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Christ findeth a greater faith in the centurion, a Gentile, than in any of the Jews; healeth his servant being absent; raiseth from death the widow's son at Nain; answereth John's messengers with the declaration of his miracles; declareth to the people what opinion he held of John; testifieth against the Jews, who would neither be won with the manners of John nor of the Lord Jesus; and sheweth, by occasion of Mary Magdalene, how he is a friend to sinners; not to maintain them in their sins, but to forgive them their sins, upon their repentance and faith.
Anno Domini 31.
Luke 7:2. A certain centurion's servant,— In the notes on St. Matthew, we have spoken largely concerning this miracle, and have given, on Luk 7:13 of the eighth chapter, the arguments of there who think that the historians relate different transactions; at the same time harmonizing the accounts, and endeavouring to shew, according to our own private opinion, that they are one and the same. See on Matthew 8:5. In confirmation of this opinion, the following passage from Dr. Heylin is subjoined, nearly in his own words: "The narrative which St. Luke gives of the centurion's behaviour is larger and more distinct than that given in St. Matthew; and therefore we will put them both together, only premising, that as it is not unusual in all languages, so in the Hebrew particularly it is very usual, to ascribe to the person himself what has been spoken or done by his order. (See Matthew 11:2-3.) And accordingly, St. Matthew relates as said by the centurion himself, what was really spoken by those whom he had deputed to address our Lord on his behalf; which sufficientlyaccounts for the seeming difference which is found in the evangelists. The centurion was brought up under the heathen dispensation, but had attained to the knowledge of the one God; and, finding that fundamental truth so well established in the Jewish religion, had conceived a great affection to the Jewish nation, and done them all the good offices which lay in his power. His improvement also of the light given him under his inferior dispensation, had prepared him for the reception of the Gospel; and his knowledge of God in a general way, led him, through grace, by a just transition, to the acknowledgment of Christ as the God of nature; for whom therefore he had so aweful a veneration, that when he was to apply to him for the cure of his servant, he had recourse to the intercession of the elders of the Jewish church, who, at his request, came to Jesus, to entreat him that he would come and cure the sick servant, in consideration of his master who had sent them, and to whom they acknowledged great obligations. (Luke 7:4.) Jesus went along with them, as they desired; but while he was yet on the way, and not far from the house, the centurion, who had refrained from addressing Jesus in person, out of a humble sense of his own unworthiness, (and perhaps too from having observed how the more religious among the Jews made a scruple of conversing with the heathen, such as himself still was, to outward appearance;) when he heard that Christ was actually coming to his house, reflected with himself, upon more enlarged views of faith, that the intended visit was a needless condescension in our Lord, and therefore sent some of his friends to prevent it by the following message in his name, Luke 7:6, &c. 'Lord, do not give thyself farther trouble, for I am not a fit person that thou shouldst come under my roof; and that indeed was the reason why I judged myself unworthy to come to thee myself. Do thou but speak the word only, and my servant will be cured. For although I am under the authority of others, yet, as I have soldiers under me, I say to one, Go, and he goeth; to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.' As if he should have said, 'I am but a subaltern, and have only a delegated and subordinate power; yet what I bid be done, is immediately executed: thou then, who art Lord of nature, what canst not thou do by thy bare command?'—When Jesus heard this, he wondered, (Luke 7:9,) and turning about, he said to the people that followed him, 'I profess that I have not found so great a faith even among the Jews themselves.'" See Heylin, and on Matthew 8:10.
Luke 7:7. Say in a word,— Say the word.
Luke 7:11. Called Nain:— Nain was situated a mile or two south of Tabor, and near Endor. The apostles most probably were of the number of the disciples who went with our Lord; because it is not to be imagined, that he would suffer the chosen witnesses of his miracles to be absent, when so great a miracle was to be performed as the resurrection of a person from the dead, and to be performed so publicly, in the presence of all those who were attending the funeral. The circumstance here recorded probably happened towards the evening.
Luke 7:12. There was a dead man carried out,— It was customary for the Jews to bury out of the city, as appears from Matthew 27:60. This custom was likewise observed by other nations. The Jews might have introduced it to prevent their being polluted by touching the biers or dead bodies of their countrymen; but both they and the heathens might have had a further reason for this institution, namely, the preservation of their health; it being notorious that the effluvia which proceed from dead bodies are very pernicious, and often cause pestilential disorders. Hence it has been matter of wonder, why modern Christians should not only have their burial-grounds contiguous to their churches, but even bury in their churches; a custom most certainly prejudicial to health, and introduced, as is most likely, by superstition and pride. But see this subject completely handled in a judicious pamphlet, intitled, "Seasonable Considerations on the indecent and dangerous Custom of burying in ChurchesandChurchyards." Some particular circumstances of distress are mentioned in the case before us: the young man to be buried, was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and consequently had no prospect of more children: hence the sympathy which she received from her relations and acquaintance was singular. A crowd of people muchgreater than was usual on such occasions, in testimony of their concern for her, attended her; while she performed the last duty to her beloved son. This circumstance the evangelist takes notice of to shew, that though there had been no persons presentat the miracle but those who attended the funeral, it was illustrious on account of the number of the witnesses.
