And he said to them, You know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company…
I can conceive of no object more profoundly interesting than this — "a man that is a Jew!" All that is venerable in antiquity, sacred in religion, rich in story, sublime in poetry, cleaves to this extra. ordinary race. But for such a man infidelity would have lost one of the most unanswerable proofs of her falsehood and her folly.
I. HIS COMMON CLAIMS AS A MAN. A recent pope was passing through Rome; a Jew, fallen in a fit, lay prostrate on the pavement; the people who saw him, like the priest and the Levite, passed by on the other side; but the sovereign pontiff, alighting from his carriage, ran to his help. "He is a Jew!" they cried, as if in horror of a contact so contaminating. "He is a man!" cried the pontiff; and, like the good Samaritan, he hastened to his relief, saw him safely conducted to his home, and sent his own physician to attend him.
1. He is a man as well as a Jew, although he is a Jew, and all the claims that humanity can present to the sympathy of the species belong to him. He, too, may make the appeal, so long urged in vain by the enslaved African, "Am I not a man and a brother?" You owe to him the performance of a brother's part; and if you fail to render it the voice of your brother's blood will cry against you.
2. He Is a man, the offspring of the same parent, the workmanship of the same Creator, as fearfully and wonderfully made as you are, the same life blood flows in his veins, the same heart throbs in his breast, and to all the ills to which flesh is heir, he is subject as well as you.
3. That man that is a Jew has a soul, precious as yours. God's breath inspired it; His Spirit endowed it; and He who has emphatically said, "All souls are Mine," claims it as His own. Think of the faculties with which it is endowed, its vast capacity of happiness or misery, the perilous circumstances in which it is placed under the curse and condemning sentence of God's violated law, and the dread eternity it is destined to inherit if it pass into it unforgiven.
4. And was not the same precious blood shed for its redemption? On what other ground than this can you seek with any degree of propriety, or with any hope of success, the salvation of the Jews? And if it be so precious, what an argument does that consideration furnish for our best efforts to promote the salvation of the soul for whose redemption even that was not esteemed a price too great.
II. THE CLAIMS PECULIAR TO HIM AS A JEW. He belongs to a race —
1. Venerable in antiquity. Who can boast of a heraldry or of a history like theirs? A heraldry whose emblazonment is from heaven, and a history whose records are written by inspired pens. The origin of other nations is veiled in obscurity and so blended with fable that it is hard to separate fact from fiction. But here is a people, all whose story is drawn out in lines of accuracy and in characters of truth. And is it not an affecting spectacle to behold a people, thus hoary with the accumulation of ages, treated with contumely, and left to perish?
2. Which once enjoyed the special tokens of the Divine favour. Now, indeed, they are trodden under foot of the Gentiles. But they were a great nation once. They, and they alone, could boast a pure theocracy, and laws given from heaven. Are a people, then, once thus signally owned and honoured by God, to be regarded with indifference or contempt? A people too, whose abandonment by God is not final, and whose restoration to His favour shall assuredly come. I am not sure that the tardy progress of the Christian cause may not be, in some measure, attributed to the unconcern which Christians have manifested towards Jews.
3. To which we are laid under the deepest obligation. There is nothing great or good that we possess but we are indebted for it to the Jews. The best of books, the best of gifts, we owe to them — the sacred volume and the Saviour of the world. Who is the most ancient and the most authentic of all historians — but a Jew? What poets can compare with theirs? Beloved they must be, for the fathers' sake if not for their own; and though we may well despair of ever paying the debt due to them, still, by our efforts for their welfare, we will testify that we are not altogether unconscious of or unwilling to acknowledge it. And think how long this debt has been contracting, while scarcely a fraction of the interest has been paid. Societies there are expending hundreds of thousands on the distant heathen, but how few there are interested in the restoration of the lost sheep of the house of Israel!
4. To whose conversion prodigious advantage must accrue. If the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness? The Jews, in the event of their conversion, will become the most zealous and successful missionaries; while the Church herself, aroused by this event to a life and energy and unanimity unknown to former times, will take the field against the common foe in numbers compared with which all present figures will appear contemptible. Who can go forth and announce the faithful saying, "worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," and add, with the same emphasis as the Jew, "of whom I am chief"?
5. For whose salvation there has never been a period more favourable than the present. Already there seems to be a shaking amongst the bones in the valley of vision. The Jews begin to be weary of the long delay that attends the coming of their vainly expected Messiah. They have their misgivings as to the correctness of their views. They feel as though the system to which they have so tenaciously clung had waxen old and was ready to vanish away. Hope deferred begins to make the heart sick. They long for some better teaching than their Rabbins give, and for some more satisfying and sustaining influences than their Talmuds and their Targums yield. In this state of things their enlightened and intelligent men are more disposed to converse and argue upon the subject of the Messiahship of Christ in former times. And most assuredly when infidelity, under the guise of rational Christianity, is overspreading the continent, we shall do well to seek the conversion of the Jews. Infidelity can meet no antagonist more formidable than a learned, intelligent, and converted Jew.
(T. Raffles, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
WEB: He said to them, "You yourselves know how it is an unlawful thing for a man who is a Jew to join himself or come to one of another nation, but God has shown me that I shouldn't call any man unholy or unclean.