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The birth, the life, the death of Jesus, would then appear that which in truth they were, the wonderful fulfilment of all that had been written. But on the proud and hardened heart, it would be wholly lost. Those who hate the truth, cannot, because they will not, learn. Their day is coming : but
MARK xii. 37. “ The common people heard him gladly." Jesus made use of the short time, which He knew remained in which they would listen, to warn them of the dangers into which they must fall if they followed where their teachers were leading them.
Verse 41 “And Jesus sat over against the treasury.” There was in the Temple a treasury-chamber, very splendid with the gifts made by rich converts to the Jewish faith, and also by many heathen princes who had a superstitious awe of the God of the Jews, though they knew Him not as the Creator and God of the whole earth. One of them had presented to the Temple all the rents and lands belonging to the city of Ptolemais, besides 1500 shekels of silver, † and sometime later King Agrippa bung up in the Temple-treasury, as an offering, a chain of gold given him by the Roman Emperor, of equal weight with the iron chain by which he had kept him bound in prison. It was thus that men in those days showed their reverence and their gratitude, and by these means the treasure-chamber was adorned with many goodly gifts. It also contained great sums of money, and many precious vessels of gold and silver, presented by the Israelites themselves, besides the yearly tribute of half a shekel paid by them to support the expenses of the Temple-service. In the midst of the Treasury were placed, near together, thirteen large brazen vessels shaped like trumpets, into which were cast the gifts of those who visited the Temple.
* Ptolemais, now called Acre, famous in our days for its siege and bombardment by the British fleet in 1840, when the citadel was blown up in one tremendous explosion. It was a magnificent city in the old times, but its glory has long since departed. t See 1st Book of Macabees, chap. x. 39, 40 verses.
It was in the midst of these riches, in this treasure-chamber, that the Saviour sat.
All around him were the offerings of the rich and noble, Gold and silver were there in abundance, and men's eyes were dazzled with the sight, but his were fixed upon the hearts of the givers.
LUKE xxi. 1–3. “And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in than they all : for all these have of their abundance cast in to the offerings of God: but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."
We should observe, that whatever was thus given to the support of the Temple, was accepted by Jesus as directly given to God. He calls them “the offerings of” (that is, belonging to) God. David had no enjoyment in his palace of Cedar, while be felt that he had not done his utmost to provide for the service of his God, and those who truly love Him will feel the same.
Many that were rich cast in much.” It was well that they did so. The Lord God is with the rich man in his home. He sees how and why his money is spent. It is not by accident that he fills his place. God has given him all that he has, it may be for a trial, it certainly is that he may so spend his fortune as will tend to carry out God's plans on earth. What these are, was told to man by the angels at the Saviour's birth, “glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good-will to men." Each shilling the rich man spends may
forward these, for he can help to spread the knowledge of Redemption in all lands, and this is “glory to God in the highest :” and even the many things he could well do without in his house may be made to forward "peace on earth, and good will to man,” by giving employment to those who by God's appointment live by the labour of their hands.
The worldly-minded, whether rich or poor, may be slow to believe it, but it is true that it is a grief to many to possess articles of luxury, while they know that thousands are wanting bread, and nothing reconciles them to their position in life, but the knowledge that it is God who placed them in it, and that His fatherly wisdom in ordering the difference of earthly lot, that has always been, bas so directed that the luxuries of the rich shall be the bread of the poor by providing employment for multitudes.
The rich man may thus by God's grace so rule his desires, that all his expenditure may be in obedience to Him, and “of his abundance he will cast in much to the offerings of God," but while he does so it will keep him humble to remember, that his offerings however great they may be, are still small when compared with those of the labouring poor. The God he worships dwells with the lonely widow. He sees her bending over her daily toil that hardly earns her daily bread. His blessing cheers her as the evening falls and the scant fire burns low. She knows that He is with her, and with thankful heart she finds that she has somewhat to give when want, greater than her own, comes knocking at her cottage-door for help, or when there is a gathering among rich and poor, that money may be raised to build up the Church of Christ by sending the knowledge of his name into distant lands. Men may smile as she casts in the "two mites which make a farthing," but it is a treasure in the sight of God, for she hath done what she could, she of her poverty hath cast in all that she had.” The rich know little of the charities of the poor, but God knows them every one.
The common people heard him gladly. Jesus made use of the short time that remained in which they would listen, to warn his countrymen of the danger they must fall into if they followed where their teachers led. The common people were listening now, gladly. It was a treacherous calm, soon to be changed into a tempest of the wildest fury. Jesus foresaw the coming storm and would not lose a moment.
Wbile we read what follows we must remember that He knew that by each word He spake, He was as it were bringing down the lightning upon His own head. All the power of the Scribes and Pharisees over the minds of the people He knew, and how they would use it in vengeance to bring about His own agonizing death; yet not for this would He be silent. In their presence, speaking to the multitude first, and then expressly to themselves, he declared their guilt, and spoke their doom. us give heed to His words, for they are full of instruction to us, as well as to them.
MATTHEW xxiii. 1–3. “ Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat : All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works : for they say, and do not.”
This is a lesson which it is most needful for us to learn, for we are apt to sbut our ears even to God's own truth when spoken by men of corrupt lives. Yet the truth is the truth, whoever speaks it, and God's word cannot be hurt by the channel through which it passes. It is true that the Pharisees had encumbered the laws by many vexatious additions of man's devising ;—still they sat in Moses' seat, and therefore possessed an authority which God still permitted. The time was at hand when it should be taken from them. Meanwhile if any man earnestly and sincerely tried to follow their directions, they would the more quickly be convinced of the impossibility of keeping themselves in all things pure, and thus gain the full blessing of the law, which was to teach them their need of a Redeemer, and like a schoolmaster bring them to Christ. Then when they were made to understand the real nature of the Kingdom of God, they would be the more eager to enter therein. Such a one was Paul, as we may see from his own account of himself.
While the Scribes and Pharisees were in the place of Lawgivers, the people were to obey them, but they were to be careful not to follow their example, for they never even attempted to keep the rules they made for others.
Verses 4, 5. “For they bind heavy burthens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders ; (these burthens were the excessive strictness they required in matters of no consequence,) but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men : they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garment.”
Phylacteries were strips of parchment on which were written verses of Scripture. They were folded up very small, and shut up in little boxes made of calves' skin dyed black, and bound on with straps of leather. They were worn on the forehead between the eyes, and on the left arm near the heart. This custom arose from man taking in a literal sense the meaning of certain passages of Scripture. Deut. vi. 8. xi. 18. Exod xiii. 10, 11, 16. In these the binding of God's laws between the eyes, and on the hand is spoken of as a means of keeping