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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Mat. 15:21–31. Mark 7:24–37]

ON the next Feast of the Passover, Jesus did not go up to Jerusalem because of the snares laid for Him by the Jews, but retired into Galilee. Immediately He was followed by a great crowd of people bringing the sick, the blind, the lame, the deaf, the dumb, whom they laid at His feet, and He cured them all.

Passing one day from Galilee to the confines of Tyre and Sidon, a woman of Chanaan ran after Him, crying out: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David! my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil.” Jesus made no answer. But she continued to beseech Him that he would have mercy on her daughter.

Then the apostles, pitying the woman, and anxious to be rid of her importunity, besought their Divine Master to grant her petition. Jesus replied that He was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Hearing this, the woman renewed still more earnestly her supplications, falling at the Saviour’s feet, and exclaiming: “Lord, help me.”

Jesus, wishing to try her faith still more, said: “It is not good to take the bread of the children, and to cast it to the dogs.” But she, nowise discouraged, answered: “Yea, Lord, for the whelps also eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their master.” Jesus was pleased with the humility of her answer, and said: “O woman, great is thy faith. Be it done to thee as thou wilt.” At the same moment her daughter was cured.

After this Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee, and they brought to Him a man who was deaf and dumb, and they besought Him that He would lay His hand upon him. He took him aside from the multitude, put His fingers into the man’s ears, touched his tongue with spittle, sighed, and said: “Ephpheta”, that is, “be opened”, and immediately he was able to speak and hear. The people cried out: “He hath done all things well. He hath made both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” “And he charged them that they should tell no man. But the more He charged them, so much the more a great deal did they publish it.”

The Omnipotence of our Lord. The first miracle related, i. e. the curing of the woman of Chanaan’s daughter, was worked by our Lord at a distance from her who was possessed, and by the sole power of His Almighty will. In the second miracle, the “Ephpheta” and its instantaneous effect remind us of God’s great creative words: “Let light be!” and their instantaneous effect: “And light was.”

Both miracles were wrought on Gentiles. Our Lord wished to show that, provided they would believe, the Gentiles had a share in the kingdom of the Messias, even if the Israelites, by reason of their election as God’s people, had the first claim.

Faith and humility of the woman of Chanaan.

Perseverance in Prayer. This woman did not give way to discouragement, although for a time Jesus would not hearken to her. His sole response to the intercession of His apostles was to say that He was sent only to the Israelites, and His reply to herself sounded very like an absolute refusal. This shows us that we ought never to weary of prayer, even though it seems as if God would not hearken to us.

The meaning of ceremonies. In healing the deaf-mute our Lord made use of several signs and ceremonies wherewith to enable the man to understand what was the matter with him, and to whom it was he owed his cure, inducing him thereby to have faith in Him. 1. The gasing up to heaven was meant to show him that God alone could help him. 2. The sigh breathed by Jesus was to make him realize what a miserable condition he was in, and to induce him to sigh to heaven for relief. 3. The touching and anointing of his ears and tongue was intended to show him plainly that he owed his cure to Jesus. In her services and in administering the holy sacraments the Church follows the example of her Divine Lord, and makes use of outward and visible signs, whereby to raise our hearts and minds to the supernatural, and make plain to us the invisible effects of the holy sacraments.

The man deaf and dumb is a type of the unregenerate. He who is unbaptized is deaf to the supernatural truths of religion and dumb to confess his faith and his own sinfulness. By Baptism the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are implanted in the soul of man; his spiritual ears are opened to the Divine truth, and his tongue is loosened to confess the faith, and to thank the Redeemer for his benefits. In the rite of Baptism the Church imitates the action of our Lord, the priest touching the child’s ears and nose with spittle, while he pronounces the word ‘Ephpheta’: ‘Be opened!’

Hearing and speech are gifts of God, and as such should be used rightly. Remember that you have two ears, but only one tongue, doubly enclosed behind lips and teeth! “If any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26).

APPLICATION. Jesus forbade any talk about His miracle, and desired to stop all tokens of honour paid to Him. You do just the contrary. If you have done any good work, you let all the town know it. Follow our Lord’s example, and say nothing without necessity that tends to your own credit.








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