Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.
Verses 1-10. - The servant (or slave) of the centurion of Capernaum is healed. Verse 1. - Now when he had ended all his sayings. This clearly refers to the sermon on the mount. That great discourse evidently occupied a position of its own in the public ministry of the Lord. Its great length, its definite announcement of the kind of reign he was inaugurating over the hearts of men, its stern rebuke of the dominant religious teaching of the day, its grave prophetic onlooks, - all marked it out as the great manifesto of the new Master, and as such it seems to have been generally received. He entered into Capernaum. The residence of Jesus, as we have before pointed out, during the greater part of his public life. It was, as it were, his head-quarters. After each missionary tour he returned to the populous, favoured lake-city which he had chosen as his temporary home.
And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.
Verse 2. - And a certain centurion's servant; literally, slave. The difference is important, as we shall see in the picture presented to us of the centurion's character. A centurion was an officer in the Roman army: the grade answers to the modern European captain - German, hauptmann; the command included a hundred soldiers. Scholars are not agreed respecting the special service of this particular officer. Some consider he was a Greek or Syrian holding a commission under the prince of the country, the tetrach Herod Antipas; others, that he was in the service of the empire, with a small detachment of the garrison of Caesarea, doing duty at the important lake-city, probably in connection with the revenue. It is clear that Roman garrisons at this period were dotted about the various centres of population in these semi-dependent states. At Jerusalem we know a considerable Roman force was stationed, professedly to keep order in the turbulent capital, but really, no doubt, to overawe the national party. Was sick, and ready to die. St. Matthew calls the disease paralysis, and adds that the sufferer was in extreme pain. The disorder was probably some dangerous form of rheumatic fever, which not unfrequently attacks the region of the heart, and is accompanied with severe pain, and proves in many instances fatal. The ordinary, paralysis would scarcely be accompanied with the acute pain mentioned by St. Matthew.
And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.
Verse 3. - And when he heard of Jesus; better rendered, having heard about Jesus. His fame as a good Physician, such as never had arisen before, coupled with his reputation as a Teacher, had now travelled far and wide. The devout centurion probably had watched with extreme interest the career of the strange and remarkable Teacher-Prophet who had risen up among the people, and had apparently (see note on ver. 7) made up his mind that this Jesus was no mortal man. He sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant; better rendered elders without the article; that is, some of the official elders connected with his own synagogue. These would be able, with more grace than himself, to plead his cause with the Master, telling him how well the centurion had deserved any assistance which a Jewish physician could afford him.
And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:
Verses 4, 5. - He was worthy for whom he should do this: for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. There are several mentions of these Roman military officers in the Gospels and Acts, and in every instance the mention is a favourable one. Still more notable instances occur in the case of Cornelius - to whom Peter was specially sent (Acts 10, 11.) - of the centurion who was on guard at the execution on Calvary, and of the centurion who conveyed Paul to Rome (Acts 27:1-3). On these Gentile soldiers "the faith and life of Judaism (seen, we may well believe, to more advantage in the village life of Galilee than amid the factions of Jerusalem) had made a deep impression: he found a purity, reverence, simplicity, and nobleness of life which he had not found elsewhere, and so he loved the nation, and built a new one of the synagogues of the town" (Dean Plumptre). The centurion was apparently one of those foreigners who - without submitting to circumcision and other burdensome ceremonial rites which were incompatible with the exercise of his profession - had accepted the faith of Israel, and worshipped with the people in the position of one who, in another age, would have been termed a "proselyte of the gate." He was evidently one of those true-hearted men who translated a beautiful creed into acts, for it was specially urged by the elders, in their petition to Jesus, that he loved the people, no doubt emphasizing his generous almsgivings, and, as a crowning act of his kindness, had built a synagogue Capernaum. Modern travellers tell us that among the ruins of this city of Jesus are the remains of a white marble synagogue of the time of the Herods. This may have been the Roman soldier's noble gift to Israel. The whole character of this nameless officer seems to have been singularly noble. In those selfish days of undreamed-of luxury, cruelty, and heartlessness, for a master to care for, much less to love, a slave was, comparatively speaking, rare. From his message to Jesus (ver. 7) it would seem as though he had a clearer conception who the poor Galilaean Teacher was than any one else at that period of the public ministry, not excluding the inner circle of disciples.
For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.
Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:
Verse 6. - Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof. Augustine's comment on these remarkable words is good: "By saying that he was unworthy, he showed himself worthy of Christ's entering, not within his walls, but within his heart."
Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
Verse 7. - But say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. The Gentile soldier's faith was really great. He had risen above the need of an outward sign, such as a touch or even the sound of a living voice. He needed no contact with the fringe of the Master's garment, asked for no handkerchief or apron that had touched his person (Acts 19:12). The word the Master would speak would be enough; the result he willed would assuredly follow. "Do not come hither where my servant is, but only speak here where thou art." The centurion had a just notion of Christ's power. And our Lord greatly commended him, whereas Martha, who said, "I know whatsoever thou shalt ask of God he will give it thee" (John 11:22) was reproved as having spoken amiss; and Christ thus teaches that he is the Source of blessings, which he could not be unless he were God (compare Bishop Wordsworth, in part quoting from St. Chrysostom).
For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
Verse 8. - For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. What the soldier really thought of Jesus is evident when we read between the lines of this saying of his: "If I, who am under many a superior - the chiliarch of my thousand, the tribunes of my legion, my emperor who commands at Rome - yet receive a ready and willing obedience from my soldiers, and have but to say to one, ' Go,' and he goeth, to another, 'Come,' and he cometh; how much more thou, who hast no one above thee, no superior, when thou commandest disease, one of thy ministers, will it not at once obey?" The same thought was in Archdeacon Farrar's mind when he wrote how the centurion inferred that Jesus, who had the power of healing at a distance, had at his command thousands of the "heavenly army" (ch. 2:13; Matthew 26:53), who would
"At his bidding speed
"And post o'er land and ocean without rest."
When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
Verse 9. - When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him. Augustine strikingly comments here on the expression ἐθαύμασε, he marvelled: "Who had inspired that faith but he who now admires it?" In marvelling at it he intimated that we ought to admire. He admires for our good, that we may imitate the centurion's faith; such movements in Christ are not signs of perturbation of mind, but are exemplary and hortatory to us (St. Augustine, quoted by Bishop Wordsworth, on Matthew 8:10). I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. St. Augustine remarks here that "the Lord had found in the oleaster what he had not found in the olive."
And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
Verse 10. - Returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick. Farrar suggests "convalescent" as a more accurate rendering than "whole." The Greek equivalent is one of the medical words we find in this Gospel of St. Luke. The words, "that had been sick," do not occur in the other authorities. They are omitted in the Revised Version.
And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.
Verses 11-17. - The Master raises from the dead the only son of the widow of Nain. Verse 11. - And it came to pass the day after. The Greek expression here, in the majority of the more ancient authorities, is vague as a note of time. The Revised Version renders it "soon afterwards." The incident that follows the raising from the dead of the widow's son is only mentioned by St. Luke. It is generally assumed that our Lord only raised three persons from the dead - this young man of Nain. the little daughter of Jairus the ruler, and Lazarus of Bethany. But such an assumption is purely arbitrary. We have before called attention to the vast number of miracles worked by Jesus during the two years and a half of the public ministry not reported by the evangelists at all, or only glanced at in passing. There were, most probably, among these unreported miracles several instances of men, women, and children raised from the dead. St. Augustine, in one of his sermons (98.), specially calls attention to this in his words, "of the numerous persons raised to life by Christ, three only are mentioned as specimens in the Gospels." Each evangelist specially chooses one of the various examples, no doubt known to him - that peculiar instance or instances best suited to the especial teaching of his Gospel. St. John alone recounts the raising of Lazarus. St. Luke is the solitary reporter of the miracle performed on the dead son of the widow of Nain. We may reasonably infer, says Dean Plumptre, that this miracle, from its circumstances, had specially fixed itself in the memories of the "devout women" of Luke 8:1, and that it was from them that St. Luke obtained his accurate and detailed knowledge of this, as well as of many other of the incidents which he alone relates in his Gospel. He went into a city called Nain. From the Hebrew נעים, naim fair, probably so called from its striking situation on a steep hill. It is on the slope of Little Hermon, near Endor, some twenty or more miles from Capernaum. The name Nein is still given to a small poor village on the same site. It is approached by a narrow, steep ascent, and on either side of the road are sepulchral caves. It was in one of these that the dead man was about to have been laid when the Master met the little mourning procession winding down the steep road as he and his crowd of followers were toiling up the ascent nearing the gate of the city.
Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.
And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.
Verse 13. - And when the Lord saw her. It is rare in the Gospels to find the expression, "the Lord," used by itself, "Jesus" being the usual term. It agrees with the unanimous tradition in the Church respecting the authorship of this Gospel - neither Luke nor Paul had been with Jesus. These had always looked on Jesus, thought of him, as the Lord risen from the dead, enthroned in heaven. At the period when St. Luke wrote, not earlier than A.D. , this title had probably become the usual term by which the Redeemer was known among his own. He had compassion on her. In this instance, as in so many others, our Lord's miracles were worked, not from a distinct purpose to offer credentials of his mission, but proceeded rather from his intense compassion with and his Divine pity for human sufferings.
And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
Verse 14. - And he came and touched the bier. The young man was about to be buried in the Jewish manner, which differed from the Egyptian custom. The corpse was not laid in a coffin or mummy-case, but simply on an open bier, on which the dead lay wrapped in folds of linen; so Lazarus was buried at Bethany, and our Lord in his rock-tomb in Joseph of Arimathaea's garden. A napkin, or sudarium, was lightly laid over the face. It was pollution for the living to touch the bier on which a corpse was lying. The bearers, in their amazement that one so generally respected and admired as was Jesus, the Teacher of Nazareth, at this period of his career, should commit so strange an act, would naturally at once stand still to see what next would happen. Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. The Lord of life performed his miracle over death in a very different fashion to those great ones who, in some respects, had anticipated or followed him in these strange deeds of wonder. Before they recalled the dead to life, Elijah mourned long over the sea of the widow of Sarepta, Elisha repeatedly stretched himself as he agonized in prayer upon the lifeless corpse of the Shunammite boy, Peter prayed very earnestly over the body of Dorcas at Lydda. The Master, with one solitary word, brings the spirit from its mysterious habitation back to its old earthly tenement - "K;m!" "Arise!" St. Augustine has a beautiful comment on the three miracles of raising the dead related in the Gospels. He has been saying that all our Lord's works of mercy to the body have a spiritual reference to the soul; he then proceeds to consider them "as illustrations of Christ's Divine power and love in raising the soul, dead in trespasses and sins, from every kind of spiritual death, whether the soul be dead, but not yet carried out, like the daughter of Jairus; or dead and carried out, but not buried, like the widow's son; or dead, carried, and buried, like Lazarus. He who raised himself from the dead can raise all from the death of sin. Therefore let no one despair" (St. Augustine, 'Sermon' 98, quoted by Bishop Wordsworth). Godet has a curious and interesting note on what he calls a difficulty peculiar to the miracle, owing to the absence of all moral receptivity in the subject of it. "Lazarus was a believer. In the case of the daughter of Jairus, the faith of the parents to a certain extent supplied the place of her personal faith. But here there is nothing of the kind. The only receptive element that can be imagined is the ardent desire of life with which this young man, the only sea of a widowed mother, had doubtless yielded his last breath; and this indeed is sufficient, for it follows from this that Jesus did not dispose of him arbitrarily."
And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.
Verse 16. - And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. With the exception of two or three like the centurion, whose sick servant was healed, this was the general conception which the people had of Jesus - a fear is mentioned in this place - the natural result of the marvellous works, especially those worked in the case of the already dead, but nothing more. The sublime humility of the great Wonder-worker failed to persuade the bulk of men and women with whom he came in contact. They could not look on this quiet Rabbi-Physician, who gently put all state and pomp and glory aside, as the Divine Messiah; but that in Jesus Israel possessed a great Prophet the people were persuaded - they recognized that at last, after four long centuries of absence, God again had visited his people. There had arisen in the coasts of Israel no prophet of the Highest since the far-back days of Malachi, some four hundred years before the days of the Lord and his forerunner John.
And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.
And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.
Verses 18-35. - John the Baptist sends messengers to ask a question of Jesus. The reply of the Master. Verse 18. - And the disciples of John showed him of all these things. St. Luke, unlike St. Matthew, in the corresponding passage in his Gospel, does not specially mention that John was in prison; he evidently took it for granted that this would be known to his readers from the account of the Baptist's arrest and imprisonment by Herod Antipas given in ch. 3:19, 20. In the course of John's imprisonment, it is probable that very many of his disciples became hearers of Jesus. During the early period, at all events, of the Baptist's captivity it is clear that his friends and disciples had free access to his prison. There is no doubt but that, in reply to the anxious inquiries of John, his disciples told him of all the miracles they had witnessed, and the words they had heard, especially, no doubt, recounting to him much of the sermon on the mount which Jesus had lately delivered as the exposition of his doctrine. We can well imagine these faithful but impatient disciples, after detailing these marvels which they had seen, and the strange new words of winning power which they had heard, saying to their imprisoned master, "We have seen and heard these wondrous things, but the great Teacher gets no further; we hear nothing of the standard of King Messiah being raised, nothing of the high hope of the people being encouraged; he seems to pay no attention to the imperious rule of the foreigner, or the degrading tyranny of men like Antipas, the Herod who has wrongfully shut you up. He rather withdraws himself, and when the people, fired by his winning words and mighty acts, begin to grow enthusiastic, then this strange Man hides himself away. Can he be Messiah, as you once said?"
And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?
Verse 19. - And John calling unto him two of his disciples, sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? What, now, was in John the Baptist's mind, when from his prison he sent his disciples to ask Jesus this anxious question? Disappointed in the career of Jesus, possibly himself partly forgotten, accustomed to the wild freedom of a desert-life, suffering from the hopeless imprisonment, - had his faith begun to waver? or was the question put with a view of reassuring his own disciples, with the intention of giving these faithful followers of his an opportunity of convincing themselves of the power and real glory of Jesus? In other words, was it for his own sake or for his disciples sakes that he sent to ask the question? Generally speaking, the second of these two conclusions - that which ascribed the question to a desire on the part of John to help his disciples (which we will call B) - was adopted by the expositors of the early Church. A good example of this school of interpretation is the following quotation from St. Jerome: "John does not put this question from ignorance, for he himself had proclaimed Christ to be 'the Lamb of God.' But as our Lord asked concerning the body of Lazarus, 'Where have ye laid him?' (John 11:34), in order that they who answered the question might, by their own answer, be led to faith, so John, now about to be slain by Herod, sends his disciples to Jesus, in order that, by this occasion, they who were jealous of the fame of Jesus (Luke 9:14; John 3:26) might see his mighty works and believe in him, and that, while their master asked the question by them, they might hear the truth for themselves" (St. Jerome, quoted by Wordsworth). To the same effect wrote SS. Ambrose, Hilary, Chrysostom, Theophylact. Among the Reformers, Calvin, Beza, and Melancthon contended for this opinion respecting the Baptist's message to Christ, and in our days Stier and Bishop Wordsworth. On the other hand, Tertullian among the Fathers, and nearly all the modern expositors, believe that the question of John was prompted by his own wavering faith - a faltering no doubt shared in by his own disciples. This conclusion (which we will term A) is adopted, with slightly varying modifications, by Meyer, Ewald, Neander, Godet, Plumptre, Farrar, and Morrison. This way - (A) generally adopted by the modern school of expositors - of understanding the Baptist's question to Jesus, is evidently the conclusion which would suggest itself to all minds who went to the story without any preconceived desire to purge the character of a great saint from what they imagine to be a blot; and we shall presently see that our Lord, in his answer to the question, where a rebuke is exquisitely veiled in a beatitude, evidently understood the forerunner's question in this sense. It is thus ever the practice of Holy Scripture; while it tenderly and lovingly handles the characters of its heroes, it never flinches from the truth. We see God's noblest saints, such as Moses and Elijah (John's own prototype) in the Old Testament, Peter and Paul in the New Testament, depicted in this book of truth with all their faults; nothing is hid. Only one flawless character appears in its storied pages - it is only the Master of Peter and Paul who never turns aside from the path of right.
When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?
And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight.
Verse 21. - And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. "He knew as God what John's design was in sending to him, and he put it into his heart to send at that very time when he himself was working many miracles which were the true answer to the question" (Cyril, quoted by Wordsworth).
Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.
Verse 22. - Tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised. These miracles which the messengers witnessed that day, striking though they were, were no novel ones in the work of our Lord. They were, too, precisely similar to those which had already been reported to him in his prison (ver. 18). But Jesus, pointing to these signs, bade the friends of the Baptist return and tell their master what they had seen in these words. The great Messianic prophet, whose writings were so well known to John, had said that Messiah's advent would be heralded by these very acts. John would in a moment catch the meaning of the reply. The passages in question are Isaiah 29:18 and Isaiah 35:4, 6. Wordsworth, on these works wrought by the great Physician, very beautifully writes, "One of the most consolatory reflections produced by these mighty and merciful works of Christ on earth is the assurance they give that at the great day of resurrection he will remove all infirmities and blemishes from the bodies of his servants, and clothe them in immortal health, beauty, and glory, so as to be like his own glorious body, once marred on the cross, but raised by himself from the dead, and now reigning for ever in glory" (Bishop Wordsworth). To the poor the gospel is preached. John would be able to draw his inference, too, from this feature in Jesus' work. His messengers would have heard the Teacher's words, and would have marked from what class especially his hearers were drawn. It was a new experience in the world's story, this tender care for the poor. No heathen teacher of Rome or Athens, of Alexandria or the far East, had ever cared to make this vast class of unprofitable hearers the objects of their teaching. The rabbis of Israel cared nothing for them. In the Talmud we often find them spoken of with contempt. But John knew that this speaking to and consorting with the poor would be one of the marked characteristics of Messiah when he came.
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Verse 23. - And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. Our Lord here shows that he understood that this question came from the Baptist himself. Dean Plumptre calls attention to the tender way in which our Lord dealt with the impatience which John's question implied. "A warning was needed, but it was given in the form of a beatitude, which it was still open to him to claim and make his own. Not to find a stumbling-block in the manner in which Christ had actually come, there was this condition of entering fully into the blessedness of his kingdom."
And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
Verse 24. - And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John. When the messengers of John were departed, the Lord, fearful lest the people who had been standing by and listening to the question which the Baptist had put, and his answer, should entertain any disparaging thought of a great and sorely tried saint of God, spoke the following noble testimony concerning that true, faithful witness. It has been termed the funeral oration of John; for not long after it had been spoken he was put to death by Herod Antipas. What went ye out into the wilderness for to see A reed shaken with the wind? The imagery was taken from the scenery in the midst of which John the Baptist had principally exercised his ministry - the reedy banks of Jordan. It was surely to see an everyday sight - a weak vacillating man blown to and fro with every wind. John, though his faith failed him for a moment perhaps, was no wavering reed.
But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts.
Verse 25. - But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts. Was it, again, to see one of earth's so-called great ones - a favourite of the reigning monarch, a courtier of the magnificent Herod? John was no court favourite, no powerful or princely noble. Dean Plumptre thinks that here a reference is made to the fact that, in the early days of Herod the Great, a section of the scribes had attached themselves to his policy and party, and in doing so had laid aside the sombre raiment of their order, and had appeared in the gorgeous raiment worn by Herod's other courtiers. "We may trace," adds the dean, "with very little hesitation, a vindictive retaliation for these very words in the 'gorgeous robe' with which Herod arrayed him in mockery, when the tetrarch and Christ stood for one brief hour face to face with each other" (Luke 23:4).
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.
Verse 26. - But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. The great Teacher proceeds in his discourse. From the scene and the surroundings - the reeds of the banks of Jordan - he went on to speak of the great Jordan preacher, so unlike, in spite of this one weak wavering hour, the reeds in the midst of which he preached. Jesus thus painted the grave, austere man, first in his stern enmity to the seductive magnificence of a court-life, then in his severe austerity as regards himself. Who, then, was he - this preacher to whom the people had resorted in such crowds to see and hear? Was he a prophet? was he one more of those men who in past ages had been the salt which preserved Israel from decay? Yes; that is what he was, that true great one - a prophet in the deepest, truest sense of the word. Ah! higher still, went on the Teacher, John was much more than a prophet. What then? and the by-standers marvelled; what more could he be? Was he, peradventure, the Messiah?
This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
Verse 27. - This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. He quietly answers the question surging up in the listeners' hearts. No; not Messiah, but his forerunner. Centuries ago the mission of this John was foretold, and exactly described by one of the well-known and honoured prophet line. They who were listening, many of them, knew the words well, as the Teacher quoted from the great Malachi. The old ring of the famous prediction was unchanged; perhaps few of the by-standers noticed the slight alteration which was made by Jesus as he quoted. But in after-days the deep significance of the seemingly trifling change, we may well imagine, was the subject of many a deep solemn hour of meditation among the twelve and the early leaders of the faith. The words in Malachi 3.1 stand thus: "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me." Our Lord so changes the text that, instead of "before me," it reads with this slight difference, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee." The Lord who speaks by the prophets in Malachi announces himself as the coming angel of the covenant: "my messenger shall prepare the way before me;" but this, the Lord who is come as the Son of man, may not as yet openly declare; it is enough that by the thrice-repeated σοῦ ("thy face," "thy way," "before thee"), he signifies that he is marked out and referred to by the Father. See how, without directly uttering it, he nevertheless announces his ἐω εἰμι ("I am he") in his sublime humility (so Stier, 'Words of the Lord Jesus'). Godet presents the same thought from another point of view: "In the prophet's eyes he who was sending, and he before whom the way was to be prepared, were one and the same Person, Jehovah. Hence the ' before me' of Malachi. But for Jesus, who is speaking of himself, and never confounds himself with the Father, a distinction became necessary. It is not Jehovah speaking of himself but Jehovah speaking to Jesus; hence the form 'before thee.'"
