Mark 7
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
In vers. 3, 4 of this chapter we are furnished with an interesting piece of antiquarianism. The daily life of the devout Jew is set before us in its ceremonial aspect; not as Moses had originally ordered it, but as custom and human casuistry had gradually transformed it. The light thrown upon several questions is very searching and full of revelation, viz. the various senses in which baptism seems to have been understood by the contemporaries of Christ, and the punctilio, vigor, and detail with which ceremonial purifications were carried out. It is only as we realize the background of daily Jewish life, against which the life to which Jesus called his disciples stood out so prominently, that we are in a position to appreciate the current force of the objections raised by Pharisee and scribe. We have here -

I. CHRISTIANITY CRITICIZED FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF RELIGIOUS TRADITION. (Vers. 1-5.) The exaggerated form the latter assumed brought out the more strikingly the peculiarity and essential character of Christ's teaching.

1. It was an age in which Jewish ceremonalism had reached its highest. The doctrine of Pharisaism had penetrated the common life of the people. They might be said to have fallen in love with it. The distinctions are artificial and super-refined, e.g. between "common," "profane," or "defiled hands, and hands ceremonially clean. They washed diligently (a paraphrase of the original substituted by our revisers for oft" of the Authorized Version, and apparently the best rendering of the difficult word in the original), "carefully," or the "many other Amongst the respectable Jews ceremonial strictness and nicety held a place very similar to what "good manners," or polite behavior and refinement, occupy with ourselves, having, of course, an additional supernatural sanction from association with the Law. Thus to-day the customs and observances of nations amongst whom civilization has long existed might equally serve as a foil for the Christian moralist; and all casuistries or secondary, customary moralities.

2. The objectors were the leaders and representatives of the religious life of the time. "Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which had come from Jerusalem." They were the leaders and teachers of metropolitan fanatical ritualism. It is well when Christianity is judged that such men appear on the bench; there can then be no question as to the representative and authoritative character of the criticism. It would be a splendid thing if the representatives of modern political, social, and ecclesiastical life could be convened for such a purpose.

3. What, then, is the objection thus raised? It concerned an observance of daily life. Christians are now judged on the same arena. In small things as in large the difference will reveal itself. It depended upon an abstract distinction: the hand might be actually clean when it was not ceremonially so. It was, in the eyes of those who made it, the worst accusation they had it in their power to make. The moral life of the disciples was irreproachable; they "had wronged no man, corrupted no man, taken advantage of no man." The Christians of to-day ought to emulate this blamelessness; infidels can then fire only blank cartridge.

II. THE TABLES TURNED. (Vers. 6-23.) The critics are themselves reviewed. Trifling captiousness must be summarily dealt with, especially when it wears the garb of authority. The character of the objectors is of the first consequence in judging of Christ's tone. Grave issues were at stake. The ground of the fault-finding was superficial and untrustworthy, and a truer criterion must be discovered. "Deceivers may be denounced, that the deceived may be delivered" (Godwin). The essential nature of rectitude - the grand moral foundations must be laid bare.

1. Christ begins with an appeal to Scripture. He is careful to show that the distinction between righteousness and ritualism is a scriptural one, and not of his own invention. At the same time, he gives the reference a satirical or ironical turn by making a prophetic identification! We don't know how much is lost in ignoring the written Word of God. It is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness."

2. He next pointed out the opposition that existed between their traditions and the Law. The instance selected is a crucial one, viz. that of the fifth commandment - "the first commandment with promise." Others might have been given, but that would be sufficient. Family obligations are the inner circle in which religion most intensely operates; if a man is wrong there, he is not likely to be very righteous elsewhere. To prove their opposition to the Law was to strip them of all pretense to religion.

3. Lastly, common sense and conscience were appealed to as regarded rites and ceremonies. The "multitude" is here addressed; it is a point which the common man is supposed able to decide. There are many weapons that may thus be supplied to the evangelical armoury. If philosophy was rescued from barrenness by this method in the hands of a Socrates or a Reid, may we not hope for greater things with regard to a common-sense religion? The great foundation of all religious definitions and obligations is the true nature of man. The essential being of man is spiritual; the body is only the garment or case in which he dwells. Purity or its opposite must therefore be judged of from that standpoint. If the soul, will, spirit, inner thought of a man is pure, he is wholly pure. Spiritual and ceremonial cleanness must not be confounded. Religion is not a matter of forms, ceremonies, or anything merely outside; but of the heart. Yet the thought and will must influence the outward action, habit, and life. The spiritual is the only eternal religion (John 4:23, 24). The private question of the disciples is worthy of notice. A "parable" seems to have been their common name for a difficult saying of Christ's. Their incapacity was not intellectual but spiritual. Professed Christians themselves often require to be more fully instructed. The progressive life of the true Christian will itself solve many problems. "Had our Saviour been speaking as a physiologist, he would have admitted and contended that many things from without, if allowed to enter within, will corrupt the functions of physical life, and carry disorder and detriment into the whole fabric of the frame. But he was speaking as a moralist, and hence the antithetic statement of the next clause (cf. ver. 15)" (Morison). - M.

I. THE MOST NATURAL ACT MAY BE PERVERTED INTO A RITUAL SIN. The disciples were seen eating with unholy hands, that is, unwashed! How this came about we are not told; probably it was a case of necessity: there was no water to be had. Probably it was a choice between going without food and being ritually correct, or being ritually incorrect and supplying the wants of nature.

II. THE MEANING AND USE OF RITUAL IS CONSTANTLY LOST SIGHT OF BY SMALL MINDS. "The Pharisees and all the Judaeans, unless for a pygmy's length they wash the hands and arms, do not eat." The Talmud (Lightfoot) directs that the hands be washed to the elbow - a rule like that here hinted at; "pygmy" denoting the arm and hand. The custom went beyond what the original ritual required. And so the associations or the market-place were thought peculiarly profane. They carried the rule out in application to cups, jugs, copper vessels, and couches; things which cannot feel, which are not spiritual, and which therefore are no subjects of "baptism. The root of the error was:

1. Blind respect for custom. Custom commands our respect; but a blind respect defeats its end and meaning.

2. The reversal of the spiritual order. That order is: first the spiritual, then the material; the body for the soul. The Pharisaic order was: first the material, and the spiritual through the material.

3. The postponement of the present to the past. What tradition of the fathers can make it a duty to neglect the welfare of the sons? The rules of the past conserved the privileges of the present; if they block the way and tend to hurt human life, they must give way. We must study the perspective of duties if we do not desire to become narrow in intelligence, and defeat the spirit of law.

III. ATTACHMENT TO RITUAL MAY ACTUALLY OBSCURE THE VIEW OF RELIGIOUS DUTY. Religion begins in the heart. Unless we love our God and our fellow-man, we shall miserably blunder in our construction of duties. Great teachers have always placed us at this moral center; face to face with God, in immediate relation to his universal imperative.

1. Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13). He taught that the lips might readily be made to do duty for the heart; and that invented obediences might distract from the genuine, natural obedience of the right and loving heart.

2. Moses. To go back further in the stream of sacred tradition: no name more honored than that of the great lawgiver of the desert. He distinctly enunciated the duty of filial reverence, founded on the instincts of the heart. How were the Pharisees carrying this out? The way in which Christ refers to this is keenly ironical.

3. Christ himself. The Pharisees can and do actually evade the great command of filial piety under the show of obedience to the ceremonial Law. By a general consecration to the temple of whatever might be useful to parents, it was made sacrilege to give anything to them, because whatever was given to them was included in the vow." A miserable trickery, cheating God of his due while seeming to obey him! Tradition may be so followed as to subvert its very essence; for there is no tradition respectable which does not enshrine Divine commands.


1. Impurity is not from without but from within. The external defilement may be cleansed away. It is not part of the man. The moral impurity is. It is only what the imagination conceives and the will affirms that is real for us. "In morals and in religion the conscious mind is everything" (Godwin).

2. This true view may require an effort to attain. Strange! the disciples "could not quite see it!" "And he said to them, Are you also so inconsiderate?" And Christ must explain to them the lesson as to a class of tyros. Want of thoughtfulness in the mind is like want of stirring and raking to the garden-ground. The weeds and mosses soon creep. The man's thought is soon overrun by the trash of opinion and empty practice, if he will not think for himself.

3. The human source of evil. It lies in the thought, the fancy, or imagination. Lust "conceives "a thought of pleasure, clashing with the thought of right. The conception germinates, and brings forth a deed. But a splash of mud that we receive on our garments in crossing the street has no effect on our conscience. And generally, what we do not adopt as part of ourselves, cannot be imputed to us as sin. "What does not affect the moral character, cannot affect the relation of man to God" (Godwin). - J.

Pharisees and scribes of Jerusalem had detected some of the disciples of Jesus eating bread "with defiled, that is, with unwashen, hands." "Holding the tradition of the elders" with great tenacity themselves, they demand of the new Teacher a reason for his disciples' departure from the old paths. It was a favorable opportunity for exposing the error of substituting human for Divine precepts, and for placing the external in its right relation to the internal and spiritual. Christ here appears as the authoritative Interpreter of the Divine commands; and, as a true Teacher, discriminating between the "commandment of God" and "the tradition of men." Of old time it was well said, "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart." Here the men who "sit on Moses' seat," alike in what they "bid" and in what they "do," lay great stress on the "washings of cups, and pots, and brasen vessels," and of hands. Truly great matters! But the searching eye Divine discerns the hidden "heart that is far from" God, and whose many evils send forth a thick stream of pollution in unholy practices, defiling not merely the hands but the whole life. Jesus rebuts their accusation against his disciples, first by a justly merited rebuke, and then by readjusting the relative authority of the commandment of God and the tradition of men, which, in the practice of these accusers, through their selfish, grasping covetousness, had been so greatly distorted. He teaches once and for ever that no commandment of men, no tradition of elders, must be allowed to make "void the Word of God." Thus Jesus, who is so often erroneously spoken of as despising "mere commands," redeems the very "word," and pays his utmost tribute to the letter of the command. In the conflict between the Church and the sacred relationships of common life, to the latter must be assigned the pre-eminence. The necessities of the temple, of its services or its servants, must not be met at the expense of filial faithfulness. The sin of the Pharisees and scribes was -





(1) traced the tradition to its true source - "your tradition, which ye have delivered;"

(2) reduced it to its proper place of inferiority; and

(3) exalted the Divine command, "Honour thy father and thy mother," to its unassailable supremacy. So he prepares the way for a correction of the "many such like things" which were done by these "hypocrites," who taught "as their doctrines the precepts of men." - G.

Mark 7:1-23. Parallel passage: Matthew 15:1-20


1. Contents of this chapter. This chapter contains three principal sections. The first section treats of

The question of "the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes which had come from Jerusalem," yet remains to be answered, Jesus having turned aside to weaken the force of "the tradition of men." The answer is given in the ears of "the multitude." It is simple. "There is nothing from without the man that can defile him:" defilement is of that which proceeds "from within out of the heart of man." The man's heart is the fountain of evil; it is his heart, not his hands, that needs washing. No wonder that "the Pharisees were offended, when they heard this saying." Then, having "entered into the house from the multitude," the disciples "asked of him" what is to them as yet "the parable;" for so are they "without understanding also." In few words he distinguishes the true nature and source of defilement from the untrue, leaving for all time these lessons hidden in his words -

I. ALL POLLUTION IS MORAL POLLUTION. From this all mere ceremonial defilement must be distinguished. Such uncleanness is not moral impurity, nor is ceremonial correctness to be regarded as the testimony of moral purity. The stainless externalist may harbour "within all evil things." The perversion of a wise teaching on the necessity for personal cleanliness and of instructive ceremonials had led to the foolish supposition that a touch of the dead, or the diseased, or the decaying matter, conveyed moral impurity. This is once for all contradicted. Whatsoever is "without the man" conveys not the defilement. It is a moral condition. The heart can defile all things. As that which is from without the man cannot defile, so let it be known "there is nothing from without the man that going into him can" cleanse "him."

II. THE SOURCE OF ALL IMPURITY IS NOT IN GOD'S WORKS, BUT IN MAN'S HEART. "All these evil things proceed from within." Thus Jesus, with his just judgment, traces evil to its hidden source. The heart, not the flesh, is the seat of defilement. This is the fountain which can corrupt God's good and pure gifts. How marked a contrast does he make between a possible ceremonial uncleanness - a very trifle at most (as to moral uncleanness it is nil) - and the greatness, the multiplicity, and the foulness of the "evil things which proceed from within"! Material things cannot in themselves convey moral impurity. Even the excess in the use of the food, which destroys life, comes from within. That the good things of God may be turned into occasions of evil all know, but it is only the heart that can so turn them. Whatsoever is "without the man cannot defile him, because it goeth merely into his body, not into his heart; "and the heart, not the body, is "the man," the true man, the very man.

III. FROM THE THRALDOM OF A FALSE CEREMONIALISM CHRIST REDEEMS HIS DISCIPLES, "MAKING ALL MEATS CLEAN." How needful not only to say what is sin, but to say also what is not sin! From many a yoke which the fathers were not able to bear Christ sets his people free! From child's play to serious work he calls them. From a mere adjustment of articles of dress and of furniture; from punctilios of ritual observance having in themselves no moral significance, and liable to withdraw men from great works and great truths, he turns them aside. He exposes the true evilness in the long catalogue of "evil things" of which the heart, not the flesh, is capable; and be, without many words of exhortation, directs men to seek the cleansing of their unholy hearts, that their lives, their whole man, may be clean also. - G.

An atmosphere of publicity about Christ: crowds follow him wherever they hear of his presence, and even in strange regions his fame anticipates him. The many who took advantage of his power to heal are forgotten in the special ease which now presented itself. This may have been the spiritual result of many unsatisfactory cases in which the cure only affected the body; the rumor of them awoke at least one heart to a new sense of spiritual power. Speaking about Jesus and his work in this place or that, to one soul or another, may be a blessing in unthought-of quarters. Jesus "could not be hid" for other reasons; his disciples were with him, and, more than all, he carried about in himself a revelation of love and pity that spoke to every heart. Spiritual influence is a mysterious thing, and yet there are some conditions of its exercise which are only too plainly declared. Matthew has a fuller account, but our evangelist gives us the chief details. The Saviour was touching the great world outside of Judaism, the scene of his greater ministry in the future through the Holy Spirit. The incident is remarkable, as suggesting this universal relation of him who as yet was but a Jewish Rabbi. It tells us the nature of the limitation which hemmed in his work, and how that limitation was to be removed, when he "should open the door of faith to the Gentiles."

I. AT THE DOOR OF MERCY. (Vers. 25, 26.)

1. The motive. It was not for herself, but her child, whose distress she sought to relieve. The nature of this "unclean spirit." Moral parallels. A mother's instinct: how near the human affections and family obligations bring us to the gospel! The instinct is a natural one, but tending to the spiritual. She was in the school of sorrow, noble and unselfish sorrow, which searches the heart and awakens the latent forces of the spiritual nature. How many have been brought by such sentiments and experiences to the cross!

2. The attraction. She had heard of him and his merciful works. We all stand in need of mercy, and are insensibly affected as we hear of its exercise upon others. Make known the Saviour, and proclaim his saving grace! The most unlooked-for will come. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." But now she saw and heard himself. Her great yearning, grieving heart read the lineaments of his countenance, and the character they expressed. "He will not turn me away." Christ, by his spiritual presence in the Word, ever touches human hearts thus, awaking by what he is the deepest longings and most instinctive trust.

II. THE DOOR AJAR. (Ver. 27.)

1. It sounds like a rebuff. What claims has she upon him? But:

2. Is really a trial of her faith. It sounds logically conclusive, yet is it intended to call forth the inmost spiritual nature. Delays and adverse experiences in prayer should not all at once be accepted as final Prayer is not a mere asking; it is a discipline. Remember Abraham's importunity.

3. Encouragement is given even under the appearance of refusal. Matthew: tells us of a silence that preceded this; for Christ to speak was itself an omen not to be despised. "First" is a word that hints at postponement, not ultimate rejection. And the picture he sketches is not to be taken literally, but is for the spiritual imagination. As the reasoner, in making an induction, introduces an clement into his reasoning that is not in the facts in themselves, so the petitioner at Heaven's throne must learn to interpret his experiences, and to sift the rejections that he may discover the elements of hope. Here the petitioner answers the objection by completing the picture in which it is couched. True, it would be wrong to cast the children's "loaf" to the dogs; but that is not the only conceivable way in which the dogs may be fed. Her Greek experience comes to her assistance. Whilst the Jews hated dogs as "unclean," and could not tolerate them in their houses, the Greeks had a peculiar affection for them, and tamed and trained them to feed from the band. In many a Greek home the dog had its place beside the table or beneath it. And the "crumbs found their way there in various ways, either by intention or accident. The term she uses is a diminutive of endearment. The twenty-eighth verse is full of dimmutives - "little dogs," "little children's," and "little crumbs" - which are full of subtle, tender appeal. This is her argument, then. It is a self-humiliating one, for she is willing to take the dogs' place. She is not a Jewess - a "child;" she is only a Gentile, and her daughter is "a little dog." And here is the children's loaf - the Bread of life - at the very edge of the table. May not some "little crumbs" fall over? To such humility, such faith, there can be no refusal; and there was never intended to be one. This is how we must all come to Heaven's door - vile, miserable sinners, with no claim save upon the mercy of God!

III. THE DOOR OPENED. (Vers. 29, 30.)

1. It is opened to faith. "For this saying." It was an inspiration of faith. She had found the master-key for all time, and as she used it the door flew open. If we but "ask in faith, nothing wavering," all our petitions will be granted.

2. It is opened by Divine grace. We are not to suppose the request granted because the feeling of Christ was wrought upon. The yielding has only a superficial appearance of being due to constraint. In reality the delay was but interpolated that the faith of the woman might be developed in her own soul and manifested to the Jewish spectators; and so the final answer would be justified on every hand, and prove a blessing to others beside the recipient. The cure is already effected when she returns home.

3. It stands open for ever to such petitioners. The ground of assent to her appeal having been "evidently set forth," she becomes a precedent for all believers to plead. She is the pioneer of all who, not being Jews according to the flesh, are nevertheless children of faithful Abraham according to the spirit. To all who thus believe the invitation is given, "Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." - M.

Mark 7:24 (first part)
Our Lord, during his ministry, frequently sought retirement, and the text mentions one of these occasions. Seclusion is sometimes coveted by his disciples from improper motives, but these found no lodgment in the heart of the sinless One. We sometimes withdraw from active service for God because a feeling of indolence creeps over us, but he constantly found it to be his meat and drink to do the will of his Father in heaven. We sometimes shrink back from suspicions and reproaches in a spirit of cowardice, whereas in Christ there was no trace of the fear of man, that brings a snare. Nor did he ever exhibit the slightest indication of the selfishness which leads us to shut ourselves up in the narrow circle of our petty personal interests. On the contrary, his whole life, the fact of his living here at all, the death which he could easily have averted, conclusively showed that he "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." We may at once and confidently set aside any explanation of Christ's withdrawal from a place or people which is drawn from some supposed imperfection in him who was absolutely sinless. At the same time, we must remember that we cannot always discover with certainty the reasons for our Lord's actions, not only because these are not mentioned by the evangelists, who never try to explain or justify what may be open to misrepresentation, but also because his nature transcended ours, and his acts had issues not only here but in an unseen world. So that whenever we suggest explanations of his conduct, we must say to ourselves, "Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him!"

I. OCCASIONAL SECLUSION WAS GOOD FOR THE LORD HIMSELF. He was as truly the Son of man as the Son of God. His life would not have been complete, it would not have touched ours at so many points, if he had always worked and never waited. Hence, though he had to do a work so stupendous that it would affect the destinies of the world, and of the unseen universe of God, there are no signs in his life of bustle or impatience. He waited thirty years before he preached the gospel; and although he allowed himself only three short years for public ministry, he broke off from it again and again; and when at work he was so unhurried that he could stop in his progress to Jerusalem to heal a blind beggar, or halt on his way to save a dying child in order to heal and teach a poor woman in the crowd that thronged him. What a lesson to us in this fast-living age! What a rebuke to our feverish anxiety and excitement! Doubtless we should have to sacrifice something to break off from work as our Master did; indeed, this is one modern form of taking up our cross to follow him. It will be a fatal mistake to let business hustle prayer out of our life. The busy Christ could sometimes be alone, and he could not have been all he is to us if he had not been so. In the wilderness of temptation he was alone, and the real struggle of every human life is fought out and won in the presence of him who sees in secret. The greatest agony of Christ was endured in solitude; and in our Gethsemane friends fail us, but our God is near. It is good to be alone, if only we are alone with God, as Jesus was.

II. THE OCCASIONAL SECLUSION OF OUR LORD WAS GOOD FOR OTHERS. It was well for the disciples that they should be sometimes withdrawn, with their Master, from circumstances in which they would be harmed by men's applause or overwrought by nervous excitement; but besides this, Christ's withdrawal would benefit some who were not his disciples.

1. It was a possible means of grace to his foes. When the rage of the Pharisees was intensely aroused (and no anger is more unreasoning and devilish than that which professedly bases itself on religious conviction), it was well for them that the object of their wrath should disappear for a time. Christ's withdrawal saved them again and again from the awful crime which they committed at last on Calvary; it allowed for the subsidence of hasty excitement, which prejudiced them, and gave them time and opportunity for recovering better and wiser thoughts about the Lord. The loving Saviour would fain have helped even those who hated him.

2. It was for the advantage of the mass of his hearers. They saw his miracles, marvelled at them, discussed them, crowded to see more - without the least perception of their spiritual significance; so that if the series of miracles had been unbroken they would have failed of their purpose.

3. It was for the good of those who needed him that he should be sought. This is clearly exemplified in the experience of this woman of Syro-phoenicia. The disciples tried to drive her away. But Jesus meant her to come, had gone thither partly that she might come, gave her rebuffs which aroused yet more her apprehension of want; and so tested and developed her faith as to make her ready to receive the great blessing he longed to give. If Christ does not reveal himself so unmistakably to us as we wish, it is because he sees that we may win a higher benediction when we obey his command, "Seek, and ye shall find." - A.R.

Mark 7:24 (latter part)
On several occasions when Jesus sought retirement it was denied him, either by the enthusiastic zeal of his followers or by the pressing need of those who had heard of his fame. Still he seems to hide himself, and yet from no earnest seeker can he be hidden. In respect to many things besides the saving knowledge of Christ, it may be said they can only be discovered by diligent search. Our present knowledge of the physical world has come to us through those who would not be denied in their eager exploration. The forces of nature, too, have not obtruded themselves in their various uses, but have been won to our service by costly experiments and diligent thought. Speaking broadly, all life is an experiment - a discovery. A child learns to judge distances by trying to grasp what is within reach; he discovers the limit of strength by falls and hurts; he prattles before he talks. Very little of what we know has come intuitively. It sought to hide itself, but because we could not do without it we strove after it, and from us it "could not be hid." If in regard to other good things these words are true, it is not unreasonable that they should be true of him who is the highest good our souls can have or eternity can reveal. Our text implies, what other verses explicitly assert, that Christ, in the full plenitude of his salvation, does not come to us when we are spiritually inert, but that when the Holy Spirit has shown us that we need him, and when we seek him, he must be found of us. But if we spurn him he will hide himself, till he will have to say of us, concerning the things that would give us peace, "But now they are hid from thine eyes." The truth on which we wish to lay stress is this - that even in the days of his earthly ministry, whether Jesus was found as a Saviour or not depended on the condition of those who sought him. It was not a question of place, but of purpose. Contrast this story with the incident narrated in the first part of the preceding chapter. There we read of his visit to Nazareth, his own city, where we should expect he would be most eagerly sought after and most rich in blessings; but he could not reveal himself there as he wished to do, "because of their unbelief." Now, on the borders of a heathen district, the inhabitants of which had been shut out from the blessings of the covenant, there was a certain woman, a Gentile by birth, a heathen by religion, who wanted to find him, and from her "he could not be hid." Character may be, but circumstances cannot be, a barrier between the soul and Christ.

I. CHRIST CANNOT BE HID, BECAUSE GREAT NEED WILL SEEK HIM OUT. It was so with her who, poor and ill, crept into the crowd and touched the hem of his garment; with the sisters of Bethany, who sent the message, "He whom thou lovest is sick;" with the woman who was a sinner, who ventured into the Pharisee's house to find him; and with this Canaanite, who made her way to the Jewish Teacher, who, so far as she knew, had never before blessed one outside the house of Israel. It is God's design in our bodily illnesses, in our bereavements, in our grief about children going wrong, to lead us to the feet of him who never has said, "Seek ye my face in vain."

II. CHRIST CANNOT BE HID, BECAUSE TRUE LOVE WILL SURELY FIND HIM. True love in a parent or lover will give persistence and hope in the search for one who is lost. So will love to him who is worthy of the highest affection lead us to his presence.

III. CHRIST CANNOT BE HID, BECAUSE EARNEST FAITH WILL EVER LEAD TO HIM. The shepherds of Bethlehem who heard the angels' song believed its message, and found the holy Child. The wise men from the East, being faithful to the light they had, at last bowed at the feet of the Light of the world. Let us not suffer our doubts to prevent the outgoings of our soul to the Lord.

IV. CHRIST CANNOT BE HID, BECAUSE HIS OWN HEART WILL BETRAY HIM. Recall the pathetic story of Joseph. When He was the lord of Egypt, and his brethren came as suppliants to him, his heart could scarce contain itself, and at last the strength of his love forced him to avow himself and to welcome them to his heart. But that is only a faint emblem of the nobler love which filled the heart of the Son of God. Heaven could not hold it; the cross could not check it; the grave could not keep it back from his people. All through his life you see the outgoings of that mighty love. If his disciples are toiling in rowing, He will walk right over the raging waves to comfort them. If after his resurrection He stands as a stranger beside Mary, it can only be for a moment, for, like the good shepherd, he will soon call her by name, that she may be glad in his love. Still he stands among his disciples, and there his heart bewrays itself.

V. CHRIST CANNOT BE HID, BECAUSE HIS DISCIPLES WILL MAKE HIM KNOWN. In spite of the unfaithfulness of many, he has never been without his witnesses. The healed demoniac went hack to his home to tell what Jesus had done for him; Andrew no sooner found the Messiah than he went to tell his own brother Simon. So the witness-bearing is to continue till the whole earth is filled with his glory. - A.R.


1. In general, no relation could be more bitter; no estrangement more wide. No modern analogy can well enable us to realize this. They were "wide as the poles asunder."

2. Jesus the Reconciler. In him there is neither Jew nor heathen. This sublime truth was first to be made clear by his own conduct. All truths must be represented in practice if the world is to receive them. Christ did not deal in the sentiment of unity. He did not propound a theory of humanity, nor of enthusiasm for humanity; he took the hand of the sufferer; he healed the sickness; he made reconciliation a fact. "Go thou and do likewise!"

II. THE IRONY OF CHRIST. We have all heard of the irony of Socrates. It was the jesting way the great master had of hinting the truth to the mind, which was concealed in words. Irony is often the disguise of sensitive and keenly truth-loving minds. Here he conceals tenderest compassion for the poor woman under the mask of sarcasm. It has the effect of eliciting her deep feeling - profound humility and trust. All methods of the teacher are good which love prompts, and which subserve the ends of love. "Faith always finds encouragement and obtains reward" with Christ. To take the remark of Jesus in ver. 27 as seriously meant, would be contrary to his spirit. It is the echo of the harsh feeling of the bigoted Jew, and really illustrates by implicit contrast the tenderness and benignity of Christ. - J.

Now, in prudence, not in fear, Jesus withdraws from the districts under Herod's jurisdiction, where he had created sufficient excitement to expose him to hindrance both by friends and foes. He fain would hide himself in secret. "He entered into a house, and would have no man know it;" but it was unavailing - "he could not be hid." One at least sought him out with an eager intrusiveness which was only justified by the greatness and pressing nature of her need - "a little daughter grievously vexed with a devil" - and the brilliancy of her faiths which, while it wrought so great good for her home, secured so high commendation from her Lord. On that faith our eye must be fixed.

I. The DEMAND for faith on the part of the stranger was very great. Not one of "the children," but one of "the dogs," she had not been trained in the hope of Israel; though, living in neighbourly relation with the Jews, she was not wholly uninformed. Yet the very name given to the "Lord," of whom "mercy" is sought - "thou Son of David " - was an excluding term for her who could claim no relationship to the sacred family. She belonged not to the house; she was a village dog. Truly it needed great faith on her part to burst through the barriers and ask for "the children's bread." But she shared the common humanity; she had heard of the many healings - even "as many as touched but the border of his garment," though no appeal were made; and the keen eye of need and maternal anxiety saw the largeness of the compassion of him who had not yet denied any.

II. Strangely, however, that faith is TESTED by absolute silence, by apparent indifference. "He answered her not a word." The disregarded prayer, even though she "besought him" to help her, returned to chill the heart of hope and faith. Her continued appeal, "she crieth after us," engages the intercession of the disciples, who, evidently for their own relief, add their beseeching to hers. Still the appeal is unavailing, and on high and unassailable grounds, with which no personal consideration mingles. "I was not sent" to the heathen. But the struggling faith braves difficulties, and casts this mountain into the sea. Prostrate at his feet she fails with the plea, soon to be effectual, "Lord, help me." Yet even this appeal fails to conquer. He who always acts according to what is right and just declares, "it is not meet" - it is contrary to all propriety and right - " to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs."

III. The parabolic or figurative argument has its weak place, which quick-sighted faith, untiring and unfainting, detects and thereby secures its TRIUMPH. "'Yea, Lord.' Yea, it is true; they are the children; yea, I am but a dog; truly it is not right to give the children's bread to dogs; yet in every house the dog is not wholly forgotten." The argument has its (intended) flaw, for God cares for dogs; and from every well-supplied table something goes to them. Give me that - "the crumbs that fall." Give me "the children's crumbs;" what they need not, what they despise, what I may have without robbing them.

IV. It is enough; the patient, triumphant faith at length finds its REWARD. It shall be written for future generations of needy ones to learn how to succeed in presence of difficulties and hindrances and impossibilities. The Lord's honor is upon thee. "Great is thy faith." And more, thy suit is gained, thy word is mighty. For "this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter." It was even so. Let every suffering one, even though outcast from the holy, happy community, and every one within that community, learn from this little story that it men have faith as a grain of mustard seed, it shall be even as they will. And let every timid, unbelieving child bend lowly before this "dog," and learn the power of living, hopeful, resolute faith. - G.

Mark 7:24-30. Parallel passage: Matthew 15:21-28

I. OUR LORD'S WITHDRAWAL INTO THE REGION OF TYRE AND SIDON, Our Lord's retirement at this time into the region indicated was probably occasioned by a desire to avoid the further attention and inquiries of Herod, and perhaps his presence also there in his tetrarchy, which comprised Galilee and Peraea; while it may have been a symbolic intimation of the mercy in store for, and ere long to be extended to, Gentile lands; or it may have been simply for the purpose of seclusion and rest after a time of toil, and to escape from the cavils of scribes and Pharisees. The territory here described as "the borders of Tyro and Sidon" was not a district interjacent between Tyre and Sidon, as Erasmus understood it; nor yet the territory proper of Tyre and Sidon, as Fritzsche explained it; or the neighborhood of the former city, as Alford took its meaning to be; but originally a tract of border-land or neutral ground which separated Palestine from Phoenicia, subscquently ceded by Solomon to the King of Tyre and incorporated with Phoenecia, yet still retaining its ancient name of borderland.

II. THE APPLICANT, AND HER WRETCHEDNESS. This applicant is called by St. Matthew a Canaanitish woman, and by St. Mark a Syro-phoenician. Phoenicia, in which the old and famous commercial, cities, of Tyre (from Tzor, "a rock," now Sur) and Sidon (from Tsidon, "fishery," now Saida, twenty miles further north) were situated, was part of ancient Canaan, and so inhabited by a remnant of that doomed race. But, as the Phoenicians were the great seafarers and colonizers of ancient times, they had sent out and founded many settlements. One of these was in Africa, and the colonists were distinguished by the appropriate name of Liby-phoenicians, from the parent stock which went by the name of Syro-phcenicians. Horace has the expression," Uterque Poenus servint uni," and Juvenal twice employs the word "Syro-phoenix." It is probable that, while the coast-line retained the name Phoenicia, the more inland parts, where Syrian and Phoenician intermingled, got the name of Syro-phoenicia. But, while this woman was a Syro-phccnician by race, she was a Greek, that is, a Gentile: for the name Greek was used generally for all Gentiles, as distinguished from Jews, just as Frank is employed in the East for all Europeans; thus, we read in Romans 1:16, "To the Jew first, and also to the Greek." Thus Greek was the same as Gentile, and the inhabitants of the world were distributed into Greeks and Jews. The applicant, then, in the narrative under consideration, belonged to a different nationality from the Jews, for she was a Syro-phoenician, and to a different religion, for she was a heathen. This poor woman, born and bred amid the darkness of heathenism, with little to sustain and comfort her in this world, and without hope for a better, had her full share of the miseries of mortal life. She appears from the narrative to have been a widow, as there is no mention or notice of her husband. If so - and we have no reason to doubt it - she had to bear the hardships and fight the battle of life alone, without the head of her little household, without the bread-winner of her family, and without a partner to share and so divide the current of her grief. She had a daughter, probably an only daughter, mayhap an only child; but that one daughter, that only child, instead of being a source of comfort or support to the widowed mother, was the cause of the great grief that pressed upon and crushed her heart. That beloved child - that dear daughter, round whom alone, in the absence of other objects, the mother's affections were now all entwined - was an invalid, and an invalid whom no medical skill and no human power could relieve. It was not merely disease under which she laboured; if that had been all, however bad the case or severe the distemper, it might, even after medical appliances had proved unavailing, have exhausted itself, as is sometimes known to happen, or even the vis medicatrix naturae might have effected a cure. But no, it was something worse, much worse, than any ordinary disease, however Virulent; it was demoniac power - diabolical possession. The girl had "an unclean spirit," and was "grievously vexed with a devil," so that the case was taken out of the common category of diseases, and entirely hopeless. The poignancy of the mother's grief, the bitterness of her sorrow for a daughter so dear to her, and yet so hopelessly, helplessly afflicted, we can well imagine. Indeed, we seem to hear the echo of her wail in the pathetic cry for mercy: "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, thou Son of David!"

III. HER APPLICATION. What led her to think of Jesus at all? In the first instance, no doubt, it was her misery on account of her daughter's distressed condition. She had, we are persuaded, tried many means before this; she had left nothing undone, we are very sure; but all was in vain! Her wretchedness had found no relief; her misery remains without alleviation. She is now ready to do or to dare anything that may hold forth the slightest hope of relief. But while it was the feeling of misery in the first instance, and that strong maternal affection which the sufferings of her daughter roused into such active exercise, there was, besides, a rumor that had somehow reached her ears of the great Jewish Teacher, who was Prophet and Physician both in one. His fame had reached that distant heathen land. He wished, indeed, that no man should know of his journey thither or of his being there; he meant to travel incognito. But that he soon found to be impossible, for, as the evangelist expresses it, "he could not be hid;" there was that about him, conceal it as he might, which revealed his majesty and bespoke the greatness and dignity of his person. This Canaanitish woman has heard, moreover, that this powerful Healer has quitted the holy city, and left the Galilean hills, the flowery slopes, the glancing waters of the lovely lake; and that he is at present travelling in that remote north-west. Now she feels that her opportunity is come, that the time for trying another remedy has arrived, and that a Physician, greater than any she had ever applied to or heard of before, is now accessible. A load is lifted off her heart; her hopes are raised, and with buoyant, spirit she sets out to where she heard he was. But she has not been long on the road till hope and fear begin to alternate. Had she not been buoyed up with similar hopes before, and yet those hopes had ended in disappointment? May it not be so again? May it not be so now? Still she feels that the object of all this solicitude can scarcely be worse, and may perhaps be better. At all events, she is determined to make the trial, if it should be the last. She has heard of multitudes of cures he has performed, of wonderful cures - cures of demoniacs as well as those afflicted with diseases; and so she plucks up heart anew, and again resumes her journey. Here were two strong motives impelling her to take the course she was doing - her sense of misery, and the reports about Jesus. And yet there was, we think, a third impelling power; for what suggested the resolution she came to in view of the wretchedness of her own and her daughter's condition, and on the ground of the reports that had reached her? What or who empowered her to make up her mind at once and form the resolution? What it was we are not told in so many words; it is not expressly stated, perhaps not even dearly implied; and yet such an impulse must have been given to her will. We speak of God putting this or that thought into the heart; and so we believe that it was God that opened her eyes to see her real condition, that opened her ears to hear the report - the good news about One who was mighty to heal and cure; that quickened the seed of thought thus sown in her soul, making it fructify, blossom, and bear fruit; in other words, that produced the resolution and prompted to action in carrying it out. It is exactly thus with the sinner; his eyes are opened to see his sin and consequent misery; his ears are opened to hear, and his heart to believe, the report of a Saviour; and he is persuaded and enabled to form the right resolution of applying at once to Jesus for pardon and peace - made willing, in fact, in the day of God's power.

IV. HER RESPECTFUL ADDRESS, The respectful mode of her address, and the earnest petition which she prefers, are calculated to surprise and even astonish us. We must presuppose some knowledge of the Saviour, from whatever source it came. She had obtained in some way, and to some extent, knowledge of Jesus - how or whence we have not sufficient information to enable us to say. The terms of her address, when we consider her heathen antecedents and surroundings, are truly wonderful. "O Lord, thou Son of David" - these are marvellous words to come from heathen lips; "have mercy on me!" are words easily read between the lines of her misery, and easily accounted for by the sympathetic chord which her daughter's affliction had touched in her heart. The former words are not so readily accounted for. "O Lord," she said, and thus she acknowledged his power and his providence. She confesses her faith in his power as almighty, and in his providence as universal; she owns a providence which extends to, and is employed about, all the affairs of the world and men, and a power that regulates and controls all events. Nor are we sure that this term, as it was uttered by the lips of this woman, did not embrace more than matters of mundane interest. But whether or not it comprehended authority over things in heaven as well as things on earth - celestial as well as terrestrial concerns - one thing is certain, that the expression immediately following clearly embraced Messianic hopes and prospects. "Son of David" is a name or title of Messiah in Old Testament Scripture. He was to be the Son of David according to the flesh, as well as "the Son of God with power;" David's Son as well as David's Lord, according to the Saviour's own words. She thus acknowledged him as Lord, and so possessed of unlimited power over all beings, human, angelic, and demoniac; over all agencies of every order; and over all ailments, whether diseases proper or diabolic possession. She acknowledged him also as the Christ of God, whose very mission was to impart prophetic instruction, to make priestly satisfaction, and to exercise kingly authority in, over, and on behalf of his people. There was thus a whole creed, at least in germ, contained in the words of this woman's address to the Saviour. How had she attained such knowledge? Had the Spirit of God enlightened her? Had the Saviour been made known to her, as afterwards to Saul, by direct and special revelation? We believe that there was the agency of the Spirit in making application, but that there had been human instrumentality in conveying instruction. We read in the third chapter of this Gospel, at the eighth verse, that, in addition to the great multitude that followed Jesus from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumaea, and beyond Jordan, also "they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him." Was it not most likely that from some of these, on their return home, this woman had heard something about the Saviour - who he was, what he was, as well as about the great things he was doing? The Spirit's agency was needed to make application to her heart of the fragmentary truths she may have gleaned in the way indicated. Here, again, the sinner's case is similar. He hears about Christ, he reads about him, he is taught many facts in relation to his life, death, resurrection, ascension, saving power, and second coming to judgment; but yet "no man can call Jesus Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." We need the instruction, it is true, but we require also the illumination of the Spirit. That we may derive real benefit from Scripture truth, and spiritual profit from the facts of Christ's history, the Spirit must "guide us into all truth," even the "truth as it is in Jesus."

V. HER EARNEST PLEADING. In her earnestness she makes her daughter's ease her own; she regards the affliction of so near a relative as personal; in her daughter's affliction she was afflicted. "Have mercy on me!" she said - on me, who feel myself so identified with my daughter, who suffer in her suffering, who am distressed in her distress, whose life is bound up in her life. Again," Have mercy on me!" - a wretched woman, a sorely tried and almost broken-hearted mother. Then she repeats the petition with a slight variation, saying, "Lord, help me!" How touching this repeated request! how pathetic! How eloquent as well as earnest! It is, indeed, this earnestness that forms the chief element of its eloquence.

VI. THE TRIAL OF HER FAITH. She had been sorely afflicted, and now her faith is sorely tried. In the Gospel of St. Matthew the recital is fuller, and these trials stand out more conspicuously. The first trial of her faith is our Lord's silence. "He answered her not a word." What can this strange silence mean? Is it indifference or neglect? Is it want of sympathy with her own distress and her daughter's affliction? Or is it dislike and contempt for a descendant of a sinful and accursed race? And yet she must have heard of his compassionate kindness and tender pity, as also of the ready relief he was in the habit of granting to every son and daughter of affliction. She must have heard, from all who told her of him, that no applicant had ever met with repulse or refusal at his hand. Is she to be an exception? Will he not condescend to take the slightest notice of her? Another sore discouragement arose from the inconsiderate and unsympathetic conduct of the disciples, who came forward and actually besought him to dismiss her. "Send her away," they said, "for she crieth after us" - send her away at once (ἀπόλυσον, aorist imperative), and get rid of her annoyance; it is troublesome and even indecorous to have her following us, and painful to have to listen to her crying after us in this fashion. Either dismiss her summarily or grant her request, that, one way or other, we may get rid of her. Even if we understand the disciples in this latter sense, as asking their Master to give her what she wanted and let her go, it was a cold selfishness that prompted it, and an ungracious spirit that thus wished to be done with her importunity as speedily as possible. Their interference, however, had only the effect of drawing forth in reply a reason for refusal When our Lord did break silence, it was only to indicate the circumscribed sphere of his present mission, and thus to imply her exclusion: "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." It appears to some that even in this refusal there was a faint gleam of hope, and that this despised woman of Canaan might have replied, - Though not of the house of Israel, yet I am a lost sheep, and greatly need the Good Shepherd's care; and though he has not come specially on an errand of mercy to my race or me, yet I am come in quest of him and to seek his favor. But another obstacle, seemingly more formidable, bars the way. There had been silence and seeming indifference; there had been a refusal, and that backed by a reason - a strong reason, and one that did not admit of any questioning; and now there is reproach - apparent reproach. This sorrowful woman, in this her direst extremity and the darkest hour of her misery, summoned up all her strength of resolution to make one final effort; and coming closer to the Saviour, and with still greater reverence as well as earnestness, she "worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me." And yet, the reply to all this profound respect and unflagging importunity appeared at least to be of the most discouraging character, and in fact the unkindest cut of all: "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs."

VII. HER PERSEVERANCE AND HUMILITY. Her perseverance was truly wonderful, and her humility was equal to her perseverance. She turns the seeming slight into an argument. Our Lord, in the similitude he employs, does not refer to the wild, ferocious, gregarious dogs of the East, that are owned by no master, but prowl about for food, and that supply, in some sort, the place of street-scavengers. He refers to young or little dogs (κυνάρια), and to children, or little children (παιδίων), and the friendly relations that are well known to exist between them, denying the propriety of defrauding the children of food in order to feed even their canine pots - to take their bread and cast it to dogs (where observe the paronomasia in λαβεῖν and βαλεῖν). "Yes, Lord: for indeed the little dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs." The proverbial expression implied

(1) the impatience of dogs desirous of food; and

(2) the impropriety of taking the bread intended for children and giving it to dogs before the children had got their portion; consequently

(3) the injury of conferring benefits on one to the detriment of others, and prematurely before the claims of those others had been properly met and fully satisfied. Such might be the feeling of the Jews, if the Gentile stranger should step into some privilege before they had received their proper place and promised share. The opinion of Theophylact, and of many besides, that the Gentiles are meant by the dogs, because they are looked upon as unclean by the Jews, or the narrower notion of Chrysostom, that this woman herself is stigmatized by the name of dog from her persistence and blandness of entreaty, are unnecessary, if not unwarranted. The appropriateness of the proverb, and of the mode of treatment it implied, is admitted by this woman who gives it a most felicitous turn and favorable interpretation on her own behalf. She frankly and fully admits the reasonableness of supplying food to the children first, but insists at the same time on the humane principle and considerate practice of allowing the little dogs to eat the crumbs that fell accidentally, or were let fall on purpose, beneath the table. She accepted the situation thus indicated; she was content to take the place of dogs under the table; she was satisfied with the crumbs that remained after the children had got their full share. It was as if she said, - I own my inferiority; I am not a descendant of Abraham, nor a daughter of Israel; I do not claim equal privileges or equal dignity with one of that highly favored race. I only ask the position which a kind master allows his dog that is under the table, and the friendly treatment which such a master is in the habit of granting to his canine favourite; and that is to be fed from the children's crumbs, as the source (ἀπὸ) of their nourishment. A crumb is all I crave. One crumb from my Master's table will comfort me and cure my child.

VIII. THE REWARD OF HER PERSEVERANCE AS AN EXAMPLE AND ENCOURAGEMENT. we have seen how, in the face of what seemed contemptuous silence, of positive refusal - a refusal made more positive by the strong reason alleged in its support - of apparent reproach and depreciation, this woman kept to her purpose, converting a slight into a sound argument. By firmness of purpose, by strength of will, by great humility, by astonishing earnestness, above all by vigorous faith, she held on, and, like Jacob with the angel, she did not let the Saviour go until she obtained the blessing which she sought. What a pattern of faith and patience combined this woman exhibits! She had made probably a long journey, undergone much fatigue, spared no pains, shrunk from no toil, till she reached Jesus; and, after going so far and doing so much to reach him, she seems doomed to disappointment; and is treated with silence, with sternness, and with something like scorn; and yet by a quick instinct she makes that scorn helpful to her suit. And now at last she has her reward. Not only does she gain the object about which she was so earnestly solicitous, but she receives the cordial commendation of our Lord. "For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter;" or, as St. Matthew has it, "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour."


1. We learn from this most interesting and encouraging narrative the power of faith and its prevalence. If "all things are possible with God" - and we are sure they are - "all things are possible to him that believeth." It was faith brought her to Christ; it was faith kept her close to Christ, in spite of so many and so great discouragements; it was faith obtained the blessing from Christ; it was faith called forth the commendation of Christ, for in that faith he recognized the gracious principle he had himself implanted in her soul. Accordingly, it was her faith he so commended. He did not say, "Great is thy humility," and yet she displayed the grace of humility in an eminent degree; nor "Great is thy fervency," and yet she was uncommonly fervent in her petitions; nor "Great is the love thou bearest thy child," and yet she was a model at once of womanly tenderness and motherly affection; nor "Great is thy patience," and yet her patience had few parallels; nor "Great is thy perseverance," and yet her perseverance commands our admiration, even across the centuries. No; but "Great is thy faith." It was the mother grace and parent of all the rest. Lord, grant each of us like precious faith!

2. Our duty to our children, and to the young in general, is strikingly taught us here. Taking this woman for a pattern, we should plead with God frequently, fervently, and faithfully on behalf of our children, until Christ be formed in their heart. And oh, if any of them should be a victim of the evil one, and possessed by some evil passion, some sinful propensity, some destructive lust - in case any should be thus "grievously vexed with a devil" - how anxious, how labourious, how perseveringly prayerful we should be on their behalf! and how we should imitate this woman's importunity, and, like her, make their case our own until we obtain for them the blessing!

3. A further lesson is to go to Christ in every season of distress, nor despair, however long he is pleased to keep us waiting. Here are two lessons put together, for they properly go together. Whatever be our distress - whether personal affliction or domestic trial, whether the undutifulness of children or the godlessness of their lives, whether it be hostility of foes or the coldness of friends, whether it be worldly loss or sore bereavement - we should go and tell Jesus, acknowledging his all-sufficiency, spreading the whole case before him, confessing our great unworthiness, and pleading earnestly with him for mercy and help. And here another and a kindred lesson suggests itself, and that is firmness and freedom from despondency in trial. It pleased the Saviour to try the woman of Canaan severely and long; but it was for her good, for the glory of his grace in her, and for a pattern to ourselves. He proved her faith, but his object was to improve and strengthen it; he meant to exhibit its sterling qualities as a pattern to his disciples. Many a one, tried as this woman was, would have sunk down into sullen silence, or hurried off in a fit of passion, and given up her suit. It might have been so with some of ourselves; but he will humble us before he exalts us; he will have us trust in him, though he slay us. Some token will be vouchsafed for our encouragement, even in the sorest testing-time. It was probably so with this woman. She may have discerned a tenderness in the tone of the Saviour's voice, or a gentleness in his look, that encouraged her to persevere. But, even in the absence of such, we must impress on ourselves the conviction that there "may be love in Christ's heart while there are frowns on his face," as it is quaintly expressed by an old divine. Further, we may be kept long waiting, but we shall not wait in vain, any more than this poor woman. Our prayers may not be favored with an immediate answer; but, though not answered at once, they will be accepted at once, and answered at the time most expedient for us, as well as most conducive to the Divine glory.

"For though he prove our patience,
And to the utmost prove,
Yet all his dispensations
Are faithfulness and love." ? J.J.G.

A rest, then a fresh journey ("again"). How long the interval we cannot determine. To free him from embarrassment, perhaps danger, and allow time for spiritual meditation. "Tyre and Sidon." The best manuscripts have "through Sidon," which was north of Tyre. "Decapolis:" ten cities, east and southeast of Sea of Galilee; named by the Romans B.C. 65. A favourite scene of our Lord's labours (cf. Matthew 4:25). In Matthew 15:29-31 a multitude of cases is mentioned. Here one is singled out as an illustration.

I. THE CASE. Familiar and ordinary; comparatively helpless; difficult to educate, mentally and spiritually.


1. The manner of the great Physician. "They beseech him to lay his hand upon him - a grand expression.

(1) With respect to the people. He does not like the publicity, etc., and so he withdraws the poor man from the excited crowd.

(2) With respect to the patient. This step was full of consideration and delicacy. He sought to gain the confidence of the man. How deliberate and thoughtful was his mercy!

2. The means employed.

(1) Of what kinds. Physical - touch, saliva. Devotional - a heavenward look, a heavenward sigh. Authoritative - a word, Ephphatha!" Not used as a charm, but plainly intended to be otherwise understood; a word of the vernacular.

(2) He spoke to the man through signs, as he could not understand words. The means were only morally necessary; that the man might have some basis for confidence, intelligence, and faith. He ever desired to be understood.

III. THAT WHICH IS SYMBOLIZED. The shut heart of the world, dead to spiritual things. Which is worse? Only the compassion of Christ can save us. - M.

I. THE GREAT PRIVATION OF SUCH A SUFFERER. Deafness cuts the person off from society more than blindness. He is not blessed by that music which expresses the soul of things. He cannot hear that sound of the human voice, which is the most delicious of all music. One sense needs the sisterly help of another. Sight tantalizes without hearing. To be full of thought and feeling, yet not to be able to speak, - than this sense of restraint upon the noblest part of our nature, nothing may seem more hard.


1. The mode of the cure. The symbolic action was appropriate. Ordinary language could not be understood by the sufferer. Jesus employs gesture instead. There are special institutions for teaching the deaf and dumb. Consider how holy a work it is, and how consecrated by his example. The up-looking denoted internal prayer. So let prayer be the soul of all our action on others and for others (Mark 6:41; John 11:41; John 17:1).

2. The cure itself as symbolic. Christ's love entering the heart enlarges the intelligence, opens the world of music and harmony. As love opens the gate into a sphere of unearthly beauty to the lover, so to the soul captivated by the love of God all things have become new. There is a "sacred silence, offspring of the deeper heart;" and dumbness has its sanctity, for here is "the finger of God." But sacred is the eloquence of the tongue, set free by the larger life of mind and heart. God made us for utterance, as he made the streams to flow. - J.

Another case of healing, the record of which is peculiar to St. Mark, throws into prominence both the pitifulness of men and the power of the Lord. It is that of one unable to speak for himself, and unable to hear of the many wonderful works which are being done around. "They bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to lay his hand upon him." Ah, they have gained faith in the power of that hand. Jesus "took him aside from the multitude privately." Thus the man, at least, would know the work was the work of Jesus only. Then, for reasons that are not assigned, possibly as signs to him who could not hear, he "put his fingers into his ears,... spat,... touched his tongue," and looked "up to heaven," and "sighed and spake, and saith" - saith "to him" the first word he should hear, "Ephphatha!" Then "his ears were opened, and the bond of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain." Thus is presented to us a typical example of the redemption of the disorganized life.

I. One of the disorganizing effects of evil is that it closes the ear. It stops the avenues to the soul by which the word of truth and love may enter. The wicked man is deaf to the appeals of righteousness. Its gentle, winning tones fall unheeded on the inattentive, unmoved heart, which is as insensible to them as is a stone. How great is the injury thus inflicted! The man is shut out from the elevating, ennobling, the satisfying, sanctifying influence of truth. The words which minister grace to the hearers can convey none of their treasures to his heart; the way is not open. The human or Divine voice, so rich in its ministries to the ignorant, to the inquirer, to the hungry, is powerless here. The corrections of wisdom, the lofty motive, the noble aim, the calming, comforting voice of truth, guiding and blessing wherever it is heard, has no power here. All is lost. Not more is he to be pitied who, by physical infirmity, hears not the voice of friends, the songs of birds, the harmonies of sweet sounds. Sin robs the life of its truest, its highest enrichment. Christ's greatest ministries to the world were by his lips. Though the words were of earth, they were vessels holding heavenly treasure. But the deaf hear them not. So truly is a state of sinfulness typified in deafness.

II. But sin equally impedes the free and profitable service of the life of its victim. It closes his mouth. The mouth, which may be a fountain of wisdom, if unsealed. The life, which might be a spring of blessing to many, is as a dry and parched land, or as a well having no water. That beneficent ordination by which one life - even every life - is designed to be a source of blessing to every other, is, by evil, frustrated; and it becomes, instead, a cause of injury.

III. It is here Christ appears to bless the race by opening the eyes of the blind, by unstopping the ears of the deaf, by loosing the tongue of the dumb. His holy work stands over against the evil of sin. He unstops the deaf ear. Awaking the attention of the sleeper, he gives to the receiving soul the words of eternal life. His heavenly teaching renews, exalts, ennobles. The ignorant one becomes wise in his school. His truth raises the beggar from the dunghill. Righteousness puts the soul en rapport with all that is good, and beautiful, and wise, and holy. It makes a man to be at one with all the kingdom of God, with all truth and all life.

IV. But the redeemed life becomes a source of blessing to others - a fountain of living waters. The unsealed lips speak forth the heavenly wisdom. The psalm of praise, the song of thanksgiving, the word of truth, of peace, and of blessing, and the activities of the good life, are all serviceable. The life now becomes an active power for good. Each, when he has "turned again," is able to strengthen his brethren. The first effect of the eviction of evil from the life is that the eyes are opened, that all that surrounds may enter to enrich the life. The second effect is, the lips are opened, the life becomes a center of useful influence. It is a new acquisition to the world, a new joy. So from without flows into the redeemed life all that is calculated to minister to it, to nourish, to purify, to exalt, to gladden and perfect it; while back again from the nourished, purified, and gladdened life, new sentiments, new emotions, new aims, and new efforts proceed. The effect of which reciprocal influence is that each becomes a point of light, a form of loveliness; each a stream of holy, useful influence, refreshing this weary desert and making it glad. Truly, of him who" maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak," it may be said, "He hath done all things well." It is no less well said, "And they glorified the God of Israel." - G.


1. A difference of reading. According to the common text we learn that our Lord, "departing from the coasts [borders] of Tyre and Sidon, came unto the Sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts [borders] of Decapolis; but according to the best critical authorities "through Sidon" must be substituted for "and Sidon;" and then the sentence reads as it stands in the Revised Version: "Again he went out from the borders of Type, and came through Sidon unto the Sea of Galilee, through the midst of the borders of Decapolis. This reading is unquestionably the more difficult, but exceedingly interesting, as it shows the extent of our Lord's tour through those Gentile lands. Proceeding twenty miles northward from Tyre, he came to Sidon, the great seat of Phoenician worship and of the idols Baal and Astarte; and then passing along the foot of Lebanon, and crossing the Leontes or Litany, the largest river of Syria, he came to the sources of the Jordan, whence he descended along the eastern bank into the region of Decapolis. The probable object of this detour was to gain privacy, instruct more thoroughly his disciples, escape his enemies, and visit the many towns and villages dotting this rotate.

2. An interesting though practically unimportant question. Was the subject of this miracle deaf, with an impediment in his speech, or both deaf and dumb; in other words, a deaf mute? If he was deaf and had

(1) only an impediment in his speech, he had not been born deaf, for in that case he would have been destitute of speech altogether. He may have become deaf in early childhood, before the organs of speech attained their full development; or he may have been deaf for such a length of time that, through long disuse, his tongue had lost its power; or disease may have supervened, and inflammation or ulceration tied the lingual nerve. Whatever the cause of this impediment was - whether it was occasioned by rigidity of the membrane arising from long desuetude, or whether it was produced by the diseased state of the muscles, or whether it was the result of early deafness - the impediment was so great that it differed little from the entire absence of the power of articulation. This poor man was thus little, if at all, better than a deaf mute. But

(2) several reasons induce the belief that this man was actually dumb as well as deaf. Among these we may mention the statement at ver. 37, where the Jews, who witnessed this miracle, said, "He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb (ἀλάλους) to speak;" and the word μοφιλάλος is used in the LXX. Version of Isaiah 35:6 in the signification of dumb; also, in a reference by St. Matthew to this same journey of our Lord, and to the miracles performed at that time, the evangelist mentions the dumb speaking, (κωφοὺς λαλοῦντας). It may be observed that, while κωφὸς, meaning" dull" or "blunt," may be applied to either hearing or speech, the meaning of the word in St. Mark is always "deaf," though the usual meaning of it is "dumb," being synonymous with ἄφωνος in the classics.

3. Nature of this privation. This affliction was twofold. Two Organs were virtually wanting, two senses were sealed, two channels of communication with the external world were closed. The case of this person, if not actually identical with that of a man deaf and dumb, is illustrative of it. And oh, how great this double privation! How difficult for those, whom God has blessed with the free use of all their bodily organs, to appreciate the privation of one who is deaf and dumb! These twin calamities are, it is true, physiologically reducible to one. They stand related as cause and effect. Deafness at birth, or loss of hearing soon after, usually involves dumbness. Deafness is the radical defect, dumbness is its natural result. This man is said to be κωφὸς, which expresses the primitive want; while μογιλάλος (the root is μογ equivalent to μεγ as in μοχ(θος, labour, equivalent to something great laid (θε) on one) expresses the natural and necessary consequence - the great obstacle to speech. This latter word, therefore, is wrongly rendered "stammering," and rather denotes one unable to utter articulate words. Hearing, like sight, and as much as sight, is an inborn faculty; but speaking is a learnt art. Man of himself can utter sounds, and that is all, but not speak words. The latter he learns by hearing; but how can he learn without hearing, and how can he hear if he is born deaf? Further, in deafness the organ is wanting or defective; in dumbness the organ is present, but it might as well be absent, as it is disabled and incapable of use. When the ear is stopped, silence seals the tongue. But, though the cause may thus be one, the calamity affects two senses, and debars the use of both.

4. Extent of this privation. On due consideration, it will be found that these "children of silence," as they have been called, are doomed to as severe deprivations as any to be found in the whole catalogue of human woes. By nature they are excluded from all those pleasures which the ear drinks in and the tongue gives out. Nor do we refer merely or mainly to the melody of sweet sounds - to the thrilling tones of harmony, to the witching spell of minstrelsy, to the rapturous delights of music, as it is heard from the birds that make the woodland vocal with their notes, or from the itinerant musicians that stay for a few moments' space the step of the man of business, or cheer the spirit of the downcast; or as it swells in the concert, or sweeps so grandly in the oratorio, or is wafted aloft from a thousand voices on the open air of heaven. The deaf are excluded from other joys more homely, but not less hearty. They are shut out from the pleasant voice of childish prattle, from domestic or friendly converse, from intellectual interchange of thought, from literary amusement, scientific research, or political intelligence. From all these sources of information, instruction, and enjoyment they are by nature shut out. And here we come to the worst phase of their condition - the blank it leaves the mind. When sound is shut cut, a chief entrance of knowledge is barred. The exclusion of sound is the exclusion of all that knowledge and of all that multitude of ideas that sounds convey or suggest to the mind.

5. Contrast between the respective privations of the deaf and blind. We deeply commiserate the condition of the blind, from whom the fair face of nature is shrouded in darkness, whose eyes are never gladdened by the light of the sun by day or of the moon and stars by night, from whom the beauty of the human countenance and the loveliness of the landscape scenery are alike hidden, while "the shadow of death" rests "upon their eyelids." And yet the deaf mute is in a worse condition than even they. You can talk with that blind man, and tell him many things. He has an ear to hear, and learns much from your lips. You can read to him, and he listens, to the lessons of heavenly, wisdom, or human philosophy, or every-day experience, which you thus communicate. He is entertained at the same time that he lays up a store of useful knowledge. Not so the deaf mute; he is unimproved by all you say or read. Your speech does not instruct him, for he cannot hear. Books are useless to him, for he cannot read because he is ignorant of sounds made visible. He learns not, for thus the key of knowledge is taken away. Deaf mutes are, therefore, shrouded in deeper than midnight gloom; they grope in a "darkness that may be felt." Thus one of the great inlets of knowledge is taken away; one of the main sources of enjoyment is hermetically sealed; one of the chief links that bind men in social intercourse is snapped; one of the silken bands that unite men in intercommunion is severed. Thus the deaf mute stands apart, and in lonely isolation from his fellow-men; thus one of the sweetest streams of human-happiness is frozen up. We have thus looked at the condition of the deaf mute of our own day, as closely resembling, if not quite the same with, that of the man that was brought to our Lord, as it is here written, "They bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech."


1. What these signs were. After taking him aside, he "put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue." These signs which he employed did in no way contribute to the cure he effected, and yet they were significant of what he was about to do. They were far from meaningless manoeuvres or purposeless displays of power. They were no empty make-believes. Our Lord meant to arrest the man's attention and excite his expectations. He did so with the impotent man when he said, "Wilt thou be made whole?" He did so with the blind men when he asked them, "What will ye that I should do unto you?" and when he added, "Believe ye that I am able to do this?" He does the same in the case before us. But as this man knew nothing of the language of sounds, our Lord addressed him in the language of signs. He touched the parts affected to apprise him of his intention to reach the seats of the infirmities and remove the maladies. He put his fingers into the ears to signify that he would take away the obstructions that were therein, and open up the way for sound to enter - that he would penetrate every opposing barrier, and bestow a new acoustic power. He touched the tongue with moisture from his own mouth to lubricate the stiffened member, to loosen whatever impediment confined its and restore its agility of motion. Thus by signs he gave the man some indication of what he meant to do. But by these signs he taught him another lesson. The second lesson was one of faith in our Lord himself as the Author of his recovery, as the Source from which healing power flowed, and as able to do all and accomplish all fully and perfectly which he had signified. A third thing, perhaps, he meant to convey was that he sanctions the use of those means which he himself appoints. Here the means are all his own. His own fingers he inserted into the deaf man's ears; with his own saliva he moistened his tongue. The power of healing is all his own. He can work without means, or against means, or by means; he here directs to the use of means, but only such means as he himself devises. These he sanctions, these he consecrates, sanctifies, and crowns with success. Further, our Lord adapts his sirens to the source of the ailment, and accomplishes a perfect cure. It might seem sufficient to insert his finger into the deaf ear without touching the tongue with saliva; and likewise, in the account of the cure, it might be thought enough to say "his ears were opened," without adding that "the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain." The touching and consequent opening of the ear would undoubtedly have reached the origin of the ailment, and cured the defect at its source; but there would not have been a complete cure. The sufferer would only have been put into the condition of one learning to speak; but the cure, in the very mode of it, was meant to save him this trouble, and to secure to him the ability to speak at once. Hence it is not only said of him ἐλάλει, "he spake," that is, had now the power of speaking, but the term ὀρθῶς is subjoined, from which we learn that, without any loss of time, and without any process of educating the ear, he spake correctly and normally, as if he had been accustomed to do so from his youth, and not as one exercising a power just bestowed. The distinction between the sense of hearing and the organ of heating in this passage is noticeable: the former is ακοὴ, and the latter ω΅τα.

2. Symbolic actions. Another and a different symbolic action follows the signs we have been considering. The Saviour turned his eyes to heaven. By this time the Saviour had familiarized the sufferer to the use of signs, and accustomed him to the language which they conveyed. He guards him against any misinterpretation of the fore-mentioned signs. He turns his mind from those signs, as though by themselves they were in any way conducive to his cure. He raises his thoughts to heaven, to remind him that all relief was to be looked for from thence; that the blessing which made the means effectual came from above; that every good gift and every perfect boon is from above, coming down from the Father of lights;" that the power to cure in this case was Divine; and that, as the Lord from heaven, he himself had brought that power down to earth. While, on the one hand, he showed that the power emanated from himself, he, on the other hand, acknowledged the Father who had sent him to put forth such power. While he was manifesting by certain signs or one kind of symbolic action that power proceeded from his own person, he was proving by another kind that in that person divinity was shrined; that "it pleased the Father that in him" - the Son - "should all fullness dwell; "that "all power in heaven and on earth" was entrusted to his hands. He was indicating, moreover, the unity of purpose and of plan that subsisted between the Father and the Son; that he was doing the will of the Father, and accomplishing the work with which he had been commissioned. "The Father," he said, "worketh hitherto, and I work;" "It is my meat and my drink to do the will of him that sent me." He sought thereby the Father's glory, as he himself said, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him;" and again he says, "I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work that thou gavest me to do." Thus here and now, as always) he sets forth his mediatorial dependence on the Father, and the eye he had to his praise: "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me;" "He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him."

3. Duty of imitating the Master. As it was with the Master, so in measure is it with the disciple still. Ever and anon we must turn our eyes to heaven. While our hands are duly employed in the daily occupations of our calling upon earth, our hearts must mount upward on the wings of faith, in praise for mercies received and in prayer for the blessing to be bestowed: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth." Otherwise our most strenuous efforts will be frustrated, our most fondly cherished hopes blasted, and our highest aspirations doomed to disappointment; for "except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." While we thus lean on an Almighty arm, and depend for everything on God, we must have a single eye to his praise, ever keeping his glory as our chief end in view, and ever seeking from himself grace and strength and steady purpose to do his will.

"To do thy will! take delight,
O thou my God that art;
Yea, that most holy Law of thine
I have within my heart."

4. The significance of the Saviour's sigh. "He sighed;" and no wonder, when he thought of the ruin that sin had wrought, and of the wreck which man had in consequence become. The Saviour sighed when he looked abroad on suffering humanity, when he reflected on the miseries of a fallen race, and when especially he contemplated the living example of that misery that then stood before him. He sighed in sympathy with our sufferings, "for we have not an High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities." Blessed be God for such "a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God." He sighed in sorrow for our sins. In them he saw the cause of all; in them he saw the bad and bitter fountain-head; in them he saw the fruitful source of so much woe; in them he saw that fearful thing that darkened heaven above us, opened hell beneath us, and cursed the earth on which we tread; in them he saw that fell infection that has disordered, in a certain sense and to a certain extent, all the members of the body and all the faculties of the soul, so that "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint;" in them he saw the prolific germ of all those "ills that flesh is heir to," and of all those pangs that make the heart of humanity ache: for "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin," and not only death, but with it all our woe; in them he saw, too, the grievous load he was himself one day to bear, when he" bare our sins in his own body on the tree," so that it has been truly as tersely said -

"With pitying eyes, the Prince of peace
Beheld our helpless grief;
He saw, and oh! amazing love!
He came to our relief." He sighed when he thought of the works of the devil and his malice against man, and how human weakness had given him power to deform the body by disease, and deface the image of the Creator in the soul of his creature. Perhaps, too, he sighed when, as has been shrewdly suggested by an old divine, he saw the new temptation to sin that the man's renewed powers would expose him to - the evil things the ear would hear, the idle things the tongue would speak, the wicked things in which both organs might be made instrumental. "Therefore," said the psalmist, "I Will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked are before me." The explanation of the Saviour's sigh by a German writer on the miracles, though ingenious, is not sufficiently comprehensive, when he traces its cause to" the closed ear of the world" of which the deaf man was the symbol," which does not perceive his Word, and therefore does not receive it;" and thinks his view commended, if not confirmed, by St. Mark's numerous exhortations to spiritual hearing by maxim, parable, and symbol. The maxim is, "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear;" and connected with it is the parable of the earth's producing fruit after the reception of the seed, or salvation attained by right hearing of the word, while the present symbol corroborates the same truth.

"The deaf may hear the Saviour's voice,
The fettered tongue its chain may break;
But the deaf heart, the dumb by choice,
The laggard soul, that will not wake,
The guilt that scorns to be forgiven -
These baffle e'en the spells of Heaven:
In thought of these, his brows benign
Not e'en in healing cloudless shine. The correct explanation, while not exclusive of this view, is inclusive of much more.

5. The single word spoken by the Saviour. "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened," was the single utterance after the heavenward look and inward sigh. The root of this word is the Hebrew pathach, to open; from a similar Syriae root comes ethpatach, the imperative of the passive conjugation Ethpael; then, by assimilation of theta and aspiration, we get ephphatha. And no sooner had he spoken that word than its omnific power appeared. The dull ear was endowed with a power it had never known before, or to which it had been long a stranger. The hindrance that prevented the free passage of the air, or deadened its undulations, was removed; the defect in its organism was remedied. The pleasure of drinking in sweet sounds and of listening to the music of human speech came with all the freshness of a new faculty. The man felt as though he had found himself in a new world, or had entered on a new and improved existence, or had risen many steps higher in the scale of being. And so, in truth, he had. But this was not all; the tongue was freed completely and at once from whatever it was that had fettered it, the impediment was quite gone, and the articulation was, notwithstanding the long disease, immediately perfect. He could now tell to all around the happy change he had undergone - the perfect nature of the cure, the pleasure that filled his soul, the gratitude that glowed in his heart and which then flowed from his lips.

6. The cure a cause of adoring wonder. Here we must admire, and, while we admire, adore, the power of Christ, for it is the power of God. Nothing short of Almighty power could have accomplished this wonder-work of mercy, for "Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?" And none, surely, save the Lord could thus unmake what sin and Satan had marred, removing all deficiencies, and renewing the afflicted with more than original powers. Here, too, we trace distinct proofs of his Messiahship. Blind as the multitude so frequently were, they could not shut their eyes on this fact.; they were so astonished that they could not help admitting it. They said, "He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak;" they evidently had an eye to the words of the prophet, and the works he predicted the Messiah would do, when he said, "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing."


1. Inferences. This miracle, like others of our Lord's miracles, warrants three inferences:

(1) his superhuman power, and by consequence his Divine commission;

(2) a glorious coming day foreshadowed, when all physical disabilities shall be finally and for ever removed; and

(3) what is of personal and practical importance, the inference of the Saviour's ability to do for the soul what he so often and so effectually did for the body. The impediments of the body are but dim shadows of the worse impediments of the soul. By nature the ear is deaf to the Divine commands, the tongue dumb when it should celebrate his praise; while the heart is hard, the affections frozen, the mind shrouded in darkness - the man in a state of isolation, without fellowship with God or communion with the saints. Christ says, "Ephphatha," and oh, what a change ensues! The ear is opened to hear God's Word, the heart, like Lydia's, to receive his grace, the tongue untied to praise his name and call upon him in prayer.

2. His due need of praise. In view of all this we must join with the multitude and say," He hath done all things well." It was well for the man that was healed, because in his case it was next to life from the dead; it was well for his relations, for their trouble was all but over; it was well for his friends, because their enjoyment of him and pleasure with him were unspeakably increased; it was well for mankind, that the Son of man had authority to exercise such power upon earth; it was well for each of us, because herein we have an earnest of what he will do for the soul, a pledge of the renovation of soul and body, an assurance of the future and final perfection of both. He did all things well, for he "did no iniquity, neither was guile found in his mouth;" he did all things well, for he went about continually, doing good. More particularly, he did all things well, for whatever he did he did largely and liberally, modestly and humbly, generously, graciously, gratuitously, and yet gloriously. Like the first creation, when God saw everything that he had made, "behold, it was very good;" so, when the works of Christ are contemplated, the concurrent testimony of heaven and earth will be, that "he hath done all things well." Saints on earth will say it, for they are the trophies of his mercy, the triumphs of his grace, the memorials of his goodness, and the monuments of his power; saints in heaven will say it, adding, He opened our ears by his power, our hearts by his spirit, our tongues by his grace; he washed us from our sins in his blood, making us kings and priests unto God. Multitudes when he was on earth said it; multitudes yet unborn will say it. We ourselves are entitled to say it, for his healing power has reached us; he has removed our maladies, renewed our souls, made us to delight in his Word and rejoice in his love.

"He speaks, and, listening to his voice,
New life the dead receive;
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble peer believe.

"Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come;
And leap, ye lame, for joy." J.J.G.

Christ's acts of healing were very often performed while He was passing from place to place. This occurred on his way from the borders of Tyre and Sidon to the eastern side of the Lake of Galilee. His life was like a river, which not only, when it reaches the sea, bears mighty fleets on its bosom, but carries blessings all along its course through secluded pastures and quiet corn-fields. The case of this man was one of physical infirmity and not of demoniac possession. He was deaf, and had an infirmity in his speech. In considering the spiritual significance of a miracle, we must not overlook or underrate the physical blessing. Such an act of healing as this is the germ whence innumerable good works have come. Institutions for the deaf, hospitals for the sick, homes for the crippled, are the smiling harvest arising from this scud-sowing; and the signs by which the deaf and dumb are now taught find their principle in the signs which our Lord, in loving condescension, used in dealing with this afflicted man. The spirit of Christ reigns over and blesses the bodies of men still. If we have the use of all our faculties, and know nothing of the irritability of the deaf, the loneliness of the blind, and the agony of the dumb, let us not only be thankful, but let us remember our responsibility for their use, lest we fall into condemnation because we close our ears against the truth and refuse to move our lips in prayer. Let us also learn to cultivate pity for those who are not so richly endowed, allowing for the irritability of those who can only partly hear, and the cynicism to which the dumb and blind are tempted, and seeking to become eyes to the blind and cars to the deaf. "Be merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful." Be pitiful and gentle, as he who sighed over and then blessed the sufferer. The spiritual significance of this act of healing is the more important, because deafness to God's voice and dumbness in his praise are more general, and less manifest to others than the physical privations which are their counterparts. In this light regard the sufferer and observe -

I. THAT HE WAS DESTITUTE OF TWO OF OUR NOBLEST FACULTIES. In those days there existed none of the mitigations of such distress with which we are familiar, and which are the products of patient and skillful training. He could not hear his children's voices, nor the cry of warning, nor the whisper of love. All that transpired in the synagogue was but dumb-show to him. He could not take refuge from loneliness in reading, as we can do. His wants he could not articulately express. when we see a child as yet unable to talk we are glad that his wants are limited, simple, well known, and easily supplied. But this sufferer had the thoughts and feelings of a man, yet could not utter them. In our congregations, and outside them, multitudes fail to hear God's voice. The preacher speaks of sin, but there is no consciousness of it stirred in their hearts; he proclaims free pardon, yet there is no sense of grateful acceptance. Voices around are eloquent of the Father's love to a Christian, but by these they are unheard. Meanwhile their voices are inarticulate on God's side. If a word of warning ought to be spoken, if the cause of Christ is to be defended, if there are vices which a God of sobriety and purity would destroy, these are dumb, or are as men who have an impediment in their speech.

II. THAT THESE FACULTIES WERE MUTUALLY DEPENDENT. He was not absolutely dumb, but was inarticulate in utterance; therefore, after his cure, it is said "he spake plain." It is true he had some physical defect, for we read, "the string of his tongue was loosed;" but it is evident that he could not speak aright, partly because he could not hear - perversion of speech being a general accompaniment of total deafness, for a deaf person cannot detect and alter his malpronunciations. There is a connection in spiritual life between the similar faculties of the soul. If we try to teach others, we must be taught of God. The ears must be opened before the mouth speaks plainly, and unless they be, the fluent talker is but a poor stammerer in spiritual utterance. Right speaking is conditioned by right hearing. If, therefore, the habit of evil or foolish talk has been acquired, it is not enough to vow that it shall be broken off, for it is "out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaketh." The fountain wants change, not the channel. Such a one must give up light reading for a time of earnest reflection, must keep clear of vain and idle companionships, and, above all, cultivate fellowship with God, the Source of all wise and holy thought.

III. THAT HE WAS BROUGHT TO THE TRUE PHYSICIAN. Satan is the great destroyer and damager, and Christ is the great Repairer and Redeemer. Let us bring our friends to him by counsel, by sympathy, and by prayer.

IV. THAT HE LEFT HIMSELF IS THE LORD'S HANDS. Friends asked the Lord to lay his hands on the sufferer, probably because they had seen him do this before. But Christ was divinely free, was far broader in method than their expectations, and he took him by the hand - not to cure him by that touch, but to lead him apart; and with this Stranger the helpless man was satisfied trustfully to go. Let us leave our Lord to do with us and with our dear ones as seems good to him. Though he may deal with us differently from his dealing with others, his choice is wisest and best. - A.R.

In our Lord's different acts of healing there were markable variations of method. We should expect this of the Son of the Creator, whose variety in nature is infinite. No two leaves in the forest are alike - no two faces in a flock of sheep; and even the same sea changes in its aspect from hour to hour. This variety is greater as we go higher in the scale of creation, and is most conspicuous in man, whether considered individually or collectively. And Christ Jesus was the Image of the invisible God, who is omniscient. He knew the avenue to every heart, and how best to win affection or arouse praise. If there was one string in the harp which could be made tuneful, he could touch it. Hence the variety in his method of dealing with those who came to him. One was called upon for public avowal, and another was charged to tell no man; one was cured by a word, another by a touch; the servant of the centurion was healed at a distance, but of the lunatic boy Jesus said, "Bring him hither unto me." Bartimaeus was suddenly restored, but this man was gradually given his speech and hearing. This change in merle was not from outward hindrance to the Lord's power, nor because that power was intermittent, but because he put restraint on himself for the sake of the sufferer or of the observers. Mark appears to have taken special interest in cases of gradual restoration. It is not because he would minimize the miraculous element, as some suggest, but possibly because, seeing in all miracles types of what was spiritual, he saw his own experience more clearly in these. He had been brought up under holy influences. As a lad he had heard the Word in the house of his mother Mary, and had been gradually enlightened, like the blind man at Bethsaida; or like this man, without abrupt suddenness, had his ears opened and his tongue loosed to glorify the God of Israel. The method of this sufferer's cure is given in detail, and deserves consideration.

I. JESUS LED HIM APART FROM OTHERS, dealing with him as with the blind man, whom he also took by the hand and led out of the town. This, we think, was not "to avoid ostentation," nor to prevent distraction in his own prayer, but for the man's good. Christ would be with him alone, and so concentrate attention on himself. He took him into solitude that he might receive deeper spiritual impressions, and that the first voice he heard might be the voice of his Lord. It is always good for men to be alone with God, as was Moses in Midian, David watching his flock at Bethlehem, Elijah in the cave at Horeb, and others. Our quietest times are often spiritually our most growing times - illness, bereavement, etc.

II. JESUS BROUGHT HIM INTO VITAL CONTACT WITH HIMSELF. "He but his fingers," etc. We must remember that the man could not speak nor hear, but he could feel and see, and therefore what was done met the necessities of his affliction. With his finger Jesus touched his ear, as if to say, "I am going to cure that;" then, with finger moistened with saliva, he touched his tongue, to show that it was a going out of himself which would restore him. The man was brought into vital contact with Christ, as the child was brought close to the prophet who stretched himself upon him. Our Lord seeks that personal contact of our spirit with his, because the first necessity of redemption is to stir faith in himself. The man yielded to all the Saviour did - watched his signs and expected his word of power; and it is for that expectant faith he so often waits.

III. JESUS RAISED HIS THOUGHTS TO HEAVEN. He looked up to heaven. Watching that loving face, the sufferer saw the Lord look up with ineffable earnestness, love, and trust; and the effect of this would be that he would say to himself, "Then I also should pray, 'O God of my fathers, hear me!'" We are called upon, in the light of Christ's example, to look above the means we use for discipline or instruction, and away from ourselves and outward influences to the heavenly Father, who is neither fitful nor indifferent to our deepest needs.

IV. JESUS MADE HIM CONSCIOUS OF PERSONAL SYMPATHY. "He sighed." It was not a groan in prayer, but a sigh of pity, that escaped him when he gazed on this sufferer, and realized, as we cannot do, the devastation and death wrought by sin, of which this was a sign. Even with us it is the one concrete case of suffering which makes all suffering vivid. With that feeling we must undertake Christian work. Sometimes we are busy, but cur hands are cold and hard; and when our heads are keen to devise, our hearts too often are slow to feel. But when we, followers of Christ, lock on those deaf and indifferent to God, who never repent or pray, and who are sinking into irreligion and pollution, we should yearn over them and pray for them with sighs and tears. If our hearts are heavy with pity, God will make our hands heavy with blessings. After the sighing and prayer came the word of power, "Ephphatha!" - " Be opened!" and the sealed ear opened to his voice and the stammering tongue proclaimed his praise. See Keble's lines -

"As thou hast touched our ears, and taught
Our tongues to speak thy praises plain,
Quell thou each thankless, godless thought
That would make fast our bonds again," etc.

CONCLUSION. Henceforth this man would be a living witness to Christ's power. Though it was expressly forbidden to blaze abroad his cure, all who saw him at home or at work would say, "That is the man whom Jesus healed." So let us go forth to live for Jesus, resolving that our words shall utter his praise and that our lives shall witness to his holiness, till at last another "Ephphatha!" shall be heard, and we pass through the golden gates, into the land where no ears are deaf and no tongues are mute. - A.R.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by Biblesoft, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bible Hub
Mark 6
Top of Page
Top of Page