An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

In this chapter, we have an account of the miraculous cure, by our Lord, of the man sick of the palsy, on whom He first bestows the remission of his sins. This the Pharisees made the occasion of charging Him with blasphemously arrogating to Himself what belonged to God alone; whereupon our Redeemer, in proof of the doctrine He enunciated, performs the miracle, and perfectly cures the sick man (1–7). The people were seized with reverential awe in consequence, and gave glory to God (8). We have next an account of the call of St. Matthew, which was promptly responded to; and of the entertainment given by him to our Lord, at which many of his associate publicans were present (9–10). From this the Pharisees took occasion to accuse our Lord of associating with sinners. On hearing this, our Lord meets the charge by referring to the relation of physician, which He held towards sinners—men spiritually sick, whom He came to cure, and with whom, therefore, He ought to associate. He next confutes them from their own Scriptures, in which mercy was so strongly inculcated (12–13). The Pharisees, having put forward the disciples of John, to insinuate a charge of self-indulgence against our Lord while accepting entertainments, He refutes this charge, by saying that the time had not yet come to subject His disciples to the rigours of fasting (15); that the rigours of fasting were, as yet, untimely for His Apostles—the time for it would come afterwards (15); and, moreover, unsuited to them, in their present state, which He illustrates by examples (16–17). We have next an account of the woman, who, for a long time, suffered from an issue of blood; and of the resuscitation of the daughter of Jairus (18–25), the fame of which spread rapidly through the entire district of Galilee (26). On His way to Jairus’ house, He gave sight to two blind men, who, on leaving Him, find a demoniac, whom they bring to our Lord, by whom the poor sufferer is cured (27–33). Stung with malevolence and envy, the Pharisees ascribe these wonderful cures to diabolical agency (34). Regardless of their calumnious charge, our Lord goes about the entire country, preaching the Gospel, and confirms His doctrine by several miracles. He takes compassion on the destitute spiritual condition of the people, and tells His disciples to pray for good labourers to be sent into the harvest, now ripe for the sickle (35–38).

1. And entering into a boat,” &c., either the one in which He came across, or, the ferry-boat, “He passed over the water,” i.e., recrossed to the western side of the lake, whence He had come shortly before. “His own city,” not Bethlehem, the place of His birth, nor Nazareth, where He was brought up, either of which, on these grounds, might be called “His own city,” but Capharnaum, which He selected as the place of His constant abode (Matt. 4:13). It was the capital of Galilee, which He rendered illustrious by many miracles.

St. Jerome understands it of Nazareth. In this interpretation, we must suppose, that all our Redeemer did at Nazareth, are passed over by the Evangelist, and that he begins to narrate what He did on His return from Nazareth to Capharnaum. For, St. Mark (2:1) clearly asserts that the following miracle occurred at Capharnaum; and the word, “behold,” (v. 2), would indicate that the miracle was wrought immediately on His arrival at the city in question, which, St. Mark says, was Capharnaum.

2. “And behold they brought to Him one sick of the palsy,” &c. Both Mark (5:21) and Luke (8:41) would seem to say, that immediately on our Lord’s return, He was entreated by the chief ruler of the synagogue to restore his daughter, who was on the point of death. However, the order of events, as is here recorded by St. Matthew, is the most probable; for Matthew, Mark (2:14), and Luke (5:27) agree in stating, that our Lord called St. Matthew after the cure of the paralytic; and on the occasion of the banquet given to our Redeemer by St. Matthew, a question having arisen as to why our Lord’s disciples did not fast, like the disciples of John, He assigns the reasons why they did not. “And as He was speaking these things” (9:18), the ruler came and spoke about his daughter. Now, this was subsequent to Matthew’s call, which occurred after the cure of the paralytic; hence, the cure of the ruler’s daughter was subsequent to that of the paralytic, and the order of events, as narrated by St. Matthew, the real one. The cure of the ruler’s daughter occurred some days after our Lord recrossed the lake, when He was on some occasion engaged “nigh unto the sea” (Mark 5:21).

They brought to Him one sick of the palsy,” &c. St. Mark (2:3, &c.) says, “he was carried by four” porters; Luke (5:18) says, “in a bed;” and, being unable to make their way to our Redeemer through the dense crowd, they mounted the flat roof of the house by outer stairs (in Judea the houses had flat roofs), and uncovering it over where He was, they let the sick man down in the bed whereon he was carried.

Their faith.” The porters showed their great faith in having recourse to such extraordinary means, and such trouble to have the man brought to our Lord. St. Chrysostom says, the faith of the man himself is included, which was shown by his allowing himself to be thus carried, and likely he himself was the first to ask to be brought to Jesus. But, no doubt, the faith of the others is chiefly referred to, as influencing our Lord to bestow on this man corporal health, which they asked, and to grant even more than they asked, viz., health of the soul also; just as He cured the centurion’s servant, on account of the faith of his master (8:13). In granting blessings, God has regard to the prayers and faith of others, as well as of those on whom He confers them. The recipient, however, should oppose no personal obstacle.

Faith,” here signifies a firm belief in our Lord’s great power; as, also, a great confidence, that in His goodness and mercy, He would restore the sick man to bodily health, which resulted from faith in His Almighty power.

Son, be of good heart.” Most likely, the poor invalid was dejected. (The account given by St. Luke (5:20) is substantially the same as this.) Hence, our Lord desired to inspire him with still greater faith and confidence.

Thy sins are forgiven thee.” Our Lord, first, removes the cause of the bodily illness, under which this afflicted man laboured, viz., his sins; and then, afterwards removes the effect, i.e., bodily illness. This proves the man himself must have faith; but, no doubt, the faith and charity of the others greatly assisted him, and moved our Lord to grant him a true contrition for his sins, without which they could not be forgiven. Hence, St. Ambrose, contemplating the effects of intercessory prayer, says, “If you despair of the pardon of your grievous sins, employ intercessors, have recourse to the Church, whose mediation influences God to grant the pardon, which He might refuse yourself personally.”

3. “Said within themselves,” thought; without expressing it, as is clear from next verse.

Blasphemeth,” by arrogating a power which belongs to God alone, as is expressed by the other Evangelists (Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21), “Who can forgive sins but God only?”

One is guilty of blasphemy against God in two ways—1st. By speaking impiously of Him, attributing to Him what is unworthy and unbecoming His infinite dignity, or denying to Him what belongs to Him. 2ndly. By ascribing to creatures what belongs to God alone, and thus derogating from the Divine honour, in which sense the word is taken here.

4. “Seeing their thoughts,” in virtue of His Divine omniscience, thus proving Himself to be God, to whom alone it belongs to be the searcher of men’s hearts; and thus He proves on their own very showing, that, as God, He had a right to remit sins. The words are more express still in Mark, “Jesus presently knowing in His spirit,” &c., as if he said, unlike the Prophets, who knew things from God’s inspiration, our Lord knew, at once, what was passing in their minds of Himself, without any aid from others.

Evil in your hearts,” because they rashly judged Him to be guilty of blasphemy, who had given so many proofs of piety towards God; and this they did, not from zeal for God’s glory, but from malevolence. They might have readily asked our Lord to give reasons for what He said, if they were not actuated by malevolence towards Him.

5. Although our Lord had already given a sufficient refutation of their wicked judgment, and had shown, by His disclosing the thoughts of their mind, that He could, as God, remit sins, still He has recourse to further arguments to prove the same.

Whether is easier, to say.” According to the holy Fathers, and especially to St. Augustine (Tract. 72 in Joannem), it is more difficult to remit sin and justify a man, than to create heaven and earth. Hence, “easier” means, as regards the exposure to detection in case of failure. Although, in reality, the remission of sin be almost infinitely more difficult, and for its accomplishment requires a far greater effort of power than to restore a paralytic to perfect health; still, it is “easier,” in regard to detection in case of fraud, or should one fail in it, to command one than the other, because, the cure of a sick man is a thing which falls beneath the senses. One may have ocular demonstration of the cure of a palsied man; not so, however, in regard to the remission of sin, which is invisible, and cannot admit of external proof. It is deserving of remark, that our Redeemer does not say, “whether is easier to remit sin, or to cure a sick man?” but, “whether is easier TO SAY,” or command one or the other. The words mean: so far as the public detection of fraud and external proof are concerned, which is easier or less liable to refutation in case of failure, what I have just now done, viz., to command with effect (“to say”) thy sins are forgiven thee, or, “to say,” and command effectively, what I now mean to do, for this afflicted man, “arise and walk.” It was for what He said the Pharisees charged Him with “blasphemy,” which consists, not in acts, but in words. Jansenius holds, that, taking into account the mode in which the cure of the sick man was effected, viz., by sole command, and in a way altogether divine, one was just as easy as the other; because, both must come from God, with whom all things are equally easy; and hence, if He does one, He cannot be charged with blasphemy for claiming the power to do the other.

6. To show that He had the power of remitting sin, which He claimed and exercised, He appeals to the miracle of curing the sick man, not that He meant to prove the power of doing a more difficult work, viz., the remission of sin, from the power of doing what was in reality less difficult, viz., the cure of the sick man; but, from the miracle He wishes to show that the doctrine it was adduced to prove was true, viz., His assertion that He had the power to remit sin; because, God would never allow a miracle, which is, as it were, His own divine seal, to be wrought, in confirmation of false doctrine, without exhibiting a conflicting miracle of a stronger and more decisive character.

That the Son of man,” who appears among you so lowly, whom you accuse of blasphemously arrogating to Himself the power which belongs to God alone, “hath the power,” which He claims, not coming from anyone else, but from Himself, “to forgive sins,” not only in heaven, but on earth.

(“Then He said to the man sick of the palsy.”) These being the words of the Evangelist, are read parenthetically. Our Lord, as man, has the power of remitting sin, not ministerially, like the priests, on whom this power was conferred by Almighty God, “whose sins you shall forgive,” &c., but authoritatively and meritoriously, in virtue of His death, which made expiation for sin.

Arise, take up thy bed,” a clear proof of his recovered strength, “and go into thy house,” so that thus all who met him could testify to the miracle.

7. This shows how perfect the miracle was. St. Mark (2:12) says, “he went his way in sight of all.”

8. “Feared.” The Greek word, εθαυμασον, means, “marvelled,” i.e., they were struck with reverential awe. The same is more clearly expressed by Mark and Luke. This was on the part of the people; but, most likely, the Pharisees are not included, who always cavilled at, and misconstrued, the miraculous works of our Divine Redeemer.

Such power,” i.e., the power of remitting sin and confirming it by miracles. “To men.” The analogy of number is quite common in all languages. Gave such power to Christ, or “to men,” for the good and benefit of men. The use of the plural for the singular is quite common, both in Scriptural and classical writers, particularly when speaking of kings and princes (1 Kings).

9. “When Jesus passed on from thence,” i.e., where He cured the paralytic, towards the sea side, as St. Mark states (2:13).

Sitting in the custom-house.” Most likely, a table or booth where the tolls for merchandize, exports and imports, were received. This was, likely, on the borders of the lake, on which the boats plied hither and thither.

Named Matthew.” The other Evangelists, Mark (2:14), Luke (5:27), call him “Levi,” out of consideration for St. Matthew, “Levi” being a name less known in connexion with the odious occupation of publican or tax gatherer. He calls himself, out of humility, Matthew,” the name by which he was more commonly known as publican. Hence, from the same feeling of humility, in giving the name of the Apostles, he calls himself “Matthew the publican” (10:3). He may have had both names, a thing not unusual among the Jews; or, perhaps, his name, before his call, was Levi, and our Lord may have given him that of Matthew. Under this latter name, he was more commonly known since his call to the Apostleship.

And He said to him: Follow me.” Shows the goodness and clemency of our Redeemer, who, having called poor ignorant fishermen already, now disdains not to call one whose profession was a by-word of reproach among the Jews.

Followed Him,” promptly obeyed the Divine call, having either witnessed or heard of the many splendid and undoubted miracles performed by our Divine Redeemer. St. Jerome (hic) remarks also, that a certain effulgence and majesty of occult divinity shone in the face of our Redeemer, capable of attracting all who came in contact with Him, as the magnet attracts steel.

10. “In the house,” Matthew’s house (Mark 2; Luke 5:29). The Evangelist does not expressly declare this, out of a feeling of humility, as it was calculated to exalt him, to have the privilege of entertaining our Lord at his house, hence he expressly refers to what tended to lower him, viz., the occupation of “publican” (verse 9). “Many publicans.” Matthew’s former associates. “Sinners.” Either Jews who led loose, dissolute lives, regardless of the law of Moses, and lived after Gentile fashion, and possibly were excommunicated and cast out of the synagogue; or Pagans, who may have been stopping at Capharnaum. These “came,” either at Matthew’s invitation, or of their own accord, attracted by our Lord’s power, and influenced by Matthew’s example.

And sat down with Jesus,” &c. St. Mark (2:15), speaking of our Lord’s disciples, adds, “for they were many, who also followed Him,” to the house of Matthew. St. Luke, speaking of St. Matthew, says (v. 28) “And leaving all things, he rose up and followed Him.” How he could have done this consistently with his having entertained our Lord afterwards, as is recorded here, at his house, is explained differently by different commentators. Some say, “leaving all,” must be said by anticipation, of the period, when, having settled his affairs, shortly after his call, he gave up all. In the interim, he entertained our Lord at his house. Others understand it of his having, at once, given up all his occupations, as publican, and having, in heart and mind, renounced promptly all his possessions; and having been granted some time by our Lord, to arrange his temporal affairs, he in the meantime received our Lord, at the banquet referred to here.

11. “The Pharisees seeing it,” becoming aware of it. For, it is clear, they themselves were not present. “Said to His disciples,” took some opportunity of speaking. not to our Lord Himself, whose crushing replies and animadversions they dreaded; but, “to His disciples,” whom they believed to be incapable of repelling the charge made. They were actuated by envy and malevolence; and hence, instead of remonstrating with our Lord Himself, which they would have done, if charity were their motive, they make His conduct a subject of reproach with His disciples, from the malicious motive of estranging them from Him.

Why doth your Master?” St. Luke has (5:30), “Why do you eat?” But both Evangelists give a full account of what was said, viz., “Why do you and your Master eat with publicans and sinners?” The Pharisees, from an affectation of superior sanctity, disdained to associate with sinners, thinking that, as they contracted legal defilement by contact with anything unclean, so to touch anything handled by sinners would be a profanation. It was not from any moral feeling of dread, that by associating with sinners they might imitate their wicked morals, and be defiled, as one who touches pitch is defiled thereby; nor from a fear of emboldening them to persevere in their wicked course; but, from a feeling of self-complacent superior sanctity, they refused to associate with sinners. Hence, the reply of our Redeemer in the following verse.

With publicans and sinners.” “Publican” (in Greek, τελωνης) was, among the Romans, a person who farmed the public revenues. The publicans were usually Roman knights, “the principal men of dignity in their several countries, occupying a middle rank between the senators and the people” (Josephus Antiq. xii. 4). There were two orders of them, the Mancipes, and the Socii. The former, who were generally of the equestrian order, and far superior to the latter, both in rank and character, are referred to in terms of great respect by Cicero (Orat. pro Plancio. 9); he calls them, “Flos equitum Romanorum, ornamentum civitatis, firmamentum Reipublicæ.” Zacheus was probably of this class. He is called by St. Luke, “a prince of the publicans” (19:2). The latter class, or inferior collectors, who were under the others, were regarded, both by Jews and heathens, with aversion and contempt. They were held in particular aversion by the Jews (Matt. 18:17), who had great reluctance in paying taxes to the Romans, and regarded the publicans as the hated instruments of perpetuating subjection to them. And, although the office of publican, if exercised within proper limits, was not of itself sinful (Luke 3:13), still the lower class of publicans, being noted for rapine and extortion, and oppression of the people by illegal exactions, to which they were strongly tempted by a share in the profits resulting from farming the revenues collected, were odious to all, and regarded in the light of robbers. They were excluded among the Jews from the synagogue, public prayers, and the magistracy. (Lightfoot, Hor. Heb.; Matth. 18; Grotius ad Matth. 18) Theocrytus being formerly questioned, said, “Among the beasts of the forest, the most savage were the lion and the bear; and among the beasts of the city, the Publican and Parasite” (Theocrytus apiod Muson.; vide Calmet c. v. Matth.; Kitto, Cyclopædia). To this latter class Matthew belonged, and to this class reference is made here.

12. “Hearing it,” from His disciples, to whom these malevolent men addressed themselves; or, the words may mean, having come to the knowledge of it from His own infinite omniscience. “Said,” on some befitting opportunity.

They that are in health, need not a physician,” to effect their cure. They may need him for other purposes; for instance, to preserve their health, and cure their daily infirmities. This is particularly true in the spiritual application of this adage. For, it is owing to the grace of Christ, that we are made just and preserved in justice. “But they that are ill.” Our Redeemer refutes the malevolence of the Pharisees by a common adage. He is the spiritual Physician of souls. The publicans and sinners are spiritually sick; while the Pharisees, in their own opinion, enjoyed spiritual health. Hence, our Redeemer’s mode of acting, far from being liable to censure, was, on the contrary, a subject of praise, since He associated with sinners—without danger of being infected by them, as pitch infects those who touch it, or of encouraging them to persevere in wickedness—for the charitable purpose only of curing them, and from no motive of self-indulgence; and He insinuates that the Pharisees being, in their own estimation, just, needed not Him, as the spiritual Physician of souls, to associate with them. The words, “need not a physician,” convey, that our Redeemer’s sole object in conversing with sinners was, to heal their spiritual maladies.

13. He next confutes them from the SS. Scriptures, of which they boasted to be perfect masters. He, as it were, sends back to school—to the school of their own law—these learned and boastful doctors. “Go, then, and learn,” not only speculatively, but in practice also, the meaning of the following words: “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice,” a Hebraism, denoting a preference for one thing beyond another. I prefer mercy to sacrifice. Hence, in Osee, it is added, “and the knowledge of God more than holocausts,” thus intimating, it was a preference for one before another, rather than the positive rejection of any that was meant. Hence, the words, “and not sacrifice,” are rather comparatively than absolutely negative. The reading here, “I will have mercy,” is, according to the Septuagint (ελεος θελω), in the present. St. Jerome renders it in Osee (6:6), in the past, “volui misericordiam,” “I desired mercy.” “Mercy” denotes the exercise of beneficence towards those in distress. The relief of our neighbours’ spiritual wants, and the removal of spiritual misery, are the chief works of beneficence. “Sacrifice” embraces the external acts of Divine worship prescribed by God Himself, of which acts sacrifice is the principal; and it was only for external acts of worship the Pharisees had any zeal. In preferring mercy to sacrifice, our Lord speaks of the sacrifices of those who neglected the exercise of mercy, whom He here silently taxes with inhumanity. Not that mercy, which is the exercise of charity towards our neighbour, is more exalted than sacrifice or religion, which is the exercise of charity towards God; but the former is more necessary. God stands not in need of sacrifice, as our neighbour needs mercy. Hence, the man devoid of mercy can never present an acceptable sacrifice. “He does not love his neighbour, whom he sees, how can he love God, whom he sees not?” (1 John 4:20) The words, then, mean: “If you disregard my teaching, go, and learn from yourselves the meaning of the words of the Prophet; and, then, cease to reproach me for the exercise of that mercy, to which God gives a preference before sacrifice, or external worship, which you prize so highly.”

For I am not come,” &c. In these words is assigned an additional reason why our Redeemer conversed and sat down to meat with sinners, derived from the nature of the office He came to discharge (or, perhaps, it may be, with still greater probability, said that these words are but a more clear exposition and application of the words, v. 12, “they that are in health,” &c. He here calls those “sinners,” whom in v. 12 He termed “sick”). The words mean, “My chief object or purpose in coming into this world was to call sinners to repentance.” “For all have sinned, and do need the glory of God.” (Rom. 3) Although our Lord found on earth some just men on His coming, such as Zachary, Elizabeth (Luke 1), Nathanael, and others; just, however, in virtue of the graces derived from His future merits; and although our Lord came to save them, to render them more perfect, and confirm them in justice, still, He did not come to convert them, which the word, “call,” means. The words, “to penance,” are added in St. Luke (5:31), and they are found in the ordinary Greek of St. Matthew and St. Luke, and although not found in several MSS. versions and Latin Fathers, they are still admitted by several respectable critics.

Some (among the rest St. Chrysostom, Hom. 31; St. Jerome, Matth. 9, &c.), hold, that our Lord ironically alludes to the Pharisees in the word, “Just,” as if He said, I am not come to those who are “just” in their own estimation, and need no Saviour or spiritual physician; since, it would be folly in a physician to approach those who acknowledged not their diseases, and boasted of being well in health. The words may also mean, that such is God’s goodness and mercy, that if there were one hundred men on earth, and only one of them unjust, He would leave the ninety-nine just, and seek the unjust one, and submit to death on his account (Maldonatus). The words, “to penance,” determine the meaning of the passage. They do not determine what our Saviour would do if all were just, whether He would come or not, if there were no sinners to be saved on earth.

14. “The disciples of John.” St. Luke says (5:33), it was the Scribes and Pharisees. Mark (2:18) says, it was “the disciples of John and the Pharisees.” Probably, St. Mark’s is the accurate account, and St. Matthew speaks only of “the disciples of John,” as they were the spokesmen put forward by the Pharisees on the occasion. A feeling of low jealousy animated the disciples of John, who was at this time in prison. Not unlikely, on the very day our Lord was entertained at the house of Matthew, they observed a fast, as is insinuated in the context of St. Mark, although the words may also mean, that they were in the habit of fasting. “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often?” They speak of fasts of supererogation, as the word, “often,” implies, besides those prescribed by the law. For, with these, no doubt, our Redeemer and His disciples strictly complied, as He wished “to fulfil all justice.” This question was meant to be a rejoinder to His explanation of the reason which induced Him to associate with sinners, viz., for the purpose of converting them. They wish in this question to insinuate, that self-indulgence was His motive. The question was also insidiously meant by His enemies, as a snare for our Redeemer. They hoped He might censure John, which would not serve His own influence, as John was so much respected; or, if He approved of John’s fasting, then, He would be censuring the line of conduct pursued in this respect by Himself and His disciples.

15. “Can the children of the bridegroom mourn?” “Mourn,” denotes the particular kind of mourning, consisting in fasting. “Children,” by a Hebrew idiom, signifies, near friends, the associates and companions of the “bridegroom.” Although our Redeemer knew well the malevolence and vain ostentation which dictated these remarks, at least on the part of the Pharisees, still, He answers them gently; and in the mildest form, justifies Himself and His disciples. For, it was against Himself chiefly the charge was made. He rests His defence on the grounds—1st. That the time was unsuited for fasting (v. 15). 2ndly. That the persons were unsuited for fasting or sorrow (vv. 16, 17). It would be unseemly for the friends of the bridegroom to fast or indulge in mourning, while celebrating his nuptials. Now, those who heard John the Baptist, must have heard him point to our Lord as the spouse (John 3:29). Hence, while our Lord was celebrating His nuptials with His Church (Eph. 5; 2 Cor. 11:12), it should be for His friends a season of joy and jubilee, to which the austerities of fasting would be quite unsuited. Christ is the spouse; because He espoused human nature, and through it the Church, in His Incarnation, by an indissoluble bond. These espousals He commenced by grace in this life (Matt. 22:2), and will consummate by glory in heaven, when the perpetual nuptials of the Lamb with His Elect shall be for ever celebrated. (Apoc. 19) On this account it was that John called himself the friend of the Bridegroom (John 3:29), and his disciples, who heard him, must, therefore, have known that Christ was called the Bridegroom. Hence, there is nothing in the above example against fasting. Our Redeemer only points out the incongruity, on the part of His disciples, to fast during His life-time. The example goes no farther. In this verse, it is implied, however, that in future ages the Church will impose the wholesome rigours of fasting. And from Apostolical institution and tradition, she has instituted, besides other fasts, the solemn fast of Lent, to prepare for the commemoration of the bitter Passion of her heavenly Spouse, and dispose us to share in the spiritual joys of His glorious resurrection.

16. The illustrations in this and the following verses regard the unsuitableness of the persons for the rigours of fasting. The preceding had reference to the time or season.

Raw cloth,” in the original, means rough, new-woven cloth, fresh from the weaver, without having passed through the hands of the dyer. “For it taketh away the fulness thereof from the garment,” i.e., the addition of this piece of new, strong cloth, takes away its soundness and integrity from the old garment, by the tear which the strong new piece shall cause in the yielding old garment; and so the rent shall become worse than it had been before. Similar is the idea conveyed by the example, (v. 17), about the bursting of old bottles. The Greek for “the fulness,” both here and in Mark (2:21), is, πληρωμα. It is rendered in the Vulgate here, plenitudo; in Mark, supplementum. From both Mark and Luke, it would seem clear, that the words, “from the garment,” refers to the old garment, although some interpreters refer it to the new garment (Luke 5:36). But this latter interpretation would hardly suit the subject of application. Others read the original thus: “For, he, i.e.,” the man in question, offended by the unsightly dissimilarity of appearance produced by attaching the new piece to the old garment, “taketh away the fulness thereof” (πληρωμα), i.e., the supplement which was added from the (old) garment, and thus the rent will become greater than it was before. Likely, this illustration was taken from some proverbial saying, then well known. “The fulness thereof,” may also mean, that it would not seem to be one garment at all, whether one old or one new; but two, partly old and partly new. The application of these similitudes is quite easy, and is meant by our Redeemer to justify His mode of acting in not subjecting His disciples at first to the rigours of penance, for which, in their present imperfect state, they were unfit. His disciples He compares to old garments and old bottles; an austere system of life, to new cloth and new wine; and He argues, that if His disciples were all at once subjected to austerities quite new to them, they might fall into despondency, and desert His service altogether. Austerities are reserved for the time when, after being disciplined in the school of perfection, they shall become strong in the fulness of the grace of God’s Holy Spirit.

17. This is the third illustration, to show that our Redeemer ought not, during His lifetime, subject His followers to the austerities of fasting.

Old bottles,” flasks made of goat or sheepskins, quite common among the ancients, and still in use in Spain and other southern countries. Leathern bottles, when old and inelastic, could not expand with the fermentation of the new wine; but if the skins were new, they could distend; and, so, the bottles would not burst. The application is the same as the foregoing. Those who are lately converted, are unable to bear the heavy burdens for which the fulness of the grace of the Spirit will fit and strengthen them.

18. “As He was speaking these things.” A different order of narrative is given by Mark and Luke. But the order followed by St. Matthew is, most probably, the correct one (see v. 2). While He was in the act of refuting the calumnious charges of the Pharisees, “behold a certain ruler,” &c. This shows, how deserving of condemnation was the obstinate malice and unbelief of the Pharisees, since the fame of our Redeemer’s miraculous works had reached every order of persons, rich and poor. The word, “behold,” would show that the ruler came up at once while our Redeemer was speaking. “A certain ruler.” St. Mark says (5:22), “one of the rulers of the synagogue”—it would seem that there were many such—“named Jairus, falleth down at His feet.” St. Luke (8:41) says, the same. Whether this implies supreme worship, which the Greek word (προσεκυνει) may, and generally does imply, or mere bodily prostration in token of reverence for a holy man, it is hard to determine from the context. Some think, from the fact of his asking our Lord to “come and lay His hand on her,” which did not equal the great faith of the centurion (8:8), that it was not supreme adoration. At all events, it conveyed a silent censure on the carping Pharisees, to whose sect, very likely, this ruler belonged, who regarded the power of Jesus as the most efficacious means of resuscitating his daughter.

My daughter.” St. Luke (8:42) says, she was “an only daughter, almost twelve years old.” “Is even now dead.” The other Evangelists represent him as saying “she is at the point of death” (Mark); “she was dying” (Luke). Most likely, he made both statements—first, that she was on the point of death, when he left; and, then, in his hurried excitement, judging from the symptoms, and other circumstances he witnessed, he said, “she is dead,” at the time he was speaking. The other Evangelists (Mark 5:35; Luke 8:49) say, that while he was with our Lord, word was brought to him, “thy daughter is dead, trouble Him no further,” and that our Lord told him, “fear not,” and went and raised the girl to life. “Lay Thy hand upon her.” He heard of the cure of the centurion’s servant, and of other miracles, at Capharnaum; his faith, however, was not so strong as that of the centurion.

21. “And behold.” While on His way to Jairus’ house (Mark 5:24), our Redeemer had it mercifully so arranged, that He would work the following miracles, so as to strengthen the ruler’s faith. “Twelve years,” shows the inveteracy of the disease. Mark (5:25), and Luke (8:43), say, it was incurable; that she suffered great pain in striving to have the cure effected by physicians, and incurred great expense also, but all to no effect. “Came behind Him,” both from feelings of modesty, owing to the nature of her ailment, and also from a fear lest she might be driven away by the crowd, if she came not as privately as possible and unobserved, this flux of blood being reckoned among legal uncleanness by the law of Moses (Lev. 15:25). “The hem.” The Greek word (τοῦ κρασπἑδου) more properly signifies, a tassel. The Jewish garment should, according to law, have four corners, from each of which a tassel of strings, or threads, was suspended, to distinguish them from the Gentiles (Deut. 22:12; Num. 15:38). Circumcision was also meant for the same purpose, that thus the Jews would be reminded of their obligation to observe the law. Even now, the dress of religious is meant to remind them of their religious obligations. From this verse is derived an argument in favour of the veneration of relics of the saints, and of attaching efficacy to them, as is sanctioned by the Catholic Church. The same is clear, also, from the miracles wrought by the contact of the bones of Eliseus (4 Kings 13:21), and the shadow of Peter curing diseases (Acts 5:15). That the woman referred to here, did not act superstitiously, as is irreverently asserted by some Protestants, is clear from our Redeemer’s attributing her cure to her great faith. The woman, not only believed in our Redeemer, but she touched His garment, from a conviction, that there was some efficacy in it, and our Redeemer felt that a virtue had proceeded from Him (Mark 5:30).

Thy faith,” viz., her belief in the power of our Lord, and her confidence in His goodness. For the word “faith,” here includes both. “Hath made thee whole.” His omnipotent power was the primary and principal cause of her cure; but her own faith acted as a disposition, or meritorious cause, for the beneficent exercise of this Almighty power in her favour (see v. 2, Commentary). Faith, though, at all times, essential, it being the “radix et fundamentum omnis justificationis” (Council of Trent), was especially so in the beginning of the Church, as being the essential characteristic of the believers, to distinguish them from unbelievers. The woman here did more than believe, although to faith her cure is attributed. She also touched the hem of His garment, and believed there was efficacy in it. Eusebius (Lib. 7, His. Eccles. c. xviii.); Sozomen (Lib. 5, c. vi.), and Philostorgius (Lib. 7, n. 3), say, this woman was a native of Cæsarea Philippi, and that she erected a statue of our Lord in front of her house, to commemorate this event. Socrates relates, in his Tripartite History (Lib. 6, c. 41), that Julian, the apostate, removed this statue, and had his own set up in its place, and that a strong fire from heaven shattered the apostate’s statue to pieces.

23. “Minstrels,” hired mourners, introduced in accordance with the prevailing usage among the Jews, for the purpose of lamentation, and of exciting and stimulating, by their mournful strains, the grief of the relatives of the deceased. This shows that the girl had really departed this life. The practice of employing mourners of both sexes, with musical accompaniments, to bewail the dead, was commonly in use among the Greeks and Romans. Jeremias (9:17) speaks of “mourning women;” Ecclesiastes (12:5), “the mourners shall go round about in the street.”

And the multitude making a rout.” By their external manifestations of grief, at the premature death of the girl (Mark 5:38; Luke 8:52).

24. “The girl is not dead, but sleepeth.” Death is frequently called sleep in the Scriptures (Psa. 75:6; Jer. 51:39; 1 Thess. 4:12, &c.) Hence, from Christian usage, the word, cemeteries, or sleeping-places, to designate the graves of the departed. Our Redeemer says, “the girl is not dead,” in the way the crowd imagined, in the sense that she would remain in death, and not to be soon resuscitated. In the same sense, He says of Lazarus, in his grave, “he sleepeth” (John 11:11), because he was at once to be raised from the grave, by the same Divine power. His temporary death was like a sleep. Some Rationalists, and others, say the girl was not really dead. But that she was really dead, appears clear from the context, “the crowd laughed at Him, knowing she was dead” (Luke 8:53). How know this, if she were not dead? Nor would “the minstrels” be present, if she were not dead? Hence, our Redeemer says here, “she sleepeth,” just as He said of Lazarus, “Our friend, Lazarus, sleepeth,” and afterwards explains it, by saying plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” This explanation He gives in the case of Lazarus, as the disciples who heard Him, required it. Here, it was not wanted, as all saw the girl was dead. Hence, “not dead” means, so as not to return to life, which the idea of death implies.

25. “When the multitude was put forth.” Our Lord permitted no one to be present, on His own part, at the miracle, except the chief among His Apostles (Mark 5; Luke 8), Peter, James and John, who were specially admitted to witness other manifestations of His glory, as on Thabor, and were destined to be unimpeachable witnesses, to disclose this to others, at a future day; and, on the part of the girl, He admitted her parents, who were most closely allied to her. He put out all the others, for several reasons; among the rest, probably, to conceal the miracle from those who were disposed to attribute it to diabolical agency. Moreover, He did not wish to irritate His enemies too much at this period, as His hour for suffering, at their hands, had not yet come, and He may not have wished to drive them to desperation, before the time. When He raised Lazarus, He made no secret of it from the multitude, as His destined hour was near at hand.

Took her by the hand,” to show that there resided in His sacred flesh, from its hypostatic union with the Divinity, a vivifying power. The other Evangelists add that our Lord addressed to her the words, Tabitha, cumi—“Maiden, arise,” and that He ordered food to be set before her (Luke 8:55), in proof of the reality of her resuscitation.

26. This is added by the Evangelist, in proof or confirmation of the truth of the miracle. The entire of Galilee, including men interested in denying the truth of the miracle, if they could, were witnesses of it. The other Evangelists (Luke 8:56; Mark 5:43), say our Lord charged her parents to tell no one of it, probably, with a view of avoiding the imputation of vain glory, and not to give offence to His enemies, as also to prevent the excesses of popular applause.

27. On His way home, after leaving the house of Jairus, “two blind men,” who heard of the many miraculous cures He performed, “followed Him,” (loudly) “crying out,” &c., “Son of David.” This was one of the titles ascribed by the Jews to the promised Messiah, and in this sense, the words are used on this, as on another occasion, by two other blind men (Matt. 20:30; Mark 10:47; Luke 18:38)—“have mercy on us,” and restore our sight. It implies their belief in His power, as the promised Messiah, who was expected about this time, by the Jews (John 1:25). They only invoke the exercise of His mercy.

28. Our Lord deferred complying with their earnest prayer, for the purpose of testing and confirming their faith, and of showing the necessity of persevering prayer. So, when they came “to His house” at Capharnaum, He asked, did they believe in His power, that I can do this?” not merely by obtaining it for you through prayer, but, by My own power, not merely as legate, but as God; and on their replying in the affirmative, He cured them.

29. “Do you believe that I can do this?” Hence, the primary conception of the theological virtue of faith—this virtue so essential for justification—is not faith in the remission of our sins, through the merits of Christ, as some Protestants imagine it; but an act of assent, on the part of the intellect, accompanied by the pious motion of the will, enlightened and aided by God’s grace, to receive all that God has taught. No doubt, to this faith was joined, on the part of those whom our Redeemer cured, on several occasions, an act of firm confidence in His mercy and goodness. Indeed, any one who will take the trouble of reading the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews, will see that faith consists in a belief in God’s attributes, especially His veracity.

The blind men could come to a knowledge of our Saviour’s miracles, merely through hearing. He required of them a profession of faith, and, according to that faith, that is, to the belief in His power, accompanied with confidence in His merciful goodness, was the miracle performed.

30. “Their eyes were opened” (i.e.), they began to see. Thus, in common conversation, we say of a man, who sees something, he did not see before, “his eyes are opened.” In the same way, we say of men who received the faculty of hearing, “his ears were opened.”

He strictly charged them,” for the reasons already explained (v. 25), “see that no man know this.”

31. “But they, going out, spread His fame,” &c. Some Protestant writers maintain that they sinned, in thus openly violating our Lord’s positive injunction. However, it is more generally held, that they did not sin; for, many of the Holy Fathers hold, with St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, St. Jerome, Venerable Bede, St. Gregory (Moral, lxiv. c. 18), that our Lord did not moan to enjoin this on them absolutely; but that He meant to repress their first emotions of gratitude, so that the knowledge of the miracle would only gradually reach the people. No doubt, He acted from feelings of humility, and with a view to teach us to avoid all ostentation and vain glory. Hence, they, looking to our Redeemer’s motive and intention, rather than to the strict meaning of His words, published it in good faith, from feelings of gratitude, believing it would redound so much to the glory of their Benefactor, when the people were made aware of His goodness and power in these miracles. Our Lord acted from motives of prudence also. The more stupendous the miracle, the greater the hostility of the Pharisees, with whom He did not wish, at the time, to come into open collision, nor would it suit His designs, to be now delivered up by them. His prohibition regarding publicity, only extended to raising the dead, or restoring sight to the blind, as these works, being beyond the reach of natural agency, would expose Him to greater odium and peril.

32. “When they had gone out,” full of joy and gratitude at their deliverance, they met a wretched sufferer—“a dumb man possessed of a devil,” and brought him. The Greek for “dumb” (κωφον), may also be rendered “deaf.” In fact, it means that the devil, who possessed, him, deprived him of the use of his senses, rendering him perfectly insensible. Hence, the demon is called “mute” by St. Luke (11:14), from the effect produced by him on the man possessed. Some hold that this miracle is different from that recorded (Luke 11); and that this latter is the same as that recorded in Matthew 12.

33. “The dumb man spoke,” thereby showing his dumbness to be, not a natural effect; but attributable solely to diabolical agency or demoniac possession.

Never was the like,” &c. The admiration of the crowd was not caused by this solitary miracle. It was caused by the many miracles wrought by our Divine Redeemer. Never before did such miracles appear “in Israel,” or, never before did such a person appear in Israel, if we regard the number of miracles wrought, their variety, the facility, celerity, and, above all, the authority with which they were wrought. The prophets wrought miracles, after invoking the Divine aid. He wrought them from His own innate power. In this sense, no such miracles were ever wrought in Israel.

34. This was a favourite calumny of the Pharisees, which our Redeemer formally refutes (c. 12:25, &c.) It seems probable that the miracle recorded is quite different from that recorded (c. 12:22). While the people were extolling the miracles of our Lord, the Pharisees, maddened by envy, and unable to gainsay the facts, ascribed them to diabolical agency, to magic, and a compact with the chief of the demons. The Jews believed, that there was a variety of ranks and powers among demons, which is comformable to SS. Scripture. They never, for an instant, seemed to reflect, that the expulsion of demons was not the only miracle He performed; that He performed some miracles which exceeded the power of demons, such as raising the dead; that He performed others, which were opposed to their nature, such as remitting sin, and leading men to God, by preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, &c. Our Redeemer, unmoved by these calumnies, goes about doing good, and accomplishing His heavenly mission. It would seem, that here these charges were made in our Redeemer’s absence, before the multitude who extolled His miracles.

35. Our Lord, regardless of the calumnies with which He was assailed, went about all the towns and villages of Galilee, of which Capharnaum, where He fixed His abode, was the metropolis, “teaching in their synagogues,” which were established in all the cities and populous towns of Judea—nay, in large cities, there were more than one synagogue, “and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom,” the glad tidings regarding the near approach of redemption, which was to throw open the gates of heaven, so long closed against the human race, and, confirming his teaching, by curing all their ailments, whether inveterate and confirmed “disease” (νοσος), or, in an incipient stage, “infirmity” (μαλακιαν). The one form of expression (νοσος), disease, denotes a more advanced step of illness than infirmity (μαλαχιαν). The former signifies, a confirmed, inveterate disorder; the latter, incipient, temporary infirmity. Thus, our Blessed Lord cured, not only their minds, but their bodies also. (See c. 4:23, where, in the Vulgate and Greek, the words are the same as here.)

36. “He had compassion.” The Greek word εσπλαγχνισθη, expresses the deepest and most intense feelings of tenderness and compassion. It conveys that His bowels—σπλαγχνα—the seat of compassion, were moved to tenderness on their account.

Distressed,” means worried, afflicted with various evils, especially spiritual diseases. It is likely it refers to their being worried by “unclean spirits” (c. 10:1), and this is borne out by the context.

Lying,” left abandoned and unprotected by their spiritual guides—who only cared for their own interests—a prey to every evil. “Like sheep that have no shepherd.” This gives an idea of their neglected, unprotected state, which so much touched the tender bowels of our Divine Redeemer, “Viscera misericordiæ Dei Nostri.”

37. “The harvest is great,” &c. Here we have a figurative term, borrowed from husbandry, strongly expressive of the great spiritual wants of the people; of their dispositions to profit by spiritual ministrations; of the necessity of having spiritual teachers sent amongst them; of the good dispositions of the people, embracing Jews and Gentiles; of their longing desire to be gathered into the granary of God’s holy Church, and the society of the saints, like a harvest ready for the sickle; of their destitution, having no one to care them “The labourers few.” As yet, only our Redeemer Himself and the Baptist. The Scribes and Pharisees, who pretended to be their guides, utterly neglected their duty. The word, “harvest,” also conveys, that the lot of those in charge of the people is work, and not idleness.

38. “Therefore,” a practical conclusion from the preceding verse. Some make this verse the beginning of the next chapter (10)

The Lord of the harvest,” according to some, means, God the Father. Our Lord calls His Father, “the Lord of the vineyard” (21:40), and also “the husbandman” (John 15:1). Others understand it, of our Redeemer Himself, who may be regarded as the husbandman and “Lord of the harvest,” by whom the labourers were to be sent, as were the Apostles here. The Prophets sowed the seed; the harvest is now ripe; the honour and labour are now reserved for them; the Scribes and Pharisees neglected the ripe field confided to them; it only remains for the Apostles to put their hands to the work; without waiting to be asked, He Himself sends “labourers,” that is, preachers and pastors, whose duty it was to labour. Of them the Psalmist speaks (Psa. 125), “Who sow in tears, shall reap in exultation,” &c. He also indicates the preciousness of the gift of good labourers, when He asks them to pray fervently for it. “That He send forth,” since, without a mission, without being sent, they can produce no fruits, but rather mischief, as always happens in regard to heretics and self-sent preachers. “I did not send prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (Jer. 23:21).

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