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

In this chapter, we have an account of how our Lord’s disciples, passing through the ripe cornfields, plucked a few ears, to appease hunger, which gives an occasion to the Pharisees to accuse them of violating the Sabbath (1–2). Our Lord vindicates their mode of acting, on several grounds—on the ground of necessity, as illustrated by the conduct of David (4–5); on the ground of their ministering to their Lord, which would justify a material departure from the law, in regard to what would be necessary for that purpose, as in the case of the priests sacrificing on the Sabbath; on the ground of being engaged in acts of the greatest spiritual mercy, which should be preferred to any external observances (6–7); on the ground of being dispensed by Him, the Sovereign Lord of all things (8). He cures a man with a withered hand, and triumphantly vindicates His line of acting, against the malevolence of the Pharisees (9–13). Returning to the sea-side, He performs several cures, and charges the persons cured to say nothing of it; thus, by His meekness and humility, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaias regarding Him (14–21). He cures a deaf and dumb demoniac, and elicits the admiration of the people, which provokes the Pharisees to blasphemy, when charging Him with communication and collusion with Satan (22–24). Our Redeemer, knowing their thoughts on this subject, shows the utter absurdity of charging Him with collusion with Satan. This He shows on several grounds (25–30). He points out the grievous nature of the blasphemy they were guilty of (31–32), the inconsistency of their judgments, their evil dispositions (34–35), and the severe account they were to render one day for their sinful words (36–37). His reply to the Scribes, demanding a still greater proof of His power, and the heavy judgments of condemnation in reserve for them (38–42). He next points out the wretched spiritual condition of the Pharisees, and the misfortunes sure to overtake them. To illustrate this, He applies to them the example of the wretched man, into whom a troop of devils re-enter, after having been before banished from his heart (43–45). We have an account of a message sent Him by His Blessed Mother, and relatives who came from Nazareth to Capharnaum to see Him, and His description of the spiritual relationship, which He most prized, of which His immaculate Mother was the most perfect type and pattern (46–50).

1. “At that time.” This form of words is frequently found in the Gospels, to refer, in merely a general way, to the period of our Redeemer’s preaching and public mission, without specifying any particular time, or marking out any connected order of events. From Mark (2) and Luke (6) it seems quite clear, that the events recorded here by St. Matthew, occurred before the mission of the Apostles (10).

Went through the corn,” that is, the corn-fields, where the corn was ripe for the sickle.

On the Sabbath.” The word, “Sabbath,” literally means, rest, in allusion to the rest of God, after perfecting the works of creation. (Heb. 4) It commonly denotes the seventh day, specially appointed, in the Jewish law, to be kept holy, and free from servile works of any kind (Exod. 35:3). It also was intended to denote all feasts among the Jews, and was employed, too, to designate the entire week. Hence, the words, first, second, third, &c., days of the Sabbath.

Here, the word would seem to be taken in its strict signification, as denoting the seventh day of the week, which, by a perpetual law, whether from creation, or, at least, from the time of Moses, was appointed to be kept “holy.” That it refers not to the great festivals, or the days of the week, seems very probable, from the fact, that it was allowed, on these festival days, to prepare meat, &c.; and, hence, the Pharisees would have no ground for accusing our Redeemer’s disciples, which, with all their malice, they would hardly do, if the letter of the law was not infringed upon; and, although our Redeemer’s reply does not expressly admit, that the letter of the Jewish law was violated by His disciples.—He does not openly say, that pulling of ears of corn was a servile work,—still, it indicates that His disciples did what was justified only by the necessity of the case. It was only on the Sabbath, strictly so called, such mode of acting was unlawful.

St. Luke (6:1), terms it, “the second first Sabbath.” What this “second first” means is much disputed. Some understand by it, a Sabbath on which another great festival had fallen, or with which such a festival concurred. So that it was doubly solemn—doubly a day of rest. “Secundo,” i.e., bis primum (St. Chrysostom). And, as it was a time when the ears of corn were ripe, it must be either the Pasch, or its seventh day (for, the seventh day of the Pasch was a solemn festival), or Pentecost. According to some, it was at the Paschal time; for, then the sheaf of first fruits was usually presented (Lev. 23:10). And at the Feast of Pentecost, that is, full seven weeks after the Pasch (Lev. 23:15), they were to offer two loaves of the first fruits (Lev. 23:17). Hence, it must fall on either Pasch or Pentecost; for, with these only could the season of ripe corn correspond. The feasts of new moons were only festivals in the temple, but not of obligation among the people.

Others say, that the word, “second first” (δευτεροπρώτῳ—secundo-primo), means, the Sabbath that concurred with the Feast of Pentecost, or fell within the week of Pentecost, which had no octave, like the Pasch (which had seven days), or the Feast of Tabernacles (which had eight days), and it was called “second first” or first, in the second place; because, the Sabbath that fell within the week of the Pasch, was first first, or πρωτοπρωτον, or, absolutely, the first of all the great Sabbaths of the year. Hence, St. John says of it, “it was a great Sabbath day” (John 19:31). So that as the Pasch was the greatest of all festivals, the Sabbath that fell within the Pasch was the greatest, or first first, Sabbath; and as Pentecost was the second greatest festival, so the Sabbath that fell within it was next in dignity to the Sabbath within the Pasch. Hence, “second first.” The three great festivals were termed, πρωτα, or first. Pasch had the πρωτοπρωτον, the first first Sabbath, by excellence. Pentecost, δευτεροπρωτον, the second first. Tabernacles, the third, τριτοπρωτον. Others, by second first, understand the octave day of the festival having an octave, which, it was commanded, should be celebrated with solemnity equal to that of the feast itself (Lev. 23; Num. 29:35).

Sabbath.” St. Mark (2:23), has the plural, and so has the Greek here, τοις σαββατοις, on the Sabbaths, which, by a Hebrew idiom, is used for the singular, and means, on one of the Sabbath days.

And His disciples being hungry.” Very likely, owing to the concourse of the multitude, they forgot to make any provision for their corporal wants.

Began to pluck the ears,” &c. St. Luke says (6:1), “they rubbed the ears in their hands.” It was allowed the Jews to do this, when passing through their neighbour’s field (Deut. 23:25). This whole passage indicates the austere and mortified life led by our Redeemer and His disciples, who were content with the simplest fare, with what came next to hand, sometimes suffering the pangs of hunger, poor, without scrip or staff. It contains a clear refutation of the implied charge, made against our Lord and His disciples, on the subject of not fasting (9:14; Luke 5:33). Hence, the occurrence recorded here, is narrated by St. Mark (2:23), after the charge referred to.

2. The Pharisees do not make it a charge, or subject of accusation, against our Lord’s disciples, that they plucked the ears of corn, or were guilty, in any way, of theft. Their charge is confined to the violation of the Sabbath, as if this was a servile work, included in the prohibition of the law.

Said to Him.” St. Luke, “said to them.” Probably, they charged both Him and them; or, it may be said, that in reproaching our Redeemer with the act of His disciples, they charged Him, at the same time. It was not for walking on the Sabbath, they reproached them. A walk to a certain distance was allowed on the Sabbath. The law permitted “a Sabbath-day’s journey.”

