The Man of Sorrows, by John Nelson Darby, [n.d. (prior to 1882)], at sacred-texts.com
Here we have a most weighty thing spoken of—the Sabbath. It is a question that often agitates the minds of men, and was then specially important as closing Jewish relations. And this, it will be borne in mind, was just where the Lord had morally arrived at the close of the preceding chapter. The rights of His person and His grace, now becoming more rejected by the religionists of Israel, reach out beyond the narrow bounds of that proud people. God thereon, by degrees, intimates the coming purpose of His mercy. His salvation in due time shall be sent unto the Gentiles, and they will hear. If the Jew judges himself unworthy of everlasting life, God will have His own joy of saving souls somewhere.
1-5.—Now it is very evident that the incident of the cornfields, "on the second Sabbath after the first," thoroughly falls in with the object of the Spirit in hand. "The Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath." His person entitles Him to supremacy over that which was the sign of the covenant of the law.
6-10.—In the next case He asserts the right to do good on the Sabbath day, as His adversaries on the same day show their disposition to destroy. The Sabbath, in any real sense, man had entirely lost. Indeed, he had never entered into God's thoughts of rest. It was His rest, and had not sin spoiled all, man should have enjoyed that which was the result not of his
own, but of God's labour. This is the proper character of that rest which belongs to man distinctively; but sin having come in the necessity has arisen that God should work afresh if man is ever to share the rest of God (see Heb. 4). Meanwhile, Christ has appeared and finished the work which God gave Him to do. Hence we who believe find rest in Christ, as does God Himself. In Him, by virtue of the accomplished and accepted work of redemption, we have our Sabbath spiritually.
The day was set apart and hallowed from the beginning (Gen. 2). Afterwards it came in, first in grace to Israel, marked by the cessation of the manna and a double portion to provide for that holy day (Exod. 16); and, secondly, as a part of the law of Sinai, and incorporated with every new and special dealing of Jehovah (chap. 20; see also 31. 13, 14; 33. 14; 34. 21; and 35. 2). It was a memorial thenceforward of the deliverance out of Egypt (Deut. 5. 15). Accordingly the prophets expressly treat it as a sign of Israel's separation from all other nations unto God, and of God's covenant with them (Ezek. 20. 12-20; 22. 8; 23. 38; 44. 24; Isa. 56, 58; Jer. 17. 4). But then, in the past, Israel, a sinful people, had the Sabbath as a legal ordinance, and consequently are condemned by it as by all else.
Where is this covenant with Israel? All gone, because of their iniquity. Hence they were thrown into the hands of the Gentiles and became slaves.
Behold, we are servants this day; and for the land that Thou gayest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants
in it: and it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom Thou hast set over us, because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle at their pleasure, and we are in great distress" (Neh. 9. 36, 37). If they had a temple after the captivity it was only at the mercy of their Persian masters. The outward emblem lingered on no doubt, and was especially made much of to dishonour Him, of whom and whose work it was so significant; but where was its reality when Jesus was on earth? Alas! He lies in the grave all the day which His murderers kept as a day holy to Jehovah—"for that Sabbath was an high day" (John 19. 31)—awful testimony to the Jews of their position. Their own Messiah slain by His own people. Such was the truth which that Sabbath day uttered to Him who had ears to hear. Israel never had the rest of God. "If Joshua had given them rest" (Heb. 4). "There remaineth therefore a rest" (Heb. 4. 9). They must own Jesus first.
5.—But the rejected Jesus was Son of Man, and the Son of Man was Lord of the Sabbath, a truth of the utmost gravity, to be asserted with all strength. Those who confound the Lord's day with the Sabbath are in danger of forgetting this. It was the very point here in controversy with the Jews who maintained that the Sabbath was superior to the Lord. But He shows that another new principle had come in which wholly overleaped the old, and that to remain in the old was to have no deliverance. For there is no possibility for a lustful creature to be under a commandment that condemns lust without being condemned. Grace, however, has
entered through a rejected Christ, and now there is rest for us who believe—not for those who are on the ground of law.
