And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
Verse 1. - And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God. His fame as a great Teacher was evidently now firmly established. If it were known that he intended speaking in public, a crowd of listeners would gather quickly round him, whether in the synagogues, or by the lake-shore, or in the market-place. He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret. On this occasion, as he taught by the quiet lake waters, the throng was so great that he borrowed the fishing-boat of one of his friends, and, just pushing out from the shore, spoke to the multitude from the little craft as it rocked on the wavelets of the lake. Dean Stanley calls it "the most sacred sheet of water which the earth contains." The rabbinical derivation is interesting: "Gannesarim, garden of princes;" but it is more probable that Gennesaret is but a reproduction of the old Hebrew name Chinneroth (Joshua 12:3), so called from its harplike shape. It is a beautiful sheet of water, twelve or thirteen miles long and nearly seven broad at one portion of the lake. The Jordan flows through it. In our Lord's time it was surrounded by the richest and most populous district of the Holy Land; large and flourishing towns were built along its shores. Capernaum, as has been said, was the junction of the great roads leading from Syria and the far East to the Mediterranean on the west, and Jerusalem and Egypt on the south. The lake was famous for its fish, and was crowded with all descriptions of craft. The whole scene is now changed. Scarcely a rude boat is ever seen on the blue silent waters. Desolate ruins fringe the deserted shores, with here and there a crumbling mud village, inhabited by the poorest and least enterprising of peasants, so sadly changed is this beautiful and wealthy district, which the rabbis used to love to speak of as the one among the seven seas of Canaan which God had reserved for himself.
And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
Verse 3. - And he sat down, as in the synagogue of Capernaum - the usual attitude of the Jewish preachers.
Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
Verse 4. - And let down your nets for a draught. Not necessarily a miraculous draught; it was probably a supernatural knowledge which the Lord had of a shoal of fish to be found in the spot indicated by him to the fishermen. Tristram (' Natural History of the Bible ') says, "The thickness of the shoals of fish is almost incredible to any one who has not witnessed them. They often cover an area of more than an acre, and when the fish move slowly forward in a mass, and are rising out of the water, they are packed so close together that it appears as if a heavy rain was beating down on the surface of the water."
And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
Verse 5. - Master. The word in the original so rendered is not Rabbi, as in the other Gospels, but ἐπίστατα, Teacher. The Jewish term would not have been understood by the Gentile reader for whom the story was especially intended.
And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
Verse 6. - And their net brake. Augustine beautifully compares the broken and torn net to the Church that now is, full of divisions and rents; the net unrent and untorn will be the Church of the future, which will know no schisms.
And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.
Verse 10. - Fear not. A feeling of intense overpowering awe on a sudden came on Simon after listening to the words and seeing this last act of power which so closely affected him. The very fish of his native lake, then, were subject to this strange holy Man! This was no mortal, thought the fisherman, and he fell at the Master's feet. "Finding as it does its parallel in almost all manifestations of a Divine or even an angelic presence, it (this awful fear) must be owned to contain a mighty, because an instructive, witness for the sinfulness of man's nature, out of which it comes to pass that any near revelation from the heavenly world fills the children of men, even the holiest among them, with terror and amazement, yea, sometimes with the expectation of death itself" (Archbishop Trench, 'Introduction to the Epistles to the Seven Churches'). The same "Fear not" ("Be not afraid") was uttered on like occasions to Isaiah (Isaiah 6:7), to Daniel (Daniel 10:12), and several times during the earthly ministry was said to the disciples, and for the last time the reassuring words were spoken by the Redeemer after the Ascension to his own dear follower, John, who could not bear the sight of the glorious majesty of his risen Lord. Thou shalt catch men. The imagery contained in these words of the Master to his fishermen-followers was, of course, drawn from the late scene. Their failure in catching fish, their Teacher's marvellous success, the net bursting with the great catch of silvery fish; the Lord's strange prophetic words which accompanied their call to his service, - all would in after-years often come up before the disciples in their hours of alternating failure and success in the mighty task he had set them to do. The great Fisherman, Christ; his imitators and servants, fishers; the world of men pictured as fish, - were ever favourite images for the pencil, the graving tool, and the pen of the Christian artist and writer of the first ages of the faith. One of the earliest extant hymns, for instance, of the Church, by Clement of Alexandria, dwells on the image. The words are addressed to Christ -
"Fisher of men, the blest,
Out of the world's unrest,
Out of sin's troubled sea,
Taking us, Lord, to thee;
Out of the waves of strife
With bait of blissful life;
Drawing thy nets to shore,
With choicest fish, good store."
(Hymn of Clement of Alexandria.) The favourite Christian monogram of the fish, carved on so many tombs in the Catacombs, belongs to the same imagery - the ιχθυς
And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
Verses 12-16. - The leper is healed in a certain city. Verse 12. - When he was in a certain city. From the scene in the boat on the lake with the fishermen, Luke abruptly passes to another memorable incident which took place probably soon after - memorable because it is the first recorded instance of Jesus' contact with that most terrible of earthly maladies, leprosy. The certain city was probably the town of Hattim, for we read in St. Matthew that the famous cure took place as the Lord was coming down from the mount of Beatitudes. (This will be spoken of in its place in ch. 6.) Behold a man full of leprosy. The expression "behold" reproduces exactly the scene as the eye-witness remembered it. There were many apparently with the Master on that occasion; but following him, suddenly, as he went on before the crowd, one of those ghastly victims of the frightful disease stood before him, apparently having eluded observation, for they were not allowed to appear in the ordinary haunts of men. The unhappy man fell down and knelt before the great Physician, of whom he may have heard so much, and asks him to exercise his mighty power on the dread malady which was eating away his life. The leper evidently had no doubt whatever of the power of Jesus; he was only anxious as to whether he had the will to cure him. The whole question respecting the exact nature of the disease is a vexed one. The word has been used with varying extent of meaning. As far as we can gather, the disease in its worst form seems to have been a progressive decay arising from the poisoning of the blood. The face and different members of the body were attacked and gradually destroyed, till the sufferer became a hideous spectacle, and literally fell to pieces. It is much disputed whether or not the malady in any of its varied developments and stages was contagious. The strict separation which in well-nigh all forms of the disease was rigidly insisted on would seem at all events to point to the conclusion that, in the popular estimation, it certainly was so; some phases of the malady, however, appear to have been considered as perfectly free from contagious effect - for instance, Naaman, the captain of the host of Syria, was a leper. It is hot conceivable that one who was infected with so grave a malady, considered incurable, would, if contagious, have been permitted to have exercised a function which would have brought him into constant contact with masses of his fellow-countrymen. These cases, however, were apparently few in number, and those afflicted with what was usually called leprosy were rigidly separated from their fellows, not only to dwell apart, but positively forbidden to approach the dwellings of men. In the Egyptian legends of the Exodus, the Israelites were said to have been expelled because they were lepers.
And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.
Verse 13. - And he put forth his hand, mad touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him. St. Mark adds here, "being touched with compassion." The Redeemer, at the sight of the man's awful wretchedness - wasting away, shunned by all men, dragging on a hopeless, aimless, weary life - in his Divine pity, with a sudden impulse tosses aside all considerations of ceremonial uncleanness or contagion, and lays his hand on the miserable sufferer from whom all shrank, with his word of power exclaimed, "I will: be thou clean." St. Ambrose writes here how "Jesus, because he is the Lord of the Law, does not obey the Law, but makes the Law." "Here Jesus obeys that Divine eternal law of compassion, in its sudden impulse, which is older and grander than the written Law" (Farrar). It is observable that in these sudden cases, in which the common brotherhood of man was involved, the nobler spirits of Israel ever rose above all consideration of law and custom, and, putting aside all legal, orthodox restriction, obeyed at once the sovereign dictates of the heart. So Elijah and Elisha, those true saints of God, shrank not from touching the dead.
And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
Verse 14. - And he charged him to tell no man. We find this desire of Jesus to check publicity after he had worked one of his great works, especially in the earlier part of his ministry. Chrysostom attributes this to the Master's regard for the one who had been healed, desiring that his gratitude to God for the mercy vouchsafed to him should not be frittered away in words, in idle talk with curious persons. It is, however, more likely that the Master wished to stem rather than to fan the tide of popularity which such mighty works would be sure to excite among the people. What he determined to check was a false and mistaken desire among the people to make him king.
But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.
Verse 15. - But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. It is evident that his wishes and commands were neglected, possibly out of a mistaken feeling of gratitude. The result was that his work of teaching was hindered by the crowds who resorted to him at once as a Physician of extraordinary power. But he had graver and much more important work before him than even the blessed task of relieving suffering. So he withdrew himself, says our evangelist, and again spent a short season in solitude and prayer.
And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.
Verses 17-26. - The healing of the paralyzed man. Verse 17. - And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the Law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem. Again an interval of time. The fame of the new Teacher had spread rapidly. One day, some time after the events told in the last section, the Master was sitting in the house apparently of some one of consideration in Capernaum, and, as usual, was teaching. Grouped round him were a different audience to the traders and fishermen of the lake-city; prominent men of the leading religious party in the state, not only from Galilee, but from Jerusalem and other Judaean cities, such as Hebron, as well as learned doctors of the Law. These had been drawn from curiosity, some doubtless by higher motives, to hear for themselves the teaching of this now famous Nazarene Carpenter. These do not appear to have been actuated with the jealous malignity of some of those later deputations from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin and schools. The house was thronged within, and the crowd pressed round the doors. In the course of the quiet teaching, took place the incident which gave rise to one of the Lord's great sayings - an utterance so important that it evidently had been chosen by the apostles as a frequent theme or text in the preaching of the first days.
And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
Verses 18, 19. - And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the house-top, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. So far there was nothing very unusual in the incident. These healings must have been of common occurrence with our Lord. The poor sufferer and his friends, intensely anxious for an interview with One whom they justly regarded as the great Physician, were rightly confident that they had but to see the Master, to state their case, and to receive the blessing which they sought. On this occasion it seemed impossible to get at the merciful Healer. Now or never, they thought. He might, as he had done before, withdraw himself. The chance might never recur. So they accomplished their purpose in the way narrated by the evangelist. It was evidently nothing very extraordinary - an ingenious device, nothing more; only by it the friends of the sufferer showed that they were intensely in earnest, that they were confident that the Master had both the power and the will to do what they wanted, Much has been written on the device employed on this occasion by the friends of the paralytic. Delitzsch, in his 'A Day at Capernaum,' graphically describes what must have taken place. Two bearers ascend the roof by a ladder, and by means of cords they draw up by the same way the sick man after them, assisted by two other bearers. In the middle of the terrace was a square place, open in summer to give light and air to the house, but closed with tiles during the rainy season. Having opened this passage, the bearers let down the sick man into the large inner court immediately below, where Jesus was teaching, near the cistern fixed as usual in this court. The trap-stairs, which led down from the terrace into the court, would have been too narrow for their use, and would not have taken them into the court, but into the apartments which overlooked it from all sides.
And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.
And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
Verse 20. - And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. For a moment the great Physician gave place to the Heart-reader; and the Lord spoke those strange, grand words to give comfort and peace to the suffering, silent, sick man. Jesus read what was in the heart of the poor paralytic; his sins distressed him more than his malady; very possibly the sad infirmity had been brought about by his old dissolute life. The soul, then, must be healed first. It was for this, we believe, that the story of the man with the palsy was told and retold by the first Christian preachers, and so found a place in the three Gospel narratives - this lofty claim of the Master to forgive sins; a claim so grandly supported by a miraculous act done in the open daylight in the presence of the people.
And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
Verse 21. - And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? It is very probable that some of those who stood by, had already, at Jerusalem, witnessed by the Bethesda Pool a wonder-work done by the same Jesus on the person of an impotent man lying there waiting for the troubling of the water (John 5:5, 9), and had taken part there in an angry expostulation with the Wonder-worker, who on that occasion, in his words, "made himself equal with God" (John 5:18). We know (see ver. 17) that some of the Jerusalem scribes were present that day in the Capernaum house. Again, thought these learned Jews, "this strange Man is uttering his dread blasphemies, but now in even more plain terms than there.
But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?
Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?
Verse 23. - Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? The Heart-reader hears, perhaps, the murmur as it runs round the circle, and grasping in a moment all that was in the angry hearts of these men, said aloud, that all might hear, some such words as these, "See now what I am about to do. You, in your dim short-sighted wisdom, think my forgiving this poor repentant sinner his dark past, is but an empty, meaningless form of words. See now whether what I am about to do further for him is an empty meaningless boon."
But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.
Verses 24, 25. - That ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. The lookers-on, the curious, the cavillers, the friendly, too, as the unfriendly, who crowded that Capernaum house, could not see with their eyes the Redeemer's remission of the palsied man's sins. The sufferer alone was conscious that the great burden which pressed on his soul was removed at the Master's word. But all could see the miracle which followed. Any one of those present, had he dared, might have uttered the solemn absolution. None but he could surely risk, as he risked, such words which followed, and which challenged an instant and visible fulfilment. It was a strange, great claim the Master made that day, and we may be sure it and the mighty sign which followed sank deep into many a heart. We see why the memory of this day's work was treasured up so faithfully. He took up that whereon he lay. This could easily have been done. The bed or pallet would be nothing but a light portable framework covered with a blanket.
And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.
And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.
Verse 26. - We have seen strange things to-day. The strange things (παράδοξα) alluded especially to the miracle which, as it were, solemnly authenticated the sublime claim to forgiveness of sins on the part of Jesus.
And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.
Verses 27-29. - The calf of Levi (Matthew the publican), and the feast that followed. Verse 27. - And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. Capernaum, as has been already noticed, had become, owing to its situation, a commercial centre of no small importance. It was on the great highway from the interior of Asia, and from Damascus to the seaboard Mediterranean cities, to Jerusalem, and to Egypt. The custom-house of Capernaum and the office of inland revenue there would naturally be under the control of officials of some importance. The local trade on the lake, too, we know at that period was very large. It has been frequently asked - What specially induced our Lord to select as one of his inner circle a man whose life-work was so hateful and unpopular to the Jewish people generally? why did he include in the twelve one who, from the nature of his detested office, had lost religious caste among the Jews, and who was compelled to consort with sinners, Gentiles, and persons who were considered, either from their birth or life and associations, outside the pale of the chosen people? Various replies to this question have been suggested, such as - by this open act he threw down the gauntlet to all that powerful Pharisee class who were beginning to suspect and to mistake his teaching and liberalism. Or was his apparently strange choice dictated by a simple desire to have, in the inner circle of his devoted friends, a business man - one who could manage the affairs and regulate the economy of the little growing society? but this seems to have been done by Judas; or was it simply done in obedience to a sudden impulse from on High? None of these seems satisfactory. Surely another motive, and that a deeper and a nobler one, suggested this enrolment of the despised publican in that glorious company of apostles. The Lord was determined to show, by this choice of his, that in his eyes all callings were equally honourable, all ways of life might lead to the city of the blessed. Never would the work ennoble the man, but only the way in which the work was done. The Baptist, as we have seen, first taught this Divine liberalism. The Baptist's Lord placed his seal of approval upon his servant's teaching by such acts as the calling of Matthew the publican, and feasting in his house with publicans and sinners.
And he left all, rose up, and followed him.
Verse 28. - He left all, rose up, and followed him. No doubt a hard and difficult bit of self-renunciation. He, at the bidding of the homeless, landless Teacher, gave up his lucrative employment, sacrificing all his life of promotion, of future wealth and position, exposing himself, doubtless, to sneers and calumny. With great truth could he re-echo his friend Peter's words, "Lo, we have left all, and followed thee."
And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.
Verse 29. - And Levi made him a great feast in his own house. There is no doubt that this Levi was the same person as Matthew the publican (subsequently the evangelist), whose calling under precisely similar circumstances is related in the First Gospel (Matthew 10; and see Mark 2.). The name Matthew, "gift of God," was probably given to him, as that of Peter (or Cephas, "a rock") was bestowed on Simon, after his association with Jesus. The words used, "a great feast," a great company, plainly indicate that Levi (Matthew)was a person of consideration and position. And there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. The great company was owing to the fact that the publicans and their friends, moved by the kindness and friendship of the new Teacher, assembled at the feast in numbers out of respect to him; or, more likely, the assemblage was owing to the effort of Levi (Matthew) to bring into friendly relations his associates and friends and the new Master, for whose sake he had given up everything.
But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?
Verse 30. - But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples. Many of the older authorities here omit "their" αὐτῶν before "scribes." The older authorities vary slightly in the position of the words here. The best reading and translation would give, "The Pharisees and the scribes among them" - "among them," that is, among the Capernaites; in other words, "They among them who were Pharisees and scribes." These scribes (Hebrew, sopherim), under this appellation, first appear after the Exile. Their occupation was to copy and to expound the Law. They were the recognized teachers of the Jews, and seem to have succeeded that great and influential class or order, the "sons of the prophets," originally founded by Samuel. These "sons of the prophets" are repeatedly mentioned in the books of the Old Testament which treat of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The scribes were succeeded, in the year , by the tanaim (repeaters), under which name the scribes were officially, though apparently not popularly, known until A.D. , after which date these scribes were termed amoraim. The Talmud (Mishna and Gemara) may be said to have been the work of this great and enduring teacher order. The Talmud was finally closed in A.D. , by Rabbina Abina, the last of the amoraim. Why do you eat and drink with publicans and sinners?.
And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.
Verses 31, 32. - And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. This was one of those sayings of the Lord which sank very deep into the hearts of the hearers. All the three, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, repeat it with very slight variations; it was evidently a favourite theme with the great first teachers who followed Christ. It has borne rich fruit in the Master's Church; for this vindication of Jesus of his conduct in going so often into the society of the moral waifs and strays of the population has been the real "foundation of all those philanthropic movements which enlist the upper classes of society in the blessed work of bending down to meet in love the lower classes, so that the snapped circle of humanity may be restored; it is the philosophy in a nutshell of all home and missionary operations" (Dr. Morrison, on Mark 2:17).
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?
Verses 33-39. - The teaching of the Lord concerning fasting. Verse 33. - And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? We learn from the parallel passage in St. Mark that "they" who asked the Lord this question were the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees, who united on this occasion. These disciples of John do not seem at first to have regarded Jesus with altogether friendly feelings. Such a jealousy was only too natural, and the rigid, unbending truthfulness of the evangelists compelled them to tell the story of the way the early foundations of the truth were laid without concealment of error or mistake. The Baptist himself practised the sternest asceticism, and required doubtless of his nearest followers that they should imitate his example. The Lord's way of life, his presence at feastings and merry-makings, his consorting with publicans, his choice of one of them as his disciple and friend, no doubt surprised and disturbed not a few of the followers of John; hence such a question as the one we are now considering, and such a querulous complaining as we hear of in the Fourth Gospel (John 3:25, 26). The practice of fasting among the Jews was as follows: In the Law of Moses only one appointed fast in the year was enjoined - that on the sole Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29; Numbers 29:7). After the Exile the one fast was increased to four. But the prophets gave no sanction to this added ritual (see Zechariah 7:1-12; Zechariah 8:19). In the time of our Lord, rigid Jews used to fast twice a week (Luke 18:12) - on Monday and Friday (the day on which, according to tradition, Moses went up Mount Sinai). It is evident that our Lord himself never observed or even approved of these fasts of the Pharisee sect. In the well-known and often-quoted passages, Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29; Acts 10:30; 1 Corinthians 7:5 - in many of the older authorities, the word 'fasting' does not occur at all. In the Revised Version in each of these instances "fasting" does not appear in the new text. While, then, we must unhesitatingly conclude that fasting is no rite commanded by the Blessed One, still the Church has practised it with signal advantage and profit on certain solemn occasions; but it must ever proceed from the impulse of the sorrow-stricken heart, it must be no penance or duty imposed by authority, least of all must it be regarded as pleasing in the eye of the Almighty, or in any sense a substitute for the practice of the higher virtues really loved of God - justice, mercy, and truth.
And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?
Verses 34, 35. - And he said unto them Can ye make the children of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is With them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. On this reply of the Lord Jesus Godet very beautifully writes. "In the midst of this feast of publicans, the heart of Jesus is overflowing with joy; it is one of the hours when his earthly life seems to his feeling like a marriage-day. But suddenly his countenance becomes overcast: the shadow of a painful vision passes across his brow: 'The days will come,'... said he, in a solemn tone. At the close of this nuptial week, the Bridegroom himself will be suddenly smitten and cut off; then will come the time of fasting for those who to-day are rejoicing; there will be no necessity to enjoin it. In this striking and poetic answer Jesus evidently announces his violent death." The imagery of the bridegroom is drawn from Hosea 2:19, 20, and perhaps also from the more mystical Scripture, Psalm 45. and the Song of Songs. Jesus here clearly regards himself as the Christ, as identical with the long looked-for Divine Deliverer; but at this comparatively early stage of his public career he was fully conscious that in his Person, with the triumphant would be joined the suffering Messiah. The word rendered "shall be taken away from (them)," ἀπαρθῆ, only occurs here in the New Testament; it points evidently to a death of violence. While the intimation given to Nicodemus (John 3:14) was the first private, so this seems to have been the first public announcement of the last scene of the earth-life.
But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.
Verse 36. - And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. Oriental teaching has ever delighted in using these vivid and picturesque metaphors and parables taken from the everyday life of the people; here the reference is, of course, to the question put by the. Pharisees and John's disciples respecting fasting. This and the following little parable, and the curious simile which he added directly after, is part of the Lord's answer to his questioners. They charged him in their query with throwing (by the neglect of fasting) a slur on the time-honoured practices and observances of the most religious men of Israel. His reply acknowledged that, as far as he was concerned, they were right. He had quietly put aside the rigidly appointed fasts and other ceremonial rites by means of which the great Jewish teachers - to use their own expression - had put a hedge about the Law. They were right, too, in the conclusion they had come to, implied but not expressed, in their evidently hostile questioning. His was a totally new form of the old Hebrew' religon - new altogether in the grandeur of its conception and in the breadth of its influence. His was a totally new garment that he was about to offer to the people; now to patch up the beautiful new work with the old one would be surely to mar both. In the older authorities the text is slightly longer and more vivid than the text from which our own more corrupt Authorized Version was translated. It would run thus: "No one rending a patch from a new garment putteth it upon an old garment."
And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.
Verses 37, 38. - And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. In these two verses the Greek words rendered "bottles" properly signify "wine-skins." These leathern bottles throughout Syria and Palestine are generally made of goat-skins. They are still of universal use; the simile of the "old bottles" refers to "wine-skins" old and frail, which had been long in use, and hence nearly worn out; such "skins," after long usage, are in the habit of getting seamed and cracked. (Farrar, in an elaborate ex-cursus, urges that must, and not wine in the ordinary sense, i.e. the fermented juice of the grape, is signified in the parable here, grape-juice in the form of unfermented must being much used as a favourite drink in the East. This suggestion, although ingenious and interesting, does not seem necessary to explain the imagery used; it seems more natural to understand wine in its ordinary meaning.) The "new wine" here represents the teaching of Jesus in all its freshness, originality, and power, and the "wine-skins" the men who are to receive from the Master the great principle of his doctrine. Now, the recognized teachers in Israel, termed scribes and rabbis, or doctors of the Law, were wedded to the old interpretation of the Law - were hampered by traditions, sayings of the Fathers, elaborate ritual observances, prejudices, narrowness, bigotry. The vast collection of the Talmud, where wise words on the same page are crowded out with childish sayings, well represents the teaching of these scribes and rabbis. Never would Jesus entrust to these narrow and prejudiced representatives of a worn-out religious school his new, fresh, generous doctrines. It would indeed be pouring new wine into old, decayed, worn-out wine-vessels. The new wine must be deposited in new wine-skins. His doctrine must be entrusted to no rabbi of Israel, fettered by a thousand precedents, hampered by countless prejudices, but to simple unprejudiced men, who would just receive his teaching, and then pass it on pure and unadulterated to other simple, truthful souls - men earnest, loyal, devoted, like his fisher-friends of Gennesaret, or his publican-follower of Capernaum. He needs, as Godet well phrases it - changing, though, the imagery of Jesus - "fresh natures, new men... fair tablets on which his hand may write the characters of Divine truth, without coming across the old traces of a false human wisdom. 'God, I thank thee because thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes'"
But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.
No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.
Verse 39. - No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better. St. Luke alone of the first three evangelists who related in detail this most important reply of Jesus when the disciples of John and the Pharisees came to question him, adds this curious simile. The meaning of the parable-pictures of the new patch being sewn on an old garment, and of new wine being poured into worn-out, decaying wine-skins, was very plain. Pitilessly severe it would ring in the ears of men brought up in the old rabbinic Jewish schools. The two first evangelists, conscious of the truth of their Master's words, were content to leave the stern teaching, which pronounced the old state of things among the religious Jews as utterly worn-out, in all its naked severity. But Paul, under whose guidance we believe Luke wrote his Gospel, with that tender and considerate love which so beautifies the earnest and impassioned nature of the apostle of the Gentiles, knew that Jesus had added a few words to the two seemingly harsh parables; these he bade Luke carefully insert in his narrative. They contain what may be termed an almost playful apology for the slowness and reluctance of the men trained in the rabbinic schools, or even of the pupils of John the Baptist, to accept the new, broad, generous view of truth which he (Jesus) was putting forth - it was an apology for a slowness and reluctance, shading too often into unveiled dislike and open hostility. (What experience Paul and Luke must have had of this hostility!) The Master, in his Divine wisdom, knew how hard it was to forsake long-cherished prejudices. Time must be given, allowance must be made, harsh judgment must be deprecated. These men, trained in the old system, are here compared to guests who, after the banquet, are suddenly asked to change the old wine, mellowed by age, of which they have been drinking, for new sweet wine. This new wine seems, in those days, generally to have been considered preferable, but to men who had been drinking the old, age-softened vintage, the new would seem fiery and even harsh. The Greek word rendered in the Authorized Version "better," in the older authorities is positive instead of comparative. The translation should therefore run," the old is good." The argument would be the same: Why change what we have been drinking for something new? surely the old wine is good? Such passages as Nehemiah 10:35; Proverbs 3:10; Hosea 4:11; Haggai 1:11, bear out the above statement, that in those days, among the Jews of Syria, Palestine, and the adjacent countries, new sweet wine was a favourite beverage among wine-drinkers.