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I. A picture of the forsaken Church of Christ. (1) Much people were gathered round the Lord. Many are gathered round Him today. Few, if we think of the immense multitude of those who are called into the Church of Christ; many, if we think of the small number of the chosen in all ages, and especially in our own day. (2) They have nothing to eat, said the Lord in our Gospel about the four thousand hearers. The same words must be said of the people of Christ now. The soldier needs food, if he is not to grow weary and perish with hunger; the Christian soldier needs both physical and spiritual nourishment. He is in the wilderness. Where shall he find it?
II. The Lord takes pity on His Church. He knows the condition and the need of His own; He knows it even before they themselves are conscious of it, and before they cry to Him He gives them enough and to spare. They gather up the fragments, and find that through His blessing they have become more than the original provision. Fear not then, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.
R. Rothe, Nachgelassene Predigten, vol. i., p. 40.
Bread in the Wilderness.
I. The question of the disciples has been, as all will admit, the natural question of all who have had any time or mind to think from the beginning of the world. There is perhaps no animal that has to spend so large a part of his time in procuring the food he needs as man. And when he has got it, it will not satisfy him as their daily food will satisfy the other creatures. No sooner is he filled than he finds out that man cannot live by bread alone, that he cannot be satisfied from any earthly stores, that he wants something more and has another kind of hunger. The hunger of the soul awakes, and it demands to be satisfied with something it knows not what, perhaps. And how is this hunger to be satisfied here in the wilderness in this place of exile, of desolation far from God and home and rest? There is nothing outwardly and visibly belonging to this life on which the immortal soul can feed. Whence, then, is the necessary food to be fetched? Who is to go for it?
II. Men often talk about this life as being a wilderness, and they are right; but do you know why and in what sense? The wilderness is not a. desert, nor a howling expanse of sand, nor a land of the shadow of death, except at certain times. We are specially told by the Evangelists that there was much grass in the place where Jesus was; in all probability there were plenty of low shrubs as well, and thousands of the brightest flowers; for it was spring time, and the early rains had transformed the earth. Now our life is just like the wilderness in this sense: very often it is full of beauty, of grace, of life, of promise. There are times when every element of hope and contentment seems present in abundance. But all this beauty and promise will not satisfy the soul of man, however much it may please his fancy and his taste. Hence the force of the question, How shall a man satisfy these men here in the wilderness? It is easy enough to please people in the wilderness, if you go at the right time. The beauty of the landscape, the buoyancy of the air, the exhilarating sense of freedom and expanse all these are delightful. But to satisfy them, that is what we cannot do; that can only be done, in the wilderness, by the Divine power of Christ. He can and will feed them; and it makes no difference to Him how many the people, how few the loaves; they shall all be satisfied, and go home in the strength of that food.
R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 173.
References: Mark 8:4 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1885.Mark 8:4-8 . C. Kingsley, Town and Country Sermons, p. 250.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, being about to work a miracle of omnipotent grace, first bids His disciples to count over their own little stores, to see what they have towards it; what they have, however trifling in amount, of the same kind and sort with the thing wanted; they producing that, He will do the rest; nay, He will do all, inasmuch as all that they can bring is absolutely valueless and of nought for the object. "How many loaves have ye?" is His preliminary question in everything. When the seven loaves are brought to Him, then and then only does He begin to work. The applications of this truth are many and various.
I. We see it in Inspiration. God condescended to use human infirmity as the vehicle of our enlightening, leaving it infirm, leaving it human, where it matters not that we should know, but strengthening it out of weakness and lifting it above earth wheresoever He willed that it should know the thing that is, inasmuch as it had in it the thing which we must do or the thing which we must be. "How many loaves have ye?" Then, using these, Christ will multiply and bless. Bring forth all your gifts, such as they are, of understanding and culture and knowledge and utterance, bring them forth; and then Christ, taking them at your hands, shall give them back to you blessed and blessing, to be to generations yet unborn the light of their life and the consolation of their sleep and of their awakening.
II. That which is true of the Book is true also of the life. "How many loaves have ye?" Christ puts that question, day by day, to each one of us. There be many that say, I have no work for Christ and no mission. Mine is no lofty station; mine is no large sphere; mine is no eloquent tongue or popular manner or telling influence. Let me live out my little day, and go back to the ground from which I was taken. Gravely, sorrowfully, yet earnestly and gently too, does Christ address Himself to you today, saying, Think yet once more how many loaves have ye? Nothing? Not a soul? Not a body? Not time? Not one friend or neighbour to whom a kind word may be spoken, or a kind deed done, in the name, for the love, of Jesus? Bring that do that, say that as what thou hast; very small, very trivial, very worthless, if thou wilt; yet remember the saying, "She hath done what she could."
C. J. Vaughan, Temple Sermons, p. 166.
Feeding the Four Thousand.
I. Observe the extreme tenderness and love of Christ in this work of power. In it He taught us (1) To reflect how constantly and in how many ways He still exercises the same wonderful power of feeding His people by multiplying their food. See in the harvest how every year a much mightier work even than filling the five thousand or the four thousand is done in every land I might say in every cornfield. (2) Again, we can hardly think of the corn of wheat sown in the ground, and multiplied so wonderfully for His people's food, without being reminded of another corn of wheat I mean the Body of the Lord Himself, dying and being buried, and springing up into the enormous multitudes of Christian men and women. All of them, in every country and in every age, He feeds with the perpetually multiplied food of His spiritual Body and Blood.
II. Observe, again, that our Lord, though He did this miracle twice over, did it only twice. He did not interpose His Divine power every time His disciples were hungry, or save them from the ordinary industry and forethought which should provide themselves with food. Twice He did it, to prove His power, to confirm their faith, to teach us various good and useful lessons; but neither when He was among His disciples, not afterwards, did He encourage them to expect miraculous helps to save them in times of difficulty and danger, still less to save them from the consequences of their own neglect and improvidence.
III. Our Lord, in doing this wonder, does not do it without some use of means. Seven loaves and a few small fishes are, no doubt, quite insufficient for so great a number of people; still, He uses the seven loaves and the few small fishes. He does not put the small quantity aside, and create a great deal new. No; He blesses the little, and it becomes enough.
IV. Again, He used the help of His disciples. Men in themselves are, no doubt, of no power to feed the souls of men. They cannot of themselves reach their brethren's hearts, or do them spiritual good by any power of their own. But yet the Lord of the feast employs them. He does not ordinarily act direct, but makes use of men and things to act by; men to teach, water to baptize, bread and wine to eat and drink; all in themselves utterly weak and powerless; but when authorised and blessed by God, made powerful to win souls, and to regenerate souls, and to feed souls, and to save souls unto eternal life.
G. Moberly, Parochial Sermons, p. 191.
References: Mark 8:8 . J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 214.Mark 8:9 . W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. ii., p. 66. Mark 8:10-21 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 157; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 170. Mark 8:11 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 294.
I. Ver. 12. "And He sighed deeply in His spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign?" etc. The sign in this case was morally suggestive. It must have been one of the great troubles of His sad and weary life to be continually carrying in His own bosom secrets which He would not divulge. The sigh was an expression of self-restraint. Misery has often relieved herself in speech; but this Man of sorrows had added to His many griefs the woe of often suffering in misunderstood and resentful silence.
II. Ver. 14. "Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf." Dwell for a moment upon the circumstance of the disciples having but one loaf in the ship; you will find that there is an explanatory word in this verse, and that word is "forgotten." If these words are put together, we shall find a revelation of poverty which is far from being inapplicable to the circumstances of many in the present day. If forgetful, thoughtless, indolent men are assisted in their straits and embarrassments, we do but offer a bounty to incompetence and inconsideration, and thus do more harm than good.
III. In the 13th verse the Saviour says, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees." In this He teaches us to beware of bad little things. In relation to the meal the leaven is small; yet the leaven will operate until it has subdued every particle of the meal to itself. Thus it is with many bad principles and pernicious habits; they may be apparently little and trivial in themselves, yet in them there is a vitality which never rests until it has penetrated from centre to circumference. Under this admonition the disciples, deficient in spiritual refinement and vision, instantly recur to the circumstance that they have but one loaf in the ship. Christ has ever been obstructed by materialising men. The material never can understand the spiritual; hence it is that if we come to Christ in the mere letter, we never can comprehend the spirit of His language; but if we read Him in the light of consciousness while we are prostrated before the altar of His Cross, we are led into the deepest things of His heart, which in our present imperfect state we are permitted to attain.
Parker, Wednesday Evenings at Cavendish Chapel, p. no.
References: Mark 8:15 . D. Fraser, The Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 135.Mark 8:17 , Mark 8:18 . Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit Sermons, 5th series, p. 251.Mark 8:19-21 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1822.Mark 8:21 . G. Macdonald, Unspoken Sermons, 2nd series, p. 48.
The Gradual Healing of the Blind Man.
This miracle has a peculiarity, in which it stands absolutely alone, and that is that the work is done in stages; that the power which at other times has but to speak and it is done here seems to labour, and the cure comes slowly; that in the middle Christ pauses, and, like a physician trying the experiment of a drug, asks the patient if any effect is produced, and, getting the answer that some mitigation is realised, repeats the application, and perfect recovery is the result.
I. First, we have here Christ isolating the man whom He wanted to heal. This fact of a miracle done in intended secrecy, and shrouded in deep darkness, suggests to us the true point of view from which to look at the whole subject of miracles. He wrought the miracles not coldly in order to witness to His mission, but every one of them was a token, because it was an outcome of His own sympathetic heart, brought into contact with human need.
II. We have Christ stooping to a sense-bound nature by the use of material helps. No doubt there was something in this man which made it advisable that these methods should be adopted. They make a ladder by which his hope and confidence might climb to the apprehension of the blessing. And that points to a general principle of the Divine dealings. God stoops to a feeble faith, and gives it outward things by which it may rise to the apprehension of spiritual realities.
III. Lastly, we have Christ's accommodating the pace of His power to the slowness of the man's faith. I take it that the worthiest view of that strangely protracted process, broken up into two halves, by the question that is dropped in the middle, is this, that it was determined by the man's faith, and was meant to increase it. He was healed slowly because he believed slowly. His faith was a condition of his cure, and the measure of it determined the measure of his restoration, and the rate of the growth of his faith settled the rate of the perfecting of Christ's work upon him.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 1st series, p. 261.
References: Mark 8:22-25 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 701; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 68.
The text shows us
I. The value of intercessory prayer. We need to pray for ourselves, but it is a poor religion that stops at self. We need the power and the grace of Christ to heal our own hurt; but if we truly realise the presence of Christ, and if we believe in His healing power, we shall seek Him, not only for our own sakes, but for the sake of others too.
II. Christ answers the appeal beyond the asker's expectation. In the healing touch we have a mark or characteristic of common occurrence in our Lord's miracles. The touch is a sign of a great spiritual truth. If Christ is to heal us, our soul must touch Him and He must touch us. There must be a meeting-ground with nothing to intervene between sinner and Saviour.
III. Jesus Christ, who had all power at His command, delayed the progress of a miracle and broke it into two. Had the work been done off-hand, it might discover to us a miracle of power and but little else. He gave sight to the blind; it was divided, delayed, and for a time apparently unsuccessful. The sequel exhibits a still greater work a miracle of patience. Here Christ shows us the Father. Christ suits His communications to human infirmity; He restrains His power and graduates revelation by our capacity. Our impatience will have results at once. God can abide delay. Christ taught the Word as they were able to hear it. We are apt to take our distorted images for true pictures; far wiser is it to await the open vision, when we shall see face to face. First impressions are not always correct. Christ must come closer and touch us once again for enlarged and purified vision. "After that He put His hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly." How many conversions do these words epitomise? They sum up a large series of religious experiences. Light may come by fits and starts. Not all at once, nor even gradually, are some brought to acknowledge their real condition before God. Partial awakening may be followed by times of spiritual collapse and apparent failure of the Holy Spirit's power; there comes at length what we might call a second conversion, or, to speak more correctly, the completion of the work conversion of heart and life; no longer crude and imperfect views of truth, or dim perceptions, "men seen as trees, walking," but all things seen plainly.
G. Walker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 43.
References: Mark 8:22-26 . H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 174; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 11 Mark 8:23-25 . A. Blomfield, Sermons in Town and Country, p. 169. Mark 8:24 , Mark 8:25 . H. P. Hughes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 217. Mark 8:24-29 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii, p. 297. Mark 8:25 . W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. ii., p. 20. Mark 8:27-30 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 164.Mark 8:27-33 . H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 178.
Christ's Intimation of His Sufferings.
The time from which Jesus began to speak to His disciples of His sufferings was the time at which His Apostles had made open confession of His Godhead. Here then is a point from which to reckon, and on which to reason. We may now start with the inquiry, What inducement led to, and what instruction may be gathered from, the recorded fact, that when Jesus had drawn from His disciples the acknowledgment of His Divinity, then, and not before, He began to tell them of His sufferings.
I. The Apostles could have had none but the most indistinct apprehensions of the office and mission of our Lord, so long as they were ignorant of the death which He had undertaken to die. Christ deferred speaking of His sufferings till His disciples had full faith in His Godhead. As much as to say, "It will be of no avail to speak to them of My death till they are convinced of My Deity. So long as they only know Me as the Son of man, they will not be prepared to hear of the Cross; when they shall also know Me as the Son of the Living God, then will be the time to tell of ignominy and death."
II. We seem quite justified in gathering from the text, that henceforward our Lord made very frequent mention of His Cross. And what is very observable is, that it seems to have been upon occasions when the disciples were likely to have been puffed up and exalted, that ever after our Lord took special pains to impress upon them that He must be rejected and killed. Learn to expect, and be thankful for, something bitter in the cup, when faith has won the victory, and you have tasted, in no common measure, the powers of the invisible world. Triumph would make us proud, if not followed by humiliation; and the Good Physician who gave His own blood to save us from death will in mercy prevent the fever, by opening a vein. When Christ shows us the crown, He loves us too well, not commonly to follow it with laying on the Cross.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,268.
References: Mark 8:31-38 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 173; W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 250.
I. Such were the terms by which Jesus Christ sought to enlist men in His service. They came around Him attracted by His holiness, and curious to know more about Him. He offered them three attractions self-denial, shame, and absolute surrender. Unless they were content with these, they could not enter His army. We have almost lost sight of the strangeness of the summons. "To take up the Cross" has become a religious phrase. We use it almost mechanically; nay, when we are most reverent, we almost hesitate to apply it to the trials of common life. We shrink from applying it to the man of the world, to the man of business, to the man of cultivated intellect, and perhaps it seems to be peculiarly strained if applied to the very young. And yet it contains the very lesson of Christianity.
II. To take up the Cross daily is to be prepared for what is most painful in the attempt to do your duty. The Cross is, like all burdens, heavy, exhausting, crushing. But it is more. It is degrading also. It fills us with shame. It crushes out of us our pride, and all that is false in our darling self-esteem. It makes us think less well of our energies at the very time that it taxes them most severely. It says to us, "You must dare to face this duty;" and in the same breath, "How poor and cowardly you must be to dread it!"
III. Some crosses are visible. They are borne, if borne at all, in the sight of others. With strong natures, pride sometimes comes to the help of conscience, and insidiously lends its strong arm to the support of the burden. But there are other kinds of crosses. There are those which no one ever sees, perhaps never suspects. These are not the least formidable. There is (1) the cross of truthfulness; (2) the cross of self-denial in little things; (3) the cross of humility; (4) the cross of temperance. Each heart has its own cross to bear. To many it is the burden of holding fast by God and leading a cheerful, happy life, in the absence of human sympathy. To be willing to take up the Cross is the very essence of the faith of Christ. By this test we may measure our own progress. No laxity in our practice can ever explain away the declaration of our Master, "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me."
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 197.
Saving One's Life by Losing It.
When Christ is preached in our day, men are not ashamed of Him on precisely the same grounds that they were in the early days. Christ is represented by great churches that are emblazoned with art, that represent the wealth of the communities, that have about them a kind of historical charm and a flavour of antiquity, and men are not ashamed of Christ as of old, nor are they likely to be. Neither are men ashamed of Christ doctrinally. Whichever platform you put Him upon, whether you regard Him simply as a Man of genius or as semi-Divine, or as God manifest in the flesh, there is nothing that should lead men to be ashamed of Him. Look at the different ways in which men unconsciously to themselves are ashamed of Christ.
I. There are a great many men who are more or less studious, more or less thoughtful, more or less uneasy; it has been so for several years; they have been satisfied that they have not been living right, that they ought to come to a higher form of religious development, and they hope that the time will come when they can do this; but what is the reason that they never take this step in advance, and break out into that higher development? If you trace it, you find that oftentimes there is a sense of shame of their part. A man shrinks from letting the community know that he really is concerned about himself; and he is kept back by what may be said, and what may be thought.
II. There are a great many men who are hoping that they are Christians. They stealthily snatch at prayer; they turn to the Word of God, and read that a good deal, but they are not willing that it should be known. They are trying to live Christian lives secretly. There is connected with this a good deal of the element of shame, either directly or by inference.
III. We are growing old in this world. Things perish in the using. On everything in life is the mark of change. Spring comes out of winter and changes into summer. Summer with its growth moves into autumn. Autumn is swallowed up in the winding-sheet of winter. So of all things in human life. Youth running towards manhood; manhood declining towards old age; and beyond old age there is a life that grows broader and broader, brighter and brighter. After this life, all that encumbered men and bound them here shall be dropped away. There is a life of joy and glory; and to that men are invited, that they may become sons of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. And what is there in that of which any man should be ashamed? What is there not in it which every man should leap to acknowledge with gratitude?
H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 202.
References: Mark 8:34-38 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 253. H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 183.
I. The confession and rebuke of St. Peter seem to be closely connected with the solemn teaching of the text. The fearfully wrong view which St. Peter had taken of what was consistent with the character and office of our Lord, notwithstanding the wonderful revelation he had received concerning His true being; seems to have suggested, as it were, to our blessed Lord the necessity of publishing clearly and broadly certain essential laws of His kingdom. So He called to Him the people with His disciples also; for the lesson He was about to teach was one for all ears, it could not be too extensively known nor too carefully pondered; and when He had called them He said, "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Thus He laid down self-denial as the basis of His service. He did not wish any one to follow Him under false notions. As it followed, that because He was Christ, therefore He must suffer, so it followed that those who would be great in His kingdom must obtain their position, not according to the fashion of this world, but by denying themselves and taking up the cross.
II. To those whom Christ immediately addressed, and those of the times immediately following, these words would be a tower of strength; and even to ourselves, they are very far from useless, if they teach us that no real happiness can be gained by shrinking from Christ's yoke, and that all that we can do for Christ and all that we give up for Him, and, if need be, all that we suffer for Him, will be richly rewarded by Him whom we serve. We learn from the text that an earnest Christian life requires the sacrifice of everything which may be a hindrance to its growth; even a man's life must be jeopardised for that which is his true life, and the gain of all things will be an infinite loss if it entail the sacrifice of our spiritual life. The world is a great prize, judging according to human estimates. It includes all the wealth, the power, the pleasures that human nature is capable of possessing and enjoying; yet what is it, if the man who has gained it has lost himself? its enjoyment can only last for an hour, and the joys of heaven last for evermore.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 2nd series, p. 278.
Reference: Mark 8:35 . S. A. Brooke, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 392.
Two questions meet us on the threshold of this great subject. What is meant by the soul, to which this paramount value is ascribed? And why should there be any natural enmity between the world and the soul? Why should the gain of the whole world be likely to hazard the loss of the soul?
I. The soul is man's higher life; the life, not of the body, nor even of the intellect, but of the feelings, the affections, and the aspirations. A man may ignore this higher life and do his best to drown and stifle it; but he cannot divest himself of it. It is part of himself. Willingly or unwillingly, worthily or unworthily, he must carry it about with him to death and through death. There is a "for ever" stamped visibly upon it. He can ennoble or he can degrade, but he cannot destroy. To lose the soul is in Scriptural language to spoil this higher life; to quench the Divine Spirit, by whose fire alone it burns; to lose the capacity of caring for God and for all those lofty things which we believe to be dear to God and the natural heritage of man.
II. Why should the gain of the world imperil the soul? Here experience gives the answer. Theoretically it is quite possible to win the world and to win the higher life as well; to seek with ardour, and to enjoy to the full, what are called in pagan language the gifts of fortune; and to consecrate all in the spirit of thankfulness to the service of God and the wants of others. It is possible, because with God all things are possible. But it is hard, terribly hard. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle." Have we not all lived long enough to discover this much, that when our heart is set eagerly upon any of the things of earth, upon success in any shape, bodily or intellectual, we are tempted to sink to the level of that particular object? It peoples and satisfies your imagination. It gives birth to a thousand secondary interests all like itself, none rising higher than its fount, all tending to lead away our thoughts from the higher life, and to make it appear distant and shadowy. If we ask ourselves, How can we know whether we are losing our souls or not? the answer seems to be, You are losing your soul, you are doing, slowly perhaps but surely, what you can to make the restoration, the re-inspiration of your higher life impossible, if you are gradually losing your love for God, your interest in all things high, your unselfish devotion to others, your faith in the paramount claims of duty over your own personal inclinations, however legitimate they may be.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 259.
References: Mark 8:36 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 92; H. B. Ottley, Church of England Pulpit, vol. i., p. 229; E. D. Solomon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 30. Mark 8:36 , Mark 8:37 . J. Keble, Sermons from Lent to Passiontide, p. 115; W. J. Cuthbertson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 202; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 94.Mark 8:38 . Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 86; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 172; vol. xxvi., p. 315.Mark 9:1 . W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 250. Mark 9:1-4 . H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 187. Mark 9:2 . New Outlines on the New Testament, p. 39; C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 114.Mark 9:2 , Mark 9:3 . R. W. Evans, Parochial Sermons, vol. i., p. 200. Mark 9:2-8 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 476. Mark 9:2-9 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 191.Mark 9:2-10 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 339. Mark 9:2-13 . W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 256. Mark 9:5-13 . H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 192.Mark 9:7 . Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," p. 259.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Mark 8". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11