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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 8

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-13

XXIX

OUR LORD’S GREAT MINISTRY IN GALILEE

Part IV The Centurion’s Servant Healed, the Widow’s Son Raised, The Sin Against the Holy Spirit

Harmony -pages 52-59 and Matthew 8:1; Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 11:2-30; Matthew 12:22-37; Mark 3:1-30; Luke 7:1-8:3.


When Jesus, who spoke with authority, had finished the Sermon on the Mount, he returned to Capernaum where he acted with authority in performing some noted miracles. Here he was met by a deputation from a centurion, a heathen, beseeching him to heal his servant who was at the point of death. This Jewish deputation entered the plea for the centurion that he had favored the Jews greatly and had built for them a synagogue. Jesus set out at once to go to the house of the centurion, but was met by a second deputation, saying to Jesus that he not trouble himself but just speak the word and the work would be done. The centurion referred in this message to his own authority over his soldiers, reasoning that Christ’s authority was greater and therefore he could speak the word and his servant should be healed. This called forth from our Lord the highest commendation of his faith. No Jew up to this time had manifested such faith as this Roman centurion. Then our Lord draws the picture of the Gentiles coming from the east, west, north, and south to feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven while the Jews, the sons of the kingdom, were cast out. Jesus then granted the petition of the centurion according to his faith.


The second great miracle of Jesus in this region was the raising of the widow’s son at Nain, which was a great blessing to the widow and caused very much comment upon the work of our Lord, so that his fame spread over all Judea and the region roundabout. His fame as a miracle worker and "a great prophet, “ reached John the Baptist and brought forth his message of inquiry.


This inquiry of John, which reflects the state of discouragement, and also the testimony of Jesus concerning John, is discussed in John 10 of this volume (which see), but there are some points in this incident not brought out in that discussion which also need to be emphasized. First, what is the meaning of "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence" (Matthew 11:12)? The image is not precisely that of taking a city by storm, but of an eager, invading host, each trying to be first, pressing and jostling each other, as when gold was discovered in California, or at the settlement of the Oklahoma strip. It means impassioned earnestness and indomitable resolution in the entrance upon and pursuit of a Christian life, making religion the chief concern and salvation the foremost thing as expressed in the precepts: "Seek first the kingdom, etc.," "Agonize to enter in at the strait gate." It rightly expresses the absorbing interest and enthusiasm of a revival. "Thus Christianity was born in a revival and all its mighty advances have come from revivals which are yet the hope of the world." This thought is illustrated in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, pp. 47-49. Following this is the contrast between the publicans and scribes, the one justifying God and the other rejecting for themselves the counsel of God. Then he likens them unto children in the market, playing funeral. One side piped but the other side did not dance; then they wailed but the others did not weep. So, John was an ascetic and that did not suit them; Jesus ate and drank and that did not suit them. So it has ever been with the faultfinders. But in spite of that, wisdom is justified of her works (or children), i.e., wisdom is evidenced by her children, whether in the conduct of John or Jesus. But this statement does not justify the liquor business as the defendants of it claim.


There is no evidence that Jesus either made or drank intoxicating wine


Then began Jesus to upbraid the cities wherein were done these mighty works, including Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, because they had not repented. This shows that light brings with it the obligation to repent, and that this will be the governing principle of the judgment. Men shall be judged according to the light they have. Then follows the announcement of a great principle of revelation. God makes it to babes rather than to the worldly-wise man, and that Jesus himself is the medium of the revelation from God to man, but only the humble in spirit and contrite in heart can receive it. Because he is the medium of the blessing, the God-man, his compassion here finds expression in this great, broad invitation: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for am I meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Note the two kinds of rest here: First, the given rest, which is accepted by grace, and second, the found rest, which is attained in service.


The next incident is the anointing of our Saviour’s feet by a woman who was a sinner. This incident occurred in Galilee – just where I do not know – possibly, but not probably, in Nain. It is recorded by Luke alone, who, following a custom of the historians of mentioning only one incident of a special kind, omits the narrative of a later anointing.


Two preceding things seem to be implied by the story: (a) That the host had been a beneficiary in some way of Christ’s healing power over the body; (b) That the woman had been a beneficiary" of his saving power. It is quite probable that her weary and sin-burdened soul had heard and accepted the gracious invitation: "Come unto me, etc.," just given by the Saviour. At any rate her case is an incarnate illustration of the power of that text and is a living exposition of it. It is far more beautiful and impressive in the Greek than any translation can make it. Several customs prevalent then but obsolete now, constitute the setting of the story, and must be understood in order to appreciate its full meaning.


(1) The Oriental courtesies of hospitality usually extended to an honored guest. The footwear of the times – open sandals – and the dust of travel in so dry a country, necessitated the washing of the feet of an incoming guest the first act of hospitality. See Abraham’s example (Genesis 18:4) and Lot’s (Genesis 19:2) and Laban’s (Genesis 24:32) and the old Benjaminite (Judges 19:20-21) and Abigail (1 Samuel 25:41). See as later instances (John 13) our Lord’s washing the feet of his disciples and the Christian customs (1 Timothy 5:10). This office was usually performed by servants, but was a mark of great respect and honor to a guest if performed by the host himself.


(2) The custom of saluting a guest with a kiss. See case of Moses (Exodus 18:7) and of David (2 Samuel 19:39). To observe this mode of showing affectionate respect is frequently enjoined in the New Testament epistles. As employed by Absalom for purposes of demagogy (2 Samuel 15:5), and as employed toward Amasa by Joab when murder was in his heart (2 Samuel 20:9-10), and by Judas to our Lord when treachery was in his heart, rendered their crimes the more heinous. To this Patrick Henry refers: "Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss."


(3) The custom of anointing the head at meals (Ecclesiastes 9:7-8; Psalms 23:5). Hence for the Pharisee to omit these marks of courteous hospitality was to show his light esteem for his guest. It proves that the invitation was not very hearty.


(4) The custom of reclining at meals (Amos 6:4-6). This explains "sat at meat" and "behind at his feet."


With these items of background we are prepared to understand and appreciate that wonderful story of the compassion of Jesus. His lesson on forgiveness and proportionate love as illustrated in the case of this wicked woman has been the sweet consolation of thousands. The announcement to the woman that her faith had saved her throws light on the question, "What must I do to be saved?" There are here also the usual contrasts where the work of salvation is going on. The woman was overflowing with love and praise while others were questioning in their hearts and abounding in hate and censure. This scene has been re-enacted many a time since, as Christianity has held out the hand of compassion to the outcasts and Satan has questioned and jeered at her beautiful offers of mercy.


In Section 47 (Luke 8:1-3) of the Harmony we have a further account of our Lord’s ministry in Galilee with the twelve, and certain women who had been the beneficiaries of his ministry, who also ministered to him of their substance. This is the first Ladies’ Aid Society of which we have any record and they were of the right sort.


We now take up the discussion of the sin against -the Holy Spirit found in Section 48 (Matthew 12:22-37; Mark 3:19-30). Before opening the discussion of it, allow me to group certain passages of both Testaments bearing on this question: Psalms 19:13: "Innocent of the great transgression." Mark 3:29: "Guilty of an eternal sin." Numbers 15:28-31: "If any soul sin through ignorance, the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the Lord, to make an atonement for him and it shall be forgiven him. But the soul that doeth presumptuously, born in the land of a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him." Hebrews 10:26-29: "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries. A man that hath set at naught Moses’ law, dieth without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Jeremiah 15:1: "Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth." 1 John 5:16: "If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: not concerning this do I say that he should make request." Ezekiel 14:13-14: "Son of man, when a land sinneth against me, by committing a trespass, and I stretch out mine hand upon it, and break the staff of the bread thereof, and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast; though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God."


The scriptures just cited have excited profound interest in every age of the world since they were recorded. In all the intervening centuries they have so stirred the hearts of those affected by them as to strip life of enjoyment. They have driven many to despair. In every community there are guilty and awakened consciences as spellbound by these scriptures as was Belshazzar when with pallid lips and shaking knees he confronted the mysterious handwriting on the wall, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. In almost every community we can find some troubled soul, tortured with the apprehension that he has committed the unpardonable sin. Sympathetic and kindly-disposed expositors in every age have tried in vain to break the natural force or soften in some way the prima facie import of these divine utterances. Some have denied that there ever was, or ever could be an unpardonable sin. Others conceded that such sin might have been committed in the days of Christ’s earthly ministry, but the hazard passed away with the cessation of miracles. All the power of great scholarship has been brought to bear with microscopic inspection of words and phrases to establish one or the other of these propositions. And, indeed, if great names could avail in such cases, this slough of despond would have been safely bridged. But no such explanation ever satisfies a guilty conscience or removes from the hearts of the masses of plain people, the solemn conviction that the Bible teaches two things:


First, that in every age of the past, men were liable to commit the unpardonable sin and that as a matter of fact, some did commit it.


Second, that there is now not only the same liability, but that some do now actually commit it. There is something in man which tells him that these scriptures possess for him an awful admonition whose truth is eternal.


Whether all the scriptures just cited admit of one classification matters nothing, so far as the prevalent conviction is concerned. Where one of the group may be successfully detached by exegesis another rises up to take its place. The interest in the doctrine founded on them is a never-dying interest. Because of this interest, it is purposed now to examine somewhat carefully, the principal passages bearing on this momentous theme. Most humbly, self-distrustingly and reverently will the awful subject be approached.


It is deemed best to approach it by considering specially the case recorded by Matthew and Mark. The words are spoken by our Lord himself. The antecedent facts which occasioned their utterance may be briefly stated thus:


(1) Jesus had just delivered a miserable demoniac by casting out the demon who possessed him.


(2) It was a daylight affair, a public transaction, all the circumstances so open and visible, and the fact so incontrovertible and stupendous that many recognized the divine power and presence.


(3) But certain Pharisees who had been pursuing him with hostile intent, who had been obstructing his work in every possible way, finding themselves unable to dispute the fact of the miracle, sought to break its force by attributing its origin to Beelzebub, the prince of demons, charging Jesus with collusion with Satan.