3. Our Redeemer adduces several reasons to exculpate, or justify, the conduct of His disciples; the first is, the plea of necessity. A law of a higher order, and of more binding force, the law of Nature, which prompted them to sustain life and appease the pangs of hunger, predominated over the positive enactment regarding the abstention from servile work on the Sabbath. He quotes the conduct of David—a man according to God’s own heart—which had the sanction and approval of the high priest at the time, as a case in point.

Have you not read,” in which He reproaches them with their ignorance of the Sacred Scriptures, their knowledge of which they made a subject of boasting.

What David did.” (See 1 Kings 21:1–6)

And they that were with him.” From the passage referred to (v. 1), it would seem David was alone. “Why art thou alone,” says Achimelech, “and no one with thee?” The answer is, that David was alone when he went to Achimelech (“and no one with thee”); but that he brought the holy bread to his attendants, whom “he appointed to such and such a place” (21:2).

4. “How he entered into the house of God.” This was at Nobe. It does not mean the temple which was not then built, but the place, or hall, contiguous to the Tabernacle, which was kept at Nobe, a sacerdotal city (1 Kings 22:19). The ark was not there; it was kept at Silo. St. Mark (2:26) says, this occurred “under Abiathar the high priest.” In the first Book of Kings (21:1), Achimelech is said to be the high priest in question. Some expositors, with St. Chrysostom (Hom. 40, in Mattheum), Theophylact, Jansenius, &c., undertake to reconcile both accounts by saying, that Achimelech, the father, and Abiathar, his son, had each the two names. So that each was called Achimelech and Abiathar. For (2 Kings 8:17), it is said, that when David mounted the throne, Achimelech, the son of Abiathar, was high priest with Sadoc, the son of Achitob. Now, by Abiathar here, is meant he who is called Achimelech (1 Kings 21:1). For, Achimelech, the father, was slain by Saul (1 Kings 22:18); and his son, Abiathar, was high priest during the whole of David’s reign, and during a part of Solomon’s. Hence, by Achimelech, is meant Abiathar; and so, both had the two names in common.

Others, with Venerable Bede, Cajetan, &c., say, Abiathar was present and sanctioned the act; and, so made it his own. Likely, he was associated with his father in the priestly functions, which old age prevented him from fully exercising.

Others say, the words, “under Abiathar,” should be rendered, “in the chapter called Abiathar;” because, the Jews divided the SS. Scriptures into parts, and called the parts from the principal person spoken of in them. Thus, “in Elias” (Rom. 11:2), means, the part called “Elias.”

And did eat the loaves of proposition,” called in Hebrew, “bread of the face,” because placed in the Holy, in the Tabernacle, six on each side, before the face or throne of God, which was in Holy of Holies. These breads, corresponding in number with the twelve tribes of Israel, served as a constant memorial, and perpetual recognition, on the part of the Jewish people, that they were continually fed and supported by the Lord.

Nor for them that were with him.” David, although a king and a prophet—and as such entitled to extraordinary privileges—had no privilege whatever, any more than his attendants had, to partake of this holy bread. The privilege of partaking of it was exclusively reserved for the priests.

The argument from David’s case is very strong. First, not only did David himself partake of these breads, but so did also his followers; and the high priest had no scruple in giving them, under the circumstances of necessity. Secondly, there seems to be greater deordination for laics in partaking of holy bread, which priests alone were allowed to eat, than in working on the Sabbath; and if necessity justified, or excused, the former, how much more the latter.

5. He adduces another, and still clearer, example, to show that His disciples did not act unlawfully, as was alleged.

Read in the law,” of Moses. (The fact of David might be referred to the Prophets.)

That on the Sabbath-days, the priests,” &c. This is not expressly said in the law; but, it is substantially contained in several parts of it, v.g., Numbers (28) and elsewhere, where the rite of sacrificing, which necessarily involves great servile labour, in slaying, burning, offering the victims, is sanctioned.

How that on the Sabbath-days the priests,” &c. Every word is expressive—the time, “Sabbath-days;” the place, “in the temple;” the persons, of all others, who should be most observant, “the priests.”

Break,” a stronger phrase than, observe not. They did so materially; but, still, they acted, according to the precepts of the law.

And are without blame.” The law itself allowed, in this case, this apparent departure from its general enactments. The act of sacrificing, &c., was, per se, a servile act. But it was allowed by the law; otherwise, it would be against the general provisions of the law of Moses.

6. They might object, and say: You are no priest; nor is the work done for the service of the temple. He replies, and shows how the alleged example of Sabbath breaking in the temple applies in the present case. If the sanctity of the temple excused those who laboured in its service, how much more will ministering to, and waiting upon, the Lord of the temple, excuse those who are employed in this meritorious office. If the service of the temple justified the priests in violating the letter of the law, how much more can I, who am still greater than the temple, nay, the Lord of the temple, to serve whom is still more meritorious, dispense My disciples from the Sabbatical law, while attending on Me. In this unavoidable attendance on Him, His disciples were excused as much, by so doing, as were the priests of the Old Law, in sacrificing, owing to their unavoidable attendance at the temple, on the Sabbath. This is an argumentum a minori ad majus. The law relating to the observance of the Sabbath, admits of the interpretation, or rather limitation, that it does not extend to the labours of the temple. For, the priests in the temple perform works which, in se, and looking to the mere letter of the law, would seem to be a violation of the Sabbath. And, still, they are excused; because, they perform works prescribed by the Legislator Himself on the Sabbath. How much more ought My disciples be blameless, when, merely plucking a few ears of corn, to appease hunger, while ministering to Me, who am Lord of the temple.

7. Another reason to excuse His disciples. If the Pharisees properly understood the words of God, quoted by the Prophet Ozee (6:6), I prefer mercy, i.e., the exercise of humanity, and benevolence, and charity towards the poor, to sacrifice, and all other external observances, they would not have condemned the disciples, when in the exercise of mercy to the souls of their brethren, whom they wished to rescue from eternal perdition, they did what seemed to be a mere material violation of the letter of the law. Or, “mercy,” might contain an allusion to the conduct of the Pharisees, who, devoid of all feelings of humanity and benevolence, were accusing the disciples, out of excessive zeal for the law. They were preferring sacrifice to mercy, which they failed to exercise. If the disciples, while suffering from hunger, were prevented from plucking a few ears of corn to appease hunger, this would be against charity and mercy; and if they gave over the sacred ministry, in obedience to ceremonial precepts, they would be preferring sacrifice to mercy. Had the Pharisees attended to this, they “would never have condemned the innocent” disciples.

8. “For the Son of man,” &c. This is the final reason adduced to justify the disciples. They were dispensed by Himself, who, as Man God, “was Lord even of the Sabbath,” and could dispense with its observance; or, could command it to be observed in what way soever He pleased.

Even of the Sabbath,” that is, of the Sabbath, as well as of everything else. “Even,” is rejected by several MSS. The particle, “for,” shows this to be an additional reason to prove the innocence of the disciples; because, they were dispensed by legitimate authority—viz., by Himself, “the Son of man,” His peculiar designation in the New Testament.

St. Mark (2:27), adduces an additional reason: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath rest was instituted for man’s benefit and advantage, in order that he would be free, and obtain a respite from bodily labour, and might thus be at leisure to attend to God’s worship, and meditate on His heavenly law and benefits, “and not man for the Sabbath.” So that if man’s corporal or spiritual necessity or utility required it, man would be free to dispense with the Sabbath observances and obligations. In a word, man’s benefit, his life, his salvation, and whatever serves to forward both, being the end for which the Sabbatical rest was instituted, are, therefore, superior to it. Hence, whenever the end or object of the Sabbatical ordinances becomes incompatible with the observance of the Sabbath, or Sabbatical observances become injurious to man’s corporal or spiritual interests, these latter, as being more important, are to be consulted for in preference. St. Mark seems to make this (5:8) an inference from the foregoing, “THEREFORE, the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath.” St. Luke (6:5), records them, as does St. Matthew here without making them an inference: “And he said to them: The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.”

Our Redeemer having, in four ways, excused His disciples, assigns four causes for transgressing a law. 1. Its opposition to the law of nature. 2. Its opposition to another particular and superior law. 3. Its opposition to humanity and love of our neighbour. 4. A dispensation from it by legitimate authority. (Jansenius Gandav.)

9. Luke (6:6) says, this occurred on “another Sabbath.” St. Matthew does not contradict this. The Jews were wont, on Sabbath-days, to assemble in their synagogues; our Redeemer entered their synagogue to teach, and He avails Himself of the occasion supplied by the Sabbath-day, to perform the miracle here recorded, for the purpose of confuting the error of the Pharisees, touching the observance of the Sabbath.

10. “Withered hand,” which St. Luke (6:6) says, was, “his right hand.”

They asked Him.” St. Mark (3:4), and St. Luke (6:9), say, it was, He asked them. However, there is no contradiction. The questions are not the same. They ask Him, first, “if it was lawful to HEAL on the Sabbath-days?” and He, in reply, puts the question in a different form, to which they could not give an answer in the negative, viz., “if it was lawful to do good or do evil; to save life, or to destroy, on the Sabbath-days?” In this question of our Redeemer, it is conveyed, that to omit saving our brethren, when in great danger, is the same as destroying them; that such omission was doing evil. Unable to answer Him—for, it could not be denied that it was lawful to do good, also that it was lawful, “to save life”—“they (therefore) held their peace” (Mark 3:4).

They put this question, not with a view of gaining information, but, “that they might accuse Him,” either of a violation of the law of Moses, in case He answered in the affirmative, or of inhumanity and cruelty towards a brother in distress, had He replied in the negative.

11. This is an argument, a fortiori. According to the admission and practice of the Pharisees themselves, it is lawful to rescue a sheep from drowning on the Sabbath-day; a fortiori, it must be lawful to rescue a man from death, or save him from suffering, especially when this latter operation involved no servile external work. For, the stretching forth of his hand by a sick man, was, surely, no servile work, any more than the use of language, the utterance of a few words by our Redeemer.

If it be said, that there is no parity in both cases, as the life of the man, like that of the sheep, was not endangered; it can be said, in reply, that it was not so much saving the life, as preventing the loss of the sheep, the Pharisees looked to. Now, the illness of a human being, for even one day, was a greater evil than the loss of a sheep. Moreover, there was no servile work in the curing of the man’s hand. It was a mere act of God’s will, combined with the mere stretching out or extending of the mans hand.

12. As a man is far more valuable, far more excellent, than a sheep, it is, therefore, more allowable to cure him from bodily distemper, and rid him of pain, on the-Sabbath day, and, thus, “do good”—which comes to the same in reference to the present case—than to rescue a sheep from drowning or suffocation.

13. St. Mark (3:3), and St. Luke (6:8), inform us, that, before performing this miracle, our Redeemer instructed the infirm man to “stand up in the midst,” and that the afflicted man, showing his confidence in our Redeemer’s power, at once complied. This he did, probably, with a view of calling attention to the miracle He was about to perform; and of disarming the Pharisees, and of inspiring them with feelings of mercy, on beholding the misery of the infirm man, and of causing them to change the rash judgment that they had been forming in their minds regarding this miracle.

St. Mark (ibidem) also informs us, that, before performing the miracle, our Redeemer looked round about on them, with anger, doubtless, for the purpose of inspiring them with feelings of shame and repentance, “being grieved for the blindness (or, as the Greek word πωρωσις, means, hardness) of their hearts.” He then told the infirm man to stretch forth his hand, after which our Redeemer, by the sole operation of His almighty power, cures him, without even touching him; thus silencing all the cavils of His enemies, and not affording them the shadow of accusation against Him.

14. The fury of the Pharisees, far from being appeased by this work of mercy, performed by our Redeemer, was, on the contrary, provoked to the highest pitch. Hence, being unable to make any reply, and having no ground of accusation, they go forth from the assembly, “filled with madness” (Luke 6:11), and consult with the Herodians (Mark 3:6)—who they were we shall see hereafter (22:16)—as to the best means of destroying His reputation, and of taking away His life. Such are the extremes to which envy drives its unhappy victims.

15. Knowing their inmost thoughts, and wicked machinations, our Redeemer retires from thence, not from feelings of fear or weakness, but, “because His hour had not yet come,” as He did on many similar occasions. In this He illustrated, by His own example, the precepts He inculcated on His Apostles (10:23), that, sometimes we are bound to fly from the urgent persecutions of our enemies, and yield for a time to their obstinate malice. “Retired from thence;” “retired to the sea” (Mark 3:7, 8).

And many followed Him;” “from Galilee and Judea, from Jerusalem and from Idumea, and from, beyond the Jordan” (Mark 3:7, 8). “And He healed them all,” i.e., all who were afflicted; “and as many as had evils” (Mark 3:10).

16. “And He charged them.” St. Mark says, it was the unclean spirits He strictly charged (3:12); but, as the demons were in the men possessed, it might be said, as here, that He charged the men whom He cured, “not to make Him known.” This He did for a two-fold object, to avoid the imputation of vain glory, and to avoid further irritating the Pharisees.

17. “That it might be fulfilled.” Our Blessed Redeemer, by thus meekly yielding to the fury of the Pharisees, and not contending with them in strength, fulfilled the prophecy of Isaias. “That,” signifies, the consequence of our Redeemer’s mode of acting to be, that the prophecy of Isaias was fulfilled. The design of the Evangelist, in referring to the prophecy of Isaias, most probably, was to bear witness to the great meekness of Christ, shown in His yielding to the fury of the Pharisees, and in His not wishing to irritate them by having His miraculous works proclaimed by those whom He cured. This proves He had the marks of the Messiah predicted by the Prophet.

18. This prophecy is read (Isaias 42:1). The reading of St. Matthew is different from that which obtains in either the Hebrew or the Septuagint. The first part of the quotation approaches nearer to the Hebrew reading, and the latter part, to the Septuagint.

Behold,” invites attention to the important prophetical oracle. “My servant.” The Greek word, παις, would signify, either son or servant; but, the Hebrew word, Hebed, determines it to the signification of servant, and designates our Redeemer according to His human nature, in which “He took upon Himself the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7), and discharged in it the ministry of reconciliation.

Whom I have chosen,” singularly chosen, and loved from all eternity, preferably, to all other beings. The Hebrew for “chosen” is, “I shall receive him”—“suscipiam eum.”

My beloved,” &c. (ὁ αγαπητος), the object of My eternal complacency, “in whom My soul hath been well pleased” (ευδοκησεν); in other words, in whom all others please Me, and by whom I am reconciled with a sinful world.

The Septuagint reading of the words is, “Behold, My servant Jacob, I shall receive (or, assume) him, Israel, My chosen one: My soul hath received Him,” as if this prophecy had reference to Jacob. But, the Jews themselves, as well as the Chaldaic Paraphrase, understood these words of the Messiah.

I will put My Spirit upon Him.” The Septuagint and Hebrew have the past tense, “I have put My Spirit,” &c. But the change of tense makes very little difference in prophetic quotations. In these words, reference is made to the manifold gifts of the Holy Ghost promised to Christ, and bestowed on Him: “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him; the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,” &c. (Isaias 11:2) It was the same Spirit that descended on Him in the Jordan (3:16).

And, He shall show judgment,” that is, what is just and equitable, and in accordance with the counsels and will of God; in other words, He shall make known the counsel and Gospel of God.

To the Gentiles,” to the entire world; unlike Moses and the Prophets, whose ministry was confined to the Jewish people only.

19. “He shall not contend.” The Prophet now shows, how, “He shall show judgment to the Gentiles,” not by vociferously contending with His adversaries, nor by boastfully raising His voice abroad in public, like the haughty ones of the earth. This is the part of the prophetic quotation, which is specially referred to, as directly bearing on the subject in hand, viz., the great meekness and clemency of our Divine Redeemer. St. Jerome (Isaias 42), for, “not contend,” has, “non clamabit”—“not cry out;” and the word corresponding with “not cry out,” in the text, he renders, “shall not have respect for persons”—neque accipiet personam. The Hebrew words (lo issa), simply mean, either, “neque accipiet”—“nor shall he receive, or accept, which St. Jerome applies to exception of persons, or, non tollet (he shall not raise”), understood of raising his voice, in which sense the words are here taken by St. Matthew, and by the Chaldaie Paraphrast, a sense, too, of which, St. Jerome in his Commentary tells us, the words are susceptible.

In the streets,” which is rendered by St. Jerome, “abroad,” “foris.”

20. “The bruised reed—the smoking flax,” &c. Most likely, this is a two-fold proverbial form of expression, conveying to us an idea of the great meekness and goodness of out Redeemer, who, far from crushing, or scornfully rebuking or oppressing those who are weak in virtue and Christian faith, would, on the contrary, meekly sustain, strengthen and encourage them, by His lenity and patience, and inflame them with Divine love. All this directly tends to point out the meekness of Christ, the object for which the entire prophetic quotation was adduced, here by St. Matthew. Others understand the force of the application of the proverbial expressions to have reference to the enemies of our Redeemer, who are as impotent, and as easily crushed as “the bruised reed,” &c., but whom He still mercifully spares giving them full time for repentance. The proverbs of “the bruised reed,” and of “the smoking flax,” are very expressive; the former, conveying that it is only an object fit for trampling upon and throwing away; the latter, that, there is question of an object, which from its offensive smell, is only fit to be extinguished. Both convey very expressive images of great weakness and worthlessness.

Till He send forth judgment,” &c., is understood by some (St. Chrysostom, Theophylaet, &c.), thus: He shall meekly tolerate the Jews, until He victoriously demonstrates, that His judgment, exercised in their repulse and rejection was justly merited and provoked by their own sins and madness, in refusing to receive Him. St. Jerome understands it, of His enduring sinners during the term of this life, inviting them to penance, until He shall come in triumph to judge the world, when His past treatment of His friends and enemies shall be triumphantly justified, before the assembled nations of the earth.

Others, more probably, understand it thus, “until;” or, so that, by this manner of acting, by thus patiently treating His adversaries, His “judgment,” which. He came to announce to the Gentiles, shall be victoriously propagated and received all over the earth. Hence, it is added next, “and in His name the Gentiles,” &c. The particle, “until,” denotes, not so much limitation of time, as the event, the consequence. In Isaias (42:4) it is, “until He set judgment in the earth,” which is, in sense, the same as the reading of the Evangelist. The Evangelist quoted the passage, partly from the Hebrew, partly from the Septuagint, omitting some parts from each, and quoting the sense of others, as suited his purpose.

21. “And in His name the Gentiles,” &c. This is quoted literally from the Septuagint. In the Hebrew, it is different: “For His law the Islands shall wait.” The sense, however, is the same in both; because, by “the Islands,” are meant, not the Jews, but the Gentiles, living beyond the sea, far from Judea. St. Matthew and the Septuagint convey the sense. Some commentators say that, ονοματι, “name,” is read instead of, νομω, law. But the meaning is not affected. For, those who wait for the law of Christ, place their trust in His name.

22. “Then,” that is, about that time. The more probable opinion seems to be, that what is recorded in the remainder of this chapter (12) and c. 13, took place before the mission of the Apostles, recorded (c. 10 of St. Matthew). For, from Mark (6:14); Luke (9:7), it would seem, that what Matthew records (c. 14), occurred immediately after the mission of the Apostles, and after the wonderful works they performed while engaged in it (A. Lapide), so that the end of c. 13 should be placed in order, before the mission of the Apostles, (c. 10)

Possessed with a devil,” &c. It is likely there is question here of the same, recorded in Luke (9), although Maldonatus thinks they are different, and that St. Luke records the miracle mentioned in St. Matthew, (9) St. Luke says, the “devil was dumb.” However, he does not deny that he was “blind” also. Some say that this blindness and dumbness was not natural, but only caused by the demon, who impeded the use of the organs of sight and speech; and hence, when “the devil,” called “blind and dumb,” from his rendering the possessed man “blind and dumb,” was cast out, the man at once “spoke and saw.” Others say, the man was dumb and blind from nature, and was, moreover, possessed by a demon; so that the miracle produced a three-fold effect—restored his sight, his speech, and expelled the demon. This rendered the miracle more remarkable. “So that he spoke,” &c. The ordinary Greek has, “so that the BLIND AND DUMB man saw,” &c. The Vatican MS. has, “the dumb man spoke and saw.”

23. “The multitudes were amazed,” that is, transported with astonishment at the wonderful works they saw our Redeemer perform. “And said: Is not this the Son of David?” that is, the Messiah, so long promised to the Jews, under the distinctive character of the son of David,” to be born of his race.

24. The Pharisees, blinded with envy, and maddened into hatred of Christ, being unable to deny or gainsay the miraculous facts, with fiendish refinement and malignity, ascribe them to diabolical agency.

In Beelzebub,” &c. (See 10:25).

25. “Knowing their thoughts,” &c., the thoughts they gave utterance to among the people, and the motives and secret springs from which their words and thoughts, regarding Himself, proceeded, viz., envy, and a desire to bring Him into disrepute, and prevent the further extension of His kingdom.

Said to them,” mildly assigning reasons to prove that He had acted under the influence of no diabolical power, but by the power of God.

Every kingdom,” torn by intestine factions and discord, must necessarily fall. The same is true even of every city and private family. If the several constituent members of the city or family are engaged in mutual strifes, discord, and quarrelling, that city or family must soon come to an end.

26. “And if Satan,” &c. Our Redeemer proceeds to show, by various arguments, the utter absurdity of the imputation, that His power was derived from Satan. In this verse, He applies to the case of the devil, or “Satan,” the adversary of God and man, the general principle enunciated in the preceding. “And” (which means, “now”) “if Satan cast out Satan,” if one devil, vested with greater power and authority, violently and in a hostile manner eject another devil, as you suppose in the words, “cast out,” and as you see Me do every day, then, “he is divided against himself;” and hence, his kingdom must fall. But, it is not to be supposed that this crafty enemy of God’s kingdom, who exerts all his cunning, and employs all his subtlety for the extension of his own kingdom, and the reign of sin among men, could be betrayed into any course of action, subversive of this so much cherished dominion.

Our Redeemer supposes the ejection of one demon by another to be done violently, and in a hostile manner, which would, therefore, exclude all idea of collusion among the demons, as if one would permit himself to be cast out by another, for the purpose of confirming, by a miracle, some false doctrines. It is said of Apollonius Thyaneus, the notorious impostor, who made such noise in the world, in the first century of the Christian era, that he, among other wonderful things ascribed to him, cast out devils. This, if it occurred, was the result of collusion among the devils themselves. Our Redeemer cast them out violently; and He did so with the express and declared object of extending the reign of virtue, and the kingdom of God.

27. Another argument, to prove not only, that it was not by the power of the devil He cast out demons, as in the preceding, but that it was by the Spirit of God He did so, by whose power “their (own) CHILDREN” confessedly “cast them out.”

Your children.” Some expositors, by this understand, the Apostles and disciples of our Redeemer, who cast out devils in His name. But, as our Redeemer spoke these words, very probably, before the Apostles performed miracles, and before their mission; and, moreover, as it was probable they, too, were as likely to be called Beelzebub as He was (10:25), hence, the words are understood by others of the Jewish exorcists, who, by the invocation of God, expelled devils. Mention is made of these in the New Testament (Mark 9:37; Luke 9:49; Acts 19:13, 14). We are informed by Josephus (Antiq. Lib. viii. c. 2), that Solomon instructed this class, by Divine authority, in the art of expelling demons. Josephus (ibidem) mentions an instance of the successful exercise of this power, by a certain Jewish exorcist, named Eleazar, in presence of the Emperor Vespasian, and his sons, and the entire army.

Therefore, they shall be your judges.” St. Jerome, who understands, “your children,” of the twelve Apostles, understands these words of the judicial authority of the twelve, sitting on twelve thrones, to judge the tribes of Israel.

Others, more probably, understand them of a judgment of comparison, just as “the Queen of the South shall rise in judgment,” &c. (v. 42.) These exorcists will render it evident, that the Pharisees were influenced solely by inexcusable malignity against our Redeemer, whom they charge with performing His splendid miracles under the influence of diabolical agency, while they regard the same or less brilliant miracles, performed by their own children, as the result of Divine power. There could be no reason for ascribing the same act to God, when performed by their own children; and to the devil, when performed by our Divine Redeemer. This would show they were actuated by personal hatred and malignity. Hence, our Redeemer need not pronounce judgment against them; their own conduct, in regard to the different treatment shown “their own children,” condemns them.

28. This is an inference from the foregoing, the very opposite of what the Pharisees wished to deduce. They wished to infer that He acted under the power of Satan, for the purpose of extending Satan’s kingdom. But our Redeemer infers, that having acted from the power of God, He did so to establish the kingdom of God.

By the Spirit of God.” St. Luke (11:20) has, “the finger of God,” or, the power of God. Hence, the Pharisees exceeded the Egyptian magicians in obstinate incredulity; for, these cried out, on witnessing the miracles of Moses, “this is the finger of God” (Exod. 8:19). The Holy Ghost is, in ecclesiastical language, sometimes termed, the finger of God; or, the power of the Almighty.

The kingdom of God is come upon you,” that is to say, by the number and splendour of My miracles, and the ejection of the demons, in a spiritual sense, signified by the visible ejection of them from the bodies of men, it is clear the kingdom of Satan is assailed with unusual violence; and hence, that the kingdom of God is being established among them. Or, the words might mean, that our Redeemer, by these miracles, proved the truth of His own teaching, and that of the Apostles, and of the Baptist, when they announced, at the very outset, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “Is come.” The Greek word, ἔφθασεν, signifies, to come by anticipation, sooner than they expected. The Pharisees madly strove to oppose the extension of this kingdom.

29. This is another reason to prove our Redeemer did not act, from any power derived from Satan, or under his influence. He shows His own superior power, compared with that of Satan, having expelled him forcibly, and having carried his kingdom or citadel by assault. “Or,” else, otherwise, if it is not by the Spirit of God, I cast out devils, and if the kingdom of God has not come to you, how could it be possible for Me to forcibly dispossess Satan? In a war between rival and hostile chieftains, one cannot enter the other’s house and plunder it, unless he first binds his adversary by the exercise of superior force. So, although Satan be “strong,” still, our Redeemer shows Himself to be “stronger” (Luke 11:22), by forcibly expelling him everywhere from the bodies of the possessed; by disseminating His own doctrine, and destroying that of Satan. It is only the power of God that is superior to that of Satan; and hence, our Redeemer proves that He acts in the Spirit and power of God, when overcoming Satan. The devil is called, “a strong man”—“no power on earth to be compared with his” (Job 41:24)—(see Ephes. 6, commentary on). “His house,” is either the world, where he exerted universal dominion, before the coming of Christ, or, his kingdom, which our Redeemer was destroying. “His goods,” or vessels, are, either the arms he employs to propagate and preserve this kingdom, such as pleasures, false maxims, &c.; or, rather, the miserable souls of men whom he held captive, and whom our Blessed Lord rescued from his grasp, and afterwards presented to His Father as so many trophies of victory. Our Redeemer shows in this verse, that He could not have acted in collusion with, or, as the friend of the devil, as they calumniously asserted; hence, He conquered him, and wrested from him his former possessions.

30. In this verse, according to some, is adduced a new reason, to show that our Redeemer did not act from the power of Satan, or in collusion with him, since Satan, far from being neutral, as regarded Him, was His declared adversary. It was a proverbial expression among the Jews, “he that is not with one is against him,” &c.; and our Redeemer declares, that this proverb is fully verified, and more than verified, in regard to Satan and Himself. For, Satan is, surely, not with Him; nay, indeed, he is manifestly against Him. The words of this verse, most likely, conveyed a proverb in vogue among the Jews. But, whether proverbial or not, and as such conveying a general truth, St. Jerome, St. Chrysostom, Bede, St. Thomas, &c., understand the words to refer to Satan, who surely was not for Christ. Beelzebub and He propose opposite and conflicting things. He inculcates, by word and example, humility, poverty, chastity, contempt of the world, and all virtues; Beelzebub, on the other hand, inculcates the opposite. Our Lord gathers men into the unity of faith, morals, religion, and finally into life eternal; Beelzebub, on the other hand, would “scatter” them into various idolatrous and wicked sects, and withdraw them from obedience and from giving glory to God.

Others apply the words to the Pharisees, against whom our Redeemer inveighs in this verse. They affected to be indifferent in regard to our Redeemer’s doctrine and miracles, as if they were neither for nor against Him; and, therefore, qualified to act as impartial judges in His regard. Our Redeemer, then, tells them this affected indifference will not excuse them, or save them from the imputation of being His enemies. Hence, He tells them (v. 33), to be either one thing or the other, “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or the tree evil, and its fruit evil.” The Pharisees were not for Him; they were, on the contrary, disposed to scatter to the winds all the fruits of His labours, His miracles, and preaching among the people. Against the probability of this latter interpretation it militates, that this saying, “he that is not with me,” &c., could not apply to the case of the Pharisees, who openly calumniated our Lord, and ascribed all His wonderful miracles to diabolical agency. Hence, the former interpretation would seem more tenable, if, in it, the words be not confined in their application to the devil, but be employed in a general sense to all, whether devils or men, who do not join our Redeemer in His warfare against the powers of hell, just as in a ruinous war, a king would have a right to call on all his subjects to give him active support; whoever would act a neutral part, should be regarded as enemies of their country.

