We have had occasion in our remarks on the previous chapter to point out the difference between the baptism of Jesus and that of every mere man, and to explain that in our Lord’s case baptism involved the idea, not of repentance, but of temptation. Accordingly, no sooner does the Lord receive baptism than he engages in those conflicts which the rite represented. Then was Jesus led up (or away) of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. There is one particular in this which may strike the mind as singular, the Lord’s being led into temptation by the Spirit – that Spirit which had descended like a dove upon him. Yet in this very fact is the law of progress exemplified. There is, however, nothing more surprising in this than in Israel being led up by Moses into the wilderness to be tempted There is indeed an apparent inconsistency between the fact and the Scripture declaration, that “God tempts no man, but that every man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lusts and enticed.” But the truth is, that although temptation does not come from the Spirit of God, it comes of receiving it. The Spirit does not tempt, but it leads into that state in which temptation is experienced. Temptation is an inward spiritual conflict between good and evil, truth and falsity. There can therefore be no inward conflict except in minds in which these opposites are present and active. The natural or unconverted man, who has no spiritual good and truth, and has no concern about eternal life, knows nothing of spiritual temptation; there is nothing in him to tempt. He follows unresistingly the impulse of his natural affections, and pursues his temporal aims undisturbed by eternal considerations. It is when the Spirit of the Lord descend; upon him, and enters into his heart, that his false peace is first disturbed. A new life, which is spiritual and eternal, has commenced in his soul; and the old life, which is natural and temporal, rises up against, and enters into conflict with it. The Lord has come, but it is not to send peace, but a sword. The Spirit has lighted and abode upon him; but it leads, nay, drives him into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. The conflict, once begun, continues, though not without intervals of repose, till the natural and temporal submit to and serve the spiritual and the eternal. Then victory is followed and rewarded with peace, peace which the Prince of peace bestows, which the world could not give, and which it cannot take away. We seek to explain this subject in relation to the Lord, by human experience, because Jesus was in all points tempted as we are.
We are not to suppose that this was the Lord’s first reception of the Spirit, or that this was his first temptation. No doubt this was an epoch in the Lord’s life and experience, the beginning of a new state, of a new stage in the progress of his glorification. His glorification had hitherto been chiefly that of his internal man, according to the law in regard to human progress, that the internal is first regenerated, and the external afterwards. As the Lord’s work had hitherto been chiefly internal, his life had as yet been chiefly private; and his experience is unrecorded in the gospels, because, being that of the inner man, it does not belong to the outward historical sense of the Word. His glorification was now about to be brought more fully into the external, or, so to speak, into the body. Therefore the Lord received external baptism, and entered into the temptations which it symbolized, and came out into public life, and did outward and miraculous works, and taught lessons of truth in parables to the multitudes – the record of all which forms the outward or literal sense of the gospels. The work of glorification in the Lord, like the complete regeneration of man, consists not only of continuous, but of distinct degrees. Like man, the Lord passed through three distinct states, which we call natural, spiritual, and celestial. These may be considered to be represented, if not marked by the Lord’s baptism, his transfiguration, and his resurrection; and his progression in them perhaps representatively described by the three journeys he made, during his ministry, to Jerusalem. His temptations in the wilderness were also three in number. These temptations of our Lord were not so much three acts, as three kinds, of temptation. Indeed, we are not to regard the historical relation as strictly literal. It contains the history of all his temptations. Excepting his agony in the garden and his sufferings on the cross, these are the only temptations of the Lord mentioned in the gospels. And yet his whole life was one of conflict and victory. His temptations could not be adequately described as they actually occurred, because, unlike his teachings and his works, they did not, except in a few instances, come under human observation. Although, on this account, they are not recorded in the New Testament, they are described in the Old. As the spiritual sense of the Word is the history of man’s regeneration, the celestial sense is the history of the Lord’s glorification. Everywhere, therefore, the Lord’s temptations are the subjects, where war and conflict are mentioned in divine Revelation. In many parts they shine through the letter, and in the Book of Psalms they are often openly revealed. And when David is regarded as a type of the Lord, then in “David and all his afflictions” may be traced the Lord and all his temptations. The Lord’s temptations were various as well as numerous, yet they may all be classed under the three kinds that form the subject of this chapter. A clear idea of these will enable us to have some faint conception of the nature of our Lord’s trials, and also of his triumphs. To the remarks we have offered on the general subject, as introduced in the first verse, it may only be necessary to add, that the wilderness is a general representative of temptation for the state which lays its open to the assaults of the enemy is one in which the mind has in it waste places, which regeneration makes to bud and blossom like the rose.
1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
1 The Lord’s hereditary nature derived from His Father was Divine, that derived from the mother was evil, which is here treated of, and by means of which he underwent temptations. But the Lord had no actual evil, or evil of His own, nor had He any hereditary evil from the mother, after by temptations He had conquered hell. A. 1444.
See Chapter III., 1 et seq. A. 2708.
The Lord fulfilled all things contained in the law, and endured temptations and conquered therein. Thus salvation from His Divine Humanity is imparted to those who are principled in faith grounded in charity, also to those who undergo temptations in which the Lord conquers, wherefore also when the Lord was tempted, He was in the wilderness. A. 2714.
1, 2. Forty days and nights signify the duration of temptation, this is clearly evident from the Word, the reason for this signification being that the Lord suffered Himself to be tempted during forty days. A. 730.
That the Lord when He was in the world endured such temptation, described in Isaiah lxiii. 8, 9, is briefly described in the evangelists, but more fully in the prophets, and especially in the Psalms of David. In the evangelists it is only said, that He was led away into the wilderness, and afterwards tempted by the devil, and that He was there forty days, and with the beasts; but that He was in temptations, that is, in combats with the hells, from first childhood even to the end of His life, He did not reveal (see Isaiah liii. 7). His last temptation was in Gethsemane, and afterwards the passion of the cross. That by it He fully subdued the hells He Himself teaches in John xii. 27, 28, 31. A. 9937.
The number forty in the Word signifies complete vastation and consummation, that is when all the good of the church is vastated, and evil is consummated. By the same number is also signified complete temptation, also the establishment of the church anew, or reformation. E. 633.
1-3. A wilderness signifies a state of temptation, in which man is as it were without truths, because surrounded by evil spirits, who induce temptation, and then as it were deprive him of truths. R. 546.
As a wilderness signifies a state of temptations, and the number forty, whether years or days, the whole duration thereof from beginning to end, therefore the temptations of the Lord, which were the most cruel of all, and which He sustained from childhood to the passion of the cross, are understood by the temptations of forty days in the wilderness. E. 730.
1—11. The temptation which is related contains a summary description of the Lord’s temptations in general, shewing that out of love for the whole race of mankind, He fought against the loves of self and of the world with which the hells were replete. The love which was the Lord’s veriest life is signified when it is said That He hungered (see Luke iv. 2—4 : Matthew iv. 2-4). He fought against the love of the world, or against all things relating to the love of the world (Matthew iv. 8-10 : Luke iv. 5-8). He fought against self love (Matthew iv. 5-7 : Luke iv. 9-12). His continual victory is signified by its being said that after the temptation Angels came and ministered unto Him. A. 1690.
It is known in the church that the Lord conquered death, by which is meant hell, and that He afterwards ascended with glory into heaven, but it is not known yet that the Lord conquered hell or death by combats, which are temptations, and at the same time by these means glorified His Humanity, and that the passion on the cross was the last combat or temptation, by which He conquered the one and glorified the other. His temptations in the wilderness, and afterwards by the devil are related in the evangelists, but by these are signified all the temptations that He suffered, even to the last. Temptations are nothing else than combats against the hells. L. 12.
1 et seq. His being tempted by the devil, signifies His being tempted by the hells whence come evils, thus by the worst of the hells, for those hells chiefly fought against the Divine love of the Lord, the love reigning in those hells being the love of self, and this love is opposite to the Lord’s love, and thus to the love which is from the Lord. E. 740.
1, 2 et seq. As forty signifies temptations and their duration, and the wilderness the state of those who undergo them, therefore also the Lord, when He was tempted, went out into the wilderness and was there forty days. A. 8098.
2 Wilderness signified a state of temptation, and the number forty its duration, whatever that might be.
2-4. See Chapter IV., 1-11. A. 1690.
3, 4. By eating is signified to eat spiritually, which is to know, to perceive, and to appropriate. The same thing is signified by what the Lord said to the tempter. E. 617.
3, 6. See Chapter III., 16, 17. T. 342.
2 The particulars of the Lord’s temptations come now to be described. When he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. Forty is a common term used to express the duration of temptation, whether short or long, and expresses the continuance and succession of states rather than of times. For even temptation has its alternations and successions of state within itself It has its successions of state, indicated by its forty days, and its alternations of state, indicated by its days and nights. There are no states without progressions and distinctions. Without them no state could come to an end, or leave its impressions behind. The worst states through which man can pass are not of uniform darkness: there is variety – and variety even in suffering is a relief and a lesson. There is alternation; and if there is day and night, however long the night and short the day, in the winter of our trial, hope is never utterly lost in despair.
During the forty days and nights of our Lord’s continuance in the wilderness, he fasted. A fast of such duration was not a circumstance peculiar to him, though all such fastings had no doubt reference to his. Fastings were either voluntary or involuntary, and signified either the abstaining from evil or the deprivation of good. Voluntary fasts generally were signs of self-denial. Involuntary fasts were generally signs of the deprivation of the good which is the spiritual food of the soul. The soul has its food as well as the body. The Lord’s soul had its food as well as his body; for he declared, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” Temptation was just the time when fasting from this meat would be forced upon him. For temptation is a state when delight in the law, and power to do the will of God, seem to be taken away. The tempter tries to bring its over to love and do our will instead of the divine will; — first to love it, then to do it. First, the evil influence acts secretly upon the love, and this produces the soul’s fasting. This is the state which is here described. The history leads us to believe that Jesus during these forty days not only ate nothing, but had no desire to eat; for it was not till the forty days were ended that he hungered. His appetite was taken away. We know that distress of mind takes away the natural appetite. And, correspondent]y, distress of soul takes away the spiritual appetite. The lamentation of the afflicted soul is therefore, “I have eaten ashes for bread, and drunken tears in great measure.” I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth” (Dan. x. 3). And as human experience was, in every particular, inconceivably increased in intensity in our Lord’s case, what must have been the fasting of him whose very meat was to do his Father’s will! But every state has its termination. When the Lord had fasted for, forty days, he was afterward an hungered. The object of the tempter is to take away the appetite for good, that he may create in appetite for evil. And this is the first part of the conflict. Actively to desire evil is the first step to doing it. If the inspired desire is resisted, the first object of tempting spirits is defeated; for if the inclination is neither approved by the understanding nor cherished by the will, but on the contrary condemned and restrained, the soul will gradually recover itself, and the good desire will return, and the soul will hunger after righteousness.
3, 4. But the tempter, who acts secretly upon the desire and the motive, does not give up the contest when he has failed to bend them in favour of evil. From acting secretly on the love he proceeds to act openly on the life. The soul’s hunger – its relish for good, its desire to do the will of God – has returned, and the temptation now consists in the adversary pressing the famished soul to satisfy its hunger with that which is not bread. When the tempter came to him he said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread”. The stones which the devil asked Jesus to change into bread were the stones of the wilderness, and represented, as we have seen, the truths of the Jewish church. As bread signifies good, to have made these stones into bread would have represented the changing of such truth into good; for truth is changed into good by doing it; and such as the truth is, such is the good which it produces. But even supposing that the truths which were revealed to the Jewish church had been preserved in their purity, the good produced from them would have been at the best but Jewish good – the righteousness of the law, the virtue of the letter-and could only have satisfied the Jewish appetite for the good of Judaism. This natural good was rather a substitute for goodness than goodness itself – a temporary means of preserving the remains of the last and lowest degree of spiritual life, till the spiritual truths of a spiritual church could be revealed for its real sustenance. For the Lord to have satisfied his hunger with such bread would have been to feed his senses and leave his soul unsatisfied. It would not have been doing the will of him that sent him, and finishing his work, but doing the will of him whose object it was to defeat that work, yet to defeat it under the guise of promoting it. The Lord was himself the bread that came down from heaven, to give life unto the world. Jesus fed a multitude of people in the wilderness, not by turning its stones into bread, but by multiplying the loaves and fishes. But even this divinely-created bread was not the only nourishment be gave them; for be had already satisfied their souls with his words, with good things out of the treasures of his wisdom: he had fed their inner man with spiritual good, and now fed their outer man with its corresponding natural good- showing his own twofold means of satisfying their wants, that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. In referring to the place in the Old Testament, where the saying which our Lord repeats against his adversary occurs, we find this truth involved in the meaning, Moses says, “The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live” (Deut. viii. 2, 3). The Lord Jesus was typified by the manna, he being the true bread; he, therefore, is eminently the Word of God by which man lives. This first temptation of the Lord, as the second Adam, was of the same nature as that of the first Adam – it was a temptation by the serpent to eat of the tree of knowledge instead of the tree of life. In his temptation the first Adam fell, introducing sin into the world; in his corresponding temptation the second Adam overcame providing in his triumph for man’s restoration.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
4 That what is celestial and spiritual constitutes the food of angels, is manifest from the Lord’s words, that is, from the life of the Lord, from which everything celestial and spiritual proceeds. A. 276.
What celestial and spiritual food is, can be best known in the other life. The life of spirits and angels is not supported by any food like that of this world, but by every word which comes forth from the mouth of the Lord, as the Lord Himself teaches. The fact is that the Lord Himself is the life of all. From Him comes all and everything which angels and spirits think, speak, and do. Also all which evil spirits think, speak, and do. The reason why the latter speak and do what is evil, is, because all the goods and truths which are of the Lord, they receive and pervert. Reception and affection are according to the form of the recipient. A. 681.
The word denotes the Lord’s doctrine, and words signify the things which appertain to His doctrine. A. 1288.
What is uttered from the mouth of Jehovah is in general the Divine truth which proceeds from the Lord, thus every truth of wisdom, and specifically the Word, in and from which are the things that relate to wisdom. A. 5576.
That by spiritual meat and drink — that is by good and truth — the soul of man, or the internal man is sustained, is manifest from the Lord’s words. The enunciation of the mouth of Jehovah is the good and the truth which proceed from Him. A. 5915.
All things which relate to food, as bread, flesh, wine, water, and several other things, in the spiritual sense in the Word signify such things as relate to spiritual nourishment. A. 9003.
In the Word alone there is spirit and life, since by it man has conjunction with the Lord, and consociation with the angels. S. 69.
The reason why the consociation of man with the angels is effected by the natural or literal sense of the Word, is because in every man from creation there are three degrees of life, the celestial, spiritual, and natural. A man however is in the natural degree so long as he continues in this world, and at the same time he is so far in the angelic spiritual degree as he is in genuine truths, and so far in the angelic celestial as he is in a life according to those truths ; but still he does not come
into the spiritual itself, and the celestial itself until after death, because these two are enclosed and stored within the natural ideas. When the natural passes away by death the spiritual and celestial remain, and the ideas of his thought then come from them. It must therefore appear evident that the Word alone contains spirit and life, as the Lord says. T. 239.
A holy Divine from the Lord through the heavens flows in with the man in the world who acknowledges the Divinity of the Lord, and the Sanctity of the Word, whilst he reads it. Such a man can be instructed and derive wisdom from the Word, as from the Lord Himself, or from heaven itself, in proportion to his love thereof, and thus be nourished with the same food with which the angels themselves are nourished, in which there is life, according to the words of the Lord (John vi. 63 ; iv. 14 ; vi. 27). Such is the Word. E. 1074.
Verse quoted. N. 218.
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
5 Jerusalem was called the holy city, because it signified the church as to the doctrine of truth, and Divine truth proceeding from the Lord is what is called holy. That without such representation and signification thence derived that city was not at all holy, but rather profane, is evident from this circumstance, that the Lord was there rejected and crucified. E. 223.
5-7. See Chapter IV., 1-11. A. 1690.
6-7. That the Son of God or the Lord as to good in the Divine Humanity could not be tempted, is also evident from the Lord’s answer to the tempter in the evangelists. A. 2813.
7, 10. That the Lord our God, Mark xii. 29-31, is the Lord may be seen, also that Jehovah in the Old Testament is called Lord in the New. A. 4766.
Verses 7 and 10 quoted. D. P., Page 46.
5 We have already remarked that the Lord’s temptations describe three classes, and not merely three acts, of temptation, and that they advance progressively from lower to higher, as those of man do, from natural to spiritual, from spiritual to celestial. The temptation to turn stones into bread describes the first class of temptations, those which belong to the natural class, or which appeal to the natural affections and perceptions. The next temptation is one of another and deeper kind, being spiritual in its character, but connected with that which precedes it, as one of a series. If, when tempted to appease its hunger by turning stones into bread, the soul maintains its integrity, in full conviction of the truth that man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, it will next be tempted to place its confidence in the truths of the Word, to the exclusion of its goods. Or, to express it in its relation to man: when Satan cannot overturn a man’s faith, he tempts him to trust in faith alone. For this purpose he takes him up into the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple. A city signifies doctrine and holy is predicated of truth. The holy city is therefore the doctrine of truth, but such is it is in the church. The temple, too, has reference to truth, or to the understanding as its receptacle. When it is called the house of God, it relates to the will; when named the temple, it relates to the understanding. To take the Lord up into the holy city, was to draw and abstract his mind from other things, and fix it on the doctrines Of truth in the church; and to set him on a, pinnacle (literally, a wing) of the temple, was to seek to inspire him with the pride of intellect, or elation of mind. We are not, of course, to suppose that such a temptation was capable of actually producing these effects in the mind of the Saviour, in the same sense and degree as it would in the mind of an ordinary man. We have to describe and conceive of these states as they are in frail humanity, without which it would be impossible to describe them at all; but we must never forget that at best they can give but an exceedingly imperfect idea of the Lord’s states; and to conceive of them as identical with those of mere man, would be to profane a subject in itself most holy. The Lord, although tempted in all points as we are, never allowed the least of sin to enter into his holy mind: but we never are tempted without betraying our frailty; and even when we overcome, which we do by the power of him who overcame before us, we are but as brands plucked from the fire.
6 Whatever we may conceive to have been the Lord’s state, as signified by his being set on the pinnacle of the temple, that did but form the prelude of his trial. The temptation itself consisted in his being tempted to cast himself down, in the confidence that he would be borne up. If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, he shall give his angels charge concerning thee; and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. It is a singular fact that some, at least, when raised to giddy height, are seized with an impulse to cast themselves down. If natural effects are the, results of spiritual causes, there must be some analogy to this natural impulse, if natural it may be called, in the spiritual life. In the spiritual world we know this is the case. Spirits, when raised above the level of their proper life, are seized with an impulse to cast themselves down, and actually do so. Had the Lord been raised above the level of his proper life – had Satan been able to exalt him into a state above that to which his glorification had raised him, the Lord could not have maintained his elevation, but must have cast himself down. But Satan has no power to raise men, but only to make them proud of their elevation. And “pride cometh before a fall.” It was this pride that Satan sought to excite in the mind of Jesus, as a, means of his downfall: for Satan only seeks to raise up, that he may cast down. To understand what is meant by the Lord casting himself down, it may be useful to turn our attention to some of the particulars in the Word that bear upon it. One of the statutes of the Mosaic law declared, “When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence” (Deut. xxii. 8). This civil law contains a spiritual truth. The house is a symbol of the mind, the highest or inmost of which is meant by the roof The spiritual calamity which this law was intended to guard against is that of a man falling from a higher into a lower, or from a Superior to an inferior state of spiritual life – which is to fall from a state of good to a state of truth, or from a state of charity to a state of faith; and he who does so violates or profanes what is holy, which is to bring blood upon his house. It was because of this important principle being involved in the Mosaic law that our Lord, treating of perilous times that were coming on the church, when men were exhorted to flee from Judea into the mountains, exhorted them that were on the house-top not to come down to take anything out of the house – that is, those who are in a state of good or love are not to come down into a state of truth or faith, for by doing so they come from a superior to an inferior state, and so pervert divine order, and destroy both good and truth in themselves. The great law of life is progression, and the order of progression is from truth to good, from faith to love. The divine command is, “Go forward – go up higher.” This is the law of divine order, because it is the order of human improvement, and therefore of human happiness. But the efforts of the tempter, or of the whole powers of darkness, are to reverse this law. Not progression, but retrogression-not higher, but lower – not nobler, but baser, is the order which hell recognizes and acts upon, and endeavours with all its power and cunning to promote. Evil and hell are what they are, because they are in every respect the opposites of good and heaven. The tendency of hell is to go down lower and lower, that of heaven is to go up higher and higher. When, therefore, the devil tempted Jesus to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, he desired him to cast himself down from the holy elevation on which he stood: and only fulfilled what had been written in the prophetic psalm, “They only consult to cast him down from his excellency” (lxii. 4). The devil endeavoured to strengthen his cause by appealing to Scripture. Evil spirits do not tempt men to do evil as evil, but to do it either as good or as an act which has the sanction of what the tempted recognize as authority before they can use the truth in their evil cause, they must pervert it. It had indeed, been written (Ps. xci. 11), “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a, stone.” But this promise was given to those who walk in the right way. The angels bear up and protect those who desire their support and protection, and those who live in harmony with, not those who violate, the laws of order within which support and protection lie. Hence the importance of understanding, that we may obey, the Scripture, and that we may resist temptation, which often comes to us under the guise of liberty sanctioned by divine authority. The truth makes us free from sin, not from the law which condemns it; free to do good, but not to do evil. In regard to the passage quoted from the Psalms, though prophetic of the Lord, it is to be understood of him in a spiritual sense. He needed not the support of angels, for angels, like men, are dependent on him. But angels, when mentioned in the Word, signify something of his own divinity; for all that makes them angels they derive from him. Angels, therefore, signify divine truths, and their hands are the power of truths. These truths were the Lord’s supports, and these prevented him from stumbling over the falsities that prevailed in the church, which were the stones, against even one of which he was to be preserved from dashing his foot. No mere man walks in this world without stumbling. The Lord alone walked in it, through all its perils and temptations, and stumbled not.
7 Jesus answered the tempter by saying, It is written again, Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God. Men are said in Scripture to tempt God when they doubt or dare his power; and they no doubt tempt him when they presume on divine support in doing wrong. We may thus be tempted by the devil to tempt God. Our Lord overcame the tempter by appealing to the law against tempting God. There is another sense in which our Lord’s use of this law of the Word is to be taken. The devil tempted Jesus to cast himself down, to prove that he was the Son of God. He was thus himself tempting the Lord God in the person of Jesus Christ, who was God incarnate. And our Lord’s answer includes this idea. Indeed, as the tempter acknowledged Jesus to be the Son of God, he must have known that he whom he tempted was the very Being who was not to be tempted. There is another truth contained in this circumstance. The Lord said, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God,” to instruct us that the Divine itself is above all temptation. As the Son of God, the Lord himself was beyond temptation. The Lord is called the Son of God and the Son of man. And whenever he speaks of temptations and sufferings, he calls himself the Son of man, because the Lord was tempted as to his divine truth; but he never, in speaking of his temptation and sufferings, calls himself the Son of God, because this name is expressive of his divine good. And that Divine good is incapable of being tempted, the Lord meant when he answered the tempter by the words of Moses, “It is written again, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
12Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
8 The devil tempted the Lord by the love of self, for this is signified by a high mountain. E. 405.
8-10. See Chapter IV., 1-11. A. 1690.
9 See Chapter IV., i—11. A. 1690.
12-16. By Zebulon and Naphtali together, are also signified reformation and regeneration by means of temptation. E. 439.
