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MESSIAH'S WORK AS COMPLEMENTARY TO HIS TEACHING. We return in this section to matter which resembles that of Mark and Luke, and undoubtedly belongs to the Framework (vide Introduction).
St. Matthew has given a lengthy summary of the teaching of the Christ, and he now supplements it by a summary of his daily work. He is not concerned with the chronological connexion of the incidents here narrated, for this is evidently to him a matter of but secondary importance. He only desires to bring out different aspects of the Lord's life. Thus he notices—
1. Christ's miracles of healing, and the secret of his ability to perform them (verses 1-17).
2. The personal trials that Christ incurred in his work (verse 18- Matthew 9:8).
3. The liberty of the gospel as shown by Christ's treatment of the outcast, and his answer to those who insisted on fasting (Matthew 9:9-40.9.17).
4. The completeness of his healing power (Matthew 9:18-40.9.34).
1. Christ's miracles of healing, and the secret of his ability to perform them. Observe:
(1) The variety in the patients.
(a) One of the chosen people, who had lost all social and religious privileges;
(b) a Gentile, an outsider by birth;
(c) the near relation of a personal follower;
(2) The variety in the requests for his aid.
(a) The request by the sufferer;
(b) the request by another;
(c) apparently no request, yet the personal follower has Christ with him;
(d) the sufferers are brought to him.
Healing the leper. Parallel passages: Mark 1:40-41.1.45; Luke 5:12-42.5.16. Observe in this miracle
(1) the Lord's sympathy, running counter to popular prejudice (vide Edersheim, ' Life,' 1.495);
(2) his full acceptance of the Law (Matthew 5:17); cf. Luke 5:4, note.
Matthew only. When he was come down from the mountain (Matthew 5:1, note), great multitudes followed him, A transitional verse. It carries on the thought of the ὄχλοι in the last verse of the preceding chapter, and serves to introduce the following examples of sick folk; or, perhaps, it may be connected with the "great multitudes" (ὄχλοι πολλοί) of Matthew 4:25, coming, as the plural suggests (cf. also Matthew 12:23) from the various places there enumerated. If we must combine this verse with Luke 5:12, we must suppose our Lord to have descended the mountain, and to be passing through "one of the cities," coming (our Luke 5:5) afterwards to Capernaum, the "great multitudes" (cf. Luke 5:15)being drawn from the various cities through which he passed. The verse reminds us that the two sides of the Lord's life, preaching and work, were intimately connected. Men not only wondered at what they heard (Matthew 7:28, Matthew 7:29), they also followed him, and this led to occasions for the exercise of his practical activity. The result was that they wondered at his work (Matthew 9:33), as they wondered at his preaching.
And, behold. In this case the unexpected (Matthew 1:20, note) was the near approach (προσελθών), the "worship," and the prayer of an outcast. There came a leper. Loathsome physically and typically. The other passages which speak of the healing of lepers by our Lord or the apostles are
(1) Matthew 10:8;
(2) Matthew 11:5; parallel passage, Luke 7:22;
(3) Luke 17:12;
(4) perhaps Matthew 26:6; parallel passage, Mark 14:3.
And worshipped him (Matthew 4:9, note). From the parallel passages we may see that the word here refers more to the posture of his body than to the nature of his thoughts. Saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. Leprosy stood in so peculiar and solemn a relation to the Israelites that it would hardly be included under the terms, "all manner of disease, and all manner of sickness," in Matthew 4:23, Matthew 4:24; we have therefore no evidence that up to this time any leper had been healed by our Lord. The man's utterance marks, therefore, a distinct advance in faith. None like him, the object of the Divine "stroke," had been healed; but from lesser examples of Jesus' power he argues to the greater. Sure of Jesus' power, he appeals to his heart. Make me clean (καθαρίσαι). Not merely "heal me;" for a leper could not but think of healing and its consequences—restoration to social and religious privileges (vide infra).
And Jesus put forth (and he stretched forth, Revised Version) his hand, and touched him. The careful record of the twofold action may be either a trace of the increasing astonishment of the bystanders or a means of indicating that this was no accidental touch, but the result of deliberate will (cf. Matthew 14:31). According to the Law (Le Matthew 13:46 with 11:40), our Lord by this action would become unclean until the evening. But of this there is no hint. That indeed he could not by it contract any real impurity, or even any ceremonial impurity in the eyes of God, is self-evident. But how could he himself justify his exemption from the Law? and how could the people justify it? Probably both he and they felt that as "the priests, in their contact with the leper to be adjudged, were exempted from the law of defilement," much more was the One who "cleansed" him. "He says, I will,' to meet the heresy of Photinus. He commands, because of Afius. He touches, because of Manichseus" (Ambrose, in Ford). Saying, I will (θέλω). Synchronous with the action. Be thou clean; be thou made clean (Revised Version); καθαρίσθητι. The external power which the man had himself acknowledged was now applied to him, and he was made clean by it, physically and therefore ceremonially. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed..
And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; i.e. of those who were not present (Bengel). The command may have been given
(1) to save the man from temptation to self-importance; or
(2) to prevent any rumour of the miracle coming to the ears of the recognized authorities, and thus prejudicing them in their verdict upon his case; or, and more probably,
(3) for the Lord's sake, for this seems to be the reason for the command in all the other occasions when it is given. The Lord did not desire to be thronged with multitudes who came only to see his miracles; he would work in quiet (cf. the quotation from Isaiah in Matthew 12:18-40.12.21). But go thy way, show thyself to the priest. The latter clause belongs verbally to Le Matthew 13:49, but the thought is that of Le Matthew 14:2, sqq. Without the official verdict, the man could not be restored to communal privileges (so also Luke 17:14). And offer the gift that Moses commanded. Including
(1) "two living clean birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop" (Le Matthew 14:4);
(2) "two he-lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth parts of an epbah of fine flour for a meal offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil" (Le Matthew 14:10), unless he he poor, in which case lesser sacrifices may be substituted. For a testimony unto them (εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς). Although a fair sense might be extracted by connecting this clause with. the words, "Moses commanded," it would, especially in the parallel passages, be a very awkward addition to them. Rather it must represent the man's "offering" in its ultimate purpose, and this not necessarily in the man's own mind. So more clearly the "Western" reading in the parallel passage in Luke, ἵνα εἰς μαρτύριον ἦ ὑμῖν τοῦτο. Whether "them" refers to the priests or to the nation generally is not of grave importance, for the priests themselves, in act and feeling, represented the nation (cf. Matthew 7:29, note). Of more interest is the question—What is that which is here testified of?
(1) Prima facie the man's own state. The performance of the rites would be legal evidence that he was clean.
(2) Yet this interpretation is hardly borne out by the usage of the phrase. Εἰς μαρτύριον in the LXX. (never closely with the dative as here) seems to always refer to that which is both permanent and important (cf. Genesis 21:30; Genesis 31:44; Deuteronomy 31:26; Joshua 24:27; Hosea 2:12). And in the New Testament with the dative it elsewhere refers either to work for the Lord or to a solemn judgment (James 5:3). So probably here. The man's offering is to be a permanent testimony to the nation of our Lord's relation to the Law. His miracles confirmed his profession (Matthew 5:17).
(3) Some, however, accepting the above view in the main, translate, "for a testimony against them"; but it is unlikely that so harsh a thought towards the nation would be expressed by our Lord at this early stage of his ministry. In Mark 6:11 there is a definite reason for its use.
The healing of the centurion's servant. (Matthew 8:5-40.8.10; parallel passage Luke 7:1-42.7.3, Luke 7:6-42.7.10. Luke 7:11, Luke 7:12, equivalent to Luke 13:28, Luke 13:29.) According to St. Luke, the centurion sent first elders of the Jews to plead for him, and afterwards friends, and expressly said by them that he did not think himself worthy to come to Jesus. Their return in verse 10 seems to forbid the supposition that he eventually came. This detailed narrative seems more likely than St. Matthew's, which is not only compressed, but, if taken by itself, gives a wrong idea of what appears to have actually taken place. But quod tacit per alium facit per se, and as Trench points out, this is "an exchange of persons, of which all historical narrative and all the language of our common life is full. A comparison of Mark 10:35 with Matthew 20:20 will furnish another example of the same." The fact is that St. Matthew (or, perhaps, the original framer of the source that he used, or those through whose hands it passed) seizes on the Gentilic origin of the centurion, without troubling himself to record his previous kind and generous attitude towards the Jews, and the interest that they now show on his behalf. This led to the omission of the second group of messengers also, and, of course, to the modification of the language where necessary, e.g. verse 13. For the same reason, St. Matthew records verses 11, 12 in this place.
For the contrast between this and the superficially similar miracle recorded in John 4:46, sqq., cf. Trench on that miracle.
And when Jesus (Revised Version, he) was entered into Capernaum. (On Capernaum, see Matthew 4:1-40.4.25. Matthew 4:13.) There came unto him; i.e. by messengers, as we learn from St. Luke (vide supra). A centurion, beseeching him. The centurion probably belonged to the soldiers of Antipas, in whose district Capernaum lay. They would naturally be organized after the Roman manner; of the forces of the Indian native states and our own. It should be observed, by the way, that even the imperial troops stationed in Palestine were drawn, not from distant lands, but from the non-Jewish inhabitants of the country, perhaps especially from Samaritans.
Matthew only. And saying, Lord, my servant; Revised Version margin, "boy" (ὁπαῖς μου), just as in some English-speaking communities "boy" is commonly used for "manservant." In the parallel passage of Luke, the narrative speaks of him as δοῦλος, the message as παῖς. Lieth. Perforce (βέβληται). At home; Revised Version, in the house; i.e. of the centurion. Sick of the palsy, grievously tormented (cf. 1 Macc. 9:55, 56). "Paralysis with contraction of the joints is accompanied with intense suffering, and, when united, as it much oftener is in the hot climates of the East and of Africa than among us, with tetanus, both 'grievously torments,' and rapidly brings on dissolution". Observe that the statement of the case is itself a petition.
Matthew only. And Jesus (Revised Version, be) saith unto him, I Will come and heal him. The emphasis is not on the coming, but on the person who comes (ἐγων). Observe Christ's perfect self-consciousness. Heal (θεραπεύσω) ; contrast verse 8.
The (Revised Version, and the) centurion answered and said. His reply as reported in Matthew is almost verbally the same as his second message in Luke, save for the important addition there of his unworthiness to come. Lord, I am not worthy (ἱκανός); Matthew 3:11, note. That thou shouldest come under my roof. "My," probably emphatic: however thou mayest honour others. But speak the word only; but only say the word (Revised Version); ἀλλὰ μόνον εἰπὲ λόγῳ. Only say with a single word what is to be done, and it shall be done (cf. Matthew 3:16). And my servant shall be healed (ἰαθήσεται); Matthew 4:23, note.
For I am (for I also am, Revised Version) a man under authority, having soldiers under me (under myself soldiers, Revised Version): and I say to this man (this one, Revised Version), Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. The centurion says that he knows the power of a command when given by one in authority, through the obedience that he himself shows and through that which he himself receives. Observe, he naturally orders his soldiers movement, and his slave work. Further, may not "and to my slave" represent the climax of his faith? He felt that the powers of nature (at least those concerned in this illness) were not only subordinate to Jesus, but were completely under his power. At his command they would act and the man be healed.
When (Revised Version, add when) Jesus heard it, he marvelled. Contrast "and he marvelled because of their unbelief" (Mark 6:6). We read in John 2:24, John 2:25, "But Jesus did not trust himself unto them, for that he knew all men, and because he needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man; for he himself knew what was in man." Yet here our Lord marvels at the character of the centurion. How can we reconcile these two statements? As yet not fully, for the question takes us to the centre of our Lord's personality. But we must remember:
(1) That Augustine's solution—Christ did not so much actually wonder, as commend to us that which was worthy of our admiration—"brings an unreality into parts of our Lord's conduct, as though he did some things for show and the effect which they would have on others, instead of all his actions having their deepest root in his own nature, being the truthful exponents of his own inmost being" (Trench).
(2) That St. John was referring, as it seems, to persons with whom our Lord was brought into contact, while here the centurion is probably absent (vide supra). Our Lord's powers of perception (ἐγίνωσκεν, John) have here had no opportunity of action.
(3) That, in any case, even our Lord's mental powers did not act in any unnatural method. In his grasping the true character of each man's mind, the same processes (however rapid in his case) must have taken place as take place in men generally, and among these processes is wonder at some fresh trait.
(4) That unless we are prepared to accept a subtle A polhnarianism, we must suppose that Christ came to know human hearts by his human rather than by his Divine powers. This, of course, will not exclude his receiving special communications in the Holy Spirit, by whose agency we may suppose that he "saw" Nathanael (John 1:48). and said to them that followed. The multitudes (verse 1). Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. So also the Revised Version (similarly Luke), but Revised Version margin and Westcott and Hort read, "With no man in Israel have I found so great faith," in which there is more distinct reference to the individuals whom he had actually met. A Gentile surpassed them all. Notice that the centurion is put above the apostles; and rightly, especially if even Peter had not as yet thought of the cure of his mother-in-law (verse 14, note). Yet the centurion was not called to apostleship. Found. "Quaerens, cum veni" (Bengel).
Matthew 8:11, Matthew 8:12
In Luke (Luke 13:28, Luke 13:29) not joined to this miracle, but placed after the warning about mere professors (our Matthew 7:23). Also they are there given in the reverse order. Taking the other facts (verse 5, note) about this miracle into consideration, there can be little doubt but that St. Matthew does not place these verses in their historical connexion. He wishes to emphasize the teaching of the miracle, that Gentiles accept Christ, though Jews reject him. For this reason also he gives the two verses in the reverse order. And. In contrast (δέ) to this comparative absence of belief in Israel. Many. Not in the parallel passage in Luke, but it agrees with the aim of St. Matthew's Gospel. Shall come. Though not emphatic, as it is in the parallel passage in Luke, yet expressive of purpose and decision. From the east and (Revised Version. the) west. Not only residents in Palestine, like this centurion, but from the furthest limits of the earth. The thought was well known; e.g. Malachi 1:11; Isaiah 59:19.; also Jeremiah 16:19; Zechariah 8:22. And shall sit down; i.e. at a feast. The image, taken from Isaiah 25:6, is exceedingly common in Jewish Haggadic (i.e. mostly parabolic) teaching. With Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. An early" Western" reading is, "in the bosom of Abraham," etc. (cf. Luke 16:23). Probably a traditional form current among Jewish Christians. But the children; sons (Revised Version). Those who ought rightfully to enjoy its privileges (Matthew 5:9, note). In Matthew 13:38 those so called answer fully to the appellation. Of the kingdom. "Rather than of the king; since many are in the kingdom, whom notwithstanding the king rejects as traitors; whereas all the children of the king are adopted as co-heirs with his only begotten Son" (Beza, in Ford). This interpretation is attractive, but doubtless false. The Hebrew idiom enables the writer to suggest the idea of the Jews, who are by nature heirs of the Divine kingdom, being notwithstanding excluded (cf Acts 13:46). Shall be cast out (Revised Version, forth); ἐκβκηθήσονται (Matthew 7:4, note). The "Western" reading, ἐξελεύσονται, suggests that they shall go out by their own present act of refusing blessing. Into (Revised Version, the) outer darkness. The form of the expression, which comes only in Matthew (Matthew 22:13; Matthew 25:30), points to a double conception; they shall be cast into the darkness, and cast outside the palace within which the feast is going on. Such is the loss in its personal (εἰς τὸ σκότος) and in its social (τὸ ἐξώτερον) aspect. There shall be (Revised Version, the) weeping and gnashing of teeth. The article, which should strictly be repeated before gnashing, points to a recognized conception. The phrase occurs (except in the parallel passage, Luke 13:28) only in St. Matthew (Matthew 13:42, Matthew 13:50; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 24:51; Matthew 25:30), in each case contrasting the place into which the wicked are sent with that which they might have enjoyed. Observe the description of "hell"—absence of spiritual light; separation from the company of the saved; lamentation; impotent rage. The second couplet corresponds to the first.
Matthew only. The parallel passage, Luke 7:10, gives the result found by the messengers on their return. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and (omitted by the Revised Version) as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. As. Not strictly proportionate, but in the same way as (Matthew 6:12; Matthew 18:33) thou hast now believed, be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame (Revised Version, in that) hour.
Matthew 8:14, Matthew 8:15
The healing of St. Peter's wife's mother. Parallel passages: Mark 1:29-41.1.31; Luke 4:38, Luke 4:39.
And when Jesus was come into Peter's house. Straight from the synagogue (parallel passages), for food, Matthew 8:15 (Chrysostom). It seems clear, from the parallel passages, that St. Peter had not previously told our Lord about his mother-in-law's illness, but that he, with others, now asked (ἠρώτησαν, Luke) him to heal her. Among these others were probably Andrew, who also lived in the house, and James and John, who accompanied our Lord (Mark). Whether or not it was Peter's own house, we have no means of telling (but see next verse). He saw. Presumably on entering, before they asked him about her. His wife's mother (1 Corinthians 9:5). As St. Peter lived for some forty years more, he can hardly have been now very long married (cf. Bengel). Laid (βεβλημένην); verse 6. And sick of a fever.
And he touched her hand. Perhaps with her, as with the leper (Matthew 8:3), the word alone would not have been enough. In both cases the faith seems to have been below that of the centurion. And the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them; Revised Version. him, with manuscripts. Serving them all (parallel passages), and him in particular. If it were her own house this would be doubly natural (cf Luke 10:40). The change of tense (aorist to imperfect) contrasts the single act of arising from her bed and her continued ministry at the meal (cf. Matthew 4:11).
Matthew 8:16, Matthew 8:17
The great number of his miracles, and the secret of his performing them.
Parallel passages: Mark 1:32-41.1.34; Luke 4:40. When the even was come; Revised Version, and when even-According to the original connexion, preserved, as it seems, in Mark and Luke, this was the evening of the day in which our Lord had healed the man with the withered hand in the synagogue. Probably, therefore, the day had been a sabbath. But with the setting sun (parallel passage in Luke), or rather, according to Talmudic teaching, when three stars were visible after sunset (vide Lightfoot, ' Her. Hebr.,' in loc.), the sabbath was over (Leviticus 23:1-3.23.44. Leviticus 23:32), and people were free to carry out their sick. Should the day not have been a sabbath, we may presume that the evening was chosen as cooler for the sick to be moved, and as more convenient to those who carried them, the day's work being done. They brought unto him many that were possessed with devils (Matthew 4:24, note): and he cast out the spirits with his (Revised Version, a) word (verse 8). In contrast to saying over them the long formulas of exorcism used by others. And healed all that were sick. The stress is on all. None were so ill as to be beyond his power, and no kind of disease too great for him to subdue.