(4) The issue raised was specific. This issue rested on three indisputable facts conceded by all parties. It is important to note these facts carefully and to impress our minds with the thought that as conceded facts, they underlie the issue. The facts are, first, that an evil and unwilling demon had been forcibly ejected from his much desired stronghold and dispossessed of his ill-gotten spoils. It was no good spirit. It was no willing spirit. It was a violent ejectment. It was a despoiling ejectment. Second, the one who so summarily ejected the demon and despoiled him was Jesus of Nazareth. Third fact, the ejectment was by supernatural miraculous power – by some spirit mightier than the outcast demon. Evidently Jesus had, by some spirit, wrought a notable miracle. He claimed that he did it by the Holy Spirit of God resting on him and dwelling in him. The Pharisees alleged that he did it by an unclean spirit, even Satan himself. The contrast is between "unclean-spirit" and "Holy Spirit." An awful sin was committed by one or the other. Somebody was guilty of blasphemy. If Jesus was in collusion with Satan – if he attributed the devil’s work by him to the Holy Spirit, he was guilty of blasphemy. If the Pharisees, on the other hand, attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to an unclean spirit, this was slandering God. They were guilty of blasphemy.


(5) Jesus answers the charge against himself by three arguments: First, as the demon cast out belonged to Satan’s kingdom and was doing Satan’s work, evidently he was not cast out by Satan’s power, for a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, and none could justly accuse Satan of the folly of undermining his own kingdom. Second, the demon could not have been despoiled and cast out unless first overpowered by some stronger spirit than himself, who, if not Satan, must be the Holy Spirit, Satan’s antagonist and master. Third, as the Pharisees themselves claimed to be exorcists of demons, it became them to consider how their argument against Jesus might be applied to their own exorcisms.


Then he in turn became the accuser. In grief and indignation he said, "Therefore I say unto you, every sin and blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him, but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world nor in that which is to come."


Or as Mark expresses it, "Verily I say unto you, All their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin; because they said, He hath an unclean spirit." Having the case now before us, let us next define or explain certain terms expressed or implied in the record.


Unpardonable. – Pardonable means not that which is or must be pardoned, but which may be pardoned on compliance with proper conditions – that while any sin unrepented of, leads ultimately to death, yet as long as the sinner lives, a way of escape is offered to him. But an unpardonable sin is one which from the moment of its committal is forever without a possible remedy. Though such a sinner may be permitted to live many years, yet the very door of hope is closed against him. It is an eternal sin. It hath never forgiveness. Sermons, prayers, songs, and exhortations avail nothing in his case. The next expression needing explanation is, "Neither in this world, nor in the world to come." Construed by itself this language might imply one of two things:


First, that God will pardon some sins in the next world, i.e., there may be for many, though not all, a probation after death. So Romanists teach. On such interpretation is purgatory founded.


Second, or it may imply that God puts away some sins so far as the next world is concerned, but yet does not remit chastisement for them in this world.


Where the meaning of a given passage is doubtful, then we apply the analogy of the faith. That is, we compare the doubtful with the certain. The application of this rule necessitates discarding the first possible meaning assigned. It is utterly repugnant to the tenor of the Scriptures. Men are judged and their destiny decided by the deeds done in the body, not out of it. If they die unjust they are raised unjust. There is no probation after death. It remains to inquire if the second possible implication agrees with the tenor of the Scriptures. Here we find no difficulty whatever. The general Bible teaching is in harmony with the second meaning. The Scriptures abundantly show three things:


First, some sins are remitted both for time and eternity. That is, when they are pardoned for eternity, even chastisement on earth is also remitted.


Second, much graver sins are, on repentance, put away as to eternity, but very sore chastisement is inflicted in time. As when God said to David after Nathan visited him: "The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die." The Lord also announced to him that "the sword should never depart from his house" because he had caused the death of Uriah (see 2 Samuel 12:7-14). Here is one unmistakable case out of many that could be cited where sin was forgiven as to the next world, but not as to this world.


The thought is that God, in fatherly discipline, chastises all Christians in this world. To be without chastisement in this world proves we are not God’s children. An awful token of utter alienation from God is to be deprived of correction here, when we sin. To be sinners and yet to prosper. To die sinners and yet have no "bands in our death." So that the expression "hath never forgiveness, neither in this world nor in the world to come," implies nothing about a probation after death, but refers to God’s method of withholding correction in this world, from some sinners, but never withholding punishment of this class in the next, and to his method of correcting Christians in this world, but never punishing them in the next world.


Third, the expression teaches that in the case of those who sin against the Holy Spirit, God’s method of dealing is different from both the foregoing methods. In the case of the unpardonable sin, punishment commences now and continues forever. There is no remission of either temporal or eternal penalties. They have the pleasures of neither world. To illustrate: Lazarus had the next world, but not this; Dives had this world, but not the next. But the man who commits the unpardonable sin has neither world, as Judas Iscariot, Ananias, and others.


To further illustrate, by earthly things, we might say that Benedict Arnold committed the unpardonable sin as to nations. He lost the United States and did not gain England. Hated here; despised yonder. The price of his treason could not be enjoyed. He had never forgiveness, neither on this side the ocean nor on the other side. Another term needing explanation is the word,


Blasphemy. – This is strictly a compound Greek word Anglicized. It is transferred bodily to our language. In Greek literature it is quite familiar and often used. Its meaning is thoroughly established. According to strict etymology, it is an offense of speech, i.e., of spoken words. Literally, as a verb, it means to speak ill or injuriously of any one, to revile or defame. As a noun, it means detraction or slander. I say it means to defame any one whether man or God. Even in the Bible usage of both the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament, the word is generally applied to both man and God.


When Paul says he was "slanderously reported," as saying a certain thing, and when Peter says "speak evil of no man," they both correctly employ the Greek word "blaspheme." Even this passage refers to other blasphemies than those against God, "all manner of blasphemies except the blasphemies against the Holy Spirit." In both English and American law, blasphemy has ever been an indictable offense, whether against man or God. Later usages, however, restrict the term "blasphemy" to an offense against God, while the term "slander" is applied to the same offense against men. According to strict derivation, it is an offense of spoken words. To this our Saviour refers in the context when he says, "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." But one is quite mistaken who limits the meaning of the term to strict etymology. In both human and divine law, the offense of "blasphemy" may be committed by writing the words, or publishing them, as well as by speaking them. We may blaspheme by either printing, painting, or pantomime. Any overt, provable action which intentionally conveys a false and injurious impression against any one comes within the scope of the offense. Under the more spiritual, divine law, the offense may be committed in the mind, whether ever spoken aloud. Our context says, "Jesus knowing their thoughts." Indeed, the very essence of the offense is in the heart – the intent – the idea. Words are matters of judgment, solely because they are signs of ideas and expressions of the heart. This our context abundantly shows. Our Saviour says, "Either make the tree good and its fruit good; or make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by its fruit. Ye offspring of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. The good man out of his good treasure, bringeth forth good things: and the evil man out of his evil treasure bringeth forth evil things."


From this exhibition of the meaning of the word "blasphemy," we can easily see that either Jesus or the Pharisees were guilty of the offense. Both could not be innocent. If Jesus, while claiming to act by the Holy Spirit, was but the organ of "an unclean spirit," then he blasphemed or slandered the Holy Spirit. If his work was wrought by the Holy Spirit, then the Pharisees, by attributing that work to an "unclean spirit," blasphemed the Holy Spirit.


Having clearly before us the meaning of "blasphemy," let us advance to another explanation. The character of any code or government is revealed by its capital offenses; the grade of any nation’s civilization is registered by its penal code. If capital punishment, or the extreme limit of punishment is inflicted for many and slight offenses, the government is called barbarian. If for only a few extraordinary and very heinous crimes, the government is called civilized. For instance, under the English law of long ago, a man might be legally put to death for snaring a bird or rabbit. The extreme limit of punishment was visited upon many who now would be pronounced guilty of only misdemeanors or petit larceny. It was a bloody code. The enlightened mind intuitively revolts against undue severity. Modern civilization has reduced capital offense to a minimum. Even in these few cases three things at least must always be proved:


(1) That the offender had arrived at the age of discretion, and possessed a sound mind. A mere child, a lunatic or idiot cannot commit a capital offense.


(2) Premeditation. The crime must be deliberately committed.


(3) Malice. The evil intent must be proved.


The higher benevolence of the divine law will appear from the fact that there is but one unpardonable offense, and that even more must be proved against one accused of this offense than the age of discretion, a sound mind, premeditation, and malice. Indeed, the sin against the Holy Spirit must outrank all others in intrinsic heinousness. This will abundantly appear when we reach the Bible definition and analysis of the sin against the Holy Spirit. We are not ready even yet, however, to enter upon the discussion of the sin itself. Two other preliminary explanations are needed.


Why must the one unpardonable sin be necessarily against the Holy Spirit? What is the philosophy or rationale of this necessity? This question and the answer to it cannot be understood unless we give due weight, both separately and collectively, to the following correlated proposition: There is one law giver, God. His law is the one supreme standard which defines right and wrong – prescribing the right, proscribing the wrong. God himself is the sole, authoritative interpreter of his law. The scope of its obligations cannot be limited by finite knowledge, or human conscience. Any failure whatever at conformity thereto, or any deflection therefrom, to the right or left, however slight, and from whatever cause, is unrighteousness. All unrighteousness is sin. The wages of sin is death. All men are sinners by nature and practice.


Therefore, by the deeds of the law can no man be justified in the sight of God. The law condemns every man. It also follows: First, that any possible salvation must flow from God’s free grace. Second, that not even grace can provide a way of escape for the condemned inconsistent with God’s Justice and holiness. That is, any possible scheme of salvation for sinners must both satisfy the law penalty, thereby appeasing justice, and provide for the personal holiness of the forgiven sinner.


To put it in yet other words, the plan of salvation, to be feasible, must secure for every sinner to be saved, three things at least: (a) justification, (b) regeneration, (c) sanctification, which are equivalent to deliverance from the law penalty, a new nature, and personal holiness. I say that these three things are absolutely requisite. I cite just now only three scriptural proofs, one under each head:


Romans 3:23-26 declares that a propitiation must be made for sin in order that God might be just in justifying the sinner. John 3:3-7 sets forth the absolute necessity of the new birth the imparting of a new nature.


Hebrews 12:14 declares that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord."


To admit into heaven even one unjustified man, one man in his carnal nature, one unholy man, would necessarily dethrone God, while inflicting worse than the tortures of hell on the one so admitted.


No fish out of water, no wolf or owl in the daylight, could be so unutterably wretched as such a man. He would be utterly out of harmony with his surroundings. I think he would prefer hell. The gates of the holy city stand open day and night, which means that no saint would go out, and no sinner would go in. After the judgment as well as now, the sinner loves darkness rather than light. It therefore naturally, philosophically and necessarily follows that salvation must have limitations. A careful study of these limitations will disclose to us the rationale of the unpardonable sin. What, then, are these limitations?


(1) Outside of grace, no salvation.


(2) Outside of Christ, no grace.


(3) Outside of the Spirit, no Christ.


In other words, Christ alone reveals the Father, and the Spirit alone reveals Christ; or no man can reach the Father except through Christ – Christ is the door – and no man can find that door except through the Spirit. It necessarily follows that an unpardonable sin is a sin against the Spirit. This would necessarily follow from the order of the manifestations of the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. From the order of the dispensations: First, the Father’s dispensation of law; second, the Son’s dispensation of atonement; third, the Spirit’s dispensation of applying the atonement. The Spirit is heaven’s ultimatum – heaven’s last overture. If we sin against the Father directly, the Son remains. We may reach him through the Son. If we sin directly against the Son, the Spirit remains. We may reach him through the Spirit. If we sin against the Spirit, nothing remains. Therefore that sin is without remedy. So argues our Saviour: "Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come. He is guilty of an eternal sin."


Our last preliminary explanation answers this question: Are men now liable to commit this sin? If not liable, the reasons for discussing the matter at all are much reduced. If liable, the reasons for discussion are infinitely enhanced. It is of infinitely greater moment to point out to the unwary of a possible immediate danger, than to relieve the mind from the fear of an unreal danger, however great and torturing may be that fear. It is claimed by many intelligent expositors that this sin cannot be committed apart from an age of miracles, nor apart from the specific miracle of casting out demons, nor apart from attributing the supernatural, miraculous power of the Holy Spirit in said miracle to Beelzebub, the prince of demons.


Very deep love have I for the great and good men who take this position, as, I believe, led away by sentiment, sympathy, and amiability on the one hand, and horrified on the other hand with the recklessness which characterizes many sensational discussions of this grave matter by tyros, unlearned, and immature expositors. Very deep love have I for the men, but far less respect for their argument. I submit, just now, only a few out of many grave reasons for rejecting this interpretation.


(1) Such restriction of meaning is too narrow and mechanical. The Bible could not be to us a book of principles, if the exact circumstances must be duplicated in order to obtain a law. From the study of every historical incident in the Bible we deduce principles of action.


(2) The Scriptures clearly grade miracles wrought by the Spirit below other works of the Spirit. This is evident from many passages and connections. Writing the names of the saved in the book of life was greater than casting out devils (Luke 10:20). Fourth only in the gifts of the Spirit does miracle-working power rank (1 Corinthians 12:28). Far inferior are any of these gifts to the abiding graces of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1-33). How, then, in reason and common sense, can it be a more heinous blasphemy to attribute an inferior work of the Spirit to the devil than a superior work? Will any man seriously maintain that this is so, because a miracle is more demonstrable – its proof more vivid and cognizable by the natural senses? This would be to affirm the contrary of scriptural teaching on many points. We may know more things about spirit than we can know about matter. This knowledge is more vivid and impressive than the other. Spiritual demonstration to the inner man is always a profounder demonstration than any whatever to the outer man.


(3) Such a restriction of meaning to the days of Christ in the flesh is out of harmony with Old Testament teaching on the same subject.


(4) It fails to harmonize with many other passages in later New Testament time, which will not admit of a different classification without contradicting the text itself, since thereby more than one kind of unpardonable sins would be established.


(5) The utter failure of this exposition to convince the judgment of plain people everywhere, and its greater failure to relieve troubled consciences everywhere, is a strong presumptive argument against its soundness.


Because, therefore, I believe that the sin against the Holy Spirit may now be committed – because I believe that some men in nearly every Christian community have committed it – because I believe that the liability is imminent and the penalty, when incurred, utterly without remedy, and because I feel pressed in spirit to warn the imperiled of so great condemnation, therefore I preach on the subject – preach earnestly – preach in tears – preach with melted heart.

QUESTIONS

1. How did Jesus vindicate his authority apart from his claims and teaching?

2. What are the details in the incident of healing the centurions servant, how do you reconcile the accounts of Matthew and Luke, and what the lessons of this incident?

3. Describe the incident of the raising of the widow’s son at Nain and its lesson.

4. What inquiry from John the Baptist brought forth by this fame of Jesus and what was Jesus’ reply?

5. What is the meaning of "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence?

6. What reproof of the Pharisees by our Lord called forth by this?

7. What cities here upbraided by our Lord and what principle enunciated in this connection?

8. What principle of revelation announced here also?

9. What great invitation here announced by our Lord and what is its great teaching?

10. Relate the story of the anointing of the feet of Jesus by the wicked woman.

11. What two things seem to be implied by the story?

12. What Oriental customs constitute the setting of this story and what is the explanation of each?

13. What are the lessons and contrasts of this incident?

14. Give an account of the first Ladies’ Aid Society.

15. What scriptures of both Testaments bearing on the sin against the Holy Spirit?

16. What can you say of the impression made by these scriptures?

17. What efforts of sympathetic expositors to soften the import of these scriptures?

18. What two solemn convictions yet remain?

19. What were the antecedent facts which occasioned the statements of our Lord in Section 48 of the Harmony?

20. What is the meaning of "unpardonable"?

21. What is the meaning of "neither in this world, nor in the world to come"?

22. What is the meaning of "blasphemy"?

23. Show that either Jesus or the Pharisees were guilty of blasphemy on this occasion.

24. How is the character of a code of laws determined? Illustrate.

25. What three things must be proved in the case of capital offenses against our laws?

26. How does the higher benevolence of the divine law appear?

27. What correlated proposition must be duly considered in order to understand the sin against the Holy Spirit?

28. What two things also follow from this?

29. What three things must the plan of salvation secure for every sinner who shall be saved, and what the proof?

30. What are the limitations which determine the rationale of the sin against the Holy Spirit? Explain.

31. What are the claims of some expositors with respect to this sin and what the reasons for rejecting them?

Verses 2-17

XXVI

OUR LORD’S GREAT MINISTRY IN GALILEE

Part I

Harmony pages 85-39 and Matthew 4:17-25; Matthew 8:2-17; Matthew 9:2-26; Mark 1:14-2:22; Mark 5:22-43; Luke 4:14-5:39; Luke 8:41-56; John 4:46-54.


We now come to our Lord’s great ministry m Galilee. We will take a sort of preview of this whole division and then follow it up with more detailed discussions. The general theme of this division of the Harmony is "The kingdom of heaven." We are prone at times to fall into errors of interpretation concerning the kingdom similar to those which led ancient Israel so far and so harmfully astray concerning the advent of the Messiah. Either we so fill our minds with the sublimity of world redemption, as applied to the race, in the outcome, so satisfy our hearts with rhetorical splendor in the glowing description of universal dominion that we lose sight of its application to individuals in our day, and the responsibilities arising from the salvation of one man, or we so concentrate our fancy upon the consummation that we forget the progressive element in the development of the kingdom and the required use of means in carrying on that progress. The former error breeds unprofitable dreamers – the latter promotes skeptics. The preacher is more liable to be led astray by the one, the average church member by the other.


Perhaps the most unprofitable of all sermons is the one full of human eloquence and glowing description excited by the great generalities of salvation, and perhaps the most stubborn of all skepticism is that resulting from disappointment as not witnessing and receiving at once the very climax of salvation, both as to the individual and the race.


Such a spirit of disappointment finds expression in words like these: "The prophecies here of the kingdom are about 1,900 years old. Nineteen centuries have elapsed since the Child was born. Wars have not ceased. The poor are still oppressed. Justice, equity, and righteousness do not prevail. Sorrow, sin, and death still reign. And I am worried and burdened and perplexed. My soul is cast down and disquieted within me." In such case we need to consider the false principles of interpretation which have misled us, and inquire: Have we been fair to the Book and its promise?


Here I submit certain carefully considered statements: (1) The consummation of the Messiah’s kingdom was never promised as an instantaneous result of the birth of the Child. (2) The era of universal peace must follow the utter and eternal removal of things and persons that offend. This will be the harvest of the world. (3) Again, this consummation was never promised as an immediate result, i.e., without the use of means to be employed by Christ’s people. (4) Yet again, this aggregate consummation approaches only by individual reception of the kingdom and individual progress in sanctification. (5) It is safe to say that the promises have been faithfully fulfilled to just the extent that individuals have received the light, walked in the light and discharged the obligations imposed by the gift of the light. These receptive and obedient ones in every age have experienced life, liberty, peace, and joy, and have contributed their part to the ultimate glorious outcome. (6) And this experience in individuals reliably forecasts the ultimate race and world result, and inspires rational hope of its coming. This is a common sense interpretation. In the light of it our duty is obvious. Our concern should be with our day and our lot and our own case as at present environed. The instances of fulfilment cited by the New Testament illustrate and verify this interpretation, particularly that recorded by Matthew as a fulfilment of the prophecies of Isaiah 4-13 inclusive, of his gospel. What dispassionate mind can read these ten chapters of Matthew, with the parallel passages in Mark and Luke, without conceding fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecies uttered seven centuries before?


Here is the shining of a great light, brighter than all of the material luminaries in the heavens which declare the glory of God and show his handiwork. This is, indeed, the clean, sure and perfect law of the Lord, converting the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eyes, enduring forever, more desirable than gold and sweet "r than honey in the honeycomb. Here are judgments true and righteous altogether.


Here in sermon and similitude the incomparable Teacher discloses the principles and characteristics of a kingdom that, unlike anything earth-born, must be from heaven. Here is a fixed, faultless, supreme, and universal standard of morality. The Teacher not only speaks with authority and wisdom, but evidences divinity by supernatural miracles, signs, and wonders. But there is here more than a teacher and wonder worker. He is a Saviour, a Liberator, a Healer, conferring life, liberty, health, peace, and joy. To John’s question – John in prison and in doubt – the answer was conclusive that this, indeed, was the one foreshown by the prophets and there was no need to look for another: "Go and tell John the things which ye hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And whosoever shall find no occasion for stumbling in me, blessed is he" (Matthew 11:1-4).


The special matter here most worthy of our consideration is that the kingdom of heaven was not expanded by instantaneous diffusion over a community, a nation, or the world, regardless of human personality, activity, and responsibility ill receiving and propagating it, but it took hold of each receptive individual’s heart and worked out on that line toward the consummation.


To as many as received him to them he gave the power to become the sons of God. Those only who walked in the light realized the blessings of progressive sanctification. To the sons of peace, peace came as a thrilling reality. From those who preferred darkness to light) who judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, the proffered peace departed, returning to the evangelists who offered it.


The poor woman whom Satan had bound for eighteen years experienced no imaginary or figurative release from her bonds (Luke 11:10-16). That other woman, who had sinned much, and who, in grateful humility, washed his feet with her tears – was not forgiveness real and sweet to her? That blind Bartimeus who kept crying, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me" – did he not receive real sight? That publican, who stood afar off and beat upon his breast, crying, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner" – was he not justified?


And when the Galilean disciples went forth in poverty and weakness preaching his gospel, did they not experience the Joy of the harvest on beholding the ingathering of souls? And when they saw even demons subject to them through the name of Jesus, was not that the joy of victory as when conquerors divide the spoil?


When the stronger than the strong man armed came upon him and bound him, might not our Lord justly say, "As lightning falls from heaven, I saw Satan fall before you"? And just so in our own time.


Every conversion brings life, liberty, peace, and joy to the redeemed soul. Every advance in a higher and better life attests that rest is found at every upward step in the growth of grace. Every talent or pound rightly employed gains 100 per cent for the capital invested, and so the individual Christian who looks persistently into the perfect law of liberty, being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the Word, is blessed in every deed. Willing to do the will of God, and following on to know the Lord, he not only knows the doctrine to be of God, but experimentally goes on from strength to strength, from grace to grace, and is changed into the divine image from glory to glory.


In the light of these personal experiences he understands how the kingdom of God is invincible, and doubts not the certain coming of the glorious consummation foreshown in prophecy and graciously extended, in the hand of promise. His faith, staggering not through unbelief, takes hold of the invisible, and his hope leaps forward to the final recompense of the reward.


The opening incident of the Galilean ministry is the healing of the nobleman’s son, the second miracle of our Lord in Galilee, and a most remarkable one. The nobleman was Herod’s steward, maybe Chuza, as many suppose, but that is uncertain. The nobleman manifested great faith and it was amply rewarded. This is an illustration of the tenderness with which Jesus ministered to the temporal needs of the people, thus reaching their souls through their bodies. The effect of this miracle was like that of the first: "He himself believed, and his whole house."


The next section (Luke 4:16-31) gives the incident of his rejection at Nazareth. The account runs thus: "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read." How solemn, how sad in its immediate result – how pathetic that scene in Nazareth when the Redeemer announced his mission and issued his proclamation of deliverance: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to publish good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim deliverance to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To send crushed ones away free, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.


Oh! what a day when this scripture was fulfilled in the hearing of the captives I But the Spirit on him was not on them.


As Jewish widows in Elijah’s day, perished of famine, through unbelief, and left to Sarepta’s far-off widow in a foreign land to believe and be blessed with unfailing meal and oil, as Jewish lepers, through unbelief, in Elisha’s day died in uncleanness and loathsomeness while touching elbows with One having power to heal, leaving to a Syrian stranger to wash in Jordan and be clean, so here where Jesus "had been brought up," the people of Nazareth shut their eyes, bugged their chains and died in darkness and under the power of Satan – died unabsolved from sin, died unsanctified and disinherited, and so yet are dying and shall forever die.


The Year of Jubilee came to them in vain. In vain its silver trumpets pealed forth the notes of liberty. They had no ear to hear, and so by consent became slaves of the Terrible One forever.


This brings us to church responsibility and ministerial agency in the perpetuation of this proclamation of mercy. As Paul went forth to far-off shores, announcing in tears, yet with faith and hope and courage, the terms of eternal redemption, so now the churches find in the same mission their warrant for existence, and so now are we sent forth as witnesses to stand before every prison house where souls are immured, commissioned "to open the eyes of the prisoners that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Christ." Ours to blow the silver trumpets and proclaim to captives the year of jubilee. Ours is the evangel of liberty – ours to make known that "if the Son of God make men free, they shall be free indeed."


Leaving Nazareth, Jesus went to Capernaum, where he made his residence from which he radiates in his ministry in Galilee, teaching and healing on a large scale. His work here in Zebulun and Naphtali is a distinct fulfilment of Isaiah 9:1-2, in which he is represented as a great light shining in the darkness. By the sea of Galilee near Capernaum he calls four fishermen to be his partners – Peter, Andrew, James, and John, two sets of brothers. Here he announces his purpose for their lives – to be fishers of men. What a lesson! These men were skilled in their occupation and now Jesus takes that skill and turns it into another direction, toward a greater end, "fishers of men." Here he gives them a sign of his authority and messiahship in the incident of the great draught of fishes. The effect on Peter was marvelous. He was conscious of Christ’s divinity and of his own sinfulness. Thus he makes his confession, Luke 5:8: "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” But our Lord replied to Peter: "Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men." Later (John 21), when Peter and his comrades went back to their old occupation, the risen Lord appeared to them and renewed their call, performing a miracle of a similar draught of fishes.


In Section 28 (Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37;) we have his first case of healing a demoniac. What is the meaning of the word "demoniac"? It means demon-possessed, and illustrates the fact of the impact of spirit on spirit, many instances of which we have in the Bible. Here the demons recognized him, which accords with Paul’s statement that he was seen of angels. They believed and trembled as James says, but they knew no conversion. The lesson there is one of faith. The effect of this miracle was amazement at his authority over the demons.


In Section 29 (Matthew 8:14-17; Mark 1:29-34; Luke 4:38-41) we have an account of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, which incident gives us light on the social relations of the disciples. Peter was married, the Romanist position to the contrary notwithstanding. Further scriptural evidence of his marriage is found in 2 Corinthians 8:5. It is interesting to compare the parallel accounts of this incident in the Harmony and see how much more graphic is Mark’s account than those of Matthew and Luke. There is a fine lesson here on the relation between the mother-in-law and the son-in-law. Peter is a fine example of such relation. Immediately following the healing of Peter’s wife’s mother those that had sick ones brought them to Jesus and he healed them, thus fulfilling a prophecy of Isaiah, that he should take our infirmities and bear our diseases. Our Lord not only healed their sick ones, but he cast out the demons from many, upon which they recognized him. But he would not let them speak because they knew that he was the Christ.


The effect of our Lord’s great work as described in Section 29 was that Peter tried to work a corner on salvation and dam it up in Capernaum. This is indicated in the account of the interview of Peter with our Lord as described in Section 30 (Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:35-39; Luke 4:42-44). Here it is said that Jesus, a great while before day, went out into a desert place to pray, and while out there Peter came to him and complained that they were wanting him everywhere. To this our Lord responded that it was to this end that he had come into the world. So Jesus at once launched out and made three great journeys about Galilee. His first journey included a great mass of teaching and healing, of which we have a few specimens in Sections 31-36, which apparently occurred at Capernaum, his headquarters. A second journey is recorded by Luke in Section 47 (Luke 8:1-3) and a third journey is found in Section 55. (For Broadus’ statement of these tours, see Harmony, p. 31.)


Here we have the occasion of one of the special prayers of Jesus. There are four such occasions in his ministry: (1) At his baptism he prayed for the anointing of the Holy Spirit; (2) here he prayed because of the effort to dam up his work of salvation in Capernaum; (3) the popularity caused by the healing of a leper (Sec. 31 – Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16) drove him to prayer; (4) the fourth occasion was the ordination of the twelve apostles. The immense labors of Jesus are indicated in Matthew 4:23-24. These labors gave him great popularity beyond the borders of Palestine and caused the multitudes from every quarter to flock to him. Attention has already been called to the popularity caused by the healing of the leper (Sec. 31) and Jesus’ prayer as the result.


In the incident of the healing of the paralytic we have a most graphic account by the synoptics and several lessons: (1) That disease may be the result of sin, as “thy sin be forgiven thee”; (2) that of intelligent cooperation; (3) that of persistent effort; (4) that of conquering faith. These are lessons worthy of emulation upon the part of all Christians today. Out of this incident comes the first issue between our Lord and the Pharisees, respecting the authority to forgive sins. This was only a thought of their hearts, but he perceived their thought and rebuked their sin. From this time on they become more bold in their opposition, which finally culminated in his crucifixion. Let the reader note the development of this hatred from section to section of the Harmony.


In Section 33 (Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32) we have the account of the call of Matthew, his instant response and his entertainment of his fellow publicans. Here arose the second issue between Christ and the Pharisees, respecting his receiving publicans and sinners and eating with them. This was contrary to their idea in their self-righteousness, but Jesus replied that his mission was to call sinners rather than the righteous. This issue was greatly enlarged later, in Luke 15, to which he replied with three parables showing his justification and his mission. In this instance (Matthew 9:13) he refutes their contention with a quotation from Hosea which aptly fitted this case: "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice."


Then came to him the disciples of John and made inquiry about fasting, to which he replied with the parable of the sons of the bride chamber, the interpretation of which is that we should let our joy or sorrow fit the occasion, or set fasting ments and old bottles, the interpretation of which is to let the form fit the life; beware of shrinking and expansion.


In Section 35 (Matthew 9:18-25; Mark 5:22-43; Luke 8:41-56) we have the account of his healing of Jairus’ daughter and the healing of the woman with the issue of blood. Usually in the miracles of Christ, and in all preceding miracles, there was the touch of some kind between the healer and the healed. We are informed that great multitudes of people came to Jesus with this confidence, "If I but touch him I shall be healed." Accordingly we find that Christ put his fingers on the eyes of the blind, on the ears of the deaf, or took hold of the hand of the dead. In some way usually there was either presence or contact.


We will now consider the special miracle connected with the fringe of the garment of Jesus which the Romanists cite to justify the usage concerning the relics of the saints. In Numbers 15:38 we have a statute: "Thou shalt put fringes on the wings or ends of the outer garment," and this fringe had in it a cord or ribbon of blue, and the object of it was to remind the wearer of the commandments of God. The outer garment was an oblong piece of cloth, one solid piece of cloth, say, a foot and a half wide and four feet long. The edge was fringed on all the four sides, and in the fringe was run a blue thread, and the object of the fringe and of the blue thread also was to make them remember the commandments of God. The statute is repeated in Deuteronomy 22. Again in Deuteronomy 6 is the additional law of phylacteries, or frontlets – little pieces of leather worn between the eyes – on which were inscribed the commandments of God. The people were taught to instruct their children in the commandments of God: "And they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes, and thou shalt put them upon thy door posts, and when thou goest out and when thou comest in, and when thou sittest down and when thou gettest up, and when thou liest down, thou shalt at all times teach thy children the Word of God.” Now, because of these statutes a superstitious veneration began to attach to the fringe and to the phylacteries. So we learn in Matthew 23, as stated by our Saviour, that the Pharisees made broad the phylacteries between their eyes and enlarged the fringe of the outer garment. They made the fringe or tassel very large. They did it to be seen of men. The law prescribed that when the wearer should see this fringe on his garment he should remember the commandments of the Lord his God. But these Pharisees put it on that others might see it, and that it might be an external token to outsiders of their peculiar sanctity and piety. What was intended to be a sign to the man himself was converted by superstition into a sign for other people. Hence this woman said within herself, "If I but touch that sacred fringe – the border of his garment." She could not go up and touch the phylactery between his eyes, in case he wore one, but he did wear the Jewish costume with the fringe or border on his outer garment, and she could reach that from behind. She would not have to go in front of him. She argued: "Now, if I can in the throng get up so that I can reach out and just touch that fringe, I shall be saved." We see how near her thought connected the healing with the fringe of the garment, because by the double statute of God it was required on the Jewish garment to signify their devotion to his Word – the matchless Word of Jehovah. Mark tells us that she was not the only woman, not the only person healed by touching the border of his garment (Mark 6:56). Her sentiment was not an isolated one. It was shared by the people at large. Multitudes of people came to touch the fringe of his garment that they might be healed.


The question arises, Why should Christ select that through contact with the fringe on his outer garment healing power should be bestowed? He did do it. The question is, why? There shall be no god introduced unless there be a necessity for a god. There shall be no special miracle unless the case demands it. Why? Let us see if we cannot get a reason. I do not announce the reason dogmatically, but as one that seems sufficient to my own mind. Christ was among the people speaking as never man spake, doing works that no man had done. He was awakening public attention. He was the cynosure of every eye. They came to him from every direction. They thronged him. And right here at this juncture Jairus had said, "Master, my little girl, twelve years old, is even now dead. Go and lay thy hand upon her that she may live." He arose and started, the crowd surging around him and following him, and all at once he stopped and said, "Who touched me?" "Master, behold the crowd presseth thee on every side, and thou sayest, who touched me?" Here was a miracle necessary to discriminate between the touches of the people. "Who touched me?" Hundreds sin sick touched him and were not saved. Hundreds that had diseases touched him and were unhealed. Hundreds that were under the dominion of Satan looked in his face and heard his words and were not healed. It was touch and not touch. They touched, but there was no real contact. They rubbed up against salvation and were not saved. Salvation walked through their streets and talked to them face to face. The stream of life flowed right before their doors and they died of thirst. Health came with rosy color and bright eye and glowing cheek and with buoyant step walked through their plague district) and they died of sickness. But some touched him. Some reached forth the hand and laid hold upon the might of his power. This woman did.


Poor woman! What probably was her thought? "I heard that ruler tell him that he had a little girl twelve years old that was just dead, and he asked him to go and heal her, she twelve years old, and for twelve years I have been dead. For twelve years worse than death has had hold on me and I have spent all my money; have consulted many physicians. I have not been benefited by earthly remedies, but rendered worse. Twelve years has death been on me, and if he can heal that, girl that died at twelve years of age, maybe he can heal me twelve years dead. If that ruler says, ’If you will but go and lay your hand upon her even now she will revive,’ what can I do? In my timidity, in the ceremonial uncleanness of my condition, in my shame, I dare not speak. I cannot in this crowd, for if they knew that I were here they would cast me out; for if any of them touch me they are unclean in the eyes of the law. I cannot go and kneel down before him, and say, ’Master, have mercy on me.’ The ceremonial law of uncleanness forbids my showing my face, and if I come in contact with his power it must be with a touch upon the garment. And I beg for that. I say within myself, that if I but touch the fringe with its blue thread in it that reminds him of God’s commands, I shall be healed."


There was the association of her healing with the memento of the Word of God. There was the touch of her faith, that came into contact with that Word of God and with him. So her faith reasoned, and virtue going out from him responded to her faith. And she felt in herself that she was healed. Well, he healed her and there it stands out one of the most beautiful lessons in the Word of God. Oh, what a lesson! Some will say at the judgment, "Lord Jesus, thou hast taught in our streets and we have done many wonders in thy name," and he will say, "I never knew you." "You were close to the Saviour. You did not touch him. You were his neighbor. You did not touch him." There were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha, the prophet – lepers that could have been healed of leprosy by an appeal to the power of God in Elisha. They died in leprosy, but Naaman came from afar and touched the healing power of the prophet and was healed. There were many widows in Israel whose staff of life was gone, whose barrel of meal was empty, whose cruse of oil had failed, and here was the prophet of God, who by a word could supply that empty barrel, that failing cruse, but they did not touch him. They did not reach out in faith and come in contact with that power. The widow of Sarepta did, and her barrel of meal never failed, and her cruse of oil never wasted. Now, the special miracle: It was designed to show that if there be a putting forth of faith, even one finger of faith, and that one finger of faith touches but the fringe, the outskirts of salvation – only let there be a touch, though that touch covers no more space than the point of a cambric needle – "let there be the touch of faith and thou art saved."


In the midst of this stir about the woman the news of the death of Jairus’ daughter burst forth upon them with the request to trouble not the Master any further. But that did not stop our Lord. He proceeded immediately to the house to find a tumult and many weeping and wailing, for which he gently rebuked them. This brought forth their scorn, but taking Peter, James, and John, he went in and raised the child to life and his praise went forth into all that land.

QUESTIONS

1. What is the general theme of this division of the Harmony?

2. What common errors of interpretation of the kingdom? Illustrate.

3. What was the offspring of these errors respectively and who the most liable to each?

4. What, perhaps, was the most unprofitable sermon and what was the most stubborn skepticism?

5. How does such disappointment find expression?

6. Give the author’s statements relative to the kingdom,

7. Where do we find the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecies relative to the kingdom?

8. What specific prophecy in Isaiah fulfilled in Matthew?

9. Where do we find the principles of the kingdom disclosed?

10. What great office did our Lord fill besides teacher and wonder worker and what proof did he submit to John the Baptist?

11. What thing most worthy of special consideration in connection with the kingdom?

12. What the opening incident of the Galilean ministry, what its importance, what its great lesson and what its effect?

13. Give an account of our Lord’s rejection at Nazareth.

14. Why was he thus rejected?

15. By what incidents in the lives of the prophets does he illustrate the folly of their unbelief?

16. What is the church responsibility and ministerial agency in the proclamation of mercy?

17. Where does Jesus make his home after his rejection at Nazareth and what his first work in this region?

18. Recite the incident of the call of the four fishermen and its lessons.

19. What was Christ’s first case of healing a demoniac and what the meaning of the term "demoniac"? Illustrate.

20. What was the lesson of this miracle and what was its effect?

21. Recite the incident of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and give its lessons.

22. What were the great results of this miracle and why would not Christ allow the demons to speak?

23. How did Peter try to work a "corner" on salvation and how did our Lord defeat the plan?

24. How many and what journeys did Jesus make about Galilee?

25. Give the four special prayers of Jesus here cited and the occasion of each.

26. Describe the incident of the healing of the paralytic and its les sons.

27. What issue arises here between our Lord and the Pharisees and what was the final culmination?

28. Give an account of the call of Matthew, his entertainment, the second issue between our Lord and the Pharisees and how Jesus met it.

29. What question here arises, how was it brought up, how did our Lord reply and what the meaning of his parables here?

30. What double miracle follows and what was the usual method of miracles?

31. What was the law of fringes and phylacteries and what were their real purpose?

32. Why should Christ select that through contact with the fringe on his outer garment healing power should be bestowed?

33. What, probably, was the thought of this woman as she contemplated this venture of faith?

34. What was the great lesson of this incident of her healing?

35. Describe the miracle of raising Jairus’ daughter and its effect.

Verses 18-23

XXXII

OUR LORD’S GREAT MINISTRY IN GALILEE

Part VII

STILLING THE TEMPEST, THE TWO GADARENE DEMONIACS, SECOND REJECTION AT NAZARETH, SENDING FORTH THE TWELVE, AND HEROD’S SUSPICION

Harmony -pages 66-75 and Matthew 8:18-23; Matthew 11:1; Matthew 13:54-58; Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 4:34-5:20; Mark 6:1-29; Luke 8:22-40; Luke 9:1-9.


When Jesus had finished his discourse on the kingdom, as illustrated in the first great group of parables, he crossed over the Sea of Galilee to avoid the multitudes. While on the bosom of the sea a storm swept down upon them, as indicated by Luke, but our Lord had fallen asleep. So the disciples awoke him with their cry of distress and he, like a God, spoke to the winds and the sea, and they obeyed him. Such is the simple story of this incident, the lesson of which is the strengthening of their faith in his divinity.


Upon their approach to the shore – the country of the Gadarenes – occurred the thrilling incident of the two Gadarene demoniacs. The story is graphically told here by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and does not need to be repeated in this interpretation, but there are certain points in the story which need to be explained. First, there are some difficulties: (1) The apparent discrepancy of long standing, relating to the place, is cleared up by Dr. Broadus in his note at the bottom of page 67 (see his explanation of this difficulty);

The long famous instance of "discrepancy" as to the place in this narrative has been cleared up in recent years by the decision of textual critics that the correct text in Luke is Gerasenes, as well as in Mark, and by Dr. Thomson’s discovery of a ruin on the lake shore, named Khersa (Gerasa). If this village was included (a very natural supposition) in the district belonging to the city of Gadara, some miles south-eastward, then the locality could be described as either in the country of the Gadarenes, or in the country of the Gerasenes

(2) Matthew mentions two demoniacs, while Mark and Luke mention but one. This is easily explained by saying that the one mentioned by Mark and Luke was probably the prominent and leading one, and that they do not say there was only one. Second) there are some important lessons in this incident for us: (1) We see from this incident that evil spirits, or demons, not only might possess human beings by impact of spirit upon spirit, but they also could and did possess lower animals. (2) We see here also that these evil spirits could not do what they would without permission, and thus we find an illustration of the limitations placed upon the Devil and his agencies. (3) There is here a recognition of the divinity of Jesus by these demoniacs and that he is the dispenser of their torment. (4) There is here also an illustration of the divine power of Jesus Christ over the multitude of demons, and from this incident we may infer that they are never too numerous for him. (5) The man when healed is said to have been in his right mind, indicating the insanity of sin. (6) The new convert was not allowed to go with Jesus, but was made a missionary to his own people) to tell them of the great things the Lord had done for him. (7) The Gadarenes besought him to leave their borders. Matthew Henry says that these people thought more of their hogs than they did of the Lord Jesus Christ. Alas I this tribe is by far too numerous now.


Following the Harmony, we find that after crossing back to the other shore Jesus revisits Nazareth and teaches in their synagogue. Here he was rejected as at first. He did some works there, but was limited by their unbelief. Their questions as to his origin indicate their great stupidity and throw light on the question of "the perpetual virginity" of Mary, showing that the Romanist contention here is utterly groundless. Before leaving them Jesus announced a fact which has been experienced by many a man since that time, viz: that a man is often least appreciated by his own people.


In Section 55 (Matthew 10:1-42; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6) we have the first commission of the twelve apostles. The immediate occasion is expressed in Matthew 9:36. (See the author’s sermon on "Christ’s Compassion Excited by a Sight of the Multitude.") These apostles had received the training of the mighty hand of the Master ever since their conversion and call to the ministry, and now he thrusts them out to put into action what they had received from him. The place they were to go, or the limit of their commission, is found in Matthew 10:5-6. This limitation to go to the Jews and not to the Gentiles seems to have been in line with the teaching elsewhere that salvation came first to the Jews and that the time of the Gentiles had not yet come in, but this commission was not absolute, because we find our Lord later commissioning them to go to all the world. What they were to preach is found in Matthew 10:7 and what they were to do in Matthew 10:8. The price they were to ask is found in the last clause of Matthew 10:8. How they were to be supported, negatively and positively, together with the principle of their support, is found in Matthew 10:9-11. The principle of ministerial support is found also, very much elaborated, in 1 Corinthians 9:4-13, and is referred to in 1 Corinthians 9:14 as an ordinance of our Lord. The manner of making this operative on entering a city is found in Matthew 10:11-12. The rewards of receiving and rejecting them are found in Matthew 10:13, while the method of testimony against the rejectors is expressed in Matthew 10:14-15.


The characteristics of these disciples are given in Matthew 10:16: "Wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." If they should have had the characteristic of the dove alone they would have been silly; if the serpent alone, they would have been tricky. But with both they had prudence and simplicity. In this commission we find also that they were to be subject to certain hazards, recorded in Matthew 10:18. Their defense is also promised in Matthew 10:19-20. The extent of their persecutions is expressed in Matthew 10:21-22. Their perseverance is indicated in the last clause of Matthew 10:22. In Matthew 10:23 we have the promise that the Son of man would come to them before they had gone through all the cities of Israel. What does that mean? There are five theories about it, all of which are amply discussed by Broadus (see his Commentary in loco).


The consolations offered these disciples, in view of their prospective persecutions, are as follows (Matthew 10:24-31): (1) So they treated the Lord, (2) all things hidden shall be made known, (3) the work of their persecutors is limited to the body, but God’s wrath is greater than man’s and touches both soul and body, and (4) the Father’s providential care. The condition of such blessings in persecution, and vice versa, are expressed in Matthew 10:32-33. From this we see that they were to go forth without fear or anxiety and in faith. The great issue which the disciples were to force is found in Matthew 10:34-39. This does not mean that Christ’s work has in it the purpose of stirring up strife, but that the disturbance will arise from the side of the enemy in their opposition to the gospel and its principles, whose purpose means peace. So there will arise family troubles, as some yield to the call of the gospel while others of the same family reject it. Some will always be lacking in the spirit of religious tolerance, which is not the spirit of Christ. In this connection our Lord announces the principle of loyalty to him as essential to discipleship, with an added encouragement, viz., that of finding and losing the life. In Matthew 10:40-42 we have the identity of Christ with the Father which shows his divinity and also his identity with his people in his work. Then follows the blessed encouragement of the promise of rewards. When Jesus had thus finished his charge to his disciples, he made a circuit of the villages of Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom.


From this incident come three important lessons for us: First, we have here the origin and development of a call to the ministry as follows: (1) Christ’s compassion for the perishing and leaderless, (2) prayer to God that he would send forth laborers, and (3) a positive conviction that we should go. Second, there is also suggested here the dangers of the care for fine preaching: (1) If it has its source in anxiety and selfishness it restrains spirituality; (2) it manifests itself in excitement and excess which adulterates spirituality; (3) it leads to weariness or self-seeking and thus destroys spirituality. Third, we have here several encouragements to the preacher: (1) The cause is honorable; (2) the example is illustrious; (3) the success is certain; (4) care is guaranteed; (5) the reward is glorious; (6) the trials become triumphs; (7) the identification with Christ.


The account of the miracles wrought by the disciples of Jesus on this preaching tour impressed Herod Antipas, as well as those wrought by Jesus himself, the impression of which was so great that he thought that John the Baptist was risen from the dead. The account in the Harmony throws light on the impression that was made by the ministry of John. Some were saying that Jesus was Elijah or one of the other prophets, but Herod’s conscience and superstition caused him to think it was John the Baptist, for he remembered his former relation to John. Then follows here the story of how John had rebuked Herod which angered his wife, Herodias, and eventually led to John’s death at the band of the executioner. Josephus gives testimony relative to this incident. (See chapter X of this "Interpretation.")


There are some lessons to be learned from this incident. First, we are impressed with the courage and daring of the first Christian martyr, a man who was not afraid to speak his convictions in the face of the demons of the pit. Second, the life must leave its impress, but that impress will be variously interpreted according to the antecedents and temperaments of the interpreters. Third, the influence of a wicked woman, often making the weak and drunken husband a mere tool to an awful wicked end. Fourth, the occasion of sin and crime is often the time of feasting and frivolity. Just such a crime as this has often been approached by means of the dance and strong drink. Fifth, we have here an example of a man who was too weak to follow his conviction of the right because he had promised and had taken an oath. He had more respect for his oath than he had for right. Sixth, there is here also an example of the wickedness of vengeance. It is a tradition that when the daughter brought in the head of John and gave it to Herodias, her mother, she took a bodkin and stuck it through the tongue of John, saying, "You will never say again, It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife."

QUESTIONS

1. Give the time, place, circumstances, and lesson of Jesus stilling the tempest.

2. Tell the story of the two Gadarene demoniacs.

3. What two difficulties here, and how is each explained?

4. What seven important lessons for us in this incident?

5. Give the story of the second rejection of Jesus at Nazareth and its several lessons.

6. What was the immediate occasion of sending forth the twelve apostles on their first mission?

7. What preparation had they received?

8. Where were they to go, or what was the limit of this commission?

9. Why was it limited, and was it absolute?

10. What were they to preach, and what were they to do?

11. What price were they to ask?

12. How were they to be supported, negatively and positively, and how do you harmonize the Synoptics here?

13. What was the principle of their support and where do we find this principle very much elaborated?

14. How is this principle referred to in 1 Corinthians 9:14?

15. What was the manner of making it operative on entering a city?

16. What rewards attached to receiving and rejecting them?

17. What was the method of testimony against those who rejected?

18. What was to be the characteristics of these disciples?

19. To what hazards were they subject?

20. What was to be their defense?

21. What was to be the extent of their persecution?

22. What was text on the perseverance of the saints, and what was its immediate application to these apostles?

23. Explain "till the Son of man be come."

24. What were the consolations offered these disciples?

25. What was the condition of such blessings?

26. In what spirit were they to go forth?

27. What great issue must they force? Explain.

28. What principle of discipleship here announced?

29. What proof here of the divinity of Jesus Christ?

30. What promise here of rewards?

31. What did Jesus do immediately after finishing his charge here

32. What lessons here on the origin and development of a call to the ministry?

33. What dangers of the care for fine preaching?

34. What seven encouragements from this incident to the preacher of today?

35. How was Herod and others impressed by the miracles of Jesus and his disciples?

36. What several conjectures of Herod and others?

37. What part was played in this drama by John? by Herod? by Herodias and by Salome, the daughter of Herodias?

38. What testimony of Josephus on this incident?

39. What lessons of this incident?

Verses 19-22

IV

SEASON OF RETIREMENT PART IV THE CLOSING INCIDENTS

Harmony, pages 94-103 and Matthew 17:14-18:35; Matthew 8:19-22; Mark 9:9-50; Luke 9:37-62; John 7:2-10.


When Christ and the three disciples who were with him at the transfiguration returned from the Mount they saw a great multitude gathered about the nine and the scribes questioning with them. Then follows the story of the failure of the nine to cast out the evil spirit of a demoniac boy and Jesus’ rebuke of their little faith, upon which our Lord healed the boy and restored him to his father. This story is interesting from several points of view. First, the case was an exceptional One and so difficult that the nine were unable to cast the Evil spirit out. Second, this is the only case of demonical epilepsy in the New Testament, the description of which by Mark is very vivid and much more in detail than that of either of the other evangelists. Third, Christ’s momentary impatience at dwelling amid such an environment is nowhere else so expressed, perhaps the more distressing from the contrast with the scene of the transfiguration, a few hours before. Fourth, the rebuke of the boy’s father is a fine lesson. He said, "If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us." Jesus answered, "If thou canst!" We see here the point of the rebuke. Herefore we have found the form of faith that said, "If thou wilt, thou canst," but this man reversed it: "If thou canst do anything, help us." But the rebuke of Jesus set him right in his faith and then healed the boy. What a lesson for us! So often the Lord has to set us right in our faith before he can consistently give us the blessing. Fifth, the explanation which Jesus gave of their failure and the possibilities of God through the children of faith are a most helpful encouragement to the Christian of today. All difficulties may be removed by the power of faith. Sixth, the prescription of prayer as a means to the strengthen- ing of faith is a valuable suggestion as to the mans of our overcoming. Prayer is the hour of victory for the child of God. This is the winning point for every worker in the kingdom. All victories for God are won in the closet before the day of battle. Let us heed the lesson.


While on the way from Caesarea Philippi Jesus revealed again to his disciples that he must suffer and die and rise again, but they did not understand and were afraid to ask him. They were very slow to comprehend the idea of a suffering Messiah. This they did not understand fully until after his resurrection. This thought is more fully developed in connection with his submitted test of his messiahship which is discussed elsewhere in this INTERPRETATION OF THE GOSPELS.


When they came to Capernaum an event occurred which made a lasting impression on Peter. This was the incident of the half-shekel for the Temple. When asked if his Lord was accustomed to pay the Temple tax, Peter said, "Yes." But Peter did not have the money to pay it with, and our Lord, after showing Peter that he (Jesus) was exempt, told him to go to the sea and take the piece of money from the mouth of a fish and pay the Temple tax for Peter and himself, in order that there might be left to the Jews no occasion of stumbling with reference to him as the Messiah.


In section 70 (Matthew 18:1-14; Mark 9:33-50; Luke 9:46-50) we have the lesson on how to be great, which arose from their dispute as to who among them should be the greatest. To this Jesus replied that the greatest one of all was to be servant of all, and illustrated it by the example of a little child. The characteristic of the little child to be found in the subjects of his kingdom is humility.. Then he goes on to show that to receive one of such little children was to receive him. Here John, one of the "sons of thunder," interrupted him with a question about one whom he saw casting out demons, yet he was not following with them. Then Jesus, after setting John right, went on with his illustration of the little child, showing the awful sin of causing a little one who believes on him to stumble, and pronounces a woe unto the world because of the occasion of stumbling, saying that these occasions must come, but the woe is to the man through whom they come. The occasions of stumbling arise from the sin of man and the domination of the devil, but that does not excuse the man through whom they come.


Now follows a pointed address in the second person singular, showing the cases in which we become stumbling blocks, in which he also shows the remedy, indeed a desperate remedy for a desperate case. This passage needs to be treated more particularly. Then, briefly, what the meaning of the word "offend"? If thy hand offend thee, if thine eye offend thee, if thy foot offend thee; what is the meaning of this word? We find it in the English in the word "scandal," that is, "scandal" is the Anglicized form of the Greek word here used. But the word "scandalize," as used in the English, does not express the thought contained in this text, since that is a modern derived meaning of the word. Originally it meant the trigger of a trap, that trigger which being touched caused the trap to fall and catch one, and from that of its original signification it came to have four well-known Bible meanings. An instance of each one of the four meanings, fairly applicable to this passage here, will be cited. First, it means a stumbling block, that which causes any one to fall, and in its spiritual signification, that which causes any one to fall into a sin. If thy hand causeth thee to fall into a sin, if thine eye causeth thee to fall into a sin, if thy foot causeth thee to fall into a sin, cut it off, pluck it out. It is more profitable to enter heaven maimed than to have the whole body cast into hell. The thought is as we see it in connection with a stumbling block, that we fall unexpectedly into the sin, as if we were going along not looking down and should suddenly stumble over something in our regular path, where we usually walk. Now, "if thine eye causeth thee, in the regular walk of life, to put something in that pathway that, when you were not particularly watching, will cause you to stumble and fall into a sin" – that is the first thought of it.


Its second meaning is an obstacle or obstruction that causes one to stop. He does not fall over this obstacle, but it blocks his way and he stops. He does not fall, but he does not go on. To illustrate this use of the word, John the Baptist, in prison, finding the progress of his faith stopped by a doubt, sent word to Christ to know, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" Evidently showing that some unbelief had crept into his heart that had caused him to stop. He was not going on in the direction that he had been going, and hence, when Jesus sent word to John of the demonstrations of his divinity, He added this expression, using this very word, "Blessed is the man who is not offended in me." "Blessed is the man who in me does not find an obstacle that stops him." Anything that is an occasion of unbelief fulfils this meaning of the word. If thine eye causes something to be put in thy path that suggests a doubt as to the Christian religion, and by that doubt causeth thee that had been going steadily forward, to stop, pluck it out. Let me give another illustration: In the parable of the sower, our Saviour, in expounding why it was that the grain that had fallen upon the rock and came up and seemed to promise well for awhile, afterward, under the hot sun, withered away and perished, says, "There are some people that hear the word of God and, for awhile, seem to accept it, but when tribulation or persecution cometh they are offended – they are stopped." That is the meaning of the word strictly. Persecution and tribulation cometh and an obstacle is put in their path that causes them to stop. Now, if thine eye causes an obstacle to be put in thy Christian path, that causeth thee to stop and not go forward, pluck it out. Yet another illustration: Our Saviour, who had announced a great many doctrines that people could easily understand and accept, suddenly, on one occasion, announced a hard doctrine, very hard, and from that time it is said that many of his disciples followed him no more. They stopped. Now, there was something in them, in the eye or the hand or the foot, that found an occasion of unbelief in the doctrine he announced, and they stopped. I remember a very notable instance, where a man, deeply impressed in a meeting, and giving fair promise of having passed from death to life, happened to be present when the scriptural law of the use of money was expounded, and he stopped. Some obstacle stretched clear across his path. It was the love of money in his heart. He couldn’t recognize God’s sovereignty over money. As if he had said, "If you want me to cry; if you want me to say I am sorry, I will say it; if you want me to join the church, I will join it; if you want me to be baptized, I will be baptized; but if you want me to honor God with my money, I stop."


Now, the third use of the word. It is sometimes used to indicate, not something over which one stumbles and falls into a sin, and not an obstacle that blocks up his pathway, but in the sense of something that he runs up against and hurts himself and so becomes foolishly angry. As when one, at night, trying to pass out of a dark room, strikes his head against the door, and in a moment flies into a passion. "Now, if thine eye causeth thee to run up against an object that when you strike it offends you, makes you mad, pluck it out and cast it from thee."


These three senses of this word have abundant verifications in the classical Greek and a vast number of instances in the Bible, in the Old and New Testaments. But there is a fourth use of the word. That is where the eye has caused a man to turn aside from the right path and to reject the wise counsel of God, and to indulge in sin until God has given him up; then God sets a trap for him right in the path of his besetting sin. In Romans 11:9 we find that use of the word: "Let their table be made a trap for them." That is to say, God, after trying to lead a man to do right, if he persists in doing wrong, the particular sin, whatever hat may be, whether it be of pride, or lust, or pleasure, whatever it may be, that particular, besetting sin which has caused him to reject God, will make the occasion of his ruin, and in the track of it God will set the trap, and the man is certain to fall into it and be lost. Now, these are the four Bible uses of this term "offend." Greek: Scandalon, the noun, and skandalizo, the verb. "If thine eye causeth thee to offend," that is, "If your eye causeth you to put something in your path over which you will unexpectedly fall into a sin; if thine eye causeth thee to put an obstacle clear across your path, so that you stop; if thine eye causeth thee to put some object against which you will unthoughtedly run and hurt yourself and become incensed; if thine eye causeth thee to go into a sin that shall completely alienate you from God, and in the far distant track of which God sets a trap that will be sure to catch your soul – pluck it out."


The next thing needing explanation: People who look only at the shell of a thing may understand this passage to mean mutilation of the body. They forget that the mutilation of the body is simply an illustration of spiritual things. Take a case: One of the most beautiful and sweet-spirited girls I ever knew, before whom there seemed to stretch a long and bright and happy future, was taken sick, and the illness, whatever the doctors may call it, was in the foot, and the blood would not circulate. The doctors could not bring about the circulation and that foot finally threatened the whole body. Then the doctors said, "This foot must be amputated." And they did amputate it. They amputated it to save her life. They cut off that member because it offered the only possible means of saving the other foot and both hands and the whole body and her life. It was sternness of love, resoluteness of affection, courage of wisdom that sacrificed a limb to save the body. Now using that necessity of amputation, as an illustration, our Saviour says, "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; if thy foot offend thee, cut it off. If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out." But that he does not mean bodily mutilation is self-evident from this: that if we were to cut off our hand we could not stop the spiritual offense; if we were to pluck out the eye we could not stop the spiritual offense on the inside, in the soul; no lopping off to external branches would reach that. But what our Saviour means to teach is this: That as a wise physician, who discovers, seated in one member of the body, a disease that if allowed to spread will destroy the whole body, in the interest of mercy cuts off that diseased limb, so, applying this to spiritual things, whatever causes us to fall into sin, we should cut loose from it at every cost.


One other word needs to be explained, the word "Gehenna." It is a little valley next to Jerusalem that once belonged to the sons of Hinnom. It came to pass that in that valley was instituted an idol worship, and there the kings caused their children to pass through the fire to Moloch, and because of this iniquity a good king of Israel defiled that valley, made it the dumping ground of all refuse matter from the city. The excrement, the dead things, the foul and corrupt matter was all carried out and put in that valley. And because of the corruption heaped there, worms were always there, and because of the burning that had been appointed as a sanitary measure, the fire was always there. Now that was used as an illustration to indicate the spiritual condition of a lost soul; of a soul that had become as refuse matter; of a soul that had become entirely cut loose from God and given up to its own devices; that had become bad through and through; that had become such a slave to passion, or lust or crime, that it was incorrigible, and the very nature of the sin which possessed it was like a worm that never dies. There was a gnawing, a ceaseless gnawing going on, referring to conscience, and there was a burning and a thirst going on. Now those images our Saviour selected were to represent the thought of hell.


Having explained its words, look now at the passage itself: "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out." What is the principle involved in that exhortation? First, that it is a man’s chief concern to see that he does not miss the mark; that he does not make shipwreck; that he does not ruin himself. That is the chief concern of every boy, of every girl, of every man and woman, to see to it that he does not miss the mark of his being; that he does not make shipwreck; that he does not go to utter ruin.


The next thought involved in it is that in case we do miss the mark; in case we do make shipwreck; in case our soul is lost, then there is no profit and no compensation to us in any thing we ever had. "For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" If he misses the main thing, if he makes shipwreck of his own soul, then wherein does the compensation come to him that in his life he had this or that treasure, this pleasure or that; that he was able to attain to this ambition or that; that he for such a while, no matter how long, was on top in society or fashion in the world? What has it profited him if the main thing worthy of supreme concern, is lost?


The next thought is this: Whatever sacrifice is necessary to the securing of the main thing, that we must make. That is what this passage means, and no matter how dear a treasure may be to us; no matter how much we esteem it, if it be necessary that we should give it up or that our soul should be lost, this passage calls on us to give it up. A man may have in a ship a vast amount of money which he idolizes, but in the night he is alarmed by the cry of fire; he rushes upon the deck and he finds that the ship is hopelessly in flames and that the only way of escape is to swim to the shore. Now he stands there for a moment and meditates: "I have here a vast amount of money, in gold. If I try to take this gold with me in this issue in which the main thing, my life, is involved, it will sink me. My life is more than this money. O glittering gold, I leave you. I strike out, stripped of every weight and swim for my life." It means that he ought to leave behind everything that would jeopardize his gaining the shore. A ship has a valuable cargo. It has been acquired by toil and anxiety and industry. It may be that the cargo in itself is perfectly innocent, but in a stress of weather, with a storm raging and with a leak in the vessel and the water rising, it becomes necessary to lighten that ship. Now whatever is necessary to make it float, to keep it above water, that must be done. If there be anything which, if permitted to remain in that ship, will sink it, throw it out. They that do business in great waters know the wisdom of this. Why? It is a question of sacrificing the inferior to the greater and better.


The next thought involved is this: Whenever it says, "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out," I venture to say that it is a demonstration, by the exhortation addressed to us personally, that if ruin comes to us it comes by our own consent. I mean to say that no matter what is the stress of outside seduction, nor how cunningly the devil may attempt to seduce and beguile us, all the devils in hell and all the extraneous temptations that may environ a man can never work his shipwreck if he does not consent.


The next point involved is, that whenever one does consent to temptation, whenever the ruin comes to him, it comes on account of some internal moral delinquency. Out of the heart are the issues of life. Out of the heart proceed murder, lust, blasphemy, and every crime which men commit. I mean to say that as the Bible declares that no murderer shall inherit eternal life, that external incentives to murder amount to nothing unless in him, in the man, in the soul, there be a susceptibility or a liability or moral weakness that shall open the door to the tempter and let in the destroyer.


Now if that be true we come naturally to the next thought in this text, that is, God saves a man, and if God can save a man, he must save him in accordance with the laws of his own nature. That is to say, that God must, in order to the salvation of that man, require truth in the inward part; that nothing external will touch the case; that God’s requirements must take hold, not of the long delayed overt act, but of the lust in the heart which preceded the act and made the act. And therefore, while a human court can take jurisdiction only of murder actually committed, God goes inside of the man and says, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer." From hate comes murder. If God saves you he must save you from the internal hate. Human law takes hold of a case of adultery. God’s law goes to the eye: "Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart." God requireth truth in the inward part. And if one is saved he must be saved internally; he must be saved, not only from the guilt and penalty of sin, but he must be saved from the love of it and from the dominion of it.


The next point: With that law looking inside, looking at our thoughts, looking at the springs of action, the question comes up, "How shall one save his soul? How shall one so attain to the end of his being as that in the main thing he shall not miss the mark?" He has to look at it as an exceedingly sober question. There is no child’s play about it. He must not rely upon the quack remedies of philosophers and impostors, or rely upon any external rite, upon joining the church or being baptized, or partaking of the Lord’s Supper. The awful blasphemy of calling that the way to heaven! God requireth truth in the inward part, and if we are saved, we must be saved inside. As a wise man, having my chief business to save my soul, I must scrupulously look at everything with which I come in contact. Some men’s weaknesses are in one direction and some in another, but the chief thing for me is to find out my weakness, what is my besetting sin, where is the weak point in my line of defense, where am I most susceptible to danger, where do I yield most readily? And if I find that the ties of blood are making me lose my soul, I must move out of my own family, and therefore in the Mosaic law it is expressly said, "If thine own son, if the wife of thy bosom, shall cause thee to worship idols and turn away from the true God, thou shalt put thine own hand on the head as the first witness, that they may be stoned. Thou shalt not spare." It is a question of our life, and if our family ties are such that they are dragging us down to death, we must strike out for our life. And that is why marriage is the most solemn and far-reaching question that ever came up for human decision. More souls are lost right there, more women go into hopeless bondage, more men are shipwrecked by that awful tie, than by anything else.


Then he goes on to show that these little believers must not be despised, because their angels are always before their heavenly Father, just as the angels of more highly honored Christians. This thought he illustrates with the parable of the ninety and nine, the interpretation of which might be considered as follows: (1) If there are many worlds and but one is lost, (2) if there are many creatures and only man is lost, (3) if there were many just persons, and only one is lost, then we find the lost world, the lost race, the one lost man is near the heart of the Saviour, the principle being that the weakest, the most needy, the most miserable are nearest the Shepherd’s heart. "Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish," is the conclusion of the Saviour.


In section 71 (Matthew 18:15-35) we have our Lord’s great discussion on forgiveness, i.e., man’s forgiveness of man. This subject is amply treated in volume 1, chapter xvi of this INTERPRETATION and also in my sermon on "Man’s Forgiveness of Man." (I refer the reader to these discussions for a full exposition of this great passage.)


In section 72 (Matthew 8:19-22; Luke 9:57-62) we have a very plain word on the sacrifices of discipleship. Here three different ones approached Christ asking permission to be his disciples. The first one that came proposed to go with him anywhere. Jesus told him that he had no abiding place; that he was a wanderer without any home, which meant there were many hardships in connection with discipleship. The second one that came to him wanted to wait till he could bury his father, which according to Oriental customs, might have been several years, or at least, thirty days, if his father was dead when he made the request, including the time of mourning. Luke tells of one who wanted first to bid farewell to them of his own house. But Jesus said, "No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." The import of all this is that Christ will not permit his disciples to allow anything to come between them and him. He must have the first place in their affections. The expression, "No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God," means that the man who is pretending to follow Christ and is looking back to the things he left behind is not fit for his kingdom. This is a strict test, but it is our Lord’s own test.


Then, following the Harmony, we have, in the next section, the counsel of the unbelieving brothers that Jesus go into Judea and exhibit himself there. But he declined to follow their counsel and remained in Galilee. This incident shows that the brothers of Jesus had not at this time accepted him, which was about six months before his death and thus disproves the theory that the brothers of Jesus were apostles.


We now come to the close of this division of the Harmony in section 74 (Luke 9:51-56; John 7:10), which tells of Jesus setting his face toward Jerusalem in view of the approach of the end of his earthly career. This going up to Jerusalem, John says, was after his brothers had gone, and it was not public, but as it were in secret. He sent James and John, the "sons of thunder," ahead to Samaria to make ready for him, but the Samaritans rejected him because he was going toward Jerusalem, which exemplifies the old, deep-seated hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans. This section closes with a rebuke to James and John for wanting to call down fire upon these Samaritans. The next chapter of this INTERPRETATION connects with this section and gives the results of this trip to Jerusalem and his ministry in all parts of the Holy Land.

QUESTIONS

1. What was the incident immediately following the transfiguration?

2. What are the points of interest in the story of the epileptic boy?

3. What revelation did Jesus again make to his disciples while on the way from Caesarea Philippi, how did the disciples receive it and why?

4. Tell the story of Peter and the Temple tax and give its lesson.

5. What was the lesson on "greatness" here and what its occasion?

6. What was the point in the illustration of the little child?

7. What is the lesson from John’s interruption of our Lord here?

8. How does Jesus show the awfulness of the sin of causing a little child who believes on him to stumble?

9. From what do the occasions of stumbling arise and upon whom rests the responsibility for them?

10. What would you give as the theme of Matthew 18:8-9; and Mark 9:43; Mark 9:45; Mark 9:47-50?

11. What are the several meanings of the word "offend" in these passages? Illustrate each.

12. What is the application of all these meanings? Illustrate.

13. Explain the word "Gehenna" as used here.

14. Looking at the passage as a whole, what is principle involved the exhortation? Give details.

15. What reason does Christ assign for the command not to despise one of these little ones and what does it mean?

16. How does he illustrate this

17. In a word what is the author’s position on the subject of man’s forgiveness of man?

18. What is Christ’s teaching here on discipleship and what is the meaning of his language addressed to each of the three, respectively, who approached him here on the subject?

19. What advice here given Jesus by his brothers, how did Jesus regard it, and what the lesson of this incident?

20. What are the closing incidents of this division of our Lord’s ministry and what are their lessons?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 8". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/matthew-8.html.
 
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