of the past than a prediction of the future. Yet the humiliation of His death is redeemed by that which at the same time He foretells, the glory of His resurrection. "And they understood none of these things." 1 The words were plain enough; but so unprepared were they, notwithstanding all He had said, for the idea of a suffering Messiah, that “this saying was hid from them." By the force of prejudice its meaning was obscured; "neither knew they the things that were spoken." They knew not what to make of what He said. They knew not how to reconcile it with their notion of a Messiah. They hoped it might be but an allegory."



St. Matthew xx. 20-23.

Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with : but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

The sons of Zebedee procure their mother to be their mouthpiece, remembering, it might be, a former reproof.3 She states respectfully that she has a petition to present, and He graciously bids her recite its prayer. We must ever entertain petitions courteously, nor dismiss them unheard,

1 St. Luke xviii. 34.

2 St. John xvi. 25, 29.

3 St. Mark ix. 34.


even when we know their requests beforehand to be unreasonable, but calmly point out why we cannot comply. The two brethren had evidently been meditating upon their Master's recent promise,' but that does not seem to have satisfied their ambition; and, still ignorant of the nature of His Kingdom, they desire the highest places, the posts of honour therein. The Lord addresses His answer directly to them, knowing that their mother's request was in reality theirs. As before they knew not what manner of spirit they were of, so here they knew not what they asked; knew not that they were asking for suffering and a cross, which was the destined way to reigning and a crown. In ancient times the Ruler of a Feast was wont to mingle cups and distribute them to his guests. Hence to drink of another's cup became phrase to signify sharing his portion of sorrow. So likewise Baptism signified immersion as it were in a sea of trouble, to be overwhelmed with misery." This he tells them, in a figure, was what they were in effect asking for. For this is what He was about to endure. Were they strong enough for this? Their answer shows their ignorance in asking. They knew not their own impotence. When the time of trial came "they forsook Him and fled." Others than they imagined were on His right hand and on His left. When their Mother and they saw the two thus crucified with Him, they might remember their ambitious prayer. Yet what they then ignorantly professed, the Lord predicted should come to pass. For into "the fellowship of His sufferings" we are admitted even at our Baptism, and to this we pledge ourselves as often as we partake of that cup of blessing which is the communion of the Blood of Christ." But what they sought was not His to give in the sense in which despotic monarchs give places to unworthy favourites. The Father, whose will he came to do, had ordained how it should be given. It was not His to give, for it was, in a sense, already given. It is destined to be given to the most worthy.

1 St. Matt. xix. 28.

2 St. Luke ix. 54, 55.

3 2 Tim. ii. 12.

St. Matt. xxvi. 39, 42.

5 Ps. lxix. 2.

6 St. Mark xv. 40.

71 Cor. xii. 13.



St. Matthew xx. 24-28.

And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

The rest of the Apostles who, it seems, were not present at this interview, were indignant at the ambition of two of their number. The old dispute seemed revived. So easy is it to find fault with another for a failing which exists also in oneself. The Master, who knew what was passing in their minds, calls the Disciples to Him, and takes the opportunity of repeating a former lesson,' which they seemed to have forgotten. They, like the Jews of old, seem to have emulated the Gentiles. The chosen people of God took pattern by the heathen around.2 Greatness with these consisted in dominion. In the Kingdom of Christ it consists in servitude. Does any desire to be really great? Let him become, as it were, a servant to the people of Christ. Is any ambitious of being promoted to the chiefest place? Let him become, as it were, their slave. This is the rule of preferment in the Kingdom of Christ. "Before honour is humility." "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." 5


The Lord, employing that title which marked His own humiliation, bids them do even as He. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.

1 St. Mark ix. 35.

21 Sa. viii. 5, 9, 20.

In the original deacon, minister.

So in the original.

St. Matt. xxiii. 11, 12.

* Phil. ii. 3, 8; St. John xiii. 13–17.

What a view we have here of His mission! What if we even give our life, as He did, in the service and for the sake of others! The Lord here plainly announces the great object of His mission. He willingly gave His life to set us free from the captivity of sin, to ransom us from the power of the grave. One (but what an one!) for the many.2



St. Luke xix. 1-7.

And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchæus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchæus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, that he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.


Zacchæus was a sort of receiver-general of the taxes in his district. He made some effort to see this stranger of whom he had heard, that he might know what manner of man He So Herod desired to see Him, but was none the better for it. The crowd however prevented, as he was small of stature, and of still less account. The difficulty however served but to stimulate the efforts of this earnest seeker after Christ. So he ran on ahead, and climbed up into one of the

1 Hos. xiii. 14.

2 Alford remarks that no stress is to be laid on this word many here, as though it excluded some. "It is

placed in opposition to the one life which is given, the one for many." 1 Tim. ii. 6.

3 St. Luke ix. 9; xxiii. 8-11.

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trees common in that part of the country. It was not the sort of tree we understand by this name sycomore. It rather resembled the mulberry-tree in its leaves, and the fig-tree in its fruit.' Here the Lord looked up and saw him "in the shade of the sycomore," 2 under his "leafy screen;"" looked for him in the appointed place; saw him, as before he saw Nathanael "beneath the thick foliage of the fig-tree.... and more than grants his prayer. He calls this stray sheep of His by name. Everything in this princely progress was arranged beforehand. It behoved Him to abide not with one of the chief Pharisees (though He would not churlishly refuse even such invitation 5) but with the chief of the Publicans, where He might do the most good, where at least He would have less prejudiced hearers. Open sin yields more readily to Christ than spiritual pride. And still He stands at our door, and knocks, and says, "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Here however, as elsewhere, prejudice is heard to murmur. But the action of this penitent was the best answer. It was a sufficient refutation of their censoriousness, justification enough of the conduct of Jesus.



St. Luke xix. 8-10.

And Zacchæus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 2 Bp. Wordsworth.

It is in fact the Egyptian fig, described by Pliny (Nat. Hist. xiii. 7) -though he is mistaken in speaking of it as not found out of Egypt-as "like the mulberry-tree in leaf, in size, in general appearance."

3 A Plain Commentary.
St. John x. 3.
5 St. Luke xiv. 1.
6 Rev. iii. 20.

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