For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
Verse 28. - For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. These striking words close the Master's splendid testimony to the great pioneer. The usual explanation adopted by most if not all modern theologians of the last clause of the verse is, that, great as John was, yet he that is least among Christians who have been born of God and have accepted as an article of their faith the crucifixion and ascension of the Son of God, is greater than that great prophet; or, in other words, the humblest child of the new kingdom is superior to the greatest prophet of the old. But many of the wisest and best of the Fathers of the Church - amongst others Chrysostom, Augustine, Hilary, and Theophylact - find grave difficulty in accepting this too sweeping and facile explanation of a hard saying. They suggest what seems to the writer of this Exposition a more reverential meaning to the Lord's words here. By "the least" we prefer, then, with Chrysostom and other ancient Fathers, to understand Jesus himself. The literal meaning of the Greek μικρότερος is "the lesser," not "least" (in the Revised Version, in the text we find "he that is but little," but in the margin "lesser"). By "lesser" or "little" Chrysostom supposes that the Saviour refers to himself as less than John in age and according to the opinions of many. "Thus, then, among the sons of men no prophet greater than John the Baptist has arisen; yet there is one among you lesser in age and perhaps in public estimation, - in the kingdom of God, though, greater than he." Wordsworth strengthens the above interpretation by his comment on the words, "among those that are born of women." "No one among those born of human parents had appeared greater than this John the Baptist; but do not suppose that he is greater than I. I am not γεννητὸς γυναικῶν, but Θεοῦ, and though after him in the gospel because he is my precursor, yet I am greater than he." This great expositor, while on the whole preferring the usual interpretation, yet considers that the explanation which refers "he that is least" to Christ, is not lightly to be set aside. If this interpretation be adopted, the usual punctuation of the passage must be slightly altered thus: "He that is lesser, in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.
Verse 29. - And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God. This is not, as many expositors have assumed, a statement of St. Luke's own as to the effect of John's preaching on varied classes of his hearers, but the words are still the words of Jesus; it is a continuation of his eulogy of the Baptist. He says here that the people, "the folk," listened gladly to him; they were persuaded in great numbers of the necessity of a changed life, and were in consequence baptized by him. The meaning of the term, "justified God," is that these, the common folk, by their actions and ready acceptance of the great reformer-preacher, thus publicly declared that they acknowledged the wisdom and goodness of God in this his work through the Baptist; but, as is stated in the next verse -
But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
Verse 30. - But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. The ruling classes and the highly cultured in Israel, turned a deaf ear to the fervent preaching of the gospel; as a class, they came not to his baptism. The result of the refusal of these powerful and learned men to hear the reformer's voice was that John's mission failed to bring about a national reformation. Rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. The English Version here is not happy, and might lead to a false conception of the words of the original. The Greek would be better and more accurately rendered, "rejected for themselves the counsel of God."
And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?
Verse 31. - And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? The Master evidently paused a moment here. He sought for some homely, popular simile which would drive home to the listeners' hearts his sad and solemn judgment of the conduct of the ruling Jews of this time. The generation he was then addressing had been singularly blessed with two great Divine messages - the one delivered by that eminent servant of God, John, about whom he had been speaking in such glowing, earnest terms; the other message was his own. He chose for his purpose one of those everyday scenes from the people's life, a scene which they had witnessed often, and in which, no doubt, in past days many of the by-standers themselves had taken a part - one of those child-games which the little ones in his day were wont to play in the summer evenings, and in which, likely enough, he in his boyish years had often shared in, as he played in the little market-place of Nazareth. He likened the wayward men of that generation to a group of children of the people in some open space of the city, now playing at rejoicings, such as take place at wedding festivities, now at wailings, which in Eastern countries accompany funerals; that is to say, the little group would divide itself into two companies, and one would say to the other, "Come, now we will play at a wedding; here are the pipers and the singers, do you come and dance and make merry;" but the others would not. Then the little company of would-be merrymakers would beat their breasts and cry with pretended sorrow; but the others still declined to join in the game of mourning - would not play "at a funeral," just as they refused to join in the game of "rejoicing at a wedding." To such a band of imperious little ones, who were angry if the others did not at once comply with their demands, Jesus compared the wayward and evil generation in which he and John lived. Had they not found bitter fault with John because he had declined to have anything to do with their wicked self-indulgent feasting and luxury? How often had Pharisee and scribe railed with bitter railings against Jesus because he would have nothing to do with their false and hypocritical fastings, with their pretended shrinking from what they deemed unclean and unworthy of them! Dr. Morrison puts it rightly, and forcibly: "They were dissatisfied with John, and would have nothing to do with him." If we are to have reformers, commend us to such as come near us, and visit our houses, and sit at our tables, and are sociable like ourselves.' They pretended, on the other hand, to scorn Jesus, who, while making so lofty a profession, yet went about eating and drinking in people's houses, and even in the homes of publicans and sinners. 'He should have gone into the desert and lived an abstemious life .... Commend us to ascetic men for our reformers.'" The line of interpretation which seems to us simpler and fitted to the framework of the little parable is in the main thus adopted by Meyer, Dr. W. Bleek, Bishop Wordsworth, and Dean Plumptre. "You men of this generation," writes Bishop Wordsworth, "are like a troop of wayward children, who go on with their own game, at one time gay, at another grave, and give heed to no one else, and expect that every one should conform to them. You were angry with John because he would not dance to your piping, and with me because 1 will not weep to your dirge; John censured your licentiousness, I rebuke your hypocrisy; you vilify both, and reject the good counsel of God, who has devised a variety of means for your salvation."
They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
Verse 33. - For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine. Referring to his austere life spent in the desert, apart from the ordinary joys and pleasures of men, not even sharing in what are usually termed the necessities of life. He was, in addition, a perpetual Nazarite, and as such no wine or fermented drink ever passed his lips. And ye say, He hath a devil. Another way for expressing their conviction that the great desert-preacher was insane, and assigning a demoniacal possession as the cause of madness. Not very long after this incident the curtain of death fell on the earthly scene of John's life. "We fools accounted his life madness, and his end to be without honour: how is he numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints!" (Wisd. 5:4, 5). We. may be quite sure that "in the fiery furnace God walked with his servant, so that his spirit was not harmed, and having thus annealed his nature to the utmost that this earth can do, he took him hastily away and placed him among the glorified in heaven" (Irving, quoted by Farrar).
The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
Verse 34. - The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! The reproach belonged to the general way of our Lord's way of living, consorting as he did with men and women in the common everyday life of man, sharing in their joys as in their sorrows, in their festivity as in their mourning. But the words specially refer to his taking part in such scenes as the feast in the house of Matthew the publican.
But wisdom is justified of all her children.
Verse 35. - But wisdom is justified of all her children. One of those bright, wise sayings of the Son of Man which belong not to the society of Capernaum and Jerusalem, but which are the heritage of all ages. The words find their fulfilment in all those holy and humble men of heart - rich as well as poor - who rejoice in goodness and purity, in self-denying love and bright faith, whether it be preached or advocated by a Fenelon or a Wesley.
And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.
Verses 36-50. - The nameless woman who was a sinner, and Simon the-Pharisee. As regards the incident about to be told, some commentators have believed that the anointing was identical with that related by St. John as having taken place at Bethany very shortly before the Crucifixion. Without detailing the several points of difference in the two recitals, it will be sufficient surely to call attention to the character of the Bethany family, Lazarus and his sisters, the intimate friends of Jesus, to show how monstrous it would be to attempt to connect the poor soul who followed the Master to Simon's house with the sweet Mary of Bethany. A widely spread and, in the Western Church, a very generally received tradition identifies this woman with Mary of Magdala - the Mary Magdalene mentioned in Luke 9:2, and again after the Crucifixion, in company with the band of holy women (Luke 24:10). Out of Mary Magdalene, we learn, had been cast seven devils. This, however, gives us no clue to identify the two; rather the contrary. It is scarcely likely that the apparently well-known courtesan of the touching story was a demoniac. The earliest writers say nothing respecting the identity of the two. Gregory the Great, however, stamped the theory with his direct assertion, and that the Western Church generally accepted the identification of the two is clear from the selection of this narrative of St. Luke as the portion of Scripture appointed for the Gospel for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (this was one of the feasts omitted by the English Reformers from the calendar of the Prayer-book of 1552). It is impossible to decide the question positively. One modern commentator of distinction quaintly pleads for Gregory the Great's rather arbitrary theory, by suggesting that there is no sufficient reason to disturb the ancient Christian belief which has been consecrated in so many glorious works of art; but, in spite of this, the opinion which considers "the woman which was a sinner" the same person as "the Magdalene," is really based on Little else than on a mediaeval tradition. St. Luke alone relates this touching story. We can conceive the joy of Paul when this "memory of the Master" came across him. It so admirably illustrates what this great teacher felt was his Master's mind on the all-important subject - the freeness and universality of salvation. It seems likely enough that Dean Plumptre's interesting conjecture respecting this scene in the Pharisee Simon's house is correct. "Occurring, as the narrative does, in St. Luke only, it is probable enough that the 'woman which was a sinner' became known to the company of devout women named in the following chapter (Luke 8:1-3), and that the evangelist derived his knowledge of the fact from them. His reticence - probably their reticence - as to the name was, under the circumstances, at once natural and considerate." No special note of time or of the locality is appended. If this sinner was one and the same with the Magdalene, then the city implied is certainly Magdala, the modern mud village of El-Mejdel, but at that time a populous wealthy town on the Lake of Galilee. If, as we believe, the two were not identical, the city is most probably Capernaum, the usual residence of our Lord. Verse 36. - And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house. Up to this period the relations between our Lord and the dominant parties in the capital had not reached a state of positive hostility. The Pharisees, as the chief among these parties in the state, had taken the initiative, and were sharply watching One whose influence among the people they more than suspected was hostile to them. But they had not as yet declared him a public enemy and blasphemer. This wealthy Pharisee, Simon, was evidently, like others of his sect at this time, Wavering in his estimate of Jesus. On the one hand, he was naturally influenced by the hostile views entertained at head-quarters concerning the Galilaean Teacher; on the other, personal intercourse with the Master, the acts he had witnessed, and the words he had heard, disposed him to a reverential admiration. Simon evidently (ver. 39) had not made up his mind whether or not Jesus was a Prophet. His soul, too - this we gather from ver. 42 - had received some great spiritual good from his intercourse with the Master. But though he invited him to be a guest at his house, and evidently loved him (ver. 47) a little, still he received his Divine Guest with but a chilling and coldly courteous reception. Not unlikely Simon the Pharisee knew he was watched that day, and that among his guests were men who would report every action of his on that occasion to the leaders of his party in Jerusalem. His cold courtesy, almost lack of courtesy, towards the Master was thus probably the result of his fear of man and of man's judgment. And sat down to meat; literally, reclined. The Jews at that time followed in their repasts the Greek (or Roman) custom of reclining on couches; the guest lay with his elbows on the table, and his feet, unsandalled, stretched out on the couch.
And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
Verse 37. - And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house. The text in the older authorities is more forcible: "a woman which was a sinner in that city." Her miserable way of life would thus be well known to Simon and other of the guests. This sad detail would serve to bring out the contrast in more vivid colours. In these Oriental feasts the houses were often left open, and uninvited strangers frequently passed in through the open courtyard into the guest-chamber, and looked on. She had heard Jesus already, perhaps often, and had drunk in his pleading words, begging sinners to turn and to come to him for peace. Perhaps what had decided her to take this step of boldly seeking out the Master were words apparently spoken about this time (in St. Matthew's Gospel they follow directly after the discourse respecting the Baptist just related), "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," etc. (Matthew 11:28-30). It was a bold step for one like her to press uninvited, in broad daylight, into the house of a rigid purist like Simon; but the knowledge that Jesus (though personally, as she thought, she was unknown to him) was there, gave her courage; she felt no one would dare to thrust her out of the presence of the strange loving Master, who so earnestly had bidden the sin-weary come to him, and he would give them rest! Brought an alabaster box of ointment. Pliny mentions alabaster as the best material for pots or vessels intended for these precious ointments. It was softer than marble, and easily scooped into pots or bottles. These costly unguents and cosmetics were much used by the wealthy Roman ladies. The precious ointment poured over the Redeemer's feet had probably been originally procured for a very different purpose. The word μύρον, translated "ointment," was used for any kind of sweet-smelling vegetable essence, especially that of the myrtle.
And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
Verse 38. - And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. It had been, no doubt, with her a settled purpose for days, this presenting herself to the pitiful Master. She had been one of his listeners, without doubt, for some time previously, and that morning probably she made up her mind to approach him. He was a great public Teacher, and his movements would be well known in the city. She heard he was to be present at a feast in the house of the rich Pharisee Simon. It would be easier, she thought, to get close to him there than in the crowd in the marketplace or in the synagogue; so taking with her a flask of perfumed ointment, she passed into the courtyard with others, and so made her way unnoticed into the guest-chamber. As she stood behind him, and the sweet words of forgiveness and reconciliation, the pleading invitation to all heavy-laden, sin-burdened ones to come to him for peace, which she in the past days bad listened to so eagerly, came into her mind, unbidden tears rose into her eyes and fell on the Master's feet as he lay on his couch; and, after the manner of slaves with their masters, she wiped the tear-wet feet with her long hair, which she evidently loosed for this loving purpose, and then quietly poured the fragrant ointment on the feet where her tears had fallen. It was the perfume of the ointment which called the host's attention to this scene of sorrow and heartfelt penitence.
Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
Verse 39. - Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This Man, if he were a Prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him. It is clear that it was no mere curiosity which prompted his asking the Master to be his Guest. Respect and love for the Galilaean Teacher alternated with dread of what the Pharisee order to which he belonged would think of his conduct. As we have said, he compromised the matter with his heart, by inviting Jesus publicly, but then only receiving him with the coldest formality. He seems half-glad of this incident, for it seemed in some measure to excuse his haughty unfriendly reception of One from whom he had undoubtedly received rich spiritual benefit, as we shall see further on. "Hardly a great Prophet, then, after all, else he would have known all about her." This was what at once occurred to Simon. For she is a sinner. Yes, in Simon's mind, and in the world's estimation, but before the throne of God she was differently viewed. She had heard the Master's loving call to repentance, and a new life and a change had taken place in her whole being since she had listened to his voice.
And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
Verse 40. - And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. How accurately did the Master read Simon's heart. Not a real Prophet because he was in ignorance of the character and life of the woman whom he suffered without rebuke to pour the fragrant ointment over him! We almost see the half-sad smile flickering on the Teacher's lips as he turned and spoke to his host. Such a parable-story as Jesus was about to give utterance to was no uncommon form of teaching on such an occasion when a well-known Rabbi like Jesus was Guest at a festal gathering.
There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
Verses 41, 42. - There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. The illustration was from the everyday life of the people. This lending and borrowing was ever a prominent feature in the common life of the Jews. Pointed warnings against greed and covetousness, and the habit of usury, and the love of perpetual trafficking, we find in all the Old Testament books, notably in Deuteronomy, and then centuries later in the Proverbs, besides repeated instances in the prophetic writings and historical books. The character of the Jews in this respect has never changed from the days of their nomad life - from the times of their slavery under the Pharaohs to our own day. In this particular instance the two debtors were of the common folk, the sums in question being comparatively small; but in both cases the debtors could never hope to pay their creditors. They were alike hopelessly insolvent, both helplessly bankrupt. The larger sum, considering' the relative value of money, has been computed only to have represented about £50 of our currency. And the two received from their creditor a free, generous acquittance of the debt which would have hopelessly ruined them. In the mind of Jesus the larger debt pictured the terrible catalogue of sins which the penitent woman acknowledged she had committed; the smaller, the few transgressions which even the Pharisee confessed to having been guilty cf. They were both sinners before God, both equally insolvent in his eyes; whether the debt was much or little was to the almighty Creditor a matter of comparative, indifference - he frankly forgave them both (better, "freely," the Greek word ἀχαρίσατο signifies "forgave of his generous bounty"). The Revisers simply translate "he forgave," but something more is needed to reproduce the beautiful word in the original. "Frankly," in the sense of "freely," is used by Shakespeare -
"I do beseech your grace...
... now to forgive me frankly."
(Henry VIII.,' act 2. sc. 1.)
And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
Verse 43. - Thou hast rightly judged. "Come, now, I will show thee what I meant by my little story, in thine answer. Thou hast judged thyself. Thou art the man with the little debt of sin, as thou thinkest, and the little love given in return for the cancelled debt; for see how thou hast treated me thy Guest, and how she has made up for thy lack of friendship and courtesy." The following contrasts are adduced by the Master: "Thou didst not provide me with that which is so usual to offer guests - I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet" (in those hot dusty countries, after walking, water to wash the feet was scarcely a luxury, it was rather a necessity); "in thy house the only water which has touched my feet was the warm rain of this sad woman's tears."
And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
Verse 45. - Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. "Thou gavest me no kiss of respect on entering, to which as a Rabbi I was surely entitled; she hath repeatedly kissed my feet."
My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
Verse 46. - My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. "It never entered thy thoughts to pay me the homage - and yet I had helped thee, too, a little - of pouring oil on my head" (this was by no means an unusual mark of respect in the case of an honoured guest; to one who, under the burning sun of Palestine, had walked, perhaps, some distance, this pouring oil over the head was a great comfort and refreshment); "but she hath anointed, not my head, she shrank, poor soul! from doing this; but my feet. And, too, it was no common oil which she used, but precious, fragrant ointment. A cold, loveless welcome, indeed, my Pharisee friend, was thine! Thou thinkest it honour enough the mere admitting the carpenter's Son to thy table; no need of these special tokens of friendship for thy Guest - the water for the feet, the kiss for the face, the oil for the head. It were a pity, surely, for the great world at Jerusalem to look on thee as the friend of the Nazareth Teacher, as on the one Pharisee who loved to honour the Galilaean Reformer."
Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
Verse 47. - Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven. Again, as in the synagogue, and no doubt on many other occasions, when these words were uttered, a thrill would run through the company present. Who was this, then, one would ask the other, who with this voice and mien dared to utter such things? Only One could forgive sins! Was, then, the Nazareth Rabbi, the great Physician, the Worker of awful miracles - was he the One whose Name was lost, but the echo of whose voice still lingered, they hoped, in that desecrated Holy Land? For she loved much. Are we, then, to understand by this that her love for Jesus was the cause of forgiveness? Many Roman and some Protestant expositors have believed this is the meaning of the Lord's words. But at once a contradiction is given to this interpretation by a reference to ver. 42, where, after the remission of the two debts - the great and the little - Jesus asks, "Which of these will love him most?" But had love been the cause of a forgiveness of either or both of the debts, the question should have run, "Which of the two loved him most?" not "will love him most." In addition to which the Master guards against any view of this kind being entertained, by his concluding words (ver. 50), "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." The principle on which forgiveness was granted to the woman was faith, not love. Stier, in his comment here, writes that the expression of the Lord, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much," is an argumentum, non a causa, sed ab effectu ; in other words, "I say unto thee, Her many sins are forgiven, and thou must infer from this that she loved much, or, she loves much, for (that is, because) her sins are forgiven." Stier gives another example of the meaning of "for" (ὅτι) in this place: "The sun is risen [it must have risen], for it is day" (Stier, 'Words of the Lord Jesus:' Luke 7:47). Some may ask - What great amount of sin is necessary in order to loving much? Godet well answers, "We need add nothing to what each of us already has, for the sum of the whole matter is - to the noblest and purest of us, what is wanting in order to love much, is not sin, but the knowledge of it. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. This saying refers to Simon the Pharisee; the first saying (in the former part of the verse) which we have been considering refers to the woman. The same principle exactly is presented as in the first instance, and viewed from the other side - the less forgiveness, the less love results. Our Lord is very tender in all this to Simon and men like Simon. This Pharisee had evidently tried to live up to his light, though his life was disfigured with censoriousness, narrowness, harshness, and pride - the many faults of his class. He too had heard Jesus, and had been moved and struck by his words, and, after a fashion, loved him; only the world - his world - came between him and his love, so that it was only a poor, pale reflection of the real feeling after all. But our Lord gives him full credit for that little love. He even excuses its poverty by saying that he, Simon, had only received a little forgiveness, and there fore only a little love was the result. Though the Lord implies in his sad irony that the little forgiveness which he had received was Simon's own fault, for he did not think, in his self-righteousness, that he had any need to be forgiven. "O Pharisaee, parum diligis, quia parum tibi dimitti suspicaris; non quia parum dimittitur, sed quia parum putas quod dimittitur" (St. Augustine, 'Serm.' 99.). Godet has a deep reflection on this state of Simon's. He asks, "May forgiveness be only partial? Then there would be men half-saved, half-lost The real forgiveness of the least sin certainly contains in germ a complete salvation, but only in germ. If faith is maintained and grows, this forgiveness will gradually extend to all the sins of a man's life, just as they will then become more thoroughly known and acknowledged. The first forgiveness is the pledge of all the rest. In the contrary case, the forgiveness already granted will be withdrawn, just as represented in the parable of the wicked debtor (Matthew 18.); and the work of grace, instead of becoming complete, will prove abortive."
And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
Verse 48. - And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. Then, turning again to the woman, in her deep penitence, and at the same time in her deep joy - joy springing from her newly found peace - he formally renews to her the assurance of that pardon which she already was conscious of; but in renewing it the Lord mentioned no more "her many sins," as in the first place (ver. 47), but simply, "thy sins," thus reducing, as Stier remarks, at last both her and Simon to a common level.
And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
Verse 50. - And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace. Then, with just one solemn word reminding the people assembled in that guest-chamber of faith, that firm trust in the goodness and mercy of God upon which her forgiveness rested, he dismissed the woman, rousing her at once from her dreamy ecstasy, sending her from his presence back again into the ordinary life of the busy world, but bearing along with her now his mighty priceless gift of a peace which passeth understanding.