Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. MORAL ANTAGONISM. (Vers. 2, 6.)
1. Instinctive. Spontaneous; prescient; yet furnishing no intelligible reason. "An intensified spiritual presentiment" (Lange).
2. Weakness of the demoniac shown by:
(2) Self-contradiction. Attraction and repulsion alternating.
(3) Use of borrowed weapons.
The exorcism, doubtless so often uttered over him by magicians and ecclesiastics, is all the lore he seems to possess in the way of religion.
3. Strength of Christ proved by calmness and self-possession, and resolute pursuit of his object.
4. Utter and absolute. "What have I to do with thee?... Torment me not."
II. MORAL ASCENDANCY. (Vers. 9-13.)
1. Instant exercise of authority. Calm, self-possessed, and fearless. He had already discerned and measured his opponent, and decided as to how he would deal with him.
2. Spiritual insight and skill. The great Physician had made diagnosis of his case. Mental surgery was needed, based upon the most profound truths of psychology. The man had to be discriminated and freed from the indwelling demon. The former had little or no sense of his own personal identity. A Roman legion had probably been quartered near, and when he saw their number and power he felt that they somewhat resembled that which had quartered itself within his own nature. With maniacal vanity he readily adopted the title, "Legion." Pride and wretchedness were probably both involved in the retention of the name; it represented the dominant principle in his confused consciousness. Christ asked him, "What is thy name?" that he might rouse him to a sense of personal identity: a wise measure.
3. Rectoral discipline. "He gave them leave:" apparently their own suggestion, but granted
(1) on principle of highest curative psychology - objective disenchantment; the character and distinctness of the unclean occupants of the man's nature being thus outwardly and visibly set forth, his better self, enfranchised, would be the more likely to assert itself;
(2) in pursuance of rectoral discipline. The unclean, unprincipled habits of the people in violating the Law being thus avenged.
III. MORAL DECISION. (Vers, 14-20.) The Gadarenes had to make up their minds with respect to the great Stranger.
1. The data. (Vers. 14 - 16.) Material and moral stood forth in opposition, as in so many other instances. How was their relative importance to be estimated?
2. The decision. A unanimous petition for him to depart. How could such men be expected to judge otherwise? They had grand ideas of Christ, but of the wrong sort.
3. The response. Instant departure. He took them at their word. "They believed not on him," and acting upon their unbelief urged their request. The conflict of anger and fear, fawning and obstinacy. A word was enough; nay, a wish, even unexpressed, has often secured the same result. Not the storm, not the evil repute of the people, not even the horror of the demoniac, could deter him from coming; but a word sent him away! How careful should men be in their attitude to the heavenly Visitant! He went, but not without having, in the person of the restored maniac, a monument of his saving power and grace. Every region and every heart has its witness to the same. - M.
I. Our attention is first arrested by the physical derangement exhibited in this case of possession by "an unclean spirit." The sadness of this spectacle is amply exhibited in the words of vers. 2-5. The overpowering of the entire personality of the victim by "an unclean spirit" points to a fearful possibility of the human life. Does sin open the door to the spirit of evil? The man was under the power of an unclean spirit, was led to do unclean acts. He dwelt remote from his fellows, "in the tombs." He was possessed of unusual physical strength; he could not be bound, "no, not with a chain." "No man had strength to tame him." This unusual power was exercised in "crying out and cutting himself with stones." Whatever the precise nature of this affliction, the scene exhibits the human life in its uttermost derangement.
II. On the moral side the attitude of the unclean spirit towards Jesus is expressed as one of utter repudiation: "What have I to do with thee, Jesus, the Son of the Most High God?" They had nothing in common. What can the spirit of evil have to do with Jesus? They mutually recede; they are mutually opposed. These appear before us as representing two kingdoms, wholly diverse in character. The one is a kingdom of evil and uncleanness; the other a kingdom of peace and righteousness. In the one the human life is disorganized; in the other it attains its true dignity, harmony, and blessedness. The one is for it a kingdom of darkness; the other a kingdom of light. In the one is death; life is found in the other. They have nothing in common; they are mutually exclusive, mutually destructive.
III. The supreme authority of Jesus, "Son of the Most High God," in the sphere of the human life is again illustrated, as also his attitude towards all human suffering. "With authority he commands," "Come forth, thou unclean spirit, out of the man," and in pitifulness he releases the oppressed. Thus is fulfilled that "which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases." Elsewhere is this more amply illustrated.
IV. The changed condition of the life when Jesus has exerted upon it his power, and evicted the spirit of uncleanness, is simply and beautifully portrayed in the picture presented to the eyes of the multitude who "came to see what it was that had come to pass," and beheld "him that was possessed with devils sitting, clothed, and in his right mind." With affectionate gratitude he now cleaves to Jesus, beseeching "him that he might be with him." The refusal was not in harsh judgment against the redemed one, but for the instruction and profit of all others - that he may go and "publish how great things Jesus had done for him." Out of this incident let the central words, "What have I to do with thee?" be chosen as a test by which each may prove his nearness to Jesus or his recession from him. At one extreme lies this word of utter rejection - the word of Satanic repudiation; at the other, words which express the most complete absorption of the life in devotion to him - " To me to live is Christ." This declares the perfect identification of the individual life with the person, the mission, the spirit of Jesus. The one affirms, "I know no life within the sphere of Christ's kingdom;" the other, "I know no life beyond it. His name defines the boundary of my aims, my activities, my hopes. I am lost, buried, absorbed in him; to all things else I die." How many are the gradations between these extremes! let each test himself as to the attitude he assumes towards Jesus.
1. As to a supreme submission to his authority as "the Son of the Most High God."
2. As to a calm and loving reliance upon him as "Jesus," the "Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
3. As to a sincere alliance with him in the work of raising men from the dominion of evil - casting out the spirit of all foulness from the human life.
4. As to a perfect fellowship with Christ in the communion of sympathy and love. - G.
I. THE EXTREME OF HUMAN DEGRADATION AND MISERY. Bondage, impotent violence, suicidal mania. We cannot make out a theory of the facts; the facts are certain, and sad enough in this as in that age. There may be a duplicity in the consciousness of man, so that the being is threatened with a rending asunder. There is a certain reflection of this duplicity in all of us.
II. VIOLENT CONFLICT PRECEDES HAPPY CHANGE. There are crises when we dread the presence of the power of good; it means a sharp struggle at hand in the depths of the soul for our very life. Men will sometimes endure the present misery rather than undergo the pain which is to cure it. But the surgeon is no cruel tormentor; nor is the faithful teacher of the truth to be feared, but loved.
III. THE BLESSING OF A SOUND MIND. It may be lest; thank God it may be recovered. As there are parasites which prey upon the lower forms of animal and vegetable life, so there are ideas which may possess the imagination and confound the whole conscious life of the soul. Nowhere do we find the hope of salvation in all its senses, from physical and moral maladies, and those inscrutable to science, so clearly held out as in the gospel.
IV. THE DIVINE POWER AND PITY. "Tell thy friends how much the Lord has done for thee, and that he pitied thee." Power and pity fused in love: this is the soul of the world, the principle of its redemption. It has infused its strong enchantment into nature, and healing is ever open to us if we will yield to its influence on our being. - J.
I. CURE OF THE GADARENE DEMONIAC.
1. The district. The country called Gilead in the Old Testament, at a later period and in the New Testament goes by the name of Peraea. It was south of Bashan, and formed a sort of peninsula, bounded by the Yarmuck (anciently Hieromax) on the north, Arnon (now Wady el Mojeb) on the south, and Jordan on the east. The part of Gilead between the Yarmuck and Jabbok at present Wady Zurka, is now Jebel Ajlun; while the section south of the Jabbok is the Belka. In this region was a district called Decapolis, from the fact of its being studded over With ten cities, all, except Scythopolis, east of the Jordan. Of these cities one was Gadara, identified with the ruins of Urn Keis, the capital of Peraea; while Gergesa was the name of a little town, identified with the present Kerza, on the Wady Semakh, opposite Magdala. Either the territory adjacent was named after one or other of these towns, or St. Mark and St. Luke give a general indication of the district that was the scene of the miracle, when they call it the country of the Gadarenes; while St. Matthew gives the exact name, when he places it in the country of the Gergesenes. Dr. Thomson, in 'The land and the Book,' says, "The city itself where it was wrought was evidently on the shore And in this Gersa, or Chersa, we have a position which fulfils every requirement of the narratives, and with a name so near that in Matthew as to be in itself a strong corroboration of the truth of this identification. It is within a few rods of the shore, and an immense mountain rises directly above it, in which are ancient tombs, out of some of which the two men possessed of the devils may have issued to meet Jesus. The lake is so near the base of the mountain, that the swine, rushing madly down it, could not stop, but would be hurried on into the water and drowned Take your stand a little south of this Chersa. A great herd of swine, we will suppose, is feeding on this mountain that towers above it. They are seized with a sudden panic, rush madly down the almost perpendicular declivity, those behind tumbling over and thrusting forward those before; and, as there is neither time nor space to recover on the narrow shelf between the base and the lake, they are crowded headlong into the water and perish." The name Gergesa has led to the supposition that the Girgashites, one of the seven Canaanitish nations, originally occupied this territory. Be this as it may, the district was pleasantly situated east and southeast of the Sea of Galilee, and the towns of Gadara and Gergesa were flourishing. The former was much the larger, and, according to Josephus, was rich - he says, "Many of the citizens of Gadara were rich men " - while that of Gergesa was of considerable importance.
2. A sad contrast. We cannot forbear noticing, as we pass, how much wretchedness may exist at the same time and in the same place with material wealth and mercantile prosperity, and amid all the beauties of natural scenery. This world itself all through is a strange mixture of mercy and of wrath; of the beautiful and the terrible; of plenty and of poverty; of sorrow and of joy; of sunshine and of shower. No April day was ever more variable. Here, in the country of the Gadarenes, with its well-to-do and wealthy inhabitants, and their profitable herds of swine, were two wretched creatures in extreme misery, both mental and bodily. While others bought and sold and got gain, these creatures were a terror to themselves and all around. While others occupied comfortable dwellings, these unfortunates tenanted sepulchral caverns which abounded in the district, and of which, as we have seen, some remain to the present day. While others were decently clad, or even gorgeously attired, these miserable individuals refused the decency of raiment. While others went at large, enjoying the sweets of life and that liberty which makes life sweet, these demoniacs had to be bound with chains and fetters (πέδαις, equivalent to shackles for the feet, and ἁλύσεσι, equivalent to chains in general).
3. The number accounted for. St. Matthew mentions two; St. Mark and St. Luke speak of one. How are we to explain this? The one mentioned by two of the evangelists was fiercer than his fellow; he was wilder and worse than the other. Or perhaps he had belonged to a higher class in society, and had moved in a better rank of life; or perhaps his position had been in some respect more prominent, whether owing to wealth, or profession, or education; and so the calamity that had befallen him was more conspicuous, and he himself better known. Something of this sort seems hinted at by St. Luke, when he speaks of the demoniac who met Jesus, as "a certain man out of the city. At all events, from any or all these causes St. Luke separates his case from the other, and singles him out from his comrade in affliction.
4. A distinct feature added by each evangelist. St. Matthew tells us that they made the way impassable for traveler's; St. Luke, that he was without clothing; and St. Mark, in the passage specially under consideration, that he cried night and day, and cut himself with stones. St. Matthew's narrative of this case is somewhat meagre, St. Luke's fuller, and St. Mark's more circumstantial than either.
5. The period in particular of demoniac possession. That demoniac possession was distinct from disease, or lunacy, or epilepsy, is sufficiently evident from a single Scripture, namely, Matthew 4:24, where we read that they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them." If asked why demoniac possession so manifested itself at the time of our Lord's appearance on earth, and not before, nor at least in the same way since? we must simply reply, in addition to what we have formerly said on this subject, that we can no more tell this than we can tell why small-pox manifested itself as a terrible scourge to our race at a certain time, and not sooner; or why cholera ravaged Europe at a certain period since the beginning of this century, and not before; or why that fearful plague, which the Greek historian has described with such graphic power and thrilling effect, never visited them till the time of the Peloponnesian war, and has never returned again, as far as history informs us, to renew its work of desolation there. But, though Scripture does not explicitly specify the cause, we can readily suppose a reason which has the appearance at least of probability. That reason we have already alluded to as found in Satan's well-authenticated powers of imitation, and we shall only subjoin in this place a few additional circumstances to confirm its probability. In early times, when the Lord afflicted Egypt with his plagues, and his servants, Moses and Aaron, wrought miracles in the field of Zoan, Satan had his servants there also, and Jannes and Jambres either possessed or pretended the power to work miracles too, counterfeiting or counteracting to the utmost of their capacity those of Moses and Aaron. From time to time, in the subsequent history of Israel, the Lord raised up prophets to instruct and forewarn the people; but who can be ignorant of the fact that Satan at times employed his prophets - false prophets to beguile and mislead? When our Saviour was on earth he warned his disciples that false Christs would arise and deceive many. Satan raised them up, and so history confirmed the statement. In like manner, when the Lord Jesus Christ had taken to himself a true body and a reasonable soul - when the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among men - Satan, by himself or by his servants, took possession of the bodies of men, cruelly torturing their flesh and agonizing their spirit. Nor are we prepared to say that demoniac possession has altogether ceased. We have seen men so act, and heard men so speak, and have been informed of such fiendish atrocity on their part, that we could account for their violent and outrageous conduct, or for their mischievous and diabolical acts, or for their horrid and blasphemous expressions, in no other way than that some demon, or the devil himself, had been permitted to take temporary possession of them.
II. THE PAST HISTORY OR PREVIOUS STATE OF THIS DEMONIAC.
1. His madness. When we compare and combine the account given of this poor demoniac by St. Mark and St. Luke, as also the brief notice of both demoniacs by St. Matthew, we have a most affecting picture. He had lost his senses and become exceeding fierce, so that no man could tame him, and no man could in safety pass that way. To the folly of the lunatic he had added the furiousness of the madman. Reason had reeled and left the helm; the once goodly ship had lost compass and chart and helmsman; it was drifting along, the sport of furious winds and stormy waves.
2. His wretchedness. This wretched man had not lost life, it is true, but all that could make life desirable, or render it happy. Unclothed, uncared for, he had fallen back into the condition of savage life, and to some extent had sunk lower than the brute. Houseless and homeless, he led a vagrant life - now a dweller in the mountains, now a tenant of the tombs. His agony of mind was fearful. When not attacking others he acted the part of a self-tormentor. His cries waked the echoes of the mountains, or made the gloom of the sepulcher more dreadful. But cries were insufficient to vent the deep anguish of his spirit. He cut himself with stones, and, by making gashes in his body, sought to transfer his suffering from the mind to the body, or at least divide it between them. All this had lasted for years, as it would appear from the statement, "he had devils long time." Neither had he known much of respite or aught of relaxation; "always night and day" this sorrowful and suffering condition continued; no lucid interval that we read of; no pleasant period of relief, however short, that we know of. At times, moreover, he was deprived of his liberty. This had frequently occurred. "He had often been bound with fetters and chains," until, by a sort of superhuman power, he plucked them asunder or broke them in pieces.
3. The lessons to be learnt from all this. There are two lessons to be learnt from this part of the subject. The first lesson we may learn from it is the condition of the sinner, and the second is the hostility of Satan. Confining attention to the first, while we have examined the condition of the demoniac as a fact - a stern fact, and a sad one - we cannot help thinking that it furnishes us at the same time with a figure of what the sinner more or less is. He may, indeed, have the use of all his faculties, both of mind and body; nevertheless, he is a fool. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." He is beside himself; for we read of the prodigal, on his repentance and return to his father's house, that "he came to himself." Was ever folly greater than that of the man who prefers the trifles of time to the realities of eternity; who day by day barters the salvation of the soul for some gratification of sense; who, amid all the uncertainty of life, braves the danger of delay; who, not- withstanding the shortness of time, neglects from one season of opportunity to another, from one period of existence to another, the things that belong to his peace? What madness can equal his who treats all these things as though they were cunningly devised fables; who turns his back on God and his Word, on the sabbath and the sanctuary, on prayer and praise; who trifles with the great things of God until death stares him in the face, entertaining the vain fancy that a few tears, or prayers, or sighs on the bed of death will reverse all the past, make amends for a life of sin, and serve as a passport to heaven? That man is a demoniac in very fact, whom Satan so possesses, so leads captive at his will, and whose eyes he so blinds, that, though Providence is speaking with many a solemn voice; though his own frailty is pleading with him in the silence of his chamber, and during the night-watches; though mortality in sundry ways forces itself on his attention; though conscience is upbraiding, until it becomes so seared that it upbraids no longer; though the Spirit of grace is striving, as he has been striving long; though the Saviour with outstretched arms is saying, "Come, come and welcome," "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" though the eternal Father is waiting to embrace the returning penitent, and swearing, "As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked;" - yet that sinner, in spite of all, keeps running along the downward way to hell, plunging deeper and deeper into wretchedness, rushing upon ruin, and rushing at the same time against the thick bosses of Jehovah's buckler. If you exhort him, he is sullen; if you remonstrate with him, he is offended; if you reprove him, he is outrageous; if you speak plainly, yet affectionately, it may be he returns a surly answer, proving himself to be what Scripture describes, as "such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him." What though he is neither naked, nor houseless, nor dwelling among the tombs, nor bound with fetters! Are not the fetters of sin the worst that ever bound any man? "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death." Has not a course of iniquity clothed thousands in rags, yea, left them without anything like decent clothes at all? Has not drunkenness, or lewdness, or idleness left hundreds without either house or home? Does not wilful waste make woeful want? Who can ever forget the story of the prodigal, when" he would fain have filled his belly with the husks which the swine did eat," when "no man gave unto him," and when he said, "I perish with hunger "? Has not the devil's service brought many a man to his tomb, humanly speaking, before his time? for the wicked do not live half their days. We need not speak of the misery which the sinner feels when the iron enters into his soul, the bitter regret, the unavailing remorse, the terrors of conscience, the second death, and the smoke of their torment ascending up for ever and ever.
III. THE PRESENT CONDITION OF THE CURED DEMONIAC.
1. The great change. "The unclean spirits went out;" or, as St. Luke expresses it, "Then went the devils out of the man." Here was a practical exemplification of the Saviour entering into the strong man's house and spoiling his goods. The strong man was expelled by One stronger than himself. His terrible hold was loosened, his power paralyzed, captivity led captive, and the prey taken from the mighty. It is thus with every one who has been rescued from the grasp of Satan, who has been "snatched as a brand out of the burning," who has been convinced of sin and its attendant miseries and everlasting wretchedness, who has been enlightened with the knowledge of the grace and mercy of the Saviour, whose will has been renewed by the Spirit of God, and who has thus been made willing in the day of Divine power. Oh that the time may soon come, when in every land, and through all parts of the habitable globe, God in his great mercy shall open the blind eyes, and smite the fetters off the gyved limbs, and emancipate the oppressed of Satan, setting the captives for ever free!
2. Evidences of the change. People were curious to see the mighty miracle that had been wrought, and came to Jesus to see the strange sight about which, no doubt, they had heard much. And, arriving at the place, they "see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting. Ah! there is a change, and clear evidence of it. What a subject for a painting! The madman is come to his right mind; the maniac is tamed; reason, that godlike faculty, is restored; his fierceness is subdued. The anguish of his spirit has subsided; his wild cries have ceased; his self-inflicted bodily pains - those shocking wounds - are healed. People talk of the man who could tame the most savage horses, and hold them for a time as if spell-bound; they speak of menagerie-men who can tame lions and conquer bears; they laud the poet's comic humor in his piece entitled 'The Taming of the Shrew;' but the taming of shrew, or lion, or bear, or horse is nothing compared with the taming of this demoniac man, or of any other man whose fierce passions have been let loose, whose soul and body have been subjected to Satan's sway, and whoso wicked and wayward career has been marked with as bad, if not worse, than demoniac madness. There he sits! as though the lion had become a lamb; as though the tiger had forgotten his fury, and laid aside his fierceness; as though the bear had changed its nature, and become a mild domestic creature - an emblem of that better day when all men shall become such, and a foreshadow of that coming time which the prophet describes so beautifully, when the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together."
3. His posture a proof of docility. There he sits, with the docility of the child and the guileless simplicity of the Christian. There he sits, as Saul did in the days of his youth, an apt scholar at the feet of Gamaliel. Rather, there he sits, as Mary, at the feet of the same Saviour who bestowed on her the high encomium, "One thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen the good part, that shall not be taken away from her." There he sits, with thoughtful countenance and attentive mind, and listening ear, to drink in every word that falls from the Saviour's lips. There he sits, humbly at the Saviour's feet, while his eye rests placidly on that Saviour's face, as though he said, "Lord, how I love thee for all thy grace to me! Lord, what wilt thou have me to do, that I may express that warm love which glows in my breast, and exhibit the effects of that wondrous grace?" It is thus with every converted sinner. We sit at Jesus' feet, and whether he speaks himself to us in his Word, or by his servants who preach to us from that Word, or by his Spirit who applies that Word, it is all the same. Willingly we will lose no lesson, we will miss no opportunity, we will neglect no means of grace, where we expect that Jesus will manifest himself to our souls and talk to us by the way, opening to us the Scriptures. The whole of the hundred and nineteenth psalm is a commentary on this teachableness of spirit, and willingness to sit at the Master's feet; vers. 33-40 inclusive may be specially read in this connection. Down to old age we will sit at the Saviour's feet, in order to learn of him. like Simeon, like Anna, like the picture of the righteous set before us in the ninety-second psalm, "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon." Now, who are they, and where are they, that flourish so? "Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God." And when and why do they flourish so? "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age," and "to show that the Lord is upright." We are bound to make all due allowance for the decay of nature and such weakness as is incident to the decline of life; but it is distressing to find at times the aged magnifying their infirmities as an excuse for absenting themselves from the house of God; worse still, perhaps, when they stay away without pretending any excuse. It is one of the worst signs; for none that ever truly followed the Lord in youth or in maturity ever forsook him in old age. We remember well seeing a very old man, much above ninety years of age, helped into his pew in church every sabbath; and there was the patriarchal man leaning on his staff, as he sat at Jesus' feet, a devout and venerable and earnest worshipper. Even when age may have blunted the faculties and dulled the hearing, it is still our duty to forsake not the assembling of ourselves with the people of God. We knew the case of a deaf man who, though he could not hear a word preached, came regularly to church, because, as he said, he could see to read the psalms and lessons and other parts of the service, and in any case could help the attendance by his presence and example.
4. His place of safety wets there. This demoniac sat at Jesus' feet for safety. May we suppose that he had heard of the man, of whom we read in the parallel passage of another Gospel (Luke 11.), from whom the unclean spirit, having gone out, came back again with seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entered in and dwelt there, so that "the last state of that man was worse than the first"? At all events, he felt that there was no safety but in nearness to Christ; and this is the proper sentiment for every follower and friend of Jesus to entertain. When Peter followed Christ afar off, Peter fell. Nearness to Christ is safety, separation or distance from him is insecurity and danger. We need his grace, for by it we stand; his strength, for by it we are fortified against temptation; his blood, for by it we are cleansed, and we need a fresh application of it daily; his sacrifice, it is the ground of our acceptance, and we must look to it always; his example, it must be our daily pattern; his faith, "the life which we now live in the flesh we must live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us;" his person, "Christ in you, the hope of glory;" his presence, it is our comfort, for he has said, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee;" his protection, that, where Satan would sift us as wheat, he may intercede for us, that our faith fail not; his love, to keep up the flame, that would otherwise burn low or go out altogether.
5. His clothing evidence of restored sanity. He was sitting as a scholar at Jesus' feet, as also for safety, as we have seen; he was clothed, and in his right mind, the former being, as well as his sitting, evidence of the latter. We dislike and disapprove of those naked figures which we see in books and paintings and statues; of whatever use they may be to the anatomist or painter or statuary, they are, we think, unsuitable to Christian refinement and inconsistent with Christian purity. Their usefulness to people in general is questionable. The passions of fallen humanity are bad enough of themselves, and in their own nature, without exciting them. The demoniac cured by our Lord is clothed; the sinner converted to Christ is clothed likewise. When brought to the foot of the cross, and seated at the feet of Jesus, he is clothed. He has on the" fine linen, clean and white," which is "the righteousness of saints." He is "found in Christ, not having on his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is by the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith." He has obeyed the precept, accepted the advice, feeling the benefit of the counsel, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see." A practical question is here suggested. Do you, reader, possess that robe? It is put on by the hand of faith. Have you that precious faith? If not - if you have not already "good hope through grace," pray for that faith. Do not be ashamed or afraid to do so. Do not neglect or delay to ask it. Ask the Holy Spirit to work faith in your heart, and so unite you to Christ, for "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;" and God gives his Holy Spirit to them that ask him.
6. Restoration to reason. His mind is right about sin, as "that abominable thing which God hates," and hurtful to man as hateful to God; right about Satan, "as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" - " a murderer from the beginning;" right about the Saviour, as "the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely;" and right about holiness, as the way of happiness and the way to heaven.
IV. THE POWER THAT RESCUED THE DEMONIAC FROM WRETCHEDNESS AND RUIN.
1. The greatness of that power. The possession of this demoniac was something singularly shocking. It was not one demon, but many, that had made him their prey. "My name," he said, "is legion: for we are many." The name is a latin name, and denotes a levying or enlisting, then, a body of troops so levied. The full complement of a Roman legion was six thousand infantry, and a squadron of three hundred cavalry. Each legion was divided into ten cohorts; each cohort into three maniples; and each maniple into two centuries. Then again, when arrayed in order of battle, there were three lines - Principes, Hastati, and Triari! What a formidable host! How powerful, and how numerous! The host and the hostility, the multitude and the enmity, the strength and the skill thus conveyed by the name here applied to the demons which had had possession of this man, are fearful to contemplate. Yet the power of Christ expelled them, mighty, multitudinous, and malicious though they were. It was the power of Christ did it all. Demons owned that power. They had faith in him, but not of the right sort; "they believed, and trembled." So here they feared he was coming to judge them and consign them to torment before the time. Jesus has the self-same power still; "he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him."
2. The miserable home of those demons. They would rather go anywhere than go home. They trembled at the power of Christ, while they dreaded the torments he will one day inflict. They would rather enter into swine, rather go into the sea, rather go into the worst and filthiest spot of earth, than go back into the deep abyss of hell. It was not the abyss of earth or the abyss of ocean, but the abysmal depth of that unfathomed pit of hell, which they so much dreaded. And oh! are sinners not afraid of rushing with eyes open into that dreadful, deep abyss?
3. Their fiendish malice. Now that they are cast out, and can no longer destroy their victim, they are actuated by demon-like malevolence, and try to keep others from the Saviour by causing the loss of their swine. In this way they seek to prejudice and even enrage them against the Saviour. They seem to have succeeded, for the Gadarenes "began to pray him to depart out of their coasts."
4. The sufferings of the brute creation. Why, it may naturally enough be asked, are poor dumb animals subjected to sufferings? Or how is it possible that the demons could exert any influence of the kind stated upon them? In reply to the latter question, it may be sufficient to mention the influence which man exerts upon animals such as the dog, the horse, the elephant, in the way of training and teaching. If animals are thus receptive of human influence, why-should they not be receptive of other and, in some respects, more powerful influence? Why should they not be accessible to, and receptive of, demoniac influence, as well as that of men? The other question stands on different ground. The lower animals, placed under man's control at the first, and granted to man for useful service, share to some extent in man's Varying fortunes, and are entitled to humane and kind treatment at the hands of man; but that they suffered in consequence of man's fall and sin is, we think, unquestionable. Their position now is abnormal just as man's own position is abnormal, for does not "the whole creation groan and travail in pain together until now"? Besides, they often suffer, in common with man, in special disasters - such as conflagrations, shipwrecks, and catastrophes of similar kinds.
5. A mixture of mercy and judgment. While mercy was shown to the demoniac in his miraculous cure, judgment was inflicted on the owners of the swine for their sin. Jesus performed the act of mercy, and permitted the exercise of the other. The demons could not have moved an inch without his permission. This side of the miracle was judgment, and well deserved. Who were these Gadarenes or Gergesenes? Were they Gentiles or were they Jews? If the former - if Gentiles, they were tempting their Jewish neighbors, and they had no right to do that. If they were Jews, they were breaking the law of God, and they could not long expect to prosper, and to continue doing that. If they were Jewish proprietors, who employed Gentile swineherds for the purpose of tending and herding their swine, they were both sinning themselves and tempting others to sin; and so both partook of the result and shared the consequences of their crime. Here, too, we must notice the hardening effect of sin long persevered in. These Gadarenes, whatever their nationality, whether Jew or Gentile, had become like swine themselves - swinish in spirit and disposition. They actually preferred their swine to the Saviour, and "besought him to depart out of their coasts! " - J.J.G.
Mark 9:28, 29). On the other hand," possession "was not identical with moral degradation. The idea that Mary Magdalene was one of peculiarly evil life, because "out of her the Lord cast seven demons," is untenable; and there is little doubt that Caiaphas, who was shrewd, callous, and self-controlled to the last, was morally worse than such sufferers. Yet a weak yielding to animal passions was possibly the primary cause of possession by evil spirits, in whose existence we cannot but believe. Good was incarnate in those days, and evil also appeared as in a special sense incarnate. Buckle shows that there have been ebb and flow in the currents of national history; and so there have been in moral history, and in the days of our Lord spiritual forces were at the flood. The more we study the works and the Word of God, the more we are convinced that the inexplicable is not to reverently thoughtful men incredible or absurd. We enter on the study of this scene not with the hope of elucidating all mystery, but with the prayer that we may gain from it some spiritual help. Depicted as it is in strong, dark colors, it may enable us to understand the nature of Christ's work in the soul. We see here -
I. A MAN UNDER BONDAGE TO evil. The expression an "unclean" spirit, and the strange willingness to enter "the swine," denote the nature of the man. By the indulgence of appetite habit had conquered will, and he had no mastery over himself. That is the essence of "possession." Modern forms of it are not difficult to find. Describe the drunkard in his downward progress. At last, although he knows that ruin is before him, if temptation is in his way, his resolutions go to the winds. He is fascinated, or "possessed. So with the gambler and others. The condition of the demoniac resembled theirs. Domestic comfort was gone; the respect of others was lost; life was laid waste. He could see fingers pointing at him, eyes glaring on him, hell yawning for him, and his foes seemed coming on him resistlessly as the advance of the dreaded Roman legion." Notice also the deranging effects of evil. He was "dwelling in the tombs" - a dreary, fearsome place, in harmony with his melancholy state. "All they that hate me, love death." The prodigal must "come to himself" before he returns to the Father. As this demoniac cut himself with stones, caring nothing for pain, so some destroy their moral sensibility; as he was a cause of misery or of terror, so is it with them; as he dreaded the near approach of a Judge he could not deceive, of a King he could not escape, so do they. Beware of tampering with sin.
II. A MAN CASTING OFF HUMAN RESTRAINTS. He was not without those who loved him. They had done their best to restrain or cure him. As they saw the growth of the evil, his parents would try to make the home attractive, inviting companions who would divert his thought; sisters would give up their innocent pleasure to fall in with his wishes; and when the outburst came, he was "bound with fetters and chains," lest he should harm himself or others. All in vain. Human restraint will never conquer moral evil. It represses it or alters its form, but does not root it out. The disorder and restlessness now seen in society portend serious issues, and indicate a breaking down of much in our boasted civilization. Education only changes Bill Sykes, the burglar, into Carker, the smooth, lying in lain. We may restrain dishonesty, drunkenness, swearing, etc., so that they are no longer in respectable homes; but though we shut our eyes to the fact, the demoniac has only slipped his chains, and is there in "the tombs" and dens of our land. Parental restraint does much, but a time comes when independence and self-assertion make themselves felt, and the father or mother can only pray. Speak to those who still remember the old home in which they were so different from what they are now.
III. A MAN MEETING HIS SAVIOUR. With his morbidly quickened sensibility he knew who Jesus was, and had a presentiment of what was coming. His abject prostration, coupled with his daring misuse of the sacred name, indicate the distraction and disorder characterizing him. Christ dealt with him wisely, firmly, lovingly. He asked, "What is thy name?" He tried to summon the man's better self, to bring about a severance in his thought between himself and the evil; he gave him time to think what need he had of help, and what hope and possibility there was of it. Then to the demons came the decisive word, "Go!" and in a short time he was to be seen "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind." In each of us the dominion of sin must be broken, and Christ only can break it. Appeal to those who have long been under the dominion of sin, not to despair of themselves, on the ground that Christ does not despair of them. It was when his friends had given up this demoniac as hopeless that his redemption came. So, when self-reform has proved useless, and benefactors fail, and friends lose heart, he proves "able to save to the uttermost." Dealing pitifully with the sinner, he deals ruthlessly with his sin, and will hurl it into the depths of the sea. - A.R.
I. INSTANCES AND ILLUSTRATIONS.
II. IMPORTANCE OF PERSONALITY FOR TRUE RELIGIOUS AND MORAL LIFE.
III. THE RESTORATION OF THIS THE GREAT WORK OF CHRIST. - M.
I. THE PETITION OF THE DEMONIAC. (Ver. 10.) "He besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country." No heed is paid to this request, notwithstanding its passionate earnestness. Why?
1. The man himself was not praying. He was depersonalized and besotted by the possession of the devils, and not responsible for his words or actions. It was to free him from this thraldom Christ had undertaken his case.
2. It would have neutralized the intended mercy to the man to inflict the evil upon others.
3. There was no real submission in the real petitioners. They were still devils, unchanged in their character, and desirous of working further mischief. Powerless, they still desired to do evil.
II. THE REQUEST OF THE DEVILS. (Vers. 12, 13.) This was granted, notwithstanding the character of those who made it. A marvel, truly; devils heard and answered by Christ! Is he in league with them?
1. It was a choke of a lesser of two evils. It seemed necessary that some visible form should receive the dispossessed spirits, that all, especially the man himself (cf. on the probable principle of cure, the preceding sketch), might be able to realize that the dispossession had actually taken place. As simply dispossessed, they might have taken up their abode in some other soul; but by giving direction to them after dispossession, they were confined to brutes; and the catastrophe that resulted was probably foreseen by Christ. In the destruction of the swine the demons were dismissed speedily right out of the terrestrial sphere.
2. And in that destruction a punishment was inflicted upon the Gadarenes, who as yet were sordid, neglectful of the Law (forbidding the rearing of swine), and unspiritual.
III. THE ENTREATY OF THE GADARENES. (Vers. 17, 18.) It was at once answered, Because:
1. It involved a deliberate and intelligent rejection of the Saviour. They had seen his wondrous moral triumph and the destruction of the swine; but in their estimate the material loss far outweighed the spiritual gain.
2. There were others elsewhere who were "waiting for him.
3. The healed demoniac might be even more effectual as a preacher than himself. He was a lasting monument of his power and grace. Time might be needed to let the miracle sink into the popular conscience.
IV. THE PRAYER OF THE RESTORED MAN. (Vers. 18, 19.) A natural desire under the circumstances. Fear lest the devils should return if he were left to himself, cud gratitude and love for his Benefactor, doubtless actuated him. But he is denied! This must have wounded his feelings, and disappointed him. But:
1. It was not prudent for Christ at that time to have one so closely identified with devils in his company and occupied in his service. The charge had been made (Mark 3:22) that he was in league with Satan.
2. It was not the best life for him to lead in his present condition. Privation and excitement were not suited to one who had been emaciated and weakened by the devils.
3. A work of greater use and personal obligation awaited him where he was. He was the only disciple of Christ in that benighted land. Those who had been scandalized by his previous life, and had suffered from it, were to be first considered. The home that had been desolated was to be revisited, and cheered by the kindly presence and saving influence of the redeemed one.
1. Prayers may be granted in anger, and denied in love.
2. Lesser evils may be allowed to prevent greater ones.
3. Duties are to be considered before privileges. - M.
I. DIFFICULTY OF GETTING THE GOSPEL TRULY AND FAITHFULLY PREACHED.
II. CONTRAST THIS WITH THE RAPID SPREAD OF FALSE NOTIONS ABOUT CHRIST, HERESIES, UNSETTLING ALARMS, ETC,
1. The existence of Christ is made known. By-and-by his character will vindicate itself.
2. Curiosity is aroused and feeling excited. Almost anything is better than indifference. And the witnesses of his truth and grace are everywhere.
3. The disciples of Christ are compelled to vindicate their Master. - M.
I. THEY ARE AN ABIDING REMINDER AND EXAMPLE.
II. THEY ARE PATENT TO ALL, AND CAN BE UNDERSTOOD BY ALL. "Living epistles, known and read of all men."
III. THEY DEFY REFUTATION, AND DEMAND TO BE EXPLAINED. - M.
I. On both sides of the lake Christ's words had been heard, and his works of power had been seen, but how different were the results! If he had been like us, variable in temper and disposition - at one time moody, at another genial - we might more easily account for this. For the dispositions of sinful men are like the lake of Galilee - now raging in a storm, and now calm and still under the smiling heavens. But there was no such variableness in the Perfect Man. He was not cheery when the palm branches were waved on Olivet, and angry when his disciples forsook him and fled. He was not one thing in Gadara, and another in Capernaum. "He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." We must look elsewhere to account for this phenomenon, and we shall find its causes to be those which sever so widely in character and destiny, two hearers who sit in the same church, or two children who kneel beside the same mother's knee.
I. THE VARIOUS ASPECTS IN WHICH CHRIST PRESENTED HIMSELF. His relations to those around him were not simple, but complex. We may be great in one aspect of our character, but he was great in every aspect.
1. He appeared as a Teacher. In the synagogue, on the beach, amidst the crowd, he uttered Divine truth, and expected on the part of his hearers humble and obedient minds. He assumed that he knew what they did not know, respecting the nature of God, the meaning of the old dispensation, the phenomena of life, the coming future, etc. He adduced no arguments, but demanded (as he still demands), on the ground of what he was and is, the acceptation, or the rejection of his words. "He spake as one having authority." "This is my beloved Son; hear him." The acceptance of Christ as a Teacher implied much, because he taught no abstract theories, but enunciated principles which would revolutionize the views held about the Jewish economy, and would banish popular sins. Show what Christ demands of disciples now, and the spirit in which we should receive his revelation.
2. He appeared as a Saviour. Thought and action were blended harmoniously in Christ, and should be blended in every Christian. The Teacher of the people was the Healer of their bodies and the Purifier of their souls. This complex work is entrusted to the Church. Christ cured the demoniac, and restored sight to the blind, and health to the leper, as signs of what he had come to effect for men.
3. He appeared as a Friend. He entered the homes of the people at Capernaum and elsewhere, to cure illness in Peter's house, to bless children in another home, to share festivity in Cana, to weep with mourners in Bethany. This friendship the disciples rejoiced in. The presence of that Friend had delivered them in the storm. As such he presents himself at each heart, saying, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock," etc.
III. THE DIFFERENT EFFECTS OF SUCH PRESENTATION ON THE PEOPLE. This may be illustrated not only by the conduct of the disciples and of the cured demoniac, but by contrasting the condition of the people of Gadara with that of the people in Capernaum. This exemplifies:
1. The rejection of Christ. The most astounding miracle will not produce faith in those who care more for their possessions than for purity and love, such as Christ had imparted to the man who had the unclean spirit. The loss of the swine first awakened terror, but shortly afterwards indignation, amongst the people, who with mingled fawning and obstinacy "began to pray him to depart out of their coasts." He yielded to their wish, and, so far as we know, never returned again. Similarly he was rejected at Nazareth (Luke 4:29) and in Jerusalem (Matthew 23:87). In the instance before us the people feared the Holy One more than they had feared the demoniac. Their greed was up in arms against the destroyer of their swine; they cared more for them than for the rescue of a brother-man. Even now sometimes property is more jealously defended than personal rights. Christ laid down the principle that a man is better than a sheep, and he expressed that principle in his action at Gadara. Show how possessions and position are preferred to simple obedience to our Lord's will, so that from love to the World he is still rejected.
2. The reception of Christ. A right royal welcome was awaiting him on the other side of the lake. There the people had seen changes wrought in their homes by his power, and they had listened eagerly to his words of wisdom and love. They could not go back to their work as if there were no Christ who had come to save and comfort them. When he was gone, they prayed that the little boat might again come over the sea; and when the first glimpse of its sail was seen, the news spread swiftly far and wide. Fishers left their nets, and ran to call their mates, saying, "Jesus is coming!" old people tottered down to the sea because Jesus was coming; women who were mourning over their dear ones thought with thankfulness and love of his sympathy; and little children left their games in the market-place in order to be made glad by his smile. And still he comes amongst us in earnest words, in sacred song, in holy thought, in solemn memories. Then fling open the door of your heart, pour out the treasures of your love, wake up the songs of praise, as you say, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" - A.R.
Luke 9:57-62), in his account of those who spoke to our Lord just before he crossed the lake. The same gracious consideration of what was really best for one of his followers is seen here. And his disciples now do not all require the same treatment, nor have they all the same work to do or the same sphere to fill.
I. THE CONVERT'S DESIRE. (Ver. 18.) "When Jesus was come into the ship," or, more correctly (Revised Version), "as he was entering into the boat," the delivered demoniac prayed that he might be with him. It was a natural desire, and a right one, although all the motives which prompted it were possibly not worthy. As in us, so in him, there was a mingling of the noble with the ignoble. let us see what actuated him.
1. Admiration. No wonder that he sat at the feet of this Mighty One, and gazed upon him with adoring love. Angels bow before him; the redeemed cast their crowns at his feet. Reverence and awe are too rarely felt now. Proud self-sufficiency characterizes the civilized world, and even the professedly Christian Church. It is well to know, but it is better to adore. Consciousness of ignorance and weakness, in the presence of God, leads to worship. let reverence characterize our search into the Divine Word, our utterances in God's name, our approaches to his throne.
2. Gratitude. Having received salvation, this man longed to prove his thankfulness, and he naturally thought that an opportunity would be found, while following Jesus, to defend his reputation or to do him some lowly service. Under the old economy many thank-offerings were presented. The firstfruits of the fields and flocks were offered to the Lord, and any special blessing received from him called forth special acknowledgment. Show how thank-offerings have dice out of the Church, and how they might be profitably revived. Point out various modes of showing thankfulness to God.
3. Self-distrust. Near the Deliverer he was safe, but might there not be some relapse when he was gone? A right feeling on his part and on ours. See the teaching of our Lord in John 15 on the necessity of the branch abiding in the vine.
4. Fear. The people were greatly excited. They had begged Christ to go out of their coasts, lest he should destroy more of their possessions. It was not improbable that they would wreak their vengeance on a man whose deliverance had been the cause of their loss. They did not believe, as Christ did, that it was better that any lower creatures should perish if only one human soul was rescued. But this is in harmony with all God's works, in which the less is being constantly destroyed for the preservation and sustenance of the greater. The luxuriant growth of the fields is cut down that the cattle may live; myriads of creatures in the air and in the sea are devoured by those higher in the scale of creation than themselves; living creatures are slain that we may be fed and clothed. In harmony with all this, the destruction of the swine was the accompaniment of, or the shadow cast by, the redemption of the man. And high above all these mysteries rises the cross of Calvary, on which the highest life was given as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. In this event we can see glimpses of Divine righteousness and pity; but these people of Gadara shut their eyes to them, and were angry at their loss. Amongst them this man must "endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
II. THE CONVERT'S DUTY. (Ver. 19.)
1. His work was to begin at home. "Go home to thy friends." His presence there would be a constant sermon. In the truest sense he was "a living epistle." Sane instead of mad, holy instead of unclean, gentle instead of raving; he was "a new creation." All true work for God should commence in the home. Self-control and self-sacrifice, gentleness and patience, purity and truth, in the domestic circle - will make the home a temple of God.
2. His work was to be found among old acquaintances. Some had scorned him, others had hated and perhaps ill-treated him. But resentment was to be conquered in him by God's grace, and to those who knew him at his worst he was now to speak for Christ. Such witness-bearing is the most difficult, but the most effective. John the Baptist told the penitents around him, whether publicans or soldiers, to go back to their old spheres, and prove repentance by changed life and spirit amid the old temptations.
3. His work was to be quiet and unostentatious. Perhaps Christ saw that publicity would injure him spiritually, for it does injure some; or it may be that the excitement involved in following the Lord would be unsafe for him so soon after his restoration. For some reason he had assigned to him a quiet work, which was not the less true and effective. Luke says that he was to show "how great things God had done for him," as if the witness-bearing was to be in living rather than in talking. Speak of the quiet spheres in which many can still serve God.
4. His work was to spread and grow. The home was too small a sphere for such gratitude as his. He published the fame of the Lord in "all Decapolis." This was not wrong, or forbidden, for there were not the reasons for restraint of testimony in Peraea which existed in Galilee. It was a natural and legitimate enlargement of commission. Similarly the apostles were to preach to all nations, but to begin in Jerusalem. He who is faithful with a few things is made ruler over many things, sometimes on earth, and invariably in heaven. - A.R.
Matthew 9:18 ("while he yet spake these things"). Not that Matthew means that Christ was still at table, nor that Mark's order is wrong. The feast of Matthew (Mark 2:15) is not stated by Mark to have taken place in immediate succession to the conversion, but is narrated in the second instead of the fifth chapter, because of the obvious connection of the two events. Accepting, therefore, the order of the first Gospel, we see -
I. CHRIST INTERRUPTED.
1. In his teaching. (Ver. 21; Matthew 9:18.) Yet how full of interest the subjects - eating with publicans, and fasting! How significant these breaks! How natural, in a world so full of disturbing and changing influences as this!
2. In his intended mercy. As he goes to the ruler's house the incident of the woman in the crowd takes place (vers. 25 - 34), and he is delayed. Yet the prayer of Jairus was urgent, and broken with apprehensive emotion. Only this was still more pressing, for it was
(1) actual, present, long-endured suffering and shame;
(2) a demand of faith on behalf of its own possessor (not, as in Jairus's case, for another).
II. FRAGMENTS THAT MAKE A GRANDER WHOLE. We have no time to lament the breaking off - the seeming incompleteness - ere we are astonished at the commentary which is furnished in the incidents that follow. He is the great Physician - to the ruler's daughter, the woman with the issue, and the two blind men alike; the Bringer of joy, too, to many by his healing mercies and gracious words. All need him, if they only knew it; and, participating in the blessings of his presence, they cannot mourn or fast, but must needs rejoice. And so in the case of the ruler; the delay really rewarded his faith by an actual illustration of Christ's power, and so sustained him in the higher exercise of faith. "My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live" (Matthew 9:18). This is a picture of many lives. We cannot escape interruptions. Yet are we not therefore to abandon unity of purpose. We may fail to finish all we seek to do, or to do it as we would; but God holds the connecting harmony, and will reveal it at last - or even sooner. The sermon broken off, the merciful intention delayed or frustrated, may prove greater blessings in the event than if suffered uninterruptedly to proceed to a visible or immediate completeness within themselves. The life or work divinely interrupted, but pursued with unity of faith and purpose to the end, will be a grander, more Divine thing than otherwise it could possibly have been.
1. How infinite the resources of the Saviour!
2. His teaching is inseparable from action and life. - M.
I. DISCOVERING THE NEED OF A SAVIOUR.
II. PERFECTING THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF THE BEREAVED.
II. REVEALING THE INFINITE MERCY, SYMPATHY, AND POWER OF CHRIST. - M.
I. ORIGINATED BY MANY CIRCUMSTANCES EVIDENT AND OBSCURE. The general ministry of Christ, Perhaps Jairus had been a witness of the centurion's faith.
II. CALLED INTO EXERCISE BY GREAT AFFLICTION AND NEED.
III. TRIUMPHING OVER DIFFICULTIES.
IV. REWARDED BY INEFFABLE ANSWERS AND CONFIRMATIONS. - M.
Luke 7:11-17), the word of command - "Arise" - is uttered to the dead by the "Lord of both the dead and the living," and another handful of the firstfruits of his resurrection power is plucked by his hand. Thus is the resurrection presented to us as the awaking of a little child, for in his view the dead "but sleepeth." Who can wonder that "they were amazed straightway with great amazement"? But this instance of open and avowed faith is for ever intertwined with an example of hidden faith of equal strength, though less obtrusive. The faith of the woman was hidden "within herself," its ingenuity only was showed, in that she came "in the crowd behind, and touched his garment. Surely this was not faith in the touch which was the supposed appropriate medium, the contact judged to be needful by the many that "pressed upon him that they might touch him." This, if a suitable sign, was not a necessary one, as the faith at least of one declared; "but say the word, and thy servant shall be healed." All faith in the nostrums of physicians had died out from this woman's heart, for she had "suffered many things" of them, and was "nothing bettered, but rather grew worse." But in this Healer she did believe, and her faith, which the Lord detected as truly as he "perceived in himself" that the healing power which could proceed from him alone "had gone forth," he amply rewarded. "Who," of the many thronging me, "touched me" with that touch of faith? Faith was united with humility and truth; and "trembling and fearing, she fell down and confessed all." Once more, and for the instruction of the needy in all time, Jesus points to the "faith" thus honored: it "hath made thee whole." Yes, the faith instrumentally, as our fathers have said, the touch mediately; but in reality, "I have healed thee in response to thy faith - I, who only can say, 'Go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.'" Hence are we to learn:
1. The power of Christ to raise the dead and heal the sick, so that we may sleep calmly in death till he bid us arise.
2. His pitiful consideration towards even struggling faith, whether assailed by the rude doubt, "it is too late," or is too timid to declare itself openly. So that they of little faith need not doubt.
3. The true attitude of suffering in its confident approach to Christ for healing and help; even patient trustfulness, fearing not, and though persistent, yet humble.
4. The real support of all faith, the word of Christ, with such patient consideration of his works as leads to an apprehension of his Divine ability. May we not now stretch out our hand and touch him? - G.
I. The woman with an issue of blood.
1. A painful disease. The woman mentioned in this section had been a sorely afflicted sufferer. For twelve long and weary years she had suffered from a painful and weakening malady (ἐν ῤύσει, the preposition ἐν here resembles the beth essentive of Hebrew, denoting in the capacity, character, or condition of, i.e. in the condition of an issue). During that time, we may well suppose, she had sought every means of cure; and found none. During that time she had applied to various physicians; but obtained no relief. During that time she had, no doubt, taken many a bitter draught and many a nauseous drug; but all to no purpose. During that time she had, doubtless, submitted to many severe experiments or even some harsh operations; but all in vain. During that time she had expended much, yea, all her means; she "had spent," we are told, "all her living upon physicians," and that in addition to her sufferings, as is implied by the prepositional element in the word (προσαναλώσασα) employed by St. Luke; while St. Mark tells us plainly in this passage that she "had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had." And now she remains poor and destitute, diseased and weak, and miserable as ever; for she "was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse;" "neither could be healed of any." What is she now to do? Where is she to seek relief? To whom can she further go? Is there any application she can yet make? Or is there any remedy still remaining to be tried?
2. One resource yet remains. She has tried all the physicians; she has tried all means of cure that have been prescribed, or suggested, or that she has ever heard of; she has, besides, spent her all in quest of health. Still one, and only one, remains to be tried. She has heard of a wondrous Man who goes about continually, doing good; she has been told of most wonderful cures he has effected; of diseases, previously deemed incurable, which he has healed; of sufferers whom, when all else failed, he has relieved. She has never seen him, it is true - she has only heard of him; but what of that? Though she has not seen him, she has no reason to doubt the reports she has heard of him; she has no reason to doubt the greatness of his power and the might of his mercy, in accordance with these reports; she believes the accuracy of these reports, she has somehow confidence in their correctness. She has schooled herself into faith in his power to effect her cure and heal her disease.
3. Obstacles to be overcome. A difficulty here presents itself. Her disease is peculiar - such a one as she is loth to name in public. She cannot bring herself to talk of it in presence of so many people; womanly delicacy forbids her. Besides, it was such a disease as caused ceremonial uncleanness, so that her contact was polluting. People would, not without reason, upbraid her for coming among them, or thrust her away from them, as impure and contaminating.
4. A happy thought. A happy thought occurred to her in her difficult position - a thought which we may regard at once as the outcome of strong faith, and the suggestion of deep affliction. It flashed on her mind as a bright idea. She had heard that the great Physician, to whom her thoughts now turned, often accomplished his cures and conferred health by a touch. She naturally infers that if she could but touch him even stealthily, her cure would be effected. Accordingly she conceived the thought of stealing a cure; she thought within herself, "If I may touch but his clothes," or his garment, or even the border of it, "I shall be whole."
5. Pressure of the crowd. Our Lord at this time was on his way to the house of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, in order to cure his daughter. The crowd that followed him on the occasion was unusually large. It was drawn together by respect for the distinguished official whose daughter was so ill, as also by the remembrance of past miracles, and the prospect of seeing the performance of another. Dense as the crowd was, she kept to her purpose, pressing onward through it, and elbowing her way till she had got up to his very side.
6. The cure effected, but concealment impossible. She attains her object; she touches the hem of his garment, and all at once - strange circumstance! blessed relief! - the malady of many years' standing is healed, the issue is staunched, the pain and grief have ceased. But a disquieting circumstance still remains; a matter of some uneasiness has now to be got over. She is cured, it is true, but she is struck with terror at her own temerity; she is filled with alarm when she sees Jesus looking round inquisitively (περιεβλέπετο, imperfect, equivalent to "he kept looking all round"), and hears him earnestly asking those about him, "Who touched me?" She knew that her touch was polluting; she was well aware that it conveyed ceremonial defilement. She had, indeed, only touched the hem - the extreme border of his garment, as if in hope that so slight a touch would defile him but little, while it might benefit her so much.
7. Astonishment of the bystanders. The persons next our Lord in the crowd were amazed at the question; some would be disposed to say in reply, "All touched thee," and others, again, would be inclined to think and to say, when they gave expression to their thought, "None touched thee." At length, after all had denied, Peter as usual, acting as spokesman of the disciples, said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee [συνθλίβοντα, equivalent to 'pressing greatly, or pressing upon on every side'], and sayest thou, Who touched me?" "Not so," says our Lord; "all the persons in this large crowd do indeed throng and press around me, and yet but one touched me - ' somebody touched me.'"
8. Surprising graciousness of the Saviour. Our Lord looked round to discover the one individual in all that crowd who had touched him. At last his eye rested on the abashed, affrighted woman; when, lo! instead of a rebuke for her temerity, instead of a sharp reproof for her audacity, instead of a harsh reprimand for her polluting touch, instead of blaming her for her presumption, instead of a single unkind expression of any sort, he commends her faith, confirms her cure, ratifies her desire, and gladdens her heart by these most gracious words, "Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace."
II. THE PECULIARITY OF THIS WOMAN'S TOUCH.
1. There must be contact. The first thing we are taught by it is that, in coming to Christ and in seeking cure from him, there must be not merely contiguity but actual contact, and that of a peculiar kind. All the persons in the great crowd that followed our Lord on this occasion were near him comparatively, some were quite close to him; yet only one derived benefit from him. There were, moreover, several, we can scarcely doubt, in that multitude who needed some temporal boon or spiritual blessing; yet only one obtained such a blessing. There were numbers of persons all around and on every side of him; yet virtue proceeded from him only in one direction. Not only so; mere contact itself is not sufficient. Intelligent connection - special and spiritual contact - is needed. There were many crowding on and crushing our Saviour, yet only one touched him in the true and proper sense. The motives that moved that multitude were various. Some were borne thoughtlessly along with the mass of persons that formed the procession; they went with the crowd. Others, and perhaps the major part, were attracted by curiosity - they were desirous of seeing some miracle; or they had itching ears, and hoped to hear some startling statement. Others, again, were, no doubt, drawn into the crowd by feelings of admiration for the Saviour. While various motives thus actuated the individuals that composed that crowd - the units that made up that multitude; only one, it would seem, was influenced by the right motive; only one approached the Saviour in the right way; only one at that time was healed.
2. Her feelings and her faith. That one individual felt the misery of her condition, the iron had entered deeply into her soul; that one felt intensely her need of health. That one, besides, had resolved to overcome every obstacle in order to obtain relief. That one, also, was fully persuaded that Christ could confer health and cure. Nay, she felt assured that, as he frequently touched the persons cured by him, a touch of his person, or even of his clothes, or if it were but of the border of his garment or of the fringe of his robe, would make her whole. Now, here was faith - true faith, strong faith; and this faith it was that made the difference between her touch and that of the crowd that pressed upon him - between the multitude that thronged him and the woman that touched him. Others touched him, but their touch was incidental; hers was intentional. Others touched him, but it was owing to the pressure around; hers was from a deliberate purpose within. Others touched him, not feeling any need of help at his hand, or, if they felt any need, yet not expecting any relief in that way; she touched him, conscious of her malady and convinced of his power to effect her cure. Others touched him, but then it was curiosity, chance as the world calls it, the crowd, the multitude, the pressure that brought them into such close proximity to Christ; she touched him, but it was the result of deliberation on her part, design, earnest purpose, strong desire, anxious hope of cure, and confident expectation of deliverance. There was thus all the difference in the world between the thronging of that multitude and the touching of that invalid. Faith is thus seen to be the means of union with Christ, and union not mechanical and physical, but union rational and spiritual. We may approach him by ceremonies, by profession, by lifeless prayers, by dead works; but in none of these cases do we really touch him: and not coming into living contact with him, we cannot expect to be recognized by him.
3. An example worth imitation. We may profit by the example of this poor invalided woman as contrasted with that great crowd. We cannot agree with those who disapprove of thronging the Saviour, while they approve of touching him. We approve of both. It is good to be in the throng that crowds round Christ, if only one should be healed at a time, for you yourself may be that one, while all that are far from him shall perish. It is good to be near the pool of Bethesda, for some one is sure to be cured every time the angel troubles the waters, and you yourself may be the happy individual. It is good to wait at the posts of wisdom's door, for that is the way of duty, and the way of duty is the way of safety. But while it is good to be in the crowd that throngs Christ, it is better - far better to touch Christ. There must be real union - complete connection with Christ. The electric telegraph, one of the greatest wonders of a marvellous age - those wonderful wires that pass over lands and under seas, connecting Ireland with Britain, and Britain with the Continent, and one continent with another; that link the Old World with the New, flashing its messages over more than half the globe, thus facilitating the intercommunion of nations, and expediting the exchange of intelligence from East to West and from West to East; - if those electric wires stretched from one place on the earth's surface to another hundreds of miles remote, and if they reached very near to that other place, just within a yard, or a foot, or an inch, and yet stopped short by that small interval; no communion could be carried on, and no intelligence conveyed. Its hundreds of miles of extent would be unavailing; that yard, or foot, or inch would render the whole useless, and cause all the labour to be lost. It might as well stretch only three-fourths of the way, or one-half the way, or one quarter of the way, or no part of the way at all. Nothing short of a close and complete uniting of the two places, and that without any interval, will do. Alas! how many come close up to Christ, but never close with him. How many are in the throng that never touch him How many there are like the young man in the Gospel - that amiable young man whom our Lord loved, who did so much, and went so far, and yet after all came short! They seem to be very close to Christ, and very near his cross; but there is one link wanting - "One thing thou lackest." How many are at the very threshold of the kingdom of Heaven, and ready to say with Agrippa, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian:" and yet they never cross the threshold, nor enter the kingdom, nor become Christians, in the true and proper sense, at all! How many are on the spot at the very time when Christ is passing by, without ever touching so much as the fringe of his garment! How many frequent the place where his presence is promised and his blessing bestowed; and yet they never feel the one nor enjoy the other! There is nourishment in food, but you must partake of it; or the most wholesome food will do you no good and give you no strength. There is sweetness in music, but you must have an ear for it and give ear to it; else the sweetest music will be but mere noise - an empty sound. There is fragrance in the rose, but your olfactory nerves must be sound and sufficiently near the odoriferous flower; or its fragrance will be wasted on desert air! The electric current is a potent agency, as we have seen, but it must needs have the electric wire to pass along; or it loses its practical utility. In view of such facts and considerations, our duty as well as interest is, by grace, to realize union with Christ; we should give no sleep to our eyes, nor slumber to our eyelids, until by grace, through faith, we are united to Christ, and one with him - Christ in us and we in Christ, Christ our life, and our life devoted to Christ. For while Christ is able to save, and waiting and willing to save, and while God sent his Son to seek and save that which was lost; yet there must be faith, or we cannot be saved. let us, therefore, seek the aid of God's Holy Spirit, that he may form the link of faith between our soul and the Saviour; or, if it already exist, that he may strengthen and brighten it
4. How healing virtue is obtainable from Christ. There was healing power in the Saviour - inherent in him, in him alone, and in none besides. This poor invalid drew it forth by the touch of faith. The virtue to heal that proceeded from Christ may be compared to the electric current, while the faith of the woman may be likened to the wires along which it passed. Now, if faith be the gift of God, as it is, and the operation of his Spirit as we know from his Word, it may be asked, "Why blame any for the want of it?" We do not and cannot with fairness, blame for want of it; but we may blame persons for not asking it, for not wishing for it, for not seeking it, or for not accepting it. If God gave his Son before you asked him, and without you asking him, "will he not with him also freely give you all things;" in other words, will he not give you faith in him for the asking? If he have given the greater gift, will he withhold or refuse the less? If he has promised his Spirit to them that ask him, and if he invites us and presses us to ask him, do we not tempt God when we refuse to ask him, seeing it is the Spirit that works faith in the heart of man? We are far, very far, from ignoring or overlooking the sovereign grace of God, whereby he takes one out of a city and two out of a family and brings them to Zion: but if we refuse the course that God has prescribed to us; if we reject the conditions on which he offers grace and every mercy; if we neglect the ordinances where he has appointed to meet and bless us, or if, attending them, we forget the object for which we are urged to attend them, or if we use the means without thinking of the great end we should have in view, or if we are not at pains to examine our motives, or if we have no care to meet Christ in his ordinances no longing for his presence, no thirsting for his grace, no hungering for his righteousness, no earnest inquiry, "What must we do to be saved?" and no seeking of the fulfillment of the promises; - in all such, or any such cases, are we not thronging Christ instead of touching him? If custom, or curiosity, or the crowd, or habit, or respectability, or worldly advantage, or early training, brings us near to Christ, and if we have no higher object and no holier end in view, are we not thronging Christ, and yet not touching Christ? "Many," we know from the declaration of God's own Word, "will say, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then," adds the Saviour, "will I profess unto them, I never knew you." What was all this more or better than thronging Christ without touching him?
5. Confession consequent on cure. She sought Christ privately, but was obliged to confess publicly. So with ourselves; we must confess his name before men, and tell of the gracious Saviour we have found; just as the psalmist says, "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul." "With the heart men believe unto righteousness, and with the mouth make confession unto salvation."
6. Character of the cure. The cure was immediate; "from that hour." It was complete; the fountain was staunched. It was perpetual; "Be thou whole." This our Lord probably added lest she should think the cure too sudden to continue, too speedy to last, too good news to be true. Not so; it was no transient remedy, no mere temporary relief. All that God does is well done; he does not leave any part of his work unfinished. Having" begun a good work in us, he will perform [rather, perfect] it till the day of Jesus Christ." The testimony to the Saviour's work on earth was that "he hath done all things well."
7. Peculiarity of expression. The words εἰς εἰρήνην are properly "into peace," which refer more to the future than to the present. Peace is not only the present element in which she finds herself, but the future sphere in which her life is to move. Brought into peace by the great Peacemaker, she is ever after to continue therein. The addition of the words ἴσθι ὑγιὴς was not superfluous, but most reassuring, in order to ratify the stolen cure and to convince her of its durability and permanence. Further, we may notice the relation of the πίστις of the woman to the δύναμις of the Saviour. The former saved her mediately, or instrumentally, that is, as the connecting link between herself and Christ; the latter was the healing power of Christ, which, working along the line of that faith, saved her as the energetic and efficient cause.
III. THE RESTORATION TO LIFE OF JAIRUS'S DAUGHTER.
1. Position of Jairus. The official position of Jairus was highly respectable. He was ruler of the synagogue. Though there is some difference of opinion on the subject, yet the officers of the synagogue appear to have been the following: -
(1) The ruler or president of the synagogue, on whom devolved the right ordering and regulation of the service, and with whom were conjoined the elders;
(2) the sheliach tsibbor, the angel or messenger of the congregation, who offered up the public prayers, and who acted as secretary to conduct the correspondence, or to serve as deputy, when required, between one synagogue and another;
(3) the chazzan (ὑπηρέτης), or ordinary reader, who read the appointed portions, or who handed the book to an occasional reader; he also had charge of the sacred books;
(4) the διάκονος, or, or sexton.
2. The substantial harmony of the narratives. The ruler of the synagogue, according to St. Mark, tells our Lord that his daughter (ἐσχάτως ἔχει) is extremely, ill, "at the point of death" - in fact, in extremis; according to St. Matthew, that (ἄρτι ἐτελεύτησεν) she is dead by this time - " even now dead; "she was so ill when he left that he did not now expect to see her again alive when he returned; according to. St. Luke, that (ἀπέθνησκεν) she was dying, or "lay a dying;" - all perfectly consistent.
3. The special tenderness of the parent. Though St. Mark very frequently employs diminutives with little, if any, difference from the simpler form, yet we see good reason for his use of the diminutive θυγάτριον here. It becomes a term of special endearment and affectionate tenderness in this place, from the circumstance, of which another evangelist, St. Luke, apprises us, namely, that this little girl was an only daughter (θυγάτηρ μονογενὴς), perhaps, indeed most probably, an only child. We can easily imagine the terrible uneasiness of the father, when our Lord had been delayed by the unwelcome incident of the cure of the woman with the bloody issue. Jairus must have looked on this as a most provoking and unpleasant interruption; and now that the messengers bring word that his daughter is dead, and so his worst fears realized, he and they evidently give up all for lost. The great Healer might have restored her to health, however ill, or however far gone she might have been; but how can he restore her to life now that she is dead?
4. Jesus power over death. He had heard, or, if we read a compound of the same word, though slightly supported παρακούσας he had overheard the conversation between the messengers and Jairus; he had heard them dissuade the ruler from fatiguing with the length of the journey, or in any other way worrying the Physician (σκύλλεις, root σκῦλον, spoils, means "to spoil, despoil, flay, trouble, harass, or worry"), as it was only bootless labour - quite useless work - for the child was dead. Our Lord tried to revive the father's hopes, encourage his fainting heart, and strengthen his weak faith, saying, "Do not be afraid, only believe." The mourners, especially the hired mourners, who were making so much ado, and beating themselves (ἐκόπτοντο), in grief more seeming than sincere, began to deride our Lord, or laugh him down (κατεγέλων). In fact., they did not wish her restored, lest perhaps their occupation would be gone. Taking the maiden by the hand, he addressed her, in the vernacular Aramaic of the district, saying," Talitha cumi, Maid, arise." Straightway she arose and walked; her motion proved strength, and strength and motion belong to life; and so death, after all, is a sleep, from which the Saviour brings awakening. His power over every stage of death appears by the restoration of one just departed as this maiden; of one being carried out to burial, as the son of the widow of Nain; of one already in the grave four days, as lazarus.
5. Practical character o/our Lord. When Simon's mother-in-law was cured, she turned to her domestic duties; when this young girl of twelve years of age was restored, she walked about (περιεπάτει) - how natural When others wondered, Jesus thought of the keen appetite of the young girl, and ordered her food. - J.J.G.
I. JAIRUS'S FAITH WAS UNEXPECTED. He was "the ruler of the synagogue;" in other words, he was the president of one of the synagogues in Capernaum. It was his duty to superintend and direct its services, and to preside over its college of elders. As a pastor and professor - to use modern terms - be would have strong prejudices against a heretical teacher, such as our Lord was esteemed to be. We all know how difficult it is to go out of the usual course in any professional work; but although those who were associated with Jairus were hostile to our Lord, he dared to fall humbly at his feet. Sometimes the least hopeful, in human opinion, are the most richly blessed by Divine favour. Those who have often been taught and prayed for in our congregations may remain untouched, while some poor waif who has drifted in from the sea of life may find rest in Christ. Many shall come from the east and from the west. to sit down in the kingdom, while those who are favoured by circumstances and birth will be shut out.
II. JAIRUS'S FAITH GERMINATED IN GRIEF. He had been shut up with his little daughter who was ill, and for a time had been cut off from ordinary duties and associations. We can picture him to ourselves sitting beside her, with her little hand in his, while her eyes would often seek his with filial love. She had heard of Christ (what child in Capernaum had not?); possibly she had seen him, and loved him, as most of the children did. And while she spoke to her father, when his heart was specially tender, he could not but drink in thoughts of the love and power of Jesus, until, daring the worst that his friends could say of him, he fell at Jesus' feet. Sometimes those who have been associated with Churches or Sunday schools remain untouched by holy influence, until, having left their old connections, they fall into sin and shame, and then, knowing not whither in the world to turn, they look to Jesus. Sometimes professing Christians feel that they are far from God, and that even in their prayers he appears vague and unreal; till trouble comes - illness assails one whose life is precious, and then they pray in an agony of earnestness, as Jairus did, when "he besought Jesus greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death." Faith often springs up in the soil of trouble.
III. JAIRIUS'S FAITH WAS SEVERELY TRIED. His hope was quickened when he saw Jesus rise up at once to follow him; but the crowd would not let our Lord hasten, and the poor woman meanwhile stole her blessing, and Christ delayed to speak with her and with others. Looking towards his home with ever-growing anxiety, at last Jairus saw what he dreaded seeing - a messenger, who said, "Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further ?" But he had to learn that no one in earnest was ever a "trouble" to the Lord; that when he seemed to be caring for another he was really thinking of him, and preparing him to receive a far greater blessing than any he had come to seek. Christ delayed that "the trial of this man's faith, being much more precious than that of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found to God's glory." We often find that there is delay in the coming of answers to prayer. We cry for light, and yet our way is dark, and we see not even the next step. We ask for deliverance, but the disaster comes which overwhelms us with distress. We entreat the Lord to spare some cherished life, but the dear one is taken away. Nevertheless, "let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
IV. JAIRUS'S FAITH WAS LOVINGLY ENCOURAGED. The storm tested this tree till its roots struck deeper; but when there appeared some risk of its falling, Christ said to the tempest, "Peace, be still." When the messengers said, "Thy daughter is dead," at once Jesus spoke; and "as soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith,... Be not afraid, only believe." Again, when Jairus entered his house, you can imagine how the father's heart sank as he saw the mourners for the dead already there. Till then he had been hoping against hope, as sometimes we do till we actually, enter the darkened house where the dead one lies. Again Jesus interposed, saying, The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth;" for so would he keep alive trust and hope till the blessing came, for which they were the preparation. "He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax." - A. R.
I. HIS DISINTERESTED KINDNESS. NO doubt his miracles were attestations of Divine power, but none of them were wrought with the idea of gaining personal fame. On the contrary, he endeavored to silence the demands of gaping curiosity, and rebuked those who sought for signs and wonders. He refused the worldly homage which the people proffered when they wished to make him a king. He checked the spread of his own fame, lest men should care too much for material blessings, or should offer him the adulation a wonder-worker would have sought. If he had willed it, all the riches of the world would have been poured at his feet; but he had not where to lay his head; and although Jairus and others would have given all their possessions as the price of the benefits they sought, Christ bestowed the blessing "without money and without price." Herein he appeared as the true Representative - "the express image" of him who delights in mercy for mercy's own sake. God gives air and sunshine without any effort, or solicitation, or thanksgiving on the part of man. He makes the garden of the cottager as fruitful as the fields of the rich, who can do so much more in return for his gifts. Ferns grow in shady hollows, and flowers adorn lonely cliffs, and even heaps of refuse. With a lavish hand the Creator bestows his gifts. "He is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works."
II. HIS PERSONAL CONSIDERATION FOR EACH SUPPLIANT. If we are acquainted with many subjects, our knowledge of each is often proportionately inaccurate; if we know many persons, our acquaintance with them is but casual. If we concentrate our thought upon a person or a thing, that concentration is often exclusive of other persons and things. It was never thus with our Lord. Though he rules the worlds, there is not a single prayer unheard, or a feeble touch of faith unfelt. One who has been left alone to battle with his griefs may still say to himself, "But the Lord cares for me." He will no more hurry over a case than over that of the poor woman in the crowd, nor will he allow any delay to prevent the full coming of a blessing such as that which Jairus had at last.
III. HIS CONSTANT DESIRE FOR SPIRITUAL RESULTS. The temporal was to be the channel of the eternal. Healing of the soul often accompanied his healing of the body, and for the former he chiefly cared. On this occasion every moment was precious. The result of delay would be death and mourning in Jairus's home; yet he stayed not only to cure the woman, but to get her acknowledgment, and to give her and others fuller instruction. Had it been only her physical cure he sought, she could have waited a few hours; but the delay was largely for the spiritual good of Jairus. This ruler had not the faith of the centurion, who believed that Christ need not touch his servant, or even enter his house. Jairus's faith needed strengthening, and it was with this end in view that he saw what he did - a woman shut out from the synagogue of which he was ruler, who was saved by her simple faith, and this with the greatest possible ease on the part of the Lord. Hence it was that when the news came, "Thy daughter is dead," Jairus was not utterly dismayed, and under the influence of the cheering words of our Lord his faith revived in purer form. It is still true that delay in answer to prayer, during which grief and loss comes, is meant to work in us the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
IV. HIS BROAD SYMPATHIES AND ACTIVITIES. The love of Christ was not like some little stream which is confined between its two banks, and must be so confined if it is to be a blessing; but it was like the sea, which, when the tide rises, floods the whole shore, and fills every tiny creek as well as every yawning bay. He was never so absorbed in one mission as to neglect the side opportunities of life. Son if us have a tendency to absorption in one single duty, and the temptation is strong in proportion to the intensity and earnestness of our nature. But intenseness must not be allowed to make us narrow. To set before ourselves a special end is good, but this may lead to a neglect of other duties which is unnecessary and sometimes sinful. For example, some concentrate their interests in business or in pleasure, and declare that they have no time for devout thought; and at last they will find that they have grasped shadows and lost the substance. Christians fall into a similar error. Some do public service, and their names are widely known in the Church, but they have scarcely exercised any good influence at home. The Church benefits, but the children are neglected. And often the opposite is true; for to many the home is everything, and the Church is nothing. Others, again, are so absorbed in one special work (that of the Sunday school, or temperance reform, for example), that they have little sympathy for their brethren who are engaged in other spheres of the manifold life of the Church. And there are others more guilty by far than these, who are absorbed in future work. They are always "going to do" this or that; but meanwhile their neighbors are uninfluenced and their own children are neglected. As they are not faithful with the few things, it would be contrary to God's law if they became rulers over many things. If our Lord had been animated by the spirit displayed by any of these, he would have said to the woman, "My errand is one of life and death; there must be no touching even the skirts of my garment now. All else must wait till I have discharged this mission? But, by the course he took, he taught us this lesson. There is nothing within the range of our power that is beyond the range of our responsibility. In all these respects Christ has left us an example, that we should follow his steps. - A.R.
The magnifying power of faith. 'Twas but a touch, humanly speaking; yet was it a means of salvation to the believing soul.
I. TRANSFORMING LITTLE THINGS INTO MEANS OF GRACE.
1. Many touches, but only one touch of faith. This alone was effectual and saving. It is not human effort that saves, but the spirit of faith that lays hold of Christ.
2. Only the hem of his garment. Yet as effectual as if she had touched the body of Christ. How so? Because she touched him spiritually. All ordinances and outward means of grace are in themselves little - no better than the hem of the garment of Christ. It is the Saviour who is great when appealed to by a great faith.
3. Making use of what was within reach. Not perhaps the best means possible. But enough when accompanied by faith.
II. IN IMMEDIATE EARTHLY ENDS SECURING ULTERIOR SPIRITUAL ONES. The trembling and fearing woman not only secured the physical bond; the Saviour said, "Thy faith hath saved thee," - a word that had a larger meaning than could be exhausted by a merely temporal relief or physical wholeness. - M.
I. CONTRASTED WITH EARTHLY EXPEDIENTS OF SALVATION, These are expensive because:
1. They waste the spiritual nature of man.
2. They increase rather than diminish the evil. How forlorn the poor woman! How great the contrast with the "sleeping" child! Death in life is far worse than the natural death. It is not mourned for as the latter, and has all the added sorrow of disappointment and despair.
3. They keep away from the true Saviour.
II. YET IT MUST BE LEGITIMATELY SOUGHT. The grace of God cannot be stolen. The Saviour knows when a sinner receives his "virtue." There is only one way - the way of faith. The salvation of God is given, not taken by force or stealth; graciously given, with a benediction and a confirming assurance.
III. IT COSTS THE SINNER NOTHING, BUT THE SAVIOUR EVERYTHING. - M.
I. MEANS OF GRACE ARE NOT TO BE DESPISED BECAUSE THEY APPEAR OUTWARDLY INSIGNIFICANT. Superstition, ritualism, etc., deprecated; yet an error incident to the opposite extreme. We are not saved by works, neither (literally) are we saved by faith. It is Christ that saves. This woman was touching Christ. God's sufficiency so different from man's.
II. NOT THE OUTWARD CHARACTER OF ANY ACT, BUT THE SPIRIT IN WHICH IT IS DONE, IS TO BE CONSIDERED CHIEFLY. The great end of religious acts is to bring us into communion with Christ. This of the woman was a mere touch, scarcely perceptible in the pressure of the crowd. The disciples had not observed it. But Christ felt that it had taken place, and had been effectual. There are manifold ways in which he reaches souls and is reached by them. The common experiences of life may be channels of greater blessing than the ordinances of the Church, when they are regarded in a believing, pious spirit.
III. PIETY IS OFTEN APPARENTLY OUT OF PROPORTION TO ADVANTAGES AND OPPORTUNITIES.
1. Small things way often bring people to Christ, or keep them away from him.
2. Faith may often discover itself in the midst of ignorance and the absence of conventional religion.
3. Spiritual privileges may hinder instead of helping religious progress if they be not spiritually used. This poor woman will rise in judgment against many who have made great show of religious observance, and condemn them. We may hear too often, if we do not lay to heart and obey. We require "grace for grace." - M.
I. THE CURE OF THE SICK WOMAN RESEMBLES A MAGICAL CURE. Magical belief universally prevailed. The principle of it was, an operation on the nervous system through the wishes and the imagination. A representation in the mind of a cure is assumed, and acted on as a reality. So mysterious and great is the power of imagination over the mechanism of life, that cures might occasionally occur without any real cause external to the sufferer's mind.
II. BUT HERE THERE WAS A REAL CAUSE AT WORK. Coincident with the touch of the woman was the knowledge of curing virtue going forth from him, in the mind of Christ. Here is something impossible to explain - a connection that defies thought; but a real connection. And the great general lesson remains. Every change in the mind from sickness to health implies the correspondence of a thought on the sufferer with a reality without him. Whenever and however the energy of God is reflected as a thought of reality or a faith in us, a change for the better must and will occur. - J.
I. CHRIST'S SAVING GRACE IS ALWAYS CONSCIOUSLY EXERCISED.
II. IT IS FAITH WHICH MAKES EFFECTUAL AND PECULIAR THE SINNER'S TOUCH OF THE SAVIOUR.
III. THE SECRET BELIEVER IS SUMMONED TO AN OPEN TESTIMONY. For the sake of:
(2) spiritual health; and
(3) the advantage of others. - M.
I. THE TREMBLING SUPPLIANT. There are many legends respecting her: that her name was Veronica; that she maintained the innocency of our Lord before Pilate; that she wiped his face on the road to Calvary with a napkin, which received the sacred impress of his features; that she erected a memorial to him at Paneas, her native town; etc. Improbable as much of this may be, it indicates that her faith was highly esteemed by the early Christians. The evangelists describe her as a certain woman who was worn by suffering, haggard from poverty (ver. 26), and ceremonially unclean, so as to be excluded from the consolations of public worship. She stole into the crowd, and by her touch of faith won the blessing she sought,
1. Illness brought her to Jesus. Most of those who came to him were affflicted - the blind, the leprous, the bereaved, the hungry, etc. Every sorrow is a summons to us to go to him.
2. Faith prepared her for a blessing. Even material gifts are received by the hand of faith. We all act in daily faith that the laws of God will continue - the farmer, the tradesman, etc. When Christ wrought a miracle (which was an epitome of one of God's works) he demanded faith. "He could not do many mighty works" where there was unbelief. He demanded trust in himself, both of Jairus (Ver. 36), of this woman (Ver. 34), and of us (Acts 16:31). If faith was truly exercised, erroneous views, such as this woman had, did not prevent a blessing.
II. THE EFFECTUAL TOUCH. "The border of the garment," to which Luke with more definiteness refers, was a sign of belonging to the chosen people (Numbers 15:38), and Christ blamed the Pharisees for making it specially broad, as if they would assert their peculiar sanctity. The woman touched it, not only as the most convenient, but as the most sacred, part of the robe, and her superstition required to be cleansed away.
1. There may be close outward contact with Christ without the effectual touch (ver. 31). The crowd represents many who are in Christian lands and congregations.
2. There cannot be living contact between us and him without his knowledge (ver. 30). Though there was only one in the crowd who so touched him as to win salvation, that one was not unrecognized. So, if in the large congregation one earnest prayer, one praiseful song, is offered, it is accepted of him. The garment may represent to us our Lord's humanity, which is most within the reach of our understanding and love. St. Paul speaks of his "flesh" as a "veil," through which we pass into God's presence. Our Lord himself says, in another figure which sets forth the. same truth, "Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." lie was the true ladder between heaven and earth, between God and man, of which Jacob once dreamed.
III. THE REQUIRED CONFESSION. TO acknowledge the change wrought in us by Divine grace is for God's glory, for the development of our own faith, and for the encouragement of others. We have responsibilities to the Church as well as to the Lord, which even shame and modesty must not lead us to ignore. Our Lord called for acknowledgment on this occasion, and it led to fuller instruction and to a deeper peace. He did not ask his question because he was ignorant, any more than Elisha did after his heart had gone with Gehazi, or Jehovah did when he asked of Adam, "Where art thou?" If we know which of our children has done a certain act, we may nevertheless ask, "Which of you did this? " and whether it has been a right act or a wrong, the confession on such occasions is for the child's own good. With truer wisdom than we ever display Christ Jesus asked, "Who touched my clothes?" although he knew perfectly the life of her whose faith in him had made her whole; "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." - A.R.
I. THE APPARENT REASONABLENESS OF THE QUESTION. A complaint very rarely occasioned, still more rarely justified. On the present occasion, however, it seemed reasonable enough. For:
1. Would not further urgency be useless? "Thy daughter is dead;" and there was an end of the matter. Nothing more could be done. The sufferer had been taken out of the power of man. Surely it could not be expected that death would yield up its prey? Circumstances like this are constantly occurring in human experience. A distinction is made, often must be made, between things in which help may be looked and prayed for, and those in which it is inadmissible to pray. Are there not desperate cases of unbelief and sin for which we have given over praying?
2. There were others requiring his attention and help. It seemed wrong to monopolize Christ, especially when nothing could be done. Our grief may become a form of selfishness if it makes us inconsiderate of those who have perhaps suffered more than ourselves. If religion does anything for us, it should take us out of ourselves, and make us sympathetic with others.
3. Christ was probably weary. It had been an exciting day. The multitude thronged and pressed him. One poor sufferer had ventured to touch his garment, and at once he detected the action. Was it because he had to husband his force that he had taken such notice of it? Perhaps there were signs of weariness in his features and gait. It was thoughtfulness and respect for him that dictated the words. "The Master: there were, therefore, disciples of Jesus in the family of Jairus" (Bengel).
II. THE FALLACIES IT INVOLVED. It is obvious that a great portion of the previous considerations apply only to the human state of Christ, the days of his flesh and feebleness. But there are many objections to importunate and unceasing prayer that depend for their validity upon very human and limited conceptions of God the Son. It will be evident, therefore, that if the conduct of Jairus can be defended in "troubling the Master" when he was on earth, and subject to the conditions and infirmities of our nature, much more the urgency of those who besiege the throne of grace night and day with their requests. Doubtless Christ was often troubled by suitors for his aid and sympathy; but:
1. It troubled him more when men did not care to seek him. He reproved the unbelieving Jews: "Ye will not come to me, that ye may have life" (John 5:40). Indifference is more hateful to him than the greatest importunity. It is better to have a superstitious faith than no faith at all. let us bless the weakness or the sorrow that brings us to him, making us feel our need of him. For, whether we think it or not, we cannot do without him.
2. He himself encouraged men to "trouble him. What bold promises were his! - I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst "(John 6:35); "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 40:25); "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do" (John 14:12); "All things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23); and how often as here, "Only believe"! How universal his invitations! - " If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink" (John 7:37); "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). "Ask, and it shall be given you," etc. (Matthew 7:7).
3. There is no case too desperate to bring to Christ. No disease could baffle him whilst he was amongst men; even the grave gave up its dead at his potent word. And now "all power in heaven and earth" is his. let us "trouble him, therefore, with our sorrows and difficulties until he gives us relief. The care or desire which is not brought to him will sever us from him. We need not fear offending him; he is the Saviour, and it was that he might comfort and save men he came. Even whilst we think our ease desperate, or say within ourselves, It is no use; it is not seemly to trouble him," we grieve his Spirit and resist his grace. The sinner who has sinned above measure, and is altogether vile, may come. How is that promise fulfilled in him, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool!" (Isaiah 1:18.) - M.
I. LIFE IN ITS FULNESS KNOWS NO FEAR. Cruel anxieties for the life of those we love are hushed by the voice of Jesus. He ignores death, being the resurrection and the life. We are under a deception of the senses, which Christ saw through. "The child did not die, but is sleeping." From another point of view our saddest facts may be lustrous with the significance of joy.
II. LIFE IS COMMANDING. "I say, Arise!" And the words are instantly obeyed. Richer as a parable than as a mere story. The fact is soon exhausted; the allegory is infinite. The voice is ever speaking, and resurrections are ever taking place. lost joys are being recovered, dead forms reanimated. Who knows, as the Greek asked, whether what we call dying be not living, and living dying? But where Christ is, there is no death, no loss; only change from less life to more. - J.
recorded by the evangelists. In them a suggestive progression may be observed. On this occasion, a child had but recently died, and was laid upon the bed in her own home, amongst those who could still see the dear face, which was now void and irresponsive. On another occasion a young man had been dead long enough for his funeral to have begun, and he was being carried forth on a bier through the village in which he had lived. On the third occasion we read that when Jesus came to Bethany he found that Lazarus "had been dead three days already," and that the grave had closed on him. In all these he gave evidences of his life-giving power, and this with ever-growing intensity until that glorious day when he himself, in spite of the Sanhedrim's seal and the Roman guard, appeared as being in his own person the Conqueror of death and the grave. In answer to the prayer of Jairus, and perhaps to the prayer of his child before she died, Jesus came into the ruler's house. He found it filled with hired mourners, and heard the music of their flutes, the droning of liturgical chants, the wails and cries by which they sought, not only to express grief, but further to excite it. There was something stern about his utterance - "Give place!" Such an exhibition Could not be other than offensive to One so sincere and true and natural as he was. And they who have his Spirit would rather be lamented by the few whose hearts are really touched with sadness, than by a multitude who offer ceremonial lamentation. Christ Jesus "put them all out." And we must get rid of all that is artificial and false if we would feel that Jesus is near, and we must be out of the company of the mockers who "laugh him to scorn" if we would hear his voice. It is in the quiet hour that he speaks, and we then can say -
"In secret silence of the mind, I. AS AN EXAMPLE OF PHYSICAL DEATH. When Jesus said, "She is not dead," he did not mean, as some suppose, that she was in a trance. He spoke metaphorically, just as he did when he said, "Our friend lazarus sleepeth," though immediately afterwards he said "plainly, lazarus is dead." A boaster would have laid stress on the fact of her death in order to exalt his own power in restoring her, but Christ spoke of it as a sleep, because he wished, not to magnify himself, but lovingly to prepare her friends for the overwhelming joy that awaited them. Sleep is a true image of death. like it, death follows weariness when the work of life has been hard and its sorrows many; it gives quietude of which the stillness of the body is but an outward sign; and it will be followed by a glorious awakening on the morning of the eternal day. Christ is "the resurrection and the life." He who gave this child back to her parents, and the lad at Nain back to his widowed mother, and lazarus back to his sisters, will restore to us all those dear ones who now "through faith and patience inherit the promises." II. A SYMBOL OF SPIRITUAL DEATH. The child lay there, unconscious that her friends were weeping for her, and that Jesus Christ was near. But suddenly she felt the touch of his hand. She heard his voice in language such as her mother and nurse used - the language of the children - saying, "Talitha cumi!" - "Dear child, arise!" and she opened her eyes and saw Jesus, and from that moment her heart was his. As truly he speaks now, in the stirring of sacred feeling, in the revival of old memories, in the loving influence of Christian friends; and they who obey his voice begin from that moment a happier life than they ever knew before. Very significant is the command of Christ "that something should be given her to eat." It was a reminder that she really lived, that she had natural appetite, that he lovingly thought of the little things his dear ones needed, and that she was back again in the old life and home, though with a new love in her heart. So, many now who are dead to the old life and alive unto righteousness are called upon by their Lord to go back to their former work and companionship, but to serve him by shedding on these the light of holiness and love. From some he demands the public confession that they are on his side which he asked of the woman who had been secretly cured; but there are others to whom publicity is painful, whose experience is not to be blazed abroad, lest the beauty of childlike trust and the bloom of early piety be destroyed. - A.R.
I. AS AN EXAMPLE OF PHYSICAL DEATH. When Jesus said, "She is not dead," he did not mean, as some suppose, that she was in a trance. He spoke metaphorically, just as he did when he said, "Our friend lazarus sleepeth," though immediately afterwards he said "plainly, lazarus is dead." A boaster would have laid stress on the fact of her death in order to exalt his own power in restoring her, but Christ spoke of it as a sleep, because he wished, not to magnify himself, but lovingly to prepare her friends for the overwhelming joy that awaited them. Sleep is a true image of death. like it, death follows weariness when the work of life has been hard and its sorrows many; it gives quietude of which the stillness of the body is but an outward sign; and it will be followed by a glorious awakening on the morning of the eternal day. Christ is "the resurrection and the life." He who gave this child back to her parents, and the lad at Nain back to his widowed mother, and lazarus back to his sisters, will restore to us all those dear ones who now "through faith and patience inherit the promises."
II. A SYMBOL OF SPIRITUAL DEATH. The child lay there, unconscious that her friends were weeping for her, and that Jesus Christ was near. But suddenly she felt the touch of his hand. She heard his voice in language such as her mother and nurse used - the language of the children - saying, "Talitha cumi!" - "Dear child, arise!" and she opened her eyes and saw Jesus, and from that moment her heart was his. As truly he speaks now, in the stirring of sacred feeling, in the revival of old memories, in the loving influence of Christian friends; and they who obey his voice begin from that moment a happier life than they ever knew before. Very significant is the command of Christ "that something should be given her to eat." It was a reminder that she really lived, that she had natural appetite, that he lovingly thought of the little things his dear ones needed, and that she was back again in the old life and home, though with a new love in her heart. So, many now who are dead to the old life and alive unto righteousness are called upon by their Lord to go back to their former work and companionship, but to serve him by shedding on these the light of holiness and love. From some he demands the public confession that they are on his side which he asked of the woman who had been secretly cured; but there are others to whom publicity is painful, whose experience is not to be blazed abroad, lest the beauty of childlike trust and the bloom of early piety be destroyed. - A.R.