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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Mark 2

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAP. II.

Christ healeth one sick of the palsy; calleth Matthew from the receipt of custom; eateth with publicans and sinners; excuseth his disciples for not fasting; and for plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath-day.

Anno Domini 31.


Verse 1-2

Mark 2:1-2. And again he entered into Capernaum, &c.— See Luke 5:17; Luke 5:39. In the house, means "In St. Peter's house."


Verse 3

Mark 2:3. Which was borne of four. Who was carried by four.


Verse 4

Mark 2:4. And when they could not come nigh, &c.— The better to understand the particulars in this verse, it will be proper to consider the manner of building in the East, which we find largely described in Dr. Shaw's excellent Travels, where he has given us a full explanation of the passage before us. "The general method of building," says he, "seems to be continued from the earliest ages down to this time, without the least alteration or improvement. Large doors, spacious chambers, marble pavements, cloistered courts, with fountains sometimes playing in the midst, are conveniences well adapted to the circumstances of these hotter climates. The jealousy of these people is less apt to be alarmed, whilst, if we except a small latticed window or balcony, which sometimes looks into the streets, all the other windows open into their respective courts or quadrangles. It is during the celebration only of some zeenah (as theycall a public festival) that these latticed windows or balconies are left open. For this being a time of great liberty, revelling, and extravagance, each family is ambitious of adorning both the inside and outside of their houses with their richest furniture; while crowds of spectators, dressed out in their best apparel, and laying aside all modesty and restraint, go in and out where they please.—The account we have 2 Kings 9:30 of Jezebel's painting her face and tiring her head, and looking out at a window, upon Jehu's public entrance into Jezreel, gives us a lively idea of an Eastern lady at one of these zeenahs or festivals."

"The streets of these cities, the better to shade them from the sun, are usually narrow, with sometimes a range of shops on each side. If from these we enter into one of the principal houses, we shall first pass through a porch or gateway, with benches on each side; few persons, not even the nearest relations, having further admission, except upon extraordinary occasions. Hence we are received into the court or quadrangle, which, lying open to the weather, is, according to the ability of the owner, paved with marble, or such materials as will carry off the water into the common sewers. When much people are to be admitted, as upon the celebration of a marriage, the circumcising of a child, or occasions of the like nature, the company is rarely or never received into one of the chambers. The court is the usual place of their reception, which is strewed accordingly with mats and carpets for their more commodious entertainment: and as this is called el woost, or the middle of the house, (literally answering to the το μεσον of St. Luke 5:19.) it is probable that the place where our Saviour and the apostles were frequently accustomed to give their instructions, might have been in the likesituation, or in the area or quadrangle of one of these houses. In the summer season, and upon all occasions when a large company is to be received, this court is commonly sheltered from the inclemency of the weather by a velum, umbrella, or veil; which being expanded upon ropes from one side of the parapet wall to the other, may be folded or unfolded at pleasure. The Psalmist seems to allude either to the tents of the Bedoweens, or to some covering of this kind, in that beautiful expression of spreading out the heavens, like a veil or curtain

"The court is for the most part surrounded by a cloister, over which,when the house has one or more stories, (and they sometimes have two or three) there is a gallery erected, of the same dimensions with the cloister; having a ballustrade, or else a piece of carved or latticed work going round about it, to prevent people from falling into the court. From the cloisters and galleries we are conducted into large spacious chambers, one of them frequently serving a whole family; whence it is, that the cities of these countries, which are generally much inferior in bigness to those of Europe, yet are so exceeding populous, that great numbers of the inhabitants are swept away by the plague, or any other contagious distemper. These chambers in houses of better fashion, from the middle of the wall downwards, are covered and adorned with velvet, or damask hangings, of white, blue, red, green, or other colours, (Esther 1:6.) suspended upon hooks, or taken down at pleasure; but the upper part is embellished with more permanent ornaments, being adorned with the most ingenious wreathings and devices in stucco or fret-work. The ceiling is generally of wainscot, either very artfully painted, or else thrown into a variety of pannels, with glided mouldings and scrolls of their Koran intermixed. The prophet (Jeremiah 22:14.) exclaims against the Eastern houses that were ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion. The floors are laid with painted tiles or plaister of terrace; but as these people make little or no use of chairs, (either sitting cross-legged, or lying at length) they always cover or spread them over with carpets, which, for the most part, are of the richest materials. Along the sides of the wall or floor, a range of narrow beds or mattrasses is often placed upon these carpets; and for their further ease and convenience, several velvet or damask bolsters are placed upon these carpets or mattrasses, indulgences that seem to be alluded to by the stretching themselves upon couches, and by sewing of pillows to arm-holes, as we have expressed, Amos 6:4. Ezekiel 13:18; Ezekiel 13:20."