Luke 7:13-15. When the Lord saw her, &c.— Jesus, whose tenderness made him susceptible of the strongest impressions from occurrences of this kind, knowing that the mother's affection was bitter, and the occasion of it real, was greatly moved at the sorrowful scene. Nor was his sympathy vain: he resolved to turn their mourning into joy, by raising the young man from the dead. The opportunity was peculiarly proper, as the multitude of the people attending the corpse entirely prevented all suspicion that the person carried out was not dead; since to manage with success a fraud, in which so many must have been concerned, was absolutely impossible. The miracle therefore being liable to no objection, Jesus came nigh, laid hold on the bier, and uttered the commanding voice, Young man, I say unto thee, arise! Immediately, at his authoritative call, the youth revived, having received life from Jesus, who, instead of shewing him around to the multitude, by a singular exercise of modesty and humanity presented him to his mother; Luk 7:15 to intimate, that in compassion to her affliction he had wrought the life-giving miracle. At the same time, as it was performed near the city gate, which anciently was the place of public resort, the youth must have been raised from the dead in the presence of many witnesses, particularly the multitude which came with Jesus, the people who accompanied the corpse, and all who happened at that instant to be in the gate upon business: wherefore, being so publicly performed, this great miracle became a noble confirmation of our Lord's mission. "The ancients," says Grotius, "observe, that in three of the miracles performed by Jesus after his sermon on the mount, the three kinds of God's benefits are represented us: First, Those which are conferred upon our suing to God for them ourselves, as in the case of the leper. Secondly, Those which are obtained for us by the prayers of others, as in the case of the centurion's servant. And, thirdly, Those which God bestows without being asked, as in the present case. To which kind of mercy the apostles very justly refer the calling of the Gentiles."
Luke 7:16. Saying,—that God hath visited his people,— This is the expression which Zacharias the father ofthe Baptist used, when he spoke of the coming of the Messiah, ch. Luke 1:68. Wherefore the meaning of the inhabitants of Nain was this, God hath visited the people, by having raised up among them the great Prophet, promised to Moses in the law. The evangelist justly observes, that by acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, they glorified God.
Luke 7:21. He gave sight.— The original is emphatical, and seems to express in how general, how compassionate, and kind a manner our Lord performed these miracles: 'Εχαρισατο το βλεπειν, he graciously bestowed sight.
Luke 7:29. And all the people, &c.— See the note on Matthew 11:12-13.
Luke 7:30. Rejected the counsel of God against themselves,— Rejected the divine offers made to them,—or, despised within themselves the purpose of God.
Luke 7:35. But wisdom, &c.— See the note on Matthew 11:19.
Luke 7:37. Which was a sinner—box of ointment,— Who had been a sinner—box of perfume. It is generally supposed, that the woman who anointed our Lord in Simon's house, was she who in the Gospel is called Mary Magdalene, for no other reason than because St. Luke, in the beginning of the following chapter, mentions her as one of our Lord's attendants, and one out of whom he had cast seven devils. Some indeed attempt to prove it out of the Talmud, which mentions a lewd woman called Mary Megadella, or the plaiter, viz. of hair, an epithet probably given to all prostitutes in those times on account of their nicety in dress; but this has no relation to the name Magdalene. In truth Mary Magdalene seems rather to have been a woman of high station and opulent fortune,being mentioned by St. Luke, (ch. Luke 8:2.) even before Joanna, though the wife of so great a man as Herod's steward. Besides, the other evangelists, when they have occasion to speak of our Lord's female friends, commonly assign the first place to Mary Magdalene, who was probably so called from Magdala, the place of her birth, a town situated near the lake of Tiberias, and mentioned Matthew 15:39. The character given to this woman, that she had been a sinner, renders it probable that she had formerly been a harlot; for the word αμαρτωλος is frequently used in this sense: but her action on this occasion proves, that she was now awakened to a just sight and sense of her sins. The city, in which she is said to have lived, means Capernaum, the place of our Lord's ordinary residence, which is often described in that general way. Probably she was acquainted at the Pharisee's house, for she gained easy access even into the room where the company was sitting. It may be necessary just to remark, that this is a very different historyfrom that of Mary's anointing Christ's head alittle before his death. See Matthew 26:6; Mat 26:75 and the parallel places.
