Wednesday, May 31st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts Expositor's Dictionary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 9". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ edt/ matthew-9.html. 1910.
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 9". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
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The miracle is a parable for the Church in every age. Its teaching is inexhaustible.
1. It should make the heart of the hypocrite, the double-minded man, shrivel.
'Our God is a consuming fire.' Jesus knew their thoughts.
2. It unfolds the Divine power, the personal knowledge of every secret burden of our hearts, the tender individualizing love, of the compassionate Jesus of Nazareth.
Eternity would scarcely be long enough to reveal the fullness of that one word, 'Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven'. This Jesus, by Whom the words were spoken, is 'the same yesterday, and Today, and for ever. What a comfort there is in that one thought.
3. It suggests to us the unspeakable blessing that is always waiting for every penitent and believing soul, whenever the Bride of Christ, speaking in the name of the Lord, utters the word of Absolution. 'As my father sent Me, even so send I you.' 'Whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.' 'Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven; depart in peace.'
This passage teaches us the power, not merely of Christian intercession, but of Christian fellowship; the force that is brought to bear upon the individual soul, wherever a few believers are gathered together with one accord in one place, with one voice proclaiming the glory of God, and with one heart remembering before God those words of the charter of the New Dispensation, 'Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them'. 'Jesus, seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee'. If miracles of healing are to be wrought in our midst, Christians must be found together with one accord in one place, speaking good of the Lord, ascribing glory to His name, praising God.
G. H. Wilkinson, The Invisible Glory, p. 89.
Be of Good Cheer
The first thing that must strike us all in reading Today's Gospel is the kindness of his friends to the sick man. They brought him to the Saviour. Is there no one you can bring? Directly Andrew knew the Lord, he brought his brother to Him (John 1:41-42 ). When the woman of Samaria knew the Christ, she tried to lead her neighbours to Him (John 4:29 ). Remember that it was on seeing the faith of his friends Jesus healed the man sick of the palsy (James 2:18 ). Consider:
I. His Word of Comfort. 'Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee '(v. 2). He makes him see his affliction in the true light the loving discipline of a father to his child (Hebrews 12:6-7 ) that it yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby (Hebrews 12:11 ; Isaiah 40:1-2 ). He tells him that the cause of his trouble his sin is removed. Only let us know that our iniquities are forgiven, and though there may be affliction afterwards, still there is joy and peace in believing (Psalms 32:1-2 ; see Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:17 ).
II. His Word of Reasoning (vv. 3-5). Some murmured when Jesus assured the man of his present forgiveness. They knew nothing of His love to sinners (Luke 15:2 ; Matthew 9:13 ). They knew nothing of His power to forgive (Luke 1:77 ). But Jesus says, 'Whether is it easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise and walk?' If He has power by His word to give new life and energy to one who is beyond human cure, He must be God; so also if He gave pardon of sin; for salvation belongeth unto the Lord (Isaiah 43:11 ).
III. His Word of Power. 'Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house' (v. 6). Life and healing accompanied the word (v. 7). Those who are healed by Jesus are immediately called to show their new life by its exercise. They must walk in resurrection-life (Ephesians 5:8 ; 1 Peter 2:9 ). They must show to others what God has done for them; and where should they first display His grace but in their own homes? (Luke 8:39 ; 1 Timothy 5:8 ).
Have you learned the power of Jesus to forgive? It is the first step in happiness (Psalms 89:15 ). You may learn many other things; but this alone makes us of good cheer (Romans 5:1 ).
Matthew 9:2 , with Mark 2:3-12
Of all the words of grace that proceeded out of the mouth of Jesus, few are more precious than those which He spoke to the man that was sick of the palsy. There the unhappy man lay, stretched upon his couch, sick at heart, and weak in body, a burden alike to himself and to his friends, unable to move unless they chose to move him. For him the future could be but one long stretch of misery. There was only one hope: if Jesus could but see him and touch him the wonderful Jesus, who had already shown such strange love for sick folk and such mysterious power over the diseases that vexed them perhaps he might yet be made well again. It may be that the man himself had no hope; but his friends hoped for him, and earnest friendship availeth much. They were in deadly earnest: and, though under the circumstances a meeting with Jesus was hard to secure for the place was crowded to the door and He was preaching they yet contrived, with an ingenuity sharpened by affection, to bring their helpless friend right into the presence of Jesus.