Matthew only. A summary statement of Christ's relation to diseases. That it might be fulfilled (ὅπως πληρωθῇ); Matthew 2:23, note. Which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses; diseases (Revised Version); Isaiah lilt. 4, from the Hebrew. Took (ἔλαβεν) regards the transference, the assumption; bare (ἐβάστασεν), the oppressiveness; infirmities, negative; diseases, positive. St. Matthew in this verse calls attention to two points. First, that prophecy had foretold that Christ would heal the sick. For this he might have adduced Isaiah 35:5, Isaiah 35:6, and similar passages; but as one verse will serve his double purpose, he prefers it. Secondly, that the method by which Christ did this was specially noteworthy. He did not perform miracles by magic,nor by the power of God exerted as it were externally on his behalf, nor by his own inherent Divine power, but by himself bearing the sicknesses that he removed. He wrought his miracles at his own expense,and that expense the greatest. The thought is far-reaching, and implies both that he bore the ultimate cause of sickness, the sin of the world (John 1:29), and also that each miracle of healing meant for him a fresh realization of what bearing the sin of the world included. In other words, the passage in Isaiah, as interpreted by St. Matthew, refers, not only to the Passion as such, but also to Christ's suffering an earnest and a foretaste of it at each miracle. May not this have been in part the cause of his sigh at one miracle (Mark 7:34), and his deep emotion at another (John 11:33)? Observe that this may be the complementary side of his experience recorded in Mark 5:30 (parallel passage: Luke 8:46), that "power" went out of him. A miracle of healing, though performed in momentary unconsciousness of what was taking place, still necessitated personal contact with sin, which to Christ's whole nature meant moral effort. The utterance recorded by Origen, "For those that are sick! was sick, and' for those that hunger I suffered hunger, and for those that thirst I suffered thirst" (Bishop Westcott, 'Introd.,' Appendix C; Resch, 'Agmpha,' Log. 47), probably expresses the same thought as our verse, though in the language of Matthew 25:35, Matthew 25:36. A similar idea seems to underlie the well-known saying of Talm. Bab., 'Sanh.,' 98b, with reference to Messiah, "The Leper of the house of Rabbi is his name; for it is said, 'Surely he hath berne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.'" On this and on Raymund Martini's false reading, "the Sick One," vide Dalman.
2. Incidents grouped round the thought of the external trials endured by Christ in his work.
(1) No settled home (Matthew 9:19-40.9.22).
(2) His exposure to the elements (Matthew 9:23-40.9.27).
(3) His rejection by Gadarenes (Matthew 9:28-40.9.34).
(4) And by scribes (Matthew 9:1-40.9.8).
Yet there was also recognition of him by
(1) a scribe (Matthew 9:19);
(2) another of the disciples (Matthew 9:21);
(3) the winds and the sea (Matthew 9:26);
(3) demoniacs (probably Jews, vide infra) and demons (Matthew 9:29, Matthew 9:31);
(4) a paralytic and those who brought him (Matthew 9:2);
(5) the multitudes (Matthew 9:8).
Parallel passages: Mark 4:35; Luke 8:22. Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him. So also the Revised Version and Westcott and Hort margin; but Westcott and Hort text, "a multitude," with B. Probably the received text is derived from Luke 8:1. From the parallel passages it is natural to infer that this crossing was some little time subsequent to the evening of the day on which he had healed Peter's wife's mother, etc. (Luke 8:14-42.8.16), and that it was on the day in which he had spoken the parable of the sower. He gave commandment to depart unto the other side. It was good for the multitude that he should leave them, for they were wont to take too carnal a view of his mission (cf. John 6:15), and would now have time to consider its true nature; and it was an opportunity of blessing to all who were on that further shore.
Parallel passage: Luke 9:57-42.9.62. The would-be followers. Notice that St. Luke
(1) places it almost at the beginning of the Great Episode, calling attention by it to the qualifications required of those who would follow the Lord Up to Jerusalem;
(2) adds a third example. So far as we have materials for deciding, the chronological position found in St. Matthew seems more probable.
And a certain scribe came; Revised Version, and there came a scribe. Contrast the order in Matthew 8:2. There the leper was recognized as such before ever he came near, an emphasis being laid on him and his actions by the addition of "Behold;" here the official position is of but secondary importance. A certain; a (Revised Version); εἶς. The Hebrew numeral not uncommonly stands for an indefinite article (cf. Matthew 9:18. [Westcott and Hort]; Matthew 26:69). Trench's "'one scribe'… with, perhaps, an emphasis on the 'one' to mark how unfrequent such offers were," is tempting, but improbable. Scribe. St. Matthew alone records his profession. Perhaps because the distinction of Jewish classes presented itself more vividly to his mind than to St. Luke's. And said unto him; Master; better, with the Revised Version margin, teacher (διδάσκαλε). It may be that he recognized one who was superior in an important branch of his own occupation, or, less probably, that he willingly accorded to him a title due to his occupation (cf. John 3:2; and infra, Matthew 12:38). I will follow thee; ἀκολουθήσω (not ἐγὼ ἀκολουθήσω σοι). Self is placed in the background; he is wholly taken up with that which he proposes doing. Whithersoever thou goest. Though, as a scribe, he would naturally prefer quiet. Contrast John 6:66 (περιεπάτουν). But the discomforts would be greater than he expected. Observe, however, that there is no sign in him of that φιλαργυρία of which he has been accused (Cram. Cat.). Trench strangely favours the suggestion that he was Judas. Is Revelation 14:4 a reminiscence of this offer?
And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes. The Asiatic fox (Vulpes corsac) is decidedly smaller than our European species, but has the same habits. And the birds of the air (Revised Version, heaven) have nests. So the Old Latin and the common text of the Vulgate (nidos), but birds do not generally live in nests, nor is "nests" so natural a meaning for κατασκηνώσεις as" shelters" (cf. Trench, loc. cit.). The renderings in the true text of the Vulgate (tabernacula), and in Old Latin k, and Cyprian (devorsoria) are interesting. Revised Version margin has, "Gk. lodging places" (cf. Matthew 13:32 and parallel pas sages). But the Son of man. The original phrase, "one like unto a son of man," was used in Daniel 7:13, apparently as a symbol of the Jewish nation, to which was to be given supreme power. There is no evidence that it was understood of Messiah before our Lord employed it, but rather the re verse. Our Lord uses it here for the sake of the contrast it suggested to the lower creation. Man, the head of creation (as none would acknowledge more fully than this student of the Law), has in the person of the ideal Man not even the luxuries which correspond to those enjoyed by beasts and birds. Such was the love and self-abasement of the Restorer of creation (Romans 8:21). Hath not where to lay his head. He has no home to call his own.
And another of his (Revised Version, the) disciples said unto him. Disciples in the wider sense (Matthew 5:1, note),whether the twelve had or had not been chosen. In the latter case, the man may have been Thomas (Trench, loc. cit.), but hardly Philip (Clem. Alex.) after John 1:43. Yet it is precarious to see in him the despondency of Thomas (John 11:6; John 20:24, John 20:25) merely because his father is dead, and he has scruples about immediately following Christ. Lord, suffer me first. The man's words imply a consciousness of a call. His heart told him that he ought to go, but he asks for a delay, and, in fact, a real difficulty seems to hinder him from going. St. Luke places the Lord's "Follow me" before the man's request; but here, as in textual criticism, proclivi scriptioni praestat ardua. To go and bury my father. Then lying dead. Of all filial duties perhaps the most bind-ins (cf. Tobit 4:3; 14:10, 11). Observe
(1) that the burial would take place much sooner than is usual with us, and would seldom be more than twenty-four hours after death;
(2) that, however, according to Jewish law, the ceremonial observances connected with the burial and consequent purifications would have taken many days (Edersheim, 'Life,' 2.133).
But Jesus said unto him, Follow me, and let; Revised Version, leave. Yet the thought of leaving seems here merged in that of permitting. The dead (Revised Version, to) bury their (Revised Version, own) dead (τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς). The paradox was self-interpreting. Let the spiritually dead have to do with death; dead men belong in a special sense to them. Observe that there was no danger of his father remaining unburied. Christ means that there are times when his service admits of no postponement, however sacred the conflicting duty. His followers must on such occasions be very Nazarites (Numbers 6:7) or high priests (Le Matthew 21:11). St. Luke adds, "But go thou, and publish abroad the kingdom of God," and adds a third similar case.
The storm on the lake. Parallel passages: Mark 4:35-41.4.41; Luke 8:22-42.8.25. Matthew, as usual, is both shorter and less precise. Nosgen and others see in this an "undesigned coincidence" with his still being at "the receipt of custom" (Matthew 9:9).
And when he was entered into a ship (Revised Version, boat), his disciples followed him. Did St. Matthew see in the very order of embarking a symbol of the Christian life? It may be so, but a more probable reason for mentioning the order is that our Lord was, perhaps, on this occasion not using a beat that belonged to any of the disciples. Passage may have been given to him at his request, and of course the disciples went where he went.
And, behold (Matthew 1:20, note). Perhaps when with Jesus they hardly expected a storm. There arose a great tempest in the sea. St. Matthew records only the effect of the sudden rush (λαῖλαψ in the parallel passages) of the wind down the gorges. Insomuch that the ship (Revised Version, boat) was covered with the waves. The waves swept again and again clean over the boat. Slowly but surely the boat was filling(parallel passages). But he was asleep. All the time (ἑκάθευδεν). Yet what a contrast to Jonah (Jonah 1:5).
And his disciples (Revised Version, they) came to him (καὶ προσελθόντες). The insertion of the words, "his disciples," distracts the mind from the fact of their coming. Their skill and their long experience of those waters now failed them. And awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish (Κύριε σῶσον ἀπολλύμεθα). The last and most emphatic word comes in all the narratives. They had no hope of escape from the death that was already overtaking them except through him.
And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 6:30, note). The winds and waves were mastering their souls as well as their bodies. Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea. Rebuked (ἐπετίμησε); cf. Psalms 104:7. The words spoken are recorded by St. Mark. And there was a great calm. Corresponding to the "great tempest" (verse 24).
But (Revised Version, and) the men. Perhaps the disciples ("Sic als Menschen staunch," Nosgen), but probably those to whom the boat belonged (Matthew 8:23, note), the crew. It seems very far-fetched to explain it of all men who heard of the miracle. Marvelled. As the multitudes (Matthew 9:33; but contrast Matthew 14:33). Saying, What manner of man is this? (Ποταπός ἐστιν οὖτος). Parallel passages, "Who then?" (τίς ἄρα;). The term indicates the slightness of their knowledge of his character. They seem, with Nicodemus, to have recognized that holiness was an essential condition of performing miracles (John 3:2), but not to have realized that this condition was satisfied in Jesus. That even the winds and the sea obey him. "Him," emphatic (αὐτῷ ὑπακούουσιν). The miracle! has been seen to be a parable of the security of the ship of the Church since at least the days of Tertullian ('De Bapt.,' § 12). (For the comparison generally of the Church to a ship, compare especially Bishop Lightfoot on Ignatius, 'Polyc.,' § it.)
The Gadarene demoniacs. Parallel passages: Mark 5:1-41.5.20; Luke 8:26-42.8.39, where see full notes. Matthew is much less detailed. Matthew mentions two demoniacs; the parallel passages, one; the reason may be either that one was less fierce than the other, or that only one came from Gerasa (Nosgen). But in our present knowledge of the extent of inspiration, we cannot confidently affirm that the evangelists were kept from errors in numbers, and that the addition of the second demoniac is not due' to some misunderstanding, perhaps of the use of the plural in the demoniac's answer in the parallel passage, Mark 5:9. (For a similar difficulty, cf. the note on Matthew 9:27-40.9.31.) With regard to this mysterious narrative generally, the explanation of its details can be little more than empirical in our present knowledge of psychology and of spiritual influences.
And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes; Revised Version, Gadarenes, which is certainly right here, as is "Gerasenes" in the parallel passages (cf. Westcott and Hort, it. 'App.'). Gergesa (Textus Receptus here, and Alexandrian authorities in parallel passages) and Gerasa (unless, with Origen on John 1:28, we understand by this the Arabian Gerasa fifty miles away)are probably forms of the same name now represented by Khersa, a village discovered by Thomson on the eastern side of the lake, and lying "within a few rods of the shore," with "an immense mountain" rising directly above it, "in which are ancient tombs, out of some of which the two men possessed of the devils may have issued to meet Jesus. The lake is so near the base of the mountain that the swine, rushing madly down it, could not stop, but would be hurried on into the water and drowned." To this Origen's description (loc. cit.) corresponds: "Gergesa, to which the Gergesenes belong, is an ancient city by what is now called the Lake of Tiberias, by which is a steep place adjacent to the lake, and down this, as is pointed out, the swine were cast headlong by the demons." Gadara, in some sense the capital of Peraea (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' Matthew 4:7. Matthew 4:3), and one of the towns of the Decapolis confederacy (Matthew 4:25), was some twelve miles distant from Khersa, and six miles from the nearest part of the lake, to which, in fact (as the stamp of a ship on its coins shows), its territory extended. St. Matthew describes the locality, not by the little-known village, but by the well-known city of the district, to which the news of the miracle afterwards spread. But since he leaves the expression, "the city," in verses 33, 34 as he fontal it in his sources, i.e. Khersa, the result is at first misleading There met him (ὑπήντησαν; occurrerunt, Vulgate). St. Matthew (contrast verses 2, 5, 19) omits the nearer approach recorded in the parallel passages, Mark 5:6 and Luke 8:28. Two (vide supra). Possessed with devils (Matthew 4:24, note), coming out of the tombs; Revised Version, coming forth out. The Greek shows that they did not merely come from among the tombs, but actually out of them (cf. the experience of Warburton, as quoted in Trench on this miracle). Exceeding fierce, so that no man might (Revised Version, could) pass by that way. Matthew only. It deepens the contrast to their present behaviour. Perhaps "that way" refers to the Roman road by the side of the lake.
And, behold. This probably seemed to the evangelist not the least of the many strange things that he introduced by this phrase. They cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee? (Τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί; דלו ונל הם, frequent in the Old Testament, e.g. 2 Samuel 16:10). What community either of interest or of character? The deepest realization of personal sinfulness may coexist with absolute ignorance of the Divine love. Jesus. Omitted by the Revised Version here, yet genuine in the parallel passages, Matthew omitted from their utterance the name which (Matthew 1:21) indicated the bridging of the chasm between the sinner and God. Thou Son of God? Their sense of sin, their belief in a future torment, and their use of this phrase, alike point to their being Jews. Observe how great a contrast is implied by this term on the lips of demoniacs. As in 1 John 3:8 (cf. Bishop Westcott there), it brings out the nature of the conflict ("the spiritual adversary of man has a mightier spiritual antagonist"), so here. Art thou come hither—had they felt themselves safe in that distant spot and its gloomy surroundings, far away from all religious influence?—to torment us before the time? Their abject terror is still more evident in the parallel passages. Observe
(1) the words are not given as those of the demons, hut as the men's own;
(2) a future torment is assumed;
(3) they have no doubt as to their own share in it.
Matthew 8:30, Matthew 8:31
And there was a good way off from them a herd of many swine feeding. So (and, Revised Version) the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out (Matthew only), suffer us to go away (send us away, Revised Version). This is distinguished from Matthew 8:29 as expressly the utterance of the evil spirits. In the true text there is no thought of permission, but only of command (ἀπόστειλον). They recognize his mastery. Into the herd of swine; and not into the place of torment—"the abyss" of the parallel passage, Luke 8:31. If he did not send them there, they might hope for a long respite, and one perhaps spent in various tenements. Further notice:
(1) The unclean chose the unclean
(2) Though we cannot attribute to the evil spirits absolute foreknowledge of what would happen in this case, their past experience may have enabled them to feel sure that they would have their love of destroying fully gratified.
(3) it is also not impossible that they may have considered that their entering the swine would be likely to prejudice the Gerasenes against Jesus.
Matthew 8:32, Matthew 8:33
And he said unto them, Go. As they asked; for he was not yet come to send them to their final home. He would not employ his inherent Divine power even against the kingdom of Satan, or forcibly disturb the conditions under which evil existed in the world. Notice further:
(1) That as regards the right to destroy the swine when they were the property of others, our Lord in no way destroyed them himself, but only did not interfere with the powers of the evil spirits in giving them permission to work out their own purposes. It is possible, too, though far from certain, that the owners of the swine were acting illegally in owning them (though even then our Lord was not constituted as judge, Luke 12:14); but this supposes first that they were Jews, and secondly that it was illegal for Jews to keep swine, of which suppositions not even the latter can be clearly proved either by Scripture or by early forms of tradition.
(2) The destruction of the swine might well be beneficial to the complete recovery of the men.
(3) It would fully arouse the Gerasenes, and bring home to them the holiness of the Lord from whom evil spirits fled, and the call to personal holiness that such a Presence demanded. The result of their being thus amused lay with themselves (John 3:19; 2 Corinthians 2:16).
(4) It would also prove an important element in attracting the attention both of the neighbouring district and of all places to which the news would come. And when they were come out, they (Revised Version, and they came out and) went into the herd of (Revised Version omits "herd of") swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine (Revised Version omits "of swine") ran violently (Revised Version, rushed; emphatic; in the Greek it follows "behold") down a steep place (Revised Version, down the steep, κατὰ τοῦ κρημνοῦ) ; tide supra, Matthew 8:28, note. Into the sea, and perished in the waters. And they that kept them (fed them, revised version; οἱδὲ βόσκοντες. Those whose duty it was to drive the swine from place to place, that they might find food. Observe that the swine were "far" (Matthew 8:30) from Jesus and the demoniacs, so that the swineherds need not have passed near the demoniacs' dwelling. Also they were on the mountain, and the demoniacs dwelt, as it seems, near the road at the bottom (Matthew 8:28, end). Fled. Doubtless in terror. And went their ways; and went away (Revised Version); ἀπελθόντες. "Ways" is in this passage probably the old genitive singular (cf. 'Bible Word Book,'s.v.). Into the city. Khersa (Matthew 8:28, note). The addition in the parallel passages of "and in the country (ἀπήγγειλαν εἰς τὴν, πόλιν καὶ εἰς τοὺς ἀγρούς) " seems to primarily refer to the news being carried also to those men of the city who were at their daily labour outside it. And told everything, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils; Revised Version, them that were possessed with devils. Matthew repeats the plural (verse 28, note). Observe: business first, philanthropy second.