This is the reason why Christians keep the first day of the week, and not the seventh or Sabbath day. The rest was acquired by the power of Christ's redemption, and the first day, when He arose from the dead, was that which proclaimed it to faith, spite of man's guilt and ruin. The seventh day will be the rest of man on earth; the first day celebrates Christ's taking us in Him to Heaven. Then was life from the dead, life more abundantly, liberty from the law, and every consequence of sin—in a word, the victory of grace. The Christian, therefore, has the first day distinctively, because it belongs to and witnesses of the perfected work of Christ, and consequently introduces heavenly rest . The first day is in contrast with the seventh, which appertained to the round of man's labour in nature and of the Jew's under the law, in which Adam and Israel utterly broke down. It is the Lord's day emphatically, and this testifies of the triumph of Christ's Word and the glory of His person—not the day which guilty unbelief would have perverted into the proof and means of His inferiority. It is positive, direct blessing to him who owns and honours it, not because it is the close of legal toil, but the commencement of Christian hope; the resurrection day when we begin our spiritual life, and look on for what will crown so precious a pledge.
Here, however, the grand thing is the maintenance
of the rights and authority of the Son of Man. You never can, according to God, raise up the title of the Sabbath against the Lord of the Sabbath.
3-5.—"What did David," the anointed of the Lord, when Saul persecuted him and sought his life? Was it of God, then, to uphold the ritual and so starve the man after His heart? No; the foundations were out of course, and everything became common in Israel when the chosen king was thus iniquitously rejected. But a greater One, and graver sin were now in their midst, The Son indeed, but the Root of David, God Himself was there; He who instituted the Sabbath, its Lord, was there in the person of the Son of Man.
6-12.—But if God was there, would He deny His own goodness or restrain His power in presence of human misery, because "the scribes and Pharisees watched Him whether He would heal on the Sabbath day?" Divine love must act and heal the withered hand, even if wretched man should seek to find therein an accusation. And they were filled with madness and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus (11); but Jesus in those days retired to a mountain to pray. He drew near to God to commune with Him as to what He was to do for them (12). His was the activity of grace, of love displaying itself holily and mightily in the midst of evil.
13-16.—"And when it was day He called His disciples." In this call He proves that He was the
only One who could empower others to bear this testimony also. And yet here, as in all that passed before, He is the lowly dependent One—perfect Man, as well as God. He was in perfect, unbroken communion with His God and Father, though Himself God manifest in the flesh. How blessedly near to us this brings Him, though so infinitely above us! What He did we should aim at, whatever our measure and our little sphere. In Him we see man perfect in that place of power wherein He came.
He knew whom He chose. He knew that one of them had a devil; but He sent them out. Twelve He chose specially, whom also He called apostles, "sent ones." It was an important and significant word, as quite a distinct thing both from law and promises. No one was sent out by law. Now God is active; He is sending His Son, and the Son is sending out apostles. The love of God is active in gathering souls. This first Sent One is a Man really and truly. God's work of His grace must be done by His Son, not by angels, but by His own Son, as the Man Christ Jesus, and He sends men out from Himself. The gathering point is Man—Himself of course. To Man God has committed all things. While it must be God who shows grace, the Son of Man it is who comes on the mission of love and sends out men to men.
17-19.—Whatever He attracts by He gathers round Himself to worship, surrounds Himself with them, and then comes down and stands in the plain. The great multitude are attracted by His miracles and their want, coming to hear and be healed. The company of the disciples were an inner circle. "The
whole multitude sought to touch Him." It is not said that they were converted, which is another thing; but living power went out of Him, healing their bodily misery and delivering from the power of Satan.
20.—He now lifts up His eyes on His disciples and speaks to them, not as in Matthew 5, giving them the developed principles of the kingdom, but distinguishing those before Him as the remnant. Hence it is "ye" here. He puts seal and stamp on those actually gathered round Himself. They are to be like Him. He is at once their centre and their pattern. He was God, but the fulness of the Holy Ghost dwelt in Him as man also; and so He could say "I do always those things which please Him." So should it be with those around Him.