Luke 7:38. Began to wash his feet with tears,— To water his feet with a shower of tears. Doddridge; who observes that this is the proper signification of the word βρεχειν . See Matthew 5:45. We are not to imagine that this woman came on purpose thus to wash and wipe the feet of Christ; but probably, hearing that the Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner had neglected the civility usually paid in the eastern countries to such guests as they designed particularly to honour,—that of anointing the head with fragrant oils, or rich perfumes,—she was willing to supply the defect; and as she stood near Jesus, was so melted with his discourse, that she shed such a flood of tears, as wetted his feet which lay bare on the couch, his sandals being put off; and observing this, she wiped them with the tresses of her hair, which she now wore flowing loose about her shoulders, as mourners commonly did; and then, not thinking herself worthy to anoint his head, poured forth the liquid perfume upon his feet. Neither the Jews nor Romans wore stockings; and as for their shoes, or sandals, they always put them off when they lay down on their couches to take meat. These customs are alluded to in the law of the passover, which orders the Jews to depart from their ordinary way, and to eat the passover standing, with their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, and their staff in their hand. See on Exodus 12:11. The word θριξι properly signifies tresses, as we have rendered it. It is well known that long hair was esteemed a great ornament in the female dress; and therefore women of loose character used to nourish and plait it, and to set it off with garlands and jewels. See 1 Corinthians 11:15.
Luke 7:39-40. Now when the Pharisee—saw it, &c.— Simon, perceiving what was done, immediately concluded that Jesus could not be a prophet; since in that case, instead of allowing her even to touch him, he would certainly have expelled her from his presence forthwith, as the tradition of the elders directed; for it was a maxim among the Pharisees, that the very touch of the wicked caused pollution. But though Simon did not declare his sentiments, they were not hidden from Christ; who, to shew him that he was a prophet, and that he knew not only the characters of men, but the inward and invisible state of their minds, conversed with him immediately upon the subject of his thoughts. The scope indeed of what he said was, to convince Simon how absurdly he reasoned. Nevertheless Jesus did not expose him before the company, by making what he said within himself public; but with great delicacy pointed out the unreasonableness of his thoughts to Simon alone, without letting the guests at table know any thing of the matter. Instead of Master, some render the word Διδασκαλε (and, as it seems, more properly) O teacher; for Διδασκαλε certainly expresses more than the English word Master, especially in the sense wherein we now use it.
Luke 7:41. Five hundred pence,— Δηναρια, a Roman coin, in value about seven pence halfpenny of our money; so that five hundred were nearly equivalent to fifteen of our guineas, and fifty to one guinea and a half. There is no reason to believe that any mystery was intended by Christ in fixing on these sums rather than any others, which had as great a difference between them.
Luke 7:42. Which of them will love him most?— Neither of them will love him at all before he has forgiven them. An insolventdebtor, till he is forgiven, does not love but fly his creditor. See the note on Luke 7:47.
Luke 7:44. Seest thou this woman?—— The kindness which this woman shewed to Jesus, was very extraordinary; therefore, as he had all the softer and finer passions of human nature in their utmost purity and perfection, he was greatly moved with the consciousness that she had of her guilt, the sincerity of her repentance, and the profoundness of her humility; and with gracious condescension expressed the sense he had of it: for, in the hearing of all the guests he recounted particularly, and with approbation, the several actions by which she had testified her respect; and because by accident she had wetted his feet with her tears, he gave it an agreeable turn, well knowingfrom what spring her tears had flowed. That the company might know it was not offensive to him, he called it a washing of his feet; a mark of respect, which was usually paid to guests on their coming into a house, especially after travelling; but which Simon had neglected. The words of the subsequent clause of this verse, Thou gavest me no water for my feet, may sound somewhat harsh to us; but will be found agreeable to the nicest propriety, if the manners of the eastern countries are considered. There, persons of the highest rank did not think itbeneath them to honour their guests by performing offices of this kind for them. Thus in Gen 18:7-8 we read, that on the arrival of the three angels, Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf, and took butter and milk, and the calf which his servant had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree to serve them, and they did eat. Something of this sort we find, Iliad, 9. ver. 205. And Dr. Shaw, (Trav. p. 301.) tells us, that these customs subsist among the eastern nations to this day, particularly among the Arabs, who are remarkable for retaining their ancient manners; and that the person who first presents himself to welcome a stranger, and wash his feet, is the master of the family: for as they still walk barefooted, or with sandals only, this piece of civility in some way or other is absolutely necessary
Luke 7:45. Thou gavest me no kiss, &c.— Since it was customary for the master of the house to receive his guests with such a salutation, to provide them with water to wash their feet, &c. it is possible that Simon might have omitted some of these civilities, lest his brethren who sat at table with him should think he paid Jesus too much respect; and if there was any such slight intended, it might be an additional reason for our Lord's taking such particular notice of the neglect. The author of the Observations remarks, that our Lord reproaches the Pharisee that he had given him no kiss; whereas the person whom the Pharisee had been censuring in his heart, had not ceased kissing his feet from her entrance into the house. It is visible by the contrast which our Lord here supposes, between the woman's kisses and the attention he had reason to expect from the Pharisee, that he did not look for his kissing his feet, but for some other salutation. But what?—Not the kisses of equality most certainly, but rather that kissing his hand, which marks our reverence,—the reverence customarilypaid in the east to those of a sacred character, and which, contrary to the rules of decorum, he had omitted. Thus Norden tells us, that a Coptic priest, whom they took in their bark from the neighbourhood of Cairo a considerable way up the Nile, carried it pretty high, insomuch that he dared to tell them more than once, that he could not take them for Christians, since not one of their company had offered to kiss his hands; whereas the Coptics ran every day in crowds round him, to shew their respect by such marks of submission. And at Saphet in Galilee, where the Jews have a sort of university, Dr. Pocock saw the inferior rabbies complimenting the chief, who was elegantly habited in white satin on the day of Pentecost, by coming with great reverence, and kissing his hand. See Observations, p. 262.
