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We have here the Cure of the Centurion's Servant: the raising of the Widow's Son; Christ's Answer to the Messengers of John the Baptist; and Mary anointing Christ's Feet.
(1) Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. (2) And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. (3) And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. (4) And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: (5) For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. (6) Then Jesus went with them; and when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof; (7) Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed, (8) For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. (9) When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. (10) And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
Capernaum was much frequented by Christ, indeed it is called his own city. Hence the condemnation, Matthew 11:23 . The account here given of this centurion, differs in some points from the relation given by Matthew: but both are correct. Matthew doth not notice the elders of the Jews first coming to Christ in his behalf: but it should seem that the centurion sent them first, and then hearing that Jesus was coming to him, he hastened towards Christ, as is here described, to testify his unworthiness of the Lord's condescension. I have somewhat largely made observations on this gracious act of Christ, in Matthew 8:5 , etc. to which I refer.
(11) And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain: and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. (12) Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, Behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and much people of the city was with her. (13) And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. (14) And he came and touched the bier; and they that bare him stood still: and he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. (15) And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak: and he delivered him to his mother. (16) And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. (17) And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judea, and throughout all the region round about.
This city of Nain lay near Mount Tabor, and not very remote from Capernaum. The case of this poor widow, and her dead son, is not noticed by either of the Evangelists, except Luke, and therefore it may be proper to attend to it somewhat more particularly. The history is but short, yet it is wound up to the most finished description of sorrow. This youth was not an infant, whose endearments had not therefore been long, so as by time to work deeper holdfast in the affections; but one arrived to manhood, in the flower of his age, and capable of recompensing a mother's care. And what made the loss more bitter, he was her only son ; so that in his death she had been stripped of all. And, as if all this was not enough to weigh her down with overmuch sorrow, she was a widow; so that she had no husband to bear a part with her in the affliction, and to drink a portion of the sorrowful cup. Yea, an husband dead, and child too, so that she was desolate.
The scriptures have noticed the distress of such bereaving providences, as among the heavy calamities of life. Jeremiah 6:26 ; Zechariah 12:10 . And we find this case attracted the attention of the Son of God. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her. Reader! what a sweet thought it is to relieve the sorrows of the Lord's people, that the eye of Jesus is always upon them. And his knowledge of their distresses is not only as God, but his feeling for them is as man. Blessedly is it said of him, in that he hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. Hebrews 2:18 .
The miracle he wrought in raising this young man from the dead, became the fullest and most decided evidence of his own sovereign power and Godhead. For although there are on record in scripture, several instances of the Lord's servants, for the confirmation of the faith, working such miracles, yet not one without first praying to the Lord to justify them as his servants, in the accomplishment of such deeds. But in the instance before us, here is the immediate act of Jesus, saying, Young man, I say unto thee, arise! I beg the Reader to notice this, with that due attention so decided a testimony gives to the Godhead of Christ. John 10:37-38 . The improvements to be drawn from this miracle of Jesus, are very many; but it would swell our little work into too great a bulk to notice all. Yet, I cannot allow myself and Reader to leave it altogether, without first observing, what a most lovely view it affords of the tenderness and compassion of Christ. Truly was it said of him by the Prophet, He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. And I would request the Reader, while beholding this affection of character to his people while on earth, to remember that He is the same Jesus now in heaven. And the most blessed part of the subject is, that He not only knows what the exercises of his redeemed are, as God; but He knows also, and feels for them as man. That union of God and man in One Person, gives him both the power to know all, and the fellow-feeling to administer the suited relief to all; and in such a way, as without this union of the two natures, could not have answered our wants, and his glory, as Mediator. Oh! the preciousness of such views of Christ!
Reader! allow me to add one thought more on this glorious miracle of our God and Savior. Think what a testimony it carries with it concerning Him, and his Almightiness of character, as the resurrection and the life. Surely, He who raised the widow's son, can and will raise the members of his own mystical body, at the last day. They shall arise by virtue of their union with Him. All that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and come forth. But the dead in Christ shall rise first. For thus the charter of grace runs. He shall quicken your mortal bodies by his spirit that dwelleth in you. Read in confirmation those precious scriptures: Isaiah 26:19 ; John 5:28-29 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ; Romans 8:11 .
(18) And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things. (19) And John calling unto him two of his disciples, sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? (20) When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? (21) And in the same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. (22) Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. (23) And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (24) And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? (25) But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts. (26) But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. (27) This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. (28) For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. (29) And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. (30) But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptised of him. (31) And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation! and to what are they like? (32) They are like unto children sitting in the market-place, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. (33) For John the Baptist came neither eating bread, nor drinking wine: and ye say, He hath a devil. (34) The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold, a gluttonous man and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! (35) But wisdom is justified of all her children.
We have already noticed this message of John to the Lord Jesus, together with Christ's answer; and his testimony concerning John. Matthew 11:1 , etc. I refer the Reader therefore to the observations there offered.
(36) And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him: and he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. (37) And, behold, a woman in the city which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment. (38) And stood at his feet behind him, weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. (39) Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touched him: for she is a sinner. (40) And Jesus answering, said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee; and he saith, Master, say on. (41) There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. (42) And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? (43) Simon answered and said, I suppose that he to whom he forgave most: and he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. (44) And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. (45) Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet . (46) My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. (47) Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. (48) And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. (49) And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? (50) And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace.
The interesting account which Luke hath recorded, concerning our Lord's dining with a Pharisee, and which gave rise to the very beautiful history of this pardoned sinner, merits our particular attention, and the more so, as this is the only Evangelist who hath preserved the relation of it to the Church. I beg the Reader's indulgence upon the subject.
And first, whatever motive this Pharisee had, of inviting Christ to eat with him, is not so material to regard, as it is to remark the gracious condescension of Jesus, in accepting so readily the invitation. Reader! do not fail to notice it down for constant use, in the memorandums of your heart, that if Jesus so promptly went at the first invitation to eat with a Pharisee, will he not, think you, readily come at the repeated requests of his people?
Turn to those sweet scriptures in confirmation, and then may you and I give that condescending Lord the frequent invitation to come and dwell with us, and make his abode with us. Isaiah 65:24 ; Revelation 3:20-21 ; Isaiah 58:9 .
Secondly, Let us look at this poor woman. The Evangelist makes the Reader feel much interested in her history, from the manner in which he hath introduced the subject; And, behold! a woman in the city which was a sinner! Surely every conscious sinner, at the first hearing of such an one visiting Christ, cannot but feel anxious to know what reception she met with, and how she succeeded. So that at once, you and I, knowing that we are sinners, take part in all that concerned her in her approaching Jesus, and anxiously wait the event.
I pause however to observe, that according to my views of this woman's history, I do not think, as some have done, that this woman was Mary Magdalene; for their circumstances do not correspond. Mary Magdalene no doubt was, like this woman, a sinner, for the Lord is said to have cast out of her seven devils. Mark 16:9 . but there is not a word of the kind said here, neither should it seem, according to the account before us, that this woman had ever had any interview before with Jesus. Moreover, the very name Mary Magdalene implies, that she was of Magdala, or if by Magdalene it be supposed was meant a loose woman, still this might be on account of the place, because Magdala was proverbial for women of no chastity. Whereas this transaction was in Galilee. Neither do I conceive, that this woman is the same with the sister of Lazarus, mentioned John 12:3 . for here this poor sinner lay at Christ's feet, and washed them with her tears; but there, the Mary John speaks of, poured the ointment on Christ's head. And the former is said to have been done in the house of this Pharisee; whereas the latter was in the house of Lazarus and his sisters. So that the history is not one and the same. Neither is this instance the same with that mentioned Matthew 26:6-7 . for the event concerning this poor sinner in the Pharisee's house, must have taken place a considerable time before Christ's farewell supper; but that recorded by Matthew, and Mark 14:3 . was only the evening before Christ's apprehension. I venture therefore to believe, though I do not presume to speak decidedly upon the subject, that this poor sinner was a different person from either of the Maries, noticed by the other Evangelists, and that she had never before had any interview with Jesus.
Let us now attend to what is related of her behaviour in her approaches to Jesus. Every circumstance which is said concerning her by the Evangelist, is expressive in proof of a real work of grace wrought upon her heart. And who shall say whether, as in the instance of Zaccheus, and that of the woman of Samaria, Christ's eating with the Pharisee was not wholly intended on her account, and for the instruction of the Church, in all the future generations of it, by her history. See Luke 19:1-10 ; John 4:4-42 . I beg the Reader particularly to notice, amidst the several features of a true sorrow of soul for sin, in this woman's behaviour; the self-loathing and abhorrence of her own filthiness, and the ardent love which her kisses expressed to the person of the Son of God! Reader! in all the marks of genuine repentance, depend upon it, these are the strongest. It is not our tears, nor our prayers, nor our attempted reform; no, nor our faith, considered as any act of our's, which can bring any glory to God, or peace to ourselves. A broken and a contrite heart becomes a blessed effect from God's grace there planted. But it is God's grace and Christ's blood which are the cause; and the change wrought by that grace and blood is the effect. everything is beautiful in order. Faith and repentance are precious fruits of the Holy Spirit. But Christ, and Christ alone, becomes the cause of salvation.
Our next view of this beautiful memoir, is to look at Simon the Pharisee. Though he invited Christ to his house, yet it is evident, from his suspicions of Christ's character, that he had no high opinion of him in his heart. The gracious allowance of Jesus to this poor sinner wounded his pride. Had she touched the Pharisee's garment, he would have thought himself defied. But Jesus the Son of God was pleased with the act. Reader! think of this. Jesus is glorified when his people are sanctified in him. His holiness suits their uncleanness. His riches their poverty.
But it is high time to look to Jesus, and observe his grace and mercy on this occasion. And first, I beg the Reader to take notice how plainly our dear Lord's conduct towards the Pharisee, proved the Godhead of his person. The Pharisee had made it up in his mind, that if Jesus were a Prophet, he would have known who, and what manner of woman this was, for she was a sinner. Not that this knowledge belonged to the ordinary Prophets; but to Jesus, as the Lord God of the Prophets, it did belong, and his omniscience marked his character. Revelation 22:6 . Hence therefore Jesus, by telling Simon what was in his heart, manifested his eternal power and Godhead. Reader! mark this first down in thine heart, or rather beg of God the Holy Ghost to do it for thee. John 16:13-14 ; 1 Corinthians 12:3 .
Next observe the very wise and gracious manner which the Lord Jesus adopted in manifesting himself as God, in pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin, and to make the wounded soul of this poor sinner to rejoice. Under the similitude of a beautiful figure, which the Pharisee might not immediately see through, the Lord Jesus taught, that the debtor of five hundred pence, or the debtor of fifty, when both unable to pay, were equally insolvent before God, the Almighty creditor; and that it must be an act of free grace to pardon either. Here Simon, with all his fancied righteousness, confessing, as he could not but do, that he had many infirmities, in the midst of all; and this poor sinner, with her conscious complete unworthiness, stood upon a level; and therefore if the Lord forgave both, both were debtors to his free bounty. And then when Jesus had extorted this confession from the proud self-righteous Pharisee, he proceeded to apply. And the Evangelist hath most beautifully set this forth, in terms so plain and evident, as can need no explanation.
One thing more I would beg the Reader particularly to notice, namely, the grace Christ manifested, and the authority he exercised in forgiving her sins. And this the Lord twice said, that there might be no possible mistake in a point of so much consequence. Oh! how truly blessed is the view! I beg the Reader to look to a similar passage on this ground, Mark 2:3-12 . Let the Reader observe how the Lord expresses himself to the woman, thy faith hath saved thee. And to the Pharisee concerning her. For she loved much. In both which expressions we are not to suppose Jesus meant, that either her faith, or her love, both which were the Lord's gifts, could be her merit, or the cause of her pardon. These were from the workings of grace in her heart, so that the Lord's love and mercy were the cause, and the workings in her heart the effect. And as her pardon was great, because her sins were great, her love and thankfulness were the more. Such are among the many precious things this lovely history furnisheth, to the praise of the Lord's grace, the joy of poor sinners, and the casting down the pride of all Pharisees. And, Reader! think where that precious soul of her's is now, amidst the spirits of just men made perfect, surrounding his throne in glory, who once lay at his feet when upon earth in tears. Blessedly Paul speaks to this subject, concerning those recovered by grace among the redeemed, from among men upon earth, when he saith, And such were some of you! but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God, 1 Corinthians 6:11 .
My soul! behold thy Lord, in the many sweet views of Him presented in this chapter. See him in his mercy, hastening to the relief of the centurion's servant. Behold him manifesting what the Holy Ghost had marked of his character, when exercising his sovereign authority as God, blended with the tenderness of his manhood, at the gate of the city Nain. Oh! who that beheld my God and Savior, in that moment, of turning the widow's tears into joy, and raising her son from the dead, but would have cried out with the Prophet, and echoed to his blessed words, behold! your God is come to save you! And who that beheld the poor penitent in the house of the proud Pharisee, and the gracious mercy and condescension of Jesus to her sorrows, but would have hailed the happy hour of God's faithful promise confirmed; I even I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, and will not remember thy sins.
And is it not the same in the present hour? Is the Lord's arm shortened that he cannot save? Is his ear grown heavy, that he cannot hear? Precious, precious Lord Jesus! how sweet to my soul the assurance, that as thy person, so thy purpose admits of no change. Jesus Christ! the same yesterday and today, and forever.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Luke 7". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13