And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,…
This incident is memorable chiefly on account of three truths it impresses on the mind.
I. THE APPARENTLY UNLIMITED RANGE OUR LORD GIVES TO FAITH. Promise, rebuke, and surprise are mingled in his reply. "if thou canst, all things are possible," etc. As if he said, "You do not surely question my power; it is no question of power, it is a question of faith; have you faith to receive, to evoke the power?" As clearly as possible he says to this man, "The cure depends on yourself." We are continually tempted to ask - Why should it be so? Why could not God overcome our unbelief by producing within us such manifest results of his health-giving power that we should find it impossible to doubt? The reason seems to be that our assuming our permanent relation to God is of more importance than any single blessing which results from it. Our trust in God and acceptance of him, as higher than all worldly power, are more than any other help we can receive from him, and therefore he first of all demands faith. And though it seems as if faith would be easier after receiving what we need, yet there can be no doubt it is the anxiety and restless thoughtfulness produced by trouble and difficulty which chiefly compel men to strive to ascertain for themselves what is the truth about God in his helpfulness. The visible and tangible blessings he bestowed were so far from being all he had to give, that he allowed no one to go away with only these.
II. THE POWER OUR LORD ASCRIBES TO FAITH. Here, too, are difficulties. God will not, we feel sure, contradict himself by reversing in our favour any law of nature. But it is of the very essence of prayer to ask for such things as we cannot get but by prayer. Prayer is the acknowledgment that we have to do, not with nature only, but with one who can govern and use nature freely, and to whom all things are possible. There is a way of speaking of natural law as if it were a thing sacred and not to be tampered with, whereas a great part of our time is spent in averting the consequences of natural law, and nothing gives ampler scope to our free will and reason and active powers than the guiding of nature to happier issues. The man who says he cannot suppose God will depart from those great lines of action he has laid down ought on the same ground humbly to submit to sickness and use no remedy against it; for surely it is more presumptuous to fight against the natural law of disease than to pray God that if he sees fit he would fight against it for us. No doubt natural law is one expression, nay, the fundamental expression, of God's will; and when day by day a man sees that the sun rises and sets with a regularity undisturbed by national disasters or personal necessities, he becomes convinced that it is God's will that sunrise and sunset be invariable. But though everything in nature may be as rigidly bound to its own cause as sunrise and sunset, it does not follow that everything is as necessary, as important, as unalterable. By the arrest of the natural course of disease in this boy no shock was given to the needful belief of men in the constancy of nature. While holding fast, on the one hand, to the truth that all things are possible, we cannot but consider, on the other hand, that some things are so extremely improbable that it is vain to ask God to perform them. Scientific men assure us that there is a region into which we cannot see, but in which the most powerful of all causes resides. This is the region we claim for God, and out of which he can send forth influences in answer to those who appeal to him. There are other effects possible than those we contemplate, because there are other causes in operation than those we see. We may always be leaving out of view something that is known to the only wise God, our Saviour.
III. THERE ARE KINDS OF SIN WHICH CALL FOR TREATMENT OF A SPECIALLY SEVERE KIND. The harping of David may be enough to cast out some devils, but others laugh to scorn the exorcism of nine apostles. What of your equipment in this warfare? You have a faith that has proved itself equal to some duty and fit for service of a kind. But are there not sins in you which sometimes assume a very alarming shape; and how are you equipped against these? Look first at the sin, at its inveterate hold on you, at its rootedness in the deepest part of your nature, at the skill with which it assails you all day long and in so many different ways; look with what ease it has survived any assaults you have made on it; and then look at the means you are using for its destruction, and say if it is likely, nay, if it is possible, that such sin can yield to such means. Were we to tell each other our experience, would not some of us have to say, "Unless there be some better remedy than those I have tried, I fear to think what may become of me and my sin"? Learn from this incident that your safety lies, not with subsidiary means, but with the Master, the one living Spring of life. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,