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themselves appeared to be now possessed by a stranger, and therefore they forbad him from doing so any longer; but having just heard Jesus commending those who received the meanest person coming in his name, John is led to ask him, whether he had done right in deliver ing this prohibition. Jesus, without enquiring into the circumstances of the case, and supposing that there might be a real miracle performed, as John had imagined, tells him that he was wrong in what he had done: for that the person who performed a miracle in his name must have no small respect for him, and could not easily be induced to speak against him.
50. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.
That is, if it be a just maxim that he who does not another is a friend to his cause, much more reason have we to regard this man in that favourable light, who tends to spread the fame of my name by using it in this way. This proverb is the reverse of that which he delivers upon another occasion, Matt. xii. 30. He that is not with me is against me. But it is to be remembered that they are both proverbial sayings, and may be both just in different circumstances. Thus we have, in the Proverbs of Solomon, in one place, Answer not a fool according to his folly; which is reversed in another; Answer a fool according to his folly.
The principal difficulty attending the common interpretation of these two passages is that it supposes a man to work a miracle, who did not receive his gift of miracles from Jesus Christ or his apostles; a thing which is very unlikely in itself, and of which we have no other example in the New Testament.
51. And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, or, "when the time of his withdrawing himself was completed," he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem;
The evangelist has been supposed to refer in this verse to the ascension of Christ into heaven, which was now speedily to take place, according to divine prophecy and appointment; and to say that therefore he returned to Jerusalem, where he was previously to suffer death; but his language agrees better with the idea that the days of Christ's retirement being ended, he determined to go to Jerusalem; to understand which it is necessary to observe, that the evangelist John tells us, vii. 1. That he walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. He retired to that country, lest the Jews should lay hold on him, before he had accomplished the purposes of his ministry, by giving sufficient evidence of his divine mission, and fulfilling the prophecies which related to him. This end being now answered, he resolved to return to Judæa, and even to go up to Jerusalem, notwithstanding that he very well knew what the consequence of his appearing there would be. Steadfastly to set the face to go to Jerusalem, is a Hebrew phrase for being firmly resolved to go there, and implies both deliberation and danger. Had there been no danger, a steadfast purpose would not have been wanted.
52. And sent messengers before his face; and they went and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
There was much enmity between the Jews and Samaritans, in consequence of a difference of opinion about the place of worshipping God; the Samaritans saying that it was mount Gerizim, but the Jews insisting that it was the temple at Jerusalem. As Jesus was now going up to Jerusalem, for the purpose of worshipping God, and his road thither lay through Samaria, he was apprehensive that if they knew the object of his journey, they might refuse him accommodations, and therefore sent two of his disciples before him, to try their temper, and to secure lodgings and other necessaries for himself and his followers; and it appears that his apprehensions were but too well founded.
53. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
The face is here put for the intention, which is manifested by the face; and the meaning is, that the Samaritans refused to receive him, because they saw that it was his intention to go up to Jerusalem. Josephus, the Jewish historian, relates a quarrel that took place between the Jews and the Samaritans, when the former were going up through their country, to keep the feast of the passover at Jerusalem. At such times the Samaritans were peculiarly inhospitable, because they believed the temple on mount Gerizim, and not that at Jerusalem, to be the proper place for worshipping God. As they knew that Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, to keep one of the Jewish feasts, they treated him as they would have treated the rest of his countrymen, by refusing him the accommodations of travellers.
54. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elias did?
These two disciples were so exasperated at the unprovoked affront thus offered to their master, that they proposed doing what Elijah had done to Samaritans before, when he called down fire from heaven, to consume a captain and fifty men, whom Ahaziah, king of Israel in Samaria, sent to apprehend him*: but Jesus immediately expressed, in the strongest manner, his disapprobation of the proud and revengeful spirit which they discovered.
55. But he turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
* 2 Kings i. 10.
You are not aware what a bad disposition you discover, by wishing to take away the lives of men for a trifling affront; how much pride, resentment and cruelty you betray. Some, however, have supposed that by this language Christ meant to say, Ye know not what spirit ye are of by your profession, when ye are followers of me; alluding to the mild and benevolent spirit of Christianity; an interpretation which seems to derive some countenance from the words which follow, in which he describes the design of his coming into the world. But in what ever way they are understood, the sense will be nearly the same.
56. For the son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.
To preserve their lives, by healing the diseases of their bodies; and to keep them from final punishment, by curing the disorders of their minds.
And they went to another village,
These few verses illustrate the excellence of the character of Jesus, and the imperfection of that of his disciples: they show that he possessed true magnanimity, undaunted courage and exalted humanity.
1. We see that his mind was untinctured with any portion of envy. When his disciples saw, or imagined that they saw, a miracle performed by another man, who had received no commission from Jesus, and maintained no connection with them, they became immediately alarmed for their own reputation and that of their master, lest it should suffer by the growing fame of a rival; they therefore forbid him to perform any more. But Christ condemns their conduct, and endeavours to persuade them that this stranger was in reality a friend
to their cause, although not associated with them; hereby showing that he did not wish to confine the reputation of working miracles to himself, and that he was more concerned about the interests of truth and the success of his mission, than about his own personal aggrandizement. This discovered true greatness of mind. Moses also possessed the same spirit: for when Eldad and Medad continued prophecying in the camp, and some, who were jealous of his reputation, to whom the privilege of speaking in the name of God had hitherto been confined, desired him to forbid them, he made that noble answer; Would to God that all the Lord's people were prophets! The apostle Paul also showed a like spirit: for he rejoiced that Christ was preached, although some did it through envy and strife, in opposition to himself, and in order to add affliction to his bonds.But the ministers of Christ have not always discovered the like magnanimity. They have too often regarded all those who have aspired to the same honour, as their enemies and rivals, although engaged in one common cause, which needed the services of all its friends; and have filled the world with their contentions about preeminence and power. Such conduct derives no countenance from the example of these most excellent cha
2. We have here a striking instance of the undaunted courage of our master in doing the will of God. He forms a steady resolution of going up to Jerusalem, where his most inveterate enemies resided, who had lately threatened to kill him, and where he knew he should be put to death by them by the most cruel tortures: so strong was his desire to fulfil the will of hea ven, and to promote the welfare of mankind, that he makes a voluntary sacrifice of his life for accomplishing these ends. Let us learn to imitate so noble an instance of self-denial.
3. We see, on this occasion, the exalted humanity of Christ's temper. He turns round, to express, by his gestures as well as his words, his indignation at the proposal of his disciples, to call down fire from heaven to