I. What will Jesus say? He was deeply cheered by the faith the friends had shown, and He would not let such faith go away disappointed. So, turning to the helpless man upon the couch, He said, 'Courage, child'. He said more, but He began by saying that. And we can imagine how these two simple words, each in its own way, began to touch the springs of life and hope in the wasted body before Him. The man, if a great sinner, may have been accustomed to words of reproach, or to that cold and shallow consolation which stings more keenly than reproach; and now he is told to take heart again. Here is One who speaks to him as if He believed in the possibility of his physical and spiritual recovery, One who appeals to his slumbering hope and heroism. And so tender an appeal too! He calls him 'child'. Many a year had passed since he had been anybody's 'child'; and the tenderness of the Speaker, no less than His first great, authoritative word, goes to the heart of the unhappy man. His inner world is transformed; a new life courses through his veins, and it will not be long till he will be upon his feet, and going upon his way rejoicing. In the presence of this mysterious One, who speaks to him hopefully, who bids him be brave, who assures him of the forgiveness of sins, and who calls him child, old things are passed away, and a new day has dawned.
II. Doubtless this was one of the favourite words of Jesus. When the woman who had been ill twelve years fell trembling at His feet, after touching the hem of His garment, He reassured her with the words, 'Courage, daughter'. When the disciples, after a tempestuous night, were terrified by what seemed like a spectral figure moving towards them over the waves, their fears were met by a familiar voice, 'Courage, it is I: do not be afraid'. And, when by their Master's death, those same disciples were to be launched upon a still more stormy sea, His parting message to them was the same: 'Courage: as for Me, I have conquered the world'. And this was the message with which He still continued to brace and visit men, after He had risen from the dead. When His servant Paul was in danger of being torn to pieces by a fanatical mob, from whose hands he was only rescued by the forcible intervention of Roman soldiers, 'the following night the Lord stood by him, and said, Courage'; and the intrepid career of Paul is the proof that His Master's call to courage kept for ever ringing in his heart. He knew well that the fierce activities and persecutions of his missionary life were killing him, and once and again, on sea and on the land, he had been face to face with death. 'Nevertheless,' he says, 'we are courageous at all times; yes, we are courageous, I say' twice over 'and well pleased to leave our home in the body, and to go away to be at home with the Lord.' Death had no terror for this man, he faced it with good courage; for it but took him into the nearer presence of his Lord.
III. These experiences, sickness and sorrow, anxiety and death, lie before us all; and in them how can we be better cheered and heartened than just by the kindly word of Jesus, 'Courage, child'. In our Gospels, as we now have them, the words were first spoken to a weak man and to a sick woman. Such we have always with us; and to the world's weak and sick folk those are the words of Jesus for ever. 'Courage,' He said to those who were tossed upon the sea; and still He says 'Courage' to all who are tossed, to all who are sailing through a black and stormy night, made more awful by the presence of spectres. The spectre which strikes a chill into our hearts is but Himself disguised by the mists. 'It is I,' He says; and the moment we are sure of this, we may well take heart again. 'Courage, it is I, do not be afraid.'
Courage, then, for God is good. Courage, for Jesus is with us on the sick bed, and with us in the storm. Courage, for He overcame, and we shall overcome in Him.
He was brave as He was gentle, and gentle as He was brave. He is touched for evermore with a feeling of our infirmities; and while He appeals to our latent heroism, He yet deals with us as little children. Many a gracious word of His rises to our hearts as we think of Him; but with especial gratitude do we remember Him for this brave and gentle word. And in every hour of pain or fear or desolation may we have grace given us to hear that dear voice saying to our troubled hearts, 'Courage, child'.
J. E. McFadyen, The City With Foundations, p. 157.
References. IX. 2. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew IX.-XVII. p. 1; see also Creed and Conduct, p. 15. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No. 3016. IX. 2-7. Ibid. vol. xxxix. No. 2337. IX. 2-8. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 122. IX. 4-6. A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, vol. ii. p. 121.