Luke 7:46. Mine head with oil, &c.— The reader will observe the beautiful and elegant contrast in this verse, between common oil and precious ointment, as well as between anointing the head and anointing the feet; and indeed the same kind of contrast is observed in the two preceding verses. How common this circumstance of anointing, &c. was, will appear on referring to Deuteronomy 28:40. Micah 6:15.Psalms 23:5; Psalms 23:5; Psalms 104:15; Psalms 141:5.
Luke 7:47. For she loved much:— Wherefore she loved much. That nobody might put a wrong construction upon this woman's behaviour, our Lord declared, that her regard to him proceeded purely from a sense of the favour he had done her, in bringing her to repentance, and in raising her to the hope of pardon. For doubtless he had previously made her sensible of her sins by his sermon, and had raised her to the grace of true repentance; and therefore she expected her pardon from the general doctrine of the gospel; and particularly from the promise of rest which Jesus had lately made to all weary and heavy-laden sinners: but the favour of pardon bearing a proportion to the multitude and greatness of the sins pardoned, this woman, who was a notorious sinner, could not but love Jesus ardently, who had converted her, and blotted out all her transgressions. "I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, namely, by me;" for the reason will not hold without this. So that Jesus, on this occasion, in the hearing of Simon and all the guests, plainly assumed to himself the prerogative of God,—the right of forgiving men their sins. Accordingly the guests understood him in this sense, as appears from the reflection which they made upon his speech, Luke 7:49. The clause, for she loved much, is better translated as above, Wherefore, &c. Our Lord did not make the application of this parable more directly; but left Simon to do it.
Luke 7:49. Who is this, &c.?— "Who is this arrogant and presumptuous man, that not only transgresses our rules, by permitting a harlot to touch him, but even presumes to say that he forgiveth sins, which is the peculiar prerogative of God himself?" See Mat 9:3 and ch. Luke 5:21.
Luke 7:50. Thy faith hath saved thee, &c.— Our Lord, contemning the malicious murmuring of the Pharisees, repeated his assurance, by telling the woman that her faith had saved her, and bidding her depart in peace; that is, impressed with a strong sense of the love of God, and filled with the divine pleasure which arises from that attainment. Go in peace, was an usual form of dismissing inferiors, and was an expression of the friendship and good wishes of the person speaking. There is an evident propriety in the phrase here, considering what had happened to discompose the spirit of this humble penitent. See ch. Luke 8:48; Luke 2:29. Mark 5:34. Jam 2:16 and Genesis 44:17.
Inferences drawn from the history of the good Centurion, &c. Luk 7:1-16 of this chapter, and Mat 8:5-13 and the raising from the dead the widow's son. No nation, no trade or profession, can shut out a simple honest heart from God. If this centurion was a foreigner by birth, yet was he a domestic in heart: he loved that nation which was chosen of God; and if he were not of the synagogue, yet did he build a synagogue: (Luke 7:5.) where he might not be a party, he would still be a benefactor. We could not love religion, were we utterly destitute of it.
We do not see this centurion come to Christ, as the Israelitish captain came to Elijah on Carmel,—but with much suit, much submission,—by others,—by himself. Could we but speak for ourselves, as this captain did for his servant, what could we possibly want? What wonder is it, if God be not forward to give, where we care not to ask, or ask as if we cared not to receive?
Great variety of suitors resorted to Christ; one for a son, another for a daughter, a third for himself; I see none come for his servant but this one centurion: nor was he a better man than a master. His servant is sick; he does not drive him out of doors, but lodges him at home; and then seeks to Christ for aid with most humble importunity. Had the master been sick, the faithfullest servant could have done no more: he is unworthy to be well served, who will not sometimes wait upon his followers. It behoves us so to look down upon our servants here on earth, as that we may still look up to our Master who is in heaven.
There was a paralytic, whom faith and charity brought to our Saviour, and let down through the uncovered roof, in his bed. Why was not this centurion's servant so carried, so presented?—One and the same grace can yield contrary effects. They, because they believed, brought the patient to Christ; he, because he believed, brought not his servant to him. Their act argued no less desire, his argued more confidence; his labour was less, because his faith was more; and hence we find that it met an ample reward; Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him, Matthew 8:7.
As he said, so he did; the word of Christ is his act, or concurs with it: he went as he spake. O admirable return of humility! Christ will go down to visit the sick servant: the master of that servant says, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof, Luke 7:6. The Jewish elders, who went before to mediate for him, could say, He was worthy for whom Christ should do this miracle, Luke 7:4. He for himself says, he is not even worthy of Christ's presence. And yet, while he confesses himself thus unworthy of any favour, he approves himself worthy of all. Had not Christ been before in his heart, he could not have felt himself so unworthy to entertain that divine Guest within his house: God ever delighteth to dwell under the lowly roof of a humble breast.
It is fit that the foundation should be laid deep, where the building is high: the centurion's humility was not more low, than his faith was lofty; that reaches up unto heaven, and in the face of human weakness descries Omnipotence. Only say the word, and my servant shall be whole, Luke 7:7.
But what foundation had this steady confidence of the good centurion?—He saw how powerful his own word was with those under his command, Luke 7:8. (though himself was under the command of another) the force whereof extended to absent performances. Well therefore might he argue, that a free and unbounded power could give infallible commands, and that the most obstinate disease must yield to the beck of the God of nature. Weakness may shew us what is in strength; as by one drop of water we may see what is in the main ocean.
I wonder not that this centurion was kind to his servants,—for his servants were dutiful to him. He need but say, Do this, and it is done: these mutual respects draw on each other. They that neglect to please, cannot justly complain of being neglected. They should rather say, "Oh, could I but be such a servant to my heavenly Master, as the centurion's servants to him.—Alas! every one of his commands says, Do this,—and I do it not: every one of his prohibitions says, Do it not,—and I do it." He says, "Go from the world,—I run to it:" he says, "Come to me,—I run from him. Woe is me! this is not service, but enmity: how can I look for favour, whilst I return rebellion?" It is a gracious Master whom we serve: there can be no duty of ours which he sees not, acknowledges not, crowns not. We could not but be happy, if we could but be officious.
What can be more marvellous than to see Christ marvel? Luke 7:9. All marvelling supposes an ignorance going before, and a knowledge following, some unexpected accident. Now who wrought this faith in the humble penitent centurion, but He that wondered at it—He who is equally willing to give the same faith, yea, more abundantly, to all who sincerely seek it. Yet he wondered, to teach us much more to admire that, which He at once knows and holds admirable. Our wealth, beauty, wit, learning, honour, may make us accepted of men; it is our faith, with its gracious consequences, which alone will make God in love with us. There are great men, whom we justly pity; we can esteem, love, and admire none but the gracious.
It is not more the shame of Israel, than the glory of this centurion, that our Lord says, I have not found so great faith, &c. Luke 7:9. Where we have laid our tillage, manure, and seed, who would not look up for a crop? But if the comparatively uncultured fallow yield more than the arable, how justly is the unfruitful ground near to a curse! Our Saviour did not muster this aweful testimony to himself, but he turned him about to the people, and spake it in their ears, at once to excite their shame and emulation. It is well if any thing can enkindle in us holy ambition. Dull and base are the spirits of that man, who can endure to see another overtake him in the way, and outrun him to heaven.
If the prayers of an earthly master prevailed so much with the Son of God for the recovery of a servant, how shall not the intercession of the Son of God prevail with his Father in heaven for us his impotent children upon earth, who cast all our care upon him? What can we want, O Saviour, while thou suest for us, and we put our trust in thee? He who gave thee for us, can deny thee nothing for us, can deny us nothing for thee, if we make thee our confidence.
But turn we away hence, and follow the beneficent Saviour to Nain. No sooner has he raised the centurion's servant from the palsy and his bed, than he raises the widow's son from death and the bier. His providence has so contrived his journey, that he meets with the sad pomp of a funeral; a sorrowful widow, attended by her weeping neighbours, is following her only son to the grave,—a young man, the only son—the only child of his mother, and she was a widow. Surely there was not a circumstance in this spectacle that did not command compassion. Nay, when God himself would describe the most passionate expression of sorrow that can attend the miserable, he can but say, O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, cover thyself with ashes; make lamentation and bitter mourning, as for thine only son.
Such was the loss, such the sorrow of this disconsolate mother: nor words nor tears can suffice to discover it: a good husband may make amends for the loss of a son; had the root been left entire, she might better have spared the young branch: but, alas! now both are cut up, all the stay of her life is laid low with a stroke; she seems abandoned to the very perfection of misery.
And yet, now, when she gave herself up for a forlorn mourner, past all capacity of redress,—even now, the God of comforts meets her, pities her, relieves her! Here was no solicitor but his own compassion; in other cases he was sought and sued to. O thou merciful God, none of our secret sorrows can be either hid from thine eyes, or from thine heart; and when we are past almost all our hopes, all human possibilities of help, then art thou nearest to thy people for deliverance.
Here was a conspiration of all parts to the exercise of mercy. The heart had compassion; (Luke 7:13.) the mouth said, weep not; the feet went to the bier; the hand touched the coffin; the power of the Deity raised the dead: what the heart felt, was secret to itself; the tongue, therefore, expresses it in words of comfort, Weep not.
Alas! what are words to passions so strong and so just as her's? To bid her not to weep, who had lost her only son, was apparently to persuade her to be miserable, and not feel it. Concealment does not remedy, but aggravate sorrow; therefore, that with the counsel not to weep, she might see cause of compliance, his hand seconds his tongue. His hand arrests the coffin, and sets free the prisoner of death: Young man, I say unto thee, Arise: and instantly he that was dead sat up. The Lord of life and death speaks with command: it is no more hard for his almighty word, which gave all things their being, to say, Let them be repaired, than let them be made.
Behold now this young man, thus miraculously awakened from his deadly sleep, descending joyfully from the bier, wrapping his winding sheet about his loins, casting himself down in passionate thankfulness at the feet of his Almighty Restorer, and adoring that divine power which had remanded his soul to her forsaken lodging! Doubtless the first utterance of that returning soul was couched in words of the highest praise and wonder. It was the mother whom our Lord pitied in this act, and not the son: as for her sake therefore he was raised, so to her hands was he delivered, (Luke 7:15.) that she might acknowledge that soul given to her, not to the possessor.
Who is there that cannot feel the amazement and extasy of joy which throbs in this revived mother's heart, when her son now salutes her from another world? How soon is the funeral banquet turned into a new birth-day feast! What strivings were here to salute the late carcase of their restored neighbour! What aweful and admiring looks were now cast on the Lord of life! How gladly did every tongue celebrate both the work and the author! The great Prophet is raised up, &c. Luke 7:16. (See the Annotations.) They were not yet acquainted with God manifest in the flesh, though this miracle might well indeed have assured them of more than a prophet. However, they shall see reason enough to know that the prophet who was raised up to them, was himself the God that now visited them; and who at length shall do for his faithful saints, far more than he had yet done for this young man!-raise them from death to life, and translate them for ever from dust to glory!
REFLECTIONS.—1st, When Jesus had finished his discourse in the audience of the people, an occasion offers to confirm by a miracle the truths that he had been declaring. We have had the same history in Matthew 8:5; Matthew 8:34. Different circumstances are here inserted, such as the centurion's sending the elders of the Jews, and afterwards his friends, before he came himself, as it seems probable he did at last; but his application by them was in fact the same as if he had come in person at first.
1. Hearing the fame of Jesus, and having faith in him, he greatly desired his help in behalf of a sick servant, whose fidelity and diligence had endeared him to his master; and supposing that he, who was a Gentile, and a Roman officer, might not so easily obtain the favour, he engaged the elders of the Jews to be advocates for him, who readily undertook to serve him, as being under great obligations to him. They earnestly therefore besought Jesus for him, as one worthy his regard, having ever testified a great respect for the Jewish nation and religion, and at his own expence built them a synagogue for divine worship. Note; (1.) A servant truly faithful and industrious deserves that esteem which he thus studies to engage. (2.) It is good to have an interest in their prayers whom the Lord Jesus respects.
2. As Christ was in the way to the centurion's house, he no sooner heard of his condescension, than in great humility he sent other friends in his name, as unwilling to give the Lord this trouble, and counting his house unworthy of such a guest, and himself undeserving of his honoured presence; which was indeed the reason why he did not in person at first make the application. He professes his faith to be such in Christ's power, that all diseases would obey his orders, more readily than even the soldiers the word of their commanding officer; and that Christ need not be present to perform the cure; if he spoke, he believed it would be instantly done.
3. Christ expresses his admiration and approbation of such uncommon faith: even among all the Jewish people had never yet appeared so remarkable an instance of humble assured faith, as in this Gentile; therefore he puts honour upon him, and with pleasure grants his request. The disease immediately departed; and the persons who had been sent from the centurion's house, on their return found the servant perfectly restored to health. Note; True humility, and firm trust in his power and love, above all things commend us to the Saviour's regard.
2nd, Another notable miracle wrought the day after the former, is here recorded.
1. The place where it was done was in the gate of the city, in the presence of all the multitude who followed Jesus, and of the company who attended the funeral; so that there was no want of evidences to attest the certainty of the fact.
2. The subject of the miracle was the dead corpse of a young man which they were then carrying to his grave, the only son of an afflicted widow, and all the circumstances of the case rendered it peculiarly affecting. (1.) He was a son, an only son, probably the staff of her old age; a warning to every one who looked upon his bier, not to promise themselves continuance here; for childhood and youth are vanity. (2.) His mother was a widow; one terrible stroke of death had separated her from the partner of her bosom. This son alone remained to cheer her solitude, the staff of her age, and now he too is taken away; so numerous, so repeated, are our troubles in this vale of misery and tears: like Job's messengers of evil, scarcely is the sound of one out of our ears, before another more grievous follows. May every pang that we feel, but disengage us from the world, and teach us to seek more earnestly our rest above; then shall our severest losses prove our truest gain.
3. Compassion moved the Saviour's bosom. He ever tenderly felt for human woe, and unasked he brings relief. It was kind in those who attended this poor disconsolate widow, to condole with her, and endeavour to alleviate her sorrows. They could but weep with her; Jesus alone was able to say unto her, Weep not; and, by removing the cause, to wipe away the tears from her eyes. Jesus approaching the bier whereon the corpse lay, the bearers halted; and with a word of power, in all the majesty of essential Deity, he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise: instantly his spirit returned; he that was dead sat up on the bier where he was stretched out, all his senses were perfectly restored, and he began to speak; when with delight Jesus delivered him back to his transported mother. Note; (1.) The bowels of Jesus yearn over the miserable; and in all the afflictions of his believing people he is afflicted. Let the mourners remember that Jesus compassionates their sorrows; and if he does not appear to restore those dear pledges which are gone from our arms, he will bring us together, if faithful, at a resurrection-day. (2.) Though Jesus might justly have claimed a right in him whom he had thus restored to life, he delivered him to his mother, intimating to us the great obligation lying on children to be dutiful to their parents, and a comfort and support to them in their old age.
4. Amazement and fear seized on the beholders. Astonished at this evidence of divine power, they glorified God for such an eminent instance of his goodness, and more especially that at last he had sent the Great Prophet, the expected Messiah, and in mercy visited his people: for these works of wonder proclaimed aloud that this was he who should come. Swiftly the fame of Jesus spread through Judea, and the country round; this amazing miracle bespoke his character; and among the rest John's disciples carried the report to their master, now bound in prison for his zeal and fidelity. Note; When dead souls are raised up to newness of life, we must give the glory to God: and these miracles, blessed be his name, have not yet ceased.
3rdly, The passage of history given us, Luke 7:19. &c. was before recorded. It contains,
1. The message sent by John from his prison, not so much for his own satisfaction, as for the sake of his disciples, whose faith needed every confirmation, when combated by all the national prejudices so early imbibed. They found nothing of that grandeur and earthly greatness about Jesus, which they expected in the Messiah.
2. The answer of Jesus. His works, as well as words, sufficiently bespoke his real character. In the presence of the messengers from John, he performed a multitude of miraculous cures, and dispossessed many evil spirits; then bid them report to their master what they had heard and seen, that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, evidences incontestable of his mission as the Messiah, and figures of the more beneficial works which he came to perform on the souls of men; opening the eyes of the understanding, strengthening the impotent, curing the most inveterate habits of sin, and the desperate wickedness of the heart, and quickening the dead in trespasses and sins; for which end, to the poor the gospel is preached, wherein were fulfilled the prophesies which had gone before concerning him, Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 35:5-6. Psa 72:13 and lest, notwithstanding, they should be in danger of stumbling at the meanness of his appearance, and the enmity wherewith he was treated by the most respected characters of the Jewish people, the chief-priests, scribes, and Pharisees, he cautions them against being offended at these things; since he alone was happy and blessed, who through all this cloud of prejudice received him as the Christ, and believed in his word.
3. When the disciples of John were departed, Jesus began to give him just and high commendations. He was a man of unshaken fortitude and unwavering fidelity, uniformly bearing testimony to Christ, and not plying like a reed under the contradiction of sinners, but boldly testifying against their iniquities: dead to the delights of sense, and the glory of the world, he affected not soft raiment as a courtier, but as a mortified prophet lived what he preached—greater in one sense than any of the former prophets, as the immediate forerunner of the Messiah, and as seeing him appear of whom they spake. His success also was great; multitudes who heard him, and many of the vilest sinners, even publicans, affected by his discourses, glorified God, acknowledging their own sins, and the just punishment due to them; and in humble penitence sought for pardon, submitting to John's baptism, and professing thereby for the future to devote themselves to God's service. But the proud and self-righteous Pharisees, puffed up with the vain conceit of their own excellence, fancied that they were just persons who needed no repentance; therefore in general they rejected his preaching, and refused to submit to his baptism, thereby sealing themselves up under wrath: and the case is much the same to this day. Those who are converted by the ministry of the word, are chiefly of the common people, and many whom the self-righteous despise as vile and abandoned: while the rulers pay little regard to the gospel-word, the wise men of this world disregard it as foolishness; and the persons of most admired apparent goodness cannot bear to be set on a level with the chief of sinners, cannot stoop to receive the grace of Jesus freely, and thus perish in their pride.
4. Christ upbraids the perverseness of the men of that generation. No similitude could sufficiently describe their wilfulness and obstinacy; like froward and surly children, who would not join their companions when in their play they imitated either a feast or a funeral. Thus the austerities of John, his life of self-denial, and doctrine of repentance, disgusted them, and they reproached him as melancholy, or a demoniac. The Son of man, on the other hand, more familiarly associated with others, refused not an invitation to a wedding, or a feast; and they reviled him as a glutton, a drunkard, and a loose companion. But wisdom is justified of all her children; those who are truly made wise unto salvation, justify God in those methods which he uses for their conversion, and approve and honour the Lord Jesus, who is the wisdom of God, in all his works and ways. Note; (1.) They who resolve to cavil, will never want a handle. (2.) Different men and ministers have different tempers and manners; some are naturally more austere and reserved, others more free and open; some more powerfully urge the thunders of Sinai upon the sinner's conscience, others dwell upon the softer accents of gospel-grace. And this diversity of dispensations in which men are led, is beautiful, though malice will find a like matter of objection against both. (3.) We must take care not to judge of others by ourselves; not branding on the one hand the reserved, as morose; nor, on the other, charging innocent freedom as licentiousness; but ever put the most candid constructions on men's tempers and manners,
4thly, Our Lord behaved himself courteously to all; and though the Pharisees had shewn themselves his bitter enemies, he refused not the invitation of one of them, and readily went to eat at his house. And we are told,
1. A singular circumstance which happened on that occasion. A woman, whose character had been notoriously infamous, but by the preaching and grace of the Redeemer was become a real penitent, came in, urged by her deep affection for her Lord; and standing behind him as he lay along, (which was their custom at meals,) with penitential tears she bedewed his feet, wiped them with her once-braided, but now dishevelled hair, and kissing them in humble adoration, anointed them, as a token of her high respect, with precious ointment from an alabaster box. Note; (1.) They who truly draw near to Jesus, cannot but feel their hearts bleed at the remembrance of past ingratitude. (2.) A soul that loves the Lord Jesus, counts nothing too good to employ in his service. (3.) When the eyes, full of adultery, become fountains of tears; and all the ornaments of pride, the lure of lust, are laid aside; these are blessed symptoms of a happy change.
2. The Pharisee was highly offended at Christ for suffering such a woman to approach him; and thought within himself, if Jesus were the prophet that he pretended to be, he must have known, and spurned from his feet a creature so infamous. Thus while persons of a proud and self-righteous spirit are looking with contempt on a poor harlot, and saying, Stand by thyself, come not near me, I am holier than thou, they are not aware that this high conceit of themselves, and contempt of others, is in God's sight an abomination far greater, even than those outward evils which they condemn in others.
3. Christ justifies the woman from Simon's censures. The Pharisee questioned Christ's prophetical character; therefore the Lord, by answering his thoughts, will give him an evidence of it, and draw the poor woman's vindication from his own lips: and this he does by an apposite parable; having informed Simon that he had something of importance to say him, to which he professes himself all attention.
(1.) The parable respected two debtors, the one of whom owed ten times more than the other; but being both insolvent, the creditor freely forgave them. Christ here-upon appeals to Simon for an answer, Which of the two will love their gracious benefactor most? The reply was evident, He to whom most was forgiven. The debt is sin, and sinners are deep in arrear to God; they have never paid him the obedience which they owe, and are become liable to the arrests of judgment. All are guilty; but some are more notorious offenders, and have sinned with greater aggravations than others; yet the least transgressor is an insolvent debtor; he can never make God a compensation for the least of his iniquities, and must perish eternally with the vilest, unless he is convinced of his sinfulness, and flies to the free grace of God in Jesus Christ. In him there is plenteous redemption; the chief of sinners, who come to him, are sure of finding pardon through the ransom that he has paid; and none who come to him, shall be in any wise cast out. A sense of this abounding grace will not fail to engage the believer's heart; and in proportion to the sense that he has of his own guilt, should his gratitude be for the rich mercy vouchsafed to him. The chief of sinners are bound to become the chief of saints—to love much, because the Lord has forgiven them much.
(2.) Christ applies the parable to the case before him. This woman was the debtor who owed the five hundred pence, and she had been forgiven; no wonder, therefore, that her expressions of gratitude were singular; for which, so far from being condemned, she rather deserved to be commended. All that she had done, flowed from this source; and herein she had exceeded Simon in her returns of love, as much as she had done in the offensiveness and notoriety of her transgressions. (1.) Instead of the water which he had neglected to bring, she had, with penitential tears, bedewed his feet, and wiped them with her hair. (2.) The kiss of peace and salutation Simon had not given to his sacred guest; but this poor sinner had not ceased to express her humble gratitude and love, by repeatedly kissing even his feet. (3.) The common civility of oil to anoint his head the Pharisee had withheld; but she had poured this costly ointment on his feet, the expression of her faith in him as the Messiah, and of that unfeigned regard which made her account the greatest cost well employed in his service: therefore he seals afresh the pardon which he had bestowed upon her, on account of which she loved him so greatly; while such as Simon, who were less acquainted with their own guilt and sinfulness, and did not see their great need of a pardon, would feel themselves less obliged to the Saviour's grace, and testify, as Simon had done, less regard for him.
(3.) He particularly addresses himself to the poor woman, to silence her fears, and encourage her under the Pharisee's frowns. He repeats his assurances, Thy sins are forgiven thee; and though he knew the murmurs which this raised, and the offence that it gave among the Pharisaical tribe, who were at the table, as if his arrogating such a power was impious, nay, blasphemous, he, so far from receding, confirms her pardon, which, through faith in him, she now assuredly possessed; and therefore he bids her go in peace; every fear of guilt removed, her conscience at ease, regardless of the reproaches of the proud, and waiting confidently for the rest that remaineth for the people of God. Note; (1.) As nothing renders us so fearful as the consciousness of guilt, we need promise upon promise to encourage our trust and hope. (2.) Faith alone can pacify the conscience, and produce that evangelical sorrow and genuine love, which worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 7". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension