The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods






Section XXXII

the return of the seventy. the narrow-hearted lawyer and the good Samaritan

(Luk 10:17-37)

The Evangelist Luke has given the account of the return of the Seventy in immediate connection with his account of their sending forth. We therefore cannot be sure when or where they again joined Jesus. The probability is, that they did so in Perea, or even perhaps earlier, as He was crossing the Jordan. At all events, according to Matthew and Mark, Jesus seems to have made His appearance in Perea, attended at once by a large train of followers. This train, however, for the most part at least, consisted of crowds flocking after Him, on whom He was working miracles of healing.

In respect to the result of the mission of these Seventy, we have a more particular account of it than in reference to the first mission of the twelve apostles. They came back with minds full of joy. Jesus had only in general imparted to them the gift of healing the sick; but they had made bold to undertake to deal also with those possessed with devils; and now in joyful excitement they were able to report, ‘Lord, even the devils are subject to us in Thy name!’ This, in their own private opinion, appeared the most important point of all.

The Lord allays their great excitement of mind in reference to the small cures of demoniacs which they had been able to accomplish, by beginning to tell them, which He does with profound calmness, of the great expulsion of demons which long before He had Himself achieved without any loud expressions of exultation on the occasion. Even now, however, He speaks of it in so mysterious a manner, that it hardly transpires what part He had Himself taken in the achievement, although it was just that great victory over the prince of darkness to which they owed the little successes which they were able to gain in contending against the rabble spirits of that kingdom. ‘I saw Satan like lightning fall from heaven.’ This mysterious word cannot be referred to any one particular vision accorded to Jesus; for the whole character of His life was marked by His having a continuous insight into the nature of things, which His eye evermore looked into as into a deep, before Him perfectly transparent and clear.1 Neither can it refer to the antemundane punishment of Satan, his fall and expulsion from the angelic kingdom; for therewith Satan as the tempter of man was not yet stricken and overcome. Rather it relates to that victory of Christ which had completely unmasked him and, for what concerns spiritual relations, already stricken him. The spiritual crisis of Christ’s victory over Satan is formed by the fact that Christ withstood his temptation in the wilderness. When Satan approached Him, he had entered into the heaven of Christ’s spiritual exaltation; into that sphere in which Christ’s consciousness and spiritual objects without Him were influencing each other; into the circle of heavenly spirits. In order to tempt the first man, Satan had behoved to creep into paradise; for the first man was in paradise. But in order to tempt the Second Man, he had behoved to creep into heaven, and to assume the form of an angel in light; for the Second Man was in heaven (Joh 3:13). He had appropriated the world’s ideal of the Messiah, the world’s noblest forms of heavenly things, and made the same a temptation of Christ.

But with Christ’s word of rebuke, ‘Get thee away from Me, Satan!’ Satan had been cast forth from that heavenly sphere to which Christ and Christ’s people belong. Like lightning had he fallen to the earth, towards the bottomless abyss, judged and annihilated in his highest power, in the enchantments of his sham ideality. And ever since, he continues only in his judged being as dragon of the earth, as prince of unmasked wickedness, and in the brood of spiritual snakes and scorpions. The lightning of snakelike light, at its fall to the earth, dissolved into dark gloomy snakes with lightning-like darting and with sinister gleam,2 into scorpions which suddenly spring forward and slily wound, into a brood of evil, whose bites and stings are dangerous lightnings of death, and which finds the truest expression of its nature in the poisonous reptiles of the earth. And on this account, because Jesus has thus, in the great spiritual conflict, vanquished and judged the great demon, the disciples are enabled in the superior might of His name to overcome the lesser demons, as they in their prince are stricken with him. That Christ in this sense grounds their successes upon His work; that in the words, I saw Satan like lightning fall from heaven, He speaks of a victory which He had achieved; appears also from the continuation of His discourse: ‘Behold, I give you power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the might of the enemy; and nothing shall in any wise hurt you.’3 In faith they shall have this world of Satan, with all its brood, as a conquered world beneath them, and tread down their old fears and terrors in the confidence that they shall do them no hurt. Therefore also it was not in these successful exorcisms that they should find the proper source of their joy. And that for two reasons. In the first place, because He Himself had with the archdemon conquered also the lesser demons; because they therefore were in danger of arrogating to themselves an honour which did not belong to them; and because as His disciples they already had this world of dark tricks and mischiefs subject and under their feet. And in the second place, because the joy on account of the trampling under of serpents and scorpions does not carry with it that substance of heavenly blessedness which men needs, and which is actually assigned to the disciple. This real blessing is rather found in knowing himself to have been drawn up into the kingdom of love, in knowing himself in the eternal faithfulness of God eternally beloved, rescued, and reconciled. To this source of joy which properly belongs to the Christian, the realization of which does not excite, but calms—does not puff up, but humbles and sanctifies—does not intoxicate and imperil, but gives sobriety and safety,—to this Christ points the attention of His excited disciples by adding: ‘Howbeit in this rejoice not, that the devils are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.’4 Before all things they are inscribed upon the hand of God, upon the memory of Christ; but they are inscribed also upon the fellowship and love of all good spirits in all the realms of blessedness. And this heavenly friendship of God and of all good spirits behoves to be their proper blessedness, and not their triumph over the unblessed spirits of the pit. The excitement of this latter triumph might perhaps gradually make themselves again unblest; whilst it is the peace which belongs to this fellowship of love which establishes their victory over the brood of darkness, and makes it everlasting.

Although Jesus found cause for warning the Seventy against self-exaltation and false self-bewilderment in estimating their relations to demons, yet in the exultation with which they returned for the victories which they had achieved, He Himself found a great occasion for joy. The freshness and simplicity of faith with which these weaker disciples had set themselves to work in their calling, and its noble results, opened to His foreseeing eye a great vista in all those victories which His kingdom was destined to win, first in the hearts of the simple, the little, and the babes, and then through them in the world. The foresight of this gave Him an hour of festal rejoicing. ‘His soul sprung aloft’ (ἠγαλλιάσατο), says the Evangelist. It might be heard in His prayer, how richly these new exhilarating experiences comforted Him for those sorrowful ones which He had at last had in Galilee; and this reference, as we learn from the intimation of Matthew which has been mentioned, got to be so important in the eyes of the disciples, that they regarded the words which their Master now uttered as an answer to all the questions raised by the sorrow which in the closing period of His ministry had stirred their hearts. ‘I hail it with acceptance, and praise to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things’ (the word and power of the Gospel) ‘from the wise and understanding, and hast revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good before Thee.’ What presents itself to the spirit of the Father as well-pleasing, that Christ will also proclaim as well-pleasing to His own heart; even though it infer the deepest sufferings for Him. It is, however, thoroughly clear to Him why the Father so disposes things. First, He is speaking of men who are wise and understanding apart from Him, to His face, and in opposition to Him; and therewith is their wisdom judged; for them the Father has veiled the divine wisdom of Christ with the appearance of folly. Next, He is speaking of babes, who feel and comfort themselves as such in the presence of the riches of Christ’s grace and truth: to them the Father has manifested the meaning of the lofty mysteries which belong to His heaven as intelligible truths which the understanding of children can make their own.

Thus the kingdom of the fellow-heirs of Christ forms itself out of babes who receive illumination in the mystery of the highest life: the kingdom of His adversaries, out of the wise and understanding,—those learned in the Scriptures, and enlightened spirits, who in all Christ’s thoughts relative to His kingdom find nothing but darkness. But nevertheless, let it not be fancied that He has had given to Him only the government over one part of mankind. ‘All things,’ He says distinctly, ‘are given to Me by My Father.’ His authority and power, therefore, extend over all the world.

But yet this power of His is as profoundly mysterious and noiseless as His being is. No man knows it; for ‘no man knows who the Son is, but only the Father.’ The Father alone is quite acquainted with the Son, with that most wondrous mystery of life in which the whole world is made and included. But yet many believe that they know the Father well, who misunderstand, yea, reject the Son. Therefore He goes on: ‘No man knows who the Father is, but only the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal it.’

Only through the Father can we be acquainted with the being of the Son; a truth which they would do well to consider, who slight the revelations of the Father, the notices which the Father gives, in creation, in the fortunes of the world, and the world’s life, and especially in the world’s inward being. And only through the revelations of the Son can we become acquainted with the Father; a truth which they especially should take to heart, who think they can come to know the Father without this revelation through the Son, through the life and word of Christ, through the Spirit and Church of Christ.

This glorification of the Father through the Son, and of the Son through the Father, was, above all things, now being imparted to the circle of disciples who surrounded Jesus. Therefore He addressed His word to them in especial, and proceeded to invite them to take part in His joy, by pronouncing His blessing upon them: ‘Happy are the eyes which see the things which ye see; for I say unto you, many prophets and kings would have been glad to see the things which ye see, and have not seen them, and to hear the things which ye hear, and have not heard them.’

Amid this benediction did the Seventy return into the circle of the nascent Church which now surrounded the Lord. This Church was probably around Him when He went up to the feast of Dedication, which was now near. Subsequently many of them may have returned again into Galilee. But at His last entry into Jerusalem they no doubt are again near Him; and after His resurrection we find its members forming a distinct association (Act 1:15).

It seemed to the disciples very strange (καὶ ἰδού), that a lawyer, a divine learned in the Scriptures, should stupidly and boldly make use of the occasion furnished by Christ’s discourse with His disciples, to ask the Master with a sinister purpose, ‘What he must do to inherit eternal life?’ He put the query to the Lord for the purpose of tempting Him: so little was he affected by the tokens of eternal life which were before his eyes. Jesus referred him to the law. As the other stood upon the footing of the law, his query must be solved out of the law. Jesus therefore required him to state what direction he considered himself to find on the subject in the law. This no doubt was His meaning in the question, ‘What is written in the law? How readest thou?’ In the application of holy Scripture, the matter hangs upon both of these points, if we will fain turn it to account as a directory of salvation. The first question is always, What is written? The second, How is it read? The divine knew how to answer at once. He knew how to state the main substance of the law quite rightly, as it indeed stood written upon his phylacteries: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind;5 and thy neighbour as thyself.6

Jesus admits that the lawyer has stated the right way of attaining eternal life, and proposes to dismiss him with the word, ‘This do, and thou shalt live.’

This word is in all simplicity a true one. The fundamental notion of eternal life consists in love: the perfection of love in loving God above all, and your neighbour as yourself. It must therefore come to this, that a man fulfil this law. And this law stands over against him as a law of imperative requirement, just because in his sinfulness he cannot fulfil it. He must mean to do it—must be in all earnest with this law, even unto death; and then on the way of the law he comes to the Gospel, wherein that doing of it which he strives after is bestowed upon him in the deed of Christ; while the Gospel again forthwith brings him into the life of this law. But this doing was with this particular questioner no real concern. And because it was not, therefore he thought himself already clear in respect to the doing of this law, and that there was an unfounded supposition concerning him at the bottom of Jesus’ exhortation, ‘This do!’ It was no doubt in this sense that he wished to justify himself, and therefore put the further question, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ It was not, we imagine, that he wished to excuse his previous question,7 but to give Jesus to understand that he did not at all conceive of himself as requiring exhortations from Him as not being yet righteous, but only wished to enter upon a theological discussion with Him as to the notion of one’s neighbour. Therewith he also especially gave to understand, that most particularly with the command that we should love God above all, he had long since been on perfectly clear ground. The second question brought out clearly enough what the man would be at. He meant unreservedly to start the inquiry, whether the law of loving our neighbour was to be applied to all men. His manner of expressing himself indicated that pharisaical interpretation of the command which Jesus had already rejected in the Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5:43). As we just now are on the border-land between Galilee and Samaria, and as the disciples were only now returned from Samaria, we may perhaps conjecture, that the lawyer meant to call the Lord to account on account of this friendly intercourse with Samaritans. Jesus had pronounced the disciples as blessed in having, among other things, seen also in Samaria the wonders of the kingdom of heaven. That might shock his feelings, and probably there lay at the bottom of his first question the thought, Surely that cannot possibly be the way to eternal life, to show love to the Samaritans! Jesus understood his thought afar off, and addressed Himself to deal directly with it. He took up the meaning of his words (ὑπολαβών) in telling him the parable of the good Samaritan.

As Christ had just now been some time on the borders of Samaria, and had the opportunity of receiving various information relative to the life of its inhabitants, it is very possible that about this time He may have heard of an occurrence of the kind which He described. In that case His communication would be history and parable both at once.

The lawyer seems to find a difficulty in Jews showing mercy to Samaritans: therefore Jesus brings a Samaritan before his eyes who shows mercy to a Jew. He thus comes to the aid of his understanding, weakened as it was by confessional bigotry, by exhibiting the right knowledge of the true conception of one’s neighbour and love to one’s neighbour, as the Samaritan’s conduct illustrated it; and then leaves him to judge which was the real neighbour of the Jew who had fallen among robbers-the Jewish priest, the Jewish Levite, or the Samaritan. The lawyer sees himself constrained by the power of truth to place the third in the rank of neighbour to the suffering Jew: nevertheless he guards against naming him simply as the Samaritan, but prefers the circumlocution, ‘He who showed mercy to him.’ Upon this Christ at once dismisses him with the reprimand, ‘Go and do thou likewise.’





1) Neander, Life of Christ, 336, observes : We find in the case of Christ no trace whatever of a contemplation which took the form of a vision ; and the peculiar in-being of God in Him which distinguished Him from all those to whom momentary illuminations have been imparted,—that perfect oneness of the divine and human,—that uniform repose, clearness, and self-recollection of a spirit which bore in itself the original fountain of divine life,—this continuity of God-man-like consciousness in which we are not permitted to distinguish between clear and dark moments, this seems to exclude the supposition of any such vision.

2) See Stier, iii. 491.

3) Comp. Ps. xci. 13; Mark xvi. 18.

4) Cf. Exod. xxxii. 32, 33; Pa. Ixix. 29; Heb. xii. 23, &c.

5) Deut. vi. 5. This passage used to be on the phylacteries. Kuinöl conjectures that Jesus pointed with His finger to the phylactery. On the addition, with all thy mind, see Stier, iii. 179.

6) Lev. xix. 18. De Wette thinks that this passage points to an arbitrary collocation of thoughts precisely as it stands in Matt. xxii. 39 ; and that therefore it seems not an untenable supposition, that the account in Matthew lies at the bottom of the one now before us. It is, however, not to be overlooked, that all that Christ proceeds to say relative to our neighbour rests upon the second citation. This fact is decisive as showing that the passage before us is independent of that similar one in Matthew.

7) As De Wette supposes.