20-26.—"Blessed (are) ye poor; for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed (are) ye that hunger now; for ye shall be filled. Blessed (are) ye that weep now; for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye when men shall hate you." These words of the Saviour give the contrast of those He pronounces blessed with all that are at ease in this world. Those who, if in this life only they had hope in Christ would be of all men the most miserable, are the only happy few. They are severed from all others, and put in relationship with Him, the source of blessing, to be blessed. If you can make yourselves happy and comfortable in this world which has rejected Jesus, count not on His blessing. It is the poor, the despised with Jesus who shall have the kingdom. He
says, if we may so speak, "I am distinguishing you," for there is no enunciation of abstract principles, as in the beginning of Matthew 5, but a speaking to the hearts of those gathered around Him. "I am come as the centre of power and active love. There is but one sole place of blessing on earth. With Me you are blessed." Others may be gay and cheerful where Christ has no place; but it is a time when a true spiritual soul can get no good save with Christ. It is a definite distinction of, and address to, the disciples who attached themselves to Him. This is made clear in verse 22, where the persecution for righteousness, which St. Matthew carefully records, is omitted. Here it is only a question of suffering "for the Son of Man's sake" (22).
In the midst of a world of misery and selfishness there came One who displayed not law nor judgment, but grace. But the light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. Like the adder that hears nothing the world goes on as deaf as it is blind. No; you who are "full" now Jesus has no charm for you; but you, disciples, are weeping now, the sorrow and the sin of man distress your spirit; you shall rejoice. When God has His way, you who cannot be satisfied with the husks shall be filled. "Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for, behold, your reward is great in Heaven; for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets." You have your portion with Christ here, you shall have it with Christ in Heaven. You suffer with the suffering One; you shall have glory with the glorified One. But the others!—they shall have what they seek. For the full there shall be a famine by and by, for they have
lost God. If you can laugh in such a world as this, you shall weep when God's time for blessing comes. They are of the world, and the world naturally loves its own. "So did their fathers to the prophets." Are the times altered? Is Christ 's character changed? It is not a whit more agreeable to the flesh. And if you can find your joy, ease, and pleasure in the world, Christ could not, and you have not His Spirit. He that will be its friend is the enemy of God. Can the disciple of Jesus be merry and gay in a world which has sin wrapped up in it? There is communion with Jesus, joy in the Spirit, while patient in tribulation; but this is quite another thing. It is a serious joy, though very real and blessed.
27.—He now shows what must be the conduct of the disciples as such. They were to manifest God, to be the unfolding of what was displayed in Him. Grace which was in Him in fulness and perfection should be reproduced in them, sadly as we all fail in this—the principle of our path. "Love your enemies." God loved us when we were His enemies, and we have now to show practically what God is.
29.—This brings us into entirely human circumstances, patiently learning in them; or, as in 1 Peter 2, doing well, suffering for it, and taking it patiently. This may seem poor comfort. But Jesus did so, and love must so manifest itself in an evil world. The time comes when God will judge, instead of bearing long as now; but now, at whatever cost to self, show love as Christ did.
35.—Flesh can love for love, but the disciples of Christ are called to imitate God, and walk in love.
[paragraph continues] "Love ye your enemies, and do good and lend, hoping for nothing again, and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest; for He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil." What a blessed character of God comes out here! It is not righteousness, though surely there was that, but in the world where God had to do with the unthankful and evil He shows grace. For the angels He has not grace, but love; but Christ in this world of sin is grace, i.e., love to those who deserve it not. "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful" (Luke 6. 36). It is not with, but "as your Father." As He loves His enemies, so do you; He is merciful, be ye also merciful. In all this God's character is displayed—perfect love in a world of sinners. It must cost us something; it cost the life of Christ. His love was a stream which if it met with hindrances in its way only went on flowing over, and leaving them behind till it reached the Cross.
