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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

Prayer—the Lord’s Prayer. The conditions of prayer, especially perseverance and confidence, illustrated (1–13). The calumnies of the Pharisees regarding the power by which our Lord worked miracles, and His reply (14–23). The return of the unclean spirit, illustrating the evil of the sin of relapse (24–27). Our Lord’s teaching on the subject of giving the Jews the sign they sought for (29–32). His teaching on the subject of performing our actions with a good intention, illustrated by the example of light and darkness in the body (33–36). The woes pronounced against the Pharisees (37–54).

1. “One of His disciples,” probably, one of the seventy-two, “said to Him,” &c. St. Matthew (chap. 6:6–9), would seem to convey, that our Lord taught us the Lord’s Prayer from Himself, unasked, while delivering the Sermon on the Mount, of which this divine prayer forms a part; whereas, St. Luke conveys here, that He delivered it in quite different circumstances, at the request of one of His disciples, who on seeing Him pray, was induced, by the fervour exhibited by Him, to ask Him how they were to pray. Moreover, the number of petitions given in St. Matthew, is seven; here, five. Hence, some Commentators hold, that our Lord uttered this prayer on two different occasions, as recorded by the two Evangelists. St. Matthew gives the prayer in connexion with our Lord’s denunciation of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, without telling the occasion of its being uttered, as St. Luke does here. Others, hold that the prayer was spoken but once; but that St. Matthew introduced into our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, things spoken by Him on other occasions, and that he wished to give us there consecutively, as much of our Lord’s utterances, as he could conveniently describe together. The ordinary Greek copies and the Protestant version have the seven petitions here just as they are given by St. Matthew (6:9–13). St. Augustine (Enchiridion, c. 1, tom. 6, p. 240), says, there are seven petitions in St. Matthew, and only five in St. Luke. It is likely that the form, as in St. Matthew, was inserted here by some copyists in the Greek, who saw the form in St. Luke shorter than that in St. Matthew, or than that in common use among the faithful. It was much easier to add them here than it would be to omit them, as they are omitted in all Latin copies, even the most ancient. If some of the Fathers commented on the whole seven petitions here, they did so, as they wished to give a full exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, and to explain the entire of its petitions, handed down by our Lord, as they are fully given in St. Matthew. A similar thing happened in regard to the Beatitudes. St. Matthew gives eight; St. Luke, four. But the four substantially contain the eight, as the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, recorded here by St. Luke, contain those that are omitted.

“As John also taught his disciples.” As John the Baptist had preached to the people, the necessity of penance, so he also composed suitable prayers to be recited by his followers, to excite them to the practice of penance, and inspire them with faith and hope in the Deliverer now at hand, and soon to be manifested to the world. It is not unusual for the founders of new forms of religion to compose prayers for the spiritual benefit and use of their followers. No vestige or record whatever of the prayers composed by John has been preserved. However excellent they may have been, they, still, can bear no comparison with that taught us here by the increated wisdom of God Himself.

2, 3, 4. (See Matthew 6:9–13.)

5, 6. Having taught them the prayer they ought to employ, our Lord now teaches them how they are to pray; they should pray neither negligently, nor remissly, but fervently and perseveringly.

“And,” also, “He said to them.” Our Lord illustrates by the following parable—which St. Luke alone records—or familiar comparison, founded on what might occur in daily life to any of themselves, the necessity of fervour and perseverance in prayer. All the circumstances are of a very pressing character—the hour of the night so inconvenient, the urgent necessity of the case, not even the simplest means of meeting the wants of the stranger, fatigued and hungry from his journey. Hence, the petition for “three loaves,” one for the host himself, one for the hungry, fatigued guest, and a third in case the two did not suffice. In the East the home-made cakes were small.

7. We need not suppose all these circumstances to have actually occurred—some of them are but the ornamental parts of the parable; nor are they all applicable to the dealings of God with man, when presenting earnest petitions before Him. The application of the several parts is not to be pushed farther than the illustration requires; and the evident scope of the parable is only to show the advantages and efficacy of perseverance in prayer.