"At one end of each chamber there is a little gallery, raised three, four, or five feet above the floor, with a ballustrade in the front of it, with a few steps likewise leading up to it. Here they place their beds; a situation frequently alluded to in the Holy Scriptures; which may likewise illustrate the circumstance of Hezekiah's turning his face, when he prayed, towards the wall, (that is to say, from his attendants) 2 Kings 20:2 that the fervency of his devotion might be the less taken notice of and observed. The like is related of Ahab, 1 Kings 21:4 though probably not upon a religious account, but in order to conceal from his attendants the anguish he was in for his late disappointment. The stairs are sometimes placed in the porch, sometimes at the entrance into the court; but never upon the outside of the house. The top of the house, which is always flat, is covered with a stony plaister of terrace; whence, in foreign languages, it has attained the name of terrace. This is usually surrounded by two walls, the outermost whereof is partly built over the street, and partly makes the partition with the contiguous houses; being frequently so low, that one may easily climb over it. The other, which I shall call the parapet wall, hangs immediately over the court, being always breast high, and answers to the מעקה, or lorica, Deuteronomy 22:8 which we render the battlements. Instead of this parapet wall, some terraces are guarded, like the galleries, with ballustrades only, or latticed work; in which fashion probably, as the name seems to import, was the שׁבכה, or net, or lattice, as we render it, that Ahaziah, (2 Kings 1:2.) might be carelessly leaning over, when he fell from thence into the court. For upon these terraces, several offices of the family are performed; such as the drying of linen or flax, (Joshua 2:6.) and the preparing of figs and raisins; where likewise they enjoy the cool refreshing breezes of the evening, converse with one another, and offer up their devotions. In the feast of tabernacles, booths were erected upon them, Nehemiah 8:16. As these terraces are thus frequently used, and trampled upon, not to mention the solidity of the materials wherewith they are made, they will not easily permit any vegetable substances to take root or thrive upon them; which, perhaps, may illustrate the comparison, Isaiah 37:27 of the Assyrians, and Psalms 129:6 of the wicked, to the grass that grows upon the house-tops, which withereth before it is grown up."

"When any of these cities are built upon level ground, one may pass along the tops of the houses from one end to the other. Such in general is the method and contrivance of these houses. If then it may be presumed, that our Saviour was preaching in one of these houses, one may, by attending to the structure of it, give no small light to one circumstance of that history, which has given great offence to some unbelievers,supposingunsurmountabledifficultieswouldattendsuchan action. Which mistake they might perhaps fall into by not attending to the original, which will bear this construction; When they could not come at Jesus for the press, they got upon the roof of the house, and drew back the veil where he was; or, they laid open and uncovered that part of it, especially, which was spread over the place, οπου ην, where he was sitting, and having removed and plucked away (according to St. Jerome) whatever might incommode them in their intended good office, or having tied (according to the Persian version) the four corners of the bed or bedstead with cords, where the sick of the palsy lay, they let it down before Jesus."

