Wednesday, May 31st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Matthew 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ matthew-9.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Matthew 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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The paralytic forgiven and healed. Parallel passages: Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26. (For connexion of thought, cf. Matthew 8:18, note.) In the parallel passages this narrative follows our Matthew 8:1-4. Matthew's account is shorter, as usual.
And he entered into a ship; boat (Revised Version). So completely did he grant the request of the Gadarenes. Observe that this expression is not an original phrase of the writer of the First Gospel, but is a reminiscence of the source that he has just used. And passed over; crossed over (Revised Version); διεπέρασεν, also in the source. And came into his own city; i.e. Capernaum, where Mark says that the following miracle took place. The thought is that of John 1:11. Yet observe the contrast with Matthew 8:34. There "all the city" rejected him; here some of the leaders reject him, but the multitudes fear and glorify God (Matthew 8:8).
And, behold, they brought to him (προσέφερον αὐτῷ). Bengel's remark, "Offerebant—Tales oblationes factae sunt Salvatori plurimae, gratae," though very beautiful, is, from its undue insistence on the sacrificial use of προσφέρω, hardly exegesis. Matthew omits the difficulty that was experienced in bringing him to our Lord (see parallel passages), yet this alone accounts for the special commendation of their faith. A man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed. Probably a mat or quilt (verse 6). Professor Marshall, in the Expositor for March, 1891, p. 215, has a most interesting note showing that the differences between "lying on a bed" (Matthew)and "carried by four" (Mark), and even "they sought to bring him in, and to place him before him" (Luke, who has already mentioned "on a bed" ), may be explained by being different translations of an original Aramaic sentence. And Jesus seeing their faith. Including that of the paralytic, who, as we may gather from the obedience he afterwards shows, had agreed to and had encouraged the special efforts of his bearers. Said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer (Θάρσει τέκνον). Son. So Mark, but Luke has "man" (ἄνθρωπε), which, though more usual in Greek (though still Hebraic, for ἀνέρ would have been in accordance with classical usage), is much more colourless. Τέκνον, as a term of address, is elsewhere in the New Testament used only where there is relationship physical (Matthew 21:28; Luke 2:48; Luke 15:31; even Luke 16:25) or moral, especially that of pupil and teacher (Mark 10:24; cf 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:1). It therefore implies that there is both sympathy and much common ground between the speaker and him whom he addresses. It is the antithesis of Matthew 8:29 (cf. further, infra, Matthew 8:22). Thus it here served affectionately to encourage the sufferer in soul and body, preparing him to receive the announcement following. Matthew emphasizes its purpose by prefixing θάρσει. Thy sins be; Revised Version, are; expressing clearly that the words are the statement of a fact, not merely the expression of a command. Forgiven thee; Revised Version omits "thee" (genuine in Luke), with manuscripts (ἀφίενταί σου αἱἁμαρτίαι). Matthew and Mark use the present of general statement, Luke the perfect (ἀφέωνται, Doric; Winer, Luke 14:3. a), to express a past fact of permanent significance. Observe the order of the Lord's assurance, as recorded in the true text. Courage, sympathy, forgiveness, and, only after all else, recalling individual sins. As the assurance of forgiveness is delightful to the soul, so is it often helpful to the body. Hence possibly our Lord's method in this case, for the man "inter spem metumque dubius pendebat" (Wetstein). Compare for the conjunction of the two, James 5:15, and, as a still closer parallel to our passage, Talm. Bab., 'Nedarim,' 41a. "R. Hija bar Abba said, The sick doth not recover from his sickness until all his sins be forgiven him, for it is said, 'Who pardoneth all thy iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases.'" So also Qimbi (on Psalms 41:5, "Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee" ): "He does not say, Heal my body," for it is his sins that are the cause of his sickness, but if God heal his soul from its sickness, viz. by making atonement for his sins, then his body is healed."
And certain of the scribes. From St. Luke's account (verse 17) we learn that the miracle took place before a large assembly of "Pharisees and teachers of the Law, who had come out of every village of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem." 'Yet even among these there was a division (τινές). Said within themselves. So Mark, "reasoning in their hearts." This man (οὗτος). The word seems to convey a notion of contempt and of vindictive joy that they have caught him. Blasphemeth (βλασφημεῖ). In its fullest meaning; through assumption of Divine authority (so also Matthew 26:65; John 10:33, John 10:36). "No passage of the Old Testament affirms that the Messiah himself will forgive sins. Thus Jesus ascribes to himself what even the highest Old Testament prophecies of the Messianic time had reserved to God; e.g. Jeremiah 31:34; Isaiah 43:25" (Kubel). Observe that Mark lays more stress upon the process of their thoughts, Matthew and Luke on the conclusion at which they arrived, Luke also indicating that the supposed sin had many parts (λαλεῖ βλασφημίας)—they thought, "Every word he has uttered is blasphemy."
And Jesus knowing; εἰδώς; parallel passages, ἐπιγνούς. The difference of form with agreement in sense points to varying translations of עדי (so Peshito, in each place). Perhaps the same cause may also account for the difference in the next words, ἐνθυμήσεις ἐνθυμεῖσθε, but in the parallel passages, διαλογίζονται, διαλογισμούς διαλογίζεσθε (cf. also Matthew 9:8). (For similar instances of our Lord's knowledge, cf. Matthew 12:25; Luke 6:8; Luke 9:47-John 2:25; cf. further, supra, Matthew 8:10, note.) Their thoughts, said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? Evil (πονηρά). Does the plural point to stages in their reasoning? or is it merely used because he was addressing more than one person?
For. The expansion of his rebuke of their accusation, by his question and the command connected with it. Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee (Revised Version, are forgiven, omitting "thee"); or to say, Arise, and walk? The former, because the truth or otherwise of the latter is at once visible. Observe that the two alternatives cover the two realms of influence, the spiritual and the physical. Men will not believe profession in the former realm if it be unaccompanied by visible results in the latter.
But that ye may know. From his authority in the physical world they may have direct knowledge (εἰδῆτε) of his authority in the spiritual world. Observe that the claim is even in the so-called "Triple Tradition." That the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins (ὅτι ἐξουσίαν ἔχει ὁυἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτίας). Observe
(1) that our Lord does not say "I," but "the Son of man" ;
(2) that the emphatic words in the sentence are "hath authority," and "on earth." It would therefore appear as though our Lord wished to call the attention of those present to a phrase which they already knew, but did not rightly understand. He seems to point them to Daniel 7:13, and reminding them that even there "one like unto a son of man" (cf. supra, Matthew 8:20, note) receives authority (ἡἐξουσία αὐτοῦ ἐξουσία αἰώνιος, Daniel 7:14), tells them that this authority includes forgiving sins, and that this may be exercised not only in the future and in "the clouds of heaven," but now (ἔχει) and "on earth." Further, if, as seems likely,. the phrase was understood to symbolize the nation, he desired them to see in himself the great means whereby the nation should rise to its ideal. If, as is possible, though hardly probable, this saying of our Lord's is chronologically earlier than Matthew 8:20, and there,-fore the earliest occasion on which he used the phrase, the almost direct reference to Daniel 7:13 makes it the more interesting. (Then saith he to the sick of the palsy). The thought of the sentence is continued, but as he now turns directly to the sick man, its form is altered. Arise, take up. The Revised Version, retaining the wrong reading, ἐγερθείς, inserts "and." Thy bed (Daniel 7:9, note), and go unto thine house. Thus avoiding publicity.
And he arose, and departed to his house. Three stages, rising, leaving the crowded court, home-coming. Healed in soul as in body, he is fully obedient.
But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled; were afraid (Revised Version); ἐφοβήθησαν. A more solely physical effect than the ἐθαύμασαν of the Textus Receptus. Resch's supposition, that the difference of words here and in the parallel passages is due to various translations of the Aramaic, or rather of the Hebrew according to his theory, is in this ease not improbable. And glorified God (cf Matthew 15:31), which had given such power (authority, as Matthew 9:6) unto men (τοῖς ἀνθρώποις); i.e. the human race. Observe that though the phrase recalls Matthew 9:6, there is here no mention of forgiving sins: the multitudes appear to have thought only of authority to perform the miracle; further, that although the multitudes seem to have heard Christ's words, they did not understand his expression to refer to Messiah.
3. THE LIBERTY OF THE GOSPEL AS SHOWN BY CHRIST'S TREATMENT OF THE OUTCAST, AND HIS ANSWER TO THOSE WHO INSISTED ON FASTING. (cf. Matthew 8:1-34. l, note.)
(1) The call of a publican to be a personal follower (Matthew 9:9).
(2) His kindly treatment of publicans and sinners, and his apology for showing it (Matthew 9:10-13).
(3) His care for the freedom of his disciples from ceremonial bondage (Matthew 9:14-17).
Observe in this section the signs of opposition
(1) from the high-Judaic party, on a question of moral defilement (Matthew 9:11);
(2) from those who were professedly waiting for Messiah, on a question of ceremonial observance (Matthew 9:14).
The call of Matthew. Parallel passages: Mark 2:13, Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27, Luke 5:28. All three evangelists connect this with the preceding miracle, but in the parallel passages the name is given as" Levi," St. Mark adding, "the son of Alphaeus." If the First Gospel were not written, in either Greek or Aramaic, by St. Matthew himself, but by a catechist of the Matthean cycle, it is possible that "Levi," as found in the source, may have seemed to the catechist disrespectful, anti that he altered it to the title by which he had been accustomed to hear his master called. If, on the other hand, and as seems more probable, this Gospel was written by St. Matthew, his preference for "Matthew" rather than "Levi" may be due to its meaning. And as Jesus passed forth (Revised Version, by) from thence. Mark 2:13 says that our Lord went out along the seaside, where "the receipt of custom" (vide infra) would naturally be. He saw a man, named (Revised Version, called) Matthew. In the Greek "a man" is closely joined to "sitting at the receipt of custom," the words Μαθθαῖον λεγόμενον appearing to be almost an afterthought. Not the name, but the man's occupation, was the important thing. Sitting. Still plying his irreligious trade. At the receipt of custom; at the place of toll (Revised Version). Perhaps a mere booth by the roadside for collecting the octroi-duty on food, etc., carried past. At the present day in Palestine" a booth of branches, or a more substantial hut, is erected at every entrance into the city or village, and there, both day and night, sits a man at ' the receipt of custom.' He taxes all the produce, piercing with a long, sharp iron rod the large camel-bags of wheat or cotton, in order to discover concealed copper wire, or other contraband" (Van Lennep, in Exell, in loc.). Schurer (1. 2. p, 67) shows that the customs raised at Capernaum in the time of Christ undoubtedly went, not into the imperial fiscus, but into the treasury of Herod Antipas. On the other band, in Judaea at that time the customs were raised in the interests of the imperial fiscus. And he saith unto him, Follow me. No promise is given corresponding to that in Matthew 4:19. And he arose, and followed him. Perhaps the day's work was just over, or he may have left some assistant there.
The feast with publicans and sinners, and Christ's apology. Parallel passages: Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32. All three evangelists give the essential features of the section, but Mark and Luke show more clearly that the feast was in the house of the new disciple, and Matthew alone gives the reference to Hosea.
And it came to pass, as Jesus (he, Revised Version) sat at meat; "Gr. reclined: and so always"; of. Matthew 26:20. In the house; Luke, "And Levi made him a great feast in his house." Whether or not this was the same as the τελώνιον, we have no means of knowing, but presumably it was not. Behold, many publicans (Matthew 5:46, note) and sinners. The second term seems to include all who openly impugned or neglected the Law. It is, therefore, sometimes used with special reference to Gentiles (Matthew 26:45; cf Galatians 2:15). Came and sat down with him (Revised Version, Jesus, emphatic) and his disciples.
And when the Pharisees. Mentioned thus far only in Matthew 3:7 and Matthew 5:20. This is, therefore, the first time that Matthew speaks of them as coming into direct contact with Jesus. Although Mark (cf. Luke) says that the objection was raised by those among the Pharisees who were also scribes (οἱγραμματεῖς τῶν Φαρισαίων), yet the difference of expression from that in verse 3 must not be overlooked. There the fact that they were scribes, accustomed to weigh the statements of the Law about blasphemy, etc., was prominent in the mind of the narrator; here it is rather the fact that they were Pharisees, men who by their very name professed to hold aloof from those who neglected the Law. Saw it. They could freely come into the court of the house, and when there could both see and hear what was passing in the rooms that opened into it. They said; ἔλεγον: dieebaat (Vulgate); "were saying." Their eager talk is brought vividly before us. Unto his disciples. Probably these were nearer to the Pharisees than Jesus himself was, or perhaps the Pharisees thought it easier to attack Jesus through them. On the naturalness of this remark in the mouth of Pharisees, vide Schurer, II. 2. p. 25. Why eateth your Master (διδάσκαλος); Teacher is preferable, for both Pharisees and disciples realized that even Jesus' actions were intended to instruct his followers. But the reason for this action (why, cf. also verse 14) they did not understand. It is possible that the order of the Greek points to irony on the part of the Pharisees. The man who presumes to be called Teacher, and whom the disciples accept as such, sets at defiance the primary rules of right and wrong. Professor Marshall explains the variants "teacher" (here) and "drink" (parallel passages) by the original Aramaic word for "drink" (אור) having been written here with the peculiar spelling of the Samaritan Targum (אבר). With (the, Revised Version) publicans and sinners? Who form but one class (τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν). (For the thought, cf. Matthew 11:19; Luke 15:2; also Psalms 101:5 [LXX.])
But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole. Οἱἰσχύοντες may include an arriere-pensee of moral self-assertion which St. Luke entirely loses by his alteration to οἱὑγιαίνοντες: cf. 1 Corinthians 4:10. Need not; have no need of (Revised Version). These are the emphatic words in the sentence. Christ takes the Pharisees at their own estimate of themselves, and, without entering into the question of whether this was right or wrong, shows them that on their own showing he would be useless to them. A physician, but they that are sick. "Sed ubi dolores sunt, air, illic festinat medicns," Ephr. Syr., in his exposition of Tatian's 'Diatess.'.
The first half of the verse comes in Matthew only. But go ye and learn. A common rabbinic phrase based on the fact that the disputants would not always have the cumbrous rolls of Scripture actually with them. These Pharisees pro-reseed to be students of Scripture, but had not yet learned the principle taught in this passage. What that meaneth, I will have (I desire, Revised Version) mercy, and not sacrifice. Mercy (ἔλεος). In the original connexion of this quotation (Hosea 6:6) the words are without doubt an expression of God's desire that his people should show mercy rather than only perform external sacrifices, and this meaning is probably intended by our Lord here also. The connexion will then be either
(1) "I wish you to show mercy rather than perform external actions, for only thus will you resemble me in my coming to call sinners;" or
(2) "I wish you to show this mercy, and therefore I practise it myself." The former seems the more natural. It is, however, possible that our Lord disregards the original context of the words, and uses them only as a summary of an important truth, that God prefers to show mercy rather than to insist on sacrifice. This would make excellent sense here, viz. "Learn the true principle by which God acts, free grace, for it is on this that I have acted in coming to call sinners." The sentence is quoted again in Matthew 12:7, where the original thought of the words seems more certainly applicable. For I am not come; for I came not (Revised Version). Christ refers to his historic coming in the Incarnation rather than to his abiding presence (cf. also Matthew 5:17). To call the righteous, but sinners (καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλ ἁμαρτωλούς). The English generic article in the first term spoils the anarthrous expression of the Greek by lessening the contrast between the two classes. Dr. Taylor suggests the rendering, "not saints, but sinners". To repentance. Omitted by the Revised Version and Westcott and Herr. From the parallel passage in Luke.
Christ's care for the free-dora of his disciples from ceremonial bondage. He teaches that the standpoint of the Baptist was preparatory (Matthew 3:1-17.), and was not intended to be a permanent resting-place.
Observe that of the three accounts St. Matthew's points out the most clearly that the objection originated with the disciples of John the Baptist. Perhaps St. Matthew found these possessing special influence in the part for which his Gospel was primarily intended. So also St. John thought it desirable to recall the teaching of the Master, that while he himself was the Bridegroom, the Baptist was only subordinate (John 3:29). On the survival of the teaching of John the Baptist, and the greater importance of its professed adherents during the apostolic age than is usually supposed, vide Bishop Lightfoot, 'Colossians,' p. 163, edit. 1875.
Then (τότε). In this case the close chronological connexion with the preceding incident is confirmed by the parallel passages (especially Luke). Came (come, Revised Version) to him. They move forward among the crowd, and draw near to him (προσέρχονται αὐτῷ). The disciples of John (vide supra), saying, Why (of. verse 11) do we and the Pharisees fast?. Oft (πολλά); Textus Receptus, and Westcott and Hort margin, with all the versions and the great mass of the authorities. Yet probably to be omitted, with Westcott and Host, on the evidence of the Vatican manuscript, and the original hand of the Sinaitic. It may have arisen from a gloss on the πυκνά of Luke. But thy disciples fast not. The feast given by St. Matthew was evidently at the time of some fast observed by the stricter Jews.
And Jesus said unto them, Can. It is a moral impossibility (Matthew 6:24). The children (sons, Revised Version) of the bride-chamber (οἱυἱοὶ τοῦ νυμφῶνος). Edersheim ('Life,' etc., 1:663) points out that these are not the shoshbenim, the friends of the bridegroom, who conducted the bride with music, etc., to the house of her parents-in-law, and to the bride-chamber, and who naturally remained to take part in the wedding feast; for
(1) the custom of having shoshbenim prevailed in Judaea, but not in Galilee;
(2) Talm. Jeremiah, 'Succah,' § 2.5, expressly distinguishes between the two terms: "Those who are shoshbenim, and all the sons of the bride-chamber, are free from the obligation of booths (ינב לכו נניבשוש הכוס נס נירוטף הפוח)." They appear to be those, invited by either party, who come to take part in the wedding festivities. They are, therefore, in full sympathy with bridegroom and bride, and, like them, cannot but rejoice. Mourn; parallel passages, "fast," but Matthew's word, as less closely connected with the cause of the objection raised, seems the more original. As long as the bridegroom is with them? Nosgen sees in this a claim to be the expected Bridegroom of Israel (Hosea 2:19, Hosea 2:20; Jeremiah 3:1-14; Ezekiel 16:8). But the days will come. Christ speaks with prophetic assurance of the coming of such a time (ἐλεύσονται δὲ ἡμέραι). Observe his consciousness alike of his position and of what is coming upon him. When the bridegroom shall be taken (away, Revised Version) from them. His removal shall be effected, not by his own action, but by external agents (ἀπαρθῇ). In these unsettled times, with their frequent though mostly unimportant popular risings, it cannot have been a very unusual thing for the bridegroom to be carried off, not indeed before the consummation of the marriage, but before the end of the week of festivities. And then shall (will, Revised Version; there is no trace of a command, Christ is but stating a fact) they fast. Christ here endorses the principle of Christian fasts (cf. Matthew 6:16), but regards them as springing; not from any legal obligation, but flora personal grief, in this case at his absence (cf. John 16:20). The only later passages in the New Testament where Christian fasting is mentioned, are Acts 13:2, Acts 13:3; Act 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 11:27. In the 'Didache,' § 8, we have the earliest formal recognition or' it as a practice. It is there forbidden to fast on the same days as the Pharisees. Observe that this verse was understood in Tertullian's time as expressly commanding a fast during the forty hours in which our Lord was in the grave, and that, from Irenseus's expression in Eusebius ('Ch. Hist.,' 5.24), this fast had been kept almost from apostolic times.
No man; and no man (Revised Version); οὐδεὶς δέ. "And" is slightly adversative. They will indeed fast then, yet fasting does not belong to the essence of my teaching. To insist on fasting would only be right if my teaching came merely into mechanical connexion with the religion of the day. But this is not the case.
(1) Treated as an addition, it injures the religion of the day (Matthew 9:16).
(2) Treated as something to be accepted by all Jews, regardless of their moral fitness for it, it is itself wasted, and also ruins those who so accept it (Matthew 9:17).
The verses thus
(1) answer the disciples of John the Baptist, that fasting must not be made compulsory for Christ's disciples; and
(2) warn them solemnly that they themselves must become morally fitted to receive Christ's teaching. No man; emphatic. Christ wants to show them the irrationality of what they want him to do—enjoin fasting on his disciples. Putteth a piece—patcheth a patch (ἐπιβάλλει ἐπίβλημα)—of new (undressed, Revised Version) cloth unto (upon, Revised Version) an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up (that which should fill it up, Revised Version; τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτοῦ) taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse (and a worse rent is made, Revised Version). My teaching is intended to be more than a patch (however good a patch) sewn on to the religion of the day.
Neither do men put new wine into old bottles; wine-skins (Revised Version); cf. Job 32:19. (For rabbinic comparisons of the Law to wine, cf. Dr. Taylor, 'Aboth,' 4:29.) Else (Matthew 6:1, note) the bottles (skins, Revised Version) burst. The stress is on "burst;" the thought is therefore not yet of the bottles, but of the fate of the wine. And the wine runneth out (is spilled, Revised Version; ἐκχεῖται), and the bottles (skins, Revised Version) perish. It ruins the vessels in which it is placed (Job 32:16, note). But they put new wins into new; fresh (Revised Version); καινούς. The change from νέος of the wine to καινός of the skins is maintained in all three accounts, νέος suggesting the latest vintage, καινός that the skins are absolutely unimpaired (cf. Trench, 'Syn.,' § 60.). Bottles (wine-skins, Revised Version), and both are preserved.
4. THE COMPLETENESS OF HIS HEALING POWER. (Cf. Matthew 8:1, note.)
(1) As regards restoration to life and life-strength generally (Matthew 9:18-26).
(2) As regards the restoration of separate bodily powers (Matthew 9:27-34):
(a) sight (Matthew 9:27-31);
(b) speech, though, in this case, the dumbness was the work of an evil spirit (Matthew 9:32-34).
Observe also in this section the reference to the effect of his work upon outsiders.
(1) The spread of the fame of his work and himself (Matthew 9:26, Matthew 9:31).
(2) The wonder of the multitudes (Matthew 9:33) [and the accusation of the Pharisees (Matthew 9:34)].
The raising of the daughter of a ruler (Jairus, in the parallel passages), and the healing of the woman with an issue. Parallel passages: Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56. Matthew's account is much the shortest.
While he spake these things unto them. Matthew only. All the accounts represent our Lord as teaching when Jairus came to him; but in the parallel passages he was on the seashore (equivalent to our Matthew 8:34; Matthew 9:1). Matthew alone places his coming just after the question of the Baptist's disciples. Probably the words, "while he spake these things unto them," are not in their original connexion. Behold, there came a certain; a (Revised Version); ἄρχων [εἷς] προσελθών (for εἷς, cf. Matthew 8:19, note). Ruler (ἄρχων). From this expression alone we should understand Jairus to have been head of the board of elders for the general affairs of the congregation; but Mark's expression, εἷς τῶν ἀρχισυναγώγων (cf. Luke, ἄρχων τῆς συναγωγῆς), compels us to regard him as that elder who was appointed to care specially for the public worship, Mark's language probably meaning that he was one of the class of those who held this appointment. Sometimes the offices of ἄρχων and ἀρχισυνάγωγος were held by the same person, and this may, perhaps, have been the case with Jairus. and worshipped him (Matthew 8:2, note). Saying, My daughter is even now dead. Matthew, by compression, indicates what had happened before the interview was over. But come and lay thy hand upon her; in sign of personal relation and life-communication. Kubel (in loc.) has an interesting note on the laying-on of hands in the New Testament (cf. also Bishop Westcott, on Hebrews 6:2). And she shall live.
And Jesus arose, Matthew only. From the table, if Matthew's connexion is to be followed; from his seat by the seashore, if Mark's. And followed him. As he led the way to his house. The tense (ἠκολούθει) shows that our Lord had already started when the next incident took place. And so did his disciples. Mark substitutes "a great multitude," and adds that "they thronged him" (cf. also Luke).
(And, behold,… that hour). The Revised Version and the ordinary editions of the Authorized Version omit the brackets, as unnecessary. And, behold, a woman which was diseased with (who had, Revised Version) an issue of blood (αἱμοῤῥοοῦσα). Physically and (Le Matthew 15:25) ceremonially unclean. Twelve years. The age of Jairus' daughter as recorded in the parallel passages. The coincidence led to its being remembered, and the number itself was the more noticeable as it seems to have symbolized the presence of God in nature (3 x 4). Came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. Hem; border (Revised Version); τοῦ κρασπέδου: fimbriam (Vulgate). The zizith," tassels or fringes of hyacinth blue m-white Wool, which every Israelite, by reason of the prescription (Numbers 15:37, sqq.; Deuteronomy 22:12), had to wear at the four corners of his upper garment," Schurer, who adds in a note, "The colour of the zizith is now white, while originally it was to be of hyacinth blue. The Mishna, Menachoth, Matthew 4:1, already presupposes that both are allowed. They are also not now worn, as the Pentateuch directs, and as was still the custom in the time of Christ, on the upper garment (תילִּטַ ἱμάτιον), but on the two square woollen shawls, one of which is always worn on the body, while the other is only wound round the head during prayer Both these shawls are also called Tallith."
For she said within herself, If I may; do (Revised Version). There is no thought of permission (ἐὰν μόνον ἅψωμαι). But touch his garment, I shall be whole; saved. The threefold σώζειν is suggestive. Observe that she is "saved" in spite of her superstition; God "pitieth the blind that would gladly see" (Hooker, 'Serm.,' 2. § 38).
But Jesus turned him about. The order of the words shows that the thought centres, not on the action, but on the Person. It marks the transition of the narrative from the woman to Christ. Further, "to understand the greatness of Jesus' love, consider how a Pharisee might have treated one ceremonially so unclean'' (Kubel). And when he saw her. The parallel passages show that this was after his inquiry who it was, etc. He said, Daughter, be of good comfort; good cheer (Revised Version); Θάρσει θύγατερ. Daughter contains the same thought as "son" in Matthew 9:2. St. Matthew alone, as there, expands its purpose by prefixing θάρει. Θυγατέρα δὲ αὐτὴν καλεῖ ἐπειδηστις αὐτῆς θυγατέρα αὐτὴν ἐποίησεν (Chrysostom, in loc.). Thy faith hath made thee whole; hath saved thee (Revised Version). It is possible that the additional words recorded in the parallel passages, "Go in peace," point to more than only physical restoration. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
And. During the incident of the healing of the woman news had come (parallel passages) to the ruler that his daughter was actually dead, and that it was useless to trouble the Teacher any more. But man's extremity is ever Christ's opportunity. When Jesus came into the ruler's house. Accompanied by only Peter, James, and John (parallel passages), and the parents (Luke). And saw. Apparently from outside the room (of. verse 25). The minstrels; flute-players (Revised Version); τοὺς αὐλητάς. For musicians as mourners, cf. 2 Chronicles 35:25. The Mishna ('Kethub.,' 4.4: vide Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.,' in loc.) says, "Even the poorest among the Israelites [his wife being dead] will afford her not less than two pipes, and one woman to make lamentation." And the people—a mere crowd (Revised Version); ὄχλος—making a noise; tumult (Revised Version). There was confusion as well as sound, as Mark indicates still more dearly.
He said unto them, Give place; withdraw (ἀναχωρεῖτε). This is no room for mourners (cf. Acts 9:40). For the maid; damsel (Revised Version). to assimilate this and Matthew 9:25 to the other passages where κοράσιον is found. Is not dead, but sleepeth. Our Lord looks forward to the result of his coming. So also probably Acts 20:10. To take our Lord's words here as a literal statement of a present fact, meaning that she was only in a trance, is to contradict the words of the messenger (parallel passages), our next succeeding clause, and Luke's addition to it, "knowing that she was dead." And they laughed him to scorn. Bengel suggests that they were afraid of losing the payment for their work.
But when the people (crowd, Revised Version; cf. Matthew 9:23) were put forth, he went in. Till they were cast out he would not enter. They with their hired sorrow would disturb the reverential feelings essential to the performance of such a miracle. And took her by the hand, and the maid (Matthew 9:24, note) arose. Matthew omits all mention of Christ's words to her, but his ἠγέρθη is, perhaps, a reminiscence of the command ἔγειρε.
Verse 26.—Matthew only. And the fame hereof (ἡφήμη αὕτη) went abroad into all that land. Of no one miracle is this elsewhere affirmed. That land. Doubtless Northern Palestine. It marks the Jerusalem standpoint of the writer (Nosgen); vide Introduction, p. 19.
Two blind men restored to sight. Matthew only. (For the connexion, vide verse 18, note.) Weiss compares the incident at Jericho, Matthew 20:29-34. The points of similarity are:
(1) The number, two, but in the parallel passages only one;
(2) the expression that Jesus was passing by (Matthew 20:27; Matthew 20:30);
(3) they cry out and say, "Have mercy on us, O Son of David;"
(4) our Lord, in his question, asks about what he should do;
(5) lays stress on their faith (Mark and Luke);
(6) and touches their eyes (Matthew 20:34).
The points of difference:
(1) The place, here in Galilee, there by Jericho;
(2) here in the house, there in the road, but even here they begin to address him in the road;
(3) no mention here that he stopped when addressed, as there (Matthew 20:32);
(4) our Lord here asks about their faith, there about their wish.
(5) Observe also that both his charge, "See that no man know it" (Matthew 20:30), and the statement that they spread abroad the fame of him, would be quite inconsistent with the late date of the miracle recorded in Matthew 20:1-34.
From a consideration of these details, the conclusion seems inevitable that we have, in fact, narratives of two distinct occurrences, but it is quite consistent with tiffs conclusion to suppose that during the oral transmission of the narratives a certain amount of assimilation took place. Upon this supposition, it further appears probable that, as the narrative in Matthew 20:1-34. was the better known, for it was in the Petrine cycle, our narrative became assimilated to it rather than the reverse. On the other hand, the number recorded in Matthew 20:1-34. looks much like an assimilation to that of our incident (cf. the notes on the section Matthew 8:28-34, Matthew 8:31, and the section Matthew 8:32-34).
And when Jesus departed thence. As he was passing along on his way thence, i.e. from the house of Jairus, if the context be pressed. It should be noticed that "thence" (ἐκεῖθεν) is found also in Mark 6:1, immediately after the healing of Jairus' daughter. There it refers to the neighbourhood generally. Possibly its presence in Matthew is ultimately due to his remembering it in the next succeeding section of the oral framework. Two blind men followed him, crying (out, Revised Version; κράζοντες, so also Matthew 20:30), and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. The Revised Version rightly reverses the order of the two last clauses; the stress is on their own needs, not on their faith in giving him such a title. The words are identical in Matthew 20:30. Thou Son of David. The thought has been brought out in the genealogy (Matthew 1:17), and our Lord lays stress upon it in Matthew 22:42, sqq. Observe that although the excited multitudes at Jerusalem shout out the title at the triumphal entry (Matthew 21:9; cf. also Matthew 21:15), yet the multitudes in Galilee only suggest the possibility of his having a right to it (Matthew 12:23), and the only persons who use it when directly addressing him are a heathen woman (Matthew 15:22), and three, or perhaps four, blind men (here and Matthew 20:30, Matthew 20:31). With the remembrance of what was promised to take place in Messianic days (Isaiah 35:5), the blind would be especially likely to accord him a Messianic title (cf. also Matthew 11:5, note). Have mercy (Matthew 5:9, note).
And when he was come into the house. Where he would be undisturbed (cf. Matthew 13:36). On the later occasion (Matthew 20:32) Jesus stood still in the road. The blind men came to him. Close (προσῆλθαν αὐτῷ). And Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They had professed faith in him, yet their after-conduct (Matthew 9:31) shows that it was none too perfect. They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Said; say (Revised Version); λέγουσιν. The evangelist uses the more vivid present whenever he can. So in Matthew 20:33 (though not in the parallel passages).
Then touched he their eyes. So also Matthew 20:34, showing his sympathy and helping their faith (Matthew 8:3); cf. also John 9:6, and supra, John 9:18, note. Saying, According to your faith (Matthew 8:13, note) be it (done, Revised Version; γενηθήτω) unto you.
And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them (ἐνεβριμήθη αὐτοῖς). The notion is of "coercion springing out of displeasure. The feeling is called out by something seen in another which moves to anger rather than to sorrow" (Bishop Westcott, on John 11:33). Saying, See that no man know it. Partly to avoid publicity for himself, partly for their own sake, for even the recital of the Lord's mercies towards us often becomes an occasion of spiritual harm, since it is apt to degenerate into "display" with its attendant evils. ̔ημᾶς διδάσκει φεύγειν τὸ ἐπιδεικτικὸν ὡς αἴτιον τῶν κακῶν (Origen, in Cromer's 'Catena'). The other occasions (vide Matthew 8:4, note) on which a similar command was given seem all to belong, with this, to the earlier part of his ministry.
But they, when they were departed; but they went forth and (Revised Version). The very moment that they left the house (cf, Matthew 9:32) they disobeyed him. Observe that the phrases used in this verso are possibly due to a reminiscence of the similar phrases found in Mark 1:45 of the leper. Spread abroad his fame in all that country; land (Revised Version); Mark 1:26, note.
The demon cast out of the dumb man. The astonishment of the multitudes and their confession. [The accusation by the Pharisees.] The whole narrative greatly resembles the cure of the blind and dumb man possessed with a devil (Matthew 12:22-24; Luke 11:14, Luke 11:15), as may be seen from the fact that the following words are common to both passages, the brackets indicating a want of exact correspondence in the original. "They brought to him one possessed with a devil, dumb, and the [dumb spake]. And the multitudes [said.]… But the Pharisees, He casteth out the devils by … the prince of the devils."
One explanation is that the two narratives are taken kern different sources, but represent the same incident; another, that as in Matthew 9:27-31, so also here, the narratives of two similar incidents have become assimilated. At any rate, in the case of Matthew 9:34 there has probably been assimilation, and that since the writing of the Gospel. For:
(1) Matthew 9:34 is wanting in D, the Old Latin manuscripts a and k, Hilary and Juvencns, and is therefore rightly bracketed by Westcott and Hort as perhaps "a Western non-interpolation".
(2) The verse seems to be hardly in complete accordance with the aim of the whole section, which ends much more suitably with the effect on the multitudes. In Matthew 12:24 the verse forms a climax (cf. Matthew 12:2, Matthew 12:10, Matthew 12:14). But here there has been no opposition mentioned since the very beginning of the chapter (for the disobedience of the blind men cannot be so called), so that the monstrous accusation comes in quite unexpectedly.
Observe that this is not a ease in which subjective difficulties are in themselves a prima facie argument for the genuineness of a phrase, for the early copyists troubled themselves very little about questions of the internal arrangement and the general aim of the sections.
(And, Revised Version) as they went out (forth, Revised Version; Matthew 9:31). They were still on the threshold (αὐτὼν δὲ ἐξερχομένων). Behold, they brought to him. The rendering of the Revised Version, "there was brought to him," is awkward, but avoids the implication that the blind men brought him this fresh case. A dumb man possessed with a devil. In Matthew 12:22 the man was blind also.
And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel. In Matthew 12:23 they have advanced a stage further, and suggest that Jesus is Messiah (" the Son of David;" cf. supra, Matthew 12:27).
But the Pharisees said (vide supra). If the verse be genuine here, the thought, of course, is that the only effect of Christ's miracles upon the Pharisees was to drive them to open blasphemy and wanton opposition to the evidence of plain facts, as is brought out at length in Matthew 12:24-32. He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils; by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils (Revised Version); which indicates the true order of the words in the Greek. Through. The Revised Version margin, in, is more literal. The Pharisees assert not only that Jesus effected this cure by the instrumentality of Satan, but by means of union with him.
Verse 35- Matthew 11:1
THE AGENCY THAT CHRIST ESTABLISHED TO ENCOURAGE AND GUIDE THE SPIRIT OF INQUIRY THAT HAD BEEN EVOKED, AND HIS COMMISSION TO HIS AGENTS. He spares no pains himself (verse 35). Yet his work is insufficient, and he sends forth others (verse 36- Matthew 10:1). A parenthesis, the names of the agents (Matthew 10:2-4). The commission to the agents (Matthew 10:5-42). He still teaches and preaches (Matthew 11:1).
Observe that in this section we have not, properly speaking, an account of the call or choosing of the twelve, but of their appointment as missioners. For
(1) the call is placed much earlier, chronologically, in Mark and Luke;
(2) Matthew 9:35 is equivalent to Mark 6:6, long after the call of the twelve;
(3) Matthew 9:36 (end) is equivalent to Mark 6:34, where it refers to what
took place immediately after the return from the mission;
(4) the parallel passages agree that the charge was given at the mission itself, not at the call.
Further, it may even be doubted whether the twelve received the name of apostles at the call, whether, in fact, they did not rather receive it only after the commission related here. We find, indeed, that Mark (Mark 3:14; cf. Luke 6:13) says, "whom he also named apostles," adding, "that they might be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach;" but the title there may be entirely proleptic, and the description of their office partially so.
Parts of the section, e.g. Matthew 9:37, Matthew 9:38 and much of Matthew 10:1-42., are recorded in Luke as belonging to the mission of the seventy, but which is their original connexion can hardly be decided. Other parts seem to have been spoken originally on quite other occasions (Matthew 10:17-22, , [34, 35?], 37, 38, 39, 40, 42). It would, therefore, appear that St. Matthew wished to lay stress on the appointment of agents and the kind of instruction that our Lord gave them, rather than to distinguish critically between the various agents employed and the particular instructions that Christ gave on each occasion when they were sent forth (see further on Matthew 10:5).
Parallel passages: Mark 6:6 (Luke 13:22). And Jesus went about all the cities and (the, Revised Version) villages. The Revised Version rightly restricts the "all" to the cities (τὰς πόλεις πάσας καὶ τὰς κώμας). It would have been impossible to visit all the villages. A village was distinguished from a city by being
(1) unwalled (though occasionally towns were themselves unwalled);
(2) dependent on the cities. Teaching, etc. From this point the verse is identical with Matthew 4:23 (where see notes), except that the end of that verse, "among the people," is not found in the true text of our passage, but has been inserted thence. Its omission here and the alteration of the words," in all Galilee," to "all the cities and the villages," are both due to the wider scope of what follows. Observe that in Matthew 4:23 our Lord's circuit is the occasion of crowds resorting to him, and serves as an introduction to a full account of his personal teaching, while here it is the occasion of his sending representatives, and serves as an introduction to his commission to them. As to the phrase, "healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness," notice that the recurrence of terminology (Matthew 4:23; Matthew 10:1) falls in with the oral theory, especially in its catechetical form.
But when he saw the multitudes. The substance of this verse is found in Mark 6:34 on the return of the apostles, equivalent to our Matthew 14:13, seq. (cf. supra). According to the context, the multitudes here spoken of are those of the various cities and villages through which he had passed. He was moved with compassion on (for, Revised Version) them (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη περὶ αὐτῶν). After the vivid Hebrew metaphor (Genesis 43:30), which the LXX. seldom ventured to translate literally, but which is common in the New Testament writings. Because they fainted. So the Received Text (ἐκλελυμένοι, cf. Matthew 15:32), but the Revised Version, with manuscripts, "were distressed" (ἐσκυλμένοι). Σκύλλω, which in the classics is equivalent, to
(2) "mangle," is found only in the sense of
(3) "trouble or harass," in the New Testament
(Mark 5:35 [parallel passage: Luke 8:49]; Luke 7:6). And were scattered abroad; Revised Version simply, and scattered. (For the thought, cf. Ezekiel 34:5; also Numbers 27:17; 2 Chronicles 18:16; and its parallel passage, 1 Kings 22:17.) The two participles express different aspects of their now normal and continuous state (ἦσαν ἐσκυλμένοι καὶ ἐριμμένοι). Yet the Authorized Version margin, "and lay down," is probably nearer the meaning of ἐριμμένοι here than the Authorized Version and Revised Version; cf. 1 Macc. 11:4 (" They showed him the temple of Dagon burnt... and the bodies cast out" ); Jeremiah 14:16 (" The people … shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem … and they shall have none to bury them" ), whine the thought is hardly "scattered," but "cast out and lying prostrate." So here the people are pictured as sheep harassed and prostrated by fatigue, etc.; cf. Vulgate, vexati et jacentes. As sheep having no shepherd; not having a shepherd (Revised Version); cf. the Old Testament passages just referred to.
Matthew 9:37, Matthew 9:38
The utterance is given word for word (except one transposition) at the beginning of the address to the seventy in Luke 10:2. But while serving there as an introduction to the rest of the speech, the reason for it is so much more self-evident here that St. Matthew seems to have recorded it in its original connexion. Our Lord himself, feeling the shepherdless condition of the people, desires to call out the interest of his disciples in it. He wants them to realize both the need of the people and the possibility that lay before the workmen. Changing the metaphor, he bids them pray him, who alone has the right and power, to send more workmen to reap these fields.
Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest—of human souls (John 4:35-38). Truly. So also the Revised Version; too strong a rendering of μέν. Is plenteous (cf. Matthew 10:23; Bengel), but the labourers are few. Who besides himself? John the Baptist, some who had been healed, e.g. the Gadarene demoniac, and perhaps a few unknown true believers. Not the twelve, for these are evidently distinguished, and only to be included under the labourers spoken of in the end of the next verse. If, however, the utterance was originally spoken to the seventy (vide supra), the reference would be to the twelve.
Pray ye. Express it as your personal need (δεήθητε, here only in the New Testament outside the writings of St. Luke and St. Paul). Therefore. Since more workers are so greatly needed. The Lord of the harvest; cf. Clem. Romans, § 34, who illustrates the thought by a most interesting composite quotation of Isaiah 40:10 (Isaiah 62:11; Proverbs 24:12)and Revelation 22:12. That he will (omit with the Revised Version) send forth. (Ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ; ut ejieiat, Vulgate [Wordsworth and White], ut mittat, Vulgate [ordinary edition].) The verb suggests alike his constraining power and their separation from their previous position (cf. Matthew 7:4). Mr. J. A. Robinson's note, however, in the Cambridge 'Texts and Studies,' I. 3:124, shows that one must not lay much stress on the thought of constraint. Labourers into his harvest.
The cure of the paralytic.
I. THE SICK MAN BROUGHT TO CHRIST.
1. His own city. It had been Nazareth; now it was Capernaum. The Nazarenes had rejected him. He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief; he marvelled at their want of faith. Now he was in Capernaum; he was well known there, but not as he had been known at Nazareth. The Nazarenes had known him from childhood—all through those thirty years of quiet, humble holiness; he had lived among them like one of themselves, distinguished only by his goodness; he wrought no miracles then. But that quiet life was in one sense the greatest of miracles; it was stranger that the Son of God should live like ordinary men than that his path on earth should be surrounded with glory, marked by startling wonders. In Capernaum he was known as the great Preacher, the Wonder-worker, the loving, the compassionate Healer. All there believed in his power, not all had yielded their hearts to his love, It was now his own city, blessed with his presence, the highest of all conceivable privileges.
2. The sick man. He was paralyzed, quite helpless; apparently he had lost the power of speech. He could not come to Christ himself; he had to be carried. Four men brought him as he lay helpless on his bed. Probably he was still young: "child," the Lord calls him. It was a pitiable case, and he seems to have brought it upon himself; it was, we gather from Christ's words, the punishment of sin. How often sin brings chastisement now! We suffer justly; we receive the due reward of our deeds. Happy they whom suffering brings to Christ!
3. The bearers. The poor man had kind friends; they brought him. They had great difficulties; they could not come nigh to Christ for the press. They drew the sick man up to the roof; they uncovered it; they let him down into the midst before Jesus. It is a blessed task to tend the sick and suffering; it is a holy, Christ-like work. It is more blessed still to bring sinful souls to Jesus Christ, the great Physician. The Lord saw their faith. They must believe in Christ themselves who would bring others to him; we cannot help penitent sinners unless we ourselves have learned to hate sin, to overcome it by the power of faith, to live in the holy presence of Christ, breathing the atmosphere of his love. The Lord listens to intercessory prayer. Faith brings blessings not only on the believer, but on those for whom he prays. The centurion's faith brought healing to his servant; the faith of friends to the paralytic. But he too, it seems, believed. He could not come; he was willing, desirous, to be brought; he would not have been healed had he been brought by force. Jesus saw their faith—the faith of all, the sick man and his friends. Christians may help others; they may influence them by word, by holy example; but he that would be saved must himself believe. Each soul must know Christ itself: each soul must be brought into spiritual contact with the Saviour; each individual soul mast have access unto God through him.
4. The Saviour. The Lord read the hearts of the bearers; he saw their faith. He read the heart of the paralytic; he saw his trembling fearfulness, his consciousness of sin.
(1) "Child," he said, "be of good cheer." The poor man sadly needed encouragement; the Lord gave it at once; he had come to heal the broken-hearted. The poor man was humbled to the very dust; the Lord looked on him with a great pity. So he pities us in our sufferings now with the same quick, tender compassion; his sympathy comforts, helps, encourages, the trembling penitent.
(2) But there was behind the physical sickness its moral cause. The man had greatly sinned. The punishment had done its work; it had softened his heart; it had brought him to the feet of Jesus. The Lord knew the truth of his repentance. He waited not for the confession of the lips; perhaps the poor man could not speak. He pronounced at once the most blessed absolution, "Thy sins be forgiven thee." He is the same gracious Saviour now; he came to save his people from their sins. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
II. THE SCRIBES.
1. Their silent accusations. There were many Pharisees and doctors of the Law sitting there; they had been drawn by the fame of Jesus not only from Galilee, but even from Judaea and Jerusalem. They were watching our Lord, listening to him. He had spoken a great and awful word. They dared not condemn him openly; they saw his power, they feared the people; but they reproached him in their thoughts. He was guilty of blasphemy, they murmured in their hearts; he had dared to pronounce the forgiveness of the paralytic; he had assumed to himself the prerogative of God. Certainly God, and God alone, could forgive sins.
2. The Lord's answer. There were no spoken words, but he knew their thoughts. "He saw their thoughts," some ancient manuscripts read; their thoughts lay open to his all-seeing eye; he read them. He reads our thoughts now; he sees all the low, carnal, uncharitable thoughts which defile our souls, as he saw their thoughts then. They were thinking evil things in their hearts, accusing him of blasphemy, when they ought to have seen in the power of his works, in the perfect holiness of his life, the proof of his Divine origin; they were thinking in their unworthy jealousy, "It is easy to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee;" none can tell whether those great words truly convey forgiveness. Let him prove his authority; let him heal the paralytic.
III. THE MIRACLE.
1. The word of power. "Forgive us our trespasses," we say to our Father which is in heaven. "The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins." "Coelestem ortum hic sermo sapit," says Bengel very beautifully. He had power on earth to forgive sins, because he came from heaven; the Son of man could forgive, because he was in truth the Son of God. None could test that power; only the forgiven penitent could know in the depth of his heart the reality of his forgiveness; he could tell, and he only, in his inmost experience the blessed sweetness of that holy absolution. But the Lord would deign to reply to the unworthy questionings of the scribes; he would illustrate his spiritual authority by his power over outward things. He saith unto the man, "Arise!" It was a bold word, a strange thing to say to a helpless paralytic. But he had faith to be healed; his will exerted itself in obedience to the Lord's command. The muscles, so long useless, obeyed the mandate of the will. He arose before them all; he took up his bed, and departed to his house. So it is now in the history of conversions. Many souls have lost all spiritual energy; they are without spiritual force, spiritual activity; they have a vague wish for holiness, but it is only a weak, irresolute desire; an emotion rather than a resolve. But they feel at last the danger of sloth; Christian friends help them; they come, they are brought to Christ. He saith the word, "Arise!" A new strength flows in upon their weakened will—the strength which he giveth. In that strength they arise; they need no longer the help of others; they obey the Lord's life-giving command; they go forth, glorifying God.
2. The wonder of the multitude. They might well wonder; they had seen strange things that day. Their wonder, or their fear (according to the more ancient manuscripts), led them to glorify God. We see strange things now—sinners saved, souls drawn by the power of the cross to the Saviour's love. The miracles of grace are more wonderful than the miracles of power; they should lead us to glorify God, to glorify him in our praises, to glorify him in our lives.
1. It was sin that brought suffering into the world. Suffering should show us the guilt of sin, and should lead us to Christ.
2. Christ is our Hope, our only Hope. We must come to him ourselves; we must help others to come.
3. Christ is full of compassion. He pities our sorrows; he forgives the sins of the penitent.
4. Praise him for his mercies; glorify God.
I. HIS CALL.
1. His occupation. He was a publican, a tax-gatherer. The whole class was hated by the Jews as symbols and instruments of a foreign rule; they returned the hatred and contempt with which they were regarded; they exacted more than was appointed them; they were guilty, most of them perhaps, of oppression, of fraud, of unjust accusation. But if all were hated, Hebrew publicans must have been looked upon with an especial hatred. They had sold themselves for gain to the detested Romans; they oppressed their own flesh and blood; they were regarded as traitors, almost as apostates. Such was Matthew, perhaps a Levite, certainly an Israelite, but a publican.
2. The summons. He was sitting at the receipt of custom, in the actual exercise of his hated calling, as the Lord was passing by. The Lord seeth not as man seeth. He had rejected the scribe who offered to follow him; now he called the publican. His calls are not determined by class, or occupation, or race; the accidents of the outward life do not influence the choice. He searches the hearts. He said unto Matthew, "Follow me." He himself is the Pattern for his apostles, his evangelists, his ministers. They must follow him, living in his presence; that Divine presence is the one source of strength and wisdom. They must imitate his holy example, his humility, his unselfishness, his constraining love. They who follow nearest to him in the path of holiness can best teach the lessons which he taught; for they learn of him deep lessons of spiritual experience; and, learning themselves from the great Teacher, they can teach others the same holy lessons. The publican felt that Divine call in the depths of his soul. He arose; he left all, St. Luke tells us—his old occupation, his old associations and companions. He followed Christ, to be from that time wholly his, to do his will, to preach his gospel; to write, led by the Spirit, the blessed history of his most holy life, his precious death. The publican became an apostle; he reached the highest rank in the Church of Christ. The last shall be first, and the first last.
II. THE FEAST IN HIS HOUSE.
1. The company. Matthew gave a farewell feast to his old companions. He was about to leave them now to devote himself wholly to the Saviour's service. He had known them long; he would not leave them without a token of good will, and he wished them to share, if it might be, in the great blessing which had changed the course of his life. He made a great feast; the Lord was the honoured Guest. He came in his condescending love, and sat down to meat in the publican's house. It was a strange gathering. Doubtless all the publicans of Capernaum were invited, and with them came many persons of doubtful reputation—many whom "the religious world" stigmatized with more or less reason as "sinners." The Lord Christ, the most Holy One, sat down among this motley throng, not counting the time wasted which was spent in social intercourse with them. It shocked all the prejudices of the time. He was recognized as a Rabbi, a great Teacher; and now he was hazarding his reputation by mixing with these common people. He was incurring the danger of Levitical defilement; he was countenancing by his presence hated occupations, unsatisfactory lives.
2. The Pharisees. They were offended. They could not have been at the feast; nothing would have induced them to eat with publicans and sinners; but they saw the company coming or going They had not yet openly broken with our Lord; they regarded him doubtfully. He was a great Teacher, a Wonder-worker—that could not be denied; but he had said strange, bold things from time to time. He had not always followed the traditions so sacred in their eyes; and now he was outraging all their prejudices, violating all the accepted rules of religious society, They murmured against his disciples; they had not the courage, it seems, to rebuke the Lord himself, but they asked the disciples the meaning of this strange conduct. How can he do such things? He is bringing discredit on the whole class of rabbis. Why eateth your Teacher with publicans and sinners? Your Teacher, they said. He was not theirs; they could not, listen to the teaching of One who'set such an example.
3. The Lord's reply. He heard the controversy; he answered for his disciples. Perhaps they were perplexed; their old habits still had a strong hold over them. Years afterwards Peter incurred the rebuke of St. Paul for yielding to these Jewish prejudices. They knew not what to say, but the Lord answered for them.
(1) "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." The words are spoken with a Divine irony. The Pharisees were whole, strong, and well, in their own estimate of themselves; they needed no physician, so they thought. They did not come to Christ as sinners; they came, indeed, but it was from curiosity to hear the great Preacher, to know what his doctrine was; often from worse motives—to criticize, to judge, to condemn. They sought not his counsel. He could do them no good in their present frame of mind. But these publicans and sinners needed him; they were sick spiritually. Others knew it, and they knew it too; it was this very consciousness of sin and danger that brought them to Christ. Therefore he came to Matthew's feast. He sat down to eat with publicans and sinners, to draw them to himself, to teach and to save. The true disciple will follow Christ's example, tie will try to obey the apostle's precept—whether we eat or drink, to do all to the glory of God. The true Christian may do much good in the freedom of social intercourse; he may thus sometimes reach men who cannot be touched by more formal ministrations; but it needs a true disciple, a man full of wisdom and of the Holy Ghost, thus to follow Christ.
(2) He quotes the Scriptures. Mercy is better than sacrifice; love is holier than external obedience; outward forms, intellectual orthodoxy, will not avail for our salvation, if we have not that blessed grace of charity, without which all our doings are nothing worth. "Go ye and learn what that meaneth," the Lord said. They were teachers; they knew well the letter of the Scripture. They had missed its inner meaning. That meaning has been lost sight of again and again through the long range of history. The Christian must, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, keep that inner meaning steadily before his mind. The first of the commandments is love; all is vanity if we have not love.
(3) This was the very purpose of the Lord's coming. It was not to call righteous men. His great act of Divine self-sacrifice would not have been necessary if men had been righteous. But "there is none righteous, no, not one." There were some who "trusted in themselves that they were righteous;" none who were such in the sight of God. He came to call sinners; therefore he sought them, he talked with them, he sat at meat with them. His perfect purity could not be marred by their companionship; rather he would cleanse them from their sins. Could he shun them, like the Pharisees? It would frustrate the very end of his incarnation. He was come to seek and to save that which was lost.
4. The. disciples of John. They came with the Pharisees (Mark 2:18); they, too, were startled by the Saviour's conduct, but especially by the absence of asceticism from his life and teaching. John came neither eating nor drinking; his disciples lived a life of rigid abstinence like their master. And now
(1) they ask the Lord a question. They make their own practice a rule for others; a common mistake, the mistake against which St. Paul argues so strongly in Romans 14:1-23. and elsewhere. They thought so much of their frequent fastings that they even ranged themselves with the Pharisees in opposition to our Lord, or at least in distinction from his practice—a strange departure from their Master's teaching. How often men magnify small outward differences, to the disregard of deep and important agreement!
(2) The Lord's reply. He does not answer the first part of the question, why they and the Pharisees fasted; he leaves that to their own conscience. He defends his own disciples. There could be no fasting among the festivities of a wedding. He was the heavenly Bridegroom, come to take to himself a bride—the Church which he so greatly loved. His disciples were the friends of the Bridegroom, attending him as he came to fetch the bride. They could not fast while he was with them. But even now, in the midst of success and popularity, he saw the shadow of the cross. The Bridegroom would not always be with his friends; he would be taken from them. It is the first allusion in St. Matthew's Gospel to the coming end; it is very touching in its calm simplicity. They will fast then. Fasting is meaningless without mourning; outward self-denials are worthless if they are not the expression of inner sorrow. They will sorrow for the absent Bridegroom, mourning for the sins which have separated them from him. The soul that hath found Christ cannot but rejoice—in his presence is fulness of joy; but there must be seasons of sorrow even in the highest Christian life, when the burden of our sins is grievous unto us, and the remembrance of them is intolerable. Then shall they fast in those days; but their fasting will not be like the formal fasts of the Pharisees, but such as the Lord commended in the sermon on the mount.
(3) Two similes.
(a) An old garment must not be patched with new, unfulled cloth. The new piece is too strong for the worn garment; it will shrink, too, and rend it. Christ's religion is not merely Judaism with a few additions and improvements; it is a new dispensation. It comes from the same God; but it is fresher, stronger than the old. The old was good in its day, but now the fulness of time is come; the marriage robe is ready; it is fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness of saints, which is the righteousness of Christ; it agreeth not with the old.
(b) New wine must not be put into old wine-skins. It will ferment; it wilt burst the old skins, which have become hard and will not expand. The Pharisees with their effete ceremonialism cannot receive the gospel. He must be a new man who is to be filled with the Spirit. The new wine of the gospel lives and works; it does not suit the stiff, hard, dry, formal life of the Pharisee. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty; we have received not the spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of adoption, the free Spirit of sonship. But that free Spirit abideth not in mere formalists. His chosen home is in renewed hearts; in those who have been transformed by the renewing of their mind; in whom old things are passed away, and all things are become new.
1. The meanest, the most despised, may walk very close with Christ; only follow him when he calls.
2. Pharisees could blame even Christ himself; we must not expect to escape censure.
3. Even good men are sometimes censorious; the Christian must answer gently, like his Lord.
4. Seek to be filled with the Spirit; desire the new wine of charity.
The raising of the daughter of Jairus.
I. THE FATHER.
1. His position. He was a ruler of the synagogue, a dignitary of the Jewish Church, The Pharisees once asked in scorn, "Have any of the rulers believed on him?" Here was one who certainly believed. Possibly he may have been one of those elders of the Jews whom the centurion had sent to Christ. If so, he had seen both the power of Christ and his sympathy with sorrow and suffering. Now sorrow had come very near to him, and he sought for his own needs the Lord whom he had before entreated in behalf of another. Those who intercede for others are blessed in their own souls; mercy is twice blest. The Pharisees were beginning to hold aloof from Christ, to question his authority. A ruler might have felt some difficulty in preferring a request to him just then. Jairus thought nothing of such matters in the presence of his great sorrow. He came, perhaps to the publican's house, and, ruler though he was, he fell down at Jesus' feet and worshipped him. Sorrow often softens the proud heart, and brings the humbled soul to Christ; sorrow is a blessed thing if it leads to the feet of Christ, if it teaches us to worship.
2. His prayer. His little daughter (she was but twelve years old) was at the point of death—so near her end that he described her (according to St. Matthew's abridged narrative) as already dead. He thought the breath would go forth before he reached the Lord. He believed that Christ could help him even now. But the anguish of his soul was intense; he poured forth his prayer in the broken accents of grief.. "Come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live." It was wonderful faith; he believed that Christ could recall the parted soul, and restore his dead child to her father's arms.
3. The Lord's readiness. Jesus arose, perhaps from the couch in the house of Matthew, and followed Jairus from the house of feasting to the house of mourning. There are strange contrasts in human life. Here gladness, and there sorrow; here light and feasting and song, there wailing and the anguish of the bereaved, the death-agony and the faintness of departing life. The Christian should be prepared for both—to weep with those that weep, and to rejoice with those that do rejoice. He may take his part, like the Lord, in the innocent enjoyments of life; he must sometimes, like the Lord, contend earnestly for the faith; but, like the Lord, he should be ready to leave the festive table, or the disputes of controversy, to comfort the afflicted and minister to the dying. Therefore he should live always in the Spirit; therefore he should strive, whether he eats or drinks, or whatever he is doing, to do all to the glory of God. The disciples followed Christ from the house of Matthew to the house of Jairus; we should be ready always to follow him whithersoever he teeth.
II. THE AFFLICTED WOMAN.
1. Her trouble. She had long suffered from a wasting disease. For twelve years, the whole life of the little daughter of Jairus, she had been afflicted. She had tried every means of relief, she had applied to physician after physician, she had submitted to many painful remedies, she had spent all that she had; but she found no help—she grew worse. It is a sad history. There are many such now—long wasting sicknesses; vain efforts to recover health; hopelessness. But still, as ever, there is the Saviour's ready sympathy. If he does not work outward miracles as of old, he works spiritual wonders still. He gives patience, peace, holy hope. He turns suffering into blessing.
2. He, timidity. She had heard of Jesus. He had done many mighty works. Now he was on his way to a yet more wonderful exercise of power. He had heard that the damsel was dead, yet he arose and went. What would he do? A great multitude followed him in intense, awful expectation. The poor woman mingled with the crowd. She knew that she was accounted unclean; she was full of shame and timidity; she feared to meet the look of Jesus; she came behind him in the press, and touched the hem of his garment. He might do something for her; he might heal her on his way to the house of Jairus. Something of the wondrous power that was to be exerted there might flow in upon her and stay her sickness. People hear of Christ now; they know what he has done, what he is doing for others; one miracle leads to another, one conversion to another. Circumstances differ. Some come straight to Christ, like Jairus; they open their grief to him, they bring him at once to their house, to their heart. Others are more fearful; they feel the defilement of their sin; they tremble. But they must come; none other can save them. They come, drawn perhaps by others, in the throng that follows Christ. They know not what to say; they cannot shape the longings of their hearts into words. They come behind him; they touch the hem of his garment; the Spirit maketh intercession for them with groanings that cannot be uttered.
3. Her faith. She said within herself, "If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole." Her faith was not like that of the centurion—there was, perhaps, something of superstition in it; she seems to have thought that the healing power diffused itself from the Person of our Lord, apart from the action of his Divine wilt. Her error somewhat resembled that of those who think that God can act only through the unconscious laws of nature, not by the conscious intervention of his almighty will. She was wrong. But be felt her presence, he knew her trouble and her faith; it was by the act of his will that virtue went out of him, and healed her sickness. So it is in the realm of nature. Not a sparrow fails to the ground without our Father. But if, her faith was uninstructed, it was strong and living. His touch, she felt in her heart, would heal her sickness. Multitudes touched our Lord as they thronged round about him in the press; but one touched him with the hand of faith. That one he knew at once. He saw her not with the outward eye—she was behind him; but he knew her heart. "The Lord knoweth them that are his;" but many that say to him, "Lord, Lord," he hath never known. Various motives brought that crowd together—curiosity, excitement, and such-like. They thronged round our Lord, eager to see what he would do. "Master, the multitude throng thee, and press thee," said St. Peter. They followed him closely, watching him intently. We are not told that they received any benefit from their nearness to the Lord. Bodily presence was not enough; there was need of something deeper. There were many eager eyes; there was one faithful heart. People fill the churches now, they join in the services, they come to the Holy Communion. It is well, it is necessary; but something more is needful for salvation. They must put forth the hand of faith, they must touch the Saviour; then power will go forth from him, and heal the sickness of their souls. The poor woman came in deep humility, in weakness and trembling; so must the penitent come to Christ. She came behind him; she sought only to touch his garment; she was content with the lowest place. Only to touch his garment, only to feel his life-giving power—that was enough; it would take away her uncleanness, it would heal her sickness.
4. The Lord's thoughfulness. He was bent on an errand of love. The poor father was in intense anxiety; the crowd was full of eager anticipation; but bore was one who needed his help. He must stop, even on his way to raise the dead. Mark his calm, majestic collectedness. In his holy unselfishness he had time and thought for every suppliant. He was not vexed with interruptions, as we are apt to be; he waited on his way. The Lord has work for us every day; it is not always the work which we had marked out for ourselves. If it is his work, it is blessed. We must put aside our own plans, and do what he bids us.
5. His inquiries. He asked who had touched him. it was not for his own information; he knew the thoughts of all men. ]But he felt the touch of faith—the one touch in all that throng that arrested his steps and claimed his grace. It was well for her to know that it was his sovereign will, not any virtue inherent in the hem of his garment, that had wrought the miracle. It was well, too, for the multitude to learn the great lesson that faith in Christ hath power to heal.
6. His mercy. He turned him about, he saw her. She came, fearing and trembling, and told him all. She feared that she had presumed too much, but the good Lord at once reassured her. "Daughter," he said (it is the only time, as far as the Bible tells us, that he used that endearing word), "be of good cheer." He comforted her in her trembling awe, as now he comforts the humble and penitent. And then came the blessed word, "Thy faith hath made thee whole." It was he who saved her; it is he who saves sinners now. But faith is the hand put forth to touch the Lord; faith is the instrument, Christ is the cause of our justification. The Lord puts great honour upon faith. He marvelled at the centurion's faith; it filled him with admiration. Let us pray, "Lord, increase our faith," that, like this poor woman, we may be made whole from that hour when with the hand of faith we touch the Saviour.
III. THE HOUSE OF JAIRUS.
1. The Lord's sympathy. He felt for the father's grief; he knew the anguish of his soul. "Be not afraid," he said, "only believe." Trust in Christ is the one only comfort in deep sorrow. "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me." He would not allow the curious, excited crowd to intrude upon the parents' grief. Only the Lord and the three most favoured apostles entered the chamber of death. The delicate tact of true Christian sympathy is a precious gift; we must learn it of the Lord.
2. The preparations for the funeral. There was an unseemly noise; hired mourners and minstrels were mingling the hypocrisy of grief with the real sorrow of the bereaved. The Lord reproved them. "She is not dead," he said, "but sleepeth." They misunderstood his words. They showed their want of feeling by laughter and ridicule in the presence of the dead. But he put them forth; they could not resist his simple dignity, his tone of tranquil authority. And now he was left alone with the chosen three, and the father and mother of the maiden. Christian funerals should be quiet, without display; they should be cheered with Christian hope. "She is not dead, but sleepeth." The Lord Jesus should be present. He will come if we ask him. His sympathy brings peace among tears, comfort, humble hope.
3. The word of power. He took the little hand; it was still and cold; it lay motionless in his. Death and life were brought into close contact; the dead maiden and the Lord, who is the Resurrection and the Life. He spoke but two words. There was no effort, no excitement, no display; only two simple words. But the parted soul heard; it returned at the Lord's command; the hues of health came back to the pallid cheeks, and the little maid arose. They were astonished with a great astonishment, but the Lord was still and calm. It was no wonder to him, for he is God Almighty. It was but an anticipation of what he will do hereafter on a vast and awful scale. "All that are in the graves shall hear his voice," as the maiden heard that day. We shall hear him then; we shall come forth; God grant it may be unto the resurrection of life!
1. Come to Jesus in the hour of bitter sorrow; he will come to those who come to him.
2. He knows all our troubles, all our hidden griefs. "Be not afraid, only believe."
3. Be not content with outward forms; put forth the hand of faith, and touch the Lord.
4. "Arise!" he says. May he give us grace to listen now, to hear and live, that we may share the resurrection of the just!
I. THE TWO BLIND MEN.
1. Their cry. The day's work was not over. It had been a wonderful day, crowded with mighty deeds. The Lord was returning from the house of Jairus, his thoughts full, we may well believe, of sympathy with the sorrowing, of holy joy at their deliverance. But this world is a world of sorrow; sorrow in various forms meets us everywhere. Two blind men followed in the crowd. They could not see the gracious face of the Lord, but they had heard of his wondrous works. He who raised the dead could open the eyes of the blind. They followed in the crowd; they implored him as the Son of David. It was the first time, as far as we know, that men had so addressed him. They were blind, but they had the inner vision of faith. They saw that Jesus was the Christ that was to come. Faith is more precious than sight; it perceives the things unseen, the eternal verities of the spiritual world. "Have mercy on us!" they cried again and again. He seemed as though he heeded not. He passed on in silence, absorbed, it seemed, in holy meditation.
2. Their perseverance. He seemed not to hear them. He entered into the house. Blind though they were, they found the way; they would not take an apparent refusal; they came to him into the house. It is an encouragement to persevering prayer. How often he seems not to heed us when we pray for light! We pray again and again, but the darkness is still upon our souls; we cannot see him. But we must pray on. He came to preach recovery of sight to the blind. He listens, though we think he heedeth not; in his own good time he will pour the light of his most gracious presence into the soul that once was dark. He heareth prayer.
3. Their faith. He asked them—Did they believe in his power? "Yea, Lord," they answered. The like question is often borne in upon our souls in times of darkness and distress. Oh that we could answer always with the unhesitating assent of those poor blind men! The Lord proved their faith; he touched their eyes; the touch was to heal them only if their faith was real; "according to your faith be it unto you." Their eyes were opened; they saw the holy Saviour; it proved his power; it proved the truth of their faith. Still he heals all who come to him in, faithful prayer. He opens their eyes; they see him. "The world seeth me no more, but ye see me."
4. The Lord's command. He bade them tell no man. Sometimes he enjoined secrecy, sometimes he bade men tell what great things the Lord had done for them. His directions varied, doubtless, with the circumstances of the case, and with the spiritual condition of the individual. Perhaps it was premature to announce in that neighbourhood that he was the expected Son of David; perhaps he saw something of self-importance in the men; they would talk too loudly of the privilege bestowed upon them; they would glorify themselves rather than God. There are spiritual mercies, visions of Divine grace, of which it is best to be silent; there are sometimes temptations to vain-glory even in God's blessings.
5. Their disobedience. It was not right. They may perhaps have excused their conduct by attributing Christ's words to excessive modesty—modesty which might prompt him to conceal his good deeds, but ought not to prevent the recipients of his grace from making known their gratitude. But the Lord had" straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it." Nothing could excuse disobedience to a commandment expressed so plainly, even sternly. The Lord knew better than they what was best for themselves and for others. Their duty was simply to obey him. Obedience is better than sacrifice. The surest proof of true gratitude is unquestioning obedience. "If a man love me, he will keep my words."
II. THE DUMB DEMONIAC.
1. He was brought to Christ. The blind men came; the demoniac was brought. He was helpless under the power of the evil one. He could not speak. It may be that in his heart he cried for mercy; it may be that the Lord accepted the faith of those who brought him, as he raised the daughter of Jairus, moved by her father's prayer. It is a blessed work of love to bring the helpless to Christ, to pray for those who cannot pray for themselves. Every soul is exceeding precious, even those who may seem the most degraded.
2. The cure. The Lord saw the cause of his dumbness, and at once cast out the evil spirit. The dumb spike. The people wondered; never had such deeds been done in Israel. They are still done in the Israel of God, blessed be his holy Name! The evil spirit checks the voice of prayer; he makes men dumb, so that they cannot speak to Jesus confessing their sins. But the Lord still opens the lips of the dumb, and their mouth showeth forth his praise.
3. The blasphemy of the Pharisees. Their opposition was increasing. They had blamed him for eating with publicans and sinners; they had accused him of blasphemy in their hearts; now they fall into deeper guilt. He came that he might destroy the works of the devil; he was doing so now. They said among themselves that his power over the devils was exercised through complicity with the prince of the devils. It was an awful sin. Small sins against the law of love lead on to greater. People indulge in fault-finding, in criticizing the conduct of others. They may go on to attribute the highest acts of Christian love to unholy motives—a deep and deadly sin in the sight of God.
1. Persevere in prayer. Christ hath saved others; doubt not, earnestly believe; he will save all who come to him in faith.
2. Follow him in the crowd, in the house; pray everywhere.
3. Be watchful against vain-glory; the Christian life is hid with Christ in God.
4. Honour goodness in all men. To speak against the work of God the Holy Ghost is grievous sin.
The missionary work of Christ.
I. HIS JOURNEYS THROUGH GALILEE
1. He went everywhere. His activity was unceasing. He visited every city and village in that thickly populated district. It was a new thing in the history of the world—a Missionary of salvation sent from heaven, spending his time in ceaseless journeys, in constant wearying labour, and that not for gum, not for pleasure, but for love's sake, to win dying souls to God and heaven. It is a high example to the ministers of his holy Word and sacraments.
2. His preaching. He taught in the synagogues; they were still open to him. The Pharisees had for some time distrusted him; they were beginning to oppose him, but their opposition was not yet formal, decided. It expressed itself in angry looks, in words spoken among themselves. He was recognized as a Teacher, a Rabbi; he was honoured by the people. He was a welcome Preacher in every village synagogue. The Lord most holy was wont to preach in the smallest villages, in the humblest synagogues. His servants should imitate him in his humility, in his zeal for the salvation of the poorest and the most ignorant. He preached the gospel of the kingdom, the good news of the kingdom which was to spread over the whole earth, which was to be established in the hearts of men, which was in God's good time to be manifested in glory. It was good news then; it is good news now. The message is heard daily; people listen carelessly, without thought; but when God the Holy Ghost brings the Word home to the heart, it comes with all the freshness of a new life, a new hope; it is good news indeed. May he bring the gracious message to our souls!
3. His care for the sick. He healed every disease. His servants must care for the bodies as well as for the souls of his people; they must tend the sick and suffering, for so did Jesus Christ.
II. THE MULTITUDES.
1. The Lord's compassion. As he moved hither and thither, he saw the great masses of the people crowded together in those populous towns, neglected and uncured for. His heart was deeply moved, as many a good man's heart is moved by the like sight now. He was the good Shepherd. He saw the flock scattered here and there, some cast down, prostrate on the earth; some wandering, bruised, their fleeces torn (ἐσκυλμένοι) by wolves. There was no shepherd; the shepherds of Israel (Ezekiel 34:1-31.)were feeding themselves, and not the flock. They did not heal that which was sick, or bind up that which was broken, or seek that which was lost. The flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth. The Pharisees despised the poor and ignorant—the "people of the earth," as they called them. The good Shepherd came to seek and to save that which was lost. He is our great Example.
2. His exhortation to prayer. The figure is changed. Spiritual things are only inadequately expressed in human language; each parable, each illustration, brings out some new feature, a new side of the underlying truth. The people were described as God's flock; now they are his harvest. The harvest of souls is plenteous; all the world over it is growing, ripening for the great day. But the labourers are few. The harvest is the Lord's; all souls are his; it is he who sends the labourers, who casts them forth (as the word means) into the harvest-field by the energy of a Divine mission, by the call of the Holy Spirit. Only he can give that holiness, that zeal, that self-denying love for souls, without which they cannot fulfil their arduous task. Therefore he bids us pray. It is the Lord's harvest; he cares for it; yet, in the deep mystery of the relations between heaven and earth, there is need of human prayer. It must be so, or the Lord would not have enjoined it. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Nothing is beyond the reach of faithful prayer, for the Lord himself hath said, "All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." A supply of faithful ministers is of the very utmost importance for the well-being of the Church. Then we must pray for the ministers of God's Holy Word. It is in the strength of the prayer of the Church that they pursue their solemn work; when they fail, when they are wanting in faith, in humility, in love, in 'self-denying labour, the fault may lie in part with those who do not pray for them according to the Lord's commandment. He sends forth the labourers; pray for his blessing on them and on their work.
1. The Lord's ministers must try by his gracious help to visit as he visited, to preach as he preached.
2. His sheep are very dear to him; his people must care for them.
3. All Christians must pray for the ministers of his Holy Word and sacraments.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Christ and the forgiveness of sins.
After the series of miracles of healing recorded in the previous chapter, the evangelist passes to the more directly spiritual work of Christ, and the transition is marked by an incident which combines both kinds of ministry.
I. THE WORLD'S FIRST NEED IS THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. The sufferer was in a pitiably helpless condition—so helpless that he had to be carried to Christ. Yet the Saviour saw that his bodily weakness was of secondary importance compared to the spiritual paralysis of sin that benumbed his soul. His friends thought only of the physical trouble; but the keen eye of the Physician of souls penetrated through the superficial symptoms to the more terrible spiritual disease beneath. It would seem that the man himself felt this most acutely, and that Jesus, who could read hearts at a glance, perceived his deep yearning for forgiveness, and answered his unexpressed desire. It may be that his present condition was the result of some form of intemperance, was the natural punishment of his sins. But if this was not the case, there was, and there always is, a general connection between sin and suffering. However this may be, we all need to be delivered from our sins more than we need to be cured of any bodily infirmity. He alone who can save from sin is man's real Saviour.
II. CHRIST HAS DIVINE AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SIN. He does not pray for the man's forgiveness. He grants the pardon himself. His action startled and alarmed the religious people in the assembly. Was not Jesus claiming a Divine prerogative? Now, one of their premises was perfectly sound. Only God has a right to forgive sin, and if a mere man claims to pronounce absolution in more than a general declaration of the gospel, i.e. as a direct act of forgiveness, he is guilty of blasphemy. We cannot both accept the gospel narrative and reject the Divinity of Christ without leaving the character of our Lord under suspicion of the gravest charges. There is no middle course here. A mild Unitarianism that believes in the Gospels and honours Jesus is most illogical. But knowing the character of Christ to be true and pure, must we not take his calm claim to forgive sins as an evidence of his Divinity?
III. CHRIST'S MISSION ON EARTH BRINGS THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. This is a new note in religion. Forgiveness was known in the Old Testament (e.g. Psalms 103:3). But Jesus brings it with a fresh graciousness, with a new fulness and directness.
1. By his incarnation. It was as the "Son of man" that Jesus opened up the wealth of Divine forgiveness to us. The people marvelled at the power that had been granted "unto men."
(1) In his human life Jesus shows us the sympathy of God.
(2) He also reveals true purity, and so strikes a deep note of penitence, and brings us into the spirit that is capable of receiving pardon.
2. Through his atonement. This was not seen at first. It was enough to perceive the great fact—that Jesus brought forgiveness. But at the end of his life our Lord showed that his power to do this was confirmed by his death; that his blood was "shed for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). Thus by the sacrifice of himself he reconciles us to God, and reconciliation is the very essence of forgiveness.
3. In his present power. He showed one phase of his power in healing the bodily disease of the sufferer. This was a sign of the healing power that cures spiritual evil. He is the present, living Saviour, who both heals and pardons by his word of grace.—W.F.A.
Jesus the Friend of sinners.
The incident here recorded follows on the call of Matthew the publican. Our Lord had just appointed a member of an order usually regarded as hopelessly reprobate to be one of his apostles. It was natural that the publican's old associates should recognize this breaking down of old barriers, and flock to the feast which Matthew provided to welcome and honour his new Friend.
I. THE FACT. Jesus did eat and drink with men of questionable occupation, and even with those of notoriously bad character. He did not simply show himself kindly disposed towards such people. He associated with them. Many benevolent persons would wish them well, and-some would support homes and refuges for the most miserable and degraded among them. But the Church of Christ has been slow in following her Master's example in showing real brotherhood for people under a social ban. The conduct of Jesus was new to the world, and it has been but rarely followed. Here is the wonder of his brotherly nature. He will take the lowest to the priceless privilege of his friendship.
II. THE COMPLAINT. This conduct of our Lord was regarded as scandalous by the religious people of his day, as similar conduct on the part of any good man who was daring enough to attempt it would be regarded by the religious people of our own times. It was not really suspected that he enjoyed the bad atmosphere of low society, but he was charged with courting that society in order to win popularity. Ungenerous people cannot conceive of generous motives. To them the grandest act of self-sacrifice must have some sinister aim.
III. THE EXPLANATION. Jesus associated with persons of bad character in the hope of raising them. He compared himself to a physician who does not pay his visits to healthy people. The doctor on his rounds goes to some strange houses. If he were but a casual caller, his choice of associates might raise a scandal. But his work determines his action. Though he has to handle and study what is very repulsive, science and humane ends elevate his treatment of it, and keep this pure. Christ goes first where he is most needed. Not desert, not pleasure, but need, draws him. When he comes it is to heal. His purpose sanctifies his association with persons of loose character. His one aim is to do them good.
IV. THE JUSTIFICATION. The religious people who accused our Lord had formed a totally false conception of the service which was acceptable to God. Jesus answered them out of their own Bible. There they might have read that what God required was not ceremonial offerings, but kindness to our fellow-men—"mercy and not sacrifice." Thus he turns the tables. These very religious people, his accusers, are not pleasing God. They are very particular about formal observances, but they neglect the weightier matters of the Law. Christ is truly doing God's will by showing mercy. God is love, and Divine love is never so gratified as by the exercise of human charity. Therefore it is quite in accordance with his Father's will that Christ shall call the sinners. His mission is to them. Those people who think themselves righteous cannot have any blessing from Christ. The self-righteous hypocrite is really further from the kingdom of heaven than the publican and the sinner.—W.F.A.
Matthew 9:16, Matthew 9:17
The new and the old.
This pair of homely parables illustrates the incompatibility of the old with the new from two points of view—first from that of the old, which is spoilt in the effort to patch it with the new; second from that of the new, which is lost through the attempt to confine it in the limitations of the old.
I. THE OLD IS SPOILT WHEN IT IS PATCHED WITH THE NEW. The shrinking of the patch of undressed cloth tears the old garment, and so makes the rent worse than it was before. There was a strictly Jewish Christianity in the early Church, really harder and narrower than old Judaism. It was not truly Christian, yet the grand old Jewish ideas were spoilt. At Alexandria, Greek thought degenerated in its association with biblical ideas. It would not accept those ideas in their fulness, and yet it tried to patch its old fabric with them. The consequence was its dissolution. When Protestantism is not a complete severance from Romanism, but a mixture with it, the result is that the advantages of both the authority of the old and the freedom of the new system are lost. All this is melancholy if we are attached to the old. But there is another way of looking at it. The new is revolutionary. When the old is worn threadbare, it is best to cast it aside. Although we cling to it affectionately, it may be well that it should be violently torn from our backs. The gospel will not be a mere patch laid on an ugly defect in our worldly character. It will tear that character to shreds. It is a mistake to hope to patch it. The Christian method is to cast it off entirely and put on a completely new garment—the new character, the new life in Christ.
II. THE NEW IS LOST WHEN IT IS CONFINED BY THE OLD. The new wine ferments and must expand. But the old wine-skins are hard and dry and inelastic, and they are not strong enough to restrain the powerful ferment. The result is a twofold disaster—they are burst, which may not be a very great evil if they are worn out; and the wine is spilt, which is a serious loss. The old is always trying to cramp and restrain the new. Judaism endeavoured to confine Christianity within its own hard limitations. People are constantly trying to force new ideas into old expressions. In practical Christianity the attempt is made to confine the ferment of new enthusiasm within the walls of ancient order. Thus the Churches fetter the new fresh life of Christian experience. Perhaps they have some excuse for themselves. There is a rashness, a rawness, an unsettled ferment, about the new enthusiasm. Nevertheless, if this is real and living, they who resist it do so at their peril. They run a great risk of being themselves shattered in the process. The fact is new ideas absolutely refuse to be limited by old formulae. New spiritual forces cannot be bottled up in antiquated customs. In personal life the new grace of Christ cannot be confined to the old ways of living. If those old ways are obstinate and still claim to rule the man, there will be a dreadful conflict. The only wise thing is to make a fresh start. Many a hopeful movement has been wasted by the attempt to limit it to the ideas and practices of the past. if men had more faith in God they would learn that he belongs to the present as well as to the past, and that therefore the present has equally sacred rights and promises.—W.F.A.
Matthew 9:18, Matthew 9:19, Matthew 9:23-26
The ruler's daughter.
I. THE APPEAL.
1. The applicator. A ruler. Rulers were slow to believe in Christ. But some from almost every class were found among his disciples. Distress breaks down pride and shatters prejudices. They who would never seek Christ in prosperity may be found crying out for his help in trouble.
2. The object. The ruler asks for his child a favour which possibly he would have been too proud to have sought for himself. Suffering children touch the hearts of all. One such here touched the heart of Jesus.
3. The occasion. The child is nearly dead. It looks as though the father had tried every other remedy before applying to the great Healer. Many will only turn to Christ as a last resort. Yet much distress would be saved if men and women would seek him first, not last.
II. THE RESPONSE. Jesus arose and followed the ruler. He had been seated before, for be had been teaching. The ruler had interrupted his discourse. But Jesus did not, care for this; he was always ready to respond to the cry for help. We never read of his refusing to go anywhere but once, and then the invitation was to a king's palace, and the object of it was only the satisfaction of a superficial worldling's empty curiosity. All genuine appeals were met at once.
III. THE DELAY. Jesus was hindered on the way by another case of distress. This must have tried the poor father's patience most terribly, for it would have just given time for the sick child to die. And, indeed, this seems to have been the case. During the slow approach of Jesus the child died. But the poor suffering woman had as much claim on Christ as the great ruler. He is no respecter of persons. He is never in a hurry. He has time and sympathy for all comers.
IV. THE REBUKE. Jesus found the house in all the uproar that resulted from the performance of a band of hired mourners. This disgusted him. We should consider such a performance in the house of death most unseemly. To Christ it was worse. It was a part of that empty formalism that he met at every turn. Its hollowness and unreality offended him. Moreover, in so far as it had a meaning, this was not one that he could encourage. The wild abandonment of despair is not Christian. It is not the language of faith. Better is Job's calm expression of resignation, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).
V. THE REVELATION. The damsel is not dead. To Jesus there is no death but sin and its doom. An innocent child's passing away is but a falling asleep. Christ has transformed death. The grim shadow has melted into an angel of God, who giveth his beloved sleep.
VI. THE SECLUSION. The great work of. Christ cannot be carried out amid the uproar of the hired mourners. He shuns our noisy, fussy gatherings. Artificiality and pretence are quite incompatible with his presence. When he works wonders it is with those who believe in him.
VII. THE RESURRECTION. Jesus lays hold of the cold little hand of the dead child. In a moment his wonderful life-power thrills through her, and she sits up alive again. No need is too hard for him who could raise the dead. Even now his great compassion goes out to dead souls, and a touch of his hand brings life.—W.F.A.
The healing touch.
This little incident inserted in the middle of the story of the ruler's child, because the event occurred on the road to the man's house, reveals Jesus as the Friend of the obscure, the miserable, the lonely. On the way to help the little daughter of a great house, Jesus is arrested and deeply interested with the faith and cure of a poor and helpless woman.
I. THE WOMAN'S FAITH.
1. It is modest. She trembles at the idea of becoming conspicuous. In her deep distress she will but creep up in the crowd behind the great Healer and steal a blessing. Timorous souls are drawn to Christ. They will not come to the "penitent's bench" at a monster revival meeting. But they will seek Christ in their own quiet way.
2. It is humble. Who is she that she should claim the attention of Jesus Christ. An important citizen may call him into his house, but this poor obscure woman cannot even bring herself to speak to him. Yet Jesus had pronounced a blessing on. the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).
3. It is unselfish. This would seem to be a most unfortunate time for approaching Christ. He is just hastening to the house of an important personage where a little child is dying. To stop him now would be cruel to the child; it would be resented by her father. Suffering is often selfish. But the distressed woman will not hinder the good work Christ is about to perform by asking him to stay for her.
4. It is ingenious. It was a new idea to obtain a cure from Christ by a touch of his garment. The sufferer decides for herself that her novel method will be efficacious. There is room for freshness of thought in our relations with Christ.
5. It is powerful. This is what most strikes Christ. In spite of her modesty, humility, unselfishness, and the difficulty of her position, this woman determines to try to obtain healing. Faith is tested by the difficulties it overcomes. It may be that the least pretentious faith is the strongest. There is room for great faith in lowly circumstances. The heroes of faith are to be found among the obscure and humble.
II. How CHRIST TREATED HER.
1. He was conscious of her touch. There was no magic in his garment. The cure came from himself. We are blessed by Christ only when we come into personal relations with him.
2. He took notice of her. He turned and saw her. It interested him much that a humble woman should have so much faith in him. He is not satisfied that any should approach him solely for their own private advantage. He would know his people, and he expects them to recognize him. This cannot be because he craves the fame of miracle-working. On the contrary, he shrank from that and forbade the publication of his doings. But he desires to have a personal friendship between himself and all whom he blesses.
3. He cheered her. The poor woman was overwhelmed with shame, and addressing her in the utmost refinement of sympathy as "daughter," Jesus reassures her. There is a rough charity that wounds the spirit while it tries to benefit the body. But this is not found in Christ. He perfectly understands, he truly sympathizes, he encourages and gladdens the heart of the miserable.
4. He commended her faith. Jesus was always ready to perceive the good in people, to tell it out and rejoice over it.
5. He healed her disease. She had her wish granted, while she had more. Jesus gives what will really satisfy the need of his people, while his gracious recognition far exceeds the hopes of the humble.—W.F.A.
The sheep and the harvest.
Jesus is moved with compassion at the sight of the multitude. There is always something pathetic in such a sight. The needs of the people made it especially so for Christ. To him the people are of deepest interest. His heart goes out, not to favourites, not to a few select, refined, or saintly souls, but to the multitude. As he gazes at the great moving mass of humanity, it calls up to his mind two images. First, it seems like a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Then it appears as a harvest-field waiting for the reapers.
I. THE PITEOUS HELPLESSNESS OF THE SHEEP.
1. The sheep are without a shepherd. There were official teachers, men trained in the Law and appointed to instruct the ignorant. But these men were not true pastors. They were well meaning, many of them. But they had no charm wherewith to draw the people; they did not know the green pastures and the still waters. Therefore Jesus found the people shepherdless. Without Christ the world is lost. No human leader is sufficient for its needs.
2. The sheep are distressed. They are trained to follow their leader. He knows where the best pasturage is; he can protect the helpless creatures from danger. Men and women need firm guidance, spiritual pasturage, and heavenly protection. We cannot go as solitary pilgrims dependent on our own resources.
3. The sheep are scattered. They were not drawn together by the voice of a trusted shepherd. So they wandered foolishly and aimlessly. The world without Christ is disunited. In thought and conduct men wander from one another, and the social bond is broken when the Divine bond is disregarded.
4. The sheep need a shepherd. Jesus saw the need, and he came to supply it. Later in his ministry he proclaimed himself as the good Shepherd (John 10:11). Moreover, he expects his ministers to be first of all pastors to the people, feeding his sheep (John 21:17).
II. THE GLORIOUS PROSPECT OF THE HARVEST. The image changes. Instead of a scattered flock of bleating sheep spread over the hillside, we see waving fields of corn, ripe for the harvest, only needing the reapers to gather in its golden wealth.
1. There is a harvest in the world. This is a cheering thought. Regarded from one point of view, men are like sheep—their need is great; looked at from another standpoint, they are indeed a harvest-field with boundless possibilities. When the industry of China, the speculation of India, the endurance of Africa, are won to Christ, and when the boundless energy of the West is all gathered into his garner, great will be the wealth of the kingdom of heaven. The world is worth winning for Christ. He counts his wealth by the souls he possesses.
2. The harvest is plenteous.
(1) It covers a vast area. The greater part of the world is not yet Christian.
(2) It includes a multitude of souls. Christ has not come to save a few; he aims at the plenteous harvest of many souls.
(3) It contains many forms of good. There is great wealth in this harvest-field of the world. Christ would have the heroism, the industry, the art, the literature, of the world gathered into his kingdom.
3. Many labourers are needed. Jesus was the Sower (Matthew 13:3). His disciples are the reapers. Never was so large a harvest-field open for the sickle as in our own day; never were so many labourers needed. The great want of the world is apostolic missionaries, men and women with the spirit of Christ in them.—W.F.A.
HOMILIES BY P.C. BARKER
Matthew 9:1-8 (Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26)
The Lord of both lives.
Notice in introduction one of the simplest instances of the way in which the three very various accounts of our Lord's life and works supply one another, add greatly to our information, and form a network of evidence of the authenticity of the narrative which it would seem impossible to gainsay. Observe—
I. THE GRACIOUS ACTION TAKEN BY THE SAVIOUR SO PROMPTLY ON THE FIRST SIGHT OF FAITH. Notice the fact that the forgiveness of the sins of the paralytic took precedence of the healing of his disease. Was this due to the specialty of the occasion, the large attendance of doctors of the Law and Pharisees? Was it due exclusively to something that the eye of Jesus saw in the spiritual condition of the paralytic—in that his heart's deepest desire was for forgiveness; or that there was special fitness in him to stand as an example, to all time herein, of one blessed to take the supreme good first, and find "all" the rest "added to him;" or to the sovereign and unerring will inscrutable?
II. A REMARKABLE AND REMARKABLY SIMPLE INSTANCE AND ILLUSTRATION OF FAITH WITH WORKS AND OF FAITH SHOWN BY WORKS. These works of themselves spoke for the faith that was behind them, as also for the intense desire that gave such definite outline to it. "Their" faith, no doubt, designates that betokened by the conduct of all concerned—the paralytic himself, and those who were hands, arms, and feet to him. The "works" of themselves asked help of the mighty Helper. And they showed the undoubting persuasion on the part of those who put forth their strength, and on the part of him, of whose suggestion perhaps it all came, where, and where alone, that help was to be had.
III. THE UNDOUBTED BLASPHEMY HEARD ON THIS OCCASION, BUT LAID ON THE WRONG PERSONAGE. The enemies of Christ, as they stood around, understood aright what he had done, what he had said, and to what the deep implication of these amounted. But they took up the position that he bad not done what he said, and could not do it, and that therefore he committed blasphemy in uttering it. Their hostility was a foregone conclusion, and had it not been so, there would have been reason on their side; and the language of Christ, and his action immediately following, allow this, within certain limits, for he remarks on the exact position, and offers and gives a proof. But their unbelief and disbelief were already deep-rooted in their heart—that "thinking evil in the heart," which he so distinctly saw, so pronouncedly marked.
IV. CHRIST'S CONDESCENDING AND MOST COMPLETE VINDICATION OF HIS LANGUAGE AND HIMSELF. The practical test he challenges, with dignity surpassing that of Elijah on Carmel! He does not volunteer it, but bids them "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." And they do see it! Whether they will even now believe is another thing. Certain as it is that they have not made their own the beatitude, "Blessed are they who have not seen, and vet have believed," have they even entitled themselves to hear it said, "Because thou hast seen, thou hast believed" ?
V. THE ATTITUDE AND DOCILITY OF THE PEOPLE, AS THESE RISE UP IN JUDGMENT AGAINST THE DOCTORS OF THE LAW AND PHARISEES. They "marvel;" they "glorify God;" and this not as the only Object of adoring praise and worship, but also as "the Giver of such power to men;" and they are "filled with fear." And they make confession, unstinted, undisguised, of the impression they have received: "We never saw it on this fashion;" "We have seen strange things to-day."—B.
The sudden but safe call.
In introduction show that the three evangelists all place this call of Matthew in the same order, viz. after the healing of the paralytic, but go on at once to the account of the "great feast" which be gave, and which was attended by the "disciples" of Christ. This feast, we learn from the narrative of Mark and Luke, belonged to a little later period, when Jesus had crossed to the other side of the lake. The occasion of it is there identified by the application of Jairus, spoken of in our present chapter (verse 18). Notice—
I. THE DOUBLE NAME, THE NATION, AND THE EMPLOYMENT HITHERTO OF THE "MAN" NOW CALLED TO DISCIPLESHIP. Dwell on the change herein, and the contrast of his business—how possible, with God's grace and the Holy Spirit's might to alter and to renovate, such changes are; how welcomely the change was ever traced in this instance; how blessed hereafter was its course and success; and how divinely refreshing to the Church of the present day to read of, to hear of as a modern spiritual miracle, and to know in all the practical reality of this typical original case.
II. THE SUDDENNESS OF THE CALL. Such suddenness not unsafe with Christ, the omniscient; Christ, who knew all that was in man, at the helm. Guard against human haste, human incaution, human confidence. "Lay hands suddenly on no man" is the text for man, but not needed for the "chief Shepherd," "the Shepherd and Bishop of souls," the "great Shepherd of the sheep."
III. THE SWIFT OBEDIENCE, THE READY HEART, THE UNDELAYING AND UNRESERVING SELF-SURRENDER OF THE MAN CALLED. All this was an auspicious omen, so far as it went. Illustrated by the future, it was all a perfect vindication of the foreknowledge and the grace of him who called.—B.
The model readiness of mercy.
I. THE MOST UNUSUAL PLACES AND THE MOST UNUSUAL TIMES ARE, ACCORDING TO THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST, TO BE UTILIZED FOR THE SEEKING AND CONVERTING OF THE MOST UNUSUAL CHARACTERS, AND THOSE WHO MAY BE APPARENTLY OF THE MOST HOPELESS KIND.
II. THAT BY THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST NO LIMIT MUST BE SET TO THE CONDESCENSION—WHENEVER EVEN IT MAY MOST REALLY MERIT THAT DESCRIPTION—OF THE MAN WHO WOULD EMULATE THE CHARACTER AND THE WORK AND THE METHODS OF THAT MODEL PHYSICIAN OF SOULS.
III. THAT AS THE SUPREME NEED OF THE SOUL IS MERCY, SO ALSO THE SOVEREIGN QUALIFICATION OF HIM WHO WOULD RE ITS PHYSICIAN IS READINESS TO MERCY—TO FEEL IT AND TO SHOW IT.
Contrast the "having mercy" and the requiring of sacrifice.—B.
Human disfigurings of the Church's order and discipline.
I. THE FORESHADOWING FOUND HERE OF THAT LONG HISTORY OF HUMAN INTERFERENCES WITH THE UNWRITTEN BUT SIMPLE MANIFEST ORDER OF THE CHURCH'S LIFE AND PRACTICE AS GUIDED EVEN BY REASON.
II. THE FORESHADOWING HEREIN OF HUMAN RENDINGS OF THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH IN MATTERS NOT OF DOCTRINE NOR, JUSTLY SPEAKING:, OF DISCIPLINE.
III. THE FORESHADOWING OF HUMAN DISFIGURING ON A MOURNFULLY LARGE SCALE OF THE BEAUTY OF THE CHURCH'S FORM AND APPEARANCE BEFORE AN EVER-CRITICAL AND SCEPTICAL WORLD.—D.
Matthew 9:18, Matthew 9:19, Matthew 9:23-26
The advance of faith upon sense.
In introduction, point out this narrative as a typical instance of the advantage of comparing the different accounts of the three evangelists. Note in this case the very graphic rehearsal of St. Mark, and how still St. Luke has to add to it. Also point out the fine corroborating, not invalidating, witness to truth offered by the variation of St. Matthew's "even now dead," St. Mark's "on the point of death," and St. Luke's "lay a-dying." Notice—
I. WHAT SYMPATHY AND WHAT ACTIVE EXERTION THE GENUINE ACCENT OF WOE AWAKENS IN CHRIST. He heard it, and arose and followed it.
II. THE UNLIMITED CONFIDENCE WHICH CHRIST ADVISES TO FAITH, AND WITH WHICH lie AUTHORITATIVELY INVESTS FAITH, AS AGAINST THE PHENOMENA OF THE BAREST SENSE. These latter may seem uncontradictable:, but it is the other which is incontestable.
III. THE GRACIOUS CONDESCENSION WITH WHICH CHRIST WILL PAUSE TO RECKON AND ARGUE WITH ERROR, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT IS NATURAL ERROR, OR CAN CHARITABLY BE COUNTED SUCH, AND THE ERROR OF IGNORANCE AND OF THE UNTAUGHT MANY, RATHER THAN THAT OF PERVERSENESS, AND OF THOSE WHO LOVE DARKNESS RATHER THAN LIGHT.
IV. THE PORTION OF PRICELESS BLESSING, THAT IS TO THE PRAYING FATHER INDEED:, AND TRUSTING MOTHER INDEED, AND TO ELECT DISCIPLES INDEED, AT THE MAJESTIC GIFT OF THEIR SAVIOUR. V. THE SOLEMN SUGGESTION OF THE INEFFABLE MYSTERY OF THE WITNESSES OF THE FINAL WAKING OF THE DEAD.—B.
The easy overflowing of the grace of Christ when in contact with faith.
In introduction, point out that the form of the approach of this woman, her own idea of doing nothing beyond touching the hem of a person's garment, and her fright when she had been discovered as doing even that, were presumably due just to the fact that her disease was one that rendered her ceremonially unclean, and which forbade her to touch another person. She thought she saw her way possibly out of this by touching only the hem of only a garment. Notice—
I. THE ILLUSTRATION HERE AFFORDED OF HOW THE SOUL, DRIVEN BY WANT, BY WOE, BY SIN, NEED NOT BE DRIVEN WITHAL TO RECKLESSNESS, BUT CANNOT DO BETTER TITAN UTILIZE ITS DRIVENNESS OF STATE IN THE DIRECTION OF THE QUEST OF HELP BY METHODS EVEN THE MOST UNUSUAL.
II. THE ILLUSTRATION HERE AFFORDED THAT WHERE EVERY LOOPHOLE, EVERY AVENUE, MAY SEEM CLOSED, IT MAY BE SAID TO BE ALWAYS TRUE THAT THERE IS ONE LEFT—THAT ONE THE RIGHT ONE, AS THE ONLY ONE—IT NEEDS TO BE SOUGHT, AND IT IS THEN TO BE FOUND.
III. THE ILLUSTRATION HERE AFFORDED OF THE SUPREME EASE WITH WHICH THE OVERFLOWING GRACE OF CHRIST LENDS ITSELF TO THE SLIGHTEST CONTACT OF FAITHs, WITH THE RESULT OF INSTANTANEOUS CREATION OF LIFE—OTHER CONTACT UNFRUITFUL.
IV. THE ILLUSTRATION HERE AFFORDED OF THE PRACTICALLY ASSURED VERDICT OF CHRIST, THAT HIS GRANDEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SAYING A BODY IS INCOMPLETE ESSENTIALLY WITHOUT THE SOUL SAVED ALSO.
V. THE ILLUSTRATION HERE GIVEN OF CHRIST'S EARTHLY BENEDICTION UPON SUCH BODY AND SOUL TOGETHER MADE NEW.—B.
The blindness of sense vanquished by the sight of faith.
In introduction, dwell a moment on the frequency of the allusions to the blind, and to Christ's giving of sight to them. Show how it accords with the typical statement of Christ's work, which also had travelled down from the prophetic "Go and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see," etc. (Luke 7:22), compared with" The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind," etc. (Luke 4:18). Also in what natural harmony it is with alike the delicacy of the sense, the sadness of the deprivation, and the too familiar woe that bears the description of blindness or darkness. Note that there follows in this same Gospel a far more graphic description of the prayer to Christ of two blind men (Matthew 20:30-34), which invites correspondingly fuller treatment. But that as this account is given us, in a word that knows no vain repetition, nothing that can be styled correctly repetition at all, it must have its specific value and its own significance of lessons amid other features that may show it common with other accounts. Observe, then, that we have here—
I. THE SOUND OF AN APPLICATION, A PETITION, AN ENTREATY, THAT NO DOUBT MUST HAVE TAKEN ITS RISE ORIGINALLY ON THE SUGGESTION OF RUMOUR, AND ABOUT WHICH THERE IS SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY AS TO WHETHER IT IS THE PRAYER OF FAITH, THAT THE MERCIFUL ONE WHO "WAITS TO HEAR PRAYER" DOES ALSO GRACIOUSLY WAIT TO TEST WHETHER THAT SOUND OF PRAYER IS PRAYER INDEED. For what multitudes of us, for what multitudes of occasions in our life, for what multitudes of the lip-offerings of our prayers, is that very test needed!
II. THE TEST ITSELF REVEALED WITH ITS SIMPLEST MACHINERY, OF THREE DEGREES, SHOWN IN THE DELAY AS THE TWO BLIND MEN "FOLLOWED HIM, CRYING;" AS THEY FOLLOWED HIM, STILL APPARENTLY VOUCHSAFING NO PARTICULAR ATTENTIVENESS, INTO THE REPOSE AND CALMNESS OF THE HOUSE; AND AS FINALLY THEY ARE CONFRONTED WITH THE DETERMINING QUESTION, "BELIEVE YE THAT I AM ABLE TO DO THIS?"
III. THE CONFESSION OF FAITH—WITH HONESTY AND TRUTHFULNESS ALL-UNCHALLENGED BY THE OMNISCIENT KNOWER OF THE HEART.
IV. THE NO DELAY OF MERCY, WHEN THE FIT QUALIFICATION TO RECEIVE THE BENEFIT OF IT IS ONCE ASCERTAINED. There is no delay now; no "making of clay," no application of any outer material. This is only the touch, that touch of energy, of omnipotent efficacy, the omnipotent efficacy of light and life.
V. THE IMPETUOUSNESS OF GLADNESS CONQUERING THAT FAR MORE ACCEPTABLE GRACE, VIZ. THE EXACT AND EXQUISITE OBEDIENCE THAT SHOULD BE THE GROWTH OF THE HEART'S DEEPEST THANKFULNESS, AND THE BOUNDEN OFFERING OF A SAVED SOUL'S PUREST GRATEFULNESS.—B.
Matthew 9:32, Matthew 9:33 (see also Luke 11:14, Luke 11:15)
The tyrannous intrusion.
Note, in introduction, that the words of the passage quoted above from Luke 11:14, Luke 11:15, though given in a different connection, certainly seem to describe one occasion with that before us, or vice versa. If this be not so, the present passage is isolated, and has no parallel in either of the other Gospels. The blasphemy of "some of them," however—those "some" apparently the Pharisees—is treated of at length in a subsequent chapter of the present Gospel, and in both of the other Gospels. The present passage is allowed by very leading commentators to be distinct from such a one as that recorded in Mark 7:31-37, and can scarcely be thought to be simply included in those sacred descriptions, that tell generally how the grace and power of the Lord healed many dumb and deaf and blind; and therefore needs its own consideration in this present place. Notice—
I. THE OBJECT OF PITY THAT WAS BROUGHT BEFORE CHRIST—A MAN DUMB, NOT BY NATURAL DEFECT, NOT BY FORCE OF DISEASE, NOT BY REASON OF ACCIDENT, BUT BY THE TYRANNOUS INTRUSION INTO HIS BODILY ORGANIZATION OF A DEVIL WHOSE MALIGNITY TOOK THE DIRECTION OF INFLICTING DUMBNESS ON THE VICTIM. Whether this possession and other similar were a result and forestalled punishment of excess cf immoral vice of their own, or of "their parents," on the part of those of whom we read from time to time; or whether really vicarious suffering, in days that were marked by the lowest social degradation, and could not justly be fixed on the individual sufferer as the meriting cause; or whether it were all to be safely described, as to the end, that the works of God might be manifested, it seems impossible to assert. The barest facts of these cases of possession are terrible, and for the fidelity with which they are portrayed, they are indisputable. They must be accepted even if they lay only on the page of profane history, instead of on the specially tested, the microscopically examined, pages of sacred history.
II. THE "MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS" METHOD OF TREATMENT OF THAT MOURNFUL OBJECT OF PITY ON THE PART OF CHRIST. It is the method of One who takes in the whole situation; who regards it as it is now; who recognizes who the invisible enemy is, and what the sting of his enmity; who delays not to confront his odious challenge, nor delays by a moment remedy and rescue for the sufferer.
III. THE SWIFT AND SUPREME EASE WITH WHICH THE MIGHTY ONE EXPOSES THE WORK OF THE EVIL PRESENCE; AND DISPLAYS TO MANIFESTATION ITSELF THE GRACE OF HIS OWN PRESENCE. Now "he did not strive nor cry; neither was his voice heard in the streets;" but the voice of the dumb was heard, and the voice of an acclaiming, admiring, blest multitude was heard! And the crown was already being raised that should be placed on the brow of that King of kings.—B.
The mournful picture redeemed by compassion.
Notice, in introduction, how the language which here describes the compassion that moved the vast heart of Christ leads us to most grateful apprehension of the sweet condescending sympathy (not only of Jesus Christ with humanity, but) of Jesus Christ's humanity with our own. How delicately in touch with this latter is it said that the fountains of compassion in that vast heart were freshly opened, freshly drawn upon, as Jesus "saw;" saw "the multitudes;" saw the multitudes all "a-faint;" "scattered abroad;" "saw" a picture—a picture that arrested the eye, that rivetted the thought, that stirred the heart! Yes, a picture; but one that was mournful, and that made mournful exceedingly—this its subject, "as sheep having no shepherd." Notice, then—
I. HOW THE LONGEST LABOUR, THE HARDEST TOIL, THE MOST TRIED PATIENCE, THE KEENEST SENSITIVENESS AS TO PERVERSITY, BLINDNESS, HARDNESS OF HEART, NEED NOT STAUNCH DRY A CHRISTIAN COMPASSION, BUT MUST NEEDS MAKE IT FLOW THE MORE FREELY FORTH.
II. HOW THE BEHOLDING AND THE MOVED CONTEMPLATIVE BEHOLDING OF THE MOUNTAIN MASSES OF HUMAN SIN, WANT, MISERY, SHOULD HAVE FOR THEIR LEGITIMATE CHRISTIAN ACTION, NOT DESPAIR, NOT DESPONDENCY, NOT SO MUCH AS ONE FOREBODING, FEARFUL DOUBT BUT THE CALMEST CONVICTION THAT THEY STRETCH A VAST AND A HOPEFUL HARVEST-FIELD BEFORE THE AGONIZED EYE.
III. HOW THIS HARVEST-FIELD IS ONE TO BE WORKED IN, AND REAPED, NOT BY THE ANGELS, BUT BY MEN; WHO MUST BE PREPARED TO BE "LABOURERS," AND MUST BE LABOURERS, AND MUST BE APPLIED FOR BY PRAYER ON THE PART OF THOSE WHO ARE ALREADY THE INSUFFICIENT LABOURERS, TO HIM, WHO WILL BE FOUND TO BE, AND WHO IS, THE LORD OF THE HARVEST.—B.
HOMILIES BY MARCUS DODS
The choice of Capernaum as suitable centre justified by results. Rapid spread of our Lord's fame. Eager crowds gathering from far and near. Picture scene: Here, father carrying drooping child; there, little girl with blind father; camel bearing woman bowed with infirmity; sick of all kinds brought by friends; crowd ever increasing; silence broken only by occasional yell of a possessed one or moans of sufferers. Crowds waiting before daylight, but Jesus not there—gone to a desert place to pray. His approach suddenly announced by one on the edge of the crowd; wonder and awe as he passes to the house, stretching out hands of effectual blessing. Two results of this crowding of multitudes:
1. Jesus obliged to seek a more retired place.
2. Incident of text. Four friends, believing that he whom they have carried far will be able to walk back if they can lay him before Jesus. Overcome obstacles, removing a few large, uncemented tiles of roof—a liberty pleasing to our Lord as a tribute to him and proof of their faith. Common experience to ask one thing and receive another. Perhaps this man had an inward conviction that spiritual gifts were the greater. Scribes cavil at "Thy sins be," etc.; begin to suspect evasion; therefore Jesus does work that can be tested by their senses. Two points unusual: Our Lord accepted test tacitly proposed, and the miracle convinced the witnesses. Miracles evidences of revelation because themselves parts of it, not mere signs. God could not reveal himself except by miracle. Historical fact that nature has never done so. Revelation not so much accompanied by as consisting of miracles. Such a revelation authenticates itself, proves itself such because giving higher and worthier idea of God.
I. CALLING OF MATTHEW. His office odious to Jews, both as representing foreign government and from oppressive system of farming taxes. Evil effects of such system seen now in Egypt and elsewhere. No loss to government by Matthew thus suddenly throwing up office, he having already paid the sum. Possible, but rare, for good man to be in such a calling. Our Lord does not defend his calling of Matthew on that ground. He chose his followers among the unsophisticated, or those who had not yet found their good. Probably some previous acquaintance with Matthew. Matthew perhaps gradually dissatisfied with himself. Among such the Lord is found. His unanswerable reply to Pharisees, "They that be whole," etc. To those sick in body, in heart, in spirit, he offers himself; to the heavy-laden, disappointed, broken, sinful, one unfailing Friend, bent on bringing them into his own peace and holiness and joy. Are there none here who will at length listen to his call, "Follow me" ? Follow by keeping him always in view, thinking of him, doing his will.
II. MATTHEW'S FEAST. In the joy of his heart inclined to be lavish. From being despised, hated, suddenly chosen as friend and companion by greatest and worthiest. Cherished money-bags contemptible in presence of Christ and his love. Pharisees not in sympathy. It might be a fast-day; much might be involved. It was thin end of wedge—a party forming, not fettered by mechanical rules, but allowing the spirit naturally to express itself. Suitable, therefore, that this, our Lord's first recorded teaching to a mixed multitude, should deal with this new thing. He lays down the principle that underlies all outward observance, viz. that the state of mind gives it appropriateness and virtue. Further explained in two parables. In every generation can be seen this Pharisaic spirit—deep-seated hatred and fear of change. Men who have never gone deep enough to distinguish between essential and accidental, saying, "If there is new life, let it be kept in the old forms." To do so were to destroy both. These parables fit a most important principle. Had Matthew fasted at this time, his new love and energy would have been wasted instead of utilized, and fasting (the old bottle) become for ever distasteful to him. As it was, he would fast again when he felt it suitable. New ways sometimes preferred by new converts. If love to Christ and sound moral conduct go with the changes, no need to fear them. But our Lord bad also a word of apology for conservatism of Pharisees: "No man, having drunk old wine," etc. Natural to prefer the old. So with many of the best of men. For few attain to the complete magnanimity and truth of the Lord. "Oh that patrons of old ways understood Christ's wisdom, and that patrons of new ways sympathized with his charity!… When will young men and old men, liberals and conservatives, broad Christians and narrow, learn to bear with one another; yea, to recognize each in the other the necessary complement of his own one-sidedness?" (Bruce).—D.
Verse 36-ch. 10:42
The spring of all missionary effort and of all healthy propagandism of one's religion is compassion for men. To the eye of our Lord the multitudes of that teeming Eastern population seemed as sheep torn by wild beasts and scattered, with none to defend them. The crowds were greater than he could alone overtake. The instructions given to the twelve were of permanent significance.
I. THE SPHERE IN WHICH THEY WERE TO LABOUR. Not among Gentiles, butte the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The Jews were the medium appointed by God for diffusing the knowledge of salvation through the world; and the success of the gospel among other nations would much depend on its acceptance by the Jews. Also the apostles were not yet sufficiently disentangled from Jewish prejudices to move freely or without danger among Samaritans and Gentiles. The principles here indicated are that if one race is more likely than another to prove helpful in diffusing the gospel, are that; race should it first be carried. A man must sow in the best soil he can. And, second, the missionary must consider the kind of work and the sphere for which he is best adapted.
II. THE NATURE OF THEIR WORK was indicated by the communication of the gift of healing, and by the commission, "As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand." They were themselves in many respects uninstructed, but they were to tell of the acts and character of Jesus, and they were themselves to do similar works. The aim of the missionary must still be to proclaim and exhibit the kingdom of heaven. Preaching would receive irresistible confirmation by fact could they show in their renovated life the reality of Christ's power to create a kingdom of heaven upon earth. A great obstacle to Christian missions lies in the fact that missionaries cannot point to such evidence either in the lives of professing Christians abroad, or in our national acts and ways, and on the face of our society.
III. THE METHOD OF PROCEDURE. They were in the first place to make no provision for their maintenance. This was possibly to prevent their taking money from those they healed, and so seeming to rank with exorcists and strolling magicians; probably also to train them to faith in our Lord while absent from him. He meant, by their present experience, to lead them to the conviction that he was able to provide for them. Again, he warns them not only against carefulness, but against fearfulness. He could not only provide for, but defend, his servants. When they saw their preaching producing unexpected results, and bringing them into collision with men in power and with the prejudices of the people, they might begin to accuse themselves. Therefore does he furnish them beforehand with all needed consolation in the word that in that experience they were but reproducing his own. "It is enough for the servant that he be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord." And as their motto to guide them they were to take the words, "Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves;" and, adds our Lord, "Beware of men." This rule guided his own conduct. He knew when to speak and when to be silent. And so he says—Do not count upon candour, patience, generosity, or trust to simple straightforwardness and the power of truth. Be on your guard, but do not let yourselves be betrayed into trickery or double-dealing. Wise as serpents, you must also be guileless as doves. Choose the right time and way to deliver your message, but never be led into suppressing the truth, or pretending to believe what you do not. It may be a question whether mission work in some countries does not offer, to the candidate for the ministry, a field of labour in which he will have less cause for fear or care than in the Church at home. To any one who has a distaste for the controversies which have grown up from a long Church history, there is something immensely attractive in the idea of working a virgin soil, where nothing need be dealt with but the central facts of our religion, "Jesus Christ, and him crucified." To any one who wishes to be wholly unhampered, that he may give himself, without bond or prepossession, to be moulded by Christ himself, and to adopt his methods pure and simple, the work of the missionary presents attractions which cannot be offered at home. It is to be remarked of this first mission that none of the dark forebodings of our Lord seem to have been fulfilled at this time; but, on the contrary, they returned in such a state of exultation that our Lord saw they needed to be sobered rather than to receive further encouragement, lie took them apart into a desert place to rest awhile. When the seventy returned our Lord took occasion to admonish them that the true ground of satisfaction was not that the devils were subject to them, but that their names were written in the book of life. So the twelve required to hear over again the words of the sermon on the mount, "Many shall say in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not cast out devils in thy Name, and in thy Name done many wonderful works? Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." That is to say, the apostles, in common with all who are engaged in similar work, had need to be reminded that they may be useful in bringing others into the kingdom and yet themselves be outcasts; that success in Christian work is no criterion of their own state. We have not the temptation to self-confidence which the apostles had, but there does arise in us a state of mind which requires these sobering words of our Lord. When we have a craving to evince our loyalty to Christ by some extraordinary sign, to do some striking and conspicuous work that would at once dissipate for ever all suspicion about our own connection with him, we need to be reminded that our first work is to purify our personal life, our domestic habits, our business relations, and so we shall learn to face the further opportunities of being helpful that may be presented to us.
The important question for us is—What was involved in the reception of the apostles and their message? How did the knowledge and acceptance of what they proclaimed operate to make men holy? The people had very erroneous ideas about the kingdom, but our Lord lays down the rule, "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me;" that is, he that admits true teaching regarding the kingdom receives the King, accepts Christ; and he that does so accept God is reconciled to the highest and best—is a saved man. He was at no pains to correct their crude ideas about heaven and hell, but he made light of nothing which threatened to obscure the distinction between sin and righteousness. The matters with which we have immediate concern are—What ought man to be? and—How can he become what he ought? And the acceptance of Christ as King appointed by God operated to make men holy by quickening and intensifying all their previous trust and hope, and by setting vividly before them what a son of God really was. In all essentials this original gospel was identical with that preached to us. Entrance to the kingdom is not given by way of reward bought by submission to Christ, but true submission to Christ necessarily communicates that kind of character which he requires. To be in the kingdom is to be among the things that endure. Choose Christ as your King, and you are brought into a connection which lends reality and consistency to your whole life. Recognize that your life. has its source in Christ. God has so ordained it that our spirits should be fed from a personal source, not by books, not by laws, not even by hopes, but by personal intercourse with a person fit to sustain, to enlighten, to sanctify, to guide us. If we desire to be made such as God sees we might be, we must ceaselessly press on to further knowledge of what he means by being our King.—D.
HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD
At the request of the Gadarenes Jesus crossed over. He does not obtrude his blessings on the unwilling. We do not read that he ever after visited them. Coming to his own city, Capernaum, where residence gave him citizenship, "they brought to him," etc. (Matthew 9:2-8).
I. JESUS SEES THE FAITH OF THE CONTRITE HEART.
1. He saw the faith of those who carried the paralytic.
(1) This was obvious in the simple fact of their seeking his healing power. Faith is seen in works (James 2:17-22).
(2) It was obvious, moreover, in their earnestness. For, obstructed by the crowd, they broke up the roof and let down the bed whereon the sick of the palsy lay.
(3) They brought him because he could not come of himself; and Jesus honoured their faith. So does he honour the faith of those who bring their children to him in baptism or in prayer.
(4) The faith which secured healing, however, was not of necessity that which brought forgiveness (see e.g. Luke 17:12, etc.).
2. In the paralytic Jesus discerned a deeper faith.
(1) Disease is the general effect of general corruption, not always the particular effect of particular sin (cf Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 28:21).
(2) Oftentimes it is this also. Disease is often the natural consequence of sin. And God has often visited individuals with disease as a temporal judgment upon sin (cf. Numbers 11:33; Numbers 12:10; 1Ki 13:4; 2 Kings 5:27; Luke 1:20; Act 13:11; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Timothy 1:20).
(3) Hence the Jews commonly connected suffering with sin (cf. John 5:14; John 9:2, John 9:34). This man evidently took his sin to heart, and his affliction may have deepened this oppressive sense. No man is fit for forgiveness who does not with the heart believe himself to be a sinner. Heart-faith in sin is repentance. Spiritual disease is invariably the result of spiritual evil. Diseased action is the result of corrupt motive.
(4) This man, moreover, discerned in Jesus not only the Healer, viz. of the body, but also the Healer, viz. of the soul. No man is fit for forgiveness who does not with the heart accept Jesus as the Christ (see Romans 10:9, Romans 10:10).
(5) All this heart-faith Jesus saw when he proceeded to say, "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven." The pardoning voice of Jesus in the believing heart brings "good cheer" evermore.
II. JESUS SEARCHES THE THOUGHTS OF THE EVIL HEART.
1. He read the evil thoughts of the scribes.
(1) He saw that they "said within themselves, This man blasphemeth." Blasphemy consists in:
(a) Attributing unworthy things to God.
(b) Denying worthy things of God.
(c) Attributing to others or arrogating the attributes of God.
(2) If Jesus were not Divine it would be blasphemy in him to affect to forgive sins. The offended only can forgive the sins of the offender.
(3) The sin in the thoughts of the scribes was that they did not apprehend the Divinity of Christ. His miracles, together with the prophecies concerning Messiah, should have convinced them of this.
2. He proved to them his Divinity.
(1) By discovering their secret thoughts. In those passages which challenge to God alone the prerogative to forgive sins, the reason urged is that God alone can search the heart (2 Chronicles 6:30; see places referred to above).
(2) This knowledge is a mark of Messiah (cf. John 2:15; John 16:19, John 16:30; Revelation 2:23). Therefore the rabbins by this test confuted the claims of Barchochebas. "Bar Cozeba," says the Talmud, "reigned two years and a half. He said to the rabbins, 'I am the Messiah.' They replied, 'It is written of Messiah that he is of quick understanding, and judges (Isaiah 11:3); let us see whether this man can tell whether one is wicked or not, without any external proof.' And when they saw that he could not judge in this manner, they slew him."
(3) He proved his Divinity by reasoning upon his miracle-working. "For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven; or to say, Arise?" If you concede the power of healing with a word, you must concede the Divinity of the Worker, and therefore should concede also that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins.
(4) He confirmed his reasoning by miracle. "But that ye may know that the Son of man," etc. Here was a Divine work to confirm a Divine claim. An impostor might say, "Thy sins are forgiven," for the result is not so obvious; but were he to say, "Arise!" he must have power, else he will be instantly rejected.
III. THE PRESENCE OF THE HEART-SEARCHER IS FEAR-INSPIRING.
1. The fear of the forgiven is reverential.
(1) The sense of sins forgiven brings Christ very near. It brings him near in his Godhead. For who can read the heart but God (1 Corinthians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 2:11)!
(2) It intensifies sincerity. In the near presence of the essential truth there is ever)-discouragement to falsehood. Divine good can only dwell in Divine truth.
(3) Gratitude is kindled in the presence of love. The forgiveness of sins does not consist in pronouncing them pardoned, but in removing the sinful inclination from the heart, and replacing it with the passion for goodness. As between sin and suffering there is an intimate connection, so is there an important relation between the pardon of sin and the healing of diseases (cf. Psalms 41:3, Psalms 41:4; Psalms 103:3; Jeremiah 33:24; Jeremiah 38:17; Matthew 8:16, Matthew 8:17).
2. The fear of the sinner is awful.
(1) The awe is salutary to the thoughtful. "When the multitudes saw it, they were afraid, and glorified God, which had given such power to men." "Power on earth to forgive sins," viz. "because he is the Son of man" (cf. John 5:22, John 5:27). The union of the Divine and human in the Person of the Lord is the source of his saving power. "Power on earth." Here sin is committed. Here sin is forgiven. Christ, who has all power in heaven, has therefore all power also on earth.
(2) To the gainsayer the awe is confounding. The scribes were silenced. The day of judgment in the presence of the Heart-searcher came into their very soul. How senseless is the sinner who thinks he sins securely when unseen by men!—J.A.M.
The sinner's Friend.
In the paragraph preceding we have notable examples of the heart-searching powers of Jesus. These powers he manifested again, when, in going forth, he saw Matthew at the receipt of custom, and called him. The sequel proved the wisdom of his election.
I. JESUS, IN HIS CONDUCT, SHOWED HIMSELF THE SINNER'S FRIEND.
1. He called a publican into his discipleship.
(1) Publicans were hated by the Jews as representatives of Roman oppression. For they were public tax-gatherers, or rather farmers of the revenue. "The publican's trade is dirty and sordid" (Artemidorus). "There is no sinful calling but some have been saved out of it, and no lawful calling but some have been saved in it" (Henry).
(2) They were hated because many of them were extortionate in their exactions. So common was this that it became a saying that "all publicans are thieves." None are too vile to be reclaimed by Christ.
(3) Publicans were particularly obnoxious to the Pharisees because of their commerce with the Gentiles in the pursuit of their calling. Hence "publicans and sinners" are familiarly associated (cf. Matthew 5:46 with Luke 6:32; see also Matthew 11:19). Hence also Pharisees would have no communion with publicans. It was a maxim with the orthodox, "Take not a wife from the family of a publican" (Theocritus). Yet from this despised and hated class Jesus called Matthew to be one of his beloved and trusted disciples.
2. He ate with publicans and sinners.
(1) Gentiles, who came not under obedience to Moses, were accounted sinners (see Matthew 18:17; Matthew 26:45; Romans 5:8; Galatians 2:15). Some of these may have been at Matthew's feast. If so, then Jesus in eating with them would portend the calling of the Gentiles, as also did the favour he showed to the centurion and to the Syro-phoenician woman.
(2) Jews who were lax in respect to the ceremonies of the Law, as well as those who violated its precepts, were by the Pharisees accounted little better than heathen (see Matthew 8:30).
(3) Another class of "sinners," no less obnoxious to the Pharisee, were those who, while they honoured the Law, paid little respect to the traditions of the elders. Such sinners might be morally superior to the Pharisees who despised them.
(4) In eating with sinners Jesus did not evince sympathy with sin. Had he done so he would not have been the Friend of sinners. Those are net friends of sinners who encourage them in evil. His sympathy was for their souls. Christ comes to those who welcome him, and to none is he more welcome than to those who feel themselves to be sinners.
3. He encourages his disciples to go and do likewise.
(1) The sensual man enters the company of sinners for gratification. In this sense the holy Jesus could never join them. Neither in this sense could he encourage his disciples to join them.
(2) The spiritual man enters the company of sinners to do them good. There is no heart so vile that the Lord will not enter it when invited (cf. Revelation 3:20).
(3) The self-righteous man shuns the "sinner" from contempt. This unworthy feeling Jesus would discourage in his disciples. Therefore he had them with him to eat with the despised.
(4) The man of the world will shun the company of notorious sinners for the sake of reputation. Such a motive is hypocritical. Jesus would have his disciples true men. There is no fear for the reputation of any man anywhere if he be in the company of Jesus.
II. JESUS IN DEFENCE OF HIS CONDUCT SHOWED HIMSELF THE SINNER'S FRIEND.
1. He rested his defence upon the mind of God.
(1) Had man remained innocent he would have required neither mercy nor sacrifice. Man being fallen mercy is required; and sacrifice is instituted for the sake of mercy. To set forth the mercy of God in Christ's sacrifice of himself for us. To beget mercifulness in the heart of the believer. Mercy is the end, sacrifice the means, and the end is preferable to the means.
(2) Hence God will have mercy rather than sacrifice. He prefers mercifulness to ritual.
(3) The Lord willed mercy; but the Pharisees chose sacrifice, in a very different sense, however, from that in which Jesus came to offer himself instead of the many "burnt offerings" previously required. When Jesus spake, sacrifices were being offered in the temple by a disobedient and gainsaying people who had little respect for mercy. In such sacrifices God had no pleasure.
(4) Another kind of sacrifice will surely come in the day of vengeance (see Ezekiel 39:17-19; Zephaniah 1:7, Zephaniah 1:8; Revelation 19:17). But this is the "strange work" of God, to which he greatly prefers the mercy in which he "delighteth."
2. He rested his defence also upon his special mission.
(1) In coming into the world Messiah says, "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared for me" (cf. Psalms 40:6-8; Hebrews 10:5-10).
(2) Where should the Physician be but among the sick? This was a home-thrust; for the Pharisee recognized a teacher of the Law as a "physician of the soul."
(3) Jesus came into a world of sinners. All men need healing.
(4) But men must acknowledge their need. The whole need not a physician. The self-righteous are outside the mission of Jesus. The most inveterate disease is that in which the sinner imagines himself a saint, and therefore will not seek the Physician of souls.
III. BY THE HAPPY ISSUE JESUS PROVES HIMSELF THE SINNER'S FRIEND.
1. The worthiness of the sinner is seen in the promptness of his obedience.
(1) Matthew arose at once responsive to the call Who amongst us has yielded obedience to the earliest call of Christ?
(2) Though conversion may at last take place, yet how much happiness and glory are forfeited through delay!
(3) How fatal are delays!
2. The worthiness of the sinner is seen in the completeness of his devotion.
(1) Jesus found Matthew in the midst of his business. Satan calls the idle to temptation. Christ calls the active to holy service (cf. Matthew 4:18-22). Matthew, like Saul of Tarsus, "conferred not with flesh and blood" (Galatians 1:15, Galatians 1:16).
(2) Matthew renounced a lucrative employment to embrace a life of poverty and persecution. There are better things than money. Yet the sacrifice shows up the man.
3. The worthiness of the sinner is seen in saintly zeal.
(1) In giving a great feast, Matthew sought no personal glory. It is from other evangelists we learn that Matthew gave it.
(2) He gave it in honour of Christ. He gave it also in the interests of humanity. The service of Christ is the service of humanity. Humanity is blessed when brought under the influence of Jesus.
(3) When Matthew invited Jesus he invited the disciples of Jesus also. Those who welcome Christ to their hearts will welcome his disciples.
4. The worthiness of the sinner is honoured in the confidence of the Saviour.
(1) He is called to righteousness—the righteousness of faith. Matthew never forgot that he had been a publican (cf. 1 Timothy 1:13).
(2) Obedience, devotion, and zeal will be rewarded. Matthew was subsequently elected into the apostleship (Matthew 10:3). He was, moreover, distinguished as the first evangelist. The publican is immortalized through his connection with Jesus.—J.A.M.
Consistency in diversity.
Three classes of persons made up what might be called the religious community of Palestine, viz. the Pharisees, the disciples of John, and the disciples of our Lord. The ground of the question here was why one of these should neglect what the others preached as a religious duty. The answer here teaches—
I. THAT THERE IS A MORAL FITNESS IN RELATION TO CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. Fasting might be proper to the disciple of John.
(1) "John preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." Fasting, which is a sign of grief, is fitting to one who mourns for his sins. SO John himself "came neither eating nor drinking" (Matthew 11:18). His habit as a Nazarite was in keeping with his doctrine and dispensation.
(2) Rejoicing in an unpardoned penitent would be incongruous. But unpardoned, however penitent, he must be who remains a disciple of John as distinguished from the disciples of Jesus. The new piece on the old garment would look badly.
(3) John, as Grotius notes, was now in prison. This circumstance would give additional consistency to the fasting of his disciples. But the case was different with the disciples of Jesus, who had their Master with them.
2. Fasting might be proper to the Pharisee.
(1) The ostentatious fast would be consistent in the hypocritical Pharisee who disfigured his face that he might secure applause of men (see Matthew 6:16).
(2) But some of the Pharisees were probably sincere men. To such there would be a fitness in their fasting. For the spirit of the Pharisee was the spirit of the Law, i.e. the "spirit of bondage to fear." Who could consistently rejoice within the roar of the thunders and clang of the great trumpet of Sinai?
(3) Neither the ritual of Leviticus nor the traditions of the elders can deliver the Pharisee from the yoke of terror.
3. But fasting might be improper to the disciple of Jesus.
(1) Christ is the Bridegroom of his Church (cf. Psalms 45:1-17. and Song of Sol.; also 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23, etc.; Revelation 19:17).
(2) Individual disciples are the "sons of the bride-chamber," the chosen friends of the Bridegroom.
(3) It would be unfitting in them to mourn while the Bridegroom was with them—during the festivities of the marriage. These festivities usually lasted seven days (see Judges 14:17). The Spirit of Jesus is the spirit of love. With love is joy and peace.
(4) Jesus was not with the Pharisees or these disciples of John as the Bridegroom with the sons of the bride-chamber. For they were the sons of the bondwoman (Galatians 4:25, Galatians 4:31).
(5) These disciples are herein significantly rebuked for their fasting in the presence of Jesus by the use of a simile which John used when he came into the presence of Jesus (see John 3:29). The sorrows of penitence in the presence of Jesus should be turned into the joys of salvation. These disciples of John had degenerated from the spirit of their master. Note and avoid tendencies to formality as tendencies to degeneration.
II. THAT THE MORAL FITNESS OF CIRCUMSTANCES IS FATAL TO UNIFORMITY.
1. Obviously so, because circumstances are ever varying.
(1) Minor circumstances are infinitely various. Yet may these be generally ranged under two classes (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:14; James 5:13). In the text they are distinguished as mourning and rejoicing, fasting and feasting.
(2) No man, therefore, should make himself the standard of religion for his fellows. Herein the disciples of John and the Pharisees erred. The new wine of the gospel could not be restrained in the old wine-skins of the Law. It must have the elastic wine-skins of new forms suitable to its expansive genius.
2. Christians have their seasons of mourning.
(1) Of the Bridegroom himself the only record of his fasting is that which took place when he was in the wilderness.
(2) In that experience Jesus personated the condition of his Church during his absence from her in heaven. She was destined to mourn in the wilderness, suffering from Satan fierce assaults of persecution and temptation. First from the Jews; then from the Romans; then from the apostasy; perhaps finally from the rising spirit of infidelity.
(3) Individual Christians also have their seasons of temptation (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 11:27). In such seasons they have their voluntary fasts (cf. Acts 10:30; Acts 13:2, Acts 13:3; Acts 14:23; 1 Corinthians 7:5).
3. When the Bridegroom returns mourning will end.
(1) Then will come the festivities of the Church's wedding (see Matthew 25:10; Revelation 19:7). The joys of the millennium will run into those of the new heavens and earth.
(2) Individual saints have their interludes of joy as well as of sorrow. Darkness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
(3) After the night of trial which ends in the sleep of death, comes the joy of the bright morning of the resurrection.
III. THAT CONSISTENCY MUST BE SOUGHT IN DIVERSITY.
1. It is unnatural to seek it in uniformity.
(1) Uniformity is too often mistaken for unity. Things may be turned out of the same mould in infinite number, but neither is the conformity nor the number unity.
(2) There is in nature a unity which certainly consists not in uniformity. For no two blades of grass are exactly alike.
(3) The unity of nature rather lies in its diversity, for it is in the diversity of things that they become mutually useful. So it is in morals.
(4) Acts of uniformity can never give unity.
2. The unity of truth is in the spirit of love.
(1) The unity of nature is a spirit of harmony.
(2) So truth must be maintained amongst Christians in loving concession. The old piece must be sought for the old garment. Fresh skins must be sought for new wine.
(3) The duties of religion should not be made a subject of strife and contention amongst religious persons. The spirit must not be sacrificed to the letter.
(4) Note: "The quarrel with Christ was brought to the disciples (verse 11); the quarrel with the disciples was brought to Christ (verse 14). This is the way of sowing discord and killing love, to set people against ministers, ministers against people, and one friend against another" (Henry).—J.A.M.
Concessions to faith.
While Jesus discoursed upon consistency in diversity, and the concessions of love, an occasion arose for the exemplification of his teaching. "While he yet spake," etc. Note here the gracious concessions of Jesus to the weakness of the ruler's faith, and. learn—
I. THAT JESUS RESPECTS THE FAITH WHICH, THOUGH WEAK, IS YET TRUE.
1. The ruler's faith was halting.
(1) His was not at the first a faith for the raising of the dead. Had it been so, it would have been remarkable; for, up to this time, Jesus had not raised the dead. The words, "even now dead," conveyed the sense of "at the point of death".
(2) His faith had respect simply to the recovery of the sick. Jesus had abundantly established the fame of his power to work miracles of healing. To have doubted here would have been unreasonable and criminal unbelief. How far is our unbelief unreasonable and criminal?
(3) The ruler's faith cannot be compared with that of the centurion (see Matthew 8:5-13). The centurion did not consider himself worthy that Jesus should come under his roof. Discerning the Divinity of the Miracle-worker, he saw no need for his corporeal presence. The ruler's weaker faith required that Jesus should enter his dwelling and lay his hand upon his little daughter (cf. 2 Kings 5:11).
(4) When the centurion believed, there were no examples of miracles of healing wrought at distance. The ruler had the centurion's example.
2. Yet the ruler's faith was true.
(1) His coming to Jesus evinced this. Trouble, it may have been, drove him to Jesus; but he came. Many there were who, notwithstanding the fame of Jesus, yet came not to him. Still there are many who remain in their moral maladies rather than come to Jesus for salvation.
(2) His appeal also evinced it. His worship was more than the customary Eastern manifestation of respect. He knelt to him, and pleaded importunately for his dying child. Those who would receive mercy from the Lord must give him honour.
3. Jesus respected this sincerity.
(1) Jesus could have healed the damsel at a distance (cf. John 4:46-53). The ruler had not faith for this. So, in concession to his weakness, Jesus went with him to his house. In like manner Jesus honours the sincerity of the penitent sinner, meeting him on his way.
(2) Note here the principle that grace is through faith. "According to your faith, so be it unto you." Had the ruler a firmer faith, it would have prevented the death of his child. Yet did not Jesus resent this halting by abandoning his case. Never will Jesus forsake the seeker who does not first forsake him.
II. THAT JESUS WILL STRENGTHEN THE WEAK, TRUE FAITH.
1. By the stronger faith of others in his company.
(1) The ruler saw the noble faith of the poor woman who "said within herself, If I do but touch his garment, I shall be made whole." The conception was creditable. She believed in that fulness of his grace presaged in that oil of gladness which flowed down to the skirts of Aaron's robe (cf. Psalms 133:2; John 1:16).
(2) Her faith was admirable in action. She made her way through the crowd and touched the fringe of his garment. Yet it was her spiritual contact with Christ that saved her. The physical, however, was a sign of the spiritual (see Ephesians 2:8).
(3) In that touch there is a sermon. The poor woman, through her malady, was ceremonially unclean, and whoever she touched was made unclean (see Le Matthew 15:25). The doctrine of salvation through the vicarious sin-suffering of Jesus is set forth. The same was set forth again when Jesus took the dead hand of Jairus's daughter (Matthew 9:25). The Levitical priesthood leave the dead in their uncleanness. The unclean are not forbidden to come to Jesus.
(4) How encouraging is his commendation! "Daughter, be of good cheer; thy faith hath saved thee." The believer is comforted in the assurance of adoption.
2. By encouragements personally given.
(1) Messengers of discouragement came to the ruler from his house. The report was, "Thy daughter is dead." The advice accompanying it was, "Why troublest thou the Master any further?". "A man's foes "—often unwillingly, however—"are they of his own household." When Jesus works Satan counterworks.
(2) "But Jesus, not heeding the word spoken, saith to the ruler of the synagogue, Fear not, only believe" (Mark 5:36). Jesus had not raised the dead before this. But the dead had been raised by the old prophets in the Name of the Lord. Why should not the Lord also raise the dead in his own Name?
(3) Thus by works and by word was the faith of the ruler strengthened by Jesus that it might also be honoured. How faith may turn calamities into blessings!
III. THAT JESUS YIELDS NO CONCESSIONS TO UNBELIEF.
1. He discovered the unbelief of the professional mourners.
(1) He found these in the ruler's house. Flute-players and wailers were making a tumult. The true mourners were silent. Deep grief is still. How unseemly are many of the customs of society!
(2) The professional weepers were ready to laugh. When Jesus said, "Give place"—you are out of place here—"for the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth," they "laughed him to scorn." They had no doubt that the damsel was dead. This fact was strongly testified in the professional scorn.
(3) The laughter of scorn is the reasoning of unbelief. The senseless can laugh when they cannot reply. The professionals were too carnal to apprehend the spiritual meaning of the Saviour's words.
2. He ordered that the unbelievers should be turned out.
(1) He would not have his miracle-working hindered by their unbelief. It would be the first step to a revival in some Churches if the unbelievers could be expelled.
(2) He would not have unbelievers honoured as witnesses of glorious works. Pearls should not be east before swine.
(3) In the resurrection at the last day the wicked will be treated with ignominy. The sceptical scorners will then awake out of the dust to "shame and everlasting contempt" (cf. Daniel 12:2).
3. The faithful only shall have honour from Christ.
(1) The witnesses chosen were the ruler and his wife, and the three favoured disciples—Peter, James, and John. These disciples were afterwards chosen sole witnesses of the Transfiguration, and of the agony in the garden.
(2) To them Jesus verified his deep words, "The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth." Bodily death is not essential death, but in his hands is sleep. To sleep is a common euphemism for death, and in Scripture points to a resurrection.
(3) From the bed the daughter of Jairus was raised; the widow's son from the bier (Luke 7:14); Lazarus from the grave (John 11:44). "An ascending scale of difficulty, which has one stage more—the final summoning of all the dead by the same voice of quickening" (Trench).
(4) The faithful will not only be witnesses, but also partakers of the better resurrection.—J.A.M.
Here we meet two men in company, between whom there are notable points of agreement.
I. THEY ARE COMPANIONS IN BLINDNESS.
1. In community there is sympathy.
(1) Their common blindness probably brought them together. They were in a condition to enter into each other's feelings.
(2) So is there sympathy in the blindness of ignorance. Ignorance as to truth, ignorance as to goodness. The ignorant are at home with their kind.
(3) So in the blindness of error. Hence the grouping of heretics into communities.
(4) So in the blindness of falsehood. This is especially wilful and malignant. Against the clearest evidence for the Messiahship of Jesus the Pharisees closed their eyes (cf. John 9:41). The miracles they could not deny they attributed to Satan rather than accept the inference that naturally followed from them (see Matthew 9:34).
2. In sympathy there is power.
(1) There is the power of opportunity. For sympathy brings contact. It also conciliates confidence.
(2) Then there is the power of the strongest will. The pliant are led by the resolute. Note: Men of strong will should be good and true, not only for their own sake, but also for the sake of those they will lead. The pliant should especially be careful as to the company they keep.
II. THEY ARE TOGETHER IN SEEKING SIGHT.
1. They seek it from the same Source.
(1) "Have mercy on us, thou Son of David." Note:
(a) It was the received opinion of that time in Judaea that Messiah should be a Son of David (cf. Matthew 22:42; John 7:42).
(b) Jesus was confessedly of that royal lineage (cf. Matthew 1:1; Matthew 12:23).
(2) The Source of life is also the Source of light. Jesus had just raised to life the dead daughter of the ruler; now these blind men come to him for sight (cf. John 1:4; John 8:12; John 9:5, John 9:6).
2. They seek it by the same means.
(1) Not by works. They cried to the Son of David for mercy. In seeking mercy they disclaimed personal merit. They cried as beggars.
(2) But by faith. Mercy was promised with the Son of David (see Psalms 72:12, Psalms 72:13; Luke 1:78). Mercy in particular for the opening of blind eyes.
(3) They cried with the same voice. "Have mercy on us." Each cried for the other as well as for himself.
(4) They followed with the same persistency. They were fervent, incessant, importunate. So must those be who would receive spiritual sight.
(5) Yet their faith came by hearing. They could not witness the works of Christ. Like the Gentiles, they received the gospel through testimony.
3. They seek it with the same encouragement.
(1) Jesus encouraged them by his silence. They followed him through the street, crying for mercy. If he did not answer them immediately, he did not drive them away. Note: The sight-seeker should never despair.
(2) For his silence Jesus had good reasons. Perhaps he was influenced by the reason which afterwards led him to impose silence upon the men (Matthew 9:30). Perhaps the seekers were not yet in the moral condition to profit by the miracle to the utmost. Note: There is encouragement to persistency in the reserve of Christ.
(3) Jesus encouraged them by his speech. "Believe ye that I am able to do this?" This question brought their faith to the very point. They now relied upon his power. Then he touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith so be it unto you." Herein he affirmed but did not restrict his gift.
III. THEY ARE COMPANIONS IN THE BLESSINGS OF VISION. 1, They see the natural light.
(1) Revealing scenes of beauty and distortion.
(2) Opening new sources of instruction.
(3) Discovering unimagined avenues of delight, and perils to be avoided.
(4) The miraculousness of their cure was evinced not only in its suddenness, but also in that their eyes were able at once to bear the light of day.
2. They see the spiritual Light.
(1) They see the Son of David. This great sight prophets and kings desired to see (Matthew 13:16, Matthew 13:17; Luke 2:26; Luke 10:23, Luke 10:24). This sight these men, too, desired to see, but could not for their blindness, though they were in his very presence. How many in Christian lauds are spiritually in this case ]
(2) Truth is to the intellect and heart what light is to the eye. The giving of spiritual vision is a blessing as much greater than the natural as spirit is nobler than matter—as the eternal surpasses the temporal.
IV. THEY ARE COMPANIONS IN DISOBEDIENCE.
1. "Jesus strictly charged them, saying, See that no man know it."
(1) He had already wrought miracles sufficient in Capernaum to convince those who sincerely desired to know the truth.
(2) Greater publicity might intensify the malicious resentment of those who would not accept the truth.
(3) It might encourage that mistaken popular feeling which would have him as a civil prince.
(4) The inhibition had its lessons of humility and the obedience of gratitude.
2. "But they went forth and spread his fame in all that land."
(1) For this disobedience there is no defence. The command was express. They had no business to judge differently from Christ.
(2) Honour pursues those who fly from it. "Honour is like the shadow, which as it flies from those that follow it, so it follows those that flee from it" (Henry).—J.A.M.
We have just seen two blind men in agreement. We are now introduced to two devils in diversity. Here is the dumb devil. Here also is the devil muttering blasphemy.
I. HERE IS A COMPARISON OF TWO SAD CASES.
1. The dumb demoniac.
(1) Here is a man bodily in the hands of a demon. So completely is he in the power of the evil spirit that his self-control is lost. What an emblem of the helplessness of those who are morally "carried captive by the devil at his will" !
(2) He is "dumb."
(a) He has no voice for prayer.
(b) He has no voice for praise.
(c) He has no voice for testimony.
(3) God had not opened his mouth. No other power was competent.
2. The blaspheming Pharisee.
(1) He had a voice to impeach the Holy One as a sinner.
(a) Because he did the best works on the best of days.
(b) Because he condescended to eat with publicans and sinners.
(c) Because he did not fast in deference to rabbinical tradition.
(d) Because he proved that he has power on earth to forgive sins.
(2) In all this the devil was concealed. For wherein does this voice essentially differ from that of the Gadarene demoniacs who cried, "What have we to do with thee, thou Son of God?" (Matthew 8:29). Malignity is no less devilish because masked as piety.
(3) The blasphemy of the Pharisee advanced to refer the miracles of Christ to diabolical agency.
(a) The miracles as facts could not be disputed. It is too late in the day for the modern sceptic to dispute them.
(b) The Pharisee had no other way in which to evade their evidence but to trace them to the worst possible authorship.
(c) The malignity of Beelzebub is in the libel. And how much better is the sceptic who traces the miracles of Christ to natural causes? Is not the influence of Satan still hidden under what are called natural disorders?
II. THE MORE SUBTLE PROVES THE SADDER.
1. The dumb devil is driven out.
(1) The demoniac is brought to Jesus. He cannot come of himself.
(2) He is brought in the arms of compassionate faith. The devil cannot resist the power of faith, though exercised by third parties. Let not the righteous relax the effectual fervent prayer.
(3) In response to prayer the demon is expelled. Behold, the dumb has found his voice. Saul of Tarsus in conversion found his voice in prayer (see Acts 9:11). Praise is the companion of prayer (Psalms 51:15).
2. The multitudes marvel.
(1) No wonder they should, for here were four stupendous miracles wrought in one afternoon.
(a) The healing of the profluvious woman.
(b) The restoring of Jairus's daughter to life.
(c) The imparting of vision to two blind men.
(d) And now the expulsion of the dumb devil from the demoniac.
(e) To these he immediately added many more (Matthew 9:35).
(2) They express their admiration in the exclamation, "it was never so seen in Israel." And if not in Israel, where, then? For the Hebrews, themselves a miraculous people, were of all peoples the most favoured by the working of miracles amongst them.
3. The blaspheming devil holds his own.
(1) The Pharisees never came to Christ. They were wilfully, therefore hopelessly, wicked.
(2) By their wickedness they prevented the astonished multitude from accepting their Messiah.
(3) The bad influence of the Pharisees is seen in the apostasy of the Hebrew nation to this day.—J.A.M.
Matthew 9:35-38 and Matthew 10:1
The compassion of Jesus.
This comes remarkably before us in this paragraph. We have it in both its aspects, viz. the human and the Divine. Note, then—
I. THE HUMANITY OF THE COMPASSION OF JESUS.
1. His compassion was moved by the multitudes he saw.
(1) God, who is compassion itself, cannot be subject to emotion. Divine emotion in Scripture teaching is the human emotion which has a Divine source, as when we are sensible of the working in us of a Divine compassion. Such was the human compassion which, in the highest perfection, moved the heart of Jesus.
(2) It moved him as he considered the multitudes of men he met with in his itineration of the cities and villages (Matthew 10:35). To him they were more than the multiplication of mere units. 3/lore than mere "hands." He viewed them as multitudes of rational, capable, responsible, immortal beings.
2. His compassion was moved by the condition in which he found them.
(1) They were "distressed" physically and spiritually.
(a) By disease and sickness.
(b) By demoniacal possession. The demoralization of the nation as described by Josephus was fearful.
(2) They were "scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd" (cf. 1 Kings 22:17).
(a) Not that they were without synagogues. It was in visiting synagogues Jesus saw the multitudes. In the abounding of Churches there may yet be a famine of the Word of God.
(b) Not that they were without scribes. These were in every city, yet they despised and neglected the flock (cf. Jeremiah 23:1, etc.; John 7:49).
(c) Human traditions were substituted for the Divine Word. To this day Jewish teachers combine to make void the Word of God through their traditions. So do apostate Christian teachers.
(3) The multitudes were like the harvest ready for the reapers, but no reapers were there to gather in the precious grain. It was "plenteous," but ready to shed and spoil and rot upon the ground.
3. His compassion moved him to prayer.
(1) Jesus spent the whole night in prayer for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
(2) He moved his disciples also to pray. They were too modest to record whether they also had spent. the whole night in prayer.
(3) The burden of the prayer was that the Lord of the harvest would send forth labourers into his harvest. Note: It is the purest compassion to benefit the souls of men. Other things will follow (cf. 1 Kings 3:13; Psalms 37:35; Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 4:8). Does a truly human, Christ-like compassion so intensely move us as to lead us to pray and labour for souls?
II. THE DIVINITY OF THE COMPASSION OF JESUS.
1. This brought him down from heaven.
(1) His incarnation was in pursuance of the anti-mundane covenant (see Hebrews 10:5-7).
(2) Compassion moved him (see Isaiah 59:16; John 3:16, John 3:17; John 15:13).
2. It is manifest here in the authority of his preaching.
(1) He preached the "gospel of the kingdom." His own kingdom. That kingdom in which he himself is King.
(2) The authority of his preaching was from himself. For he spake "not as the scribes." Not even as the inspired prophets. As the Fountain of all holy inspiration.
(3) In the Divine sense the compassionate Jesus is still going through cities and villages preaching his gospel.
3. Or, the miracles by which he attested it.
(1) They were Divine.
(a) Evincing power over visible nature.
(b) Dominion over the invisible world.
(2) They were wrought immediately by him. In his own Name.
4. In his delegation to his disciples of authority to preach.
(1) He instructed them first to "pray the Lord of the harvest that he send forth labourers into his harvest." In which note:
(a) That the harvest is the Lord's.
(b) That he only can qualify and commission true labourers—labourers worthy of the work.
(2) Then he acted himself as Lord of the harvest, calling and commissioning the twelve (cf. Matthew 10:1; Ephesians 4:11).
(3) Christ sent forth those whom he moved to pray. Prayerfulness is a preparation for the ministry. How earnestly should the flock pray for true pastors 1
5. In his delegation to his disciples of miracle-working power.
(1) He made them masters of disease and sickness. Also of evil spirits. Note:
(a) "Unclean spirits" are distinguished here from "all manner of disease and all manner of sickness."
(b) The design of the gospel is to vanquish the devil and cure the maladies of the world.
(2) The mastery with which the disciples were invested was not to be exercised in their own, but in their Master's Name.
(3) There is, therefore, no comparison between the sense in which Jesus commissioned his disciples, and that in which Moses appointed Joshua or Elijah called Elisha to be their successors.
(4) Though the call to the ministry is Divine, to despise human learning is fanaticism.—J.A.M.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
The claim to forgive sin.
"Thy sins be forgiven thee." There is an important distinction between the claim to forgive sin, and the claim to declare sins forgiven. The Christian priest does not claim the power to forgive sin; he does claim the authority to declare sins forgiven. Which of these Christ claimed may be disputed, but it is clear that the scribes present understood him to claim "power to forgive;" such a claim alone could be regarded as "blasphemy." But, strictly treated, our Lord's words do no more than declare a fact. Jesus treated the powers he possessed as Divine powers entrusted to his charge; what he asserts is that these powers concern two spheres, that of the body and that of the soul; that of sickness and that of sin, which is the real root of sickness. These men who brought their friend for healing, showed, by their devices and their energy, such faith in Jesus as a Healer of bodily diseases, that they were in a fit state of mind to receive the higher truth concerning him. "To him that hath shall more be given."
I. THE POWER TO DEAL WITH SIN IS CHRIST'S SUPREME TRUST. "The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins." Our Lord's healing of bodily disease then took men's chief attention, and often prevented their heeding his spiritual work. This is true still. Jesus is now regarded as a Friend of the suffering, and this is pushing out of view his real work as the Saviour of sinners. Miracle for healing disease was not, and is not, man's supreme reed. God would not bow the heavens and come down to effect merely that object. Genius, science, and skill suffice for effective dealing with such things. The Incarnation is relative to sin. The true miracle is the supernatural dealing with sin; the Divine removal of its penalties; the Divine restoration of the conditions it has broken up; the Divine deliverance from its power. Jesus has the miraculous power to save men from their sins.
II. THE POWER TO DEAL WITH THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN IS CHRIST'S ILLUSTRATION OF HIS POWER TO DEAL WITH SIN ITSELF. The Jews connected suffering with sin as its cause. They were so far right, and only went wrong when they tried to explain individual cases. Christ never healed for the simple sake of healing; the influence of the act on his higher work in souls was always in his mind.—R.T.
The sin of thinking evil.
"Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?" Thought-reading may be made a plaything, and it may be developed into a science. It is a commonplace faculty which every one possesses, in greater or less degree, and which every one more or less efficiently cultivates by the practice and experience of life. The mother reads the thought of her child; the wife the thought of her husband; and the friend often guesses, as we say, the thought of his friend. This ordinary power our Lord possessed, and the faces and movements of his disciples must often have suggested to him what was in their minds. This, however, may not be felt to explain all the instances that are recorded, and we may well assume that our Lord had a Divine power of thought-reading, and it included not only the thought, but also the tone and character and quality of the thought. Here our Lord reproves the spirit of the thought rather than the thought; the suspicious temper, which prefers to light upon an evil explanation rather than a good one, and assumes that every one must mean to do the bad thing. The apostle makes a special point of "charity" that it "thinketh no evil." And the sin is so common that a familiar proverb has been fashioned to warn us against it, "Honi sol qui real y pense"—"Evil be to him who evil thinks." The loving, trustful temper will ensure kindly thoughts, and the suggestion of good motives wherever possible.
I. THINKING EVIL AS AN ACT. It is an act that Jesus here reproves. These scribes heard words which were strange to them, and found a claim made which they could not understand. What, then, should they have done? Plainly they should have taken the matter into quiet consideration; gathered up what might help to explain it, and formed a careful and wise judgment. What did they do? Thought too quickly; let bias and prejudice guide thought; encouraged the evil suggestion that came; allowed themselves to feel pleasure in the assumption of bad motives. When a judgment has to be made of persons or of motives, it should never be made hurriedly; because at first we seldom can get into consideration the entire circle of grounds on which a judgment should be based. It is the easiest thing to "think evil;" it may be the right thing to "think good." If these scribes had thought more, they might have thought good.
II. THINKING EVIL AS A HABIT. This it readily grows to become. This involves distortion of the mental faculties. The soul sees through coloured glasses, and never sees the truth. Suspicion becomes a mood of mind; and with those who have fixed this habit, no man's character is safe.—R.T.
Making surrender for Christ's sake.
"And he arose, and followed him." It is necessary to examine the customs of the East in order to estimate fairly the nature of the surrender that Matthew made. We need not set before our minds a call to a man in a modern counting-house or tax-collector's office. Probably the special duty of Matthew (or Levi) was to collect tolls from the fisheries on the lake, and from the merchants travelling southward from Damascus. Very possibly he was one of the higher officials, and his subordinates did the actual work, and would continue to do it when he went away. Compare the grades of officials in a modern customhouse. If Matthew was alone, we have only to think of an open shed, which shaded him from the sun. He would have his money upon his person, and he would not be likely to leave it in the shed. Van Lennep tells us that "some articles of produce are taxed as they are brought into the town. A booth of branches, or a more substantial hut, is erected at every entrance into the city or village, and there, both day and night, sits a man at the 'receipt of custom.' He taxes all the produce, piercing with a long, sharp iron rod the large camel-bags of wheat or cotton, in order to discover concealed copper wire or other contraband." This leaving the custom-house should be compared with leaving the fishing, by the sons of Jona and Zebedee. How far it involved a surrender of his means of living we are not told.
I. MAKING SURRENDER AS CHRIST MAY REQUIRE. Here Christ called for an immediate following, which involved leaving at once Matthew's ordinary occupation. Compare the cases of would-be disciples given in Matthew 8:19-22. Those men could not surrender just as Christ required. Matthew could, and did. We are sure that Christ requires
(1) the surrender of everything that is positively evil;
(2) the surrender of everything that would hinder full service;
(3) the surrender of everything that cannot be carried over and used in Christ's kingdom.
It is not to be thought representative that our Lord required some disciples to leave their avocations. He may still do so, but the usual rule is, "Let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God."
II. MAKING SURRENDER AS OUR OWN HEARTS MAY IMPEL US. This is illustrated in the feast which Levi made of his own free will. Christ made no demand for that surrender. If a man be true-hearted, the limitations under which he will put himself may be more severe and searching than any under which Christ puts him.—R.T.
Our Lord's chosen associates.
"Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" The speakers were Pharisees; they were not guests, they were only watchers. Such feasts are very open and free, and persons are allowed to come in, and even to take part in the conversation, who do not share in the food. An Eastern traveller says, "In the room where we were received, besides the divan on which we sat, there were seats all round the walls. Many came in and took their place on those side-seats, uninvited and unchallenged. They spoke to those at table on business, or the news of the day, and our host spoke freely to them." These Pharisees were very particular about the company they kept, and especially about the persons with whom they ate. They represent the mischievous influence of class-feeling. They do more than that. They represent the loss of power which all men must suffer who make themselves, their feelings, their preferences, the first consideration.
I. OUR LORD DID SOT CHOOSE HIS ASSOCIATES BECAUSE HE LIKED THEM. That may be a proper ground on which to select our private friends. It is not proper for one who has the trust of power which he is to use. Whether he likes it or not, that man must find the sphere in which he can best use his powers. No man ever did really noble work in the world until he learned to put his likes on one side, and just do his duty. But such a man is almost sure to find that a new set of likes grows up round his duty. The refined person does not like rough and rude associations. And the folk that Christ companied with could not have been very pleasing to him. The elegancies and proprieties and gentlenesses of refined society would have suited him better; and we can quite imagine the circle he would have preferred.
II. OUR LORD CHOSE HIS ASSOCIATES IN ORDER TO DO THEM GOOD. He chose them as a teacher chooses his class, he seeks those who need his teaching. As a doctor chooses his patients, he seeks those who need healing. As a Saviour chooses his subjects, he seeks sinners, who need delivering from their sins. Mrs. Fry, for her own sake, would have sought and enjoyed cultivated society. Mrs. Fry, with a conscious power of ministry, sought out the miserable and degraded prisoners. According to our trust we must choose our associates. If we were here on earth only to enjoy, we might properly prefer luxurious Pharisees; but seeing we are here to stand with Christ, and serve, we had better, with him, find out the "publicans and sinners."—R.T.
Moods of religious life.
The immediate connection of our Lord's words should be noticed. His answer is sufficient for the occasion, but it carries deeper and wider applications. Whenever the soul is full of the felt presence of God, it can go by itself, in gladness and freedom, without any fastings or forcings of will. But when the sense of God's presence is lost, the soul should gird itself up, in sacrifice and self-discipline, to win back the lost blessedness.
I. THE BRIDEGROOM'S PRESENCE, AND THE STATE OF FEELING AND CONDUCT SUITABLE TO IT. The disciples had Christ present in human body. We envy them the material realization; it was a bridal-time. And yet the inward sense of Christ's presence is a higher and better thing. (Illustrate from Longfellow's 'Footsteps of Angels.') Though we have, as we say, only the spiritual presence of Christ, we are not left without both inward and outward signs of the reality of that presence. Inward.
(1) Rest of soul;
(2) freedom from doubts and fears;
(3) communion of spirit with spirit.
(1) Vigour and energy in the efforts to live a right life;
(2) pleasure in scenes that help to communion with Christ;
(3) love of the brethren.
What is suitable to the Bridegroom's presence? No mournings; no lastings; no forcings of will. The soul is moved freely by inward inspirations. We should feel the "liberty of love;" a quiet, intense joy, finding expression according to disposition.
II. THE BRIDEGROOM'S ABSENCE, AND THE STATE OF FEELING AND CONDUCT SUITABLE TO IT. "Then they fast." Illustrate, condition of disciples between Ascension and Pentecost. For us Christ is never absent in fact; he may be in feeling. Though matter of feeling only, we are not left without signs of the absence. Especially in lost impulse to goodness. (Illustrate, failing vitality in the body.) What is suitable to the Bridegroom's absence? Apply to those who feel the Bridegroom is gone, and:
1. Do not even mourn. (Illustrate, John Bunyan's 'Holy War,' Mansoul hardened.)
2. Only mourn. Mansoul sorrowing.
3. Fast as well as mourn. Mansoul putting away its evils, sitting in sackcloth, and sending messages after the lost prince. Are we jealous, as we should be, about keeping ever with us the sense of the Bridegroom's presence?—R.T.
New truth in new settings.
"They put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved." Oriental bottles are skins of sheep or goats. Old bottles would crack and leak, under pressure of the fermentation of new wine; new skins would expand under such pressure. The old wine-skin of Judaism had become stiffened with age, and even worse stiffened by the efforts of the rabbis to keep it in good condition. Christianity could not keep within its narrow limitations. This is the first reference of our Lord's words; but he illustrates a fact of permanent interest.
I. NEW TRUTH IS ALWAYS COMING INTO THE WORLD. Practically new truth is. The critical philosopher may question whether such a thing as "new truth" is possible. Truth new to an age is possible. Truth of science may exist, but it is new when it is first brought to human apprehension. And even old truths become new when they are revived after being lost to the world for a while. What may be firmly declared is that primary truths of morals and religion must be old as humanity. The Puritan father assures us that
"The Lord hath yet more light and truth
To break forth from his Word."
But whatever breaks forth will only be new to us. Still, the interest of each age lies in the new truth, scientific, moral, religious, that it may reach. It is said that so much is now being discovered, scientific and even biblical works that are ten years old are out of the running. Athenians ever inquired for "something new;" moderns are well-nigh surfeited with things new. Show in what senses Christ brought new truth concerning God and man. Show that the range of truth, in any age, seems new when compared with the range of truth in a previous age; though it may be really no more than the uprising into view of neglected parts of the great circle of truth.
II. NEW TRUTH IS ALWAYS CALLING FOR NEW SETTINGS. The teachers of new truth want to express it in their own way. This occasions most of the controversies of our time. The conservative among us do not object to the new truth (if it is truth they cannot object to it), but they want it expressed in the terms that are familiar to them. They want the gentleman of to-day dressed according to the age of wigs and buckles. The liberty Christ claimed for himself, and for his disciples, was liberty to get new wine-skins for the new wine. And the modern Christian teacher asks permission to put his new truth in appropriate new settings.—R.T.
Faith marred by superstition.
"If I may but touch his garment, I shall he whole." "The woman's touch was an ignorant and superstitious appeal to the mercifulness of Christ." As viewed By Christ, the faith shown in the touch was of much greater importance than the superstition which connected blessing with the touch. Our Lord could easily look over the superstition, and accept the faith. "She did not think of a will that seeks to bless and save, but of a physical effluence passing from the body to the garments, and from the garments to the hand that touched them." "Even the ignorance and selfishness of the woman did not neutralize the virtue of her simple faith. It was not, of course, through her superstitious touch that she was healed, but through the faith that prompted the touch; a faith full of defects,—ignorantly conceived, secretly cherished, furtively put forth, openly exposed, humbly confessed, as if it had been a sin,—but yet, because a true faith, graciously accepted, rewarded, and perfected." In the woman's case we may see represented the religious experience of many. See the four stages of the woman's experience.
I. SHE KNEW HERSELF TO BE A SUFFERER. Some diseases carry on their work for a long time in secret. There is hope when they reveal their working, and set us upon finding remedies. It is a great thing to know our true moral condition,
(1) as sinners, exposed to the wrath of God, on account of our bad past;
(2) as diseased, and in an actual present state of corruption. The realities of our sin and danger are far more serious than we feel them to be.
II. SHE TRIED TO GET CURE, BUT TRIED IN VAIN. She had been to many physicians, and had spent all that she had. So the awakened soul will try to use means and to cure itself,
(1) by goodness;
(2) by wrestlings with sin;
(3) by devotions;
(4) by rites and ceremonies.
These are its "many physicians," all helpless in treating soul-diseases.
III. SHE HEARD OF JESUS, AND SOUGHT HIM OUT. We can only imagine what she heard, but we can clearly trace the influence of what she heard. It gave faith in Christ such a power as even enabled it to triumph over diffidence and superstitions; or, rather, enabled it to carry its superstitions along with it.
IV. SHE FOUND HEALING AND LIFE FLOW FROM CHRIST. Because her touch was to him a touch of faith, and of faith so really strong and sincere that he did not care to notice the strand of weakness that ran through it.—R.T.
Restoration with a word.
"Took her by the band, and the maid arose." This is the first instance of our Lord's dealing with death, which represents the extreme effect of sin. "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death;" "The wages of sin is death." If our Lord had not delivered from the power of physical death, it would have been open to his enemies to say that the supreme evil of humanity he had failed to reach, That reproach cannot be made, for our Lord recovered one who had only just died; one who was being carried out for burial; and one who had lain in the grave four days. And he himself burst asunder the bands of death, when they had been fastened upon him. But the point which is more especially presented to view, in this incident, is the glorious manner in which our Lord dealt with death. There is a revelation of his glory and claim in the calmness of his mastery over the supreme human foe.
I. HE RESTORED THE DEAD WITHOUT MAKING EVEN A SHOW OF AGENCIES. Here is a striking fact, which has not been duly noticed. In opening blind eyes Jesus used agencies—he made clay and anointed the eyes—but in neither of the cases of restoring the dead did he use any agencies. This comes to be more striking when we contrast the cases in which the great prophets, Elijah and Elisha, dealt with the dead. Elijah stretched himself upon the dead child three times. Elisha went "up" to the chamber "and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands, and stretched himself upon him." The contrast is even seen in the matter of prayer. Elijah cried unto the Lord; and his prayer is given. Elisha prayed unto the Lord. But in two of the cases our Lord did not associate even prayer with the putting forth of his power to recover the dead.
II. HE RESTORED TEE DEAD BY THE POWER OF A SIMPLE COMMAND. In this case our Lord's actual words are given, "Talitha cumi." At Nain, he simply said, "Young man, I say unto thee, arise." At Bethany the words of power were, "Lazarus, come forth." What is clear is that Elijah and Elisha acted as servants; Jesus acted as Master. He claimed, and he exerted, power and authority over death. It had to take the place of one of his servants, respond to his commands, and do his bidding.
What, then, must he be who can thus deal with the one power which man has, by the experience of long ages, learned to regard as irresistible?—R.T.
According to faith.
This expression was connected with a miracle of healing. Not all Christ's gracious deeds are recorded in our Gospels. Some are fully detailed. Some are briefly sketched. Some are merely summarized. The reason for the difference of treatment may be found in the degree in which any miracle afforded illustration of truth. This is not one of the fully developed cases, but it yields one point. Blindness is a common affliction in the East. Christ had just wrought a miracle. Its proper result was reached, for others were led to believe in Christ. These two blind men heard what Jesus had done, so they sought his help for themselves. He tests their faith, and gives accordingly. Why did Christ always require, and work for, faith? Because he healed diseases for the sake of healing souls. Calling out faith was healing the soul's sickness. The word "faith" often bewilders; better call it "trust." That is a simpler word, and helps us to connect religious faith with everyday faith. The spirit of trust is the spirit that puts us ready to receive God's best blessings. But the text must not be read as if it meant that the conditions of blessing are all rearranged by Christ, and that we can have anything we like from God, if only we believe enough.
I. HELPED TO TRUST, THAT IS THE BEGINNING OF CHRISTIAN LIFE. Take the familiar command, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," and put "trust" for "believe," then it means, "Give the whole matter of your soul's salvation into his hands." That is the beginning.
II. LEARNING TO TRUST; THAT IS THE GREAT WORK OF CHRISTIAN LIFE, There is a constant tendency to fall back on self-confidence, which needs to be watched and resisted. There is a constant demand for the culturing of weak trust into strength. All Christian discipline means development of trust.
III. ACCORDING TO TRUST; THAT IS THE LAW OF DIVINE BLESSINGS IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Because that is the guarantee that gifts will be well used. If we were utterly self-willed, we should fling back the gift. Just in the measure of our self-will we are likely to use unworthily the gift. So far as we can trust, we are likely to use it rightly. Open souls welcome spiritual blessings.—R.T.
Christ's day-by-day duties.
The more special and public acts and events of a man's life gain place in his biography, but the commonplace, everyday associations of a man give the true impression of him. It is said that "no man is a hero to his valet;" but he ought to be. The routine life of a man should be the best revelation of the man. We may dwell on the greater scenes of our Lord's life, and learn much; but we know him imperfectly until we fairly estimate how he bore the strain of daily, commonplace duties. Four terms are used to describe our Lord's everyday life.
I. JOURNEYING. He "went about all the cities and villages." Galilee was very thickly peopled at this time. Josephus exaggerates, but he says of Galilee, "The cities here lie very thick, and the very many villages here and there are everywhere so full of people, by the richness of their soil, that the very least of them contained about fifteen thousand inhabitants." He reports two hundred and forty cities and villages in the district. This gives us an idea of our Lord's active labours. Notice that
(1) he was concerned for the village as well as for the town;
(2) that such itinerating work is bodily exhausting;
(3) that constant fresh scenes and associations destroy soul-quietness, and make the due maintenance of the spiritual life exceedingly difficult. We may sympathize with Christ.
II. TEACHING. We now know that the afternoon service at the synagogue was conducted somewhat as a Bible-class, those present asking questions and giving answers. In such scenes our Lord naturally took his place as Teacher. Scripture was the text-book. Note that our Lord sought to arouse the activity of men's minds. He wanted intelligent religion. Teachers find in him their Model.
III. PREACHING. This term represents the morning service in the synagogues, when announcements and expositions were given, but no response from the people was looked for. Preaching may be said to include three things:
Christ had a message; he opened up the Scriptures (as at Nazareth, see Luke 4:1-44.); and he could persuade to the acceptance of the truth. But teaching and preaching make heavy demands on spiritual strength.
IV. HEALING. This is always to be regarded as auxiliary and illustrative work. Needful in those days, in order to call attention to the new Teacher, and awaken interest in him. It did for that day what newspapers and advertisements will do for great leaders and teachers nowadays.—R.T.
The impressions produced by multitudes.
"When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion." Notice how his daily work of healing must have brought Christ sympathetically near to all the sorrows of men. Illustrate from the itinerating work of the Eastern hakim, or physician. It is usual to bring out all the sick of a district when the hakim arrives. Compare the crowds in our marketplaces round the quack-medicine vendor.
I. THE IMPRESSION MADE ON CHRIST BY THE SIGHT OF MULTITUDES. Show the effects which great crowds produce on us. They greatly excite us; but when we regard them as religious men they greatly depress us, for they convince us that large masses of humanity are yet unreached by the redeeming and elevating influences of Christianity. Show the effects that great crowds produced on Christ.
1. Sympathy with bodily needs. (As in the case of feeding the five thousand.)
2. Compassion for soul-suffering. (Regarded as "sheep having no shepherd.")
3. Our Lord seems to have been specially distressed, because they thought so much of body, and were ready to sacrifice so much for it, and yet scarcely knew of the wants of their soul—of the "hunger of the soul."
II. THE LESSONS FOR THE DISCIPLES WHICH OUR LORD'S IMPRESSION'S SUGGESTED.
1. That there was abundant room for spiritual work.
2. That the multitudes of men form the Lord's harvest-field.
3. That there is still no proper correspondence between the harvest and those who labour at its ingathering. The harvest is wide and great; the labourers are but few.
4. That they should think and pray about this divergence, and so very possibly come to hear the Divine call to go into the harvest-field.—R.T.