I. At almost every stage of the Christian life the call to arise to a higher standard is preceded by a sort of paralysis.
This paralysed man was lying there, helpless; and then the word was spoken, 'Arise!' So it is with us. We have gone on very well; we have been good, moral, honest people. Suddenly, we begin to fail in everything. We are inclined to give up in despair. It is the paralysis that God is allowing, to make us ready to receive the free forgiveness through Jesus Christ, the free mercy of God, bestowed without money and without price.
Later on in life, we prided ourselves, perhaps, on our love to others. Suddenly, we found our temper becoming bad. We were more impatient and irritable; less kind and tender-hearted. It is the paralysis that is to prepare us for seeking, not natural affection but the Divine gift of charity, as portrayed by. the Holy Ghost in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians.
So all through life. If we are to be prepared for receiving Sacramental truth, there often comes such an utter impotence of will, such an inability to realize heavenly things, that we are obliged to seek more Divine life; and so the man who used only to come to the holy table at Christmas or Easter is seen among the communicants, month by month, and then begins to yearn for yet more frequent celebrations. The Voice has found him paralysed, and the Incarnate God has said, 'Arise'.
But when the word is spoken, faith is required. Numbers come to the point of paralysis, and remain there all their life, and pass into the other world.
II. How is this faith to be obtained? How did faith give strength to this man, so that he arose?
By listening to the Word of Jesus Christ There was a spark of faith, probably, before. It was the Word of God that kindled that spark into a burning flame. There was the germ, to begin with; the germ was developed by that one word, 'Arise!' And this is what we are taught by the Holy Spirit in the Epistle to the Romans. Faith, we are told, is not a mere natural confidence; that is, not the mere assent of the understanding. It is that Divine gift of God which enables us practically to realize, as if we saw them, the things which are unseen. 'Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.' Faith is, to the higher part of our being, what the natural eye is to the body. And 'faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God'.
Faith is developed by taking a single text or passage, praying over it, turning it into thanksgiving, reading it, marking it, learning it by heart, and inwardly digesting it, till we have laid hold of the particular portion of everlasting life which God intends at that time to communicate.
III. Just as the paralysed man laid hold of the portion of physical life which was laid up for him in Jesus Christ, so we receive, at different points in our spiritual education, out of the fullness of life which is laid up for us in Christ Jesus, the special portion of spiritual life which we need. 'Out of His fullness have we all received, and grace for grace.'
We receive it by believing, by taking a promise, feeding upon it, listening to it, till it has become incorporated with our being, and the strength has flowed down into the paralysed organs, and we can rise up in hearty willing response to the call of the Everlasting Father.
G. H. Wilkinson, The Invisible Glory, p. 99.
References. IX. 6. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew IX.-XVII. p. 8. C. A. Brigg, The Incarnation of the Lord, p. 3. R. H. McKim, The Gospel in the Christian Year, p. 125. G. W. Herbert, Notes of Sermons, p. 187. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. ii. p. 535. W. J. Knox-Little, The Perfect Life, p. 301.
The Call of Christ
I believe there is no time, no set of circumstances, in which a man may find himself, but if Jesus speaks in his own heart he may then and there respond.
I. The Unlikely Man. Notice about this man Matthew that Jesus takes the man just as he is. He is the unexpected man, the last man that one would expect to go out after Christ Here is the man in the very middle of the paraphernalia of his daily calling, he is in the place where he is making his money. He is in the place where his character is known, where his past is known, and what a past it is!
II. What Must be Left. Though Jesus took this man just as he is, it meant leaving something. It meant leaving everything for this man, and it will mean leaving something for most of you. It means leaving self-will, the ordering of one's life in the way that seems right to his own eyes, and it means the welcome of Christ as the controller of the spirit and as the guide of the life.
III. It also Meant the Confession of Christ's Mastership in the World. Charles Kingsley, one of the bravest, brightest spirits that this country ever had, said, 'Lest I should play the coward I determined to put myself into a position from which I could not retreat,' and that is what a good many will have to do before they will save their souls alive.
G. C. Britton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 294.
The Apostle's Conversion
St. Matthew was one of the earliest converts to the truth as uttered by Him who was 'the Truth '.