"For that there was not the least force or violence offered to the roof, and consequently that εξορυξαντες (breaking up) no less than απεστεγησαν, (they uncovered), will admit of some other interpretations than what have been given to them in our version, appears from the parallel place in St. Luke; where δια των κεραμων καθηκαν αυτον, per tegulas demiserunt ilium, (which we translate they let him through the tiling, as if that had actually been broken up already) should be rendered, they let him down over, along the side, or by the way of the roof. We have a passage in Aulus Gellius exactly of the same purport, where it is said, that 'if any person in chains should make his escape into the house of the Flamen Dialis, he should be forthwith loosed: and that his fetters should be drawn up through the impluvium, upon the roof, or terrace, and from thence be let down into the highway, or the street.'"

"When the use of these phrases and the fashion of these houses are rightly considered, there will be no reason to suppose that any breach was actually made in the tegula, or κεραμοι : since all that was to be done in the case of the paralytic was to carry him up to the top of the house, (either by forcing their way through the crowd up the staircase, or else by conveying him over some of the neighbouring terraces) and there, after they had drawn away the στεγη or veil, to let him down, along the side of the roof through the opening (or impluvium), into the midst (of the court) before Jesus." See Shaw's Trav. 4to, p. 207. Bishop Pearce's Vindication of the Miracles, part 4: p. 26 and the notes on Matthew 9:1; Matthew 9:38. Instead of for the press, we may read because of the throng.


Verse 7

Mark 2:7. Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? The word blasphemy, in prophane writings, signifies slander, calumny, or any kind of opprobrious language; but in Scripture it commonly denotes opprobrious speeches against God's being, attributes, or operations; such as when we ascribe to God the infirmities of men, or to men the perfections and operations of God: it signifies also irreverent speeches addressed immediately to God.


Verse 9

Mark 2:9. Whether is it easier to say, &c.— To say, and to perform, were the same to Christ. What he here said he did; remitting sin, and curing diseases by his word.

To forgive sins is comparatively a more difficult, though invisible miracle, and therefore he added the outward cure to confirm it. See the Inferences on Matth


Verse 12

Mark 2:12. We never saw, &c.— We never saw any thing like this. Heylin. By the sea-side, in the next verse, is meant, By the lake of Gennesareth.


Verse 15

Mark 2:15. For there were many, and they followed him. For many of them had followed him. Heylin.


Verse 17

Mark 2:17. They that are whole Or, That are well.


Verse 21-22

Mark 2:21-22. No man, &c.— Nobody seweth a piece of undressed cloth on all old garment; otherwise the new patch teareth the old cloth, and maketh a worse rent.—Ver. 22. Nobody putteth new wine into old leathern bottles, &c. Campbell.


Verse 26

Mark 2:26. In the days of Abiathar In the history, the priest from whom David received the shew-bread is called Ahimelech; and it is generally agreed that he was the high-priest, because Doeg accused him of inquiring of the Lord for David, (1 Samuel 22:10.) a thing which none but the priest, having on him the ephod, could do. If that be true, Ahimelech must have been the high-priest, becausehe himself confessed that he had often inquired of the Lord formerly without blame, Mark 2:15 accordingly Josephus calls him the high priest several times. But to make this matter easy, Hammond supposes that επι Αβιαθαρ the phrase here used, should be translated, before the day of Abiathar, as επι της μετοικεσιας, Matthew 1:11 seems to signify before the captivity. Lightfoot thinks it should be translated, In the days of Abiathar, the son of the high-priest, as του Ηλι signifies the son of Eli, Luke 3:23. Whitby is of opinion, that αρχιερευς, in this passage, signifies a chief-priest, an eminent man of the order; which sense, it must be acknowledged, the word has often in Scripture. Grotius supposes that Abiathar, being a more celebrated person than his father, is mentioned rather than him. Possibly Abiathar was present when David came, whose request he might advise his father to grant: if so, it was abundantly proper to mention him in this affair. He is called Abiathar the high-priest, although when David applied to him he did not possess that dignity,it being common to denominate people in every part of their life, by such eminent offices as they have held in any part thereof. Perhaps it may illustrate the matter to observe, that Ahimelech,the father of Abiathar, was not slain with the priests of Nob: for though Saul threatened him and all his father's house with death, (1 Samuel 22:16.) it is not said that he was killed. We are onlytold that Doeg fell upon the priests, and slew fourscore and five of them. Besides, had Ahimelech been slain, the high-priesthood would have been taken from his family, which it was not; for Solomon's deposition of Abiathar, Ahimelech's son, is declared to have been an accomplishment of the word of the Lord concerning the house of Eli. Till this period, therefore, Eli's descendants enjoyed the high-priesthood. But, what puts the matter beyond doubt, Ahimelech is said to have been high-priest in David's reign; 1 Chronicles 18:16 where he is called the son of Abiathar, who was high-priest, being alive when David received the shew-bread. So our Lord says expressly. Probably, being old, he was incapable of officiating, which was the reason that his eldest son Ahimelech supplied his place, and inquired of the Lord for David. It is true, in the history of this affair, Ahimelech is called the son of Ahitub, (1 Samuel 22:20.) but everywhere else he is called the son of Abiathar. Most probably, Ahimelech's father had two names, which was no uncommon thing in those days. Respecting the shew-bread, &c. See the notes on Exodus 25:23-30.


Verse 27-28

Mark 2:27-28. And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man The sabbath was contrived for the benefit and relief of man, being instituted in commemoration of the creation of the world finished in six days, and to perpetuate to latest ages the knowledge of this grand truth,—that the world was made by God,—in opposition both to atheism and idolatry. It was instituted also, in order that men, abstaining from all sorts of labour, but such as are necessary to the exercises of piety and charity, might have leisure for meditating on the works of creation, and that by these meditations they might acquire not only the knowledge of God, but a relish of spiritual and divinepleasures, flowing from the contemplation of God's attributes, from the exercise of the love of God, and from obedience to his commands. It is thus that men are prepared for entering into that heavenly rest, of which the earthly sabbath is an emblem: further, among the Israelites the sabbath was appointed to keep up the remembrance of their deliverance from Egypt, and for the comfort of their slaves and beasts; humanity to both being especially incumbent upon a people who had once groaned under the heaviest bondage. From all which it is evident, that to burden men, much more to hurt them, through the observation of the sabbath, is to act quite contrary to the design of God in appointing it. Therefore, says Christ, the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath; "Since the sabbath was instituted for the benefit of man, the observation of it in cases of necessity, may be dispensed with by any man whatever; but especially byME, who am the Lawgiver of the Jewish commonwealth, and can make what alterations in its institutions I think fit." Our Lord insisted largely on this argument, drawn from the considerations of his own dignity, when he was persecuted for a pretended profanation of the sabbath, by the cure which he performed at Bethesda. See John 5:16-30 and the note on Matthew 12:8. Dr. Clarke explains the 27th verse thus: "Duties of a ritual nature were appointed only for the present use of man, to be subservient to the more convenient practice of the great duties of religion." Sermon 3: vol. 10. Instead of Lord also of the sabbath, we may read, Lord even of the sabbath.

Inferences.—The number of the apostles was not yet full; one place is left void for a future possessor; who can fail to expect that it is reserved for some eminent person?—and behold! Matthew the publican is the man! Wonderful choice of Christ! Those other disciples, whose calling is recorded, were from the fisher-boat; this from the receipt of custom: they were unlettered, this infamous. The condition was not itself sinful; but as the taxes which the Romans imposed on the Jews were odious, so the collectors, the farmers of them, were abominable; besides, it was hard to hold that seat, without oppression, without exaction: one who knew it thoroughly, branded it with those odious titles; (see Luke 19:8.) and yet, behold one of these publicans called to the family, to the apostleship of God! Who can despair, from the consciousness of his unworthiness, when he sees this instance of infinitely condescending grace?

The just man is the first accuser of himself. Whom have we here to blazon the shame of Matthew, but his own mouth? Matthew the Evangelist tells us of Matthew the publican. (See Matthew 9:9.) His fellows call him Levi, as willing to cover with their finger the spot of his unpleasing profession, which himself will not smother, but publishes it to all the world, in a thankful recognition of the mercy that called him; liking well that his unworthiness should serve for a foil, to set off the glorious lustre of His grace by whom he was called.

It was not a more busy than profitable trade, that Matthew abandoned to follow Christ into poverty. He now contemned his heaps of cash, in comparison of that better treasure which he foresaw lay open in this happy attendance. If any commodity be valued of us as too dear to be parted with for Christ, we are more fit to be publicans than disciples. Our Saviour invites Matthew to a discipleship, Matthew invites him to a feast; the joy of his call makes him begin his abdication of the world in a banquet.

Here was not a more cheerful thankfulness in the inviter, than a gracious humility in the guest. The new servant invites his master, the publican his Saviour; and is honoured with so blessed a presence. I do not find where Jesus was ever invited to any table, and refused; if a Pharisee, if a publican invited him, he made no scruple to go; not for the pleasure of the dishes,—for what was that to Him, who began his work in a whole lent of days?—but (as it was his meat and drink to do the will of his Father) for the benefit which might arise from his improving conversation. If he sat with sinners, it was to convert them; if with converts, to confirm and instruct them; if with the poor, to feed them; if with the rich in substance, to make them richer in grace: at whose board did he ever sit, and left not his host a gainer? The poor bridegroom entertains him, and has his water-pots filled with wine; Simon the Pharisee entertains him, and has his table honoured with the public remission of a penitent sinner; Zaccheus entertains him, and salvation comes that day to his house, with the Author of it; Matthew is recompensed for his feast with an apostleship: and Martha and Mary, for theirs, besides divine instruction, receive their brother from the dead. O Saviour! whether thou entertainest us, or we entertain thee, in both of them is blessedness!

Where a publican is the feast-master, it is no wonder if the guests be publicans and sinners. Whether they came only out of the hope of that mercy which they saw their fellow had found, or whether Matthew invited them to be partakers of that plentiful grace whereof he had tasted, I inquire not; publicans and sinners will flock together; the one hateful for their trade, the other for their vicious life. Common contempt has wrought them to an unanimity, and sends them to seek mutual comfort in that society, which all others esteem abominable and contagious. Moderate correction humbles and shames the offender; whereas a cruel severity makes men desperate, and drives them to those courses whereby they are more dangerously infected. How many have gone into the prison faulty, and returned flagitious! If publicans were not sinners, they were not at all beholden to their neighbours.

What a table-full is here! the Son of God surrounded with publicans and sinners! O happy publicans and sinners, who have found out their Saviour! O merciful Saviour, who disdained not publicans and sinners! What sinner can fear to kneel before thee, when he sees publicans and sinners sit with thee! Who can fear to be despised of thy meekness and mercy, which did not abhor to converse with the outcasts of men? Thou didst not despise the thief confessing upon the cross; nor the sinner washing thy feet with her tears; nor the Canaanite crying unto thee in the way, nor the blushing adulteress, nor the odious publican, nor the forswearing disciple; nor the persecutor of disciples, nor thine own executioners! how can we then be unwelcome to thee, if we come with tears in our eyes, faith in our hearts, restitution in our hands? O Saviour! our breasts are too often shut against thee; thy bosom is ever open to us. We are as great sinners as the consorts of these publicans;—Why should we despair of room at thy table?

The jaundice-eyed Pharisees behold evil in all the actions of Christ: where they should have admired his mercy, they cavil at his holiness. They said to his disciples, (Mark 2:16.) How is it that your Master eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? They durst not speak thus to the Master; whose answer they knew would soon have convinced them: this wind, they hoped, might shake the weak faith of the disciples. They speak where they may be most likely to do hurt. All the crew of satanical instruments have learned this craft of their old tutor in paradise. We cannot reverence that man whom we think unholy; Christ would have lost the hearts of his followers, if they had entertained the least suspicion of his impurity; which the murmur of these envious Pharisees would fain insinuate. "He cannot be worthy to be followed, who is unclean; he cannot be clean, who eateth with publicans and sinners." Proud and foolish Pharisees! ye fast, while Christ eateth; ye fast in your houses, while Christ eateth in other men's; ye fast with your own sect, while Christ feasts with sinners:—but if ye fast in pride, while Christ eats in humility; if ye fast at home, for merit or popularity, while Christ feeds with sinners, for compassion, for edification, for conversion; your fast is unclean, his feast is holy; ye shall have your portion with hypocrites, when those publicans and sinners shall be glorious.

When these censurers thought the disciples had offended, they speak not to them, but to their Master; Why do thy disciples that which is not lawful? Now, when they thought Christ had offended, they speak not to Him, but to the disciples. Thus, like true mischief-makers, they endeavour to make a breach in the family of Christ, by separating the one from the other. The quick eye of our Saviour, from whose piercing glance nothing can be hid, instantly discerns their fraud; and therefore he takes the words out of the mouths of his disciples into his own. They had spoken of Christ to the disciples; Christ answers for the disciples concerning himself. The whole need not a Physician, but the sick. According to the two qualities of pride, scorn, and self-sufficiency, these insolent Pharisees over-rated their own holiness, and contemned the noted unholiness of others; as if themselves were not tainted with secret sins, as if others could not be cleansed by the blood of a Saviour.

The Searcher of hearts meets their arrogance, and finds those self-righteous sinful, those sinners just. The spiritual Physician finds the sickness of those sinners wholesome, the health of those Pharisees desperate; that wholesome, because it calls for the help of the physician; this desperate, because it thinks it needs it not. Every soul is sick, those most that feel it not; those that feel it complain; those that complain find a cure; those that feel it not, will find themselves dying ere they can wish to recover. O blessed Physician! by whose stripes we are healed; by whose death we live; happy they who are under thy hands, sick, as of sin, so of sorrow for sin. Sin has made us sick unto death; make thou us but as sick of our sins, and we shall assuredly find thee our successful Physician!

REFLECTIONS.—1st, No sooner had our Lord returned to Capernaum, from his journey through the villages of Galilee, than the rumour of it quickly spread through the place; and, eager to improve the precious opportunity of his presence, such multitudes assembled at the house, that there was no coming even to the door, so thick was the crowd. And a blessed sight it is to behold such numbers flocking to the Saviour.

1. He preached to them. Some might have thought the time, and the place, improper for a sermon. There were synagogues; what need of preaching in a house, or at the window?—Perhaps to teach us, that no time or place is improper to speak a word for God and for immortal souls.

2. During Christ's preaching, or in some interval of his discourses, the friends of a poor paralytic man, solicitous to present his pitiable case before him, would fain have pressed through the crowd; but finding the attempt impracticable, they carried him up to the top of the house where Jesus was, and let down the sick man on his bed before him. (See the annotations.) Note; They who truly seek the Lord, will not be discouraged by any difficulties from coming to him.

3. Struck with such an instance of their faith, the compassionate Jesus kindly accosts the afflicted patient, and seals the pardon of his sins, as the introduction to his cure. This being the cause of every sickness and disease, the bitterness of them is past, when the sin that occasioned them is forgiven.

4. The scribes and Pharisees, who were present, regarded it as arrant blasphemy in a mere man, as they regarded Jesus, to assume the incommunicable prerogative of God, in thus by his own authority presuming to forgive sin. He knew their secret reasonings, and in his answer gave them a proof of his Divinity, as the searcher of hearts. To shew them, therefore, that he possessed the power which he assumed, he bids the man arise and walk, and appeals to themselves for the conclusion, whether he who could thus sovereignly, in an instant, remove the effects of sin, could not as easily remit the guilt of it. Note; The man Christ Jesus is also very God, able to forgive and to save to the uttermost every poor sinner that comes to him.

5. The paralytic man received his cure the moment Jesus commanded him to arise; and, to the astonishment of all, he was so perfectly restored to health and strength, as to carry home the bed on which he had been brought. Such unprecedented cures extorted acknowledgments from the beholders in general, that the like was never seen before in Israel.

2nd, Having departed from the house to the sea-side, thither the multitude followed him, and he preached to them the Gospel. After which,

1. He called Levi, or Matthew, a publican, who was sitting in his office receiving the customs, and such power accompanied his word, that instantly he left his gainful profession, and followed Jesus as his disciple. Note; (1.) Nothing is too difficult for Almighty grace: if we follow its first sacred drawings, and improve the power which it imparts from time to time, we shall assuredly experience all the heights and depths of Christian experience. (2.) If Christ did not first seek us, we should never have sought him.

2. Levi, in tender regard for his brother publicans, longed to make them acquainted with Jesus, whose grace he himself had so richly tasted, and therefore invited them to his house, where Jesus disdained not to sit among them; infamous in general as their characters were, he joined them not as an associate, but, as the great Physician of souls, visited them as diseased patients. Note; They who have tasted the grace of the Redeemer themselves, cannot but be solicitous that their friends and neighbours should partake with them.

3. Christ vindicates his conduct from the censorious cavils of the Pharisees. He despised not the poor sinners' souls; and as this was the very end of his coming, to call such to repentance, he was unaffected by the reviling of those who conceited themselves righteous, and yet were much farther from the kingdom of heaven than the very sinners whom they despised. Note; (1.) The best deeds are often most basely misrepresented by the envenomed tongue of malice. (2.) None have ought to do with Christ but sin-sick souls, who feel themselves lost without him; the proud and self-righteous are left to perish in the delusions that they have chosen.

3rdly, Christ, having justified his own conduct from the censure of Pharisaical pride, justifies also his disciples for not observing unnecessary austerities: and vindicates them for plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath-day to satisfy their hunger.

1. The disciples of John, who, after their master's example, fasted often; and the Pharisees, who placed great dependance on this bodily exercise, express their wonder that Jesus enjoined no such rigid rules on his disciples as they practised. So ready are those who fancy their own strictness meritorious, to censure all who come short of their standard of excellence. Christ answers their question, and vindicates his disciples; they were but beginners, and it was improper to put them on the more difficult exercises of self-denial, lest they should be discouraged thereby, and contract a disgust to the service. Besides, during his presence with them, like that of a newly-married bride, it became them to rejoice: it would be time enough to mourn and fast when he should be taken from them. Thus should we learn not to exact too much from young converts, and the lambs of the flock; and especially in fasting we should consider the great end and use of it, and that of itself it is no farther good, than these are obtained.

2. The Pharisees soon seized another occasion of offence, from the disciples plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath-day, as they passed through the fields.—Rigidly scrupulous, as many others like them still are, about the form of godliness, and severe in judging all who do not coincide with them; yet blind to the deep-rooted evil and abominations of their hearts. Christ vindicates his disciples by a precedent which the Pharisees will not dispute, and reasons with them by arguments that they cannot disprove. David had done what seemed a much more exceptionable thing, in eating the shew-bread; and Abiathar, who succeeded his father soon after as high-priest, had consented to it, because ceremonial observances must give way to the great law of charity and self-preservation. Besides, the very institution of the sabbath was designed for man's benefit, to give rest to his body, and time to spend in the immediate service of God, and in the care of his soul; and therefore does not require him to abstain from what is more immediately necessary for the support and preservation of his life; the provision for which was a law of nature, and subsisted previous to the express institution of the sabbath. The Messiah, therefore, who can best interpret his own laws, and is Lord of the sabbath, has an undoubted right to permit this liberty to his disciples, as such refreshment of their bodies will enable them more effectually to discharge the duties of the holy day. Note; (1.) Our sabbaths should be our delight; and therefore must not, by unreasonable strictness, be made a burden. (2.) Though we are allowed to eat and drink, as shall best enable us for the service of the sabbath, it is a gross violation of the day, by indulging our appetite to stupify our faculties, and render body and soul utterly unfit for the exercises of devotion.

 


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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Mark 2:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/mark-2.html26. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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