And, behold. The third of the stages (Matthew 8:29, Matthew 8:32) in this incident that were apparent to all. The whole city; i.e. Khersa, from the parallel passages (Matthew 8:28, note); all the city (Revised Version, though a similar phrase is not altered in Matthew 8:32); πᾶσα ἡπόλις. Not really less comprehensive, but giving a less vivid representation of one united body than ὅλη ἡπόλις (Mark 1:33, and especially Luke 8:39); cf. Matthew 4:23, Matthew 4:24, ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Γαλιλαία εἰς ὅλην τὴν Συριάν. Came out to meet Jesus. A distance of half a mile or so would satisfy the expression. The true reading, ὑπάντησιν (also Matthew 25:1; John 12:13), would seem to suggest the closest proximity (cf. Bishop Lightfoot on ὑπεναντίος Colossians 2:14), while ἀπάντησιν (Matthew 25:6; Acts 28:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:17) connotes a, contrast to the place left. Συνάντησιν, again (Textus Receptus here, and John 12:13, D, el.), emphasizes the thought of companionship. And when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts; from their borders (Revised Version). These Gerasenes, vexed at the loss of wealth, felt, like the demoniacs, that there was nothing in common between themselves and Jesus, but, unlike them, showed no consciousness of sin. Without this he could do nothing for them, so he granted their request (Matthew 9:1). St. Peter also once bade Jesus depart (Luke 5:8), but his reason, "for I am a sinful man, O Lord," showed a heartfelt desire after the deepest union with him. With the ungranted request of the man to remain with Jesus, and his subsequent preaching to these Gerasenes and others (parallel passages), St. Matthew does not concern himself.
Departure from the mount of the Beatitudes.
I. THE MULTITUDES.
1. They followed him. The Lord came down from the mount; the great sermon was ended. The attraction of his presence continued; great multitudes followed him. He had taught them as One having authority; there was a strange, startling originality about his teaching; it was totally unlike anything that they had ever heard before. It appealed to their hearts; it seemed to fill a want of which they had been more or less conscious; it satisfied the cravings of their souls. And so they followed him, anxious to hear more from his lips, to see more of his life, to know more of himself. There was a difference of character, a variety of motives; some were more deeply impressed than others, some were more persevering in their attachment to Christ than others were. But they all followed him.
2. It is an example to us. We have all heard his words, we have read them in the Scriptures; we have! heard his voice, if we are his indeed, speaking to us in the depths of our heart. We must not forget what we have read and heard; we must not allow our interest in his holy teaching to die away; we must follow him. He confirmed his Word with signs following, He manifested forth his glory by his miracles. He does so still. If we follow him with persevering steadfastness, we shall see that he still worketh miracles of grace. His blood cleanseth from all sin; he heals the dying soul; he casts out the evil spirit; he calms the tempest of distracting doubts and anxious fears; he is mightier than all the hosts of the wicked one.
II. THE LEPER.
1. His prayer. He was in great misery, full of leprosy. He felt the fatal power of that terrible disease; it was disfiguring his person with a loathsome deformity, eating out the very life; it was separating him from the society of men; he was unclean, avoided by his nearest relatives; he was cut off from all that could give him consolation; nothing remained for him but death—a slow, lingering death. Its hand was upon him now; there was no help in man. But he heard of the Lord Jesus; perhaps he had hovered on the outskirts of the crowd, listening to the Saviour's words in the distance; perhaps he had been told of the wonders which he had already wrought. He had not yet healed a leper. Leprosy was regarded as a visitation, a stroke, from the hand of God. "Am I God," said the King of Israel (2 Kings 5:7), "to kill and to make alive, that this man doth scud unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?" It was God who sent it; it was God alone who could remove it. But, in spite of this fixed belief of the Jews, the leper had faith in the Lord Jesus; there was something about him, something in his look, manner, words, which told of the heaven whence he came. The leper doubted not; he came, he kneeled down, he fell on his face, he worshipped him, and said in words so striking that they have been recorded by the three evangelists, notwithstanding various differences of detail in the narration of the miracle, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." He was conscious of unworthiness; perhaps he knew that sin had brought this misery upon him. He dared not presume upon, the mercy of the Lord. He felt his own degradation; he knew not whether Christ would be willing to help one so unworthy, so guilty; but he had no doubt of his power. As he came to Christ, so we must come. He came with reverence; he kneeled down. Humble reverence, reverence in gesture and in heart, becomes us sinful men when we draw near to the Most Holy One. He came with intense earnestness of supplication ;his felt his misery, his danger. So must we come if we would be saved from the leprosy of sin; we must feel our guilt, our awful danger, the greatness of our need; we must come with strong desire, hungering and thirsting for forgiveness, longing to be made clean from the defilement of our sin. And we must come in full assurance of faith, confessing our unworthiness of the Saviour's mercy, but doubting not his love and power.
2. The Lord's answer. He "put forth his hand, and touched him." He feared not the danger of Levitical defilement; his perfect holiness cleansed all who came to him in faith, whom he deigned to touch with that gracious purifying hand. He spoke the word of power, "I will; be thou clean." As he taught with authority, so he heals with authority. It is his act; he heals in his own Name, by his own authority. "His touch hath still its ancient power;" his blood cleanseth from all sin; still he speaks that gracious word, "I will." He was moved with compassion then; he is the same compassionate Redeemer now; he is ready, willing, to cleanse us. There is no lack of power or of love in him; the fault is in ourselves. Only let us come with the faith, the earnest longing, the reverent prayer of the leper, and we shall hear that gracious "I will," and the leprosy of sin will depart before the saving touch of the Lord.
3. The Lord's direction. The leper was cleansed, but he must show himself to the priest; he must go to the temple and offer the appointed gift. He was to tell no man till he had gone to Jerusalem. Silence was best, perhaps, for himself; the Lord knew his spiritual condition; it was best, perhaps, for the success of the Lord's ministry. He was to go to the temple to give thanks to God in the sanctuary for his wonderful recovery; he was to observe the ordinances of the Mosaic ritual, and to show his gratitude by his offerings. So should we do when God has been merciful to us; we should give thanks in the church; we should bring our thank-offerings to Almighty God.
1. It is not enough to have heard Christ once; follow him; we need him, always, all our life.
2. Sin is a loathsome, fatal sickness; only One can heal, the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Come to him; doubt him not; he is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever."
Miracles at Capernaum.
I. HEALING OF THE CENTURION'S SERVANT.
1. The centurion. He was a soldier and a Gentile; he had been brought up in heathenism, and had lived among the temptations inseparable from a military life. His example and that of Cornelius show us that there were devout men among Gentile soldiers, as there are many good Christian men among soldiers now. Temptations may be great, but the grace of God is greater; we can serve him acceptably in any lawful calling. This centurion had seen the vanity of heathenism; he felt drawn towards God's ancient people; he loved the nation, and had himself built the synagogue at Capernaum—perhaps that of which the white marble ruins may still be seen at Tell Hum.
(1) His humility. He showed a singular humility, a grace hardly to be expected in a Gentile soldier; he recognized the dignity of Jesus, he felt his own unworthiness. He sent the elders of the Jews, St. Luke tells us in his longer narrative, as if he felt that he was not worthy even to draw near to the great Teacher. Again he sent friends. At last in his anxiety he came himself, still owning his unworthiness: "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof." Many say unto him, "Lord, Lord," of whom he will say in the last day, "I never knew you." He knows with the knowledge of Divine love and mercy all who come to him as this centurion came, in humility, in faith and love. "He that abaseth himself shall be exalted." The centurion thought himself unworthy of the Saviour's presence in his house; the Lord deigned to mark him for his own, to enter into his heart, and to abide evermore with him. More than once he accepted the invitations of Pharisees; he entered into their houses, and sat down with them; but that outward presence, great honour though it was, was nothing compared with the grace granted to the humble centurion.
(2) His faith. Like the leper, he believed that Christ had power to heal; but his faith was more spiritual, in that he recognized the Lord's independence of any outward means as the channels of his saving power. There was no need, he felt, of the outstretched hand, the healing touch; no need of the Lord's bodily presence; the will was enough; the word of power, spoken at a distance, would heal his servant. He himself, he said, was a man under authority, a subaltern; yet he was obeyed by his soldiers, by his servant. The Lord, he felt, was very great and high and holy; the disease would pass away at his word; demons would flee at his command; angels would do his bidding; his simple word was all that was needed. It was wonderful faith indeed, at that time, and in a Gentile soldier. That centurion is a model for us. We need a faith like his, simple, spiritual, undoubting. Such a faith can remove mountains.
(3) His charity. He cared for his slave. It was a rare thing in those days. A slave was treated just as a piece of property—a "living tool," in the words of Aristotle; he was scarcely regarded as a man, and received just so much attention as was sufficient to enable him to perform his work. This centurion was a good master; his servant had returned his kindness with ready obedience; he was dear to him. It is an example of the relations that ought to exist between a master and his servants. Again, although a Gentile, he had shown his love for the people of God and his reverence for the God of Israel by building at his own expense a house for the worship of God. He had won the affection of his Hebrew neighbours; they undertook to plead for him; they besought Christ earnestly (St. Luke says), saying, "He is worthy that thou shouldest do this for him." They thought him worthy; he felt his own unworthiness. His example shows us how a loving heart conciliates the love of others; it shows with what prevailing power the prayer of humility, faith, and love pleads with the great King.
2. The Lord's answer to prayer. Again the gracious "I will:" "I will come and heal him." The Lord will not work miracles to display his power or to satisfy curiosity; but the answer to faithful prayer is ever the same, "I will." It is full of gracious encouragement to those who come to Christ in earnest supplication, whether for themselves or for others.
3. The Lord's wonder. It seems strange that he should wonder to whom nothing was wonderful; for all things were made by him, and all the depths of the human heart were known to him. But he was man as well as God; he increased in wisdom, he wept, he rejoiced in spirit; once he "looked round about him with anger." The mystery of the union of the human and the Divine in the Person of Christ is one of the deepest of all mysteries. "He marvelled." It can scarcely be, as some have said, that his admiration was merely intended to teach us what we ought to admire; such an explanation seems to introduce an element of unreality into the conduct of him who is the Truth. "He marvelled." We must accept the fact as belonging to the truth of the Lord's human nature, while we learn of him to admire above all things humility and charity and trustful faith.
4. His prophecy of the gathering in of the Gentiles. This centurion was probably the first Gentile, except the Wise Men from the East, who had sought the presence of the Lord. The Lord contrasts his great faith with the unbelief which, he knew, would be prevalent in Israel. He saw in the clearness of his foreknowledge the Gentiles flocking into the Christian Church. The Jews would not eat with men uncircumcised (Acts 11:3), but in the kingdom of heaven a great multitude from the east and from the west, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, would sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the marriage-supper of the Lamb. But side by side with this bright prospect came a sorrowful foreboding; the children of the kingdom would be cast out; Israelites, who were heirs of the promises, but had forfeited their inheritance by disobedience and unbelief, would, alas! find no place but the great outer darkness, where are weeping and gnashing of teeth. These are stern words, but it is the sternness of love. The Lord Jesus Christ, the most compassionate One, does not hide from us the awful doom of the disobedient. He warns us that outward privileges, whether those of the Jewish or those of the Christian Church, will not save us in themselves. There is need of faith, humble, trustful, loving faith; without that, ordinances, sacraments, means of grace however precious, will not avail to the saving of the soul. The children of the kingdom will be cast out, if they are only in the outward kingdom, and have not the kingdom of grace within their souls.
5. The promise to the centurion. "As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee." His faith brought him nearer to God than unbelieving Israel. At Nazareth, his own city, the Lord found very little faith. He marvelled at the unbelief of the Nazarenes (Mark 6:6), as he marvelled at the faith of this centurion. He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief. He healed at once the servant of the centurion. Faith is better than privileges. Faith saves the Gentile; privileges cannot save the Israelite. We mark the prevailing power of faith; we mark the value of intercessory prayer. "His servant was healed in the selfsame hour." Let us pray, "Lord, increase our faith." Let us learn to pray for others, for the sick and suffering, for the ignorant, for all Christian people, for all mankind.
II. HEALING OF PETER'S WIFE'S MOTHER.
1. Her illness. She was sick of a fever, very ill; she lay helpless on her bed. The Lord entered into the house; it was his home when he sojourned at Capernaum. Doubtless it was a holy household—St. Peter, his wife, and her mother. The Lord was welcomed there; he was an honoured member of the family circle. That family is blessed where Christ dwells, where husband and wife, united in holy wedlock, are united also in the love of Christ. Such families are not exempt from sorrow and suffering, but Christ's presence softens the sorrow. There was sorrow now in that humble home. They told the Lord, as we should tell him in prayer, of all our troubles; they besought him for the sick woman (she could not, it seems, pray for herself), as we should commend our suffering friends to his mercy.
2. Her recovery. The Lord felt for his afflicted friends; he listened to the voice of their prayer. He touched her hand, he rebuked the fever, he lifted her up. Immediately the fever left her. The Lord listens to his people's voice; he always answers prayer. Not always as we wish; he knows, we do not know, whether a longer life or an early death is best for ourselves or for our friends. We must ever add to our prayers the utterance of faith, "Thy will be done." "He doeth all things well."
3. Her gratitude. She arose at once; she ministered to Christ and his apostles; she attended to their wants. So should we work for Christ. Every blessing received, every prayer answered, should lead us to give ourselves more entirely to his service, to minister to him by ministering to his poor, to give freely and generously for the work of his Church.
III. MANY MIRACULOUS CURES.
1. The sick brought to Christ. There was great excitement at Capernaum. But (we gather from the other evangelists, who relate the last miracle in a different connection) it was the sabbath day. They might not carry burdens, they might not walk beyond the traditional two thousand paces; but when the even was come, and the sabbath rest was over, the enthusiasm of the people was not to be restrained. All the city was gathered together at the door of Peter's humble dwelling. All the sick of Capernaum and the surrounding district were brought to the great Physician. A strange, confused mass of helpless suffering, of bodily agony, of that worst of all afflictions, the demoniacal possession, which was characteristic of those sad despairing times, lay before the door in the sight of Jesus. The sight of suffering always touched the Lord's compassionate heart; he moved among them in his gracious mercy; he laid his hands on every one of them; he healed them all. We must trust our sick to his mercy; we must ourselves care for the sick and suffering, for so did Jesus Christ.
2. The fulfilment of prophecy. "Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." He was never sick (as far as we know) during his earthly life; but his compassion, in the full etymological meaning of the word, was complete and perfect. He was "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." He felt the anguish of others as if it were his own; he made it his own; he took it, he bore it, he relieved it. He sighed when he healed the deaf-mute; he wept with those that wept. He was indeed "a Man of sorrows;" he suffered himself intense agony of body and soul; he sorrowed for the sins of those whom he loved so dearly, whom he came to save, and he sorrowed for the sorrows of others; his entire unselfishness, his perfect love, enabled him to feel for the sufferings of others as we sinful men cannot feel. tie feels for us now. We may come to him in our troubles; we may open our griefs to him. He will listen; his sympathy will sweeten the bitter cup; it will give real and precious comfort; it will drive out the evil spirit of despondency and selfish repining; it will bring peace, the blessed peace of God.
1. Be humble: "God giveth grace to the humble."
2. Have faith in God: "As thou hast believed, so be it done to thee."
3. Follow after charity: "Blessed are the merciful."
4. The Christian family should be hallowed by the presence of the Saviour: he brings peace; he comforts in sickness and sorrow; he blesses those whom he sanctifies.
The departure from Capernaum.
I. ITS ATTENDING CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. The multitudes. The Lord departs from them. It was not so when he saw the multitudes at the mount of the Beatitudes. He taught them then; now he departs. The enthusiasm and excitement had become very great; all the city was gathered together in wondering expectation. Perhaps they were wishing, like the five thousand after the miraculous feast, to take him by force to make him a King. He was a King, indeed, but his kingdom was not of this world; he would not use earthly means for the accomplishment of the Divine purpose; he would not avail himself of Jewish enthusiasm, the fanaticism of an excited multitude. The kingdom would come, but it must come in God's appointed way—through patient teaching and working; through a life of holy self-denial and perfect obedience; through a death of Divine sell-sacrifice. The cross was to draw all men unto him; the cross was to give him the empire over human hearts, lie had no yearning for popularity, no delight in the applause of crowds. He left them. "lie gave commandment to depart unto the other side."
2. The proposal of the scribe. A teacher himself, he addressed Christ as Teacher. lie was struck with our Lord's power and wisdom; he had witnessed his miracles and heard his teaching. The Lord was about to depart from Capernaum, to leave the thronging and excited multitude. This one scribe wished to follow him; he was ready, he said, to go anywhere that he might be with Christ. The wish seemed good and holy, but the Lord did not encourage him in his purpose. Perhaps he was acting from a sudden impulse, carried away by the surrounding excitement. The Lord could see his heart; it was not the heart of an apostle, lie was ready to follow Christ now, in the season of his popularity; but would he persevere in danger, in persecution, and in hardships? The Lord does not hide the self-denials of the Christian life. At all times there is the strait path and the narrow way; at that time there was danger and self-chosen poverty. He himself, the Messiah of whom Daniel had prophesied; who, though the Son of God from all eternity, had become in time the Son of man, had no settled dwelling, no home of his own. His disciples must be as their Master. Would the scribe follow him now? We are not told; probably we should have been told had he persevered.
3. The excuse of the disciple. The scribe, unbidden, had offered to follow Christ. The Lord had first called this disciple. "Follow me," he had said, if the similar narrative in St. Luke, placed much later in the history, refers to the same incident. The disciple hesitated; he had a pressing home duty. His father was dead; he must, he thought, attend the funeral.
(1) But the Lord had other work for him—work that required his immediate attention. He must go and preach the kingdom of God, for Christ had called him. To bury the dead is an act of Christian charity: "Honour thy father and thy mother," is one of the commandments of God. But there are still higher duties: "Seek first the kingdom of God;" "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart." And in the presence of that higher duty the calls of human affection must sometimes be disregarded, though it be at the cost of a sharp struggle. The Lord had called this disciple. There was no room for doubt; the Lord knew where his duty lay. We may not leave our family duties unless there be a clear and distinct call to other work; in this case there was plainly such a call.
(2) And there were others who could perform the last offices for the dead; others whom Christ had not called to preach the gospel. "Let the dead bury their dead," the Lord said. They were spiritually dead; they had no spiritual life; they felt no call to spiritual work. They might attend to the funeral, and leave the disciple free to work for Christ. Perhaps, too, it was dangerous for him to return home; his relations, who were dead in sin, might draw him from the life of Christ.
