The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods






Section XXXIII

Jesus’ first abode in Perea, and his ministry there

(Mat 19:1-2. Mar 10:1. Luk 17:20-37; Luk 18:1-14)

Of the ministry of Jesus in Perea on the two occasions on which He abode there, the Evangelists have not related many particulars. We learn, however, in several ways, that He met with great acceptance in the district. Of His first residence there we are told (Mat 19:2), that ‘great multitudes followed Him,’ and that ‘He healed them’ (their sick). Of the second it is recorded, that many resorted to Him and believed on Him (Joh 10:40-42).

As we are led by the Evangelists to assume a twofold residence of Jesus in Perea, the question arises, whether it can be at all made out, how the Evangelists’ communications respecting His whole ministry there stand related to His twofold stay in the country, and whether there is any possibility of distinguishing between facts of the first and of the second abode there. The problem is a difficult one; and perhaps we do not at once arrive at very certain results. Yet a fair degree of probability may perhaps be got at, in determining how to adjust the materials before us.

It is not likely that Jesus stayed very long in Perea at His first visit to that country. The taking leave of Galilee, and the protracted journeying through the borders of Galilee and Samaria, would consume a considerable portion of the time between the feast of Tabernacles and the feast of Dedication. On the other hand, His second stay in Perea appears to have been not only the longer, but also the more full of action. That was a time when He had occasion to let His friends, the sisters at Bethany, wait still two days after they had summoned Him to the sick-bed of Lazarus. If we would fain form some definite conception of the pressing business which then kept Him in Perea, there presently present themselves to our minds those sundry engagements by which He was once detained in that country; when His path was impeded by opponents who tempted Him, by friends who did Him homage, by women who brought Him their children to be blessed, and by adherents who flocked to His presence and prayed Him for guidance to eternal life.

Such occurrences seem to lead us to the closing or culminating point of Jesus’ activity in Perea rather than to its commencement. Now, however, there come into especial consideration sundry notices of time, of a general character certainly, which are given by the Evangelists. Mark tells that the rich young man came to Jesus on His ‘going forth thence upon the way’ (ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ εἰς ὁδόν). Yet more distinct is the notice with which Matthew introduces the same narrative, when he says that the occurrence took place when Jesus ‘was departed thence’ (ἐπορεύθη ἐκεῖθεν). Now, surely it is not to be supposed that the Evangelists would thus speak of Jesus’ last departure but one from Perea, especially as He surely did not leave Perea the first time with the thought that He never should return thither.

Consequently, in the first place, the story of the rich young man would fall into the second abode in Perea: but then also, the blessing the children; for Matthew relates, that after Jesus had laid His hands upon them, He departed thence. This agrees completely with the feelings which are naturally awakened between highly venerated teachers and their disciples, both men and women, on the occasion of a last farewell. Next, Matthew has linked this occurrence with an earlier one—the discussion which Jesus had with the Pharisees respecting divorce—in such a manner that thereby this also is brought into the second residence in the country. It would follow from all this, that there are not many accounts left to be referred to the first abode there.

As Jesus was journeying through Perea with so numerous a body of enthusiastic disciples in His train, with the view of soon going up to the feast of Dedication, it might very well come to pass, in the case of individuals among His opponents, who set themselves against Him not so much on account of His claims to be the Messiah as of His antichiliastic and spiritual tone, that there would arise in their minds all manner of thoughts; and so we can easily understand how some Pharisees might feel led to ask Him when the kingdom of God should come. The question does not of itself indicate mockery; and the answer which Jesus gave leads us to infer rather seriousness on the part of those who were thus questioning Him. But that the inquiry was designed in part to tempt Him, may likewise be inferred from that reply. He declared to them, ‘The kingdom of God comes not amid a superstitious gazing for outward signs;1 neither shall they call out’ (as bird-gazers might do), ‘See here! See there! for see!’ (I say to you, See! without pointing in this direction or that) ‘the kingdom of God is present, deep in the innermost of your being’ (of your common being as a people, and of your individual being).2

After our Lord had thus again pointed these questioners back to the way of inward religion, because it was only in the mutual working upon each other of their own innermost subjective being with the innermost centre of their common being (i.e., with Him personally) that they could arrive at the discovery of the kingdom of God, His mind adverted to the consideration, how little these words of His would be heeded by the majority of Jews and of Christians.

The solemn days of the future present themselves before His soul. He sees in spirit fanatical Jews rising up, and hears them proclaiming aloud their false messiahs with the words, See here is the kingdom of God! Fanatics rise up in His Church, pointing to their particular churches, confessions, ordinances, systems, sects, and conventicles, with the loud cry, Here, here, is the kingdom of God! All is confusion, and the hurly-burly cry rises from every side, See here! See there! But throughout He discerns in this hurrying and driving, the curse of fixing the mind on outward things, the remains of the old heathenish (παρατήρησις) gazing for signs in the air.3 At the same time He foresees how exceedingly, amid the tormenting insolences of these fanatics ever announcing a sham manifestation, His genuine disciples would yearn after the real manifestation of their Lord. His sympathy with their longing He expressed in words of profound significance and force: ‘The days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and shall not see it.’ And now over against these false heralds He will fain give them a strong and sure consciousness. He counsels them not to be led astray when they hear calls of See here! See there! when any form of church action is given out as the kingdom of heaven in its completeness. They shall not then go from their place, still less run after those signs and attach themselves to them. If only matters are rightly ordered in their own inner being, then in reference to what is external they need not be excited or anxious, as if the manifestation of the kingdom of God would pass by unobserved or shown in doubtful signs. He will at once give them a sign that He is there, if only they faithfully wait for Him,—a great sign! For His appearing, He now tells them, ‘will be as the lightning which, flashing afar, lightens from one part under heaven to the other part under heaven’ (from the old world over into the new).4

He added, however, that this future must be preceded by His hour of suffering: ‘first must He suffer the sentence of rejection on the part of this generation,’ before He shall appear as the great lightning of heaven, and light up the world with the flames of judgment.

The continuation of Jesus’ discourse which Luke makes to follow here, contains particulars which seem more in place in the connection in which Matthew adduces them in a later discourse (chap. 24.) We shall consider these passages there.

Yet to the declaration of Jesus, that His appearing hereafter will be like a great flash of lightning, the announcement appears to link itself very closely, that it shall then be with the world as it was in the days of Sodom. The Lord delineates the life of the inhabitants of Sodom. ‘They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted and builded’ (and therein consisted their whole life). ‘But on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. And just so’ (He said) ‘it shall be when the Son of man shall be revealed.’ The lightning of His appearing will go forth over a scene of deep disorder and demoralization, over a race which for the most part shall be hopelessly sunk in a fleshly life, and will light up the sins of this corrupted race with its fearful illumination. But it will not merely throw over them a revealing illumination; it will come down as a flame of judgment and destroy the old state of the world. Christ’s return will usher in the judgment of the world.

And now in the distinctest manner He lays down the maxims by which they should regulate their behaviour till that day shall come. They must evermore in their inward feelings detach themselves from the world, so as to be able to forsake everything in that moment when the judgment and the accompanying separation of men shall come. They shall then behove no more to reflect what they have to do, not turn back, not waver between Him and the world; but rather remember how it befell Lot’s wife when she wavered. Well could Christ at this place once more repeat the watchword, which then shall in the highest degree hold good, ‘Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose it, shall make it anew.’

How sternly the separation shall then cut through all the old relationships of the world, the Lord states in several instances. ‘In that night’ (of blindness of heart and of judgment), which has come on at the close of the world’s evening, ‘two shall be lying in one bed:5 the one shall be taken, the other left.’ And so ‘two women shall be grinding at one mill,’ be turning one millstone: they shall in like manner be parted.6 Disciples must be prepared for that separation; they must in their feelings anticipate it: that is the first maxim. The second goes along with the first. They must not essay before that day, precipitately and without need, to cause outward separations; they must never dream that they are able in their own strength to produce such a separation that the pure kingdom of heaven shall be manifested thereby. Rather, they must leave as they are, mixed family-relationships, mixed companionships (in particular, also mixed marriages), mixed partnerships in business, mixed relations of service;—with the proviso, that believers must always faithfully preserve their inner life, and treat all fleeting relationships as fleeting.

At these words of Jesus, the disciples, alarmed, broke out with the question, ‘Where, Lord?’ It might seem to them a dreadful thing that even the people of Israel behoved to be thus from house to house judged and divided. Jesus answered them distinctly: ‘Where the carcase is, there shall the eagles be gathered together.’ Where the bad is become ripe, there judgment will not be lacking: according to this law is judgment now being held upon nations and individuals; to be held hereafter upon all the earth.

As the Lord was uttering these solemn predictions relative to that last time, in which the human race should in the main be sunk into a hopeless state of fleshliness and obduracy, there presently arose before His soul also the image of His Church amid those circumstances of affliction and distress in which she should then be placed. She presented to Him the image of an oppressed and grieving widow, who has to suffer incessant wrongs from a mighty adversary, and who for a long time seems to get no hearing from the judge to whom she has recourse; but nevertheless at last, by her persevering, importunate entreaty, forces her way through and gains her rights. This led Him, to the unspeakable consolation of His disciples and His Church, to deliver the parable of the unjust judge. By that parable His Church, which is His bride, is intended to fortify herself in the days in which she shall appear to herself in the light of a helpless widow driven by an overweening, apostate generation to the last straits, and when in her dejection of mind she will be apt to feel as if God would not avenge her cause. The poor woman is to know that Christ has already completely entered into her feelings, and that He has promised to her persevering prayer sure and certain help. The elect, whose innermost being—their longings, and prayers, and endeavours—during this whole interval of sham appearings, and of the grievous veiling of the glory of their Lord and their own inner world, is crying day and night unto God that the manifestation of His honour may appear, are to know that their Lord, in His own deep-searching sympathy and in the clear light of the Spirit of God, has already thought of their prayer, and that He has promised them a hearing such as shall in its greatness seem even to their faith itself to be beyond belief. (See above, vol. i. p. 503).

Even in Perea had the Lord again to encounter expressions of that pharisaical spirit which took exception at the quality of His Church, namely, at there being found in His train many converted publicans and sinners. We may even perhaps conjecture, that a sentiment of this kind had been stirring in the minds of individuals belonging to His train itself, when we hear the Evangelist tell of certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised—the rest.’ But at any rate, these self-righteous persons did not belong to the central part of His Church. Jesus delivered to them the parable of the publican and the Pharisee. In the delineation of their both going up to the temple to pray, we see completely mirrored the relation in which the humble ones of Jesus’ band of disciples stood to their pharisaical despisers. Both sections are about to go up to Jerusalem to the feast, and will therefore stand praying side by side in the temple. Jesus concluded His parable with a maxim which might very well often recur: ‘For every one who exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.’



Schleiermacher (Luke, p. 217), with good reason, insists that we cannot regard the eschatological discourse of Luke 17 and the kindred discourse in Matthew 24 as merely different editions of any one discourse. In addition to this, he also has good grounds for supposing that the one relation influenced the form of the other. But when he further tries to show that the discourse in Matthew is the less original of the two, we cannot agree with him. It will be shown further on, that the discourse on the last days in Matthew is an original one, remarkably well connected within itself. We find there particulars which clearly relate to the destruction of Jerusalem, and which are there more in place than here, e.g., ver. 31 (of Luke). It is possible that we have adopted here certain particulars which belong only to the later eschatological discourse. The point was, carefully to embrace in its unity all that is peculiar to Luke, evolved out of the ground-thought of the discourse which he reports.



1) Μετὰ παρατηρήσεως. The word marks an eager expectant observing, such as is found when people will fain see in some phenomenon a sign. It is therefore especially applied to astrological heaven-gazing and to the bird-gazing of augury. We may believe that Jesus has, with a particular purpose of sharp rebuke, employed an expression which should characterize that heathenish looking out of the Pharisees after a merely external sign which should be an omen of the kingdom of heaven. We might render it freely thus : The kingdom of God presents itself to no heathenish heaven-gazer or bird-gazer.

2) Stier no doubt has grounds for his assertion (iv. 278), that the word ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστι expresses here more than one relation. In the first place, according to his view, it expresses the fact that Christ had already appeared in their midst, answering to John the Baptist’s μέσος ὑμῶν ἕστηκεν, and to our Lord's ἔτι μικρὸν χρόνον τὸ φῶξ ἐν ὑμῖν ἐστι. Next, it has the sense that the kingdom, as coming, as come, as recognised, does in no way whatever consist in anything external as such. Even the person of Jesus was present for the questioners only if it showed itself in them. Thirdly, according to the same author (agreeing herein with Olshausen), ‘the most secret, the most heart-touching, the most friendlike point of the answer,’ is that Jesus means to direct them to seek the kingdom of God in the deep of their inward being. If all this is really contained in the expression which Jesus makes use of, this threefold sense must, in conformity with the simplicity of language, be contained in some one simple thought. And this ground-idea of the expression lies in the position which Stier lays down as the second, The kingdom of God, Jesus means, is an affair of inward, not of outward relations,—a god-man-like phenomenon of the heart, not a phenomenon of the air found without a man: it comes up out of the deeps of ‘your spiritual life, while ye are expecting that, like a flying thing, it shall break forth into view out of the skies amid outward signs of good omen, This, then, is the ground-thought : it has its seat in the inward part of your being. But therein the two branching ideas are also conveyed: in its positive power it is for you present in Him who forms the mysterious centre-point of your common life ; in its negative power, in the susceptibility which ye must again rouse into being in the depths of your own bosom, By this assertion of the inward character of the kingdom of God it is not denied, that it was to become external, that it was to come forth into phenomenal manifestation ; but this manifestation is only so far the kingdom of God as it is borne and filled up by the inward essence of that kingdom, Therefore it only comes late, at the end of the world. And if, meanwhile, men will every now and then be calling out, See here, or See there, is the kingdom of God! under the notion that they have found it in its complete form, then this is illusion. This last thought Stier has strikingly pointed out, iv. 277.

3) [Schleusner (Lexicon, s, v.) says that this word is used by metonymy for that which attracts observation, ‘quod specie sua externa oculos in se dirigit, splendor, pompa,"— ED.]

4) Stier makes the observation (iv. 284), that the expression ἐκ τῆς ὑπ’ οὐρανὸν εἰς τὴν ὑπ’ οὐρανόν, supplying χώρα, is simply to be understood of the quarters of the heavens, as the parallel passage in Matt, shows. This observation may rightly establish the literal sense of the expression against Grotius and Bengel ; but this does not exclude its parabolic meaning. Under the two parts under heaven, between which this lightning speeds its way, we can very well understand the old and new world.

5) i.e., not exactly—they shall at that moment be in bed, that is, it will be at night-time; but, they shall be bed-fellows. If with Stier we refer this notice to marriage, the passage would be a proof that mixed marriages in the strictest sense will last to the end of the world.

6) The addition, two shall be in the field, &c., is not strongly authenticated.