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cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
What Christ said in the 20th and 21st verses, you observe, he addressed to the Pharisees, in reply to a question put by them; but, what he says in the remaining part of the chapter, he addresses to his disciples, whether at the same time or not we are not expressly told, though there is certainly a natural connection between the topics. "And he said unto the disciples, The days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it." As applied strictly to the disciples themselves, these words reminded them that Jesus' bodily presence was to be withdrawn from them, and that they would feel and mourn the loss. "The days will come," said he before, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days." We are also told that, when they thought of his departure, and of the troubles which were then to befall them, 66 sorrow filled their heart." In such circumstances, they would very naturally wish to have Jesus back again, that they might enjoy the comforts and advantages of his personal presence; but that could not be. Neither can any such desire which may arise in the minds of any of his followers, however believing and affectionate, be gratified on earth, in any age. Therefore, they should not cherish the expectation, or wish, but rest satisfied, nay, be delighted with, and carefully improve, the advantages, the superior advantages they possess in their Saviour's gracious spiritual presence, by the Comforter, who abides with them for ever. These words may also be considered as admonishing men to make the most of religious privileges while they have them. "Yet a little while is the light with you," said Jesus; "walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you." "While ye have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light." Though their candlestick should not be removed out of its place, though the means of grace should not be withdrawn from the part of the world in which they live, Christians should remember that they may be removed far away from that candlestick and those means, or may be shut up from them by infirmity, and thus, however earnest may be their desire, may no longer have it in their power to wait on public ordinances, on what may be called the days of the Son of man. Alas for those infatuated beings, who, having * Luke v. 35. + John xvi. 6.
altogether neglected these means, or refused to be influenced by them, during their whole life, fall a prey to unavailing regrets, and to vain longings, were it but for one opportunity of salvation, which can never return again!
It seems probable, however, that what our Lord said in this verse referred, not only to what would be the feelings of his own disciples, but also, to what would be the desire of the Jewish people in general; and intimated that, having rejected him, who was the true Messiah, they would afterwards long for the person whom they expected under that character, and would be ready to listen to almost every false claim to it which might be put forward. This intimation
was abundantly verified in the history of the false Christs, of whom we find more express mention in a subsequent chapter.
Supposing, then, what our Lord says, in the 22d verse, to refer both to the disciples and the unbelieving Jews, what he adds, in the 23d, will appear very appropriate in its introduction, and very plain in its meaning. "And they shall say unto you, See here! or, See there! that is, Behold, Messiah is here, or Messiah is there" go not after them, nor follow them." Though many false pretensions of this kind afterwards led astray multitudes of the Jews to their ruin, the Christians appear to have been almost all preserved from the delusion. When we look at the nearly parallel passage, in the 24th chapter of Matthew, which, however, appears to have been spoken at a subsequent time, we find it thus written: "Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert, go not forth: Behold, he is in the secret chambers, believe it not." In these words, our Lord foretold, not only the fact, but the very circumstances of the impostures. He speaks of some such deceivers appearing in the desert: accordingly, Josephus asserts that such was the fact, and gives particular instances of it, as well as of similar attempts in a more open way. The following is a quotation from the 8th chapter of the 20th book of his Antiquities of the Jews: "And now, these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness, and pretended that they 'would exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God. And many that were prevailed on by them, suffered the punishment of their folly; for Felix brought them back, and then punished them. Moreover, there came out of Egypt, about this time, to
Jerusalem, one that said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives, as it was called, which lay over against the city, and at the distance of five furlongs. He said, farther, that he would show them from hence, how at his command the walls of Jerusalem would fall down, and he promised them that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls, when they were thrown down. Now, when Felix was informed of these things, he ordered his soldiers to take their weapons, and come against them with a great number of horsemen and footmen from Jeru-salem, and attacked the Egyptian and the people that were with him. He also slew four hundred of them, and took two hundred alive. But the Egyptian himself escaped out of the fight, and did not appear any more. This last case is generally supposed to be the same alluded to in Acts xxi. 38, where the chief captain said to Paul, "Art not thou that Egyptian, who before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?"* The Christians, as already observed, appear to have profited by this warning, so that few, if any of them, were, even for a time, led astray by such impostors.
Our Lord next goes on to inform his disciples that he, the Son of man, was indeed to come, but in a different manner, and for a very different purpose, from what the great body of the Jews expected. He was to come, not to deliver them from the Roman yoke, and to raise them to temporal grandeur, but to punish and destroy them; and he was to come, not in a hidden way, so that he was to be sought for in the wilderness, or in some secret place, but openly, and in a very tremendous way; and not personally and visibly, at least in the instance first and directly referred to, but providentially in his judgments: "For as the lightning that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven shineth unto the other part under heaven, so shall also the Son of man be in his day." Let it be remarked here, that the explanation to be given to the whole remaining part of this chapter must depend on what we consider the time and event intended by the synonymous clauses, "So shall also the Son of man be in his day," "So shall it be also in the days of the Son of man," and, "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." Now, when the whole of this passage is read through, and especially when *See also Josephus' Wars, ii. 13, and vi. 5, and vii. 11.
it is compared with the very similar passages in the 24th chapter of Matthew, and the 21st chapter of Luke, it is abundantly evident that the common interpretation is the right one, namely, that which refers these clauses, and, of course, the whole passage, to Christ's providential coming to destroy Jerusalem by the Roman army, as typical of his personal coming to judge the world at the last day. The invasion of Judea by the Roman army was not secret, slow, or limited in its extent, but open, sudden, tremendous, and overspreading like lightning. In reference to the exact mode of expression in Matt. xxiv. 27, "As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west," it has been remarked that the Roman army entered Judea from the east, and carried their devastations to the west.
"But first," that is, before this awful visitation, “must he," the Son of man, "suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation." In accordance with this intimation, he was rejected and despised of men," rejected, especially by his own nation: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." The rabble solemnly and formally rejected him when they demanded the release of a murderer, saying, "Not this man, but Barabbas: : away with this man! crucify him, crucify him;" and the rulers condemned him to death," and delivered him to the Gentiles, to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him." Now, this horrible crime not only preceded the overthrow of the Jewish nation, but was the great procuring cause of it. To quote from the parable of the householder,* "Last of all, he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son." "But they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord, therefore, of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, who shall render him the fruits in their season. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes! Therefore say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." The infatuated people exclaimed, at the moment the crime was
* Matt. xxi. 37.
perpetrated, "His blood be upon us and our children;" and that blood actually came on them, and still is on them, in the form of the most awful judgments. This crime filled up the measure of their iniquity, in connection with their habitual opposition to the gospel. In writing to the Thessalonians,* the apostle says, "The Jews both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost."
Well had it been for the Jews, both in time and in eternity, had they taken warning by these and similar admonitions, to turn to the Lord. But as it is here foretold, so it proved in the result, that they continued, as a body, unbelieving, impenitent, and ungodly. Their conduct, in this respect, is illustrated by a reference to two portions of the Old Testament history, none of the circumstances of which, however, we are here called on to notice, except that of the resemblance in question. Notwithstanding all the faithful warnings of Noah, that preacher of righteousness, and notwithstanding the long-suffering of God waited in his days 120 years, while the ark was preparing, the antediluvians went on in their usual course of worldliness, as if there had been no danger, till the flood swept the ungodly race away. After the same manner, though they enjoyed the advantage of just Lot's example, and also, we may be sure, of his good advices and prayers ("for that righteous man, dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul, from day to day, with their unlawful deeds"), the inhabitants of Sodom continued to neglect every warning, and to go on, as usual, in the business and pleasure, not to speak of the gross sins of life, and never imagined themselves more secure than when they were on the very brink of ruin: but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed;"thus shall it be with the generality of the Jewish people, at the time when Christ shall sensibly display his power in the destruction of their city and nation. And so it was indeed: for, notwithstanding the lesson read to them by the flood in its Scripture history, and in its tokens, in their part of the world, as well as in every other; and notwithstanding the
* 1 Thess. ii. 15.