The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods






Section XXIV

an intimation of Jesus of the falling away of a large body of his people

(Luk 13:22-30)

Jesus soon proceeded to move from Capernaum, for the purpose of leaving the country of Galilee and entering upon his last journey to Jerusalem. With this in view, He was already beginning to travel through successive towns and villages. Everywhere, however, He found occasion to tarry, teaching and rendering help to those who needed it. In a peculiar manner He seems from place to place to have gathered together His followers to prepare them for the issue of His earthly pilgrimage; and many were now surrounding Him, and forming His train. But to the disciples it seemed that at this decisive juncture all His adherents in Galilee ought to attach themselves to His train. No doubt it was with this feeling that John, with those then with him, had resented the behaviour of the man who sought to invoke the name of Jesus to work miraculous cures without attaching himself to them. And perhaps it was with much the same feeling that now one asked Him, ‘Lord, are only few saved?’ The solemn severity with which Jesus answers this questioner might also suggest the thought, that the man was casting a contemptuous glance on the small band which followed Jesus, and asked in derision, Thinkest thou that only few will be saved?—that of the people of Israel only this pitiful company are to enter into the kingdom of heaven? And although we must not overlook the circumstance, that the questioner addresses Him as Lord, and that Jesus seems at least to place him among those who, in their fashion, take much pains to enter into the kingdom of heaven, yet the form in which Jesus couches His reply almost warrants the supposition that He considered him inwardly to be in a dangerous state. Probably this disciple had felt saddened and annoyed that the company of Jesus’ followers showed no disposition to increase as he had anticipated. Jesus well knew that the man had grounds for his apprehension; but He considered likewise that his conception of what it was to be delivered and saved in the kingdom of the Messiah was too external in its character, thinking, as he did, that those who formed the train of Jesus were unquestionably His partners in the kingdom, whilst all others were in a very serious condition. Therefore Jesus replied with the admonition, ‘Strive to enter in through the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. Then, when once the Master of the house has risen up’ (considering that the time for expecting the members of His family is expired), ‘and he has shut the door’ (for the night), ‘then shall ye begin’ (thus it runs, in a very affecting form for the man whom Christ was addressing) ‘to stand without, and to knock at the door, and to say, Lord, Lord open to us! But he shall answer you, I know not whence ye are. Then shall ye begin to say, We have surely eaten and drunk before thine eyes, and thou hast taught in our streets.’ Thereby He intimates, that they would consider that they had fully proved their acquaintance with Him; but that He would not recognize this external acquaintance as that which He had in His view, but would again declare to them that He knew nothing of them, knew not of what country they were, and would then add, ‘Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity!’ But how can He mean to call them workers of iniquity if He does not even know them? For the very reason, because outwardly they stood so near to Him, while inwardly they were such strangers to Him; because they were Israelites, and yet in a theocratic sense had become barbarians,—men, whose origin was from such a very great distance, so deep in the darkness, that the Lord of the worlds Himself (so to speak) cannot tell whence they are derived; and because, by their having so darkened their relation to the Saviour of the world, they betray that they must through actions of great iniquity have arrived at this hideous transformation of their being. Then follows the concluding word: ‘There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves cast out. And they shall come from the east and the west, and from the north and the south, and shall sit down to table in the kingdom of God.’

This, He tells them, would be their greatest sorrow, that they would see themselves thrust out of the family of the patriarchs and prophets, in whom they find their national pride, and replaced by adopted sons of Abraham out of all tribes of the heathens, whom they have so deeply despised. And that in this respect they might know the worst, He adds, ‘And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.’

It was impossible that Jesus should have more clearly announced the speedy falling away of the Jewish nation from the centre-point of their faith, their exclusion from the kingdom of God, and the admission into it of Gentiles from all ends of the earth, than He did on this occasion. It is true that the people of Israel had never clearly recognized the real significance of their position. But nevertheless, in a thousand forms, that people has, with dim consciousness, already expressed its grief for its exclusion. This was especially often the case in the first days of the extension of Christianity among the Gentiles; for that which most filled the Jews with envy and wrath was, that this word should have been brought to the Gentiles. But the time will come, when the great judgment of their exclusion shall once more come home to their consciousness fully.

The word of Christ, however, has also a continuing application to all who, in the Christian Church, appear as His old housemates and acquaintances. Even from amongst these will many at all times prove to be for Him inwardly stranger nations, owning no home, whose spiritual origin is less capable of being made out than the historical origin of the Gipsies; whilst in the meantime many will be drawn thither out of the most miserable nations of mankind, and become housemates with the apostles, with the fathers of the Church, and with the reformers, in the kingdom of God.