Searchlights from the Word by G. Campbell Morgan: Luke

Helpful outline sermon suggestion from every chapter from the Book of Luke

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The Gospel of Luke - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.

Chapter 1

Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee.
Luke 1:28

These were the words which Gabriel employed when, sent from God, he came to Nazareth, to tell Mary the awful and tremendous secret of the part she was chosen to take in the Divine activity of human redemption. Thus the angel greeted her in the terms of respect, born of his apprehension of the greatness of the sacred sorrows and joys which were to lie her portion. Moreover, his words reveal the fact of her character and fitness for the high honour; she was a woman "endued with grace," and one with whom the Lord was in communion. The Christian Church generally has, in the process of time, fallen into two attitudes toward the Virgin Mother, one of which is utterly wrong, while the other is mistaken. The first is that of the Roman Church, which has placed her between humanity and the Son of God. This is idolatry, and its effect has been disastrous. The second is that of Protestantism, which in a warranted rebound from Mariolatry, has forgotten to hold the mother of our Lord in the esteem which is due to her. Mary was a member of the sinning race, and needed and shared in the redemption which was provided by her Son; but the honour conferred on her was of the highest, and our thoughts of her, and our language concerning her, should at least not lack the dignity and respect manifested in the words of Gabriel. Hers was the crown and glory of all Motherhood, and we should ever think and speak of her reverently.

Chapter 2

Wist ye not that I must be in the things of My Father?
Luke 2:49

These are the first recorded words of our Lord. I resolutely adopt the second marginal reading of the Revised - which is direct translation from the Greek. They were spoken when He was twelve years of age, being then, as Luke so beautifully describes Him, "the boy Jesus." It has often been pointed out that they are very significant as giving the key to the whole of His life and work. The compelling force, the "must" behind all His doing and teaching, was ever the same: the things of His Father. He lived and wrought only to do the will of God. There is, however, another value in them. Because He was "the boy Jesus," a most real and true Boy, we gather from these words not only the inherent grace and truth of His character, but also how careful had been His training from baby-hood. From the annunciation to Mary, and the revelation to Joseph which Matthew records, those two people in a holy fellowship had shared the secret as to that wonderful Child. With what reverent awe and tender solicitude they must have watched His growth and development! And again, because He was a real human Child, they were responsible for all His earliest instruction in "the things of God." The result is seen in this simple, natural, unaffected word, spoken, be it noticed, to both of them: "Knew ye not that I must be in the things of My Father?" The difference between this Boy and our children is admitted; but let us not forget His identity with them. If we remember, we shall ever seek to train them to the same complete conception of life. It is a great thing when as the result of our training and example, our children relate all their lives to God by its "must" of complete surrender.

Chapter 3

Jesus ... the son of Adam, the son of God.
Luke 3:23 and 38

While there are supposed to be difficulties in reconciling the two genealogical tables of Matthew and Luke, it is patent that Mary and Joseph came of the same stock, and that both were of the house of David, and of the seed of Abraham. As a matter of fact there are no difficulties - or should not be. In Matthew we have the legal birth book of Jesus as the adopted son of Joseph. In Luke we have His actual genealogy through His Mother. The peculiar value of Luke's is that in it he passes back through this house and seed to the human origin in Adam. The last named in his table is Adam, and through the successions Jesus is the Son of Adam. But Adam is here called the son of God, and so in this way also Jesus is the Son of God. This is a matter of supreme importance in the light it throws upon human relationship to God. Our Lord was The Son of God in a separate and lonely sense, but as the Son of Mary, a child of the human race, He was also a Son of God. That then is the deepest fact of all human life, and it is when the fact is realized that the appalling tragedy of human life is also realized. By sin man is alienated from his birthright, cut off from God, degraded and lost. Jesus of Nazareth, Child of Mary, and ultimately Son of Adam and Son of God, was sinless in His human nature, and so lived in His birthright, in fellowship with God, full of grace and truth. Herein we find the element which made it possible for Him to act with God, for men; as the other, that of His eternal Sonship, enabled Him to act with men for God, and as God.

Chapter 4

Today hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears.
Luke 4:21

What a wonderful day that was! The Lord was back in Nazareth, in His boy-hood's home, among the people who knew Him best, so far as the incidental things of His earthly life were concerned. Luke says that He went into the synagogue "as His custom was." What visions that suggests of His regular presence in that gathering-place through the years! How often He had been there mingling with the worshippers, and yet separated from them by the mystery of His being, and by the consciousness of His mission! And now He chose to make that synagogue the place where He claimed the fulfilment in Himself and His work of the wonderful foretelling of the prophet so long before. Reference to the passage in Isaiah (61:1, 2) will show that the place where He ceased reading is revealing. In our versions only a comma separates what He read from the words, "and the day of vengeance of our God." For that He was not then anointed. In the time appointed He will carry that out also, with all that follows of restoration. How long the interval represented by that comma, only God knows. The times and seasons are within His authority. So far the interval has lasted nearly 2,000 years. This is still the day of His Gospel, His work that of delivering of captives. It is still the acceptable year of the Lord.

Chapter 5

Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
Luke 5:21

This was a question asked by the enemies of our Lord, and it was asked in connection with their charging Him with blasphemy because He had said to a man: "Thy sins are forgiven thee." It is a startling and suggestive situation. The theology of these men was correct; their application was wrong. It is true that none can forgive sins, save God. There is a sense in which a man can, and indeed ought to forgive sin committed against him by his brother man. But it is a very limited sense, being peculiarly relative and personal. In the deeper nature of sin no man can absolve his brother. The Psalmist in the olden days uttered a profound truth when, in the midst of his penitential outpouring, he said: "Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned." Therefore it is God alone Who can forgive. Thus the word of Jesus to this man was the word of God, and His word of forgiveness is always the word of God. Only as that is so, can the heart of sinning men be satisfied. When my brother forgives me for the wrong I have done him, I am thankful to him, but this forgiveness has not lifted the burden from my conscience, nor cleansed the stain from my soul. When God forgives, He does both. Our rest in the sense of forgiveness is always created by the certainty that it is the gift of the grace of God.

Chapter 6

Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
Luke 6:46

How familiar these words of our Lord are to all of us! We agree with their intention. It is wrong, it is futile, to call Him Lord, if we are not acting in harmony with the profession which such naming of Him involves. To call Him Lord, is to declare that we are His subjects. To neglect to do what He commands, is to give the lie to our declaration. All that we recognize. Now the arresting thing here is that our Lord did not upon this occasion convey the truth in the form of a statement, but in the form of a question. Therefore the incisive word is the introductory "Why?" What is the answer? If we are disobedient why continue the profession of obedience? To find the answer will be to search the inner life diligently and ruthlessly. The "Why" of Jesus penetrates to the deepest things of the life. It refuses to be put off with any hypocrisy, or superficial excuse. "Why!" Therefore it is a question to which it would be almost dangerous to suggest possible answers. Each soul guilty of the wrong referred to, must face this "Why" alone. All that need be said is, that to do so will inevitably be to discover the unworthiness of the reason, and moreover, that there is no necessity for such hypocrisy. Indeed, the Lord has a better chance to help any man who ceases to call Him Lord, when he ceases to obey His commands. This "Why" of Jesus is like a sharp instrument which cuts into the very core of a malady.

Chapter 7

Seest thou this woman?
Luke 7:44

When Simon saw the woman of the city who was "a sinner" in contact with Christ, he came to the conclusion that the fact that the Lord permitted her to act as she was doing, was proof of His lack of perception. Evidently, thought Simon, He was unable to detect the truth about her; He was spiritually blind. The recognition of this conception of the Pharisee gives point to the question which the Lord addressed to him: "Seest thou this woman?" Having asked the question, He proceeded to help Simon to see her. The difference between Simon's attitude toward her and that of the Lord is, that while Simon was not looking at her, the Lord was doing so. Simon was judging her by her past. Jesus was judging her by her present. Are we not all in danger of falling into Simon's mistake? It is not easy for us to blot out a past, and to free ourselves from all prejudice resulting from our knowledge of that past. Yet that is exactly what the Lord does. And He does so, not unrighteously, but righteously. He knows the power of His own grace, and that it completely cancels the past, and gives its own beauty to the soul. When we allow memories of the past to blind us to the transformation wrought by grace, we are proving how meanly we think of grace.