I. The Call of the Man. Note
a. The unerring prescience of Christ. Nothing left to chance. He Himself knew what He would do.
b. The Divine mercy of Christ. Matthew, a tax-gatherer, despised by the Jews, was selected by Jesus Christ from the teeming multitudes of Capernaum as a special object of His compassion and love! Ah! there never yet was a sinner He would not and could not save. The greater the sinner, the greater the Saviour.
II. The Response of the Saint. Artful cunning, avaricious greed, love of gold all, all forsook the heart of the publican under the steady burning gaze of Jesus.
a. An amazing conversion. The Spirit of Jesus immediately wrought the sinner into the saint; this was truly an amazing conversion of more importance than the creation of a thousand worlds!
b. Conversion was followed by Divine command. 'Follow Me.' It was there and then obeyed. St. Luke's account of St. Matthew's immediate response is very explicit: 'And he left all' gold, and silver, and accounts, and office 'rose up, and followed Jesus'. Where? Everywhere the Master led him until His ascension.
The Divine Call ( for St. Matthew's Day )
There is but one subject that can occupy our minds Today the wonderful call of the Apostle Matthew to be Christ's disciple. We find the man sitting at the receipt of custom: we see him absorbed in his worldly calling, and possibly thinking of nothing but money and gain; but suddenly the Lord Jesus calls on him to follow Him, and become His disciple. At once St. Matthew obeys: he 'makes haste and delays not' to keep Christ's commandments (Psalms 119:60 ). He arises and follows Him.
I. With Christ Nothing is Impossible. He can take a tax-gatherer and make him an Apostle: He can change any heart, and make all things new. Let us never despair of any one's salvation. Let us pray on, and speak on, and work on, in order to do good to souls, even to the souls of the worst. 'The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation' (Psalms 29:4 ). When He says by the power of the Spirit, 'Follow Me,' He can make the hardest and most sinful obey.
II. St. Matthew's Decision. He waited for nothing; he did not tarry for 'a convenient season' (Acts 24:25 ); and he reaped in consequence a great reward. He wrote a book which is known all over the earth; he became a blessing to others as well as blessed in his own soul; he left a name behind him which is better known than the names of princes and kings. The richest man of the world is soon forgotten when he dies; but as long as the world stands millions will know the name of Matthew the publican.
III. The Lessons for Ourselves.
a. The Divine call comes to each one of us. We sing; Day by day His sweet voice soundeth, Saying, 'Christian, follow me'. Has that call made any impression at all upon our lives? Are we conscious of a daily striving to follow in the footsteps of the Master? Or are we still shutting our hearts against His call?
b. The Christian life consists in following Christ. We may be very careful in all the outward observances of our religion, but unless we are fashioning our life upon the life of the Master, we are not truly His disciples.
c. Obedience to the call involves self-sacrifice. St. Matthew forsook all. We are not necessarily called upon to do that, but we are called to give all temporal things a second place in our thoughts and lives. The Collect for this day expresses what should be the Christian attitude on such questions. We ask for grace 'to forsake all covetous desires and inordinate love of riches,' and to follow Christ. Covetousness is a sin which destroys the Christian life; and in regard to wealth, we have to remember that at the best it is not our own; we are but stewards. How many a Christian has fallen away because the love of riches has been too strong for him. Self-sacrifice, self-renunciation, self-surrender these things represent the spirit which animated St. Matthew, and they must be the dominant features of our life if we would follow him, even as he followed Christ.
See Ruskin's fine exposition of Matthew's call in the first supplement to St. Mark's Rest, apropos of Carpaccio's picture.
References. IX. 9. A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, vol. ii. p. 253. N. Adams, Christ a Friend, p. 35. J. Fraser, University Sermons, p. 275. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Holy-Tide Teaching, p. 165. J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. 1900, p. 211. J. A. Hamilton, ibid. vol. lviii. 1900, p. 135. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for Saints' Days, p. 170. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2493. IX. 9-11. A. B. Bruce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 282. IX. 9-17. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew IX.-XVII. p. 18. IX. 10. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. 1. No. 2889. IX. 11. S. Pendred, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. 1890, p. 406. J. A. Bain, Questions Answered by Christ, p. 1. W. J. Knox-Little, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiii. 1903, p. 217. IX. 12. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 95. G. W. Herbert, Notes of Sermons, p. 239. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi. No. 618.