(3) Again the Lord teaches in these words that the press of seeming duties may sometimes distract the heart. The first duty of the awakened soul is to follow Christ, to cling to him, to be always with him. Sometimes when we are immersed in business, or even in what seems to be religious work, we are tempted to lose our own hold on Christ. Then his voice sounds in our cars, "Follow me." Everything must be subordinated to that holiest call, that one highest duty. No amount of outward work, no labour, however arduous and self-denying, will compensate us for the loss or weakening of our own spiritual life; and that spiritual life can be maintained only by walking close with Christ. "Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead." "Cling to Christ," the Lord says to the Christian soul; leave worldly cares to the worldly minded. The life of the worldly is a continual burying of their dead—dead hopes, dead joys. The Christian hath a life that dieth not—the life that is hid with Christ in God.
II. THE CROSSING OF THE LAKE.
1. The tempest. The Lord and his disciples entered a boat, seeking perhaps quiet and retirement. Suddenly a violent storm swept down upon the lake; the boat was covered with the dashing billows—it was rapidly filling; the danger was great; the disciples, hardy sailors as they were, were terrified. But the Saviour slept. The Church of Christ seems often in exceeding peril amid the chances and changes of this mortal life; dangers arise, when least expected, in the midst of calm and prosperity. Christ's people are fearful; their faith fails them. But he is in the ship, though he may seem asleep. And the ship that bears the Saviour of the world, the Church that hath the presence of the Lord, may be tempest-tossed, grievously vexed, driven hither and thither by the raging billows, but it cannot be lost, it cannot sink; it must at last reach the blessed haven—the haven where we would be.
2. The prayer of the disciples.
(1) The Lord slept—a calm, majestic repose amid the wild tumult of the storm. "So he giveth his beloved sleep." He who slept in the raging tempest gives rest to the harassed soul. "Come unto me," he saith, in those sweetest words of loving invitation, "all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." They find rest unto their souls who seek rest in Christ. This life is full of unrest, full of anxieties, full of disappointments and perplexities; but there is rest for all who seek it in the bosom of the Lord. The outward life may seem full of care and trouble, but within the Christian heart there is peace; the soul that hath found Christ resteth in the Lord.
(2) The terrified disciples awoke him. Their faith was weak, but it was real; they trusted in his power and love. Their cry was not like that of the shipmaster who awoke Jonah from his sleep: "What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not." The disciples asked not Christ for his prayers; they asked for more. He could do more than pray; they felt that. They knew not what he would do. Probably they did not realize the fulness of his power and majesty. But they had trust in him—like the trust which children have in the presence of their parents when the lightning flashes and the thunder rolls; and, like children, they were not satisfied with the mere presence of the sleeping Lord; they woke him, that he might know their danger and their terror. "Lord, save us!" they said: "we perish!" It was the "Hosanna!" the cry so often lifted up in praise, now used in its literal meaning. "Save us, we pray!"
3. The miracle. The Lord heard not the noise of the storm; he heard the cry for help. He hears his people always when they call upon him out of the depths, in the hour of darkness, in terror or in agony. The cry, "Lord, save us!" never goes up in vain when it is uttered in earnest supplication. He is with his chosen when they pass through the waters of affliction, when they are in the fires of anguish, his presence bringeth calm. He gently reproved the disciples, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" They should not fear who have the grace of Christ's presence; they should have faith in his power and love. He rebuked the winds and the sea. He stills the tempest now; he brings us safe through the storm of adversity; he stills the tempest in our hearts. "Peace, be still!" he says; and there is a great calm, where once there were harrowing doubts, distracting perplexities, anxious cares. "What manner of man is this?" All things obey him: the storms of nature and the storms of the restless heart. "What manner of man is this?" The Man of sorrows; the Word made flesh; the Son of God, "who loved me, and gave himself for me."
1. Christ's servants must not seek popularity; it is a snare and a temptation.
2. Christ was poor; his servants must be contented.
3. Those whom he calls must follow him; no earthly ties must separate them from him.
4. Trust him in danger and distress. He heareth his people's cry; he giveth peace.
The country of the Gergesenes.
I. THE DEMONIACS.
1. Their description. There were two—one fiercer, more violent, than the other. Satan's power has been broken; the incarnation of the Son of God, the atonement made upon the cross, has weakened his hold upon men. "I beheld Satan like lightning fall from heaven." The times were very evil when the Saviour came. Satan was the prince of this world, the ruler of this world's darkness. His power is still very terrible, but it is not what it was; he has not now the dominion which he once exercised over human spirits. Probably there are cases of demoniac possession still, but they are comparatively few. The characteristic of this possession, as distinguished from that wickedness which is another form of the devil's power over souls, seems to be a divided will. The unhappy demoniac felt that there was another will, a will not his own, ruling over him, driving him into frenzy.
2. Their conduct. The one demoniac mentioned by St. Mark and St. Luke came running to Christ. He fell down before him and worshipped him. He came as the sorrowing and afflicted came to Christ. They sought relief from their troubles; he longed to be delivered from the awful beings which tyrannized over his soul, He was not wholly evil—not like those who hate the light, neither come to the light. There were men more wicked than he, men possessed with devils in another sense, who had yielded up their wills to the evil one, who would not come to Christ that they might have life. This man came, drawn to Christ by the sense of his own misery, by the attraction of the Saviour's love. But there was a strange power that ruled over him; there was another voice, not his own, but so strangely blended with his being that it seemed his voice. And that voice cried, "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" There were two conflicting wills in him; the one sought Christ, the other was separated from Christ by an impassable barrier; the one hoped for mercy, the other looked only for torment. The devils had no part in Christ, nothing in common with him; there was an intense antagonism between them and the holy Son of God. The poor man, amid all the horrors of his miserable condition, felt that his one hope was in Christ. Christ might save him, only Christ could save him, from the horrible tyranny that oppressed his soul. The power of the devil is broken, but he still goeth about like a roaring lion; still there is a conflict in the heart of man; "the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other." The devil tempts us through the lusts of the flesh. He is strong and we are weak; but Christ is stronger than he. If we come to Christ in earnest prayer, he will cast out the devil; God giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. The devils recognized the power of Christ; they knew their own impending doom: "Art thou come to torment us before the time?" Christ must reign; all things must be put under him. Satan must be cast into the abyss, the bottomless pit; the kingdom of darkness must give way to the kingdom of light. "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
II. THE DEVILS.
1. Their request. The Lord had said, "Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit." They felt his power; they must obey. But they lingered. If they could no longer torment the men who had been so long their victims, they would, if possible, torment other creatures; the lower, if they were driven from the higher; unclean beasts, if the heart of man was to be cleansed from their defiling presence. And there seems to have been another strange, mysterious reason for their entreaty. They must be cast into the abyss if they could not harass men or animals with their cruel presence.
2. The Lord's permission. He utters one word of command, simple in its majesty—"Go." They must obey him now. They were left free to enter into the swine if so they pleased. We know not why; we know not why they had been allowed to torment the two poor men; we are very ignorant of the whole subject. The personality and power of Satan, the very existence of evil, involve dark mysteries into which we cannot penetrate, difficulties with which we cannot grapple.
(1) The poor men were saved from their tormentors; the departure of the evil spirits was manifested to the sight of men. Perhaps the strange wild rush of the maddened swine into the waters of the lake helped the men to realize their deliverance—it may have made that deliverance easier; and men are of more value than many swine.
(2) Sometimes the wicked obtain their evil desires; it turns to their destruction. Satan was allowed to harass the holy Job; Satan was confounded. Job was more blessed in his latter end than at the beginning. The devils were permitted to enter into the swine; it led, apparently, to that which they feared—to the abyss.
III. THE EFFECTS OF THE MIRACLE.
1. Upon the keepers of the swine. They fled. They were frightened by the power of our Lord, not touched by his goodness. They had seen it all, but they were simply terrified. Terror does not save the soul; men fear death, they fear the judgment, they fear the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched. But this mere terror is only selfish; it has nothing really religious in it. Sometimes, by God's grace and mercy, it is made the means of drawing men to Christ. But it is love that saves, and not fear; the love of Christ, not the fear of hell.
2. Upon the inhabitants. They listened to the strange story of the keepers of the swine; they came; they saw the man who had been in such grievous bondage, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. He was their fellow-creature, perhaps their countryman. He was saved, but the swine were lost. And, alas! they thought more of the swine than of their fellow-citizen; more of their loss than of their own souls. It' they were Jews, they had broken the commandment in keeping these unclean animals; but they did not recognize the loss as a punishment—their heart was not softened. The whole city came out to meet Jesus. They all saw the gracious face of the Redeemer; they knew his power and love. But, alas! "they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts." He took them at their word. He departed; they saw him no more. Let us learn to hate selfishness; let us value, above all things, the glimpses of the Saviour's presence which he from time to time vouchsafes. And, oh! let us shrink from the awful danger of driving him from our hearts by worldliness and selfish greed.
1. The devil is a cruel master: pray to be saved from his power.
2. The demoniacs came to Christ; the keepers of the swine fled from him. Oh that we learn to come and never leave him!
3. How awful to drive Christ away for the sake of worldly gain! Rather let us, like St. Paul, count all things else as dross, that we may win Christ.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
This incident follows immediately after the sermon on the mount. It is questionable whether any of the great words of that discourse reached the leper, who could only have stood beyond the outermost ring of the crowd. But though at first he was quite shut away from Christ, his opportunity came while our Lord was coming down the hill; then he could claim the beggar's privilege and stand by the wayside. Jesus speaks to multitudes, but he cares for individuals. He is not so taken up with the crowd as to have no time for special needs. Thus the gospel story repeatedly records the transition from public utterance to private kindness. These more private scenes best reveal to us the heart of Jesus. Let us look at the story of the leper, first as it regards the sufferer, and then as it concerns the action of the great Healer.
I. THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE POOR SUFFERER.
1. His condition. A leper. His disease was loathsome, and his state of life pitiable in the extreme. An outcast from society, shunned as an unclean person, regarded as hopelessly afflicted, he was an object of perfect misery. The leper has always been regarded as typical of the sinner in his uncleanness, shame, and misery.
2. His action. He came to Christ. Why? Doubtless be had heard of previous cures (Matthew 4:24 :). But the very look of Jesus would be enough to draw him to the feet of the Friend of the miserable. Never had he seen suck sympathy and kindness. We need to know something of Christ to be drawn to him. When we do perceive his grace, we must come to him if we would have his salvation.
3. His reverence. He worshipped. We cannot suppose that he perceived the full Divinity shining through the garb of simple humanity. Yet it may be that he saw more of it than any one else, for it is most revealed in compassion. But if he only bowed as an act of homage to a great one, this showed reverence—a fitting accompaniment of faith in Christ.
4. His words. He begged for cleansing, not for money. He knew his need, and he sought for the one thing most essential. He showed faith in the power of Christ; he only prayed for Christ's willinghood. Both are needed for salvation.
II. THE RESPONSE OF THE GREAT HEARER.
1. His brotherly touch. This is one of those single actions that send a flash of light into the nature of Christ. No one else would defile himself by touching a leper. The sufferer did not expect such an act of condescension, and Jesus had to "stretch forth" his hand to reach him. Here is Christ's unlimited brotherhood. If there is danger of contagion he will not think of it. Christ heals through personal contact, through gracious brotherhood.
2. His consenting words.
(1) The word of grace: "I will." Then the two conditions are fulfilled. The father of the lunatic boy doubted the other condition—the power (Mark 9:22). But both are present with Christ.
(2) The word of power: "Be thou made clean." His language to the leper is typical of his message to the sinner. He saves by cleansing.
3. His perfect healing. There is no delay, there is no slow process. Immediately the cure is complete. Thus Christ is perfectly successful. His works prove his claims. He is able to save unto the uttermost—lepers in body, lepers in soul.
4. His final directions.
(1) Silence. Perhaps from natural modesty. He was not like the Pharisees who trumpeted their alms. He would not let his left hand know what his right hand did.
(2) Obedience to the Law. This was not yet superseded. The leper lived under the Law. The priest would give the man a certificate. The offering would be a sign of gratitude.—W.F.A.
A soldier's faith.
We pass at once from the miserable leper to the Roman officer. Both have faith in Christ, and in their faith they possess much in common. Yet the centurion has interesting traits of his own. Faith takes different forms according to the character and habit of mind of those in whom it shows itself. Something special is revealed in this soldier's faith.
I. IT IS INSPIRED BY KINDNESS OF HEART. The centurion seeks no favour for himself. He is troubled about his valet, his "boy." The distress of the poor lad so touches the master's heart that he goes out to seek for the Healer. We may have faith for the sake of others as well as for our own benefit. Kindness is a good preparation for faith. Selfishness is often cynical, and cynicism is always sceptical. We may learn faith in the school of love. As we feel kindly to others we shall discover how to trust in Christ, for we shall thus come to understand Christ by sharing the spirit that is in him.
II. IT IS TRIED BY HUMILITY. Christ belonged to the despised race of the subject Jews; the centurion was an officer in the proud army of the imperial government. It was difficult for a Roman not to despise a Jew. There must have been something very fine in the nature of this man to allow of his having emancipated himself from the prejudices of his caste, so as to be able to perceive the greatness of Christ and to feel lowly and bumble by the side of him. A low estimate of one's self helps one to look up to the greatness of Christ; at the same time,.it tries faith by creating a sense of utter unworthiness.
III. IT IS ENLIGHTENED BY EXPERIENCE. The centurion knew power. He exercised it on those beneath him; he felt it from those above him. The whole of the iron structure of the Roman empire was knit together by means of authority and absolute obedience. In this stern school the centurion had learnt lessons that enabled him to believe in the irresistible power of Christ's word of command. We can best understand religion if we interpret it in terms of our own experience. It will then take different forms from those of established usage. But it will not suffer on that account. On the contrary, it will become wonderfully fresh and vivid.
IV. IT IS LED TO SEE RIGHTFUL POWER. This is the special advantage of a Roman training. The Jew would look for legal fitness, the Greek for truth and beauty, the Roman for authority. Thus the man trained in the discipline of an imperial army is able to interpret to us an aspect of the character and life of our Lord which but for him we might have missed. It is important to recognize the authority of Christ, his command over nature, his power over man. He saves by his strong arm.
V. IT IS REWARDED WITH ADMIRING RECOGNITION. Here is a man of heathen birth showing greater faith than Jews possess. The New Testament always gives us favourable portraits of Roman centurions, and thus lets us see that there was good in the Gentile world. Christ was the first to recognize this. No eye was so keen for goodness in unexpected quarters as his. He is no respecter of persons. He is generous to recognize all hopeful signs. And when he recognizes them he responds. The lad is healed by a word from a distance—a most exceptional action. But the centurion's faith is exceptional, and the Divine blessing is always according to our faith.—W.F.A.
Matthew 8:14, Matthew 8:15
A domestic scene.
The long day is nearly over. The great sermon has been preached, the healings by the way have been accomplished; at last Jesus has come home to rest for the night with one of his friends. But even now his ministry cannot cease. Wherever he goes he sees human need; whenever he sees human need he is ready to put forth power to help.
I. THERE IS TROUBLE IN THE HOME. Pain and sorrow are not shut out when the darkness of night is excluded and the door is closed on the tempest. Though there be no trouble in the streets, the bird of evil omen may brood in the very centre of the family. All may be well with the state, yet the household may be distracted with misery. The great Atlantic steamer is sailing safely on her voyage, but sick women and crying children down below have a wretchedness of their own that is never chronicled in the captain's log-book. How many homes of beauty and comfort are just dens of misery! how many more are haunts of anxiety!
II. THE FRIENDS OF CHRIST ARE IN TROUBLE. Peter is one of the best friends of Jesus—one of his newly chosen disciples. Yet a near relative of Peter's is found to be seriously ill. The service of Christ does not insure us against the invasion of trouble. Christian families do not escape the epidemic that brings distress to the homes of the godless. The Church of Christ is not a Goshen which the angel of pestilence avoids. If the laws of health are broken in a Christian household, that household has no bill of indemnity to save it from the consequences of its mistake. While Peter lived by the low swamps of Gennesareth, a place to invite fever, it was natural that fever should appear in his house.
III. CHRIST ENTERS THE HOME. He is not like John the Baptist, dwelling alone in the wilderness. He lives with his friends. He loves home-life. Though now unseen because our "eyes are holden," he still visits homes. We pray for his presence in the Church, and we hope to meet him in our public worship. But his habits on earth show us that he is quite as ready to be found in the family. The family is the social unit. Society will be out of joint unless the family is consecrated by the presence of Christ. Let us always think of him as One at our table, sharing our domestic life.
IV. CHRIST'S PRESENCE BRINGS HEALTH. He was not invited into Peter's house for the purpose of curing the sick woman. Peter knew nothing of the trouble. The fever, as is often the case in tropical climates, may have seized the poor woman without a moment's notice. Christ was invited for his own sake, that he might partake of refreshment and rest awhile. But the most unselfish serving of Christ wilt receive back unsought and unexpected blessings. Where Christ is present, he is ready to help. He saw, he touched, he healed. According to St. Mark, some told Jesus of the distressful condition of his hostess's mother (Mark 1:30). Then Jesus went to see her for himself. He is not unobservant of suffering, and for him to see is to help.
V. BLESSINGS FROM CHRIST LEAD TO THE SERVICE OF CHRIST, The sick woman is perfectly cured. She does not suffer from the languor that usually follows fever. Feeling well, she immediately sets about her daily work. Plainly she is a most sensible woman. It is worth while to cure such a practical person. The end of salvation is service. Each may best serve Christ in the way of his or her own capacities. The grace of Christ is not to lift us above doing the homeliest duties, but to fit us for them.—W.F.A.
Matthew 8:16, Matthew 8:17
The sympathy of Christ.
He has finished a long day's work, and has gone into the house for rest. Even there he finds work to do, and he heals Peter's wife's mother. Meanwhile a crowd is collecting at the door. They have brought their sick from all quarters, and Jesus cannot let them come in vain. Tired as he is, he goes forth to them and heals them nit. So touching a proof at once of the people's need and of Christ's sympathetic help leads the evangelist to see a fulfilment of the ancient prophecy of the" Servant of the Lord." Here the sympathy of Christ is revealed to us.
I. SYMPATHY IS THE MOTIVE OF CHRIST'S LIFE-WORK. It was sympathy that led him to take up the great task of saving the world. Sympathy is also apparent in the details of that task. There have been philanthropists whose private conduct seemed hard, who were negligent of the misery at their feet, who took little interest in individual cases of distress, while they manifested the greatest energy in pressing on large measures of humanitarian reform. Christ is not thus partial in his kindness. Moreover, we find no attempt at working miracles for any other purpose than the help of the sufferers. No doubt Christ was aiming at the glory of God throughout (see John 2:11; John 11:4); evidently his miracles were visible parables, setting forth in concrete acts the grace of his spiritual work. Yet the motive in his heart was not didactic, but sympathetic. His first idea was not to teach a lesson, but to relieve distress. He was "moved with compassion."
II. THE SYMPATHY OF CHRIST EXTENDED TO BODILY TROUBLE. He healed the sick. He cared for men's bodies as well as their souls. Often he reached their spiritual natures by first of all showing himself their Friend in temporal affairs.
1. Thus he encourages us to pray to him in sickness for our sick friends, and in regard to earthly troubles generally. Christ does not disdain these things.
2. Thus, also, we are urged by the example of Christ to help the suffering in their bodily needs. God gave miracles to the first century; he has given medicine to the nineteenth century. It is our duty to use what means we have for healing the sick. Medical missions are most Christ-like.
III. THE SYMPATHY OF CHRIST IS EFFECTIVE. It is more than the tear of pity. Christ feels with the sufferers, and that is much; but he goes further, and relieves them of their sufferings. He cured the sick. He freed the possessed. He reclaimed the lost. His spiritual work now is practical. When we open our hearts to the love of Christ we receive more than compassion; we receive redemption.
IV. THE SYMPATHY OF CHRIST IS COSTLY, He takes our infirmities; he bears our diseases. This means more than the removal of those troubles; the strong words cannot be satisfied unless we understand them to teach that the afflictions are a burden to Christ. The sympathy which costs us nothing is shallow and worthless. Christ's sympathy was deep and real. It was pain to him. Perhaps the healing process was itself painful, as he felt the "virtue" going out of him. However that may have been, his coming into this world, his endurance of sights of misery, and his deep compassion for the distressed, wrung his heart, because he felt that the sufferings of his brethren were his own sufferings. All this was a shadow of his great anguish when he bore more than sickness, when he bore the sins of the world on the cross.—W.F.A.
The hasty and the reluctant.
We have here two types of possible disciples of Christ. Each has its defects, though they are opposite in character.
I. THE HASTY DISCIPLE. One of the scribes, one of the official teachers of religion, is enraptured at what he sees of the gracious Galilaean ministry. He will follow Christ anywhere.
1. The scribe's offer. It is well that he is attracted to Christ. Being attracted, he naturally desires to follow the great Teacher and Healer, that he may ha always in his presence. No doubt he intends the following to be a genuine discipleship. He will sit at the Master's feet and devote himself to his service. Yet he is very hasty; he has not thought out his project; he does not know what it involves; therefore he cannot say whether he is prepared to be faithful to his promise. It is foolish to make a profession of devotion to Christ before we know what his service really is. There is much that is attractive in him, and in favourable moments our hearts are moved and go out to him. But all this may be like Ephraim's goodness, like the morning cloud, like the growth on the stony ground.
2. Christ's reply.
(1) The statement of a fact. Jesus was a poor Man, who had no home of his own; having abandoned the not very lucrative craft of a carpenter, he was dependent on the hospitality of the grateful. But he who lives on gratitude has a most uncertain livelihood. Yet Jesus humbled himself to this condition. Birds and foxes had more.
(2) A needful warning. The servant must be as his master. Christ's genuine disciples had forsaken all to follow him. Let us count the cost, for there will be cost in all Christian service. It is a dangerous sign if what we think to be the service of Christ brings us ease and affluence.
II. THE RELUCTANT DISCIPLE.
1. His call. The first disciple had not waited for the call of Christ. He had boldly volunteered for the service, and he had been taught a lesson of humility and reflection. But now Christ himself calls another disciple. This is clearly stated by St. Luke (Luke 9:59). When Christ calls, it is our part to respond at once. The case is now quite altered. Duty does not admit of any consideration of difficulty or danger.
2. His excuse. He would first go and bury his father. This seems to be a most natural excuse. The sacred duty of filial piety would appear to claim the man. Burials in the East follow quickly on death. At most the son would be away but a few hours. Then he would be free to follow Christ for the remainder of his days. How can we blame him? It may be said at once that if this were a true view of the case he would have been excused, and Christ would have been the first to sympathize with him. Therefore we must conclude either
(1) that he meant he wanted to wait for his father's death, or
(2) that he was simply quoting a proverb—as an excuse in his case for more delay. But to postpone our coming to Christ is to show want of true devotion to him.
3. His rebuke. Jesus saw through the hypocritical excuse. Yet he answered the man after his own style. He would postpone the service of Christ to secular interests. But the secular minded who are spiritually dead can attend to those affairs. Christ's claim is paramount. He is no true disciple who treats what is dearest to him in such a way as to make it a hindrance to his service of Christ. The most sacred home ties are snares when they interfere with our devotion to our Divine Lord.—W.F.A.
Christ in the storm.
The only way to escape from the throning multitude was to cross the lake to the comparatively deserted eastern shore (Matthew 8:18). Yet even on the sea quiet could not be had, for one of the sudden tempests that sweep down from the hills upon land-locked lakes with scarcely a moment's warning fell upon the little fishing-smack, when it was in the middle of its voyage, with such violence that even the experienced fishermen who manned the craft were in terror for their lives; yet Christ was asleep!
I. CHRIST IS ASLEEP IN THE STORM. This is a striking picture. Consider what it reveals in him.
1. Natural weariness. He had had a long day of toil. Even when he sought rest in the house it was forbidden him. Now at last he is free from the multitude, and Nature asserts her sway, and he falls into the heavy sleep of utter exhaustion. See here
(1) Christ's true humanity;
(2) how he can sympathize with our weakness;
(3) how his work was not easy, but toilsome and wearisome, yet freely given for the good of men.
2. Inward peace. He need not lie awake tortured by' anxiety. He has no evil conscience to disturb him. Within one breast all is calm while the tempest howls round the boat.
3. Perfect faith. His time has not yet come. But if it had come he would not need to be disturbed; for he is always ready for his Father's will. He knows that all is safe with God.
II. CHRIST IS AROUSED BY HIS DISCIPLES. Their action is natural. They were in imminent danger—or at least they thought themselves so. Their conduct reveals their state of mind. This was a strange mixture of faith and unbelief.
1. Faith. Christ is a laudsman—a carpenter of the inland town of Nazareth; these men are natives of the seashore, and fishermen well used to the sea. Yet they instinctively cry to Christ. In all his trouble the Christian cannot but turn to his Master.
2. Unbelief. These panic-stricken men cannot wait for their Master to rise at the right moment and save them. In their terror they are impatient of his calm slumbers—which is natural; but they are also querulous and unkind—which is less excusable. They hint that Christ cares not whether they perish. Great trouble is a severe test of faith, especially when we have to wait long for deliverance.
III. CHRIST STILLS THE STORM. First he rebukes the little faith of the disciples. Then he turns to the terror of wind and wave; and in a moment the storm has dropped as suddenly as it arose. Here is the real rebuke of unbelief. Christ is never negligent of his people in their troubles. He may seem to delay; but at the right moment he will do all that is needful. Whatever may be the trouble, he is able to conquer it. Yet it is easier to quiet a storm at sea than to quiet a troubled heart. If you hold a glass of water in your hand you can secure its being quite at rest while you hold your hand still. But if you have caught a wild bird in the hedge and hold it in your hand and feel its little heart throbbing against your fingers, you cannot quiet it merely by holding your hand still. You must teach it to trust you. When it has gained confidence it will be at rest. The sea may be stilled by a word of command, but the heart of man only through faith.—W.F.A.
HOMILIES BY P.C. BARKER
The leper's example
Some concise account of the nature of the disease of leprosy, of the place it held in the Jewish economy as the "sacrament of death," of the leading allusions to it in the Old Testament, and of the Levitical provisions in the event of a recovery or supposed recovery, may form introduction to discourse. Then dwell on some suggestions arising from the fact of—
I. THE FAME OF JESUS TRAVELLING TO A LEPER.
II. A LEPER TRAVELLING TO JESUS HIMSELF AT ALL RISKS. III. THE WELL-LEARNT HUMILITY OF THIS LEPER. IV, THE CLEAR DECISIVE FAITH OF THIS LEPER.
V. THE PROMPT AND PRACTICAL COMPASSION OF JESUS: HE TOUCHED THE LEPER. It was legal defilement to touch a leper, because he was a leper; but it was not defilement to touch a leper, if he thereby ceased to be such.
VI. THE PROBABLE REASON OR REASONS OF THE CHARGE OF JESUS TO HIM.
1. The reason may perhaps solely have had reference to what the Saviour knew of the real tendencies of the leper he had cleansed.
2. The reason may have had rather some outer aspect, and may have had it in view to obtain before men, and as a much-needed "testimony against" themselves, a true and unprejudiced and confessed verdict from the priests as to the genuineness of the great work of cleansing which he had accomplished.
3. The reason may have been strictly that, for Jesus, his "time was not yet ready," while the defence of the cleansed and happy, late leper, will ever be that he could not contain his joy, his praise, and his gratitude.—B.
Matthew 8:5-40.8.13 (see also Luke 7:1-42.7.10)
The centurion's example.
Use the introduction to advert to the apparent discrepancy between the account of St. Matthew and that of St. Luke, in that the latter informs us that it was by messengers and not by himself that the centurion's appeal to Christ was made. Plausible as the objection may justly be allowed to appear, one fact is sufficient to silence it, namely, that the apparent inconsistence appears quite sufficiently in the one selfsame account of St. Luke. Notice, for instance, and compare verses 8-10 there. Also allude to the favour-able circumstances in which three other centurions are brought before our notice in Christian history, e.g. Matthew 27:54; Acts 10:1; Acts 27:3, Acts 27:43; Acts 28:16. Notice—
I. THE CHARACTER THIS CENTURION HAD ACQUIRED, AND, THOUGH AN OUTSIDER, THE ESTEEM IN WHICH HE WAS HELD. Nor is the secret of this far to find.
1. He had a large heart and a sympathetic. He loved the nation of the Jews, and had built them a synagogue, no doubt because of the higher good he had gained from them. tie had reaped their spiritual things, he had given his carnal things.
2. He loved his servant, and evidently was taking great pains, not felt as such, now to get help for him, as much as though he had been a son or a brother.
II. THE CORRECT AND HIGHLY ENLIGHTENED ESTIMATE THAT HE HAD ALREADY EVIDENTLY FIRMLY PLANTED WITHIN HIM OF THE CHARACTER AND THE JUST DIGNITY OF CHRIST. Whence, it may naturally be asked, did this come?
1. From the fact that he used aright his reason, upon his observation; i.e. upon the induction of things seen and heard by him, of Christ. Of how many things higher and deeper than those of which the apostle first used the question may not the same words be used, "Doth not even nature teach you?" And in what harmony with this do we find the argument of St. Paul in Romans 1:1-45.1.32., when he says, summing it up, "So that they are without excuse"!
2. How well it may be believed that the centurion was among the instances of those illuminated by that Spirit who was always omnipresent, and who as at this time worked often where least supposed! We are reminded of the illustration used by our Lord himself preceding the sentence, "So is every one that is born of the Spirit."
III. THE GENUINE HUMILITY WHICH PENETRATED HIM.
1. He genuinely pleads deep sense of his own unworthiness as the reason why he did not come in person to Jesus.
2. He with every witness of genuineness pleads the same as the ground of deprecating Jesus coming in person to him. It would appear from the account of St. Luke that the centurion in the first instance did ask Jesus "to come and heal his servant." But second thoughts, and the awe of the imminent advent of the great Sovereign of bodies and souls changed his prayer, took away the last remnant of mere human boldness, and superseded it by diviner humility.
IV. THE FAITH, SO SIMPLY CONSTRUCTED AND SO PERFECT, FROM THE FIRST AND IN ALL DETAIL, OF THE CENTURION. This was the "marvel" for Christ. It is "great" faith; it is "so great faith;" it is greater faith than the greatest Jesus had as yet "found in Israel" even, and this not in Israel!
In conclusion, dwell on all the sweet, condescending grace of Jesus. "I will come and heal him;" "and he went with them;" "he marvelled at him;" and he praised his faith "to the people that followed him;" and "they who were sent returning to the house found the servant whole." What a parable in drama of the great grace of Jesus Christ!—B.
The instinct of beneficence.
In introduction, note the place given to the occurrence of this miracle in the two parallel places, these two defining with accuracy what is left unalluded to by St. Matthew. Also comment on verse 17, comparing it with St. Peter's quotation, and noting St. Matthew's language as not that of the Septuagint. Reject all the lesser exegeses of the wonderful characterization of the Redeemer here given; such as fatigue of body through the late and prolonged work; exhaustion of soul through the fearful strain confessed by us all, of high and deep spiritual engagement; and even such as the adumbration in all this of the achievement of the cross, and all the endurance it postulated; but point out how the personality of Jesus Christ now, and all through his public life, was the unfailing and the all-gathering focus, in one way and another way and all ways, of the sufferings, and the diseases, and the evil, and the infinite sorrow of that man, one grand essential condition of the saving of whom was, that his Saviour be "One touched," really, absolutely, tenderly, keenly touched, "with the feeling of his infirmities." This verse (seventeenth) expresses "the travail of his soul." Notice—
I. THE EXCEEDING PROMPTNESS WITH WHICH THIS MIRACLE WAS WROUGHT. Observe on the variety of the miracles of Christ, in this one respect by itself. Sometimes delay was the rule, and in such cases, sometimes with an evident reason and use, but sometimes not so. The occasions when we can see the reason or a reason will teach us how there were reasons in the other cases, though perhaps untraceable by us. On the other hand, many miracles were marked by very quick action, as with the impotent man and the blind beggar, etc., but nowhere perhaps more than in this case.
II. THE OUTWARD SIGNS ACCOMPANYING THE WORKING OF THE MIRACLE. "He touched her hand;" "he rebuked the fever;" "he took her by the hand;" "he lifted her up." In these facts stated, which may be very far from being rightly called in every sense outward signs, two leading points may be observed—the "rebuke" to the oppressor, the assistance to the oppressed, significant and genuine suggestions to our Christian work, and to our conflict in Christ's Name with human woe, and with those forces of evil which stir it and fix it and only so reluctantly loose their grasp. Nor are the forms of help barren of suggestion. He stood over her; he saw her; he touched her hand, took her by the hand, lifted her up. The very gradation in the assistance proffering us lessons, or reminding us of what we have not failed already to observe and reason upon.
III. THE GRATEFUL AND DEVOUT AND PRACTICAL RESPONSE ON THE PART OF THE SUFFERER, NO LONGER THE PREY OF HER FEVER, TO HER DELIVERER. Picture the splendid contrast. The prostrate with fever immediately transformed into the active and thoughtful servant, and the minister both to her Lord and his attendants and friends. Enlarge on this as the consummate type of Christian conduct and character after genuine conversion. For this is followed by devout and unfeigned consecration of service to Christ and his Church.
Conclude with noticing the harvest of that night, after the close of the sabbath.
1. The ingathering of what untold blessings to the people!
2. The toil and travail (in the sense of verse 17) that harvest meant for Jesus Christ.—B.
Matthew 8:19-40.8.22 (see also Luke 9:57-42.9.62)
Three human types—one Divine type.
In introduction, note that the passage in St. Luke has by some been regarded, on account of its very different place and apparent connection, as not the parallel of the present passage. On the other hand, it can scarcely be a mere duplicate or even a replica. Under any circumstances, if not the parallel, it certainly is a parallel, and the very equivalent, when allowance is made for the addition supplied by St. Luke. In fact, the absence of the third position from St. Matthew's account may possibly find explanation (explanation confessedly somewhat asked for) for any who hold, with some of the best of critics, that we may not improbably have here, in the three persons described, the anonymous biographies in so far as this incident goes of Judas Iscariot, St. Thomas, and St. Matthew himself. Notice—
I. JESUS CHRIST THE TYPE OF DISCRIMINATING FIDELITY; NOT DISGUISING, NOT FLATTERING, THE CHARACTER OF HIS OWN SERVICE, If any one, whether more or less savouring of the things that be of Judas Iscariot, seeks to enter the service of Christ and the kingdom of heaven, he shall not do so untaught as to the service, unwarned as to the conditions of it; he is plainly, faithfully, and most impressively told of these. Remark on the perfection for effectiveness of the warning here given, in its naturalness and simplicity (verse 20), and of the touching, exquisite pathos of the last of the three clauses. Remark also on the inevitable dangers of times of apparent prosperity and popular impression, as well those that flourish in dispositions of the sanguine and enthusiastic type. Discriminate between the man who offers himself, as "moved by the Holy Ghost," and the way in which he offers himself, and the boastful volunteer, whether of the nature here Portrayed, or of that of the misguided zeal of Peter.
II. JESUS CHRIST THE TYPE OF CLEAREST VISION IN THE MATTER OF THE RELATIVE WORTH OF THE HEAVENLY CALL, AND ANY AND EVERY EARTHLY CALL; THE HEAVENLY RELATIONSHIP, AND ANY AND EVERY EARTHLY RELATIONSHIP; AND OF UNBROKEN SINGLENESS OF DEVOTION, AND LOYALTY INCORRUPT TO THE HIGHER. Remark here OH the expression (verse 21), "another of his disciples," as finding its explanation from St. Luke (Luke 9:59), where we learn that Jesus had just called him, and that he was therefore his disciple. Illustrate from other clear deliverances of Jesus Christ that there is not to be imagined here for a moment any depreciation of the sacredness and the worth of human affections, but rather exaltation of the Divine affection (which must be ever the one determinating and turning-point of human character and hope and eternal outlook). Show how, in this instance, all this was yet more illuminated by the grace and kindness and inspiriting nature of the further commission, "But go thou and preach the kingdom of God."
III. JESUS CHRIST THE TYPE OF THE UN-LOOKING BACK, THE UN-MISGIVING, THE UN-TURNING, AND THE "WITHOUT-REPENTANCE" WHEN HIGH DUTY, WHEN THE MORE THAN HEROIC HEIGHTS OF PRESENT SELF-SACRIFICE, WHEN HOLY EFFORT AND HEAVEN, ARE THE GOAL IN FRONT. Dwell lovingly on the undoubted dependence (equally extraordinary and glorious in its essential nature) of true Christian work, on an exact, a clear, a steadfast eye, and a heart thereupon perfect to follow its outlook. How much so-called Christian work withers like untimely birth itself by reason of carelessness, mixed motive, and lack of supremely dominating affection!—B.
Matthew 8:23-40.8.27 (Mark 4:35-41.4.41; Luke 8:22-42.8.25)
The novel call to faith.
In introduction, emphasize the little chain of events that led to the position of peril, as in every sense natural, as wearing that appearance, and justly wearing it, and resent the imputation that it was an artificial one. The suggestive parallel or contrast, so often pointed to by various students of the New Testament in many an age, may be recalled, viz. that of Jonah fleeing from duty in a ship, falling asleep through a callous heart and a stupefied conscience, and creating peril for all his fellow-voyagers. Allow respecting the disciples now that there was much natural in their fear, and right in a secondary degree, though secondary only in their repairing with anxious cry to Jesus Christ in their extremity, as they supposed, of danger. But show, on the other hand, that the time was one of deeper teaching; the opportunity one of getting a word, and. a powerful word, in for exercise of higher faith; and the crisis had arrived when, for the disciples at any rate, a step in advance was to be taken, and they are compelled to see it. For—
I. THE CALL TO FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF IS NOW PUBLISHED FOR THE DISCIPLES, AND NOT SIMPLY FAITH IN WHAT HE MAY DO.
1. He was asleep, but it was he.
2. He was asleep, but he was in the ship.
3. He was asleep, but it was certain he did "care" for his disciples, and did care that they should "not perish."
II. THE CALL TO FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST WAS FOR SUCH FAITH TO OWN HIM OMNIPOTENT MASTER IN EVERY AND ALL DIRECTIONS OF GOD'S WIDE DOMAIN. It was g new surprise that "winds and sea obey him." But if it were this, a new surprise what did it mean, except that they knew it not before or doubted it before?
III. THE CALL TO EXERCISE FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST WAS A CALL TO BELIEVE THAT THE ENEMIES TO BE SUBJUGATED BY HIM WERE NOT SUCH AS COULD BE CALLED ACCIDENT AND THINGS UNCONSCIOUS, BUT UNSEEN FOES IN DISASTROUS ALLIANCE WITH THESE. Christ "rebuked" the "winds and sea." The alliance of spirit with flesh and blood and matter of such kind (wonderful and mysterious as is the bridge from one to another, the subtle but powerful and, for long lasting, tyrannous link between them), is undenied; and is so familiar as a phenomenon and a fact with us that we think not, at all about it, except with special effort and on special occasion. Yet deeper things are betrayed to us in revelation and by revelation, viz. such a thing as this, that spirit may possess other matter and other forms of matter; and tyrannously dominate the ubiquitous "elements of nature" and their forces. The deeper and less recognized whisperings and suggestions of revelation are sometimes equivalent to authoritative pronouncements of what we had once named the superstitious figments of heathen minds. Let it be they were such; yet how cravingly, inquiringly, wearily, and not altogether vainly, did they roam round and beat at the bonds and environment of their ignorance; and sometimes they touched truth! The disciples were taught such truths, and we through them.—B.
Matthew 8:28-40.8.34 (Mark 5:1-41.5.20; Luke 8:26-42.8.39)
The divorce of supreme pity.
In introduction, distinguish between the genuine possession by an evil spirit and the phenomena of madness, or the most of those instances of merely bodily plague which in the worst times have probably nevertheless been the result and degenerate outgrowth. of the extremes of sensuality and intemperance. Also allude to the fact that only one demoniac is mentioned by St. Mark and St. Luke. Note therewith that here, though it is said "they" both spoke and cried to Jesus, yet only one form of words is given. In passing, note also how, in the account of each evangelist, this narrative follows that of the stilling of the storm and tempest in the material world. Notice—
I. A DREADFUL TYPE IN BODILY LIFE OF THE MAN WHOSE SPIRIT, GIVEN HIM WHEREWITH TO RULE AND "HAVE 'DOMINION," IS OVERRULED AND OVERMASTERED BY AN EVIL SPIRIT, AND EXERCISES BUT A VERY PRECARIOUS AND OCCASIONAL SWAY OF ITS OWN.
II. THE EXTRAORDINARY BUT MOST SIGNIFICANT ACTION OF THIS DUALITY OF SPIRIT WHICH MANIFESTED ITSELF AT THE CRISIS OF THE APPROACH OF JESUS CHRIST, The "he" who met Jesus, and ran to him as by irresistible instinct or attraction, and "worshipped," and "fell down" before him, and the other "he" (or "they") of whose devilish inspiration were the words which the victim used. How graphic, how dramatic, how dreadful the parable the description speaks of the conflict and the strife in the soul between itself in deep need, deep distress, deep consciousness, and the odious tyrant that hems him at bay!
III. THE NOTICE TO QUIT NOW, AND THE MORE SIGNIFICANT SUGGESTION THAT THE NOTICE, YET TO COME ONE DAY, WOULD BE A LONGER NOTICE, ONE TO QUIT FOR EVER, The entreaty of the united legion, by the lips of the oppressed and tormented demoniac, is that they shall not be banished the "country" (i.e. the world); and should not be sent into "the deep" (i.e. the unseen domain), where there would be no "wicked," no "weary" from whatsoever cause, for such to possess and tyrannize. And this entreaty betokened sufficiently plainly what they knew of their ultimate destiny, and what they bad in view in deprecating being "tormented before the time." Note the easy prey that the vast number of swine were to the evil spirit or spirits; and how is thereby set forth the strong power to resist of the human soul, and its long-continued power to resist, and in the same relative proportion the prolonged, unutterable suffering and anguish.
IV. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE COWARDLY AND SELFISH GADARENES IN BESEECHING CHRIST TO DEPART, AND THE IMPASSIONED PRAYER OF THE RECOVERED DEMONIAC TO BE PERMITTED TO REMAIN WITH CHRIST.
Conclude by remarking on the fearful compliance on the part of Jesus with the one entreaty, arid his most gracious refusal of the other.—B.
HOMILIES BY MARCUS DODS
The leper and the centurion.
The miracles of our Lord are an integral and necessary part of God's revelation of himself to men. Christ came not so much to reveal God's power as to reveal God's disposition to use that power for us; not so much to show God's holiness as to show his desire and purpose to make us also holy. Miracles, therefore, lay as naturally and inevitably in the way of Christ's work as his teaching with authority did.
I. THE HEALING OF THE LEPER is the first miracle recorded by Matthew, and it probably struck him more than it would at first sight strike us, by appealing to his Jewish ideas and sentiments.
1. For, in the first place, leprosy was not an ordinary, though a common, disease. It had a religious aspect, and was as symbolic as sacrifice or any other of the Jewish ordinances. It was, in the eye of the Jew, a frightful symbol of the condition of the outcast from God; he saw in it the true representation of the consuming and polluting nature of sin. For the sinner, too, is forced to cry, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" To cut off one member brings no relief; the diseased blood strikes out in some other part. You may make one sin impossible, but another takes possession of you. The disease, you find, is yourself; you are full of it. What can you do but what the leper did—come worshipping and beseeching to him who has power to heal?
2. It was partly because leprosy was symbolical of inward disease that Matthew saw in this healing of the leper the fulfilment of the prophetic words, "Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." But partly, no doubt, because the prompt reply of the Lord, "I will; be thou clean," and his touching the man, disclosed the deep sympathy he had with men. Somehow the man had been brought to know that what nothing else could do for him Christ could. It is true of us all that we are dependent on Christ's will. Obviously one who pro-losses to have all power in heaven and on earth can do many things which you need and which no one else professes to be able to do for you. Will Christ listen to the cry of bodily disease and be unmoved by the poor wretch that cries for deliverance from moral defilement? With what may we not fill up the leper's form of petition, "If thou wilt, thou canst"? Very appropriately does Matthew put this "I will" of Christ's in the forefront of all the miracles he records. It is this word that opens the gate and lets in upon us supernatural forces. Will is, indeed, the only supernatural force we know. Our own wills are in a certain sense supernatural. And when our Lord utters the words, "I will; be thou clean," he is merely exerting in a higher degree this same inscrutable spiritual force. We know not how his will is exerted upon the sufferer, but the effect is immediate and undeniable. From the number of miracles our Lord wrought at this time Matthew selects these two, of the leper and the centurion's servant, that we may see the readiness and the potency of the will of Christ to heal.
II. IN THE CENTURION we meet with a high type of man; a kindly, generous, devout nature; a humility not to be expected in one accustomed to command and to represent a ruling race. But, as our Lord reminds us, there are humble, unselfish, right-minded men in all ages and in all countries. In the centurion he saw promise of a far richer harvest than Israel could afford—myriads of earnest men pressing from every quarter of the globe to hear the words of his kingdom. The exhilarating prospect has, however, its dark background. The earnest and humble devoutness cf spirit which spring up, one cannot tell how, in those outside the kingdom may be lacking to those within. These men glorified Christ, showed him in a right light and reflected honour upon him by their conduct. We have known more about him, have clearer views of his Person and methods; but, were our dealings with him recorded, would there be the same fair record of simple, unmurmuring faith, of humble dependence on Christ's will, and undoubting worship? But the distinctive feature of the centurion's application to our Lord is his persuasion that Christ's will can work at a distance as easily as at hand. He reasons from his own experience. He had but to give the word of command, and his whole troop obeyed him; and he could not suppose the word of Christ was in his peculiar sphere less potent and authoritative. Perhaps this idea had been suggested to him by his feeling the contrast between his own power on the battle-field and helplessness at the bedside of his servant. Was there not some one who had power even here—some one whose will could quicken even that inert body? The soldier, the law-abiding Roman, felt there must be.
Two injunctions were laid upon the healed leper.
1. To tell no man. This is an instance of what our Lord very commonly did, enjoining the healed person to keep silence about his cure, partly from regard to the person's own best interests, partly from a regard to the proper work of Christ. If this man went and published his cure, many would come merely by way of experiment, as they would try a new doctor. But what was our Lord to do with such people, who merely wished for the physical benefit, and had no regard for his Person and no serious faith in him? And it would seem not improbable that this is the reason why we ourselves, even when we pray, get so little from Christ. Our faith is not serious enough; it is not the deeply rooted conviction that grows up in a man's self by the working of his own mind and the course of his own experience; it is second-hand faith. We ask from him not because we are sure we shall receive, but because other people think it right to do so.
2. The man is sent to the priest that his cure might be verified. The cure was real and substantial, and our Lord shrank from no official examination, but rather courted it. Another reason was simply because this was commanded. This man was not to suppose that, because his cure was extraordinary, he was to be exempt from the customary regulations. Now, the significance of this for all who derive benefits from Christ is obvious. They must approve themselves healed and sound-hearted persons before that court that tries us all, and in which the judges are the ordinary duties of life, and the persons with whom or for whom we work. The character formed by Christ is fit for all the practical work and service of life; and he who fancies that because his cure has been wrought in a miraculous, supramundane, heavenly fashion, it is to be followed only by an ethereal, supramundane goodness that can do none of the rough work of the world, may well suspect he has not been cured at all. But the main impression of these incidents is meant, no doubt, to be a deep conviction of the quick response our Lord ever shows to true dependence on him.—D.
HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD
Jesus, in his sermon on the mount, spake with an authority that asserted his Divinity. He claimed to be the King and Judge of men. Coming down from the mount, followed by the multitudes who were astonished at his doctrine, he wrought, a miracle which proved his authority to be no assumption. The miracles of Christ were not only miracles of power; they were, moreover, miracles of wisdom—parables of omnipotence.
I. LEPROSY IS AN EMBLEM OF SIN.
1. It is a most loathsome disease.
(1) Mungo Park thus describes it as he witnessed it amongst the negroes in Africa: "It appears at the beginning in scurfy spots upon different parts of the body; which finally settle upon the hands and feet, when the skin becomes withered and cracks in many places. At length the ends of the fingers swell and ulcerate; the discharge is acrid and fetid; the nails drop off, and the bones of the fingers become carious, and separate at the joints. In this manner the disease continues to spread frequently until the patient loses all his fingers and toes, and sometimes his hands and feet." Maundrel says, "Leprosy is the extreme state of corruption of which a living body is capable" (cf Job 7:5).
(2) A corresponding moral condition comes to the day in our police-courts. In the eye of God the unregenerate heart of the Pharisee is no less revolting (see Matthew 23:27, Matthew 23:28).
2. It is an insidious disease.
(1) Leprosy at first spreads secretly. Sometimes it is for years concealed. So the venom of sin is hidden, being restrained by environments of Christian influence.
(2) It is an hereditary evil. The leprosy of Naaman was not only transferred to Gehazi; it was also entailed upon his seed (2 Kings 5:27). The entailment of sin is universal.
(3) It is, moreover, contagious. Hence the Law required that the leper should live apart, and warn passengers to keep aloof by crying, "Unclean! unclean ]" (Le Matthew 13:45, Matthew 13:46). So Miriam (Numbers 12:14, Numbers 12:15). Things infected with leprosy, were destroyed. So is sin contagious, and the company of sinners is to be shunned (2 Corinthians 6:14-47.6.18; James 4:4).
II. ITS CURE SETS FORTH CHRIST AS THE SAVIOUR OF SINNERS.
1. The Law prescribed no cure for it.
(1) The cleansing was not the healing of the leper (see Le Matthew 14:3). This man was healed and then sent to the priest to be ceremonially cleansed (Matthew 8:4). So neither has the Law any cure for sin.
(2) The gospel supplies this lack. Hence David, in his moral leprosy, instead of going to the priest, went to the Lord (Psalms 51:7).
(3) There was a sense in which the faith of the Samaritan had made him whole, in which his nine ungrateful companions, though healed physically, were not made whole (see Luke 17:11-42.17.19).
2. Jesus is able to save all men.
(1) This miracle proving his Divinity establishes his ability.
(2) But he saves us not by arbitrary power. He cannot sacrifice justice to mercy.
(3) He satisfies the claims of justice by taking our sin upon him. This is parabolically taught in his touching the leper. By that healing touch he became himself ceremonially unclean.
(4) In this Jesus broke no law. There is no law that says, "Thou shalt not touch a leper."
3. He is not willing to save all characters. "If thou wilt."
(1) He spurns the impenitent wicked (see Isaiah 1:10-23.1.20; Psalms 66:18).
(2) The contrite believer he will save. "I will." The leper came humbly. "Worshipped him," or, as in Mark, "kneeling down to him." Trustfully. "If thou wilt, thou canst." None such are too vile. "A leper."
4. Impurity instantly yields to the rebuke of Christ.
(1) Why should a present salvation be disputed? Jesus is the Omnipotence of purity. "Straightway his leprosy was cleansed."
(2) But why did Jesus send him to the priests? "For a testimony unto them," viz. as to the power of the gospel. Also as to its truth. For this is beautifully set forth in the ceremony. The miracle is a splendid commentary upon the Law.—J.A.M.
We take this to be the centurion also mentioned by Luke (7.). The points of agreement in the narratives are too remarkable and too numerous to be taken to apply to separate persons. The narratives are harmonized upon the principle of personation common in the sacred writings (see e.g. 2 Samuel 1:15 compared with 2 Samuel 4:10, and Acts 9:23, Acts 9:24 with 2 Corinthians 11:32). Let us consider the centurion's faith and its reward.
I. HIS FAITH,
1. It was reverent and humble.
(1) He did not presume to come to Jesus in person. According to Luke, he approached him through the elders of the Jews. He thus forestalled the objection that he was a stranger.
(2) He had enlightened views of the majesty of Jesus. For, though Jesus had appeared in humiliation amongst. men, this Roman said (still by representation), "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof." Note: We should value and venerate what we can see of Christ in the humbled saint. Had we juster views of the majesty of Jesus we should have humbler views of ourselves. We judge by contrasts.
(3) There are some whose reverence would not restrain them from touching the Lord (see Matthew 9:18-40.9.20). The same inward feelings may be variously displayed.
(4) A sense of unworthiness is a sign of worth. He that is furthest from self is nearest to the Lord. This centurion, as Augustine says, while owning himself unworthy that the Lord should, enter his house, was accounted worthy that that Lord should enter his heart. Though corporeally distant, the centurion was through faith enabled to converse in spirit with Jesus.
2. It was strong, and earnest.
(1) He came with entreaty. "Beseeching him." The earnestness of entreaty is a sign of faith; for it grows out of the conviction of the ability of the person supplicated to grant the petition.
(2) So strong was the faith of this centurion that it saw no need for the presence of the Miracle-worker. It recognized the omnipresence of Omnipotence. This faith is the more remarkable since up to this time no example of a miracle wrought by Jesus at a distance is on record.
(3) The centurion's apprehension of the Divinity of Christ is also recognized in his argument. It proceeded upon the principle that the forces of nature were absolutely under the control of Jesus. The obedience of the soldiers and servants of the centurion were rendered to one under the authority of superiors; hut Jesus was absolute Ruler in nature.
3. It was large and generous.
(1) It was exercised on behalf of his servant. Many came to Christ on behalf of their children; this is the only example we have of one so interested in a servant. Many, like the Amalekite, forsake their servants when they are forsaken by health (1 Samuel 30:13). The good master studies the welfare of his servants.
(2) The centurion was touched by the suffering of his servant. Great agony is experienced in palsy when it passes into apoplexy. Faith is nourished in the sympathies of goodness.
(3) The elders who represented the centurion's case to Jesus were moved by admiration of his nobleness. They pleaded, "He is worthy; for he loveth our nation, and hath built us a synagogue." Faith is strong in the heart of the generous.
II. ITS REWARD.
1. It gained for him his suit.
(1) Before the elders had fully opened the case, Jesus said, "I will come and heal him." His coming is healing. "Unto you that fear my Name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings."
(2) Before the elders returned to communicate the answer, the centurion had the answer in his house. "His servant was healed in that hour." "Before you call, I will answer; and while you are yet speaking, I will hear."
(3) The centurion gained more than his suit. He received healing also in his own soul. "As thou hast believed, so shall it be done unto thee." In blessing we are blessed.
2. He had the highest commendation.
(1) Jesus marvelled at the greatness of his faith. For he was a Roman. Conversely, Jesus marvelled at the unbelief of certain Jews. All circumstances are surveyed in the judgments of Jesus.
(2) His faith was honoured with the promise of the kingdom. The Gentile by faith becomes the child of the covenant. "Shall sit down with Abraham," etc. (cf. Genesis 12:3; Genesis 17:4; Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:9, Galatians 3:14, Galatians 3:29).
(3) This means the friendship of the King. Sitting with Abraham, etc., is enjoying the company of the aristocracy of virtue. Reclining with Abraham, etc., viz. on the bosom of the King. That last supper at which the disciples reclined on the bosom of Jesus was the anticipation of a fulfilment in the kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 26:29; Luke 14:15; Luke 22:15, Luke 22:16, Luke 22:29, Luke 22:30).
(4) Jesus handsomely commends his friends (see Matthew 11:6; Matthew 15:28; Matthew 25:34-40.25.36; Matthew 26:10; Luke 7:44; Luke 21:3).
3. He was made a specimen of the conversion of the Gentiles.
(1) "And I say unto you [Jews], That many shall come from the east," etc. By faith the Gentiles shall cuter the kingdom of grace. By faith also shall they enter the kingdom of glory.
(2) To the Jews Jesus came in person; to the Gentiles he sends his healing Word. "Only say the word." Grace triumphs in unlikely places. So in unlikely persons. A devout soldier! No man's calling can excuse his unbelief.
4. The reception of faithful Gentiles is condemnation to unfaithful Jews.
(1) Jesus had not found such faith, no, not in Israel. He sought faith. He seeks it still.
(2) He sought it first among the children of the kingdom. The gospel as well as the Law came first to the Jews (see Romans 9:4). Privileges bring responsibilities. So the last become first by their faith. The first become last through their unbelief.
(3) How fearful is the condition of the rejected! Shut out from the light of the banquet of glory. In the cold and hunger of an endless night. The weeping. The gnashing of teeth. No such sorrow and misery as those of the lost.—J.A.M.
Here we notice two things—
I. THAT JESUS ACCEPTS THE MINISTRY OF HOSPITALITY.
1. He accepted the hospitality of Peter.
(1) This apostle resided at Capernaum, and Jesus lodged with him (cf. Matthew 17:24). Peter had a house; his Master had not one. Here the servant was above his Lord.
(2) Peter formerly resided at Bethsaida (John 1:44). Probably he removed his dwelling to be near to Jesus—to render him hospitality, and to benefit by his heavenly conversation. In changing residences Christians should not remove from the ordinances of religion. In seeking the health of the body the health of the soul must not be imperilled. Israel journeyed ever under the Sheehinah.
(3) Peter's wife's mother ministered to Jesus, or supplied him with refreshments. Jesus needed such hospitality, for his humanity was real. So are still his human sympathies.
(4) In accepting this hospitality, Jesus sanctioned marriage amongst his clergy. With what little grace do the Romanists contend for the celibacy of those who, while professing to derive infallibility from Peter, go contrary to his example (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:5)!
2. He will accept the hospitality of our hearts.
(1) Though corporeally gone into heaven, Jesus is still spiritually present with us. He sups in blessed friendship with the loyal, loving heart. He looks for a spiritual ministry to him. Temporal things are valuable as they are prompted by spiritual motives and aim at spiritual ends.
(2) We minister to Jesus when we serve his Church. The Church is the mystical Christ (cf. Romans 12:4, Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 8:12; Galatians 3:16 with Galatians 3:29).
(3) Individual believers are specimens of the Church and representatives of Jesus. So he takes home as to himself hospitalities, or conversely unkindnesses, shown to them (cf. Matthew 25:40, Matthew 25:45; Acts 9:5).
(4) We are qualified by the grace of Christ to minister to Christ. Peter was made a disciple of Jesus before Jesus accepted his hospitality. Peter's wife's mother was empowered by Jesus before she ministered to Jesus. "We give thee of thine own."
(5) Peter was a young man—for his wife's mother was an active woman—yet Peter was a senior among the apostles. They were, therefore, all young men. Youth is the period for enterprise. Those who waste their youth waste their lives.
II. THAT JESUS EXERCISES THE MINISTRY OF SALVATION.
1. He healed all manner of diseases.
(1) "The fever owned his touch, and fled." The touch of that hand intimated the tenderness of a heart that is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." It also evinced Divinity. The healing was as sudden as the touch. There was no interval of convalescence.
(2) Jesus healed Peter's wife's mother on the sabbath. For "it is lawful to do good on the sabbath day." But the Jews did not bring their sick until after sundown, when the sabbath ended (see Le Matthew 23:32; also Matthew 12:10; Luke 13:4). He respected their prejudices, and healed them all.
2. He cast out the spirits with his word.
(1) An essential distinction is here strongly marked between the spirits "cast out" and the diseases "healed".
(2) Demoniacs were prevalent in Judaea in the time of Christ because the nation was then advanced to a height of impiety. The Jews were then also strongly addicted to magic, and invited spirits to be familiar with them.
(3) If there is anything beyond charlatanry in the spiritualism of these days it is like a revival of the necromancy denounced in the holy oracles (see Deuteronomy 18:9-5.18.12).
(4) Evil spirits have never ceased to dwell in impure affections; and they still possess the souls of the wicked as formerly they possessed their bodies.
3. These works denoted the Messiah.
(1) They were wrought in fulfilment of prophecy. The citation of Isaiah 53:4 here evinces this. But the words of the prophet also have reference to the atonement for sin, for so they are applied elsewhere (see 1 Peter 2:14).
(2) The miracles were wrought in anticipation of the atonement. For sickness is a consequence of sin. The removal of the consequence was a pledge that the Miracle-worker would remove the cause. Upon the same principle of anticipation Old Testament believers were saved by the death of Christ.
(3) The miracles of Jesus, together with the sympathy of his whole life, must be viewed as belonging to his great work of atonement, which was therefore only "finished" on the cross. So, in working his miracles, Jesus sometimes—perhaps always—"groaned in spirit, and was troubled." Both kinds of "bearing our diseases" were requisite to our great High Priest (see Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 5:1, Hebrews 5:2). Remarkably this view is expressed in the rabbinical book of Zohar: "There is one temple which is called the temple of the sons of affliction; and when Messiah comes into that temple, and reads all the afflictions, all the griefs, and all the chastisements of Israel, which came upon them, then all of them shall come upon him; and if there were any that would lighten them off from Israel, and take them upon himself, there is no son of man that can bear the chastisements of Israel, because of the punishment of the Law, as it is said, 'Surely he hath borne our griefs,' etc."
(4) The diseases and afflictions of the body miraculously cured by Jesus are to be taken as figures of corresponding moral evils.—J.A.M.
To avoid the pressure of the crowd gathered by the fame of his miracles—perhaps to disperse the crowd, lest the jealous Romans might suspect sedition—Jesus gave commandment to cross the lake. Therefore a disciple—a scribe, desiring to come into more constant communion with Jesus—said, "Teacher, I will follow thee," etc. (verses 19, 20). Another, following as a disciple (tradition says it was Philip, some say Thomas), said, "Lord, suffer me first," etc. (verses 21-22). The whole subject unfolds the principles of Christian discipleship.
I. THE ONE CONDITION OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP IS IMPLICIT SUBMISSION TO CHRIST.
1. This was confessed in words by the scribe.
(1) His words recognized the great Teacher (verse 19).
(2) They expressed unreserved devotion to him. The genuine disciple will follow Jesus anywhere.
(3) They expressed, moreover, voluntary service. "Love is the fulfilling of the Law."
2. But he said more than he meant.
(1) His enthusiasm arose from the persuasion that in following the Miracle-worker he might secure worldly advantages. He did not discern that Jesus sought faith, not fees; that he made no material profit by his healing power. Men may propose right things from sordid motives.
(2) He too lightly estimated what it is to follow Christ. Many, like him, would follow in the sunshine, but, meeting hardships, take offence. He was too hasty in promising. "Soon ripe, soon rotten." Christ's followers in paths of publicity and enjoyment are many; in the walks of humility and suffering, few.
(3) He was too self-sufficient. A man that is not illuminated by the Spirit thinks himself capable of anything. The true man knows he can do nothing without the Spirit of Christ.
(4) All this is suggested in Christ's discouraging reply (verse 20). Jesus does not deceive his followers. He promises them glorious rewards in the great future. He promises them present blessings also. But withal he promises hardships and privations (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:11).
3. Yet not more than Christ requires.
(1) The scribe's discouragement from Christ was because his motives were not as good as his words. Christ "for our sakes became poor," and for his sake we must be "poor in spirit." The Christ-like have no abiding city here. Let the poor be comforted in their resemblance to Christ in circumstances. But let them also seek his moral likeness.
(2) The foxes have holes. Cunning men of the world "feather their nests." The birds of the air have lodging-places. Those who prey upon the simple have their convenient retreats.
4. The claims of Christ are uncompromising.
(1) This is evident in the reply of Christ to Philip. The request to be permitted first to bury his father seems in itself reasonable. Elijah permitted Elisha to bid farewell to his friends.
(2) But things otherwise lawful in themselves must not divert us from the more important duty of following Christ. Duties take precedence in the order of their importance. Many are by family ties hindered from following Jesus. Piety to God is before piety to parents (cf. Leviticus 21:11, Leviticus 21:12; Numbers 6:6-4.6.8; Luke 14:26).
(3) It is not clear that Philip's father was dead or even dying. He may have been from age, as it were, lingering on the brink of the grave. In this case, suppose he should linger three or four years, then Philip, in waiting to bury his father, would miss his opportunity of attending upon Jesus, whose ministry closed within that period.
5. The claims of Christ are spiritual before all things.
(1) The unspiritual are dead while they live. "The philosophers esteem those dead who subject the mind to sense" (Clemens Alexandrinus). "The wicked are dead to virtue, alive to evil" (Philo). "The wicked are dead while yet alive" (Maimonides; cf. Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13; 1 Timothy 5:6; Revelation 3:1).
(2) "Let the dead" in trespasses "bury their dead." There is an affinity between spiritual and natural death. Those are styled dead who are in a fitter state for burying the dead than for preaching the gospel.
(3) Let those look after the dying for the sake of what they may inherit, who are spiritually dead. The spiritual must not turn aside from the gospel for any temporal gain. When God calls to the ministry we must leave the business of this world.
(4) "Follow me." We must surrender ourselves at once and entirely to Christ. Want of leisure is too often want of inclination.
II. THE LIFE-LESSON OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP IS CHRIST.
1. Christ is the Teacher in his school.
(1) He has ushers or under-teachers—prophets, apostles, ministers. But their commission is to preach Christ. If they teach for doctrines commandments of men, they betray their trust.
(2) The Spirit of Christ is ever present in his Church. He sheds his light upon the Word that he inspired. He sheds his love abroad in the hearts of his sincere disciples.
2. Christ is also the Subject of his teaching.
(1) Styling himself "the Son of man," he claims to be Messiah (cf. Psalms 8:4 with Hebrews 2:6, Hebrews 2:16; see also Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14).
(2) The correlative title is "Son of God." Christ constantly speaks of himself as "the Son of man" (see Matthew 26:63, Matthew 26:64). He uses the term to assert his humanity (see John 12:34). His miracles asserted his Divinity.
(3) With a single notable exception (see Acts 7:56), his disciples speak of him as "the Son of God."
3. Properly to know Christ we must embark with him.
(1) By embarking with Christ we do not escape storms. On the contrary, we may encounter them because he is in the ship. Does not Christ's "rebuking" the wind suggest that intelligent agency was behind it? The "prince of the powers of the air" would rejoice to sink such a freight as Christ and his Church.
(2) But with Jesus we are safe. "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" Fearfulness is a sign of little faith. Why did they not confide in his Godhead, which never sleeps? Had they been able in faith to say, "The Lord is my Strength," then would they have added, "Of whom shall I be afraid?"
(3) The sleep of Jesus in the storm showed the confidence of his humanity in his Godhead. It betokened also that inward peace which his disciples might have. amidst title storms of temptation and affliction.
(4) The recourse of the disciples to the humanity of Christ shows how necessary is that humanity to us as the way of our access to the Godhead.
(5) "And he arose, and rebuked the wind." So the calming of the storm in the soul is the result, not only of the Lord's awaking, but also of his arising, viz. from the sleep of death. He rebuked and calmed the spirits of his disciples first, and then he rebuked the wind and calmed the sea. Spiritual things take precedence of material.
(6) "What manner of man is this?" The Divine Man. To still the raging of the sea is the acknowledged work of God. The God of nature is the God of grace.—J.A.M.
The personality of devils or demons has been called in question, and the examples of demoniacal possession recorded in Scripture have been construed as cases of insanity. But the narrative before us refuses to be thus treated. Here clearly are intelligences who can know, reason, speak, and pray, and who can exist separately from the subject of possession, and after expulsion from men can enter and possess inferior animals. Note—
I. THAT DEVILS ARE FORMIDABLE FOES.
1. They are formidable in power.
(1) This is evident from their appellatives (see Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15).
(2) From their exploits. See the history of Job. Did not Satan transport the body of Jesus from the wilderness to the pinnacle of the temple, and thence to the mountain summit (see Matthew 4:5, Matthew 4:8)?
(3) From the example of these demoniacs. No man could bind them.
2. They are formidable in number.
(1) Else how could they tempt so constantly the 1,400,000,000 living men? Their number must be great if all the wicked men that have died are demons.
(2) Their name is "legion." A Roman legion numbered six thousand men.
(3) Things singly insignificant in numbers become formidable. Frogs and flies in multitudes became Egyptian plagues. In relation to the swarms of demons marshalled by Satan he is called Beelzebub—"Lord of flies."
3. They are formidable in their military order.
(1) This, too, is suggested in the name of "legion." They are officered into principalities, powers, world-rulers of darkness, and spiritual rulers of wickedness in the heavens (see Ephesians 6:12).
(2) They are efficiently marshalled. Some are devils of pride; some of coveteousness; some of sensuality; some of profanity; some of malice. Those who are led by any propensity to evil are possessed by a demon apt to stimulate it. Is your familiar an "unclean spirit"?
4. They are formidable in their inveterate malignity.
(1) They are proud spirits. What but inveterate malignity could induce them to ask leave of God to work mischief?
(2) The more so when they know that for the mischief they work they will incur a terrible retribution. Devils are not yet in hell. Their time of torment is the day of judgment (of. verse 29; Revelation 12:12; Revelation 20:1-66.20.3, Revelation 20:10).
5. They are formidable because of their passion for enshrinement in humanity.
(1) Out of humanity they are troubled and uneasy (cf. Matthew 12:43). It is "torment" to them to be ejected from humanity (verse 29).
(2) They prefer enshrinement in the body of a beast to being houseless. Satan enshrined himself in a serpent. These demons. entreated to be allowed to enter into the swine.
(3) They make havoc wherever they crone. The evil disposition of the heart is a tomb in which a demon dwells.
II. DEMONIACAL ASCENDENCY IS DISASTROUS TO HUMANITY.
1. Disastrous because assimilating.
(1) This is more evident in Mark's account, in which the plural and singular are so mingled that it is difficult to know whether the demons or the demoniac speaks.
(2) This possession is the more deplorable as it diabolizes the Godward side of humanity.
2. Disastrous because dissocializing.
(1) These demoniacs were driven from society into the solitude of the tombs.
(2) Sin breaks up homes and friendships.
(3) It destroys commonwealths.
(4) The rich man in bell did not desire the company of his five brethren.
3. Disastrous because infuriating.
(1) It is suicidal. These demoniacs cut themselves with stones. The priests of Baal cut themselves with knives (1 Kings 18:28; see also Leviticus 19:28; Jeremiah 16:6). Sin is moral suicide.
(2) It is fratricidal. "Cain was of that wicked one, and slew his brother." These demoniacs were the terror of passengers (verse 28). "One sinner destroyeth much good."
III. ABSOLUTE SUPREMACY VESTS IN CHRIST.
1. Demons confess him their Superior.
(1) This is remarkable in their history since the experiment in the wilderness. There it was, "If thou be the Son of God." Here it is, "What have we to do with thee, thou Son of God?"
(2) They tremble in the presence of their Judge. "Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" They were preconscious of their casting out. That casting out they regarded as a presage of their time of final judgment (of. John 12:31; John 14:11).
2. He may listen to a devil's prayer.
(1) He consented to the prayer of these demons that they should be suffered to enter into the swine. He consented to the prayer of Satan that he might torment Job.
(2) Why should he not? He can work gracious purposes by the most unlikely agency. His consent to the prayer of the demons was a judgment upon the sin of the swine-dealers.
(3) The injury wrought upon the fig tree, that upon the traffickers in the temple, and this upon the swine-dealers, were severally presages of future vengeance.
3. tie may listen to a rebellious sinner's prayer.
(1) The Gadarenes besought him to depart out of their borders. They would rather have demons and swine among them than the holy Jesus. He heard their prayer.
(2) Let the blasphemer beware. His horrible prayers may be answered. The imprecation, "His blood be upon us, and upon our children," had a terrible response in the wars of the Jews and in the horrors of their long captivity.
(3) Let the rejecter of the gospel beware.
4. He may refuse the prayer of a saint.
(1) The Gadarene, now no longer a demoniac, but a grateful believer, entreated that he might be with his Deliverer, but was refused. The bodily presence of Jesus he must not have; but his spiritual presence he may enjoy.. He was to go home, where he was best known, and there to let his light shine.
(3) Let us not be discouraged if our prayers are not answered precisely as we desired. God answers our prayers to our utmost advantage.—J.A.M.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
Doubts turned into prayers.
"if thou wilt." This may be the first instance in which our Lord put forth his power to cleanse a leper, and, if so, the hesitation and anxiety of the man is very naturally explained. His approach is that of a man who had his doubts and fears, but had also his confidences and hopes; and he very properly let his faith decide his action rather than his fears. We may look on him as a man doubting, but showing us how to deal with our doubts; and proving to us how easily our doubts may be dispelled, if we deal wisely with them; and we deal wisely when we do not keep them to ourselves, but turn them into prayers, and speak them out to God.
I. THE SPIRIT OF DOUBT. This can only be regarded as an evil thing. The spirit of trustfulness, receptiveness, is becoming to the child of God. A fashion of doubting, and a pride in doubting, as if it were something very clever, are in every way most mischievous, ruinous to our moral nature, because destructive of that which is the great glory of the creature, the capacity for trust. And yet it must also be seen and recognized that doubt is really the working of a necessary quality of mental manhood. He is not really a man who is unable to doubt. To see two sides of a thing, and have to choose between them, involves a period of doubting. The man who cannot doubt cannot have an intelligent faith. The basis of all moral decision is doubt that can weigh considerations. So it is a great thing to say, "We can doubt, yet we do believe." This leper may have heard of the great things Jesus had done, but the question came—Could he cleanse a leper? There was no settling that doubt; so he turned it into a prayer, and took it to Christ.
II. OUR ACTUAL DOUBTS. It may be well to notice what subjects those doubts chiefly concern. And we must deal, not with intellectual doubts, but with religious doubts—those which bear relation to our spiritual condition, our cleansing from sin. Letting the case of the leper be suggestive, we may notice that:
1. Our doubts may concern our need of Christ as a Saviour. It may be that we admit he is the Saviour, but we doubt our need of him as our Saviour.
2. Our doubts may concern the ability of Christ to save. We may incline to accept his good will, and to doubt his power. We may be disposed to say, "If thou canst." Doubt often makes men think there is something special in their case that puts them beyond the reach of Christ.
3. Our doubts may concern the good will of Christ. Everybody else shunned the leper; how well the man might fear that Christ would shun him too! But he took all his doubts to Christ.—R.T.
Our Lord's avoidance of public excitement.
"See thou tell no man." There may have been some precise reason for this injunction in this particular case; but it is only one instance among many of our Lord's desire to work quietly, and keep free from the pressure of mere crowds, and the rush of popular excitement. To understand our Lord's objection to crowds, we must realize how excitable Eastern people are, and how entirely it is animal excitement, with very little intellectual or moral character. It therefore was an altogether hopeless seed-bed into which to cast seeds of truth. Dean Stanley describes the crowding of the people, in the Lebanon district, when the news spread abroad that there was a doctor in the company. "The stairs and corridors of the castle of the Maronite chief, Sheikh Joseph, were lined with a crowd of eager applicants." Travellers notice that, because so excited, Eastern crowds are rough and unmannerly, every one pressing to secure his own interest at once. We can see some reasons why Jesus avoided excitements.
I. HE DID NOT WISH TO MAKE MIRACLES HIS CHIEF WORK. But this they would soon have become if he had not put a check on them. Very soon he might have had every moment of his life filled up with doctoring work, and the Saviour of souls might have become a mere Eastern hakim. We cannot too constantly set before ourselves the truth that our Lord's miracles were not his life-work, but the illustration of his lifework. Illustration must always be kept in due place and proportion.
II. HE DID WISH TO DO HIS WORK IN MEN'S THOUGHTS. It cannot be too clearly seen that our Lord's mission was largely intellectual, and that the emotional had to be kept within strict limitation, because the emotional is sure to push out the intellectual. Christians brought in at revival-times seldom or ever show any interest in intelligent religion. The teaching of the day had put ritual, religious routine, in the place of personal thinking. It is not sufficiently considered that one first and most valuable result of Christ's teaching was this—it made men think for themselves. Now, crowds do not think. Intelligence is not characteristic of the crowds that now follow after revivalists.
III. HE DID WISH TO DO HIS WORK IN MEN'S CHARACTERS. And so he proposed to work as leaven works. He dealt with individuals. The adhesion of a number was of little interest to him. He admitted to the kingdom one by one, after a direct and personal dealing with each one. So the individual was of primary importance to Christ. To him character was power, and it would prove powerful, influential, a redemptive force.—R.T.
A faith that caused surprise.
"That upon which the Son of God fastened. as worthy of admiration was not the centurion's benevolence, nor his perseverance, but his faith. And so speaks the whole New Testament, giving a special dignity to faith." Our Lord found something unusual in this man's faith, which he contrasts with the faith he had already observed. Evidently this man had risen above the common ides or' faith, as a sort of magical influence, which required some personal touch, or the working of some charm, to the idea of a delegated power, depending only on the will of him who possessed it. The centurion's expectation of instant obedience to his lightest command enabled him to believe that Christ had a similar power and authority in relation to disease. Consider the requirement of faith.
I. THE PRIMARY DEMAND OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION IS FAITH. Illustration in our Lord's demand from all those whom he healed. This is sometimes very evident; it is always present, though needing to be searched out. The first demand of Christianity may seem to be love; it is only love because love carries and enshrines faith.
II. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF THE LORD JESUS ARE NOW THE OBJECTS OF FAITH. Just as the word of Jesus was for the centurion. He believed the word Jesus had spoken, and acted on the belief. The life and death of Jesus
(1) reveal God, and ask me to believe that he is Love;
(2) reveal me, and ask me to believe that I am a sinner;
(3) reveal the glory and grace of Jesus as God's Son and my Saviour.
III. CONVERSION IS FAITH IN THE WORD OF GOD, WHICH JESUS IS. The strength and happiness of Christian life come from believing and obeying the word which the living Jesus speaks. "God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son."
IV. FAITH IS A REAL AND PRACTICAL POWER IN COMMON HUMAN CONDUCT. "We trust our senses; and that though they often deceive us. We trust men; a battle must often be risked on the intelligence of a spy. A merchant commits his ships, with all his fortunes on board, to a hired captain, whose temptations are enormous. Without this principle society could not hold together for a day. It would be a mere sand-heap. Such, too, is religious faith; we trust on probabilities; and this though probabilities are often against us."
V. FAITH IS THE LINK GOD HAS APPOINTED TO ATTACH US TO HIMSELF FOR SALVATION AND STRENGTH. F.W. Robertson says, "Faith is that which, when probabilities are equal, ventures on God's side, and on the side of right; on the guarantee of a something within which makes the thing seem to be true because it is loved."—R.T.
The grounds and rewards of faith.
Christ's miracles were not so much convictions for the unbelieving as confirmations for the believing. If we believe in Christ on other grounds, then his miracles will serve to establish and to instruct our faith. It is not the merely wonderful features of them; it is the moral and spiritual truth they exhibit and illustrate which really blesses men. And so we find that they are always called "signs" or "mighty works."
I. THE GROUNDS OF FAITH. Faith is exceedingly difficult to explain and define. Partly because it has both an intellectual and a moral side. It is, in a sense, the mental grasp of a proposition; and it is heart-acceptance of a relation. It is belief and it is trust., Commonly received definitions do but give features or aspects of it. Essentially it is the act and expression of soul-dependence. Faith is not difficult to recognize in particular instances; as when the little child leaps into the dark cellar on her father's assurance. Faith is not difficult to recognize as the motive power in our common, everyday relations. We know well how our daily life is built upon mutual trust. And yet the faith that bears relation to our eternal salvation must have a ground or reason. It may rest on
(1) a statement; or on
(2) a person; or on
(3) a doctrine; or on
(4) a character.
The highest ground is trust in a person. The most effective influences on our lives are our trusts in persons. Sometimes through the doctrine faith comes to reliance on the person. Sometimes through the person it comes to the acceptance of the doctrine. Both apply to Christ; in one way or the other, saving faith is reliance on the living, redeeming, sanctifying Person—the Lord Jesus Christ. Our proper ground of faith is Jesus himself.
II. THE REWARDS OF FAITH. These may be either:
1. Gaining the thing desired. Responding to the prayer of faith, Christ may be graciously pleased to say, "Be it unto thee even as thou wilt." Let it be the burden of sin, he may say, "Thy sins are forgiven thee."
2. Increase of faith. More than once a little and weak faith came to Christ, and in his presence grew stronger; it won a blessing, and in the joy of the blessing it sprang up into fuller power. Wait for the right faith, and you may wait in vain. Use well the little faith you have, and in the use you shall find the faith increase.
3. Kindling faith in others. We seldom recognize as we should what a power there is in faith to quicken faith in others. The confident, hopeful man cheers all about him. The world is being saved, not by its men of science, but by its men of faith.—R.T.
Bearing others' woes by sympathy.
"Himself took our infirmities, anti bare our sicknesses." The evangelist is here pointing out that our Lord actually suffered with those who suffered. His power to heal was directly connected with his power to sympathize; and such sympathizing was necessarily followed by extreme weariness and physical exhaustion. If we can get a true and worthy idea of the way in which our Lord bore the sufferings which he removed, we shall be in a fair way to understand how he could bear the sins from which he came to deliver us. This passage, quoted from Isaiah 53:4, "does not mean that Christ literally took into his body and bore himself all the fevers, pains, lamenesses, blindnesses, leprosies, he healed, but simply that he took them upon his sympathy, bore them as a burden upon his com passionate love. In that sense exactly he assumed and bore the sins of the world; not that he became the sinner, and suffered the due punishment himself, but that he took them on his love, and put himself, by mighty throes of feeling and sacrifice and mortal passion, to the working out of their deliverance. The sins were never his, the deserved pains never touched him as being deserved, but they were upon his feeling in so heavy a burden as to make him sigh, 'My soul is exceeding sorrowful.' And just because the world in sin took hold of his feeling in this manner, was he able in turn to get hold of the feeling of the world, and become its true Deliverer and Saviour. In this fact lay bosomed the everlasting, gospel" (Bushnell).
I. HUMAN SYMPATHY BEARING THE WOES OF OTHERS. Take illustrative cases, such as the mother, who bears the disabilities, or sufferings, of her child. Let it be a cripple-child, see how sympathy finds expression in tireless ministries. Or take the doctor, whose sympathy leads him to take his patient up into thought, study, anxiety, and sets him upon every effort to preserve life, or relieve pain. In what a full and true sense the pain we take up by sympathy becomes ours! Yet more striking is a mother's sympathy when her boy brings on himself sufferings through his sins. Then her bearing means effort to get him delivered from both sufferings and sins.
II. DIVINE SYMPATHY BEARING THE WOES OF OTHERS. We may learn of God from our best selves. But this we may confidently say, if God takes up our woes, he will be most concerned about the sins which are the real causes of all the woes.—R.T.
The testing of would-be disciples.
These cases are more fully given by Luke (Luke 9:57-42.9.62). Our Lord did not aim to be the founder of a sect, and he never showed any interest in mere numbers. He made each offer of discipleship either a test of the real religious condition of the individual, or else an opportunity for laying down or illustrating the great principles, responsibilities, and duties of his kingdom. Two cases are before us in connection with this text. Both men illustrate the general evil of the divided heart—the heart not wholly given to the Lord God. But we may see the form this general evil may take in the case of a precipitate disciple, and in the case of a procrastinating disciple.
I. THE TESTING OF A PRECIPITATE DISCIPLE. With very forcible figures of speech, Christ replies to the precipitate disciple, who gushingly says, "I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest,"—"Stop; sit down quietly; count the cost; calmly anticipate; worldly honours do not crown this profession which you are so hurriedly taking up; earthly riches do not lay their treasures at the feet of those who bear this name; the servants are likely to be as the Master; and while 'foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.' Are you honestly and heartily prepared to take up your cross, and to take up that cross daily, and follow Christ, not ashamed even though your Lord should be treated as a crucified malefactor, and your brethren be regarded as those that turn the world upside down?"
II. THE TESTING OF THE PROCRASTINATING DISCIPLE. In language rather more difficult to understand, our Lord in effect says to him, "'Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.' I called thee—I who am thy Lord, thy Redeemer. Nothing can excuse delay in replying to the call of thy Lord and thy God. Thy Lord is more to thee than thy earthly father; thy living Lord is certainly more to thee than thy dead father. Let those who are 'dead in trespasses and sins' care for the naturally dead; just now your attention is arrested by an all-absorbing call; your redeeming Lord has called you; then at once, without delay, without hesitation, obey,—'Go thou and preach the kingdom,' as a sign that you are my disciple." That message tested him. It tests us. If God has spoken to our hearts, that message is an all-absorbing message. Our weak hearts are always urging us to say, "By-and-by, Lord; by-and-by." Augustines still pray, "Lord, convert me, but not yet." And Jesus still says, "He that forsaketh not all that he hath cannot be my disciple."—R.T.
Christ's name for himself.
Christ had a distinctive name for God. He almost always speaks of him as the Father. Christ had as distinctive a name for himself. It embodies the apprehension of him that anybody and everybody might gain; and not that particular apprehension which would come only to more intimate, and more spiritually taught, disciples. The name "Son of man" is used seventy-one times in the New Testament, and in every case but one by our Lord himself. The martyr Stephen also uses the name (Acts 7:56; comp. Daniel 7:13). To see the force of the term we must keep in mind that Jewish surnames took the form "son of." Thus Simon Bar-Jona, or "son of Jona;" James and John, the sons of Zebedee.
l. WHAT DOES THIS NAME DENY? That Jesus was the Son of any particular man. It would be to limit him and his relations if he could have been called "the Son of Joseph." Properly regarded, this name denies the ordinary natural origination of Jesus, and supports the great doctrine of the Incarnation. Observe, too, that our Lord never had the difficulty of deciding between the authority of the earthly and heavenly Father.
II. WHAT DOES THIS NAME ASSENT?
1. That Jesus was humanity's Child. He belongs to the race.
2. That Jesus was a new Race-head, a second Adam, a Beginner of a new spiritual generation.
3. That Jesus was a Divine Child, getting an origination by the inbreathing of God as truly as the first Adam by the fiat of omnipotence. So the truth of his being the Son of God is actually carried by the assertion that he is the Son of man. It may further be shown what this implies concerning his unity with our race—it involves the possibility of his full sympathy with human sorrow ant need. And yet it includes also the explanation of his having no home, for he was the Son of no particular man, and so had no natural home rights. "It is remarkable that this name for Christ never passed into the current language of the apostolic Church, nor into the theological or liturgical phraseology of Christendom. It is not used in any of the Epistles" (but see Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14).—R.T.
Revelations of the mystery in Christ.
This text gives the impression produced by one of the most striking miracles that Jesus wrought. It belongs to the curlier part of the ministry, when men scarcely knew what to think of him. Christ was asleep in the boat, lying on an old sail, or on John's fisher-coat—so fast asleep that the howling wind, and creaking oars, and flapping waves, did not disturb him. The fishermen scarcely knew what to do for the best. It took all their rowing to keep the boat's head to the wind, and she was fast filling with the waves that broke over her sides. At last, in their despair, they awoke the Master. He rose as calmly as if there was no danger, and spoke the words which declared him to be the Lord of nature, but set the fishermen wondering who he was. All Christ's life was a revelation of himself. Revelation can come by acts and by words, by nature, by a book, or by a life. Miracles are revelations; so we ask—What does this miracle reveal?
I. THE REVELATION IT MAKES OF THE PERSON OF CHRIST. Throughout his life the question was asked, "Who is he?" "What think ye of Christ?" it was asked by his countrymen of Nazareth; by his disciples; by John the Baptist; by the Pharisees from Jerusalem. Christ's answer is, "If ye believe not me, believe the works." Then look at this work.
1. It gives deep impression of Christ's being within humanity. See the suggestions of his sleep. His sleepless nights of prayer do not surprise us; his tiredness does. A human Saviour is he who sleeps.
2. It gives deep impression of Christ's being beyond humanity. He controls the storms; commands the threes of nature. If that man is under limitations, he must have put himself under limitations voluntarily. Show how the thought of Christ has grown. Carpenter, great Teacher; wonderful Hakim; Messiah; Son of God. Then spiritual Savior; and to us ideal Manhood—"God manifest in the flesh."
II. THE REVELATION IT MAKES OF THE MISSION OF CHRIST. Which was to show men the Father. He told them what the Father was, and what the Father thought. He showed them what the Father was always doing in his love to them. What, then, did he show here? How the Father-God is ever at work, controlling the hindering and distressing circumstances that imperil us. In the Old Testament water is the type of the oppositions of outward circumstances. Illustrate: the Red Sea; the river Jordan. We often think ourselves mastered by outward things, or at least find in them our excuses. This is the age of masterful circumstances; so we need this miracle, and its assurance that our Father-God holds the waters—and all they represent—in the hollow of his hand.—R.T.
Power over devils.
It should not be surprising that some incidents in our Lord's life prove to be beyond present explanation. In this there is a similarity between God's works and God's Word. Probably we could explain our Lord's power over devils if we could recover fully the sentiments of his day concerning possession by devils. Scientific medicine was not known by the Jews. Their persistent ignorance is due to their strange belief that sickness was the punishment of sins committed either by the sufferer himself or his relations; hence it was almost always attributed to the action of evil spirits. The only cure possible, therefore, was the expulsion of the evil spirit, and the whole science of medicine consisted in discovering the best method of exorcising the demon.
I. DEVIL-POSSESSIONS. It is necessary to consider some received views as to the nature of evil.
1. The Manichaean. Two co-ordinate principles of good and evil. Compare the Zoroastrian principles represented in Ormuzd and Ahriman.
2. The pantheistic. No reality, or separate existence to evil. Only a lower form of good; unripe good.
3. The scriptural. Evil the contingency necessary to creaturehood; the essential possibility of a moral being, entrusted with the control of his own actions. Man a being subject to influences; other wills do affect his. Illustrate by power of one man over another. Man is in a state of sin; that is a state of bondage to another will. So comes in the Scripture idea of a king and kingdom of evil. With this in mind, examine the particular form of sickness called "devil possessions." Perhaps it differed from epilepsy, hysteria, or insanity; but the lack of scientific description prevents our forming a precise judgment. What we notice is
(1) lost control of the bodily organization;
(2) consequent unrestrained sensuality;
(3) lucid intervals; and
(4) the sense of misery and cry for deliverance.
We may best compare with delirium tremens, the mastery of a man's body and will by the spirit of drink.
II. THE JEWISH MODE OF DEALING WITH CASES OF DEVIL-POSSESSIONS. They used incantations. The rabbi pronounced a magic formula. One of the Jewish books prescribes a sacred root called baaras. Using this aright, the devils will come out through the nostrils.
III. OUR LORD'S POWER OVER THE DEVIL-POSSESSED. Notice:
1. The absence of all incantation.
2. Our Lord used no agencies.
3. The word of command sufficed. If devils represent the supreme woe that can afflict man, then Jesus proclaimed himself Master of man's worst woe.—R.T.
The design of miracle frustrated.
The destruction of the swine is one of the chief difficulties of the gospel narratives. Some common impressions in relation to it need careful correction.
1. They were wild hogs, not what we understand by pigs. Their conduct is that of half-wild creatures.
2. Christ, at the most, gave permission, not command.
3. That the spirits did enter the swine, and that this explains their wild. conduct, is the people's idea, based on the paroxysms of the man when the devils were in him.
4. Similar rushes of animals are due to natural causes. See the stampede of horses, as, some time since, at Aldershot.
5. We need not think a judgment on the people for keeping swine was intended. There is no proof that they were under any Jewish obligations.
We may notice the ends served by the scene.
1. It became an effective proof of the reality of the man's deliverance. So it answers to the command, "Take up thy bed, and walk." Such a proof was needed by the man, who may have feared it was only a lucid interval.
2. It exhibited the terrible nature of the devils' possession. If the devils wrought such havoc in the swine, what must they have wrought in the man! The people may not have properly felt the sadness and misery of their brother's condition. See the effects of the incident on the Gadarenes. It was their "day of grace." Opportunity of salvation was afforded them.
I. OPPORTUNITY OF SALVATION WAS REJECTED BY THESE GADARENES. All Christ's offers are associated with some searching test, which makes it hard to accept them, and compels a man to deal resolutely with himself before he accepts them. Illustrate Zacchaeus; young rich ruler; Matthew; St. Paul. Here the test was a mere loss of property. It can never be an easy thing to enter the kingdom. The entrance is a low postern door—a "needle's eye." Tests may now be more subtle; they are not less real, and they are much more searching. Gadarenes failed under their test.
II. OPPORTUNITY OF SALVATION WAS REMOVED FROM THESE GADARENES. Their rejection had to be recognized. It might have been recognized by some actual punishment. It was recognized by the immediate removal of the aid they misconceived and feared. Jesus went away grieving, and never came again. This may be your day of grace. It comes with a testing. In the test you may fail, and reject your Saviour. Rejected, he may remove.—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Matthew 8". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent