Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17 ESV)

We are told of the presence of all Three Persons of the blessed Trinity. God the Son, manifest in the flesh, is baptized; God the Spirit descends like a dove, and lights upon Him; God the Father speaks from heaven with a voice. In a word, we have the manifested presence of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. We may regard this as a public announcement that the work of Christ was the result of the eternal counsels of all the Three Persons of the blessed Trinity. It was the whole Trinity, which at the beginning of the creation said, “Let us make man;” it was the whole Trinity again, which at the beginning of the Gospel seemed to say, “Let us save man.”

– JC Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (1856), at 22-23


“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27)

How shall we explain these words? In what way did our Lord show “things concerning himself”, in every part of the Old Testament field? The answer to these questions is short and simple. Christ was the substance of every Old Testament sacrifice, ordained in the law of Moses. Christ was the true Deliverer and King, of whom all the judges and deliverers in Jewish history were types. Christ was the coming Prophet greater than Moses, whose glorious advent filled the pages of prophets. Christ was the true seed of the woman who was to bruise the serpent’s head, — the true seed in whom all nations were to be blessed, — the true Shiloh to whom the people were to be gathered, — the true scapegoat, — the true brazen serpent, — the true Lamb to which every daily offering pointed, — the true High Priest of whom every descendant of Aaron was a figure. These things, or something like them, we need not doubt, were some of the things which our Lord expounded in the way to Emmaus.

Let it be a settled principle in our minds, in reading the Bible, that Christ is the central sun of the whole book. So long as we keep Him in view, we shall never greatly err, in our search for spiritual knowledge. Once losing sight of Christ, we shall find the whole Bible dark and full of difficulty. The key of Bible knowledge is Jesus Christ.

– J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 2), at 501

Let us learn a lesson from the two travellers to Emmaus. Let us speak of Jesus, when we are sitting in our houses and when we are walking by the way, whenever we can find a disciple to speak to. (Deut 6:7) If we believe we are journeying to a heaven where Christ will be the central object of every mind, let us begin to learn the manners of heaven, while we are yet upon earth. So doing we shall often have One with us whom our eyes will not see, but One who will make our hearts “burn within us” by blessing the conversation.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 2), at 499

It is meet and right beyond doubt that buildings set apart for Christian worship, should be worthy of the purpose for which they are used. Whatever is done for Christ ought to be well done. The house in which the Gospel is preached, and the Word of God read, and prayer offered up, ought to lack nothing that can make it comely and substantial. But let it never be forgotten that the material part of a Christian Church is by far the least important part of it. The fairest combinations of marble, and stone, and wood, and painted glass, are worthless in God’s sight, unless there is truth in the pulpit, and grace in the congregation. The dens and caves in which the early Christians used to meet, were probably far more beatufiul in the eyes of Christ, than the noblest cathedral that was ever reared by man. The temple in which the Lord Jesus delights most, is a broken and contrite heart, renewed by the Holy Ghost.

– J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 2), at 357.

Let us take comfort in the thought that in the long run of years the truth will always prevail. Its advocates may often be feeble, and their arguments very weak. But there is an inherent strength in the cause itself which keeps it alive. Bold infidels like Porphyry, and Julian, and Hobbes, and Hume, and Voltaire, and Payne arise from time to time and make a stir in the world. But they produce no lasting impression. They pass away like the Sadducees and go to their own place. The great evidences of Christianity remain like the Pyramids, unshaken and unmoved. The “gates of hell” shall never prevail against Christ’s truth. (Matt 16:18)

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol 2), at 338.

“one darling sin”

We learn, secondly, from these verses, what harm one master-sin may do to a soul. The desires which the rich ruler expressed were right and good. He wanted “eternal life”. There seemed at first sight no reason why he should not be taught the way of God, and become a disciple. But there was one thing, unhappily, which he loved better than “eternal life”. That thing was his money. When invited by Christ, to give up all that he had on earth, and seek treasure in heaven, he had not faith to accept the invitation. The love of money was his master-sin.

Shipwrecks like this are sadly common in the Church of Christ. Few are the ministers who could not put their finger on many cases like that of the man before us. Many are ready to give up everything for Christ’s sake, exceptone darling sin, and for the sake of that sin are lost for evermore. When Herod heard John the Baptist, he “heard him gladly and did many things.” But there was one thing he could not do. He could not part with Herodias. That one thing cost Herod his soul. (Mark 6:20)

There must be no reserve in our hearts, if we would receive anything at Christ’s hands. We must be willing to part with anything, however dear it may be, if it stands between us and our salvation. We must be ready to cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye, to make any sacrifice, and to break any idol. Life, we must remember, eternal life is at stake! One leak neglected, is enough to sink a mighty ship. One besetting sin, obstinately clung to, is enough to shut a soul out of heaven. The love of money, secretly nourished in the heart, is enough to bring a man, in other respects moral and irreproachable, down to the pit of hell. 

– JC Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol 2), at 272-273. (Commenting on Luke 18:18-27)

52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” (Luke 22:52-53, ESV)

“We read that our Lord said to His enemies when they took Him, ‘This is your hour and the power of darkness.’

“The sovereignty of God over everything done upon earth is absolute and complete. The hands of the wicked are bound until He allows them to work. They can do nothing without His permission. — But this is not all. The hands of the wicked cannot stir one moment before God allows them to begin, and cannot stir one moment after God commands them to stop. The very worst of Satan’s instruments are working in chains.He could not touch Job’s property or person until God allowed him. He could not prevent Job’s prosperity returning, when God’s designs on Job were accomplished. Our Lord’s enemies could not take and slay Him, until the appointed “hour” of His weakness arrived. Nor yet could they prevent His rising again, when the hour came in which He was declared the Son of God with power, by His resurrection from the dead (Rom 1:4). When He was led forth to Calvary, it was “their hour”. When He rose victorious from the grave, it was His. 

“The verses before us throw light on the history of believers in ages gone by, from the time of the apostles down to the present day. They have often been sorely oppressed and persecuted, but the hand of their enemies has never been allowed entirely to prevail. The “hour” of their trials has generally been succeeded by a season of light. The triumph of their enemies has never been entire and complete. They have had their “hour”, but they have had no more. After the persecution about Stephen, came the conversion of St Paul. […] The longest night has had its morning. The sharpest winters have been followed by spring. The heaviest storms have been changed for blue sky.

“Let us take comfort in these words of our Lord, in looking forward to our own future lives. If we are followers of Christ, we shall have an “hour” of trial, and it may be a long hour too. But we may rest assured that the darkness shall not last one moment longer than God sees fit for us. In His good time it shall vanish away. ‘At evening time there shall be light.’

“Finally, let us take comfort in these words of our Lord, in looking forward to the future history of the Church and the world. Clouds and darkness may gather round the ark of God. Persecutions and tribulations may assail the people of God. The last days of the Church and world will probably be their worst days. But the “hour” of trial, however grievous, will have an end. Even at the worst we may boldly say, ‘The night is far spent and the day is at hand.’ (Rom 13:12)”

– J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, at 431-433.

‘pray earnestly’

As I read through Luke 10:1-24, a couple of things struck me.

First, the strong imperative from Christ to ‘pray earnestly’:

After this the Lord appointed seventy two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. (10:1-2)

I’ve been trying, since the beginning of this week, to start every morning with prayer, and prayer particularly for revival. Thus Christ’s command here deeply resonated with me. Ryle had this to say:

Prayer is one of the best and most powerful means of helping forward the cause of Christ in the world. It is a means within the reach of all who have the Spirit of adoption. Not all believers have money to give to missions. Very few have great intellectual gifts, or extensive influence among men. But all believers can pray for the success of the Gospel – and they ought to pray for it daily. Many and marvellous are the answers to prayer which are recorded for our learning in the Bible. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)

Prayer is one of the principal weapons which the minister of the Gospel ought to use. To be a true successor of the apostles, he must give himself to prayer as well as to the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:4) He must not only use the sword of the Spirit, but pray always, with all prayer and supplication. (Eph 6:17,18) This is the way to win a blessing on his own ministry. This, above all, is the way to procure helpers to carry on Christ’s work. Colleges may educate men. Bishops may ordain them. Patrons may give them livings. But God alone can raise up and send forth “labourers” who will do work among souls. For a constant supply of such labourers let us daily pray.”

– Expository Thoughts on Luke, at 345-6

A second thing which struck me was the sovereignty of God in our salvation. At 10:21-22, Jesus rejoiced (rejoiced!) in the Holy Spirit, thanking God the Father that He had ‘hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children’, for such was His ‘gracious will.’ Christ goes on:

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (10:22)

The Spirit blows where it pleases. God saves those He chooses, in Christ (cf Eph 1:1-14). Ryle again:

The truth here laid down is deep and mysterious. ‘It is high as heaven: what can we do? It is deep as hell: what do we know?’ Why some around us are converted and others remain dead in sins, we cannot possibly explain. Why England is a Christian country and China buried in idolatry*, is a problem we cannot solve. We only know that it is so. We can only acknowledge that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ supply the only answer that mortal man ought to give: ‘Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.’ (v24, KJV)

Expository Thoughts on Luke, at 356 (*published in 1858)

And I suppose this is what makes prayer and petition all the more important.

Father, You call us to intercede for the success of Your gospel, to stand in the gap for the lost. “Pray earnestly”, is Your command. I will pray. And I ask that You would save. 

Many a man begins a religious life full of warmth and zeal, and by and bye loses all his first love, and turns back again to the world. He liked the new uniform, and the bounty money, and the name of a Christian soldier. – He never considered the watching, and warring, and wounds, and conflicts, which Christian soldiers must endure. Let us never forget this lesson. It need not make us afraid to begin serving Christ, but it ought to make us begin carefully, humbly, and with much prayer for grace. If we are not ready to take part in the afflictions of Christ, we must never expect to share His glory.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, at 340 (commenting on Luke 9:57-58)

The name bridegroom, like every name applied to our Lord in the Bible, is full of instruction. It is a name peculiarly comforting and encouraging to all true Christians. It teaches the deep and tender love with which Jesus regards all sinners of mankind, who believe in Him. Weak, and unworthy, and short-coming as they are in themselves, He feels towards them a tender affection, even as a husband does towards his wife. It teaches the close and intimate union, which exists between Jesus and believers. It is something far nearer than the union of king and subject, master and servant, teacher and scholar, shepherd and sheep. It is the closest of all unions, the union of husband and wife, — the union of which it is written, what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. — Above all, the name teaches that entire participation of all that Jesus is and has, which is the privilege of every believer. Just as the husband gives to his wife his name, makes her partaker of his property, home, and dignity, and undertakes all her debts and liabilities, so does Christ deal with all true Christians. He takes on Himself all their sins. He declares that they are a part of Himself, and that he who hurts them hurts Him. He gives them, even in this world, such good things as pass mans understanding. And He promises that in the next world they shall sit with Him on His throne, and go out from His presence no more. 

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, at 154-155.