Mercy Preferred to Sacrifice
The text is a quotation from Hosea, in which God declares to His people the conditions on which they would obtain acceptance with Him. The word there rendered mercy is equivalent to piety or holiness. Idolatrous systems only required the regular observance of a prescribed ritual; Jehovah was satisfied with nothing less than the devotion of loving hearts. God prefers mercy to sacrifice:
I. Because it Indicates More Clearly Man's Relation to Himself. We cannot judge of a man's character by his regard for outward ordinances; but when a man struggles against sin, denies himself, and takes up his cross, we recognize him as a follower of Christ.
II. Because it is More Serviceable to our Neighbours. Religious exercises may do us good; but when we lead a pure, godly life, and lay ourselves out for deeds of benevolence and love, we are conferring blessings on those around us.
III. Because it Brings the Greatest Happiness to Us. The worship of God is a source of delight to the sanctified heart; but doing good to others affords an amount of joy and gladness never experienced before.
F. J. Austin, Seeds and Saplings, p. 64.
References. IX. 13. H. Ward Beecher, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 77. IX. 14. J. A. Bain, Questions Answered by Christ, p. 7. IX. 14, 15. T. C. Price, What is Lent? Sermons, 1872-73. IX. 16. G. A. Chadwick, Christ Bearing Witness to Himself, p. 95. IX. 16, 17. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 106. IX. 17. C. Gore, Oxford University Sermons, p. 34. IX. 18. A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, vol. ii. p. 153. W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 136. IX. 18, 19. W. Howell Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 39. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. 149. IX. 18-26. John Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p. 338. B. D. Johns, Pulpit Notes, p. 134. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 230.
The Hem of Christ's Garment
The fact upon which the writers focus our thought is that the woman touched only the hem of His garment.
I. What is the hem of Christ's garment? Where is the hem of Christ's garment Today? The hem this woman touched was one of the four tassels of blue which hung from the fringe of His coat. The robe with its fringe no longer passes down our streets. But the hem of Christ's garment can still be touched. For what was this hem, and what is this hem, but that through which His virtue passed out of Him? All the world of things seen, all that is beautiful and uplifting and inspiring, all holy influences and wise thoughts and gracious words, are but the channels through which the virtue of Jesus passes to the healing of the issues of body and mind and spirit.
II. Some of the ways in which Christ's virtue passes out of Him:
1. Think of the hem of Christ's garment in nature. Nature is the visible garment of God, wrought, as Goethe said, by God's fingers in time's roaring loom.
2. Think of the hem of Christ's garment in art. By art I include all that is pure and lovely and noble in literature, in architecture, in music, in sculpture, and painting, and in all the works of men done under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. There are some who never see a lovely hillside but they think of it as a place to parcel out in profitable allotments. These are the soldiers who cast lots for Christ's garment at the foot of the cross. These are becoming fewer every day. Yet there are still many who do not realize that art is also the hem of Christ's garment.
3. Think of the hem of Christ's garment in the Word. This is the tassel of blue which most have touched. The Word of God is the closest garment of His thought. It is significant that Christ is called the Word, simply because God in Christ passed out to reveal Himself, and to work His miracles, in and by a word.
4. Think of the hem of Christ's garment in the. ministries of the Church. Newman has a sermon with the arresting title,' The Church a home for the lonely,' in which he shows, in his own deep and simple and lucid way, how solitary, and outcast, and disappointed men find in the service and fellowship of the Church the help and solace they need. There are issues often shameful, sometimes secret, sometimes exhausting, which Christ heals through the ministries of the Church. He heals them as He healed the woman, secretly and with a touch.
5. Think of the hem of Christ's garment in the Sacrament of the Supper. Nothing else brings us so near Christ, and through nothing else does His virtue pass so immediately as the Sacrament of the; Lord's Supper.