The general assertion made here is not opposed to what is said (Mark 9:39; Luke 9:50), “He that is not against you, is for you.” For, in this latter place, our Lord speaks of external abstention from joining, or external constructive opposition; he that does not externally oppose you in your mission, as in the case of the man of whom the Apostles complain to Him (Mark 9), for having performed miracles, without joining them, such a man not being in direct opposition to you, may be counted on your side. His works and doctrine are not opposed to yours; but, in reality he agrees with you, although, for some reason, he may defer his external profession. St. Ambrose (in Luke 9), cites, as a case in point, Joseph of Arimathea and other occult followers of our Lord. But here (in St. Matthew), there is question of internal heartfelt opposition. Moreover, our Redeemer here speaks of those, who, as subjects, were obliged to help Him, such as the Pharisees and the Jews, who witnessed the proofs of His Divine mission, and, therefore, should receive Him; and by not doing so, they were hostile, just as a king’s subjects, by exhibiting neutrality in certain pressing contingencies, when their active services are urgently demanded, may be fairly regarded, as opposed to him.

31. “Therefore,” is an inference derived from all the foregoing passage; as if He said: Since, then, it is manifest that I expel demons by the power of God, and not from any diabolical agency, as you may clearly have seen; “I say to you,” by ascribing works, so manifestly Divine in their source and principle, to the devil, you are guilty of “blasphemy” against the Holy Ghost, from whose power these works emanated—a most grievous sin, scarcely ever remitted.

By, “blasphemy of the Spirit,” is understood, not every sin against the Holy Ghost. For, there is question here of a sin by words, by language, as in next verse, language attributing works manifestly performed under the influence of God’s Spirit, to the devil. Of course, under words, are included, thoughts and actions of the same specific kind and tendency, “every sin and blasphemy.” Hence, He says here, “shall not be forgiven men.” Whatever interpretation of this passage may be adopted, it cannot, for a moment, be allowed to militate against the plenitude of power left to God’s Church to forgive sins, be their number or enormity what it may. “WHOSE SINS you shall forgive, they are forgiven” (John 20:23). No limitation as to number, or kind, or enormity. It is not said here, that the sin in question is irremissible, cannot be forgiven, but only, “SHALL NOT BE forgiven,” that is, it is but rarely remitted, and with difficulty; just as it is said that, “every blasphemy shall be forgiven men,” not that every sin of blasphemy is always forgiven; for, sometimes, men do not seek forgiveness, by repentance; but, that it is easily and generally forgiven. Hence, the opposite clause, means: Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is not easily nor generally remitted, not for want of power in God or in the Church; but, for want of dispositions in the subject, who rarely is blessed with proper dispositions of penance, necessary for the remission of every mortal sin. The reason why those guilty of this sin rarely have the necessary dispositions, is, that they sin against the source of all grace and remission, the Holy Ghost, to whom, as being a work of Divine goodness, the giving of grace necessary for the remission of sin is, by appropriation, ascribed. Such persons are handed over to a reprobate sense, so that they become impenitent. St. Augustine, by “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,” understands, the heinous crime of final impenitence.

32. “Against the Son of man,” which is generally understood, of speaking against our Lord in His human nature, calumniating Him in His human actions, such as that He was a glutton, the friend of publicans, &c.; or, calumniating the works He did, having the appearance of being violations of the Divine law, such as curing on the Sabbath, remitting sins, &c. Such a “word shall be forgiven him,” i.e., without much difficulty, and generally is remitted. Such a sin is extenuated by ignorance and the absence of malice. Ignorance can be pleaded in such a case, as was done by St. Paul, “IGNORANS feci.” St. Paul’s ignorance, though culpable, was not directly voluntary.

But he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost,” by ascribing the known works of God to the devil, cannot plead ignorance in excuse. Although, such a man speaks at the same time against the Father and the Son; still, the insult is said to be specially against the Holy Ghost, because, certain effects of benignity and goodness, are by appropriation, ascribed to Him—although, like all operations, ab extra, common to Him with the two other Persons of the adorable Trinity—such as the works here calumniously spoken of, “in spiritu Dei, ejicio dæmonia.”

Shall not be forgiven him in this world, or the world to come.” The words, “in the world to come,” according to St. Augustine (De Civ. Lib. c. xxi. 13), and St. Gregory (Dialog, iv., c. 39, &c.), imply, the possibility of the remission of sin in the life to come; and, consequently, the existence of a middle state. For, no man in his senses would say “I shall not marry in this world, or in the world to come,” because, the latter is absurd and impossible. Hence, a proof of Purgatory, where sin is remitted, or rather, satisfied and atoned for, as to the temporal punishment which, faith tells us, sometimes remains to be atoned for after the guilt of sin, and the eternal punishment it deserves are remitted.

Obj. St. Mark says, “shall never have forgiveness, but shall be guilty of an everlasting sin” (3:29). The meaning of our Redeemer’s words, therefore, is he shall never be forgiven, either in heaven or in hell.

Resp. St. Augustine’s argument is, that the words, “in the world to come,” would not be used in connexion with the words, “in this world,” where sins are, and can be, remitted, unless they could be remitted in the world to come also. St. Mark only expresses briefly, what is more fully enlarged and explained in St. Matthew.

The remission of sin, “in the world to come,” is, of course, not to be understood of the guilt of sin, which can be remitted only in this life; but, of its temporal punishment, as already explained.

33. Some commentators understand “the tree,” of the Pharisees; and they say, the argument bears on verses 31, 32. Be consistent with yourselves; if you are good trees, and wish to be regarded as such, let your fruit or works correspond. Be good, not only in appearance, but in reality. He thus inveighs against their hypocrisy (Maldonatus). Then, in the words, “make the tree good,” &c., is contained a precept to be good trees, and to produce good fruit. In the words, “make the tree evil,” is contained a caution not to become such. (Jansenius Gandav.) Others understand it, of the devil.

The more probable interpretation understands, “the good tree “and” good fruit,” of Christ; and the words, according to it, contain a fifth argument against the calumny of the Pharisees, which exposes their inconsistency, as if He said: Be consistent in your judgments and opinions. Say one thing or the other. Say that I am myself good, and my works good and worthy of commendation; and hence, that I cannot act from diabolical influences; or, that I am wicked and my works evil. Now, the best test for judging of any one are his works. “For, by the fruit the tree is known.” As my works, then are manifestly good; it follows, if you are not inconsistent with yourselves, and blinded by passion and envy, that you must pronounce Myself to be good also.

34. This answers either of the above interpretations. The first, thus: But, as you are bad trees, it is no wonder you do not speak good things. The latter, thus: But, as you are naturally bad, how can you speak with consistency? How can you speak otherwise than calumniously of Me? Of course, He only says, they cannot do so naturally. He does not deny the possibility of their doing otherwise, aided by God’s grace. “Generation of vipers,” is allusive to the old serpent; and also in it is contained an allusion to the boast the Jews indulged in, of being “the seed of Abraham.” In reality, they proved themselves to be the seed of the old serpent—this first of calumniators against God. They proved themselves to be “a brood of vipers,” the malignant offspring of the most malignant parents. Their deadly malignity and wickedness were chiefly manifested in calumniating and contradicting holy men. Hence, termed “vipers,” the most noxious of animals, the most poisonous of serpents. Similar are the reproaches uttered, c. 23:13, &c.

The words, “how can you speak good things?” &c., are similar to those of Jeremias (13:23), “If the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the leopard, his spots: you also may do well,” &c. The words express, not so much the impossibility, as the great difficulty of speaking or acting well. They also express what usually and commonly happens.

For, out of the abundance,” &c., a proverbial form of expression.

35. He explains more fully the meaning of the words, “out of the abundance of the heart”—“out of a good treasure,” out of the accumulated treasures of thoughts and affections, with which the heart is filled, a man gives utterance to the same sentiments—be they good or evil.

36. This is generally supposed to be, an argumentum a minori ad majus. If an exact and rigorous account be demanded for an “idle word,” what account is to be rendered for blasphemous, calumnious language, such as the Pharisees were guilty of in the present instance? By “an idle word” is commonly understood, a word that confers no benefit on the man who utters it, or on those to whom it is addressed. “Quod sine utilitate loquentis dicitur aut audientis” (St. Jerome). Obj. How can venial sins be punished “in the day of judgment,” on which mortal sins alone are punished? Resp. We may understand the words of our Redeemer, of the particular judgment which occurs at the death of each one; or, if of the general judgment, then, we may say that the wicked shall be punished in hell, not alone for their mortal sins, but also, the recollection of their idle words and venial sins shall add to their torments; and that the just, who, already satisfied for their venial sins by penance here, or in Purgatory, shall render an account, in this sense, that their beatitude shall be less than it otherwise would be, had they not indulged in idle words and venial sins. (Jansenius Gandav).

37. “For by thy words,” &c. Not that words only are to form the subject of future judgment. Our works, too, shall form a portion of the matter for examination. For, when “manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, each one shall receive … according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10), but that words alone would form ample grounds for declaring us justified, or for condemning us. No doubt, they shall form a considerable portion of the matter of our examination. “Shalt be justified, that is, declared, or pronounced to be just. This meaning is required by the words, “shalt be condemned,” judged, declared to be condemned.

38. “Then some of the Scribes,” &c. After our Redeemer had, by the most cogent and convincing arguments, refuted the calumnies of those who charged Him with working miracles, under the influence of Satan, others amongst the Scribes and Pharisees, dissembling their rage and disappointment, and veiling their hypocrisy under the appearance of respect—“Master”—affect a desire to see more convincing proofs of His Divine mission, as the miracles He had hitherto performed were still called in question. “We would see a sign from Thee.” St. Luke (11:16) says, that others, “tempting, asked of Him a sign from heaven,” such as thunder and rain, out of the usual course of things, as exhibited by Samuel (1 Kings 12:18); or, to bring fire from heaven, as was done by Elias, to consume the victims (3 Kings 18:38); or, like the same Elias, be taken up in a fiery chariot (4 Kings 2:11); or cause manna to be rained down from heaven, like Moses; or stop the sun in his midday course, like Josue. As if these wicked hypocrites would not devise means for evading the force of such miracles also. “Quasi,” says St. Jerome, “non possent et illa calumniari.” The men who asked for signs from heaven, are different from those who calumniated Him, as in the preceding (Luke 11:16).

39. “Who answering said to them.” St. Luke conveys (11:29), that the multitude gathered round, in the hope of seeing some celestial prodigy, and when they were gathered round, then our Redeemer said, “an evil,” a wicked, perverse, “and adulterous”—a faithless—“generation,” race of men or people, who abandoning God, to whom they were espoused by the law, clung to the demon, and followed his suggestions, thus violating their marriage contract, by spiritual adultery and connexion with infidelity; or, “adulterous” may mean, degenerate, who have degenerated from the morals and piety of the Patriarchs, from whom they sprang. The word may also be understood, of adultery, in the literal sense, which was then very prevalent.

And a sign shall not be given it, but,” &c. Did He not give many signs from heaven—the eclipse of the sun at His death, the voice from heaven? (John 12) Yes; but not to these people who, with perverse minds, demanded it. “Shall not be given IT.” Nor was a sign given, at their request, such as they demanded—viz., “a sign from heaven;” and the particle (ειμη), nisi, except, will bear the meaning of but a sign will be given them, not from heaven, but from the very bowels of the earth, a sign which they cannot gainsay or misconstrue, the sign whereby I am proved to be “the Son of God” (Rom. 1:4); or, if the particle, nisi (except), be taken in its strict exceptive sense, then, it will mean, except the sign which I have already given them (John 2:19), a sign prefigured in the prophet Jonas. Our Redeemer refers to the miracle of His resurrection, to remove the occasion of scandal, which the Jews would conceive from His ignominious death and Passion.

Maldonatus explains, “sign,” in the second place; “the sign of Jonas,” differently from the word, sign—“Seeketh a SIGN”—they seek a sign, for persuasion to induce them to believe, and thus to be saved; but, the sign they shall get, is one that shall be for their condemnation, as is explained (v. 41). However, the following (v. 40) is clearly against this interpretation.

40. In this verse, is shown what is meant by “the sign of Jonas the prophet,” which is given them, and how his condition, in what happened him, was a type of our Lord’s resurrection. As Jonas was a Jesus, or Saviour to the Ninevites, so Jesus shall be a Jonas to the Jews.

Whale’s belly.” In the prophecy of Jonas, it is called, “a great fish” (2:1). It is perfectly idle to speculate to what species of marine monsters it belonged.

Three days and three nights.” A paraphrase and exposition of three natural days of twenty-four hours, of which the integral parts are, day and night, light and darkness. This is a way of describing natural days, as distinguished from artificial days, during which the sun shines. By synedoche, the parts of three natural days are put for whole natural days. Our Redeemer uses the phrase, “three days and three nights,” to express natural days; because, such is the mode of expression used in reference to Jonas (Jonas 2:1). Then, our Redeemer was three natural days, in this partial sense, in the bosom of the earth, if we adopt the Jewish custom of computing their civil days, viz., from sunrise to sunrise; (they computed their festivals from evening to evening), viz., a part of Friday, the whole of Saturday, and apart of Sunday, from early dawn to sunrise. Or, if we adopt the calculation of the Romans, who probably introduced their civil calendar into Judea—from midnight to midnight—then, the same results; a portion of Friday, from His death till midnight; the whole of Saturday; a part of Sunday, from midnight till morning. It would seem, that the Jews adopted the Roman computation of time in civil matters, as we find the system of counting hours from watch to watch existing among them (Matt. 14:25). We have an example of computing natural days in a partial sense (Esther 5:1), where the Jews are told to “fast three days and three nights;” and still, after part of these days, “on the third day,” Esther went to the king on the business, for the successful issue of which the fast was observed. Hence, our Redeemer is frequently said to “rise ON the THIRD day” (Matt. 16:22); and it is quite common in all languages, to say that a thing was done after three days, which was done on the third day. After three days you must appear, would mean, you must do so on the third day.

In the heart of the earth.” This refers to the Limbus Patrum, called by St. Paul (Eph. 4:9), “the lower parts of the earth,” to which He descended to preach deliverance to the saints therein detained captive (1 Peter 3:19).

41. After instituting a comparison between Himself and Jonas, and between the Jews and Ninevites, our Redeemer points out the different fruits resulting from Jonas’s preaching and His own; and He thus shows, in the clearest light, the obstinacy of the Jews.

The men of Ninive shall rise in judgment,” that is, shall be witnesses against the Jews. The word, “rise,” contains an allusion to the usage, which then prevailed, to have witnesses to give testimony in a standing posture.

And shall condemn it,” not that they shall act as judges; but, by a judgment of contrast or comparison, they shall show, by their penance and good works, that the obstinate and incredulous Jews shall be justly condemned.

They did penance.” Although the Greek word, “μετενοησαν,” strictly speaking, only means, a change of heart; still, we know that their penance, which is here commended by our Redeemer, involved acts of the austerest penitential severity and rigour (Jonas 3:6, 7, 8); and, it was, when “God saw their works, that He had mercy on them” (v. 10). (See p. 39.)

A greater than Jonas.” Jonas was but a servant; Christ, the Master; Jonas, a creature; Christ was God.

42. Another example to show the same. “The Queen of the South,” some country south of Judea. She is called “the Queen of Saba” (3 Kings 10:1), of which Saba, some say, Saba, in Arabia Felix; and she might be said to come from “the ends of the earth,” as Arabia Felix is the farthest off point of land in that quarter, being bounded by the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Others understand Saba, the chief city of the island Meroe, in Ethiopia, which Cambyses called Meroe, after his sister of that name. It is said, that the queens of Meroe were named Candaces, as the Egyptian monarchs went by the name of Pharaoh. Hence, the Ethiopian belonged to the Queen of Ethiopia, whom Philip found reading the SS. Scriptures (Acts 8), which were introduced into that country since the return of this queen from the court of Solomon.

A greater” (πλειον), something greater. The neuter gender is used as a mark of humility; or, as agreeing with sign (σημειον). Out of humility, He speaks of Himself in the third person. The contrast is very striking. A woman undertakes a distant, laborious journey to see the wisdom of a mere man. Here, we have the God of heaven coming to preach a kingdom to the Jews, bringing it home to their very doors; and they reject and spurn it.

43. St. Luke (11:24) records this parable, as also the exclamation of the woman, who pronounced the parent of our Redeemer happy (v. 46), before our Redeemer’s refutation of the calumnies of the Pharisees, referred to in the preceding, ascribing His miracles to diabolical agency. But, as St. Matthew is more exact in following the order of events, it is better to adopt the order which he follows.

43–45. The whole parable is given in these three verses, as well as its application. “So shall it be also to this wicked generation.” The Pharisees charged our Redeemer with being possessed by a devil, and with acting under his influence. Our Redeemer, after refuting this gross calumny, now wishes to inspire the proud, impenitent Pharisees with salutary fear, by describing their wretched spiritual condition, and the misfortunes which are sure to overtake them. He, at the same time, conveys, that they, and not He, are under the power of the devil.

An unclean spirit.” The devil, who prompts and instigates to acts of impurity and sin. “Is gone out of a man,” being expelled by God’s powerful grace, either in baptism or penance. “He walketh through dry places.” St. Luke has, “places without water” (11:24). (The Greek, however, is the same in both, τόπων ἀνύδρων). This is said of the demon, ascribing to him the feelings of men, or in accommodation to the notions of the Jews regarding the haunts of demons—generally supposed to reside in waterless deserts, and this notion is warranted by Scripture (Tobias 8:3)—and of persons possessed, who never are at rest. “Seeking rest, and findeth none.” Some understand, “dry places,” to refer to persons of mortified habits, not enervated by luxury, whom the demons assail in vain, without gaining admittance.

44. “Findeth it empty,” useless; unoccupied by God, who no longer makes it His abode.

Swept and garnished,” destitute of virtue, piety, or Divine grace, filled with pride, furnished with the ordure of sin, in which the unclean spirit finds delight.

45. To render his hold more lasting and secure, he takes back with him an indefinite number of devils, represented by the number, “Seven.”

And the last state of that man is worse,” &c. This is a proverbial form of expression (see 2 Peter 2:20, 21; Hebrews 12:4).

So shall it be also to this wicked generation.” This is the application of the foregoing similitude, as if He said: It shall happen this wicked generation, as happens a demoniac, from whom a devil is expelled, and into whom, a whole legion of demons afterwards enter, rendering his last condition infinitely worse, and more deplorable than the first. Our Redeemer conveys to the Jews, that having been freed from the tyranny of Satan by the law, segregated from all the nations, and especially cared by God’s providence, they now, by their sins, their obstinacy and resistance to God’s grace, provoke against themselves a heavier judgment of impenitence, and shall continue irretrievably under the dominion of Satan. No doubt, the example has a more general application. It is applicable to every relapsing sinner, and clearly represents his miserable spiritual condition. But it is specially intended for the Jewish people, as is clear from the application made by our Lord, “So shall it be also to this wicked generation.

46. While our Redeemer was addressing the multitudes, His blessed mother, probably desirous of withdrawing her Divine Son from the dangers that encompassed Him, and also of securing for Him some respite from His labours, stood outside, wishing to speak to Him.

And His brethren,” also, that is, His cousins, who are called “brethren,” according to the custom among the Jews, of calling cousins, by the name of “brethren.” These were, most probably, the children of Mary, the daughter of Cleophas, and the wife of Alpheus. This Mary was cousin to the Blessed Virgin. These came from Nazareth to Capharnaum to see Him.

Stood without,” as they could not go in and reach Him by reason of the crowd (Luke 8:19). It might be also, that they wished to speak to Him privately, apart from the crowd.

Seeking to speak to Him.” His relatives, unable to see Him, sent a message to Him (Mark 3:31). They (His relatives) said, “He is become mad” (Mark 3:21). Whether they really thought so, or only affected to think it, in order to withdraw Him from the fury of His enemies, may be disputed. It is quite certain, the Blessed Virgin did not think so; she knew well He was of sound mind. Likely, His “brethren,” concealed from her, their opinions regarding Him, and brought her, by way of respect, to converse more secretly with our Lord. Their design was to force Him away with them to Nazareth.

47. “Thy brethren.” There is a tradition, that the Blessed Virgin was an only child. Hence, “brethren,” refer to the children of the cousin-german of the Blessed Virgin, viz., Mary Cleophas, the wife of Alpheus.

And one said unto Him.” St. Mark says, they sent a messenger to Him (3:31).

48. In asking this question, He does not mean to deny, that He had a real mother, or to imply that He was ashamed of His mother or brethren; but, probably, to check the untimely importunity and interruption of the messenger, and also to show, as St. Ambrose intimates, that He preferred the ministry of His Father to maternal affection. He wished to convey, that He acknowledges no mother, no brother, should they in the least interfere with Him, while doing His Father’s business. (See Luke 2)

49. Our Redeemer extends the relationship to a higher degree, and takes occasion to give a preference to His spiritual relationship, which He prized more than His natural relationship. In this respect, He prized His blessed mother more than all the rest of creation; because, in a spiritual sense, she was the most perfect and the holiest of God’s creatures.

50. In this, His blessed mother is pre-eminently included, as she had, in the most perfect manner, accomplished God’s holy and adorable will. The words, “brother, sister,” &c., show, that in spiritual relationship, there is no distinction of sex; but that all are one, as St. Paul declares (Gal. 3:28).

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