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Life of Jesus Christ in Its Historical Connexion and Historical Developement.
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§ 205. Exultation of the Disciples on their Return.—The Overthrow of Satan’s Kingdom.—Christ warns the Disciples against Vanity. (Luke, x., 17-20.)

When the disciples, at a later period, returned from their mission to meet Christ, they related to him with child-like joy554554   This does not seem to me to justify De Wette’s conclusion that Christ had not as yet conferred on them the same powers as on the Apostles. Even in possession of this power, they might have been surprised, conscious of what they were, to find such great things done by them; just as in other cases, a man who, while conscious of his own weakness serves as an organ for the objectively Divine, may be surprised at what he does, in comparison with what he is. the great things they had achieved in his name: “Even the devils are subject to us in thy name.”

As Christ had previously designated the cure of demoniacs wrought by himself as a sign that the kingdom of God had come upon the earth,555555   Cf. p. 150. so now he considered what the disciples reported as a token of the conquering power of that kingdom, before which every evil thing must yield: “I beheld556556   Beholding in the spirit is here undoubtedly meant; Christ designates by a symbolical figure what the glance of his Spirit foresaw in the progress of the future. There is no reason to suppose here a vision like that of the prophets, in which the truth was presented in a symbolical veil or covering. Nowhere in the history of Christ do we find an intuition in the form of a vision; indeed, such seem to have been precluded by the proper indwelling of God in Him, distinguishing him from all prophets to whom a transient Divine illumination is imparted; in Him the Divine and the Human were completely one, in Him was shown the calmness, clearness, and steadiness of a mind bearing within itself the source of Divine light; in His unbroken consciousness as God—Man, we dare not distinguish moments of light and moments of darkness. Satan as lightning fall from heaven;i. e., from the pinnacle of power which he had thus far held among men. Before the intuitive glance of his spirit lay open the results which were to flow from his redemptive work after his ascension into heaven; he saw, in spirit, the kingdom of God advancing in triumph over the kingdom of Satan. He does not say “I see now,” but “I saw.” He saw it before the disciples brought the report of their accomplished wonders. While they were doing these isolated works, he saw the one great work—of which theirs were only particular and individual signs —the victory over the mighty power of evil which had ruled mankind,557557   Cf. John, xii. 32. completely achieved. And, therefore (v. 19), he promised, in consequence of this general victory, that in their coming labours they should do still greater things. They were to trample the power of the enemy under foot; they were to walk unharmed over every obstacle that opposed the kingdom of God.

But at the same time he warned them against a tendency, dangerous to their ministry, which might possibly attach to their joy at its brilliant and extraordinary results. “Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you.” They were liable to vanity, glorying in the means, viz., the individual brilliant results of their ministry, rather than in the Divine end, the triumph of the kingdom, to which all single results were but subsidiary elements; a vanity which might deceive itself, and take the appearance for the reality. And many great and successful labourers have yielded to this temptation; their very works becoming the means of corrupting their interior life; and this having become impure, the impurity passes over into their works also. “But rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” They were to do wonderful works in the future; but these were not to be the source of their joy; the kingdom of God, the aim of all their labours, was to be the object of their rejoicing; and all else subordinate to it. “Your great deeds are to be as nothing in comparison to the grace given you, the pardon of your sins, and life everlasting.”


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