Chapter 8

Where is your faith?
Luke 8:25

This is an arresting word, taken in relation with the circumstances that called it forth. The story is that of our Lord's putting forth of power to help those who appealed to Him in distress, and then rebuking them for that distress. It is a strange and yet beautiful story, revealing at once the tenderness of His heart, and its highest passion for His own. It is probable that their distress was more than personal. The "we" in their cry "Master, Master, we perish," included Him as well as them. If that boat went down, all went with it - His mission, their hopes, and the great enterprises which He had called them into fellowship with Himself to carry out. To that cry, in tenderness and strength, for their sake, He immediately responded by changing the circumstances from storm to calm, thus proving to them what all the time was true, that "No water can swallow the ship where lies The Master of ocean and earth and skies." Then He asked them, "Where is your faith?" thus rebuking them for their distress, and showing that His desire for them was that they should have such confidence in Him as to be undisturbed amid all disturbances. How often we are over-anxious about the enterprises of our Lord! In the hour of storm we imagine everything is about to perish. Then He ever says to us: "Where is your faith?"

Chapter 9

As He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him.
Luke 9:18

The paradox is a revelation. He was not actually alone, for the disciples were with Him. But He was praying apart. A careful study of the Gospel narratives has led to the justifiable conclusion that our Lord never prayed with His disciples. Often He left them when He would pray. When in their company He prayed, it Was not in association with them, but in separation. He commanded them to pray. He taught them to pray, He promised them the widest franchise in prayer. But His praying was on a different plane. When referring to His own communion with His Father, He never employed some words which He did employ in speaking of their praying. His approach to God was different from that of sinning humanity. He had claims which men have not; those of identity of Being, and equality of Sovereignty. Thus He ever prayed alone; and thus He ever intercedes alone. His intercession is of a different nature from all others. That is why the idea of the intercession of His Mother and of all the saints, as being of use or of value by comparison with Him, is utterly false. It is right that we should pray for each other. It is conceivable, and most probable, that the glorified saints are still praying for those that are yet in the midst of earth's trials and temptations. But at last there is One only Intercessor within the veil, and He has a right of access and intercession which can never be shared by any of His creation. There is our rest and confidence. We may ever be with Him as He prays, but He prays alone.

Chapter 10

He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.
Luke 10:21

Luke has a time note here which is significant. He says: "In that same hour." The seventy had returned, naturally rejoicing at the true success that had followed their mission. In that joy there was a subtle element of peril, against which He had warned them. It was that of the sense of their ability, in His Name, to exorcise evil spirits. In the most holy work there always lurks this danger of the glorification of the self-life. In contrast, the rejoicing is seen in its inspiration and its reason. Its inspiration was that of His perfect fellowship with His Father in the understanding which came to Him by the Holy Spirit. Its reason was that of the will of His Father to bide the counsels and powers of His grace from merely human cleverness, and to reveal them to the simple-hearted, to babes, to such as these seventy were. And surely, in this sense also, the ancient word has application and fulfilment: "The joy of Jehovah is your strength." We may test our strength by discovering the reason of our joy. If there enters into our joy the element of self-glorying, in never so small a degree, by that much are we weakened. If our joy is caused by the wisdom and grace of our God, then our service will be of prevailing power.

Chapter 11

Look therefore whether the light that is in thee be not darkness.
Luke 11:35

Is it possible for light to be darkness? The question may be answered by, asking another, growing out of the earlier words of our Lord upon this occasion. Is it possible for a lighted lamp to be darkness? It is. That lighted lamp is darkness when it is put out of sight, in the cellar or under a bushel. That lighted lamp is light when it is placed on a stand, so that they which enter in may see the light. Light, then, is only of value when it is kept shining, and the steps are guided by it. Light hidden is darkness. Truth disobeyed is valueless. Knowledge unyielded to is ignorance. How often the light within us is darkness! The will of the Lord, clearly revealed to us, is apprehended intellectually, but not carried out in practice; then the light is darkness. The Word of the Lord, studied, and interpreted by the Spirit, is retained in the intellect, but not permitted to be the guiding principle of the will; then the light is darkness. In such cases the way of life is the way of darkness. For such life there is condemnation far more severe than for the groping of souls to whom the light has never come. Another word of Jesus is full of significance in this connection. It was spoken to Nicodemus in the darkness of a wonderfully illuminated night. It will be found in John 3:19-21, and may be read with profit.

Chapter 12

Man, who made Me a judge or a divider over you?
Luke 12:14

When our Lord thus refused to interfere between this man and his brother in the matter of their inheritance, He did not mean to suggest that He had no interest in these things, or that such matters were outside the realm of His authority. The words which follow clearly reveal His meaning. He warned those who listened, against covetousness, declaring that "things" possessed are not the true strength of life, and enforcing His teaching by the parable of the rich fool. Christ and His Church have nothing to do with dividing things up for men. The Christian message is addressed to men, and deals with their inner life. The man desiring that the inheritance should be divided was as covetous as the man refusing to divide. The word of Christ hit both men alike. If each of them learned the real meaning of life, and sought as its chief endeavour to be "rich toward God," the question of possessions would settle itself. The one would be eager to share, while the other would be careless about receiving. This is Christ's method with all social problems. He never begins with conditions, but with causes. If life is what it ought to be, conduct will be what it should be. To divide property between covetous men is to prepare for future strife. To make men free from covetousness, is to make peace. The word which marks the Christian attitude toward life is not the word divide; it is rather the word share. Christ create the love which is eager to give, to share; rather than to get, to divide.

Chapter 13

I must go on My way today, and tomorrow, and the day following.
Luke 13:33

These words of our Lord were uttered in an hour when the Pharisees, desiring to get rid of Him, told Him that Herod was seeking His life. They form part of His answer to them and to Herod. They reveal His own undisturbed outlook upon His work, and the quiet intrepidity of His devotion. The "today" and the "tomorrow" were days in which He would continue unhindered the exercise of His ministry of beneficial power. The "day following" was "the third day," in which He was to be "perfected." Looking back, as we are able to do, we know that the "third day" was the way of the Cross and all that issued from it. That third day was arranged by the counsel of God, and not by the opposition of men. To Him the whole pathway of power, and the perfecting through suffering, was marked out by God, and no hostility of rulers or malice of kings could deflect Him by a hair's breadth from that pathway. In this consciousness lay the secret of His strength. In proportion as His disciples are in true fellowship with Him they too may take their way without perturbation or hesitancy along the path of life and service. No hostile power is strong enough to prevent them doing whatever work is appointed to them; and if presently the pathway leads through apparent defeat and much suffering, it is still the pathway of power, and thus they come to perfecting. This sense of a "Covenant ordered in all things and sure," is the secret of victorious life. To realize that we are in the will of God, is to be delivered from any care about the secondary things of circumstances. If sometimes we seem to be in their grip, we know all the time that they are in the grip of God.

Chapter 14

Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees.
Luke 14:3

In reading this statement, the arresting word is the word "answering." These men had said nothing, yet He answered them. In the course of these stories we often find this kind of thing recorded. It is a revelation of His perfect understanding of all those who were round about Him, and of His desire to correct and help them. Take this story as illustrating this. These rulers were hostile to Him, and "they were watching Him," without any doubt watching for something upon which they could fasten as a reason for finding fault with Him. He knew this, and He answered their thoughts and intentions. Then observe what He did. He made His appeal to their true intelligence, and to the capacity for tenderness and mercy which was latent within them. They knew that the work of healing was most sacred, and that no sanction upon which the Sabbath rested, could for a moment be violated by giving to the man who was suffering from dropsy, the blessing of healing. Indeed, was not the element of pity so strong within them, that if an ass or an ox had fallen into a pit they would not hesitate to draw him up on a Sabbath day? Thus, while our Lord rebuked the wrong attitude and temper of these men, He did so by appealing to the best within them, and calling them to be true to it. His purpose is not that of shaming men, but that of saving them; and the shame He produces in the soul when He answers its inward thoughts, is ever intended to produce the results which will be for its recovery. This method of correcting the evil, by appeal to, and reinforcement of, the good is one full of possibility and power.

Chapter 15

Dead, and is alive; and lost, and is found.
Luke 15:32

Thus, in this matchless story of the love of the Father's heart, our Lord gives us the Divine estimate of the contrast between the condition of those who are away from God, and those who are restored to Him. The contrast is a double one, dealing with the experience of man, and the experience of God. Given the man away from fellowship with God - he is, in his own experience, dead; in the experience of God, he is lost. Given the man restored to God - he is, in his own experience, alive; in the experience of God he is found. The man away from God is dead. There is a sense in which he still lives; but everything is less than the real, withered at the heart, and unfinished; and he lacks entirely the deepest things of life, which are those of the spiritual and eternal powers and joys. To God that man is lost. In his loss God is defrauded. And we miss the deepest note if we fail to detect the tone of Divine sorrow in the word. The man restored to God is alive. There may be many things which as yet he is excluded from, but everything is touched with life, strong at the centre, and satisfied; and he lives in the profound peace and power of the abiding. To God that man is found. In his restoration God is enriched. And again we miss the deepest note, if we do not catch the glad ring of the rejoicing heart of God. The whole truth about life is here. The man lost to God is dead. The man found of God is alive.

Chapter 16

If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead.
Luke 16:31

This statement runs counter to most popular human conceptions, and yet is vindicated by persistent human experience. We are constantly in danger of thinking that faith can be compelled by what we describe as the supernatural, and therefore we are ever desirous that something spectacular, weird, out of the common, should happen. We argue that if something transpires which men cannot explain, they will be persuaded to believe. This is what our Lord superlatively denies in these words. He declares that the sacred writings are in themselves as powerful as anything like the delivery of their message by one risen from the dead. The only thing that can inspire faith is truth, and truth is not made more powerful when it is proclaimed in some way which is beyond human explanation. From Him men were ever asking signs, which He refused to give, and that for this reason. Whereas, stated thus, we may be in doubt as to the correctness of the statement, an appeal to human experience vindicates the truth of the declaration. Under stress of fear or of wonder, produced by such mysterious things, men do experience certain emotions and sensations of the soul, which may be mistaken for conviction. But they are transient, and with the passing of the first surprise these things cease and leave no permanent results. It is the Truth which makes free; and the Truth alone is able to inspire living faith.

Chapter 17

Where are the nine?
Luke 17:17

There is a plaintive note in this question of Jesus. On the border line between Samaria and Galilee, ten lepers had appealed to Him for help. He had put their faith to the test as He had commanded them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they made the venture they were all healed. One of them, and he a Samaritan, turned back and rendered his homage and his thanksgiving to the Lord. Then the question was asked, and it at once proves the value He sets upon the service of praise. The glad outpouring of a grateful heart was acceptable to Him, and He missed that of the nine who had faith and were healed, but forgot to return to Him with expressions of their gratitude. One wonders whether it is not so that our Lord has been asking this question very constantly. We are all in danger of failing to give Him the adoration which is ever due to Him. Sometimes we may be restrained by the very natural feeling that our offerings of praise must be, at the best, poor and unworthy. But we have no right, for any such cause, to withhold from Him what He evidently values. Let us neither be forgetful, nor mastered by a modesty which may become pride; but rather let us with the abandon of our utmost love, go to Him constantly, telling Him of our joy and gratitude. All such worship is the very incense which gladdens His heart, however amazing the fact may seem to us.

Chapter 18

The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
Luke 18:27

These words of our Lord are capable of two interpretations. They may mean that God is able to do what men cannot. Or they may mean that men are able to do, with God, what they cannot do by co-operation with other men. There is really no doubt that the second is the true interpretation of their meaning. The first is true, and so evidently true that the saying of it under circumstances would have solved no difficulty. The second exactly answered the difficulty in the minds of those who were perplexed. If a wealthy man, whose power with his fellowmen is ever great, cannot procure the right of entry into the Kingdom of God, then what chance is there for any man? That was the problem. Our Lord's answer immediately revealed the profound mistake which created the problem. A man does not enter into the Kingdom of God by acting with men. He must act with God. Directly he does so, the impossible becomes possible. And that is not only a profound truth; it is the profoundest of all truths in this regard. Man is ever attempting personally and socially to enter into the Kingdom of God by endeavours with men, and he never succeeds. With God the thing is possible. If the young ruler had shut out all thought of men and acted alone with God, he would have followed Christ at all costs. All those insuperable difficulties of desire, inclination, and fear, are overcome by God within the soul, when man yields himself completely to God in submission and faith. That which a man cannot do alone or acting with men, he can do when he acts with God.

Chapter 19

If thou hadst known!
Luke 19:42

These words arrest the soul, and fill the heart with wonder. They were spoken by our Lord, as, with weeping, He looked at Jerusalem, and knew that its doom was sealed on account of its failure to know the time of its visitation. They reveal the heart of God in a wonderful way. The cry was that of a frustrated desire. He had visited the city, with the desire to deliver it from the things of destruction; and with the offers of the things of peace. The spiritual blindness of the rulers and people was such that they did not discern the meaning of the visitation. The result was inevitable. There could be no escape from the destruction. Then we see the heart of God. It is greater than the heart of man. It is mastered by holiness and justice, but none the less moved by compassion. There can be no sacrifice of the principles of righteousness, but there is no satisfaction of a selfish nature in the calamities that overtake a sinning city. The judgment must fall in disaster, but its pain is felt in the heart of God. "If thou hadst known," suggests all the blessing for the city which was in His purpose for it, and shows His sorrow over its refusal of such blessing through its blindness. The story should ever remain with us, warning us against anything in the nature of gloating over human suffering, even when it is directly the outcome of human sin. Many years ago Dr. Dale, of Birmingham, said to me that D. L. Moody was one of the few men who, in his judgment, had any right to speak on the subject of the punishment of the wicked, and his right was created by the fact that he never did it without tears in his voice.

Chapter 20

David therefore calleth Him Lord, and how is He his Son?
Luke 20:44

In that question, our Lord fastened the attention of His enemies upon a mystery concerning the Hebrew Messiah as suggested in a psalm of their own king, David. He had sung of the Messiah as his sovereign Lord. How could He be at once his Lord and his Son? Reference to the Psalm (110.) will show that its description of Messiah was that of sovereignty. "Jehovah saith unto my Adonai" - that is, my Lord as sovereign. Now the idea that a son should rule over his father was utterly impossible to the eastern mind. What then did David mean? It is evident that our Lord was attempting to compel these men to face this problem of their sacred writing, in order to help them to understand some things concerning Himself which were perplexing. This central mystery of the Person of Christ still abides, only it is solved when we remember that He was in very deed, and in special sense, the Son of God. As Paul said, He "was born of the seed of David according to the flesh"; but He was also, "the Son of God, according to the spirit of holiness." All attempts to account for him on the level of the human only, leave the mystery of his sovereignty unexplained. While the mystery of His Person for ever transcends human interpretation, the mystery of His sovereignty vanishes when we realize that in very deed He is the Son of God.

Chapter 21

When these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads.
Luke 21:28

What, then, are the things which are to produce in the disciples of the Lord the hopeful look, and the erect and confident bearing? They are the things which make men faint for fear, the things that make for the distress of nations, the things of storm and upheaval, the things which are characterized by the trembling even of the powers of the heavens. The Lord said that all such things are processes in "redemption." When wild confusion is all about us, God is surely at work, and is moving forward by necessary upheaval and turmoil towards the realization of His steadfast purposes of love. This certainty comes only of faith; but the foundations of faith are the Lord Himself, and the vindication of His words already vouchsafed to men in the passing of the centuries. In view of these facts, we realize how "feeble knees," hands that "hang down," and all depression of spirits, are unworthy of faith, and dishonour our Lord. A true knowledge of God through Christ changes all the outlook, and:-

In the midst of all turmoil and the disturbance of human affairs, those who trust the Lord will "look up" and walk with heads erect, knowing that "redemption draweth nigh!" This does not mean in any sense that they will be callous. They will enter into all the experience of the pain, feeling it most acutely; but all the while knowing that it moves forward to deliverance and new life.

Chapter 22

I am in the midst of you as He that serveth.
Luke 22:27

These words constitute our Master's supreme and perpetual rebuke of the spirit which prompts the desire for that greatness which consists of power to compel others to serve our ends. Thus they reveal the true greatness, which consists of the power to yield ourselves up entirely to such activity as shall serve the ends of others. There is no more powerful evidence of how sorely we need His grace, than that of the slowness with which we learn this lesson. The persistence of the desire to be served is appalling. It invades our highest spiritual experiences, save as we pass completely under the dominion of the Spirit of God. Service given, not gained, is the true greatness, for it is the sign of a real fellowship with the Lord Himself. The prophetic prediction concerning Him has indeed been verified. He is great, and His greatness is rooted in that self-emptying wherein and whereby He for ever serves others. The very greatness of God is finally demonstrated, not in the height and glory of His eternal throne, but in the depth and grace of His amazing stoop to our humanity and to the death of the Cross. In the midst of the throne is "a Lamb as though it had been slain." He reigns and rules in undisputed and unhindered authority because He laid His glory by to serve. Shall we not seek with all earnestness the greatness which comes by the way of service? Our unceasing eagerness should be to find need, and to serve in comradeship with our Lord.

Chapter 23

Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
Luke 23:34

This was the supreme word of the perfect humanity of our Lord, and therefore it was a perfect revelation of the heart of God. And how wonderful it is. The plea was not that wilful sin should be excused. Such a plea our Master never urged. The men who nailed Him to His Cross were ignorant. They had no understanding of what they were doing. Therefore He thus prayed for them. In that plea we see the operation of the Divine justice, which is eternally reasonable. The judgments of God are ever based upon His perfect knowledge, not of actions alone, but of the motives that prompt them. Yet the very motives, while the result of ignorance, may be utterly unworthy, and need the forgiveness of God. For this the crucified Lord has the right to ask, because in the deepest fact of His Cross He was there by that determinate counsel which was set upon the redemption of man at uttermost cost. Thus in the very prayer, as in the fact of the Cross, the elements of justice and mercy are seen acting in perfect harmony. That the prayer was answered there can be no question. Those men, in ignorance expressing the worst of sin, were forgiven by virtue of the mystery of the pain which He bore, that pain so much deeper than the physical suffering which they inflicted upon Him. All sins of ignorance are forgiven. It is only the sin against light, which has no forgiveness.

Chapter 24

While He blessed them, He parted from them.
Luke 24:51

The last attitude and activity of the risen Lord of which the disciples were conscious as He left them to ascend to His Father, were those of the uplifted hands and the uttering of a beatitude. This is a perpetual sign. Thus He remains until He comes again, His hands uplifted, and His lips pronouncing the blessedness of His own. Behold those hands! In them are the sacred signs of His love and His all-conquering grace. Listen to His blessing! It is more than the expression of a desire on His part for the happiness of His own. It is a declaration of His ability to give them the only true happiness. While we see those uplifted hands, there can be no room for doubt or fear, when other menacing hands are stretched out to harm us or vex us. Whether in life or death, in adversity or prosperity, in sorrow or in joy, we know by that token that we are safe. While we hear His voice pronouncing the blessing, it matters not what voices slander or curse, we know that our peace and joy are assured. What wonder that they return to Jerusalem - as hostile to them as to Him - with great joy! Let us never lose sight of that wonderful vision. The clouds will enwrap Him, and the bodily sight end, but the spirit will know that beyond the clouds, and beyond the physical manifestation, He ever lives, with hands that argue our safety out-stretched, and with words that ensure our blessedness upon His lips.