37.—"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged." This is not certain things required in order to get life, but the result of certain conduct shown. As though He had said: You will find the consequences of your conduct as Christ did. He took the lowest place, but He has got the highest now. He humbled Himself; "wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him" (Phil. 2. 9). He came not to judge, and now "all judgment is committed to the Son" (John 5.22). Thus we not only have the display of grace, but divine character meeting its consequences.
38.—-It is a question of government—of walking with the Lord. It must cost a great deal in the path,
but in the end it will be "full measure, pressed down." There will be God's blessing, too, in the way, though self is mortified. Grace will abound, according to God's way.
39.—"Can the blind lead the blind?" See the contrast of those who are in utter blindness, and the blind leading the blind. You must let them alone; leave them to go on their own way; but you have to take your place with Me; and the disciple is not above his Master, but you shall be as your Master. If your Master suffers, you suffer; if it has cost your Master much, it must cost you much. If Christ teaches you, it is to make you possess the divine learning that He has Himself. And see what a place He gives us! When He gives, what does He give? The very same that He has Himself. "As He is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4. 17). "Not as the world giveth" (John 14. 27), which if it gives a little reserves the chief for itself; but as though He said "I am putting you in the very same learning that is in My nature, the grace that I have you are to have." But people do not like to do those things that Jesus did. Why is there so much argument about that one passage, "Resist not evil?" It is because you like to resist evil. Your will is touched, your conscience is reached, for it is given you as a matter-of-fact exhortation. But you do not like it, and you will get rid of it if you can. These things are given as tests for the conscience; they judge the eye, not the path only. "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light" (Matt. 6. 22). The object is wrong if you have not light for the step. There may be difficulties
in going up a steep hill, but if the object before you is clear, you get over them as quickly as you can. This is what is meant by the expression "This one thing I do" (Phil. 3. 13) . It is having one object, and the mind intent on accomplishing it. If it is so with you there will be sure to be light in the path—light not for ten years hence, but for this one step that is before you, and then for the next. It was said to Moses, "Speak to the children of Israel that they go forward" (Exod. 14. 15), and when they were out in the wilderness the pillar was given to be their constant guide. So with us. We are called out to go after Christ on the principle of obedience, and this puts us into connection with Him in the revelation of His will, not giving us to see all the path onwards. A man may see a wall, and say "I cannot go that way, there is a wall," while if he but takes a single step he will find that there is a path all down by the side of the wall.
44.—"Every tree is known by his own fruit." Not only bearing fruit, but fruit that Christ produces should be ours. There is fruit that an upright nature produces, such as that of the young man who came to Jesus, but that was not divine fruit—''its own fruit;" and where Christ is the root and the stock, it is Christian fruit, i.e., fruit that will remain (John 15. 16). Two men may go together up to a certain point, and then some test for Christ comes; one goes on with Him, and the other turns aside. "Its own fruit'—fruit shows itself, springs of itself. There will not be the question of: What harm in this or that? What harm in being rich? as a person once asked me. If it shuts you out of Heaven, is there
any harm in that? Oh, I did not think of that! But the secret is that you like the things. The evil is not the things themselves dug out of the earth, but the love in the heart for them. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." An impatient word betrays the heart. A blow I may restrain, yet utter the word.
47.—In the hearing of all the multitude the Lord speaks now about the house built upon the rock. This is not a question about building upon Christ, the Rock, for the salvation of the sinner. It is the path of the saint. But where Christ's Word does connect with Himself, see the result. The very thing people are called upon to do is to follow Him; and when I follow it proves that the Master's words have taken such a hold upon my soul that they have power to carry me over the difficulties. "My soul followeth hard after Thee" (Psa. 63. 8). A man's affections, heart, will, are taken and connected with Christ instead of with himself. Is Christ sufficiently precious to make me leave all beside and follow Him, to do those things that please Him? "If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, but shall have the light of life" (John 11. 9). "As when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light" (Luke 11. 36). Keeping close to Christ, the light shines upon us. If we have to get into the light we may be dazzled by it. Thus He has gathered round Himself in light and love those whom He will have to enjoy Himself, and be as their Master, at length to be conformed to His image in glory.