W. M. Clow, The Cross in Christian Experience, p. 281.
Towards the close of Hazlitt's essay Of Persons one would wish to have seen, he describes how Charles Lamb declared, 'I would fain see the face of him who, having dipped his hand in the same dish with the Son of Man, could afterwards betray Him.... There is only one other person I can ever think of after this, 'continued Lamb; but without mentioning; a name that once put on a semblance to Mortality. 'If Shakespeare was to come into the room, we should all rise up to meet him; but if that person was to come into it, we should all fall down and try to kiss the hem of His garment.'
References. IX. 20. J. Ker, Sermons, p. 186. IX. 20, 21. R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 97. IX. 20-22. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 243. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. 157. John Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p. 229 Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No. 3020.
The Hem of the Garment
This story records a most remarkable instance of our Saviour's treatment of ignorance and superstition. It was a poor conceit of this woman, says good Bishop Hall, that she thought that she might receive so sovereign a remedy from Christ without His heed, without His knowledge. While yet her faith was wholly real and practical, her conception of the manner of the working of Christ's healing power was ignorant and material. Christ healed, so she supposed, not by the exertion of His holy will, but rather by a certain magical influence and power which she thought dwelt in Him. But while this woman's ideas were thus wholly wrong, being tinged with much superstition and ignorance, the result of her practised faith was wholly excellent, for immediately, we read, her issue of blood was stanched, and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And then Jesus turned, and, while He gently showed her how mistaken were her thoughts of Him, He accepted her because of her faith.
I. There is a very frequent temptation for us, to whom has been granted, as we rightly consider, a purer revelation of Christian faith, to think harshly and intolerantly of those avowed Christians whose minds are as yet unenlightened on many points of Divine truth. We are tempted to regard their superstitions as a gulf across which we cannot embrace our fellow-Christians. It is good, therefore, to remind ourselves of this miracle of Jesus Christ's a miracle where faith and love were so prevailing, even where there was so little knowledge, where a poor woman had faith sufficient to cure her sickness although she had not sufficient knowledge to consider that she could not hide herself from the All-seeing Eye of God. Her faith went before her knowledge; her faith was the first to receive the blessing. Each of us, indeed, as we read this story, can see that there is much spiritual worship in much apparent superstition; and, still more, that there is much spiritual idolatry in that pride of better knowledge which can only think scornfully of our fellow-Christians because, in their guileless ignorance, they have been accustomed to bow their knees before a statue, or to attribute fictitious power to an image of stone. When Henry Martyn, the great and holy missionary, saw once in Spain a poor old crone bowing down and reverently kissing the feet of a stone image and bathing it with her tears, he reflected that, however much his understanding of the scheme of Redemption might be better than hers, very probably in faith and love she was his superior; and it is by our faith and by our love that we shall be accepted in the Last Day. Even when the idolatry is definite and certain, we shall oftener find it the consequence of dullness of intellect rather than of real alienation of the heart from God.
II. Faith and love these are what we require for this world and the next. We know how human love will invest everything that belongs to its dear ones with a peculiar sanctity, so that any trifle even the hem of a garment will easily become identified with the object of its love. So does faith in things Divine; and nothing can show the nobleness and excellence of this poor woman's faith more than this that she saw a healing in spite of superstition. Thus, wherever there is human distress to heal and human faith to gain a blessing, the goodness and the power of God will overflow the ignorance and render faith a healing power.
III. There was nothing in the hem of Christ's garment more than in the hem of any other to convey a blessing. A multitude was thronging all round Him, hustling against Him, and yet receiving no benefit. Only one woman in all of that crowd believed that His Sacred Person was full of healing blessing, so that if only she could come in contact with Him she would be at once healed. She recognized that one touch of Christ could overcome all the powers of darkness of this world. And He in turn recognized that touch of timid faith, even amid the pressure of the crowd. It is thus Today within the Church of Jesus Christ. The Christ still conveys strength and healing to us through outward means. And if the hem of Christ's garment had such power to heal and bless when touched by faith, how much more shall the Body and Blood of Christ, received by faith in our hearts, have power for the strengthening and for the refreshing of our souls!
References. IX. 21. B. Wilberforce, The Hope that is in me, p. 25. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx. No. 1809. Trench on the Miracles, p. 200. Dean Hook on the Miracles, vol. i. p. 242. Hall, 'The Bloody Issue Healed,' Contemplations. Cox, 'Healing of Veronica,' A Day With Christ, p. 141. J. O. Davies, 'Jesus Touched by the Way,' Sunrise on the Soul, p. 101. Allon, 'Healing Virtue of the Christ,' Vision of God, etc., p. 75. Maclaren, 'Power of Feeble Faith,' Sermons Preached in Manchester (2nd Series), p. 294. Beecher, 'Healing Virtue in Christ,' Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv. p. 161. W. C. Smith (with Isaiah xlii. 3), 'Survival of Fittest and a Higher Law,' Christian World Pulpit, vol. x. p. 177, and in Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 34. Mellor's 'The Hem of Christ's Garment,' Sermons, p. 1. 'Desperate Faith,' Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i. p. 256. 'Confident Timidity,' Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii. p. 556. T. Sherlock, 'The Woman Who Touched,' Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii. p. 150.
The Reward of Faith
The incident recorded in this passage concerning the woman who came to Jesus is more fully related in St. Luke's Gospel; and we must consider what St. Luke has to say about the striking features in the narrative. They all go to show the preciousness of faith what it will overcome in getting to Jesus, and what it apprehends in reaching Him. Notice
I. How Many were this Woman's Difficulties. There was her own bodily weakness (Psalms 38:3-8 ; Mark 14:38 ). There was the crowd thronging round the Saviour (Luke 8:45 ). What an impediment is the world! (Luke 19:3 ; Matthew 13:22 ; 2 Timothy 4:10 ). There was the opinion of man. It was clear that the physicians had pronounced her incurable (Luke 8:43 ; Psalms 60:11 ; Psalms 118:8 ; Ephesians 5:6 ). She had, besides, no invitation (Ephesians 3:12 ); cf. the resolution of Esther (chap. 4:16). She was, moreover, unclean, and by the law therefore prohibited from approach (Leviticus 15:2 ; cf. Ephesians 2:13 ).
II. How Simple was this Woman's Faith. She believed that Jesus could do all for her (Mark 9:23 ; Romans 8:32 ; Philippians 4:19 ). She therefore pressed through the crowd and touched Him. What was in her touch? Many others thronged and touched Him; but they did not do so intentionally. She put out her hand as wishing to receive. That is what faith does. It simply takes what God has given (Ephesians 1:3 ; 2 Corinthians 1:3 ). We think very little is in a touch; but all through the Bible God shows how important it is (Genesis 3:3 ; Exodus 19:12 ; Leviticus 5:2 ; Isaiah 6:7 ; Luke 22:51 ).
III. How Complete was this Woman's Cure. Our Lord said to her, 'Daughter'. She was, therefore, acknowledged as a child of the family (2 Corinthians 6:17-18 ; 1 John 3:1 ). 'Be of good comfort.' There is no fear in coming to Jesus ( 2Ti 1:7 ; 1 John 4:18 ; Isaiah 41:10 ). 'Thy faith hath made thee whole.' The believer appropriates all the blessings that are in Christ (Psalms 103:2-5 ). 'Go in peace.' There is no care for the soul that has come to Jesus (1 Peter 5:7 ; Philippians 4:6-7 ). 'He is our peace.'
We have two thoughts, then, here for us in connexion with precious faith: (1) What Jesus can do for us everything (Ephesians 3:20 ). (2) That nothing should stop us in coming to Him (Mark 1:17-20 ).
Reference. IX. 23, 24. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii. p. 246.
Never speak of God without speaking to God. On religious subjects the best meditation is prayer. To have prayed is to have thought. I should almost have preferred not to have had any theology. The best is that which is summed up in the words,' Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me'.
References. IX. 27-30. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1355; vol. xxvi. No. 1560. IX. 27-31. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. 163. IX. 27, 38. J. Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p. 240. IX. 29. J. Llewelyn Davies, Christus Imperator, p. 108. IX. 32, 33. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 187. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2482. IX. 35. H. P. Liddon, Sermons Preached on Special Occasions, 1860-1889, p. 304. J. Parker, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 9. A. F. Winnington Ingram, Under the Dome, p. 203. IX. 35.-XL H. Hensley Henson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. 1901, p. 328.
The Compassion of Christ
When did He see the multitude? He saw the multitudes before there were any multitudes to be seen: I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the First and the Last: I was with God before there were any fountains abounding with water.
I. When Jesus saw the multitudes, therefore, He was in eternity, in His own sanctuary of solitude; He was a philanthropist before there was a man created to be pitied. God knew from all eternity that the finite must weep, the finite must suffer.
The compassion of Christ was from eternity, therefore it could take effect in time, and therefore it will continue to take effect until time's last sunset has glowed upon the world. It is eternity that gives explanation and completeness to the Atonement We are apt to think that the Atonement took place at a time which could be dated; we discourse much about Friday night, and the whole Saturday in the grave, and the dawning of the first day of the week. It is all puerile; any comment dealing with these facts is a comment to be dispensed with; we live in God's eternal purpose, the Atonement was rendered before the sin was done; 'before Abraham was I AM,' and I AM has no time.
II. Compassion is not sentiment, it is redemption. There is a sentiment no bigger than its own tear; there is another sentiment that signifies redemption, something done for the sinner. That was the redemption wrought out by Jesus Christ. He did not cry over men, He died for them. He did not say, It is a pity; He said, I will go down, and I will tread the winepress alone, and I will make suffering the way into the highest eminences and noblest sanctuaries of life and service. To Christ we owe the sentiment that completes itself in redemption. Away with your tears that have no depth! Welcome the love that would die for the prodigal!
III. What a view was that which Jesus Christ took of the multitudes! He saw the multitudes exactly as they were. It was a multitudinous misery, a multitudinous sin, a multitudinous helplessness. We see throngs, and remark on the number: Christ saw multitudes, and remarked on their misery. Alas! there is no gathering of human beings that does not represent a gathered pain, a gathered helplessness: where two or three are gathered together there is at least one broken heart. The street looks well, it is filled with bunting and with festoons, with spring flowers or summer grandeur; but in every house in that decorated street there is a broken heart. Jesus Christ did not see the bunting flying from the windows, He saw the hearts that were dying within the bosoms of human grief: He had compassion.
IV. How was it that Jesus Christ spoke to multitudes and spoke of multitudes? The answer is plain: Jesus Christ was not one of many, He was many in One; that is the explanation. We are only wise in our statesmanship in the degree in which we are Biblical; we must go to God to know what the condition of the world is. That condition has beer, represented in Scripture in the most graphic and in the most awesome and appalling terms.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. I. p. 190.
References. IX. 36. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew IX.-XVII. p. 41. H. C. G. Moule, My Brethren and Companions, p. 41; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 233. T. T. Munger, Character Through Inspiration, p. 97; see also The Freedom of Faith, p. 131. G. Tyrrell, Oil and Wine, p. 149. W. H. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 290. J. Marshall Lang, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 193. J. Morgan Gibbon, ibid. vol. xlv. 1894, p. 316. C. Gore, ibid. vol. 1. 1896, p. 113. IX. 36, 37. J. Wright, The Guarded Gate, p. 89. IX. 36-38. J. O. Johnston, Church Times, vol. 1. 1903, p. 443. Hugh Ross, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. 1895, p. 374. N. D. J. Straton, ibid. vol. lviii. 1900, p. 85. T. Barker, Plain Sermons, p. 284.
PÈre Gratry writes on this text: 'If there is one thing clearer than another, it is that there are a thousand times too few men who are consecrated to the religious and moral education of the human race. An incalculable moral wealth is lost, over all the earth, for lack of labourers in the harvest of souls. "The harvest is plenteous," said Christ, "but the labourers are few." This lack of true workers is one of the characteristic features of the world's history, and we see it in our own day. That is why all the works of men, without exception, are in a backward state. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth labourers into His harvest." That is the world's chief need; that is what we must ask from God. I do not know any wiser enthusiasm than that which stirs men up to become labourers for God.'
References. IX. 37, 38. H. Price Hughes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. 1898, p. 308. Lyman Abbott, ibid. vol. lxii. 1902, p. 33. A. E. Garvie, ibid. vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 353. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 112. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1127. IX. 38. F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. ii. p. 221. E. Fowle, Pray ye the Lord of the Harvest, Sermons, 1872-1873. X. 1, 2. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 702.