8 The last temptation is still more dreadful and daring than the preceding. The intensity of temptation increases as it proceeds. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain. A mountain is the symbol of love, and exceeding height is the symbol of what is exceedingly intense, because exceedingly interior.
This is a symbolical mode of saying that this class of temptations is grounded in the love which forms the inmost of man’s life. The inmost love of man’s life, in his natural state, is the love of self; and the next, which is like unto it, is the love of the world. Our Lord inherited from his human mother the seeds of this as of every other love; and it formed in him, as in other men, the ground of temptation. Strange indeed it may seem, that he, who was the meekest, and the humblest, and the most disinterested among men, should have had in his humanity the seeds of such evils as the love of dominion and of gain; but we need not be astonished at what in itself is so natural, nor even at the result, which is so reasonable. Our Lord’s merit consisted in his displaying such exalted goodness, while yet, like other men, he was born with the seeds of evil. Merit arises from or consists in being good where there are inclinations and temptations to be evil. The Lord was perfected through suffering. And he suffered because he had in his nature that which was the ground of suffering he had the hereditary love which formed the ground of this temptation, and he experienced it in its greatest possible intensity: “He was taken up into an exceeding high mountain.” From the top of the lofty mountain the devil showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. This particular is an evidence of the symbolical nature of this relation. Sundry explanations have been offered, but no satisfactory one has been given. Besides, if Jesus was truly the Son of God, he did not require to be carried by Satan to the top of an exceeding high mountain, to have the sight presented to him. He knew more than the devil could show him; and Satan himself must have known that too well to be guilty of such an absurdity. Such conduct must have done much more to defeat his scheme than to advance it. But though it cannot have been true literally, it is instructively true spiritually. The exceeding high mountain and the kingdoms of the world were in the mind of the Saviour himself. The whole world was there, with its passions and its interests, but slumbering in the depths of his human consciousness, till called into activity by an influx from the kingdom of darkness. And when, under the strong pressure of its influence, self-love is excited in the will, all the kingdoms of the world are seen by the understanding: for the fire of love in the will becomes a flame of light in the understanding. In this way it was that the devil took Jesus up into an exceeding high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. But this did not constitute the temptation. Indeed, there is nothing evil in the love of self and the love of the world themselves. They are necessary elements in the constitution of human nature; for while man lives in the world be must take his part in the affairs of the world, its government and acquisitions; and he could not engage in them unless he had a love for them, for without love there can be no action. Our temptation in the world is, not to love and use the things of the world, but to fall down and worship the devil, that we may possess them. So long as we acknowledge the world to be God’s world, and use it as his, we sin not; nay, we would sin in not using it. It is not its use, but its abuse, that forms the subject of temptation; and all abuse comes from evil, which, abstractly, is the devil. Evil claims the world and everything else as its own, and wishes to be worshipped as its owner. Our temptation, therefore, is to worship self instead of God, and possess and use the world for the sake of ourselves and our own glory. He whom we serve is the object of our worship. And we serve whoever or whatever is the object of our ruling love. If we supremely love self or the world, self or the world is the object of our worship. The devil is ever striving to excite this love in our hearts. The love of self and the world are not, in our fallen state, disposed, as they were intended, to find their happiness in serving God; they desire to usurp his authority and claim his possessions as their own. This is the ground of our temptations. Whether shall we serve and obey God or self? this is the question. To decide this great practical question of life or death is, in fact, the use of temptation, and the Divine purpose in permitting it. The devil is ever suggesting to us. All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me; while God through his Word is ever answering this seductive appeal, by saying, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Jesus overcame the temptation with this divine truth, which proved an antidote to the poison which the old serpent was attempting to infuse into his mind. The Word is the armoury front which we must draw the weapons of our warfare in our conflicts with the world and self. And he who does this faithfully shall never be moved. The Lord, who permits us to be tried, never allows us to be tempted above what we are able to bear; and with every trial he provides a way of escape: and that way will be found in the truths of the Word and obedience to them.
We find that the tempter is called both the Devil and Satan. These two names are expressive of two kinds of evil spirits. As heaven consists of the good and the true, hell consists of the evil and the false. The evil are called the Devil, and the false are called Satan. The tempter is called by both these names, to indicate that the Lord was tempted by both these classes of evil spirits, and consequently from both the evils which distinguish them.
It is of the utmost importance that we should have some clear view on the subject of the Lord’s temptation; and should avoid the mistake which our imperfect knowledge of their nature and purpose is likely to cause. A knowledge of the purpose for which the Lord assumed human nature lies, of course, at the foundation of all right views respecting the nature and use of his temptations. The opinion entertained by many, that Jesus assumed man’s nature to suffer in it, as man’s substitute, the punishment due to man’s transgressions, reduces the Lord’s temptations to a judicial infliction. And in order that he might bear it in man’s stead, it is supposed that he himself must have been free from the common ground of temptation and suffering, which is evil. It is therefore assumed that, though born of a fallen women, he himself was unfallen, having, by the miraculous conception, received a manhood pure as that of Adam. To say that the Lord assumed human nature in its fallen state will seem to those who hold the opinion that he was born pure, as virtually calling the Lord a sinner. Some suppose that if Jesus had inherited moral imperfection, he could not have made atonement for other men’s sins, but only for his own. The nature of the Lord’s work in the flesh required that he should assume human nature in its fallen state, having in it the seeds of all human infirmity. It was to do the very work that man has to do that the Lord assumed man’s nature. And the purpose of the Lord’s doing that work in himself was, that he might afterwards do it in us, according to the nature of the work he first effected in himself. In reference to the present subject it is therefore said that he was tempted in all points as we are; and it is further declared, that he was made perfect through suffering, And in regard to the purpose, in relation to us, for which the Lord endured temptation, it is said to have been, that he might succour those that are tempted. Both these truths were declared by the Lord himself when he said, “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified by the truth.” The Lord’s temptations were among the means by which this sanctification or glorification of his humanity was was effected, and by which he became the Author of sanctification and regeneration to men. Had not the Lord assumed an imperfect humanity, having in it the seeds of evil, he could not have been tempted as other men are, nor could he have been perfected through the suffering of temptation. The opinion that these seeds of evil made the Lord a sinner is a mistake. Every man inherits evil; but no man is a sinner till he has committed sin; for sin is the transgression of the law. The grand distinction between Jesus and every other man consisted, not in the difference of their state by birth, but in the difference of their state by life. Jesus, like other men was born with hereditary evil; but, unlike every other man, he was entirely free from actual sin. He is indeed called, by birth, a holy thing but this is applied to him as the Son of God, and not as the son of Mary or the son of Man. It is remarkable that his sinlessness is spoken of in the Scriptures, not in reference to his birth but his life – in fact, in reference to his trials and temptations. “He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin.” Had such a remark been introduced in connection with his birth, there might have been some ground for the opinion that be was born absolutely free from moral infirmity. Had it been said, for instance, that he was born of a woman, yet without sin, the objection would have had some force; but when we find his sinlessness associated with temptation, in which all other men to some extent fail, we may conclude that practical, and not hereditary freedom from evil is meant. This constituted the great value, as well as the great merit of our Lord’s sinlessness. He was tempted, but he never yielded in temptation. He met the whole power of evil, both on earth and in hell on the battle ground of a frail humanity, but, notwithstanding its frailty, he conquered in every temptation, and crowned his work with complete victory. Thus did the Lord subjugate the powers of darkness and glorify his humanity. As he conquered, so has he now the keys of hell and of death. And now does he say, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. iii. 21).
11 When the Lord’s temptations were ended, Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him. We find here another hint of the existence of an inner sense in the Scriptures. The Lord did not require the assistance of angels who, however exalted above the condition of men, are but finite beings, and could afford no aid to him, who, being from above, was above all. But there is deep truth in this, although it is not to be literally understood. The condition of mankind at the time of our Lord’s coming was so deeply evil that hell was near, and heaven was far from them. The Lord came to reverse this order. He came to drive back the powers of darkness, and restore man’s connection with heaven. He overcame hell by admitting temptations into himself. When he overcame these temptations, then was hell removed, and heaven came near. This was a general result of the Lord’s conquests. But it is said that the angels came and ministered unto him. The angels ministered unto him, as men in their devotions and virtues serve him, not by giving him anything he did not already possess, but by satisfying, by their ministrations, his desire for their happiness This desire is his hunger; and our doing his will is our ministering unto it. There is another and more practical lesson which we learn from this relation. The Lord was our Example. What is recorded of him is to be realized by us. This record describes the result of our overcoming in temptation. When we resist the devil he flees from us, and when the devil leaveth us angels come and minister unto us. Here are hope and consolation for those that are toiling in the upward path of regeneration. Tempted Christians, who feel themselves beset on every side by evil spirits and evil influences, which shut out the light and love of heaven, may gain strength and take courage, knowing that if they continue to hold bravely on in the day of trial, their perseverance will be rewarded with deliverance from the oppression of the enemy, when angels will come near as ministering spirits, sent to minister unto them who have shown themselves worthy of being heirs of salvation.
12 The circumstance which is next related, apparently in continuance of the series of historical events, is yet separated from the Lord’s temptation by a considerable interval of time. Yet the two seem to be connected in character; and this, no doubt, is the reason that these events, although they have no historical connection, are here brought together. Who would suppose that an event that did not take place till about three years after the Lord’s temptation in the, wilderness, should be introduced in the form. Now, when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee? Yet may we not find a reason for this in the similarity of our Lord’s being in the wilderness, as it were the prisoner of Satan, and John’s being cast into prison by one who may justly be regarded as an emissary of the kingdom of darkness? This bringing together of these distant events will be seen to be all the more appropriate and significant when we reflect, that a similar treatment of the Incarnate Word by the powers of darkness, and of him who represented the written Word by the powers of the world, are related in signification to each other. As it was the aim of the tempter to overcome the power and frustrate the object of the Incarnate Word, so was it the purpose of the corrupt church, of which Herod was the type to deprive the written Word of influence and authority. As this was done in Judea, where the church had her chief seat and her ruling power, Jesus departed into Galilee. This was to represent that the Word having been perverted and rejected by the Jews, the Lord, as the Incarnate Word, betook himself to the Gentiles, to raise up among them a new spiritual church, in place of that which had ceased to exist among the Jews.
13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
13 The Lord after He left Nazareth dwelt in Capernaum, and there performed miracles. E. 654.
13-17. The land of Zebulon and the land of Naph-thalim, also Galilee of the Gentiles, or nations, signify the establishment of the church with the Gentiles, who are in the good of life and receive truths, and thus are in the conjunction of truth and good, and in combat against evils and falsities. That the establishment of the church, and the reformation of such Gentiles are here understood, is also evident from the series of the expressions as that it was beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, and also that the people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and that to them that sat in the region and shadow of death, light sprang up. By Zebulon and Naphtali in the supreme sense is meant the union of the Divinity itself with the Lord’s Divinfe Humanity, by means of temptations admitted into Himself, and victories therein obtained by His own proper power. See Psalm lxviii. 27-29. E. 447.
13-15. But although the Lord departed into the country whence he had come to Jordan unto John to be baptized, he did not return to the city where he had previously dwelt. On his return from Egypt, Joseph, to avoid Judea, where Archelaus reigned, “turned aside into the parts of Galilee, and came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene;” but now, when, on Herod’s imprisonment of John, he returns to Galilee, he leaves Nazareth, and comes and dwells in Capernaum, that another prophecy may be fulfilled: The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up. The cities or villages in which the Lord dwelt being made the subjects of prophecy, indicates a higher meaning than appears on the surface of these divinely-inspired Writings. Besides their minuteness in very inconsiderable things, there is another particular that may impress us with a conviction of their spirituality. Galilee is spoken of as being beyond Jordan. Galilee was not on the east of Jordan, out of the land of Canaan, although “beyond Jordan” generally has this meaning. Understood with some degree of latitude, the words may mean that the Lord’s work was to extend to the Gentiles on both sides of the Jordan, as we find from this chapter that it did. For the fame of Jesus’ teaching and healing went throughout all Syria, which was on the other side Jordan; and among the great multitudes that followed him some were “from beyond Jordan” (v. 25). May we not suppose, however, that Zabulon and Nephthalim were described as situate beyond Jordan, to express the distinctly gentile character of those to whom the Lord now turned out of the land being equivalent to out of the church? Whether this be the case or not, there can be no doubt that we are here to understand the Lord’s turning to the Gentiles. Two particulars enable us to ascertain the spiritual meaning of Capernaum. It was upon the sea coast. The sea signifies the external of heaven and the church, in which are the simple who have thought naturally, and but little spiritually, about sacred things. It was also in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim. In reference to the people among whom the Lord had now come, besides being called Gentiles, the description indicates that they were in an external state, being on the “coast” and on the “borders.” The land of Zabulon and the land of Nephthalim also Galilee of the Gentiles, as nations, signify that a church was to be established among the Gentiles, who are in the good of life, and receive truths, and thus are in the conjunction of good and truth, and in combat against evils and falsities. That the establishment of the church and the reformation of such Gentiles are understood, is also evident from the series of expressions, as that the land was beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, and also that the people which sat in darkness saw great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light had sprung up. Such being the signification of the country or land where Capernaum was, we have only to reflect on the signification of a city, to arrive at a knowledge of the place which this one holds in reference to the present subject “In the universal sense, cities signify the doctrinals of the church; but in the singular sense they signify the interiors of (the natural mind of) man where doctrinals are, or rather where truths are, conjoined with good. For the truths and goods pertaining to man form as it were a city; hence a man in whom is the church is called the city of God. The signification of a city is like that of a house. In the universal sense a house signifies good; but in the singular sense it signifies a man, and specifically his mind as to good and truth there conjoined; and a house, with its apartments, circumjacent buildings, and courts, is a city in the least form.” Capernaum then, represented the doctrinals of Christianity as adapted to the state of the well-disposed Gentiles, and the natural mind in which they are received. For the Lord dwells in that region of the human mind where his truth and good are received, and indeed, where they are conjoined. The connection of Capernaum with the church which the Lord was about to raise up from among the Gentiles is indicated by the circumstances connected with the very next mention of that city by Matthew. For when the Lord, after his sermon on the mount, “entered into Capernaum there came unto him a centurion beseeching him to heal his servant, and whose humility drew forth from him the remark that he had not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
The state of the Gentiles at the time of our Lord’s coming was widely different from that into which the Jews had so deeply plunged themselves. All, both Jews and Gentiles, were included under sin, but as the Gentiles, unlike the Jews, sinned, not against the clear light of Revelation, but against the dim light of tradition, their spiritual condition was much less deplorable. They sat in darkness, and in the region and shadow of death; but their darkness was the error of ignorance, and their death was the evil of natural concupiscence. They were in the region of death in regard to the unregenerate state of the will; and as evil in the will, by intercepting the light of truth flowing in from heaven, casts its dark shadow on the understanding, they were intellectually in the shadow of death. And not only were they in this region and shadow of death, but they “sat” therein, an expression which always implies a degree of confirmation in the particular state of life to which it relates. Yet the evils and errors of those who are out of the church, and even of the ignorant and simple-minded within it, are not of so deeply malignant a character as those of the well-instructed, who have entered deeply into the mysteries of faith. They, therefore, who sit in this darkness are capable of seeing great light, when it is revealed to them, and to them who sit in the region and shadow of this death light springs up when it shows them the way of life; for they are more disposed than the wise and prudent to receive the light of truth, and to be led by it into a true faith, and into genuine charity.
But this subject deserves to be considered in reference to the Lord himself; for Capernaum, as his new place of abode, must have the same relation to his public life as Nazareth had to his private life. “In the supreme sense, Zabulon and Nephthalim (as the sons and tribes of Israel) signified the union of the Divinity itself with the Lord’s divine humanity, by means of temptation admitted into himself, and victories therein obtained by his own inherent power.” For this union in the Lord is analogous to the conjunction of good and truth in man. When we consider the difference between the Lord’s two states and modes of life, before and after his baptism, and the different significations of Nazareth and Capernaum, we must see the appropriateness of his leaving that “where he was brought up” for one which henceforth became “his own city.” In the Lord’s private and public life we cannot fail to see a correspondence with the two successive states of man’s regeneration. The internal is first to be regenerated, and afterwards the external. Nazareth, signifying separation, represented that state and period of the Lord’s life when his internal was regenerated – his state as a celestial man separate from the world. Capernaum represented that state and period of his life during which his external man was regenerated. To this Capernaum, being “on the sea coast” and “on the borders” of the land of Zabulon and Nephthalim answered. But there are other instructive circumstances besides these. Between the Lord’s abode in these two places lay his baptism and his temptation in the wilderness. The baptism of John represented the purification of the external; and temptation, which was included in the signification of that rite, and into which our Lord entered immediately after his baptism, is the means by which evil in the external man is subdued and by which the internal and external are united. And here we see the suitableness of the Lord, after his temptations in the wilderness, coming into the land of Zabulon and Nephthalim, which, we have seen, signify the conjunction of good and truth by means of temptation, and, in reference to the Lord, the union of his divinity and humanity through temptations from the powers of darkness and victories over them. While therefore, Nazareth was the place where he was “brought up,” Capernaum was, in a divine as well as in a natural sense, “his own city,” for he became what Capernaum represented. It is not to be understood that the Lord’s temptations were ended before he entered into Capernaum. On the contrary, he suffered much from the Capernians themselves, among whom he had done many of his greatest works. But we are to remember that even among the Gentiles there were, as there still are, the evil as well as the good, and consequently the unbelieving as well as the believing. And it was against Capernaum as consisting of and representing these, that our Lord afterwards uttered such severe censures and denunciations.
16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
16 Those who do not possess faith are called dead.
See Isaiah xxvi. 14. A. 290.
Falsities prevailing without the church are also called darkness, but such as is capable of being illuminated. Darkness here signifies the falsities of ignorance, such as prevail with the Gentiles. A. 1839.
That the Lord is light, that is essential good and truth, and that thus all intelligence and wisdom is from Him, consequently all salvation. A. 3195.
By death is signified spiritual death or condemnation. A. 6119.
Those therefore who either pervert, or extinguish, or reject in themselves the good that is of love, and the truth that is of faith, have no life in them, for the life which is from the Divine Being consists in willing good and believing truths. But those who do not will good but evil, and do not believe truth but falsity, have the opposite of life. This opposite of life is hell and is called death, and they are called dead. The life of love and faith is called life, and also life everlasting, and those Who have it within them are called living, and the opposite to life is called death, and also eternal death, and those who have it within them are called dead. A. 7494.
As the Lord in the heavens is Divine truth, and the Divine truth there is light, so in the Word He is called Light, likewise all truth from Him. H. 129.
Since without the Word there is no knowledge of the Lord, thus no salvation, therefore, when the Word with the Jewish nation was entirely falsified and adulterated, and thus, as if it were, made void, it pleased the Lord to descend from heaven and come into the world to fulfil the Word, and thereby to renew and restore it and give light again to the inhabitants of the earth. S. 111.
Darkness signifies falsity, proceeding either from ignorance of the truth, or from falsity of religion, or from a life of evil. R. 413.
The Lord is the light from which all enlightenment and consequent perception of truth comes. And because the Lord is light, the devil is darkness, and the devil is the love of ruling over all the holy things of the Lord, and thus over Himself, and as far as power is given to it, so far it darkens, extinguishes, consumes, and burns up the holy Divine things of the Lord. R. 796.
He is that very Lord who was born into the world, and was then the light, and who will come with new light, which will arise upon His New Church, which is the Holy Jerusalem. . . He is therefore called a star and also light. R. 954.
When the Word was entirely falsified and adulterated by the Jewish nation, and rendered in a manner of no effect, it pleased the Lord to descend from heaven, and to come as the Word, and to fulfil it, and thus to renew and restore it, and to give light again to the inhabitants of the earth. T. 270.
Darkness also signifies the falsity which is not of evil, such as the falsity of religion with the upright Gentiles, originating in ignorance of the truth. E. 526.
The statement of S. in, referring to Matthew iv. 16, is also given in the posthumous ” De Verbo.” D. V. 17. 17 There is a faith which is of God, and a faith which is of man. Those have the faith which is of God who do the work of repentance, but those who neglect repentance, and yet think of imputation, have only the faith which is of man. The faith which is of God is living faith, but the faith which is of man is dead faith.
That the Lord Himself, and His disciples preached repentance for the remission of sins, is evident. See also Luke iii. 8, 9 : Luke xiii. 3, 5. Jesus said to the apostles that they must preach in His name repentance for the remission of sins. L. 18.
See Chapter III., 2. R. 749.
Actual repentance is absolutely necessary, and man’s
salvation depends on it, as is plain from many passages
and positive declarations of the Lord in the Word. See
Luke iii. 3-8 : Mark i. 15 ; vi. 12 : Acts ii. 38. T. 528.
See Chapter III., 2. E. 376.
17, 23. See Chapter III., 2. R. 553.
See Chapter III., 2. R. 839.
See Chapter III., 2. T. 113.
17 The state on which the Lord had now entered, being one in which the Word came forth from its interior recess in the internal of the Lord’s humanity into a more outward development and manifestation, he began to take up the thread of John the Baptist’s discourse, and preach the same doctrine to mankind. From that time, Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent; for the kingdom heaven is at hand. This is indeed an epoch in our Lord’s history. It forms the commencement of his ministry – the first of the sublime teachings which make up the incomparable code of interior and spiritual wisdom that stamps the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation. The time from which Jesus began to preach was that in which “he learnt experience from the things which he suffered.” He had been tempted, and had passed through the fiery ordeal refined and tempered. And now he was prepared to give the world the fruits of his practical wisdom. Time is the emblem of state; and the state which results from successful temptation is, as we have seen, a state of conjunction – in the Lord’s case, the union of goodness and truth, and a proportional union of his divine and human natures. Preaching is appropriate to the state on which the Lord had now entered; for it is the function of the internal to think and feel, of the external to speak and act. It is worthy of remark that the theme of the beginning of the Lord’s preaching is precisely the same as that of John the Baptist’s. It is said by some that repentance is not the gospel. No doubt the gospel includes much besides the doctrine of repentance, but there can be no gospel without repentance. Repentance, we repeat, as it was the first duty preached, is the first to be performed. It is the gate of introduction to that kingdom of heaven which was declared to be near at hand. It is not “believe,” but “repent and believe,” that forms the enlarged teaching of the gospel.
“Repent” was the first word uttered by the Divine Preacher, and stands as the Portal of the True Christian Temple of religion. Whoever would enter in, must pass through the gate of Repentance. Although there is no literal difference, there is a spiritual distinction between preaching and saying; mentioned together, they imply that the Lord addresses himself to the will and to the understanding; and repentance respects both, for we have to repent of our evils and also our errors.
18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
20And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
18, 19. Fishes signify those who are in general truths and in faith conjoined with charity. He who knows therefore that such persons and things are signified by fishes, may see why the Lord chose fishermen for His disciples. R. 405.
A fisherman, in the spiritual sense of the Word, signifies a man who investigates and teaches natural truths, and afterwards spiritual truths in a rational manner. I. 20.
18, 19. In these words also there is a spiritual sense, as well as in other parts of the Word. The Lord’s choosing the fishermen, and saying that they should become fishers of men, signified that they should gather men to the church ; by the nets which they let down . . . was signified the reformation of the church by them, for by fishes are signified there the knowledges of truth and good, by which reformation is effected, also the multitude of men who should be reformed. Similar things are also signified by the draught of fishes taken by the disciples after the resurrection of the Lord. E. 513.
18-20. In general Peter, James, and John represented faith, charity, and the works of charity, wherefore those three in preference to the rest followed the Lord. . . . And as truth from good which is from the Lord is the first of the church, therefore Peter was first called by Andrew his brother, and afterwards James and John, as appears in Matthew. E. 820.
18 But when the Lord appeared before the world as the Preacher of the gospel, he was pleased to employ other instruments to carry on the great work. Walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. The calling of the apostles is an interesting and instructive circumstance. The selection of the men who were to be, so to speak, the companions of the Saviour in his life, and labourers with him in his beneficent work, is a matter of deep interest. But when we know that the apostles, as a body and as individuals, sustained a representative character, the choice becomes instructive as well as interesting. The apostles were the first-fruits of the church, and represented it. There is an evident resemblance of the twelve apostles to the twelve patriarchs and tribes of Israel which is rendered evident by the names of both being inscribed, one on the foundations, the other on the gates of the Holy Jerusalem. The twelve apostles like the twelve patriarchs, represented all or every class who constitute the church on earth and in heaven, of which the sealing of the twelve tribes in the Revelation (ch. vii.) may convince us. As the apostles represent all the members of the church, abstractly, they represent all the principles of the church, or all the graces and virtues that constitute the church or heaven in the regenerate mind. Understood in this sense, each apostle represents a particular grace. And the order in which they were chosen, like that in which the sons of Israel were born, represented the order in which the corresponding graces are received into the mind in the progress of the spiritual life. The New Testament does not give the history of the calling of all the twelve apostles, as the Old Testament does that of the birth of the twelve sons of Israel, but so far as the history goes, the parallel is complete. The first four apostles are, similar to the first four patriarchs. The call of the one and the birth of the other are correspondent. Like Simon Peter, Reuben signifies faith in the understanding; like Andrew, Simeon signifies faith in the heart; like James, Levi signifies charity; and John, like Judah, signifies love. It was when Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee that he saw the brethren, and called them. The scene which this part of the gospel presents is touching and beautiful in its simplicity. Jesus, choosing out men for his work of evangelizing the world, walks along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and calls unto him some of the fishermen engaged in their humble calling, that they may become fishers of men. The sea, we have seen, signifies the external of heaven and the church; and those who dwell by the sea are such as are of an external but simple character. The Sea of Galilee represented the heathen world as to its intellectual character and condition, and those who were fishers in it were, by analogy, suited to become fishers of men. But the sea has another and kindred signification. As “the gathering together of waters,” which are emblematical of truths, the sea signifies the literal sense of the Word, which is the ultimate receptacle of all divine truth; and the fish in the sea signify the living, literal truths which it contains. Fishers in this sense are such as study the Divine Word, to draw from it the truths that sustain the religious life both of themselves and others. This is a qualification required in those who become fishers of men. And, indeed, the catching of men is effected by the acquisition and communication of the truths of the Holy Word; so that none but those who search the Word can evangelize the world. It was because both these meanings were included in the Sea of Galilee that the Lord walked on its shores, to choose from among its fishermen those who were required to go forth to teach and to preach in his name. As he walked he saw two brothers. And there was a reason for those he then chose being brothers. Truth and good are brothers, or, what is the same thing, faith and obedience are brothers, for truth in the understanding is faith, and truth in the will is obedience. In choosing Peter first, our Lord teaches us that faith is the first grace that finds a place in the minds of the regenerate. Repentance, we have said, is the gate of introduction into the church – but repentance is rather an act and a state than a grace – it is a general turning of the mind away from sin, which prepares it for the reception of the graces of religion, or of the principles which form it. Repent and believe. Repentance, like John the Baptist, precedes and prepares the way of the Lord – faith like Peter, comes after him and follows up his work. Hence our Lord said, “Follow me.” Faith is not mere intellectual belief, but is the faith of truth grounded in good. He who was first chosen is therefore called Simon Peter, though the surname had not then been given, because these two names indicate faith as an intellectual state resting on the will; and Andrew expresses its fulness by being manifested in the life. When the Lord called these brethren, they were casting a net into the sea. They were in the very act which represented the exercise of the function they were called to assume, and using the instrument that corresponded with the means they were so successfully to employ, in drawing truths from the Word and men into the church. A net, like a hook, signifies doctrine, because it is an application of science to obtain results that men’s unaided powers could not effect. Doctrine is necessary both to draw truths from the Word and men into the church; for without it we can neither rightly understand nor apply truths. Therefore “fishers,” which Peter and Andrew are said to have been, are “those who search out and teach, first natural truths, and afterwards spiritual truths, in a rational manner.”
19 When Jesus saw Peter and Andrew, he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. In the time of our Lord’s sojourn on earth, men who received the Lord as the Messiah were frequently required literally to follow him. Spiritually, all require to follow him by walking in the truth and imitating his holy example. And this the disciple must do if, from being a learner and teacher of natural truth, he would become a learner and teacher of spiritual truth. This progression is meant by becoming a fisher of Men. Fish signify natural truths, and men rational truths. To be fishers of men the disciples must be able to teach spiritual truths after a rational manner. And this can only be done by following the Lord as the Divine Truth itself, and as that Divine Truth manifested in human nature; for the Lord became man, that he might become the fisher of men, both immediately and by means of others.
Faith in the understanding however clear and bright, will not alone suffice for our salvation. Peter has indeed the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and can open it to our view; but he must be accompanied by his brother Andrew before we can fully enter into it. For as Peter signifies faith in the understanding, so Andrew his brother signifies faith in the will, as a willing devotedness of oneself to the practice of what faith teaches.
It is to such characters as these, or to those who are earnest in connecting faith and obedience, that the Lord peculiarly addresses himself, saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This injunction is of the utmost weight and importance. We follow the Lord when we become his disciples, more especially when we follow his example; but the deep import of this command can only be seen when it is understood that the Lord alludes to the process through which he passed in glorifying his humanity and uniting it to his divinity, of which transcendent process the regeneration of man, or the process by which man acquires a spiritual quality and attains conjunction with the Lord, is an image and imperfect copy.
20 It is surprising, and shows the influence which the Lord exercised over well-disposed minds, that when he called the two brothers, they straightway left their nets, and followed him. It is to be understood, that while the Lord was raising up a church among the Gentiles, the first fruits of his ministry were Jews who were in a Gentile state, for such were necessary to be instruments of reaching others through the Scriptures. The doctrines and truths of the Word were the net by which they were to draw men into the church. But in order that they might receive and use the “gospel net,” they must leave their Jewish net behind. And such only as were willing to do this could become apostles of the new dispensation. New wine cannot be put into old bottles. New truths cannot be put into old doctrinals. The doctrinals of the Jewish church related in a great measure to ceremonials, which were to be abolished. As bottles they had served their use, and new bottles were to be provided for new wine. The old nets were not more required than old bottles. These two disciples, leaving their nets, followed the Lord; followed him in the regeneration in performing works of love, and in teaching truths of wisdom. Happy are they who have advanced to the state represented by Simon and Andrew when they obeyed the Lord’s call – for they have entered into a state of conjunction with the Lord, and secured, if they faint not, a place in his kingdom.
21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.
22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
21-22. That the Lord called James and John after He had called Peter appears from the evangelists. E. 821.
21 But excellent as this state is, it is not the highest that the Lord has prepared for them that serve him. For we find that Jesus went on further. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother. By going on is meant a progression or advancement in the state treated of. This, with respect to the Lord himself, is a progression towards more intimate union with the Essential Divine called the Father; and with respect to man, it is progression towards more interior conjunction with the Lord, or a deeper and more interior reception of him in the mind – the opening of a principle in the mind in which he can more intimately dwell. According we find that a very distinct state is alluded to; for it proceeds to say that he saw other two brethren. The reason of this particular distinction is because Peter and Andrew, considered together, represent here the first state of the regenerate life, in which the understanding dictates and the will obeys: but the calling of James and John represented a state in which the will itself is renewed, and, no longer requiring to be led by the understanding, asserts its pre-eminence, and needs only to consult the understanding to draw thence the means of executing the good purposes which it now intends. James, accordingly, is the type of the heavenly principle of charity, or of love towards the neighbour; and John is that spontaneous determination of love into action by virtue of which a benevolent purpose is no sooner conceived in the heart than the hands and all the outward faculties are put into requisition for its performance. How elevated a state that is in which love and charity immediately influence the will, and good is done from spontaneous affection! and how superior it is to the doing of good from motives of obedience only, and from intellectual conviction, must be evident to all. Still more superior is it to that state in which men do good from the promptings of good natural dispositions, without any spiritual charity in the heart or any spiritual truth in the understanding. Natural good is indeed a medium for receiving spiritual good, but cannot be a substitute for it. This good seems to be denoted by Zebedee, the father of James and John. When good from the Lord is received, this natural good as a principle of action is no longer wanted, nor indeed, admissible; and therefore James and John, when they received the Lord’s call, left their father and followed him. That Zebedee represented the will-principle in general as to the good natural affections which are received by birth, would appear from another important occasion on which James and John are named as his sons. When the mother of these two disciples came to ask of the Lord that they might sit, the one on his right hand and the other on his left in his kingdom, she is called the mother of Zebedee’s children, no doubt to mark the natural origin of the request, in which there was something of self-exaltation which required to be crucified – for the Lord said to the sons, “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” but which had so much good in it as, to be able and willing to endure the trial – for they said, “We are able.”
22 And they immediately left the ship and their father and followed him. The Lord required of his disciples that they should leave father and mother, and wife and children, and all that they had, and follow him. This, which was literally done in the days of his flesh, is to be done spiritually now. For these natural relations were the types of the natural principles which constitute our selfhood. It is in reference to these that the Divine Teacher also says, that “a man’s foes shall be they of his own household;” and from whom he is therefore required to separate himself. The two brethren leaving the ship and their father to follow Jesus, was thus a natural act, representing the spiritual duty of giving up all things. Both of the natural understanding and the natural will, that we may become the Lord’s disciples. And this is done “immediately,” when it is done without hesitancy or reservation; for as the spiritual sense has no relation to time, but only to state, “immediately” means certainly, as the result of strong affection and unwavering faith.
23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
23 As diseases represented the iniquities and evils of spiritual life, therefore the diseases which the Lord healed, signified deliverance from the various kinds of evil and falses which infested the church and the human race, and which would have induced spiritual death. Hence it is so often said, that the Lord healed every disease and sickness. A. 8364.
24 It is on account of the Lord’s being called a king, that heaven and the church are said to be His kingdom, and that the announcement of His coming into the world is called the gospel of the kingdom. L. 42.
That to declare glad tidings, signifies the Lord’s advent, and then His kingdom, is manifest from these passages Isaiah xl. 9, 10 : Nahum i. 15, etc. R. 478.
The Lord is called King in His Divine Humanity, because This is the Messiah, the Anointed, the Christ, the Son of God. . . . Heaven and the church are called His kingdom. . . . And His coming is called the gospel of the kingdom. R. 664.
See Chapter III., 2. R. 749.
The reason why by a synagogue is signified doctrine, is because doctrine was taught in the synagogues, and also because differences in doctrinal subjects were there decided. E. 120.
By the kingdom of God are understood a new heaven and a new church from the Lord. As to preach or to evangelise, signifies to announce the advent of the Lord, hence by the gospel, in the supreme sense, is signified the Lord Himself as to His advent, as to judgment, and as to the salvation of the faithful. E. 612.
23 The Lord, though he had chosen labourers to work in his vineyard, did not on that account cease to work in it himself. Jesus went, about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. Galilee, we have seen, represented, in relation to man, the natural mind. And when the Lord, after choosing these four disciples, went about all Galilee, we are instructed that when the Lord, as the Divine Truth, is received in faith and love in the inner man, his Divine presence and power descend into the external, carrying light and joy and healing into every faculty and principle therein. The Lord’s labours there are particularly described. He was employed in teaching preaching and healing – teaching truth to the intellect, preaching good to the will, and healing the disorders of evil and falsity in the life. He taught in their synagogues, for a synagogue signifies the church as to doctrine; he preached the gospel of the kingdom, for the gospel signifies the truths and goods of the Word, revealed at the coming of the Lord and governing in the heart; he healed all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people, for sickness and disease signify the practical disorders of the life, arising from evil lusts and false persuasions being brought into act; and their existence among the “people” signifies that the disorders had an intellectual origin: for evil may either pass from the understanding into the will, or from the will into the understanding; and those which originate in the intellect are less malignant and deadly than those which originate in the will. Sins of error are less destructive than sins of intention. And this more especially is the character of evil among the Gentiles, or those in the church who are in a Gentile state; and those are meant especially by the Galileans, who dwelt in the land, which represented the church, and were yet in a Gentile state.
24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with dev ils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.
24 In hell they are called demons who are in the cupidity of falsifying truths, which is chiefly effected by reasonings, hence by demons and demoniacs, in the abstract sense, are signified cupidities and falses. E. 1001.
24 And his fame went throughout all Syria. Syria, or Aram, was out of the holy land, on the other side of Jordan. But it was in this country that the Hebrew church commenced and some remains of the knowledges of which still existed in the time of Abraham, who was of Padan-aram, and even in the time of Balaam, who knew Jehovah, and made a perverse use of the knowledge he possessed, by using divination against the children of Israel. The remains of the Hebrew, or second ancient church, continued in Syria a long time; but it at last became idolatrous. Syria has therefore two opposite significations. Considered as the seat of the Hebrew church, it signifies the knowledges of good and truth; but considered as idolatrous, it signifies the opposite, or these principles perverted. When, therefore, the Lord’s fame went into all Syria, it went among a people who were not pure Gentiles, but who had affinity with the church. And the result showed that the Syrians were ready to receive the gospel, and to acknowledge the Lord is the Messiah; for they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic and those that had the palsy. Sickness is a universal term, including under it general and particular evils of every kind. Evils generally are those of the will and the understanding, which are here meant by diseases and torments. Particular evils are those of the will, the understanding, and the life, and these are meant by the three afflictions that follow. Devils are evils of the will; lunatics are falses of the understanding; and palsies are evils of the life.
These include, indeed, almost all the maladies that are mentioned in the New Testament as those with which the multitudes were afflicted that came to Jesus for a cure. His power was equal to the greatest demand that was made upon it. The present relation gives us the impression, if not the assurance, that the maladies were not only diverse, but numerous; they came from all parts of Syria, and were additional to those who came from Galilee. Yet he healed them all. And he is still the same merciful and infallible Physician. He heals the spiritual disorders and diseases of all who come to him, and who trust in his power to save.
25 Besides the numerous sick and afflicted that were healed, there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan. These great multitudes represented the numerous thoughts and affections of the mind that the Lord, by healing and regenerating the soul, draws into connection with himself, and conforms to the laws of his own Divine life, which is specially meant by following him. The regions from which these multitudes came indicate the kind of thoughts and affections they represent. Those from Galilee and Decapolis signify the inner and outer, or celestial and spiritual-natural; for Decapolis was out of the land: lying between Canaan and Syria; Jerusalem and Judea signify the spiritual and celestial; and those beyond Jordan signify the sensual and corporeal. Thus these multitudes include all classes of persons and principles, spiritually considered, that receive love and light from the Lord, and that follow him in the regeneration. Taken in connection with the calling of the four disciples, and making them fishers of men, and their following him as their Lord, this great multitude from all parts represented affections and thoughts of all kinds, brought under the influence of the Divine Love and wisdom of Jesus, the Saviour, now received as the Supreme Object of faith and love into the understanding and will. These are the great multitudes to whom, with the disciples, the Lord addressed his Sermon on the mount. The sublimity and universality of the truths he then delivered deserved an audience drawn together from all parts, both within and beyond the land of Canaan. And so with us individually; all our best thoughts and affections should be turned to the Lord, every faculty and power should be devoted to him, when he discourses to us of those high and holy principles that he came on earth to reveal, and which he is ever teaching through his Word, and continually operating by his Spirit to implant in the hearts of men.
AUTHOR: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (COMPILED BY ROBERT S. FISCHER AND LOUIS G. HOECK 1906)
COMMENTARY AUTHOR: WILLIAM BRUCE (1866)
PICTURES: JAMES TISSOT Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum