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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Mark 2

Verses 8-12


Mark 2:8-12. And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.

WE cannot wonder that such multitudes attended the ministry of our Lord, or that his occasional retirements from labour were so often interrupted. But it is indeed astonishing that so many should continue hostile to so benevolent a person; and that he should persist in doing good, when his words and actions were so constantly perverted, and made grounds of accusation against him. Having retired to a house in Capernaum, he was soon encompassed with a crowd: amongst them were many Scribes and Pharisees who came only to cavil [Note: Luke 5:17.]. Our Lord, however, neither intimidated nor incensed, proceeded in his work; and took occasion even from their cavils to display more eminently his power and glory. Being accused of blasphemy, he confirmed his word by his works, and multiplied his mercies to some as the means of convincing others.

The particular circumstances referred to in the text lead us to consider,


The authority he exercised—

Whatever miracles our Lord performed, he wrought them by his own power. A man was brought to him to be healed of the palsy—
[So afflicted was the man, that he was deprived of all use of his limbs. His friends, who bore him on a bed, or couch, could not get access to Jesus [Note: ver. 3, 4.]. They would not however relax their endeavours to obtain a cure. They went by another way to the top of the house, and broke open the lattice, and then let the man down into the midst of the room where Jesus was [Note: Their houses were scarcely ever above one or two stories high. Their roofs were flat, and guarded on every side with a battlement or balustrade, Deuteronomy 22:8; thither the inhabitants used to retire for exercise, 2 Samuel 11:2; for conversation, Matthew 10:27; for meditation and prayer, Acts 10:9. There were two ways of access to the top; one from the inside, by a lattice or trap-door, 2 Kings 1:2. the other by steps on the outside, Mark 13:15. Having easily ascended to the top, they forced open (ἐξορύξαντες, ver. 4.) the lattice which was fastened within, and let down the man through the tiling (Luke 5:19.) with which the roof was paved on all sides of the lattice. Some explain the matter somewhat differently. See Doddridge, sect. 45. note (e.)]. Nor did Jesus take offence at his intrusion, as though he were an unwelcome guest. He, on the contrary, beheld their solicitude with approbation, and richly recompensed “their faith,” which had urged them to such benevolent exertions. We read not indeed of any particular request made by the man or his friends; but the very sight of such misery was sufficient to call forth our Lord’s compassion.]

Jesus healed not his disorder, but authoritatively forgave his sin—
[All that the man thought of was, a restoration to bodily health; but the divine Physician in an instant healed his soul. The disorder had probably been sent by God as a punishment for sin; and Jesus removed his sin as incomparably the greater evil. Yea, he spoke to the man in the most affectionate and condescending terms, and gave him a comfortable assurance that his iniquities were forgiven. How must the helpless dying man rejoice in such tidings! Surely, after this, he would scarcely wish to have his life prolonged; at least, he would desire it only that he might glorify his Lord and Saviour.]

But this exercise of divine authority excited the indignation of the Pharisees—
[It is possible that they might manifest in their countenances the reasonings of their hearts: but Jesus needed not any external proof of their thoughts. He “knew in his spirit” every thing that passed within their minds. They inwardly condemned him as guilty of “blasphemy.” Nor was their reasoning defective, if the application of it had been just. Certainly none but God has any authority to forgive sin; and any mere creature that should assume it, would be a blasphemer. But their objection, in this instance, was altogether unfounded.]
Jesus, having claimed the power of forgiving sin, immediately stated,


His vindication of it—

Our Lord was ever willing to satisfy those who desired information; and, by multiplied proofs, to leave determined infidels without excuse:
He now stated a criterion whereby they might judge of the validity of his claim—
[When Jehovah’s deity was questioned, his servant Elijah proposed a mean of determining the controversy between him and Baal [Note: 1 Kings 18:21-24.]. Thus our Lord condescended to submit his pretensions to a trial. He appealed to all whether the healing of the paralytic would not be an evidence of divine power? and whether he, who by his own authority could restore man to health, were not equally able to forgive his sin? This was as just a criterion as could possibly be proposed. If Jesus were not God, he could never by his own power heal the man. Nor, if he were a blasphemer, would God work such a stupendous miracle to confirm his blasphemies. Thus his claims to divine authority were brought to the test; and every person present was made a competent judge of their truth or falsehood.]

According to that criterion, he immediately vindicated his divine authority—
[He commanded the man to arise, and take up his couch, and go home. Instantly he, who before could not help himself, was restored to health; and, in the presence of all, went forth with his couch upon his shoulders. Thus were the enemies of Jesus effectually put to silence; yet none understood the full extent of the conclusion to be drawn from the miracle. They still viewed Christ only as a “man” acting by a delegated authority [Note: Matthew 9:8.]; whereas they should have acknowledged him to have been truly God. They all however “glorified God” for the marvellous displays of his power; and confessed that they had never before seen such stupendous works.]

Learn from hence,

The power and grace of Christ—

[When Jesus sojourned on earth as a poor man, he had power to forgive sin, and often exercised that power unsolicited, uncontrolled. He even subjected himself to the charge of blasphemy rather than he would conceal his right. Has he then less power or compassion now that he is enthroned in glory? or, now that he is exalted on purpose to exercise that power [Note: Acts 5:31.], will he neglect to exert it? Will he who bestowed mercy unasked, cast out our petitions? Let us then present ourselves before him with all our miseries and wants. Let us try, by all possible means, to get access to him. Let us break through every obstacle that would defeat our endeavours; and let us approach him with an assurance of his power and willingness to save. Sooner shall heaven and earth fail, than he reject one such a believing suppliant [Note: Matthew 21:22.].]


The benefit of affliction—

[If the paralytic had never been disordered, he had never been brought to Jesus. Had he never come to Jesus, his sins had never been forgiven. Would he not then rejoice, yea, does he not rejoice even to this very hour, that God ever sent him that affliction? Would he not number that amongst his richest mercies? Thus many of us would never have thought of Jesus if we had not known trouble; but through temporal afflictions we were brought to the enjoyment of spiritual blessings. Let those then, who have experienced this, give thanks to God [Note: Psalms 119:71; Psalms 119:75.]; and let those, that are now in trouble, seek chiefly the remission of their sins [Note: Psalms 25:16-18.].]


The efficacy of intercession—

[Many of us, alas! have friends whose souls are dead in trespasses and sins: their faculties are altogether destitute of spiritual motion or sensation; hut we may bring them by faith into the presence of the compassionate Jesus. He will be pleased, rather than offended, with our officious intrusion; nor shall our labours of love be without many good effects. Little do we think how many thousands have been converted in answer to the entreaties of God’s praying people; and who can tell but that God may fulfil to us that promise [Note: James 5:15.]—? Who can tell but that, as an answer toour faith,” we may see our friends healed of their sins, and triumphing in their blessed Saviour? We are sure, at least, that our “prayers shall return into our own bosom.” Let us then improve our knowledge of the Redeemer’s grace, and exert ourselves, that all around us may participate his saving benefits.]

Verse 17


Mark 2:17. They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

THERE is no action, however benevolent, which cavillers may not censure. Every part of our Lord’s conduct was worthy of his divine character; yet was he constantly “enduring the contradiction of sinners,” &c. He was now conversing familiarly with publicans for their good. This was condemned by the Scribes as unbecoming a holy person, if not also as giving countenance to sin. Our Lord vindicated himself on principles acknowledged by them.
His words contain,


A generally established maxim—

Persons desire not a physician unless they be sick. This is true according to its literal import—

[A person in health wishes not for any medical assistance: he would refuse it if it were tendered to him; he would not submit to any regimen that should be prescribed. But they who are diseased are glad to hear of a skilful physician: they will cheerfully put themselves under his direction; and they will follow his prescriptions, that they may obtain a cure.]
It is more particularly so in a figurative sense—

[There is an analogy between sickness and sin: this is a disorder of the soul as that is of the body. A person unconscious of his sinfulness desires not a Saviour; nor will he comply with the self-denying directions given him. But one who feels his lost state longs earnestly for a cure: he delights to hear of Christ, and to make application to him; nor does he esteem any injunction too severe [Note: 1 John 5:3.].]

This being acknowledged, our Lord proceeds to make,


An application of it to his own conduct—

The physician’s office leads him to converse with the sick. Our Lord’s work required him to maintain an intercourse with sinners.
There are many who conceive themselves to be “righteous”—
[None are absolutely and perfectly righteous [Note: None by nature, Job 14:4; Job 15:14. None by practice, Romans 3:10; Romans 3:12; Romans 3:23.], but many suppose that their sins are neither great nor numerous. Such were the Scribes and Pharisees whom our Lord addressed [Note: Luke 18:9; Luk 18:11]; and there are many of this description in every age [Note: Proverbs 30:12.].]

Such persons were not so much the objects of our Lord’s attention—
[He “willed indeed that all should come to repentance [Note: 2 Peter 3:9.],” but he knew that they would not receive his offers; they saw no need of the salvation which he came to accomplish; their pride and prejudice unfitted them for receiving it. He therefore bestowed less labour in calling them to repentance.]

But there are many of more ingenuous disposition—
[They are not really more heinous “sinners” than others, but they are made sensible of their guilt and danger. Such was the publican at whose house our Lord was, and such are to be found in every place.]
To call these to repentance was the great object of Christ’s ministry—
[These were prepared, like thirsty ground for the rain; to them he was a welcome messenger; they rejoiced to hear that repentance could profit them; and our Lord delighted to encourage their hopes [Note: Luke 4:18-19.].]

Thus did his conduct accord with the dictates of reason, and with the great ends of his mission.


The danger of self-righteousness—

[Men feel of themselves the danger of gross sin; but they cannot be persuaded that they will suffer any thing by self-righteousness. But a person who, under dying circumstances, denies his need of help, as effectually destroys himself, as if he drank poison or plunged a dagger to his heart. Deny not then your need of the heavenly Physician; nor think to heal yourselves by any self-righteous methods. You must resemble the publican, if ever you would enjoy his lot [Note: Luke 18:13-14.].]


The folly of unbelief—

[We are apt to make the depth of our misery a reason for despondency; but the doubting of the Physician’s power will be as destructive to the soul, as the denying of our need of him. O behold the remedy! Are you sick [Note: Jeremiah 8:22.]?—sinners [Note: 1 Timothy 1:15.]?— lost [Note: Luke 19:10.]? Christ suits his promises to your state; He addresses himself to each [Note: John 5:6.], nor shall any suppliant be disappointed [Note: John 6:37.].]

Verse 27


Mark 2:27. And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

IN nothing is the force of prejudice more strongly seen, than in the blame cast by the world upon the followers of Christ for the most trifling offence, whilst the greatest enormities of ungodly men are suffered to pass without any animadversion whatever. Nor is it only for a real deviation from duty that they are condemned, but for the smallest departure from rules, which have their foundation in nothing but human policy or superstition. The Disciples of our Lord had been attending the Synagogue on the Sabbath-day, and, being hungry [Note: Matthew 12:1.], they plucked some ears of corn as they passed through the corn-fields, and ate it. This was an act which God himself had particularly specified as lawful [Note: Deuteronomy 23:25.]; and therefore the Pharisees could not condemn it: but the law forbade men to do any servile work upon the Sabbath-day; and therefore the Pharisees, being determined to find fault, construed the plucking and rubbing a few ears of corn as a reaping and threshing of the corn; and inquired with indignation, Why they presumed to do so on the Sabbath-day [Note: Matthew 12:2. with Luke 6:1-2.]? But our blessed Lord vindicated their conduct: he shewed that works of necessity or mercy might be performed, as well on the Sabbath as on any other day. He reminded them of David’s conduct in eating the holy bread, which was forbidden to be eaten by any but the priests and their families: he had never been censured for it either by God or man, because he was impelled to it by unavoidable necessity. He reminded them also of the priests in the temple, who performed very laborious work in killing, flaying, and consuming the sacrifices, yet incurred no guilt thereby, because they were serving God: and from these precedents he shewed them, that the Disciples were not worthy of blame, since what they had done was in attending upon Him, and from a necessity imposed by the imperious calls of hunger. The sanctity of the Sabbath he acknowledged; but informed them at the same time, that, where the observance of it militated against the welfare of man, its authority was superseded; for that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

From this declaration of our Lord, we shall take occasion to shew,


The end for which the Sabbath was instituted—

The appointment of the Sabbath did not take place, till the whole work of creation was complete: therefore man, who was created on the sixth day could not be made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath as far as man was concerned, must be made for him. But, without laying any stress on the priority of man’s existence, we may confidently affirm, that the Sabbath was instituted for the benefit,


Of individuals—

[It is no small privilege to men that God has appointed them a day of rest, wherein they are to cease from the cares and labours of this world, and to attend to the concerns of another world [Note: Exodus 23:12.Deuteronomy 5:14; Deuteronomy 5:14.]. We know by experience how worldly occupations affect the mind; how powerfully they draw us from God, and impede us in the pursuit of heavenly things; and there is reason to fear, that if no such appointment had existed, we should, long ere this, have been immersed in heathen darkness: we should have been satisfied with the things of this life, and not thought of inquiring after any thing beyond. But on every return of this sacred rest, we are reminded, that there is a God whom we must serve, and that there is an eternal portion which it behoves us to secure. We are led to take a retrospective view of our past lives, in order to see what we have done for our souls, and what prospect we have of attaining that happiness, for which we were created, and for which we were redeemed. In short, this appointment of a Sabbath affords exactly the same occasion for advancing the welfare of our souls, as the permission to labour on the six other days does for the advancement of our temporal interests: as, on the six days, we devise and execute plans for the acquisition of wealth, so, on the seventh day, we are occupied in attaining higher degrees of faith and holiness: and as, in the one case, we frequently cast up our accounts in order to see what progress we have made, so, in the other case, the periodical leisure that is afforded us, enables us to ascertain with precision the state of our souls before God.

Who then has not reason to be thankful for an institution which is so replete with benefit to his soul? Well might God number it amongst the highest obligations which he had ever conferred upon his people, the Jews [Note: Nehemiah 9:13-14.Ezekiel 20:12-20; Ezekiel 20:12-20.]; and well may we number it amongst our choicest blessings.]


Of the whole community—

[Had no specific time been appointed by God, none could ever have been agreed upon by men: no day would have suited the convenience of all; nor could human authority have prevailed to establish a law that should be universally and irrevocably obeyed. But God having fixed a day, the whole race of mankind is bound to yield obedience to his command: so that all who acknowledge his authority, wake upon the Sabbath with the same views, the same desires, the same purposes; all feeling in themselves an obligation to keep it holy, and all conscious that the same feeling pervades the Lord’s people in every quarter of the globe. In respect to this, there is no difference of rank or station. The rich man sees, that he is to lay aside both his cares and pleasures, in order to attend to the concerns of his soul: the poor man also sees, that though he may be, as it were, a slave on other days, on this day he is the Lord’s free-man. Indeed the poor have very peculiar cause for thankfulness on account of the Sabbath; for the rate of wages in every country is calculated by the amount that is necessary to support a man and his family; and that is given to a man for six days’ work, because God has commanded him to rest the seventh: but, if no such command had been given by God, the poor would have been required to work the seven days without any augmentation of their wages: in this respect, therefore, the poor are peculiarly benefited. But indeed the whole community being thus set at liberty for heavenly pursuits, and means of instruction being provided for all, such instruction too as they would not very readily receive in private, all meet, as by common consent, in the house of God, and there offer their united sacrifices of prayer and praise. From thence ail return to the bosom of their families, to diffuse a kindred spirit in their domestic circles, and thus to advance the temporal, no less than the eternal, happiness of themselves and others. Doubtless the degree in which these ends are promoted, must depend on the dispositions of the persons themselves; they who have no desire after spiritual blessings, will make no improvement of the opportunities afforded them: but they whose minds are spiritual, and whose situations in life preclude them from devoting much of their time to religion on other days, will now unite in social exercises, and in heavenly converse, with tenfold pleasure; and their hearts will burn within them, whilst they speak of the things which God has done for their souls. Nor will these persons he contented with seeking good to themselves; they will endeavour to do good to others: they will think whether there be not some ignorant neighbour whom they can instruct, or some afflicted neighbour whom they can comfort. On this day the poor is on a par with the richest: his time is his own, to spend for God, either in a way of personal improvement, or for the edification of those around him.
Suppose then the Sabbaths to be thus employed, who can calculate the good accruing from them to all ranks and orders of men; to the rich and to the poor; to the man in health, and to the roan immured in prison, or languishing on a bed of sickness; to those who are advanced in years, and those who are just entering on the stage of life?]
If, from these views of the Sabbath, we are made sensible of its value, let us consider,


The manner in which it should be improved—

It is not intended that we should be in bondage, as the Jews were; and much less that we should bear such an intolerable yoke as the Pharisees imposed on their Disciples: yet we are bound to venerate the Sabbath, and to keep it holy. God has enjoined that duty with very peculiar solemnity; “Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath-day.” In what manner we should keep it holy, the text will inform us: we should keep it,


With a grateful sense of our privilege—

[God, in infinite love and mercy, has made this day on purpose for us: he knew how much such a periodical season of reflection would conduce to our happiness, and therefore appointed the observance of it even in Paradise. To us, who are so corrupt and sinful, and are immersed in the cares and pleasures of an ensnaring world, this institution is still more important: and therefore, when we wake on a Sabbath morning, our first thoughts should be, “This is the day that the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it [Note: Psalms 118:24.]” On rising from our beds, we should shut the door of our minds against the intrusion of worldly thoughts, and should set our-selves to the contemplation of heavenly subjects. We should invite our God to come and take possession of our souls, and to banish from thence every imagination that may interfere with his service, or retard our spiritual improvement. We should consider what great objects are to be attained that day; what innumerable sins to be lamented; what great and Precious promises to be embraced; what communion with God the Father, and with the Lord Jesus Christ to be enjoyed; what grace, and mercy, and peace to be brought into the soul; what victories to be gained; what glory to be secured. Methinks, on retiring to our closet, we should say, ‘Now, vain world, begone; let nothing belonging to thee interrupt me for a moment: welcome, precious Bible, thou inestimable treasure: let me now unfold thy sacred pages, and obtain an insight into thy mysterious truths: and, O my God, “shine into my heart, to give me the light of the knowledge of thy glory in the face of Jesus Christ!” ’ In short, precisely as a carnal man embraces with avidity an occasion of worldly gain, and uses with energy the means of accomplishing his desire, so should we regard every Sabbath with increased joy, and improve it with augmented diligence.

That this is really the proper way of sanctifying the Sabbath, we are sure; since it is the very way prescribed by God himself: nothing of a temporal nature should (any further than is absolutely necessary) be admitted into our minds; but our whole delight should be in the God of our salvation [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:15.Isaiah 58:13-14; Isaiah 58:13-14.].]


With a humble sense of our responsibility—

[If God has instituted Sabbaths for our good, they are a talent of which we must give an account to him. And O what an awful responsibility have we incurred by means of them! A person that is seventy years of age has had no less than ten years of entire Sabbaths! What might not have been done in that time, if they had been properly improved? — — — When therefore the Sabbath arrives, though we should welcome it as a blessing, we should welcome it with fear and trembling: lest, when designed for our good, it should only aggravate our final condemnation. We should pray to God to raise our minds to the occasion; to spiritualize our affections; to draw nigh to us in our secret retirement, and to reveal himself to us in the public assembly. We should bear in mind, that without Him we can do nothing: and that it is His presence and His blessing alone that can render any means effectual for our good. And when we come to the close of the Sabbath, we should inquire diligently, how far the designs of God’s love and mercy have been accomplished in us, and how far we have been forwarded in our preparation for the eternal Sabbath. It is this mixture of “joy and trembling” which we ought to cultivate, as the most desirable of all frames; contented to wait for unmixed joy, till all our dangers and responsibility shall be for ever past.]

We cannot conclude without adding a word,

Of reproof—

[As for those who make scarcely any difference between the Sabbath and other days, but follow their business or pleasure in a shameless manner, we shall leave them to the reproof of Nehemiah [Note: Nehemiah 13:15-16.], only warning them that their present gains or pleasures will but ill repay them for the loss of their souls. Our present subject leads us rather to notice those who detain their wives or servants at home, in order to provide them a more palatable repast. How different was the conduct of Christ and his Disciples! They had been so occupied in holy exercises, that they had even omitted to make the necessary provision for the calls of nature; and were contented to satisfy their appetite with a little barley rubbed out of the ears which they gathered by the way. It should seem that they were regardless of bodily indulgence, when they were called to attend to the concerns of their souls. O that we would learn of them, and imitate their self-denying piety! True it is, as we have said before, that works of mercy and necessity may be done; but it is equally true, that an attention to the soul is a work of the greatest mercy, and of indispensable necessity.]


Of encouragement—

[Though the alleged violation of the Sabbath was the pretext for condemning the Disciples, the real cause was, their adherence to Christ. Thus, if some sacrifice of time or bodily comfort be made in order to serve our God, the proud Pharisees, who hate the light, will inveigh against us as violating some duty either to God or man; when, if we spent our time in any other way, they would find no occasion of offence at all. But, if we be treated thus, let us remember who suffered in like manner before us; and let us comfort ourselves with this reflection, that, though man may condemn our piety, our God will both approve and reward it.]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Mark 2". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.