Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE GRACIOUS ACTION TAKEN BY THE SAVIOUR SO PROMPTLY ON THE FIRST SIGHT OF FAITH. Notice the fact that the forgiveness of the sins of the paralytic took precedence of the healing of his disease. Was this due to the specialty of the occasion, the large attendance of doctors of the Law and Pharisees? Was it due exclusively to something that the eye of Jesus saw in the spiritual condition of the paralytic - in that his heart's deepest desire was for forgiveness; or that there was special fitness in him to stand as an example, to all time herein, of one blessed to take the supreme good first, and find "all" the rest "added to him;" or to the sovereign and unerring will inscrutable?
II. A REMARKABLE AND REMARKABLY SIMPLE INSTANCE AND ILLUSTRATION OF FAITH WITH WORKS AND OF FAITH SHOWN BY WORKS. These works of themselves spoke for the faith that was behind them, as also for the intense desire that gave such definite outline to it. "Their" faith, no doubt, designates that betokened by the conduct of all concerned - the paralytic himself, and those who were hands, arms, and feet to him. The "works" of themselves asked help of the mighty Helper. And they showed the undoubting persuasion on the part of those who put forth their strength, and on the part of him, of whose suggestion perhaps it all came, where, and where alone, that help was to be had.
III. THE UNDOUBTED BLASPHEMY HEARD ON THIS OCCASION, BUT LAID ON THE WRONG PERSONAGE. The enemies of Christ, as they stood around, understood aright what he had done, what he had said, and to what the deep implication of these amounted. But they took up the position that he bad not done what he said, and could not do it, and that therefore he committed blasphemy in uttering it. Their hostility was a foregone conclusion, and had it not been so, there would have been reason on their side; and the language of Christ, and his action immediately following, allow this, within certain limits, for he remarks on the exact position, and offers and gives a proof. But their unbelief and disbelief were already deep-rooted in their heart - that "thinking evil in the heart," which he so distinctly saw, so pronouncedly marked.
IV. CHRIST'S CONDESCENDING AND MOST COMPLETE VINDICATION OF HIS LANGUAGE AND HIMSELF. The practical test he challenges, with dignity surpassing that of Elijah on Carmel! He does not volunteer it, but bids them "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." And they do see it! Whether they will even now believe is another thing. Certain as it is that they have not made their own the beatitude, "Blessed are they who have not seen, and vet have believed," have they even entitled themselves to hear it said, "Because thou hast seen, thou hast believed" ?
V. THE ATTITUDE AND DOCILITY OF THE PEOPLE, AS THESE RISE UP IN JUDGMENT AGAINST THE DOCTORS OF THE LAW AND PHARISEES. They "marvel;" they "glorify God;" and this not as the only Object of adoring praise and worship, but also as "the Giver of such power to men;" and they are "filled with fear." And they make confession, unstinted, undisguised, of the impression they have received: "We never saw it on this fashion;" "We have seen strange things to-day." - B.
1. Jesus obliged to seek a more retired place.
2. Incident of text. Four friends, believing that he whom they have carried far will be able to walk back if they can lay him before Jesus. Overcome obstacles, removing a few large, uncemented tiles of roof - a liberty pleasing to our Lord as a tribute to him and proof of their faith. Common experience to ask one thing and receive another. Perhaps this man had an inward conviction that spiritual gifts were the greater. Scribes cavil at "Thy sins be," etc.; begin to suspect evasion; therefore Jesus does work that can be tested by their senses. Two points unusual: Our Lord accepted test tacitly proposed, and the miracle convinced the witnesses. Miracles evidences of revelation because themselves parts of it, not mere signs. God could not reveal himself except by miracle. Historical fact that nature has never done so. Revelation not so much accompanied by as consisting of miracles. Such a revelation authenticates itself, proves itself such because giving higher and worthier idea of God.
I. CALLING OF MATTHEW. His office odious to Jews, both as representing foreign government and from oppressive system of farming taxes. Evil effects of such system seen now in Egypt and elsewhere. No loss to government by Matthew thus suddenly throwing up office, he having already paid the sum. Possible, but rare, for good man to be in such a calling. Our Lord does not defend his calling of Matthew on that ground. He chose his followers among the unsophisticated, or those who had not yet found their good. Probably some previous acquaintance with Matthew. Matthew perhaps gradually dissatisfied with himself. Among such the Lord is found. His unanswerable reply to Pharisees, "They that be whole," etc. To those sick in body, in heart, in spirit, he offers himself; to the heavy-laden, disappointed, broken, sinful, one unfailing Friend, bent on bringing them into his own peace and holiness and joy. Are there none here who will at length listen to his call, "Follow me" ? Follow by keeping him always in view, thinking of him, doing his will.
II. MATTHEW'S FEAST. In the joy of his heart inclined to be lavish. From being despised, hated, suddenly chosen as friend and companion by greatest and worthiest. Cherished money-bags contemptible in presence of Christ and his love. Pharisees not in sympathy. It might be a fast-day; much might be involved. It was thin end of wedge - a party forming, not fettered by mechanical rules, but allowing the spirit naturally to express itself. Suitable, therefore, that this, our Lord's first recorded teaching to a mixed multitude, should deal with this new thing. He lays down the principle that underlies all outward observance, viz. that the state of mind gives it appropriateness and virtue. Further explained in two parables. In every generation can be seen this Pharisaic spirit - deep-seated hatred and fear of change. Men who have never gone deep enough to distinguish between essential and accidental, saying, "If there is new life, let it be kept in the old forms." To do so were to destroy both. These parables fit a most important principle. Had Matthew fasted at this time, his new love and energy would have been wasted instead of utilized, and fasting (the old bottle) become for ever distasteful to him. As it was, he would fast again when he felt it suitable. New ways sometimes preferred by new converts. If love to Christ and sound moral conduct go with the changes, no need to fear them. But our Lord bad also a word of apology for conservatism of Pharisees: "No man, having drunk old wine," etc. Natural to prefer the old. So with many of the best of men. For few attain to the complete magnanimity and truth of the Lord. "Oh that patrons of old ways understood Christ's wisdom, and that patrons of new ways sympathized with his charity!... When will young men and old men, liberals and conservatives, broad Christians and narrow, learn to bear with one another; yea, to recognize each in the other the necessary complement of his own one-sidedness?" (Bruce). - D.
Matthew 4:13; Matthew 8:14; Mark 2:1), "they brought to him," etc. (vers. 2-8).
I. JESUS SEES THE FAITH OF THE CONTRITE HEART.
1. He saw the faith of those who carried the paralytic.
(1) This was obvious in the simple fact of their seeking his healing power. Faith is seen in works (James 2:17-22).
(3) They brought him because he could not come of himself; and Jesus honoured their faith. So does he honour the faith of those who bring their children to him in baptism or in prayer.
(4) The faith which secured healing, however, was not of necessity that which brought forgiveness (see e.g. Luke 17:12, etc.).
2. In the paralytic Jesus discerned a deeper faith.
(2) Oftentimes it is this also. Disease is often the natural consequence of sin. And God has often visited individuals with disease as a temporal judgment upon sin (cf. Numbers 11:33; Numbers 12:10; 1 Kings 13:4; 2 Kings 5:27; Luke 1:20; Acts 13:11; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Timothy 1:20).
(3) Hence the Jews commonly connected suffering with sin (cf. John 5:14; John 9:2, 34). This man evidently took his sin to heart, and his affliction may have deepened this oppressive sense. No man is fit for forgiveness who does not with the heart believe himself to be a sinner. Heart-faith in sin is repentance. Spiritual disease is invariably the result of spiritual evil. Diseased action is the result of corrupt motive.
(4) This man, moreover, discerned in Jesus not only the Healer, viz. of the body, but also the Healer, viz. of the soul. No man is fit for forgiveness who does not with the heart accept Jesus as the Christ (see Romans 10:9, 10).
(5) All this heart-faith Jesus saw when he proceeded to say, "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven." The pardoning voice of Jesus in the believing heart brings "good cheer" evermore.
II. JESUS SEARCHES THE THOUGHTS OF THE EVIL HEART.
1. He read the evil thoughts of the scribes.
(1) He saw that they "said within themselves, This man blasphemeth." Blasphemy consists in:
(a) Attributing unworthy things to God.
(b) Denying worthy things of God.
(c) Attributing to others or arrogating the attributes of God.
(2) If Jesus were not Divine it would be blasphemy in him to affect to forgive sins. The offended only can forgive the sins of the offender (cf. 2 Samuel 12:13; 1 Kings 8:89; Isaiah 63:25; Jeremiah 17:10; Mark 2:7).
(3) The sin in the thoughts of the scribes was that they did not apprehend the Divinity of Christ. His miracles, together with the prophecies concerning Messiah, should have convinced them of this.
2. He proved to them his Divinity.
(1) By discovering their secret thoughts. In those passages which challenge to God alone the prerogative to forgive sins, the reason urged is that God alone can search the heart (2 Chronicles 6:30; see places referred to above).
(2) This knowledge is a mark of Messiah (cf. John 2:15; John 16:19, 30; Revelation 2:23). Therefore the rabbins by this test confuted the claims of Barchochebas. "Bar Cozeba," says the Talmud, "reigned two years and a half. He said to the rabbins, 'I am the Messiah.' They replied, 'It is written of Messiah that he is of quick understanding, and judges (Isaiah 11:3); let us see whether this man can tell whether one is wicked or not, without any external proof.' And when they saw that he could not judge in this manner, they slew him."
(3) He proved his Divinity by reasoning upon his miracle-working. "For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven; or to say, Arise?" If you concede the power of healing with a word, you must concede the Divinity of the Worker, and therefore should concede also that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins.
(4) He confirmed his reasoning by miracle. "But that ye may know that the Son of man," etc. Here was a Divine work to confirm a Divine claim. An impostor might say, "Thy sins are forgiven," for the result is not so obvious; but were he to say, "Arise!" he must have power, else he will be instantly rejected.
III. THE PRESENCE OF THE HEART-SEARCHER IS FEAR-INSPIRING.
1. The fear of the forgiven is reverential.
(1) The sense of sins forgiven brings Christ very near. It brings him near in his Godhead. For who can read the heart but God (1 Corinthians 2:10, 11)!
(2) It intensifies sincerity. In the near presence of the essential truth there is ever)-discouragement to falsehood. Divine good can only dwell in Divine truth.
(3) Gratitude is kindled in the presence of love. The forgiveness of sins does not consist in pronouncing them pardoned, but in removing the sinful inclination from the heart, and replacing it with the passion for goodness. As between sin and suffering there is an intimate connection, so is there an important relation between the pardon of sin and the healing of diseases (cf. Psalm 41:3, 4; Psalm 103:3; Jeremiah 33:24; Jeremiah 38:17; Matthew 8:16, 17).
2. The fear of the sinner is awful.
(1) The awe is salutary to the thoughtful. "When the multitudes saw it, they were afraid, and glorified God, which had given such power to men." "Power on earth to forgive sins," viz. "because he is the Son of man" (cf. John 5:22, 27). The union of the Divine and human in the Person of the Lord is the source of his saving power. "Power on earth." Here sin is committed. Here sin is forgiven. Christ, who has all power in heaven, has therefore all power also on earth.
(2) To the gainsayer the awe is confounding. The scribes were silenced. The day of judgment in the presence of the Heart-searcher came into their very soul. How senseless is the sinner who thinks he sins securely when unseen by men! - J.A.M.
recorded in the previous chapter, the evangelist passes to the more directly spiritual work of Christ, and the transition is marked by an incident which combines both kinds of ministry.
I. THE WORLD'S FIRST NEED IS THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. The sufferer was in a pitiably helpless condition - so helpless that he had to be carried to Christ. Yet the Saviour saw that his bodily weakness was of secondary importance compared to the spiritual paralysis of sin that benumbed his soul. His friends thought only of the physical trouble; but the keen eye of the Physician of souls penetrated through the superficial symptoms to the more terrible spiritual disease beneath. It would seem that the man himself felt this most acutely, and that Jesus, who could read hearts at a glance, perceived his deep yearning for forgiveness, and answered his unexpressed desire. It may be that his present condition was the result of some form of intemperance, was the natural punishment of his sins. But if this was not the case, there was, and there always is, a general connection between sin and suffering. However this may be, we all need to be delivered from our sins more than we need to be cured of any bodily infirmity. He alone who can save from sin is man's real Saviour.
II. CHRIST HAS DIVINE AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SIN. He does not pray for the man's forgiveness. He grants the pardon himself. His action startled and alarmed the religious people in the assembly. Was not Jesus claiming a Divine prerogative? Now, one of their premises was perfectly sound. Only God has a right to forgive sin, and if a mere man claims to pronounce absolution in more than a general declaration of the gospel, i.e. as a direct act of forgiveness, he is guilty of blasphemy. We cannot both accept the gospel narrative and reject the Divinity of Christ without leaving the character of our Lord under suspicion of the gravest charges. There is no middle course here. A mild Unitarianism that believes in the Gospels and honours Jesus is most illogical. But knowing the character of Christ to be true and pure, must we not take his calm claim to forgive sins as an evidence of his Divinity?
III. CHRIST'S MISSION ON EARTH BRINGS THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. This is a new note in religion. Forgiveness was known in the Old Testament (e.g. Psalm 103:3). But Jesus brings it with a fresh graciousness, with a new fulness and directness.
1. By his incarnation. It was as the "Son of man" that Jesus opened up the wealth of Divine forgiveness to us. The people marvelled at the power that had been granted "unto men."
(1) In his human life Jesus shows us the sympathy of God.
(2) He also reveals true purity, and so strikes a deep note of penitence, and brings us into the spirit that is capable of receiving pardon.
2. Through his atonement. This was not seen at first. It was enough to perceive the great fact - that Jesus brought forgiveness. But at the end of his life our Lord showed that his power to do this was confirmed by his death; that his blood was "shed for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). Thus by the sacrifice of himself he reconciles us to God, and reconciliation is the very essence of forgiveness.
3. In his present power. He showed one phase of his power in healing the bodily disease of the sufferer. This was a sign of the healing power that cures spiritual evil. He is the present, living Saviour, who both heals and pardons by his word of grace. - W.F.A.
declare a fact. Jesus treated the powers he possessed as Divine powers entrusted to his charge; what he asserts is that these powers concern two spheres, that of the body and that of the soul; that of sickness and that of sin, which is the real root of sickness. These men who brought their friend for healing, showed, by their devices and their energy, such faith in Jesus as a Healer of bodily diseases, that they were in a fit state of mind to receive the higher truth concerning him. "To him that hath shall more be given."
I. THE POWER TO DEAL WITH SIN IS CHRIST'S SUPREME TRUST. "The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins." Our Lord's healing of bodily disease then took men's chief attention, and often prevented their heeding his spiritual work. This is true still. Jesus is now regarded as a Friend of the suffering, and this is pushing out of view his real work as the Saviour of sinners. Miracle for healing disease was not, and is not, man's supreme reed. God would not bow the heavens and come down to effect merely that object. Genius, science, and skill suffice for effective dealing with such things. The Incarnation is relative to sin. The true miracle is the supernatural dealing with sin; the Divine removal of its penalties; the Divine restoration of the conditions it has broken up; the Divine deliverance from its power. Jesus has the miraculous power to save men from their sins.
II. THE POWER TO DEAL WITH THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN IS CHRIST'S ILLUSTRATION OF HIS POWER TO DEAL WITH SIN ITSELF. The Jews connected suffering with sin as its cause. They were so far right, and only went wrong when they tried to explain individual cases. Christ never healed for the simple sake of healing; the influence of the act on his higher work in souls was always in his mind. - R.T.
guesses, as we say, the thought of his friend. This ordinary power our Lord possessed, and the faces and movements of his disciples must often have suggested to him what was in their minds. This, however, may not be felt to explain all the instances that are recorded, and we may well assume that our Lord had a Divine power of thought-reading, and it included not only the thought, but also the tone and character and quality of the thought. Here our Lord reproves the spirit of the thought rather than the thought; the suspicious temper, which prefers to light upon an evil explanation rather than a good one, and assumes that every one must mean to do the bad thing. The apostle makes a special point of "charity" that it "thinketh no evil." And the sin is so common that a familiar proverb has been fashioned to warn us against it, "Honi sol qui real y pense" - "Evil be to him who evil thinks." The loving, trustful temper will ensure kindly thoughts, and the suggestion of good motives wherever possible.
I. THINKING EVIL AS AS ACT. It is an act that Jesus here reproves. These scribes heard words which were strange to them, and found a claim made which they could not understand. What, then, should they have done? Plainly they should have taken the matter into quiet consideration; gathered up what might help to explain it, and formed a careful and wise judgment. What did they do? Thought too quickly; let bias and prejudice guide thought; encouraged the evil suggestion that came; allowed themselves to feel pleasure in the assumption of bad motives. When a judgment has to be made of persons or of motives, it should never be made hurriedly; because at first we seldom can get into consideration the entire circle of grounds on which a judgment should be based. It is the easiest thing to "think evil;" it may be the right thing to "think good." If these scribes had thought more, they might have thought good.
II. THINKING EVIL AS A HABIT. This it readily grows to become. This involves distortion of the mental faculties. The soul sees through coloured glasses, and never sees the truth. Suspicion becomes a mood of mind; and with those who have fixed this habit, no man's character is safe. - R.T.
at once to the account of the "great feast" which be gave, and which was attended by the "disciples" of Christ. This feast, we learn from the narrative of Mark and Luke, belonged to a little later period, when Jesus had crossed to the other side of the lake. The occasion of it is there identified by the application of Jairus, spoken of in our present chapter (ver. 18). Notice -
I. THE DOUBLE NAME, THE NATION, AND THE EMPLOYMENT HITHERTO OF THE "MAN" NOW CALLED TO DISCIPLESHIP. Dwell on the change herein, and the contrast of his business - how possible, with God's grace and the Holy Spirit's might to alter and to renovate, such changes are; how welcomely the change was ever traced in this instance; how blessed hereafter was its course and success; and how divinely refreshing to the Church of the present day to read of, to hear of as a modern spiritual miracle, and to know in all the practical reality of this typical original case.
II. THE SUDDENNESS OF THE CALL. Such suddenness not unsafe with Christ, the omniscient; Christ, who knew all that was in man, at the helm. Guard against human haste, human incaution, human confidence. "Lay hands suddenly on no man" is the text for man, but not needed for the "chief Shepherd," "the Shepherd and Bishop of souls," the "great Shepherd of the sheep."
III. THE SWIFT OBEDIENCE, THE READY HEART, THE UNDELAYING AND UNRESERVING SELF-SURRENDER OF THE MAN CALLED. All this was an auspicious omen, so far as it went. Illustrated by the future, it was all a perfect vindication of the foreknowledge and the grace of him who called. - B.
I. JESUS, IN HIS CONDUCT, SHOWED HIMSELF THE SINNER'S FRIEND.
1. He called a publican into his discipleship.
(1) Publicans were hated by the Jews as representatives of Roman oppression. For they were public tax-gatherers, or rather farmers of the revenue. "The publican's trade is dirty and sordid" (Artemidorus). "There is no sinful calling but some have been saved out of it, and no lawful calling but some have been saved in it" (Henry).
(2) They were hated because many of them were extortionate in their exactions. So common was this that it became a saying that "all publicans are thieves." None are too vile to be reclaimed by Christ.
(3) Publicans were particularly obnoxious to the Pharisees because of their commerce with the Gentiles in the pursuit of their calling. Hence "publicans and sinners" are familiarly associated (cf. Matthew 5:46 with Luke 6:32; see also Matthew 11:19). Hence also Pharisees would have no communion with publicans. It was a maxim with the orthodox, "Take not a wife from the family of a publican" (Theocritus). Yet from this despised and hated class Jesus called Matthew to be one of his beloved and trusted disciples.
2. He ate with publicans and sinners.
(1) Gentiles, who came not under obedience to Moses, were accounted sinners (see Matthew 18:17; Matthew 26:45; Romans 5:8; Galatians 2:15). Some of these may have been at Matthew's feast. If so, then Jesus in eating with them would portend the calling of the Gentiles, as also did the favour he showed to the centurion and to the Syro-phoenician woman.
(2) Jews who were lax in respect to the ceremonies of the Law, as well as those who violated its precepts, were by the Pharisees accounted little better than heathen (see Matthew 8:30).
(3) Another class of "sinners," no less obnoxious to the Pharisee, were those who, while they honoured the Law, paid little respect to the traditions of the elders. Such sinners might be morally superior to the Pharisees who despised them.
(4) In eating with sinners Jesus did not evince sympathy with sin. Had he done so he would not have been the Friend of sinners. Those are net friends of sinners who encourage them in evil. His sympathy was for their souls. Christ comes to those who welcome him, and to none is he more welcome than to those who feel themselves to be sinners.
3. He encourages his disciples to go and do likewise.
(1) The sensual man enters the company of sinners for gratification. In this sense the holy Jesus could never join them. Neither in this sense could he encourage his disciples to join them.
(2) The spiritual man enters the company of sinners to do them good. There is no heart so vile that the Lord will not enter it when invited (cf. Revelation 3:20).
(3) The self-righteous man shuns the "sinner" from contempt. This unworthy feeling Jesus would discourage in his disciples. Therefore he had them with him to eat with the despised.
(4) The man of the world will shun the company of notorious sinners for the sake of reputation. Such a motive is hypocritical. Jesus would have his disciples true men. There is no fear for the reputation of any man anywhere if he be in the company of Jesus.
II. JESUS IN DEFENCE OF HIS CONDUCT SHOWED HIMSELF THE SINNER'S FRIEND.
1. He rested his defence upon the mind of God.
(1) Had man remained innocent he would have required neither mercy nor sacrifice. Man being fallen mercy is required; and sacrifice is instituted for the sake of mercy. To set forth the mercy of God in Christ's sacrifice of himself for us. To beget mercifulness in the heart of the believer. Mercy is the end, sacrifice the means, and the end is preferable to the means.