8. “Of his importunity.” The Greek word, αναιδειαν, means, shamelessness, or shameless persistence in asking under such circumstances, after having been refused before. “And give Him,” not only “three loaves” sought for; but, “as many as he needeth,” to save himself from further molestation. This, without being literally applicable, in all its parts, to the case of the supplicant and God, is intended to prove the advantage and efficacy of persevering prayer. The force of the example consists in this: if the prayer of a friend, though unreasonable, so prevailed on account of his importunity, that he received even more than he asked, how much more will our prayers prevail with God, with Whom all times are equally opportune, who even delights in our importunate persistence, and defers hearing us, in the first instance, in order to render the concession in the end more welcome. The parable also conveys the advantages of perseverance in prayer, and inspires confidence; for, if a man relying on the claims of friendship, approaches his fellow-man even at an unreasonable hour, with confidence of being heard, with how much greator confidence ought not we approach a loving Father to obtain all we need from Him.

9–11. This is the application of the foregoing example (see Matthew 7:7, 10).

12. St. Luke alone gives this example, which means the same thing as the example of the fish and the serpent, viz., it denotes the giving of something not only useless, as a stone for bread; but something noxious, as is “a scorpion,” which, by its sting, would harm us. Sometimes a scorpion shut up in the shell of an egg was given in order the more securely to cause injury to the person, who, unsuspecting evil, received this fatal present. It is also said that the body of a scorpion, particularly of the white kind, resembled an egg, as some fishes resemble serpents.

13. (Matthew 7:11.)

14–23. (Matthew 12:22–30.)

24–26. (Matthew 12:43–45.)

27. While our Lord was successfully engaged in refuting the blasphemous calumnies of the Pharisees, a woman in the crowd, admiring our Redeemer’s language and miracles, and, probably, under the influence of some divine instinct, raising her voice, cried out, “Blessed is the womb,” &c., which simply means, “blessed is the mother that gave Thee birth.” It may be, she was divinely enlightened in regard to His Incarnation, and, like the Angel, who announced it, and Elizabeth who congratulated His Mother upon it, this woman proclaimed her blessed among women, as did the Virgin herself, when, under the influence of inspiration, she cried out, “Behold, from hence-forward, all generations shall call me Blessed.” But whether the woman in question was enlightened as to the mystery of our Lord’s Incarnation, or only spoke from a natural admiration of our Lord’s words, and wonderful deeds, she meant to eulogize our Lord Himself, since it is, on account of giving birth to so wonderful a man, she regarded His mother as blessed.

28. “Yea,” as if He said, without denying this, which would be denying the truth, as His mother had been pronounced “Blessed,” in several instances (as above), or without asserting and confirming it, which would be praising Himself and His Blessed Mother; this may be, I do not deny its truth; but, “rather blessed are they,” &c. The idea conveyed here is the same as in St. Matthew (12:50). Our Lord, while giving a preference to spiritual relationship, founded on faith and grace, and on the observance of God’s Commandments, over carnal relationship, includes in this latter respect His Blessed Mother, who far excelled in sanctity, and correspondence with divine grace, all the rest of creation together. He gives a preference to spiritual relationship; because, it was more general. It was not confined only to one, but, it extended to all. He does not deny the felicity of her who gave Him birth in the flesh; but it was more on account of having first spiritually conceived and begotten Him, by grace and faith in her heart, than on account of having given Him birth in the flesh, she was happy. He extends this felicity farther, to those who “hear His word.” However, this is not sufficient; they must observe “and keep it,” carry it out in practice, in word and deed. “Non auditores verbi justi sunt apud Deum; sed factores verbi justificabuntur” (Rom. 2:13).

29. What St. Luke narrates by anticipation (v. 16), was, according to St. Matthew (12:38), expressed by our Lord, in connexion with what is said here.

30–32. (See Matthew 12:38–42.)

33. (See Matthew 5:15.)

34. (See Matthew 6:22, 23.) “If thy eye be single,” if the intention be pure, the entire body of the actions will be pure; “if it be evil,” if the intention be perverse, all our actions are hateful to God.

35. “Take heed,” &c., otherwise, the darkness itself will be very great. “The darkness itself, how great shall it be?” (Matthew 6:23.)

36. “The whole shall be lightsome,” not the whole body—otherwise there would be a useless tautology—but the whole man, every thing connected with him, all his powers and faculties, every thing emanating from him, will be lightsome. If the body, illuminated by a pure, simple eye, be lightsome, and no part or member darksome; if all the actions and affections be guided and enlightened by a pure intention, so that no part is clouded by passion; then, the whole man, both interiorly and exteriorly, shall be lightsome. Then, this “single,” or clear eye, “shall, as a bright lamp,” which sheds its light on every part of the body, “enlighten thee,” enlighten the entire man.

37. “And as He was speaking,” or, after He had spoken to the people on some certain occasion. We need not necessarily connect this with the foregoing; for, St. Luke does not say, as He was speaking these things, although Maldonatus refers it to the foregoing.

“A certain Pharisee prayed Him to dine with him,” manifestly with the view of watching Him, and observing, with a siuister motive, His words and actions (vv. 53, 54).

“And He going in, sat down to dinner,” without further ceremony, or any previous ablutions, or attention to the usual forms observed in this respect, by the Pharisees.

38. “And the Pharisee began to say, thinking within himself.” He began silently to revolve within his own mind, murmuring and judging unfavourably of our Lord. The Greek is, “but the Pharisees seeing, wondered.” “Why He was not washed before dinner,” in accordance with the Jewish traditional usage on such occasions (see Matthew 15:1; Mark 7:3).

39. (See Matthew 23:25.)

“Now,” (or, truly,) “you Pharisees,” &c. He charges all the Pharisees, the absent, as well as those present, with washing their bodies, and neglecting to cleanse their souls from moral defilement. Or, “now,” the occasion has arisen for reproaching you with your crimes and deeds of hypocrisy.

40. “Ye fools,” who act so preposterously. This, He says, with a view of correcting their false notions. Hence, He adds, “Did not He that made that which is without?” &c. Did not God, the Creator of external things, of cups, of the human person, &c., also create internal things, such as the human soul? Now, if out of a feeling of reverence for God, the Creator of external things, you take care to wash and cleanse them, why not, out of respect for Him, be equally solicitous about cleansing the internal, spiritual and invisible things, which were also created by Him? Nay, more solicitous; since, the latter effects of His creation approach nearer to Him than mere external things. Is not God more jealous about the cleansing of the heart, and what emanates from it, as they are the effects of man’s will, than He is about external things? Our Lord here supposes what was a fact, viz., that all these purifications took place, not from mere social decency and cleanliness; but, from motives of religious worship shown to God, the Creator of these external objects.

41. “But yet that which remaineth give alms.” Having above charged them with “rapine and iniquity,” He now wishes to convey, that they are not to be despaired of, as if their case were utterly hopeless, and no remedy left. He points out here, the remedy and the means of cleansing their souls from defilement. And, instead of merely cleansing the body, like legal purifications, this remedy prescribed by Him, is a sovereign means for cleansing all, soul and body.

“That which remaineth” (Vulgate, “quod superest”), is understood by some, of superfluities remaining after our necessary wants are supplied. Out of these, give alms. Others, following the Greek reading—τα ενοντα—understand the words, to mean: What you possess, or, is in your power; as if he said, Out of the means you possess, and according to your power and ability, “give alms;” as in (Tobias 4:7), “give alms out of thy substance.” Others understand the words thus: This remains as my summary and comprehensive precept and remedy for cleansing you from your iniquities; or, there remains for you one means of cleansing and purifying your souls, viz., “give alms, and behold all things are clean to you.” Not that the giving of alms would, of itself, cleanse from sin; but, that almsdeeds, mercy to the poor, would dispose us for obtaining the remission of sin, and would incline God to show mercy to us, in consideration of our showing mercy to the poor. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” And, indeed, it rarely happens, as experience tells us, that those who are beneficent and charitable to the poor, do not find mercy in the latter end. “In die mala liberabit eum Dominus” (Psalm 40:2). Nor is it meant, that giving alms alone would suffice; it is said, “all things are clean unto you,” on account of it, provided all the necessary conditions be added, just as we hear it said of faith, that it justifies, in which it is implied, provided everything else necessary be superadded.

“Clean unto you,” is allusive to the anxiety of the Pharisees for legal and external cleanliness. Almsdeeds will cleanse them from all defilement, both of soul and body. Hence, it should be substituted for their external, useless observances.

42. It may be, that our Lord repeated these denunciations twice, as the circumstances are different in Matthew (23) from those expressed here; or, He may have done so only once, and, likely, St. Matthew gives the order of circumstances.

42–44. (See Matthew 23:23–29.)

44. The idea meant here, is the same as that expressed (Matthew 23:27, 28), although conveyed under a different image. In Matthew, it is said, they are like to whitened sepulchres, which may be seen; here, to covered sepulchres, which appear not. But, the idea is the same in both, viz., that the interior is filled with all kinds of defilement.

45. “One of the lawyers” or Scribes, answering, said to Him, “Master, in saying these things, Thou reproachest us also.” The Scribes were the teachers and interpreters of the law. The Pharisees observed it rigidly; and that, according to the teaching of the Scribes or lawyers. It might be also, that among the Scribes some were Pharisees (see Matthew 2:4; 3:7). But, as the Pharisees observed all their legal observances in accordance with the teaching of the “lawyers” or Scribes, hence, this man says, that our Lord “reproached them,” or their entire order, “also,” and spoke contumeliously of them—ὑβριζεις. These haughty men could not bear correction. The words of our Lord were meant for their conversion and amendment; or, at least, He spoke with a view of protecting the people against the influences of their evil teaching, and of marring their wicked endeavours to turn the people aside from faith in Him.

46. This gives our Lord an opportunity of hurling His unsparing denunciations against the Scribes, these false teachers, who led the people astray, and spiritually oppressed them (see Matthew 23:4).

47–51. (See Matthew 23:29–36.)

52. The sense is substantially the same—though expressed here under a new image—as that conveyed (Matthew 23:13). “Taken away,” may be rendered from the Greek, ἤρατε. “You have taken to yourselves,” you have carried (“fero”). You have claimed and arrogated it, as your own exclusive right, and allowed it to no one else. “The key of knowledge.” The idea is borrowed from an edifice of which a man retains “the key;” and which no one can enter, unless the holder of the key permits him. If we render it, as in our English version, “taken away” (tollo), the idea is the same. The lawyers have taken away from every one else the power and authority, and office of teaching, of interpreting the law and the Holy Scriptures, which are the key to bring us to the knowledge of God and Salvation. This authority they have arrogated to themselves exclusively; and grossly abused. For, they themselves refuse to admit Christ, as the Messiah; they refuse to enter His Church, and to become associated with His true followers; and by their false teaching and coercive authority, they prevent the people from doing so. They did not themselves, owing to their blindness of heart and perversity, understand the Scriptures, or the sense of the Prophets, which pointed to Christ; and by their false interpretations, which they claimed the right exclusively to make, they kept others from following our Lord. They neither observed the law themselves, nor permitted others to observe it. “The key of knowledge,” denotes the knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures, to expound which, they sat in the chair of knowledge. “Entered in,” is allusive to the metaphor of a house. The metaphor and the thing signified are spoken of together.

53. “Vehemently to urge Him,” with a multiplicity of captious questions. “And to oppress His mouth about many things.” “Oppress His mouth”—ἀποστομάτιζειν, means, to elicit from Him extemporaneous answers, to several questions put all at once, and coming tumultuously from different quarters, without giving time to consider them; and this, with a view of catching Him in His words, of eliciting from Him some answer that might be against the honour of God, the Law, the Traditions of the ancients, or the rights of Cæsar; so that thus they might have matter for accusation against Him, as in following verse.

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