3. What is it that Christ reveals about life's shortness. Standing beside the open grave, He says, as of old, 'I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die'.
Whoever claims to control our spirits must be prepared to furnish some elucidation or justification of life's sinfulness, its sorrowfulness, and its shortness. Jesus Christ explains these mysteries by referring them to a superhuman law.
II. It remains, then, to ask, What are the substitutes proposed for religion?
1. It is said that humanity may support itself, and, I suppose, enjoy itself, in the contemplation of material progress.
Still, granting the salient fact of material progress, there are two thoughts which may well occur to us: (1) that concurrently with this progress there have arisen certain causes which militate against its beneficent operation; (2) that, however wide its operation may be, it satisfies a part only, and not the whole, of man's nature.
2. But it is sometimes said that although man will not find his satisfaction in an era of commercial prosperity, he will find it in the cultivated pleasure which attends the development of science or art. In other words, as religion decays, scientific discovery and artistic taste will fill the void. The love of knowledge and the love of beauty are not less natural to man than the love of God. But they are not, and cannot be, substitutes for the love of God. They cannot fill the place of religion.
3. It is sometimes argued that the law of duty in itself is potent to command the hearts and minds of men.
Christianity, in referring actions to God, recognizes man's natural love of approbation. The problem of life is to accommodate the self-regarding and the self-forgetting impulses of human nature. They are accommodated, I think, only in a system which teaches that it is the duty of man to sacrifice himself, if the need be, for the salvation of other men yes, to sacrifice himself even to the death and yet teaches that his self-sacrifice will issue in a complete reward behind the veil of time.
III. Not in material progress then, nor in art and science, nor in the stoicism of absolute duty, is the law of human nature found to lie. We fall back upon the immemorial truth 'man shall not live,' says the Saviour, 'by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God'. Human nature can find its satisfaction only in Him Who is not human but Divine.
Bishop Welldon, The Spiritual Life, p. 140.
References. IV. 4. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1208. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 487. Brooke Foss Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 353. Henry Wace, Some Central Points of Our Lord's Ministry, p. 79. F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. 1900, p. 406. M. R. Vincent, God and Bread, p. 3. Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i. p. 152. IV. 5. C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 83.
In the eleventh chapter of Martin Chuzzlewit, Jonas upbraids his old father for living to such an age. 'Where's his religion, I should like to know, when he goes flying in the face of the Bible like that! Three-score-and-ten's the mark; and no man with a conscience and a proper sense of what's expected of him has any business to live longer.' Is anyone surprised at Mr. Jonas making such a reference to such a book for such a purpose? Does anyone doubt the old saw, that the devil (being a layman) quotes Scripture for his own ends? If he will take the trouble to look about him, he may find a greater number of confirmations of the fact, in the occurrences of any single day, than the steam-gun can discharge balls in a minute.
References. IV. 5-7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 689. J. Wordsworth, University Sermons on Gospel Subjects, p. 102. H. Montagu Butler, Harrow School Sermons, p. 25. A. Morris Stewart, The Temptation of Jesus, p. 110. IV. 6. R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. iii. p. 136. W. Hardy Harwood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. 1894, p. 84. T. B. Dover, Some Quiet Lenten Thoughts, p. 31. IV. 7. Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i. p. 168. Henry Wace, Some Central Points of Our Lord's Ministry, p. 97. IV. 7, 10. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, p. 319.
Compare Ruskin's application, in the fifth volume of Modern Painters: 'High on the desert mountain, full descried, sits throned the tempter, with his old promise the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them. He still calls you to your labour, as Christ to your rest; labour and sorrow, base desire, and cruel hope. So far as you desire to possess, rather than to give; so far as you look for power to command, instead of to bless; so far as your own prosperity seems to you to issue out of contest or rivalry, of any kind, with other men, or other nations; so long as the hope before you is supremacy instead of love; and your desire is to be greatest instead of least; first, instead of last; so long are you serving the Lord of all that is last and least.'
References. IV. 8, 9. C. F. Aked, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. 1893, p. 100. A. Morris Stewart, The Temptation of Jesus, p. 142. IV. 8-11. J. Wordsworth, University Sermons on Gospel Subjects, p. 119. IV. 9, 10. A. Morris Stewart, The Temptation of Jesus, p. 178. IV. 10. Henry Wace, Some Central Points of Our Lord's Ministry, p. 115. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The School of Christ, p. 80. Harry Jones, Christian World Pulpit, 1896, p. 151. Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i. p. 184. IV. 11. Ibid. vol. i. p. 201. A. Morris Stewart, The Temptation of Jesus, p. 194. E. Fowle, Plain Preaching to Poor People (7th Series), p. 80. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2326. IV. 12. W. Brooke, Sermons, p. 2. IV. 12-16. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 86. IV. 12-24. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2646. IV. 13-17. Fuller Gooch, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvii. 1895, p. 346. IV. 15, 16. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii. No. 1010.
The first Creature of God, in the Workes of the Dayes, was the Light of the Sense; the Last, was the Light of Reason; and his Sabbath Worke, ever since, is the Illumination of his Spirit. First He breathed Light, upon the Face of the Matter or Chaos; Then He breathed Light into the Face of Man; and still He breatheth and inspireth Light into the Face of his Chosen.
A friend who was with Robertson of Brighton 'at the English Lakes, said to him one day with some sharpness, pointing to the top of Skiddaw, which was unseen the while for mist, "I would not have my head, like the peak of that mountain, involved, as we see it now, in cloud, for all that you could offer me". "I would," rejoined Robertson quickly, "for, by and by, the cloud and mist will roll away, and the sun will come down upon it in all his glory."'
Reference. IV. 16. S. D. McConnell, A Year's Sermons, p. 82.
The appropriate lesson of the hour might be thought to be one of passive watchfulness; to lie in wait for the hoped-for redemption.... Instead of this, however, the great Prophet of the hour draws the opposite inference; and utters the exhortation short and sharp, 'Repent!' Personal repentance, the transference of the life from conventionalism to conviction, must precede and usher in the reign of God upon the earth.
References. IV. 17. J. Parker, Studies in Texts, vol. i. p. 161. G. W. Herbert, Notes of Sermons, p. 1. H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. 1893, p. 124. J. Martineau, Endeavours After the Christian Life, p. 44. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi. No. 329. IV. 17-25. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 89.
The Call of St. Andrew
The festival in honour of the memory of St. Andrew is one of the earliest recorded in Church history. Its institution took place about the middle of the fourth century; and it appropriately opens the series of the festivals, inasmuch as St. Andrew was the first disciple of Jesus Christ.
St. Andrew was a native of Bethsaida of Galilee, and was a son of Jonas, and a brother of Simon Peter, but whether older or younger has never been satisfactorily ascertained. He was the first of all the Apostolic band to begin the work of evangelization. 'He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.' But his call to the work of an Apostle did not take place for a year after his first introduction to Christ. During that time he occupied himself in his ordinary pursuit of fishing, as is evident from the text that it was from the net and the boat that he and his brother Simon were finally called to be 'fishers of men'.
In the narrative of the Gospel, St. Andrew is spoken of in connexion with the call of the first disciples (Matthew 4:19-22 ). Then on the occasion when Jesus sat upon the Mount of Olives, over against the temple, and predicted the fall of the Holy City (Mark 13:3-4 ). He is also said to have been present at the feeding of the five thousand, for he was the disciple who felt so anxious for the comfort of the famishing multitude (John 6:8-9 ); and in the Holy Week, when certain Greeks 'would see Jesus,' Andrew was the first to tell Jesus of their desire (John 12:21-22 ). These are most, if not all, of the instances in which St. Andrew is noted in the Gospels.
Ecclesiastical history states concerning him that when the division of the world was made among the Apostles, St. Andrew undertook Scythia and the adjacent countries as his sphere of labour. Like St. Paul, he was 'in labours more abundant'.
Ægeas, the proconsul of Achaia, because of St. Andrew's wonderful success in his Master's work, condemned him to be scourged and afterwards crucified. And, in order that his death might be as painful and protracted as possible, he had this noble martyr fastened with cords not nailed, as was usual to the cross, which was of the peculiar kind called decussate, in the form of an X, and known afterwards by the name of St. Andrew. When his executioners were conducting him to this cross, and he was within sight of it, it is said that he apostrophized it thus: 'Hail, precious cross! thou hast been consecrated by the Body of my Lord, and adorned with His limbs as with rich jewels. I come to thee exulting and glad; receive me with joy into thine arms. O good cross! since thou hast received beauty from my Lord's Limbs, I have ardently loved thee. Long have I desired and sought thee; now thou art found by me, and art made ready for my longing soul. Take me from among men, and present me to my Master, that He Who redeemed me on thee may receive me by thee.' In this brave and sublime manner St. Andrew died.
From the conduct of Andrew we may learn that it is the nature of true religion to desire that others may possess it. It does not lead us to monopolize it, nor to hide its light under a bushel; but it seeks that others also may be brought to Jesus. It does not wait for them to come to Him, but it goes for them; it seeks them out, and leads them directly to Him.
References. IV. 18. C. S. Robinson, Simon Peter, p. 30. IV. 18, 19. J. Halsey, The Spirit of Truth, p. 108. A. F. Winnington Ingram, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. 1902, p. 84. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 702. IV. 18, 19, 20. Thomas Spurgeon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. 1883, p. 65. IV. 18-22. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part i. p. 159. N. Adams, Christ a Friend, p. 183. J. H. Rigg, Scenes and Studies in the Ministry of Our Lord, p. 43.
The Call to Service
The references to this incident in different Gospels are so various that it seems impossible to determine with certainty that St Peter and St. Andrew, St. James and St. John were called to follow Christ with a view to being made of further service immediately after the occasion of the miraculous draught of fishes or on a subsequent occasion. It does not matter much whether the incident took place on the same day as the miraculous draught of fishes or on the following day. We know that these men were called, and the exact words of their calling are given. Christ came to these men and said: 'Follow Me'. Some one has said that God never calls an idle man; so we see that Jesus Christ was looking for disciples who were following professions, as in the case of these four men. He saw them at work; He saw that they were industrious. They were doing well in their earthly position; therefore they were the men Christ needed to do well in a higher calling. Christ's religion commands us to serve Him and work for Him. It does not consist of merely singing and praising and praying. Service, and not status, distinguishes one disciple from another, though a good many members of the Christian Church do not recognize this fact, and very often status is thought to be better than service.
I. The Career of a Christian is to be one of Ministry; to undertake the task of helping our fellow-men. To follow the Lord Jesus Christ and accept the Christian faith means renunciation. We are called upon to give up something in this world if we want to become true Christians something which is incompatible with our new life and new service for Christ and to believe in Jesus Christ and to follow Him as a true disciple, to practise His teaching, and to love Him. This means, perhaps, the renunciation of many things, not merely what wo understand as the renunciation of the devil and all his works, the pomp and vainglory of this wicked world, and all the carnal lusts of the flesh; but even more than that, for it may mean giving up some worldly occupation in which we cannot carry out Christ's principles and His life. Do we recognize this renunciation when we take up the Christian religion? When we are called in Christ, He says: 'Come, follow Me'. It is not a call to slavery; it is a call to blessed companionship with Him, the remaking of us as better men and women, if we can only realize what it means when we go to Him. Do we realize that we are called to follow Christ, that Christ is with us, that Christ takes His place in our hearts when He says 'Follow Me'? Why Christ wanted these men to follow Him was that He might impress His spirit upon them. We shall never be the fishers of other men until the spirit of Christ is in us, until it gives us the greater force of character.
II. This Command to these Poor Fishermen has a very Beautiful and Peculiar Charm .
a. It was an absolutely direct call from Person to person. Christ comes to them, and looks them in the face and says: 'Follow Me'. Christ is a personal being; He knows us by name, and speaks to us Himself; and I often wonder if we all realize that He is calling each one of us to be a disciple of His, and serve Him in love for ever and ever.
b. The swiftness of the answer. They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Oh! if you would only respond to the call of God at once, and not put it away from you when He calls you from sin and from the world! Will we respond to this voice? Will the beautiful and peculiar charm of His presence hasten our footsteps to Him?
c. Notice the thoroughness with which these fishermen entered into the duty of serving Christ. Of course, we hear of certain human weaknesses in the characters of the disciples; for instance, the want of confidence of St. Peter, the weak Apostle who followed Christ afar off; though, on the other hand, we read of the faithful devotion of St. Andrew, who followed close on his Master. If we follow Him closely, we must follow Him with mind and conscience and spirit in this way.
III. His Presence is With Us. There was a great general who said to his troops: 'I cannot now explain the worst to you, but I can lie on the hard ground with you'. And that is but a faint idea of the love and work of Jesus Christ. He cannot explain everything to us in the present, but if we have the mind to follow Christ and to rest upon His power, we shall find Christ is side by side with us in the hardships of life, and we shall know there is a Friend Who will help us at all times. Our minds can rest in Him.
I. Whom? Not simply a human teacher; but Jesus, Who qualified Himself by His earthly life, with its temptation, toil, and suffering, to be the only Leader of men.
II. How? We cannot follow His person, as the disciples did when He was upon earth; but we may
1. Obey His precepts.
2. Copy His example.
3. We cannot direct our own course.
4. There is no leader equal to Christ.
5. If we follow Him we shall be in good company.
6. Only thus can we escape spiritual danger and eternal death.
7. To God. 'I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.'
8. To heaven. 'In My Father's house are many mansions.... I go to prepare a place for you.'
9. Now. 'Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.'
F. J. Austin, Seeds and Saplings, p. 90.
References. IV. 19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii. No. 1906. E. S. Talbot, Some Aspects of Christian Truth, p. 147. Reuen Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. 1891, p. 141. H. A. Thomas, ibid. vol. lv. 1899, p. 182. J. H. Jowett, ibid. vol. lxv. 1904, p. 257. H. P. Liddon, Clerical Life and Work, p. 93. George Tyrrell, Oil and Wine, p. 73. IV. 20. C. S. Robinson, Simon Peter, p. 137. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for Saints' Days, p. 9. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2618. IV. 21. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. iii. p. 157. Walter C. Smith, Sermons, p. 197. IV. 21, 22. ' Plain Sermons 'by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. vi. p. 142. IV. 23 (R.V.) A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. 1895, p. 195. IV. 23-25. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi. No. 333.
Let no man who wants to do anything for the soul of a man lose the chance of doing something for his body. Of many a soul Jesus laid hold by healing the suffering the body brought on it. No one but Himself can tell how much the nucleus of the Church was composed of and by those who had received health from His hands, loving-kindness from His mouth.
Geo. Macdonald, A Seaboard Parish, p. 238.
'In the shape of converts,' said James Gilmour of Mongolia, 'I have seen no result. I have not, as far as I am aware, seen any one who even wanted to be a Christian; but by healing their diseases I have had opportunity to tell many of Jesus, the Great Physician.'
References. IV. 24. W. P. Balfern, Glimpses of Jesus, p. 74. J. Oswald Dykes, The Manifesto of the King, p. 3. IV. 25. Henry Wace, Some Central Points of Our Lord's Ministry, p. 173.