(3) The Lord willed mercy; but the Pharisees chose sacrifice, in a very different sense, however, from that in which Jesus came to offer himself instead of the many "burnt offerings" previously required. When Jesus spake, sacrifices were being offered in the temple by a disobedient and gainsaying people who had little respect for mercy. In such sacrifices God had no pleasure.
(4) Another kind of sacrifice will surely come in the day of vengeance (see Ezekiel 39:17-19; Zephaniah 1:7, 8; Revelation 19:17). But this is the "strange work" of God, to which he greatly prefers the mercy in which he "delighteth."
2. He rested his defence also upon his special mission.
(2) Where should the Physician be but among the sick? This was a home-thrust; for the Pharisee recognized a teacher of the Law as a "physician of the soul."
(3) Jesus came into a world of sinners. All men need healing.
(4) But men must acknowledge their need. The whole need not a physician. The self-righteous are outside the mission of Jesus. The most inveterate disease is that in which the sinner imagines himself a saint, and therefore will not seek the Physician of souls.
III. BY THE HAPPY ISSUE JESUS PROVES HIMSELF THE SINNER'S FRIEND.
1. The worthiness of the sinner is seen in the promptness of his obedience.
(1) Matthew arose at once responsive to the call Who amongst us has yielded obedience to the earliest call of Christ?
(2) Though conversion may at last take place, yet how much happiness and glory are forfeited through delay!
(3) How fatal are delays!
2. The worthiness of the sinner is seen in the completeness of his devotion.
(1) Jesus found Matthew in the midst of his business. Satan calls the idle to temptation. Christ calls the active to holy service (cf. Matthew 4:18-22). Matthew, like Saul of Tarsus, "conferred not with flesh and blood" (Galatians 1:15, 16).
(2) Matthew renounced a lucrative employment to embrace a life of poverty and persecution. There are better things than money. Yet the sacrifice shows up the man.
3. The worthiness of the sinner is seen in saintly zeal.
(2) He gave it in honour of Christ. He gave it also in the interests of humanity. The service of Christ is the service of humanity. Humanity is blessed when brought under the influence of Jesus.
(3) When Matthew invited Jesus he invited the disciples of Jesus also. Those who welcome Christ to their hearts will welcome his disciples.
4. The worthiness of the sinner is honoured in the confidence of the Saviour.
(1) He is called to righteousness - the righteousness of faith. Matthew never forgot that he had been a publican (cf. 1 Timothy 1:13).
(2) Obedience, devotion, and zeal will be rewarded. Matthew was subsequently elected into the apostleship (Matthew 10:3). He was, moreover, distinguished as the first evangelist. The publican is immortalized through his connection with Jesus. - J.A.M.
I. MAKING SURRENDER AS CHRIST MAY REQUIRE. Here Christ called for an immediate following, which involved leaving at once Matthew's ordinary occupation. Compare the cases of would-be disciples given in Matthew 8:19-22. Those men could not surrender just as Christ required. Matthew could, and did. We are sure that Christ requires
(1) the surrender of everything that is positively evil;
(2) the surrender of everything that would hinder full service;
(3) the surrender of everything that cannot be carried over and used in Christ's kingdom.
It is not to be thought representative that our Lord required some disciples to leave their avocations. He may still do so, but the usual rule is, "Let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God."
II. MAKING SURRENDER AS OUR OWN HEARTS MAY IMPEL US. This is illustrated in the feast which Levi made of his own free will. Christ made no demand for that surrender. If a man be true-hearted, the limitations under which he will put himself may be more severe and searching than any under which Christ puts him. - R.T.
I. THE FACT. Jesus did eat and drink with men of questionable occupation, and even with those of notoriously bad character. He did not simply show himself kindly disposed towards such people. He associated with them. Many benevolent persons would wish them well, and-some would support homes and refuges for the most miserable and degraded among them. But the Church of Christ has been slow in following her Master's example in showing real brotherhood for people under a social ban. The conduct of Jesus was new to the world, and it has been but rarely followed. Here is the wonder of his brotherly nature. He will take the lowest to the priceless privilege of his friendship.
II. THE COMPLAINT. This conduct of our Lord was regarded as scandalous by the religious people of his day, as similar conduct on the part of any good man who was daring enough to attempt it would be regarded by the religious people of our own times. It was not really suspected that he enjoyed the bad atmosphere of low society, but he was charged with courting that society in order to win popularity. Ungenerous people cannot conceive of generous motives. To them the grandest act of self-sacrifice must have some sinister aim.
III. THE EXPLANATION. Jesus associated with persons of bad character in the hope of raising them. He compared himself to a physician who does not pay his visits to healthy people. The doctor on his rounds goes to some strange houses. If he were but a casual caller, his choice of associates might raise a scandal. But his work determines his action. Though he has to handle and study what is very repulsive, science and humane ends elevate his treatment of it, and keep this pure. Christ goes first where he is most needed. Not desert, not pleasure, but need, draws him. When he comes it is to heal. His purpose sanctifies his association with persons of loose character. His one aim is to do them good.
IV. THE JUSTIFICATION. The religious people who accused our Lord had formed a totally false conception of the service which was acceptable to God. Jesus answered them out of their own Bible. There they might have read that what God required was not ceremonial offerings, but kindness to our fellow-men - "mercy and not sacrifice." Thus he turns the tables. These very religious people, his accusers, are not pleasing God. They are very particular about formal observances, but they neglect the weightier matters of the Law. Christ is truly doing God's will by showing mercy. God is love, and Divine love is never so gratified as by the exercise of human charity. Therefore it is quite in accordance with his Father's will that Christ shall call the sinners. His mission is to them. Those people who think themselves righteous cannot have any blessing from Christ. The self-righteous hypocrite is really further from the kingdom of heaven than the publican and the sinner. - W.F.A.
I. THE MOST UNUSUAL PLACES AND THE MOST UNUSUAL TIMES ARE, ACCORDING TO THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST, TO BE UTILIZED FOR THE SEEKING AND CONVERTING OF THE MOST UNUSUAL CHARACTERS, AND THOSE WHO MAY BE APPARENTLY OF THE MOST HOPELESS KIND.
II. THAT BY THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST NO LIMIT MUST BE SET TO THE CONDESCENSION - WHENEVER EVEN IT MAY MOST REALLY MERIT THAT DESCRIPTION - OF THE MAN WHO WOULD EMULATE THE CHARACTER AND THE WORK AND THE METHODS OF THAT MODEL PHYSICIAN OF SOULS.
III. THAT AS THE SUPREME NEED OF THE SOUL IS MERCY, SO ALSO THE SOVEREIGN QUALIFICATION OF HIM WHO WOULD RE ITS PHYSICIAN IS READINESS TO MERCY - TO FEEL IT AND TO SHOW IT. Contrast the "having mercy" and the requiring of sacrifice. - B.
I. OUR LORD DID SOT CHOOSE HIS ASSOCIATES BECAUSE HE LIKED THEM. That may be a proper ground on which to select our private friends. It is not proper for one who has the trust of power which he is to use. Whether he likes it or not, that man must find the sphere in which he can best use his powers. No man ever did really noble work in the world until he learned to put his likes on one side, and just do his duty. But such a man is almost sure to find that a new set of likes grows up round his duty. The refined person does not like rough and rude associations. And the folk that Christ companied with could not have been very pleasing to him. The elegancies and proprieties and gentlenesses of refined society would have suited him better; and we can quite imagine the circle he would have preferred.
II. OUR LORD CHOSE HIS ASSOCIATES IN ORDER TO DO THEM GOOD. He chose them as a teacher chooses his class, he seeks those who need his teaching. As a doctor chooses his patients, he seeks those who need healing. As a Saviour chooses his subjects, he seeks sinners, who need delivering from their sins. Mrs. Fry, for her own sake, would have sought and enjoyed cultivated society. Mrs. Fry, with a conscious power of ministry, sought out the miserable and degraded prisoners. According to our trust we must choose our associates. If we were here on earth only to enjoy, we might properly prefer luxurious Pharisees; but seeing we are here to stand with Christ, and serve, we had better, with him, find out the "publicans and sinners." - R.T.
I. THE FORESHADOWING FOUND HERE OF THAT LONG HISTORY OF HUMAN INTERFERENCES WITH THE UNWRITTEN BUT SIMPLE MANIFEST ORDER OF THE CHURCH'S LIFE AND PRACTICE AS GUIDED EVEN BY REASON.
II. THE FORESHADOWING HEREIN OF HUMAN RENDINGS OF THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH IN MATTERS NOT OF DOCTRINE NOR, JUSTLY SPEAKING:, OF DISCIPLINE.
III. THE FORESHADOWING OF HUMAN DISFIGURING ON A MOURNFULLY LARGE SCALE OF THE BEAUTY OF THE CHURCH'S FORM AND APPEARANCE BEFORE AN EVER-CRITICAL AND SCEPTICAL WORLD. - D.
I. THAT THERE IS A MORAL FITNESS IN RELATION TO CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. Fasting might be proper to the disciple of John.
(1) "John preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." Fasting, which is a sign of grief, is fitting to one who mourns for his sins. SO John himself "came neither eating nor drinking" (Matthew 11:18). His habit as a Nazarite was in keeping with his doctrine and dispensation.
(2) Rejoicing in an unpardoned penitent would be incongruous. But unpardoned, however penitent, he must be who remains a disciple of John as distinguished from the disciples of Jesus. The new piece on the old garment would look badly.
(3) John, as Grotius notes, was now in prison. This circumstance would give additional consistency to the fasting of his disciples. But the case was different with the disciples of Jesus, who had their Master with them.
2. Fasting might be proper to the Pharisee.
(1) The ostentatious fast would be consistent in the hypocritical Pharisee who disfigured his face that he might secure applause of men (see Matthew 6:16).
(2) But some of the Pharisees were probably sincere men. To such there would be a fitness in their fasting. For the spirit of the Pharisee was the spirit of the Law, i.e. the "spirit of bondage to fear." Who could consistently rejoice within the roar of the thunders and clang of the great trumpet of Sinai?
(3) Neither the ritual of Leviticus nor the traditions of the elders can deliver the Pharisee from the yoke of terror.
3. But fasting might be improper to the disciple of Jesus.
(2) Individual disciples are the "sons of the bride-chamber," the chosen friends of the Bridegroom.
(3) It would be unfitting in them to mourn while the Bridegroom was with them - during the festivities of the marriage. These festivities usually lasted seven days (see Judges 14:17). The Spirit of Jesus is the spirit of love. With love is joy and peace.
(4) Jesus was not with the Pharisees or these disciples of John as the Bridegroom with the sons of the bride-chamber. For they were the sons of the bondwoman (Galatians 4:25, 31).
(5) These disciples are herein significantly rebuked for their fasting in the presence of Jesus by the use of a simile which John used when he came into the presence of Jesus (see John 3:29). The sorrows of penitence in the presence of Jesus should be turned into the joys of salvation. These disciples of John had degenerated from the spirit of their master. Note and avoid tendencies to formality as tendencies to degeneration.
II. THAT THE MORAL FITNESS OF CIRCUMSTANCES IS FATAL TO UNIFORMITY.
1. Obviously so, because circumstances are ever varying.
(1) Minor circumstances are infinitely various. Yet may these be generally ranged under two classes (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:14; James 5:13). In the text they are distinguished as mourning and rejoicing, fasting and feasting.
(2) No man, therefore, should make himself the standard of religion for his fellows. Herein the disciples of John and the Pharisees erred. The new wine of the gospel could not be restrained in the old wine-skins of the Law. It must have the elastic wine-skins of new forms suitable to its expansive genius.
2. Christians have their seasons of mourning.
(1) Of the Bridegroom himself the only record of his fasting is that which took place when he was in the wilderness.
(2) In that experience Jesus personated the condition of his Church during his absence from her in heaven. She was destined to mourn in the wilderness, suffering from Satan fierce assaults of persecution and temptation. First from the Jews; then from the Romans; then from the apostasy; perhaps finally from the rising spirit of infidelity.
(3) Individual Christians also have their seasons of temptation (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 11:27). In such seasons they have their voluntary fasts (cf. Acts 10:30; Acts 13:2, 3; Acts 14:23; 1 Corinthians 7:5).
3. When the Bridegroom returns mourning will end.
(2) Individual saints have their interludes of joy as well as of sorrow. Darkness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
(3) After the night of trial which ends in the sleep of death, comes the joy of the bright morning of the resurrection.
III. THAT CONSISTENCY MUST BE SOUGHT IN DIVERSITY.
1. It is unnatural to seek it in uniformity.
(1) Uniformity is too often mistaken for unity. Things may be turned out of the same mould in infinite number, but neither is the conformity nor the number unity.
(2) There is in nature a unity which certainly consists not in uniformity. For no two blades of grass are exactly alike.
(3) The unity of nature rather lies in its diversity, for it is in the diversity of things that they become mutually useful. So it is in morals.
(4) Acts of uniformity can never give unity.
2. The unity of truth is in the spirit of love.
(1) The unity of nature is a spirit of harmony.
(2) So truth must be maintained amongst Christians in loving concession. The old piece must be sought for the old garment. Fresh skins must be sought for new wine.
(3) The duties of religion should not be made a subject of strife and contention amongst religious persons. The spirit must not be sacrificed to the letter.
(4) Note: "The quarrel with Christ was brought to the disciples (ver. 11); the quarrel with the disciples was brought to Christ (ver. 14). This is the way of sowing discord and killing love, to set people against ministers, ministers against people, and one friend against another" (Henry). - J.A.M.
I. THE BRIDEGROOM'S PRESENCE, AND THE STATE OF FEELING AND CONDUCT SUITABLE TO IT. The disciples had Christ present in human body. We envy them the material realization; it was a bridal-time. And yet the inward sense of Christ's presence is a higher and better thing. (Illustrate from Longfellow's 'Footsteps of Angels.') Though we have, as we say, only the spiritual presence of Christ, we are not left without both inward and outward signs of the reality of that presence. Inward.
(1) Rest of soul;
(2) freedom from doubts and fears;
(3) communion of spirit with spirit. Outward.
(1) Vigour and energy in the efforts to live a right life;
(2) pleasure in scenes that help to communion with Christ;
(3) love of the brethren.
What is suitable to the Bridegroom's presence? No mournings; no lastings; no forcings of will. The soul is moved freely by inward inspirations. We should feel the "liberty of love;" a quiet, intense joy, finding expression according to disposition.
II. THE BRIDEGROOM'S ABSENCE, AND THE STATE OF FEELING AND CONDUCT SUITABLE TO IT. "Then they fast." Illustrate, condition of disciples between Ascension and Pentecost. For us Christ is never absent in fact; he may be in feeling. Though matter of feeling only, we are not left without signs of the absence. Especially in lost impulse to goodness. (Illustrate, failing vitality in the body.) What is suitable to the Bridegroom's absence? Apply to those who feel the Bridegroom is gone, and:
1. Do not even mourn. (Illustrate, John Bunyan's 'Holy War,' Mansoul hardened.)
2. Only mourn. Mansoul sorrowing.
3. Fast as well as mourn. Mansoul putting away its evils, sitting in sackcloth, and sending messages after the lost prince. Are we jealous, as we should be, about keeping ever with us the sense of the Bridegroom's presence? - R.T.
I. THE OLD IS SPOILT WHEN IT IS PATCHED WITH THE NEW. The shrinking of the patch of undressed cloth tears the old garment, and so makes the rent worse than it was before. There was a strictly Jewish Christianity in the early Church, really harder and narrower than old Judaism. It was not truly Christian, yet the grand old Jewish ideas were spoilt. At Alexandria, Greek thought degenerated in its association with biblical ideas. It would not accept those ideas in their fulness, and yet it tried to patch its old fabric with them. The consequence was its dissolution. When Protestantism is not a complete severance from Romanism, but a mixture with it, the result is that the advantages of both the authority of the old and the freedom of the new system are lost. All this is melancholy if we are attached to the old. But there is another way of looking at it. The new is revolutionary. When the old is worn threadbare, it is best to cast it aside. Although we cling to it affectionately, it may be well that it should be violently torn from our backs. The gospel will not be a mere patch laid on an ugly defect in our worldly character. It will tear that character to shreds. It is a mistake to hope to patch it. The Christian method is to cast it off entirely and put on a completely new garment - the new character, the new life in Christ.
II. THE NEW IS LOST WHEN IT IS CONFINED BY THE OLD. The new wine ferments and must expand. But the old wine-skins are hard and dry and inelastic, and they are not strong enough to restrain the powerful ferment. The result is a twofold disaster - they are burst, which may not be a very great evil if they are worn out; and the wine is spilt, which is a serious loss. The old is always trying to cramp and restrain the new. Judaism endeavoured to confine Christianity within its own hard limitations. People are constantly trying to force new ideas into old expressions. In practical Christianity the attempt is made to confine the ferment of new enthusiasm within the walls of ancient order. Thus the Churches fetter the new fresh life of Christian experience. Perhaps they have some excuse for themselves. There is a rashness, a rawness, an unsettled ferment, about the new enthusiasm. Nevertheless, if this is real and living, they who resist it do so at their peril. They run a great risk of being themselves shattered in the process. The fact is new ideas absolutely refuse to be limited by old formulae. New spiritual forces cannot be bottled up in antiquated customs. In personal life the new grace of Christ cannot be confined to the old ways of living. If those old ways are obstinate and still claim to rule the man, there will be a dreadful conflict. The only wise thing is to make a fresh start. Many a hopeful movement has been wasted by the attempt to limit it to the ideas and practices of the past. if men had more faith in God they would learn that he belongs to the present as well as to the past, and that therefore the present has equally sacred rights and promises. - W.F.A.
I. NEW TRUTH IS ALWAYS COMING INTO THE WORLD. Practically new truth is. The critical philosopher may question whether such a thing as "new truth" is possible. Truth new to an age is possible. Truth of science may exist, but it is new when it is first brought to human apprehension. And even old truths become new when they are revived after being lost to the world for a while. What may be firmly declared is that primary truths of morals and religion must be old as humanity. The Puritan father assures us that
"The Lord hath yet more light and truth II. NEW TRUTH IS ALWAYS CALLING FOR NEW SETTINGS. The teachers of new truth want to express it in their own way. This occasions most of the controversies of our time. The conservative among us do not object to the new truth (if it is truth they cannot object to it), but they want it expressed in the terms that are familiar to them. They want the gentleman of to-day dressed according to the age of wigs and buckles. The liberty Christ claimed for himself, and for his disciples, was liberty to get new wine-skins for the new wine. And the modern Christian teacher asks permission to put his new truth in appropriate new settings. - R.T.
II. NEW TRUTH IS ALWAYS CALLING FOR NEW SETTINGS. The teachers of new truth want to express it in their own way. This occasions most of the controversies of our time. The conservative among us do not object to the new truth (if it is truth they cannot object to it), but they want it expressed in the terms that are familiar to them. They want the gentleman of to-day dressed according to the age of wigs and buckles. The liberty Christ claimed for himself, and for his disciples, was liberty to get new wine-skins for the new wine. And the modern Christian teacher asks permission to put his new truth in appropriate new settings. - R.T.
I. THE APPEAL.
1. The applicator. A ruler. Rulers were slow to believe in Christ. But some from almost every class were found among his disciples. Distress breaks down pride and shatters prejudices. They who would never seek Christ in prosperity may be found crying out for his help in trouble.
2. The object. The ruler asks for his child a favour which possibly he would have been too proud to have sought for himself. Suffering children touch the hearts of all. One such here touched the heart of Jesus.
3. The occasion. The child is nearly dead. It looks as though the father had tried every other remedy before applying to the great Healer. Many will only turn to Christ as a last resort. Yet much distress would be saved if men and women would seek him first, not last.
II. THE RESPONSE. Jesus arose and followed the ruler. He had been seated before, for be had been teaching. The ruler had interrupted his discourse. But Jesus did not, care for this; he was always ready to respond to the cry for help. We never read of his refusing to go anywhere but once, and then the invitation was to a king's palace, and the object of it was only the satisfaction of a superficial worldling's empty curiosity. All genuine appeals were met at once.
III. THE DELAY. Jesus was hindered on the way by another case of distress. This must have tried the poor father's patience most terribly, for it would have just given time for the sick child to die. And, indeed, this seems to have been the case. During the slow approach of Jesus the child died. But the poor suffering woman had as much claim on Christ as the great ruler. He is no respecter of persons. He is never in a hurry. He has time and sympathy for all comers.
IV. THE REBUKE. Jesus found the house in all the uproar that resulted from the performance of a band of hired mourners. This disgusted him. We should consider such a performance in the house of death most unseemly. To Christ it was worse. It was a part of that empty formalism that he met at every turn. Its hollowness and unreality offended him. Moreover, in so far as it had a meaning, this was not one that he could encourage. The wild abandonment of despair is not Christian. It is not the language of faith. Better is Job's calm expression of resignation, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).
V. THE REVELATION. The damsel is not dead. To Jesus there is no death but sin and its doom. An innocent child's passing away is but a falling asleep. Christ has transformed death. The grim shadow has melted into an angel of God, who giveth his beloved sleep.
VI. THE SECLUSION. The great work of. Christ cannot be carried out amid the uproar of the hired mourners. He shuns our noisy, fussy gatherings. Artificiality and pretence are quite incompatible with his presence. When he works wonders it is with those who believe in him.
VII. THE RESURRECTION. Jesus lays hold of the cold little hand of the dead child. In a moment his wonderful life-power thrills through her, and she sits up alive again. No need is too hard for him who could raise the dead. Even now his great compassion goes out to dead souls, and a touch of his hand brings life. - W.F.A.
I. WHAT SYMPATHY AND WHAT ACTIVE EXERTION THE GENUINE ACCENT OF WOE AWAKENS IN CHRIST. He heard it, and arose and followed it.
II. THE UNLIMITED CONFIDENCE WHICH CHRIST ADVISES TO FAITH, AND WITH WHICH lie AUTHORITATIVELY INVESTS FAITH, AS AGAINST THE PHENOMENA OF THE BAREST SENSE. These latter may seem uncontradictable:, but it is the other which is incontestable.
III. THE GRACIOUS CONDESCENSION WITH WHICH CHRIST WILL PAUSE TO RECKON AND ARGUE WITH ERROR, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT IS NATURAL ERROR, OR CAN CHARITABLY BE COUNTED SUCH, AND THE ERROR OF IGNORANCE AND OF THE UNTAUGHT MANY, RATHER THAN THAT OF PERVERSENESS, AND OF THOSE WHO LOVE DARKNESS RATHER THAN LIGHT.
IV. THE PORTION OF PRICELESS BLESSING, THAT IS TO THE PRAYING FATHER INDEED:, AND TRUSTING MOTHER INDEED, AND TO ELECT DISCIPLES INDEED, AT THE MAJESTIC GIFT OF THEIR SAVIOUR. V. THE SOLEMN SUGGESTION OF THE INEFFABLE MYSTERY OF THE WITNESSES OF THE FINAL WAKING OF THE DEAD. - B.
I. THAT JESUS RESPECTS THE FAITH WHICH, THOUGH WEAK, IS YET TRUE.
1. The ruler's faith was halting.
(1) His was not at the first a faith for the raising of the dead. Had it been so, it would have been remarkable; for, up to this time, Jesus had not raised the dead. The words, "even now dead," conveyed the sense of "at the point of death" (cf. Mark 5:23; Luke 8:42; see also Bloomfield, in loc.).
(2) His faith had respect simply to the recovery of the sick. Jesus had abundantly established the fame of his power to work miracles of healing. To have doubted here would have been unreasonable and criminal unbelief. How far is our unbelief unreasonable and criminal?
(3) The ruler's faith cannot be compared with that of the centurion (see Matthew 8:5-13). The centurion did not consider himself worthy that Jesus should come under his roof. Discerning the Divinity of the Miracle-worker, he saw no need for his corporeal presence. The ruler's weaker faith required that Jesus should enter his dwelling and lay his hand upon his little daughter (cf. 2 Kings 5:11).
(4) When the centurion believed, there were no examples of miracles of healing wrought at distance. The ruler had the centurion's example.
2. Yet the ruler's faith was true.
(1) His coming to Jesus evinced this. Trouble, it may have been, drove him to Jesus; but he came. Many there were who, notwithstanding the fame of Jesus, yet came not to him. Still there are many who remain in their moral maladies rather than come to Jesus for salvation.
(2) His appeal also evinced it. His worship was more than the customary Eastern manifestation of respect. He knelt to him, and pleaded importunately for his dying child. Those who would receive mercy from the Lord must give him honour.
3. Jesus respected this sincerity.
(1) Jesus could have healed the damsel at a distance (cf. John 4:46-53). The ruler had not faith for this. So, in concession to his weakness, Jesus went with him to his house. In like manner Jesus honours the sincerity of the penitent sinner, meeting him on his way.
(2) Note here the principle that grace is through faith. "According to your faith, so be it unto you." Had the ruler a firmer faith, it would have prevented the death of his child. Yet did not Jesus resent this halting by abandoning his case. Never will Jesus forsake the seeker who does not first forsake him.
II. THAT JESUS WILL STRENGTHEN THE WEAK, TRUE FAITH.
1. By the stronger faith of others in his company.
(1) The ruler saw the noble faith of the poor woman who "said within herself, If I do but touch his garment, I shall be made whole." The conception was creditable. She believed in that fulness of his grace presaged in that oil of gladness which flowed down to the skirts of Aaron's robe (cf. Psalm 133:2; John 1:16).
(2) Her faith was admirable in action. She made her way through the crowd and touched the fringe of his garment. Yet it was her spiritual contact with Christ that saved her. The physical, however, was a sign of the spiritual (see Ephesians 2:8).
(3) In that touch there is a sermon. The poor woman, through her malady, was ceremonially unclean, and whoever she touched was made unclean (see Leviticus 15:25). The doctrine of salvation through the vicarious sin-suffering of Jesus is set forth. The same was set forth again when Jesus took the dead hand of Jairus's daughter (ver. 25). The Levitical priesthood leave the dead in their uncleanness. The unclean are not forbidden to come to Jesus.
(4) How encouraging is his commendation! "Daughter, be of good cheer; thy faith hath saved thee." The believer is comforted in the assurance of adoption.
2. By encouragements personally given.
(1) Messengers of discouragement came to the ruler from his house. The report was, "Thy daughter is dead." The advice accompanying it was, "Why troublest thou the Master any further?" (see Mark 5:35). "A man's foes " - often unwillingly, however - "are they of his own household." When Jesus works Satan counterworks.
(2) "But Jesus, not heeding the word spoken, saith to the ruler of the synagogue, Fear not, only believe" (Mark 5:36). Jesus had not raised the dead before this. But the dead had been raised by the old prophets in the Name of the Lord. Why should not the Lord also raise the dead in his own Name?
(3) Thus by works and by word was the faith of the ruler strengthened by Jesus that it might also be honoured. How faith may turn calamities into blessings!
III. THAT JESUS YIELDS NO CONCESSIONS TO UNBELIEF.
1. He discovered the unbelief of the professional mourners.
(1) He found these in the ruler's house. Flute-players and wailers were making a tumult. The true mourners were silent. Deep grief is still. How unseemly are many of the customs of society!
(2) The professional weepers were ready to laugh. When Jesus said, "Give place" - you are out of place here - "for the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth," they "laughed him to scorn." They had no doubt that the damsel was dead. This fact was strongly testified in the professional scorn.
(3) The laughter of scorn is the reasoning of unbelief. The senseless can laugh when they cannot reply. The professionals were too carnal to apprehend the spiritual meaning of the Saviour's words.
2. He ordered that the unbelievers should be turned out.
(1) He would not have his miracle-working hindered by their unbelief. It would be the first step to a revival in some Churches if the unbelievers could be expelled.
(2) He would not have unbelievers honoured as witnesses of glorious works. Pearls should not be east before swine.
(3) In the resurrection at the last day the wicked will be treated with ignominy. The sceptical scorners will then awake out of the dust to "shame and everlasting contempt" (cf. Daniel 12:2).
3. The faithful only shall have honour from Christ.
(1) The witnesses chosen were the ruler and his wife, and the three favoured disciples - Peter, James, and John (see Mark 5:37-40). These disciples were afterwards chosen sole witnesses of the Transfiguration, and of the agony in the garden.
(2) To them Jesus verified his deep words, "The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth." Bodily death is not essential death, but in his hands is sleep. To sleep is a common euphemism for death, and in Scripture points to a resurrection.
(3) From the bed the daughter of Jairus was raised; the widow's son from the bier (Luke 7:14); Lazarus from the grave (John 11:44). "An ascending scale of difficulty, which has one stage more - the final summoning of all the dead by the same voice of quickening" (Trench).
(4) The faithful will not only be witnesses, but also partakers of the better resurrection. - J.A.M.
I. THE WOMAN'S FAITH.
1. It is modest. She trembles at the idea of becoming conspicuous. In her deep distress she will but creep up in the crowd behind the great Healer and steal a blessing. Timorous souls are drawn to Christ. They will not come to the "penitent's bench" at a monster revival meeting. But they will seek Christ in their own quiet way.
2. It is humble. Who is she that she should claim the attention of Jesus Christ. An important citizen may call him into his house, but this poor obscure woman cannot even bring herself to speak to him. Yet Jesus had pronounced a blessing on. the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).
3. It is unselfish. This would seem to be a most unfortunate time for approaching Christ. He is just hastening to the house of an important personage where a little child is dying. To stop him now would be cruel to the child; it would be resented by her father. Suffering is often selfish. But the distressed woman will not hinder the good work Christ is about to perform by asking him to stay for her.
4. It is ingenious. It was a new idea to obtain a cure from Christ by a touch of his garment. The sufferer decides for herself that her novel method will be efficacious. There is room for freshness of thought in our relations with Christ.
5. It is powerful. This is what most strikes Christ. In spite of her modesty, humility, unselfishness, and the difficulty of her position, this woman determines to try to obtain healing. Faith is tested by the difficulties it overcomes. It may be that the least pretentious faith is the strongest. There is room for great faith in lowly circumstances. The heroes of faith are to be found among the obscure and humble.
II. How CHRIST TREATED HER.
1. He was conscious of her touch. There was no magic in his garment. The cure came from himself. We are blessed by Christ only when we come into personal relations with him.
2. He took notice of her. He turned and saw her. It interested him much that a humble woman should have so much faith in him. He is not satisfied that any should approach him solely for their own private advantage. He would know his people, and he expects them to recognize him. This cannot be because he craves the fame of miracle-working. On the contrary, he shrank from that and forbade the publication of his doings. But he desires to have a personal friendship between himself and all whom he blesses.
3. He cheered her. The poor woman was overwhelmed with shame, and addressing her in the utmost refinement of sympathy as "daughter," Jesus reassures her. There is a rough charity that wounds the spirit while it tries to benefit the body. But this is not found in Christ. He perfectly understands, he truly sympathizes, he encourages and gladdens the heart of the miserable.
4. He commended her faith. Jesus was always ready to perceive the good in people, to tell it out and rejoice over it.
5. He healed her disease. She had her wish granted, while she had more. Jesus gives what will really satisfy the need of his people, while his gracious recognition far exceeds the hopes of the humble. - W.F.A.
form of the approach of this woman, her own idea of doing nothing beyond touching the hem of a person's garment, and her fright when she had been discovered as doing even that, were presumably due just to the fact that her disease was one that rendered her ceremonially unclean, and which forbade her to touch another person. She thought she saw her way possibly out of this by touching only the hem of only a garment. Notice -
I. THE ILLUSTRATION HERE AFFORDED OF HOW THE SOUL, DRIVEN BY WANT, BY WOE, BY SIN, NEED NOT BE DRIVEN WITHAL TO RECKLESSNESS, BUT CANNOT DO BETTER TITAN UTILIZE ITS DRIVENNESS OF STATE IN THE DIRECTION OF THE QUEST OF HELP BY METHODS EVEN THE MOST UNUSUAL.
II. THE ILLUSTRATION HERE AFFORDED THAT WHERE EVERY LOOPHOLE, EVERY AVENUE, MAY SEEM CLOSED, IT MAY BE SAID TO BE ALWAYS TRUE THAT THERE IS ONE LEFT - THAT ONE THE RIGHT ONE, AS THE ONLY ONE - IT NEEDS TO BE SOUGHT, AND IT IS THEN TO BE FOUND.
III. THE ILLUSTRATION HERE AFFORDED OF THE SUPREME EASE WITH WHICH THE OVERFLOWING GRACE OF CHRIST LENDS ITSELF TO THE SLIGHTEST CONTACT OF FAITHs, WITH THE RESULT OF INSTANTANEOUS CREATION OF LIFE - OTHER CONTACT UNFRUITFUL.
IV. THE ILLUSTRATION HERE AFFORDED OF THE PRACTICALLY ASSURED VERDICT OF CHRIST, THAT HIS GRANDEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SAYING A BODY IS INCOMPLETE ESSENTIALLY WITHOUT THE SOUL SAVED ALSO.
V. THE ILLUSTRATION HERE GIVEN OF CHRIST'S EARTHLY BENEDICTION UPON SUCH BODY AND SOUL TOGETHER MADE NEW. - B.
faith shown in the touch was of much greater importance than the superstition which connected blessing with the touch. Our Lord could easily look over the superstition, and accept the faith. "She did not think of a will that seeks to bless and save, but of a physical effluence passing from the body to the garments, and from the garments to the hand that touched them." "Even the ignorance and selfishness of the woman did not neutralize the virtue of her simple faith. It was not, of course, through her superstitious touch that she was healed, but through the faith that prompted the touch; a faith full of defects, - ignorantly conceived, secretly cherished, furtively put forth, openly exposed, humbly confessed, as if it had been a sin, - but yet, because a true faith, graciously accepted, rewarded, and perfected." In the woman's case we may see represented the religious experience of many. See the four stages of the woman's experience.
I. SHE KNEW HERSELF TO BE A SUFFERER. Some diseases carry on their work for a long time in secret. There is hope when they reveal their working, and set us upon finding remedies. It is a great thing to know our true moral condition,
(1) as sinners, exposed to the wrath of God, on account of our bad past;
(2) as diseased, and in an actual present state of corruption. The realities of our sin and danger are far more serious than we feel them to be.
II. SHE TRIED TO GET CURE, BUT TRIED IN VAIN. She had been to many physicians, and had spent all that she had. So the awakened soul will try to use means and to cure itself,
(1) by goodness;
(2) by wrestlings with sin;
(3) by devotions;
(4) by rites and ceremonies.
These are its "many physicians," all helpless in treating soul-diseases.
III. SHE HEARD OF JESUS, AND SOUGHT HIM OUT. We can only imagine what she heard, but we can clearly trace the influence of what she heard. It gave faith in Christ such a power as even enabled it to triumph over diffidence and superstitions; or, rather, enabled it to carry its superstitions along with it.
IV. SHE FOUND HEALING AND LIFE FLOW FROM CHRIST. Because her touch was to him a touch of faith, and of faith so really strong and sincere that he did not care to notice the strand of weakness that ran through it. - R.T.
death, which represents the extreme effect of sin. "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death;" "The wages of sin is death." If our Lord had not delivered from the power of physical death, it would have been open to his enemies to say that the supreme evil of humanity he had failed to reach, That reproach cannot be made, for our Lord recovered one who had only just died; one who was being carried out for burial; and one who had lain in the grave four days. And he himself burst asunder the bands of death, when they had been fastened upon him. But the point which is more especially presented to view, in this incident, is the glorious manner in which our Lord dealt with death. There is a revelation of his glory and claim in the calmness of his mastery over the supreme human foe.
I. HE RESTORED THE DEAD WITHOUT MAKING EVEN A SHOW OF AGENCIES. Here is a striking fact, which has not been duly noticed. In opening blind eyes Jesus used agencies - he made clay and anointed the eyes - but in neither of the cases of restoring the dead did he use any agencies. This comes to be more striking when we contrast the cases in which the great prophets, Elijah and Elisha, dealt with the dead. Elijah stretched himself upon the dead child three times. Elisha went "up" to the chamber "and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands, and stretched himself upon him." The contrast is even seen in the matter of prayer. Elijah cried unto the Lord; and his prayer is given. Elisha prayed unto the Lord. But in two of the cases our Lord did not associate even prayer with the putting forth of his power to recover the dead.
II. HE RESTORED TEE DEAD BY THE POWER OF A SIMPLE COMMAND. In this case our Lord's actual words are given, "Talitha cumi." At Nain, he simply said, "Young man, I say unto thee, arise." At Bethany the words of power were, "Lazarus, come forth." What is clear is that Elijah and Elisha acted as servants; Jesus acted as Master. He claimed, and he exerted, power and authority over death. It had to take the place of one of his servants, respond to his commands, and do his bidding. What, then, must he be who can thus deal with the one power which man has, by the experience of long ages, learned to regard as irresistible? - R.T.
Luke 7:22), compared with" The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind," etc. (Luke 4:18). Also in what natural harmony it is with alike the delicacy of the sense, the sadness of the deprivation, and the too familiar woe that bears the description of blindness or darkness. Note that there follows in this same Gospel a far more graphic description of the prayer to Christ of two blind men (Matthew 20:30-34), which invites correspondingly fuller treatment. But that as this account is given us, in a word that knows no vain repetition, nothing that can be styled correctly repetition at all, it must have its specific value and its own significance of lessons amid other features that may show it common with other accounts. Observe, then, that we have here -
I. THE SOUND OF AN APPLICATION, A PETITION, AN ENTREATY, THAT NO DOUBT MUST HAVE TAKEN ITS RISE ORIGINALLY ON THE SUGGESTION OF RUMOUR, AND ABOUT WHICH THERE IS SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY AS TO WHETHER IT IS THE PRAYER OF FAITH, THAT THE MERCIFUL ONE WHO "WAITS TO HEAR PRAYER" DOES ALSO GRACIOUSLY WAIT TO TEST WHETHER THAT SOUND OF PRAYER IS PRAYER INDEED. For what multitudes of us, for what multitudes of occasions in our life, for what multitudes of the lip-offerings of our prayers, is that very test needed!
II. THE TEST ITSELF REVEALED WITH ITS SIMPLEST MACHINERY, OF THREE DEGREES, SHOWN IN THE DELAY AS THE TWO BLIND MEN "FOLLOWED HIM, CRYING;" AS THEY FOLLOWED HIM, STILL APPARENTLY VOUCHSAFING NO PARTICULAR ATTENTIVENESS, INTO THE REPOSE AND CALMNESS OF THE HOUSE; AND AS FINALLY THEY ARE CONFRONTED WITH THE DETERMINING QUESTION, "BELIEVE YE THAT I AM ABLE TO DO THIS?"
III. THE CONFESSION OF FAITH - WITH HONESTY AND TRUTHFULNESS ALL-UNCHALLENGED BY THE OMNISCIENT KNOWER OF THE HEART.
IV. THE NO DELAY OF MERCY, WHEN THE FIT QUALIFICATION TO RECEIVE THE BENEFIT OF IT IS ONCE ASCERTAINED. There is no delay now; no "making of clay," no application of any outer material. This is only the touch, that touch of energy, of omnipotent efficacy, the omnipotent efficacy of light and life.
V. THE IMPETUOUSNESS OF GLADNESS CONQUERING THAT FAR MORE ACCEPTABLE GRACE, VIZ. THE EXACT AND EXQUISITE OBEDIENCE THAT SHOULD BE THE GROWTH OF THE HEART'S DEEPEST THANKFULNESS, AND THE BOUNDEN OFFERING OF A SAVED SOUL'S PUREST GRATEFULNESS. - B.
I. THEY ARE COMPANIONS IN BLINDNESS.
1. In community there is sympathy.
(1) Their common blindness probably brought them together. They were in a condition to enter into each other's feelings.
(2) So is there sympathy in the blindness of ignorance. Ignorance as to truth, ignorance as to goodness. The ignorant are at home with their kind.
(3) So in the blindness of error. Hence the grouping of heretics into communities.
(4) So in the blindness of falsehood. This is especially wilful and malignant. Against the clearest evidence for the Messiahship of Jesus the Pharisees closed their eyes (cf. John 9:41). The miracles they could not deny they attributed to Satan rather than accept the inference that naturally followed from them (see ver. 34).
2. In sympathy there is power.
(1) There is the power of opportunity. For sympathy brings contact. It also conciliates confidence.
(2) Then there is the power of the strongest will. The pliant are led by the resolute. Note: Men of strong will should be good and true, not only for their own sake, but also for the sake of those they will lead. The pliant should especially be careful as to the company they keep.
II. THEY ARE TOGETHER IN SEEKING SIGHT.
1. They seek it from the same Source.
(1) "Have mercy on us, thou Son of David." Note:
2. They seek it by the same means.
(1) Not by works. They cried to the Son of David for mercy. In seeking mercy they disclaimed personal merit. They cried as beggars.
(3) They cried with the same voice. "Have mercy on us. Each cried for the other as well as for himself.
(4) They followed with the same persistency. They were fervent, incessant, importunate. So must those be who would receive spiritual sight.
(5) Yet their faith came by hearing. They could not witness the works of Christ. Like the Gentiles, they received the gospel through testimony.
3. They seek it with the same encouragement.
(1) Jesus encouraged them by his silence. They followed him through the street, crying for mercy. If he did not answer them immediately, he did not drive them away. Note: The sight-seeker should never despair.
(2) For his silence Jesus had good reasons. Perhaps he was influenced by the reason which afterwards led him to impose silence upon the men (ver. 30). Perhaps the seekers were not yet in the moral condition to profit by the miracle to the utmost. Note: There is encouragement to persistency in the reserve of Christ.
(3) Jesus encouraged them by his speech. Believe ye that I am able to do this?" This question brought their faith to the very point. They now relied upon his power. Then he touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith so be it unto you." Herein he affirmed but did not restrict his gift.
III. THEY ARE COMPANIONS IN THE BLESSINGS OF VISION. 1, They see the natural light.
(1) Revealing scenes of beauty and distortion.
(2) Opening new sources of instruction.
(3) Discovering unimagined avenues of delight, and perils to be avoided.
(4) The miraculousness of their cure was evinced not only in its suddenness, but also in that their eyes were able at once to bear the light of day.
2. They see the spiritual Light.
(1) They see the Son of David. This great sight prophets and kings desired to see (Matthew 13:16, 17; Luke 2:26; Luke 10:23, 24). This sight these men, too, desired to see, but could not for their blindness, though they were in his very presence. How many in Christian lauds are spiritually in this case ]
(2) Truth is to the intellect and heart what light is to the eye. The giving of spiritual vision is a blessing as much greater than the natural as spirit is nobler than matter - as the eternal surpasses the temporal.
IV. THEY ARE COMPANIONS IN DISOBEDIENCE.
1. "Jesus strictly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.
(1) He had already wrought miracles sufficient in Capernaum to convince those who sincerely desired to know the truth.
(2) Greater publicity might intensify the malicious resentment of those who would not accept the truth.
(3) It might encourage that mistaken popular feeling which would have him as a civil prince.
(4) The inhibition had its lessons of humility and the obedience of gratitude.
2. But they went forth and spread his fame in all that land.
(1) For this disobedience there is no defence. The command was express. They had no business to judge differently from Christ.
(2) Honour pursues those who fly from it. Honour is like the shadow, which as it flies from those that follow it, so it follows those that flee from it" (Henry). - J.A.M.
if only we believe enough.
I. HELPED TO TRUST, THAT IS THE BEGINNING OF CHRISTIAN LIFE. Take the familiar command, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," and put "trust" for "believe," then it means, "Give the whole matter of your soul's salvation into his hands." That is the beginning.
II. LEARNING TO TRUST; THAT IS THE GREAT WORK OF CHRISTIAN LIFE, There is a constant tendency to fall back on self-confidence, which needs to be watched and resisted. There is a constant demand for the culturing of weak trust into strength. All Christian discipline means development of trust.
III. ACCORDING TO TRUST; THAT IS THE LAW OF DIVINE BLESSINGS IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Because that is the guarantee that gifts will be well used. If we were utterly self-willed, we should fling back the gift. Just in the measure of our self-will we are likely to use unworthily the gift. So far as we can trust, we are likely to use it rightly. Open souls welcome spiritual blessings. - R.T.
Luke 11:14, 15, though given in a different connection, certainly seem to describe one occasion with that before us, or vice versa. If this be not so, the present passage is isolated, and has no parallel in either of the other Gospels. The blasphemy of "some of them," however - those "some" apparently the Pharisees - is treated of at length in a subsequent chapter of the present Gospel, and in both of the other Gospels. The present passage is allowed by very leading commentators to be distinct from such a one as that recorded in Mark 7:31-37, and can scarcely be thought to be simply included in those sacred descriptions, that tell generally how the grace and power of the Lord healed many dumb and deaf and blind; and therefore needs its own consideration in this present place. Notice -
I. THE OBJECT OF PITY THAT WAS BROUGHT BEFORE CHRIST - A MAN DUMB, NOT BY NATURAL DEFECT, NOT BY FORCE OF DISEASE, NOT BY REASON OF ACCIDENT, BUT BY THE TYRANNOUS INTRUSION INTO HIS BODILY ORGANIZATION OF A DEVIL WHOSE MALIGNITY TOOK THE DIRECTION OF INFLICTING DUMBNESS ON THE VICTIM. Whether this possession and other similar were a result and forestalled punishment of excess cf immoral vice of their own, or of "their parents," on the part of those of whom we read from time to time; or whether really vicarious suffering, in days that were marked by the lowest social degradation, and could not justly be fixed on the individual sufferer as the meriting cause; or whether it were all to be safely described, as to the end, that the works of God might be manifested, it seems impossible to assert. The barest facts of these cases of possession are terrible, and for the fidelity with which they are portrayed, they are indisputable. They must be accepted even if they lay only on the page of profane history, instead of on the specially tested, the microscopically examined, pages of sacred history.
II. THE "MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS" METHOD OF TREATMENT OF THAT MOURNFUL OBJECT OF PITY ON THE PART OF CHRIST. It is the method of One who takes in the whole situation; who regards it as it is now; who recognizes who the invisible enemy is, and what the sting of his enmity; who delays not to confront his odious challenge, nor delays by a moment remedy and rescue for the sufferer.
III. THE SWIFT AND SUPREME EASE WITH WHICH THE MIGHTY ONE EXPOSES THE WORK OF THE EVIL PRESENCE; AND DISPLAYS TO MANIFESTATION ITSELF THE GRACE OF HIS OWN PRESENCE. Now "he did not strive nor cry; neither was his voice heard in the streets;" but the voice of the dumb was heard, and the voice of an acclaiming, admiring, blest multitude was heard! And the crown was already being raised that should be placed on the brow of that King of kings. - B.
I. HERE IS A COMPARISON OF TWO SAD CASES.
1. The dumb demoniac.
(1) Here is a man bodily in the hands of a demon. So completely is he in the power of the evil spirit that his self-control is lost. What an emblem of the helplessness of those who are morally "carried captive by the devil at his will" !
(2) He is "dumb."
(a) He has no voice for prayer.
(b) He has no voice for praise.
(c) He has no voice for testimony.
(3) God had not opened his mouth. No other power was competent.
2. The blaspheming Pharisee.
(1) He had a voice to impeach the Holy One as a sinner.
(a) Because he did the best works on the best of days.
(b) Because he condescended to eat with publicans and sinners.
(c) Because he did not fast in deference to rabbinical tradition.
(d) Because he proved that he has power on earth to forgive sins.
(2) In all this the devil was concealed. For wherein does this voice essentially differ from that of the Gadarene demoniacs who cried, "What have we to do with thee, thou Son of God?" (Matthew 8:29). Malignity is no less devilish because masked as piety.
(3) The blasphemy of the Pharisee advanced to refer the miracles of Christ to diabolical agency.
(a) The miracles as facts could not be disputed. It is too late in the day for the modern sceptic to dispute them.
(b) The Pharisee had no other way in which to evade their evidence but to trace them to the worst possible authorship.
(c) The malignity of Beelzebub is in the libel. And how much better is the sceptic who traces the miracles of Christ to natural causes? Is not the influence of Satan still hidden under what are called natural disorders?
II. THE MORE SUBTLE PROVES THE SADDER.
1. The dumb devil is driven out.
(1) The demoniac is brought to Jesus. He cannot come of himself.
(2) He is brought in the arms of compassionate faith. The devil cannot resist the power of faith, though exercised by third parties. Let not the righteous relax the effectual fervent prayer.
(3) In response to prayer the demon is expelled. Behold, the dumb has found his voice. Saul of Tarsus in conversion found his voice in prayer (see Acts 9:11). Praise is the companion of prayer (Psalm 51:15).
2. The multitudes marvel.
(1) No wonder they should, for here were four stupendous miracles wrought in one afternoon.
(a) The healing of the profluvious woman.
(b) The restoring of Jairus's daughter to life.
(c) The imparting of vision to two blind men.
(d) And now the expulsion of the dumb devil from the demoniac.
(e) To these he immediately added many more (ver. 35).
(2) They express their admiration in the exclamation, "it was never so seen in Israel." And if not in Israel, where, then? For the Hebrews, themselves a miraculous people, were of all peoples the most favoured by the working of miracles amongst them.
3. The blaspheming devil holds his own.
(1) The Pharisees never came to Christ. They were wilfully, therefore hopelessly, wicked.
(2) By their wickedness they prevented the astonished multitude from accepting their Messiah.
(3) The bad influence of the Pharisees is seen in the apostasy of the Hebrew nation to this day. - J.A.M.
I. THE HUMANITY OF THE COMPASSION OF JESUS.
1. His compassion was moved by the multitudes he saw.
(1) God, who is compassion itself, cannot be subject to emotion. Divine emotion in Scripture teaching is the human emotion which has a Divine source, as when we are sensible of the working in us of a Divine compassion. Such was the human compassion which, in the highest perfection, moved the heart of Jesus.
(2) It moved him as he considered the multitudes of men he met with in his itineration of the cities and villages (ver. 35). To him they were more than the multiplication of mere units. 3/lore than mere "hands." He viewed them as multitudes of rational, capable, responsible, immortal beings.
2. His compassion was moved by the condition in which he found them.
(1) They were "distressed" physically and spiritually.
(a) By disease and sickness.
(b) By demoniacal possession. The demoralization of the nation as described by Josephus was fearful.
(2) They were "scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd" (cf. 1 Kings 22:17).
(a) Not that they were without synagogues. It was in visiting synagogues Jesus saw the multitudes. In the abounding of Churches there may yet be a famine of the Word of God.
(c) Human traditions were substituted for the Divine Word. To this day Jewish teachers combine to make void the Word of God through their traditions. So do apostate Christian teachers.
(3) The multitudes were like the harvest ready for the reapers, but no reapers were there to gather in the precious grain. It was "plenteous," but ready to shed and spoil and rot upon the ground.
3. His compassion moved him to prayer.
(1) Jesus spent the whole night in prayer for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
(2) He moved his disciples also to pray. They were too modest to record whether they also had spent. the whole night in prayer.
(3) The burden of the prayer was that the Lord of the harvest would send forth labourers into his harvest. Note: It is the purest compassion to benefit the souls of men. Other things will follow (cf. 1 Kings 3:13; Psalm 37:35; Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 4:8). Does a truly human, Christ-like compassion so intensely move us as to lead us to pray and labour for souls?
II. THE DIVINITY OF THE COMPASSION OF JESUS.
1. This brought him down from heaven.
(1) His incarnation was in pursuance of the anti-mundane covenant (see Hebrews 10:5-7).
2. It is manifest here in the authority of his preaching.
(1) He preached the "gospel of the kingdom." His own kingdom. That kingdom in which he himself is King.
(2) The authority of his preaching was from himself. For he spake "not as the scribes." Not even as the inspired prophets. As the Fountain of all holy inspiration.
(3) In the Divine sense the compassionate Jesus is still going through cities and villages preaching his gospel.
3. Or, the miracles by which he attested it.
(1) They were Divine.
(a) Evincing power over visible nature.
(b) Dominion over the invisible world.
(2) They were wrought immediately by him. In his own Name.
4. In his delegation to his disciples of authority to preach.
(1) He instructed them first to "pray the Lord of the harvest that he send forth labourers into his harvest." In which note:
(a) That the harvest is the Lord's.
(b) That he only can qualify and commission true labourers - labourers worthy of the work.
(3) Christ sent forth those whom he moved to pray. Prayerfulness is a preparation for the ministry. How earnestly should the flock pray for true pastors 1
5. In his delegation to his disciples of miracle-working power.
(1) He made them masters of disease and sickness. Also of evil spirits. Note:
(a) "Unclean spirits" are distinguished here from "all manner of disease and all manner of sickness."
(b) The design of the gospel is to vanquish the devil and cure the maladies of the world.
(2) The mastery with which the disciples were invested was not to be exercised in their own, but in their Master's Name.
(3) There is, therefore, no comparison between the sense in which Jesus commissioned his disciples, and that in which Moses appointed Joshua or Elijah called Elisha to be their successors.
(4) Though the call to the ministry is Divine, to despise human learning is fanaticism. - J.A.M.
I. JOURNEYING. He "went about all the cities and villages." Galilee was very thickly peopled at this time. Josephus exaggerates, but he says of Galilee, "The cities here lie very thick, and the very many villages here and there are everywhere so full of people, by the richness of their soil, that the very least of them contained about fifteen thousand inhabitants." He reports two hundred and forty cities and villages in the district. This gives us an idea of our Lord's active labours. Notice that
(1) he was concerned for the village as well as for the town;
(2) that such itinerating work is bodily exhausting;
(3) that constant fresh scenes and associations destroy soul-quietness, and make the due maintenance of the spiritual life exceedingly difficult. We may sympathize with Christ.
II. TEACHING. We now know that the afternoon service at the synagogue was conducted somewhat as a Bible-class, those present asking questions and giving answers. In such scenes our Lord naturally took his place as Teacher. Scripture was the text-book. Note that our Lord sought to arouse the activity of men's minds. He wanted intelligent religion. Teachers find in him their Model.
III. PREACHING. This term represents the morning service in the synagogues, when announcements and expositions were given, but no response from the people was looked for. Preaching may be said to include three things:
Christ had a message; he opened up the Scriptures (as at Nazareth, see Luke 4.); and he could persuade to the acceptance of the truth. But teaching and preaching make heavy demands on spiritual strength.
IV. HEALING. This is always to be regarded as auxiliary and illustrative work. Needful in those days, in order to call attention to the new Teacher, and awaken interest in him. It did for that day what newspapers and advertisements will do for great leaders and teachers nowadays. - R.T.
I. THE PITEOUS HELPLESSNESS OF THE SHEEP.
1. The sheep are without a shepherd. There were official teachers, men trained in the Law and appointed to instruct the ignorant. But these men were not true pastors. They were well meaning, many of them. But they had no charm wherewith to draw the people; they did not know the green pastures and the still waters. Therefore Jesus found the people shepherdless. Without Christ the world is lost. No human leader is sufficient for its needs.
2. The sheep are distressed. They are trained to follow their leader. He knows where the best pasturage is; he can protect the helpless creatures from danger. Men and women need firm guidance, spiritual pasturage, and heavenly protection. We cannot go as solitary pilgrims dependent on our own resources.
3. The sheep are scattered. They were not drawn together by the voice of a trusted shepherd. So they wandered foolishly and aimlessly. The world without Christ is disunited. In thought and conduct men wander from one another, and the social bond is broken when the Divine bond is disregarded.
4. The sheep need a shepherd. Jesus saw the need, and he came to supply it. Later in his ministry he proclaimed himself as the good Shepherd (John 10:11). Moreover, he expects his ministers to be first of all pastors to the people, feeding his sheep (John 21:17).
II. THE GLORIOUS PROSPECT OF THE HARVEST. The image changes. Instead of a scattered flock of bleating sheep spread over the hillside, we see waving fields of corn, ripe for the harvest, only needing the reapers to gather in its golden wealth.
1. There is a harvest in the world. This is a cheering thought. Regarded from one point of view, men are like sheep - their need is great; looked at from another standpoint, they are indeed a harvest-field with boundless possibilities. When the industry of China, the speculation of India, the endurance of Africa, are won to Christ, and when the boundless energy of the West is all gathered into his garner, great will be the wealth of the kingdom of heaven. The world is worth winning for Christ. He counts his wealth by the souls he possesses.
2. The harvest is plenteous.
(1) It covers a vast area. The greater part of the world is not yet Christian.
(2) It includes a multitude of souls. Christ has not come to save a few; he aims at the plenteous harvest of many souls.
(3) It contains many forms of good. There is great wealth in this harvest-field of the world. Christ would have the heroism, the industry, the art, the literature, of the world gathered into his kingdom.
3. Many labourers are needed. Jesus was the Sower (Matthew 13:3). His disciples are the reapers. Never was so large a harvest-field open for the sickle as in our own day; never were so many labourers needed. The great want of the world is apostolic missionaries, men and women with the spirit of Christ in them. - W.F.A.
the multitudes;" saw the multitudes all "a-faint;" "scattered abroad;" "saw" a picture - a picture that arrested the eye, that rivetted the thought, that stirred the heart! Yes, a picture; but one that was mournful, and that made mournful exceedingly - this its subject, "as sheep having no shepherd." Notice, then -
I. HOW THE LONGEST LABOUR, THE HARDEST TOIL, THE MOST TRIED PATIENCE, THE KEENEST SENSITIVENESS AS TO PERVERSITY, BLINDNESS, HARDNESS OF HEART, NEED NOT STAUNCH DRY A CHRISTIAN COMPASSION, BUT MUST NEEDS MAKE IT FLOW THE MORE FREELY FORTH.
II. HOW THE BEHOLDING AND THE MOVED CONTEMPLATIVE BEHOLDING OF THE MOUNTAIN MASSES OF HUMAN SIN, WANT, MISERY, SHOULD HAVE FOR THEIR LEGITIMATE CHRISTIAN ACTION, NOT DESPAIR, NOT DESPONDENCY, NOT SO MUCH AS ONE FOREBODING, FEARFUL DOUBT BUT THE CALMEST CONVICTION THAT THEY STRETCH A VAST AND A HOPEFUL HARVEST-FIELD BEFORE THE AGONIZED EYE.
III. HOW THIS HARVEST-FIELD IS ONE TO BE WORKED IN, AND REAPED, NOT BY THE ANGELS, BUT BY MEN; WHO MUST BE PREPARED TO BE "LABOURERS," AND MUST BE LABOURERS, AND MUST BE APPLIED FOR BY PRAYER ON THE PART OF THOSE WHO ARE ALREADY THE INSUFFICIENT LABOURERS, TO HIM, WHO WILL BE FOUND TO BE, AND WHO IS, THE LORD OF THE HARVEST. - B.
I. THE SPHERE IN WHICH THEY WERE TO LABOUR. Not among Gentiles, butte the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The Jews were the medium appointed by God for diffusing the knowledge of salvation through the world; and the success of the gospel among other nations would much depend on its acceptance by the Jews. Also the apostles were not yet sufficiently disentangled from Jewish prejudices to move freely or without danger among Samaritans and Gentiles. The principles here indicated are that if one race is more likely than another to prove helpful in diffusing the gospel, are that; race should it first be carried. A man must sow in the best soil he can. And, second, the missionary must consider the kind of work and the sphere for which he is best adapted.
II. THE NATURE OF THEIR WORK was indicated by the communication of the gift of healing, and by the commission, "As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand." They were themselves in many respects uninstructed, but they were to tell of the acts and character of Jesus, and they were themselves to do similar works. The aim of the missionary must still be to proclaim and exhibit the kingdom of heaven. Preaching would receive irresistible confirmation by fact could they show in their renovated life the reality of Christ's power to create a kingdom of heaven upon earth. A great obstacle to Christian missions lies in the fact that missionaries cannot point to such evidence either in the lives of professing Christians abroad, or in our national acts and ways, and on the face of our society.
III. THE METHOD OF PROCEDURE. They were in the first place to make no provision for their maintenance. This was possibly to prevent their taking money from those they healed, and so seeming to rank with exorcists and strolling magicians; probably also to train them to faith in our Lord while absent from him. He meant, by their present experience, to lead them to the conviction that he was able to provide for them. Again, he warns them not only against carefulness, but against fearfulness. He could not only provide for, but defend, his servants. When they saw their preaching producing unexpected results, and bringing them into collision with men in power and with the prejudices of the people, they might begin to accuse themselves. Therefore does he furnish them beforehand with all needed consolation in the word that in that experience they were but reproducing his own. "It is enough for the servant that he be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord." And as their motto to guide them they were to take the words, "Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves;" and, adds our Lord, "Beware of men." This rule guided his own conduct. He knew when to speak and when to be silent. And so he says - Do not count upon candour, patience, generosity, or trust to simple straightforwardness and the power of truth. Be on your guard, but do not let yourselves be betrayed into trickery or double-dealing. Wise as serpents, you must also be guileless as doves. Choose the right time and way to deliver your message, but never be led into suppressing the truth, or pretending to believe what you do not. It may be a question whether mission work in some countries does not offer, to the candidate for the ministry, a field of labour in which he will have less cause for fear or care than in the Church at home. To any one who has a distaste for the controversies which have grown up from a long Church history, there is something immensely attractive in the idea of working a virgin soil, where nothing need be dealt with but the central facts of our religion, "Jesus Christ, and him crucified." To any one who wishes to be wholly unhampered, that he may give himself, without bond or prepossession, to be moulded by Christ himself, and to adopt his methods pure and simple, the work of the missionary presents attractions which cannot be offered at home. It is to be remarked of this first mission that none of the dark forebodings of our Lord seem to have been fulfilled at this time; but, on the contrary, they returned in such a state of exultation that our Lord saw they needed to be sobered rather than to receive further encouragement, lie took them apart into a desert place to rest awhile. When the seventy returned our Lord took occasion to admonish them that the true ground of satisfaction was not that the devils were subject to them, but that their names were written in the book of life. So the twelve required to hear over again the words of the sermon on the mount, "Many shall say in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not cast out devils in thy Name, and in thy Name done many wonderful works? Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." That is to say, the apostles, in common with all who are engaged in similar work, had need to be reminded that they may be useful in bringing others into the kingdom and yet themselves be outcasts; that success in Christian work is no criterion of their own state. We have not the temptation to self-confidence which the apostles had, but there does arise in us a state of mind which requires these sobering words of our Lord. When we have a craving to evince our loyalty to Christ by some extraordinary sign, to do some striking and conspicuous work that would at once dissipate for ever all suspicion about our own connection with him, we need to be reminded that our first work is to purify our personal life, our domestic habits, our business relations, and so we shall learn to face the further opportunities of being helpful that may be presented to us. The important question for us is - What was involved in the reception of the apostles and their message? How did the knowledge and acceptance of what they proclaimed operate to make men holy? The people had very erroneous ideas about the kingdom, but our Lord lays down the rule, "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me;" that is, he that admits true teaching regarding the kingdom receives the King, accepts Christ; and he that does so accept God is reconciled to the highest and best - is a saved man. He was at no pains to correct their crude ideas about heaven and hell, but he made light of nothing which threatened to obscure the distinction between sin and righteousness. The matters with which we have immediate concern are - What ought man to be? and - How can he become what he ought? And the acceptance of Christ as King appointed by God operated to make men holy by quickening and intensifying all their previous trust and hope, and by setting vividly before them what a son of God really was. In all essentials this original gospel was identical with that preached to us. Entrance to the kingdom is not given by way of reward bought by submission to Christ, but true submission to Christ necessarily communicates that kind of character which he requires. To be in the kingdom is to be among the things that endure. Choose Christ as your King, and you are brought into a connection which lends reality and consistency to your whole life. Recognize that your life. has its source in Christ. God has so ordained it that our spirits should be fed from a personal source, not by books, not by laws, not even by hopes, but by personal intercourse with a person fit to sustain, to enlighten, to sanctify, to guide us. If we desire to be made such as God sees we might be, we must ceaselessly press on to further knowledge of what he means by being our King. - D.
I. THE IMPRESSION MADE ON CHRIST BY THE SIGHT OF MULTITUDES. Show the effects which great crowds produce on us. They greatly excite us; but when we regard them as religious men they greatly depress us, for they convince us that large masses of humanity are yet unreached by the redeeming and elevating influences of Christianity. Show the effects that great crowds produced on Christ.
1. Sympathy with bodily needs. (As in the case of feeding the five thousand.)
2. Compassion for soul-suffering. (Regarded as "sheep having no shepherd." )
3. Our Lord seems to have been specially distressed, because they thought so much of body, and were ready to sacrifice so much for it, and yet scarcely knew of the wants of their soul - of the "hunger of the soul."
II. THE LESSONS FOR THE DISCIPLES WHICH OUR LORD'S IMPRESSION'S SUGGESTED.
1. That there was abundant room for spiritual work.
2. That the multitudes of men form the Lord's harvest-field.
3. That there is still no proper correspondence between the harvest and those who labour at its ingathering. The harvest is wide and great; the labourers are but few.
4. That they should think and pray about this divergence, and so very possibly come to hear the Divine call to go into the harvest-field. - R.T.