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

In this chapter, the Evangelist records the cure of a man with a withered hand, in the synagogue—the murmuring of his enemies—our Redeemer’s refutation of them (1–5). Their plotting with the Herodians to find matter for accusation against Him—the several miracles He wrought, among the rest, on those possessed by devils, who proclaim Him to be the Son of God (6–12). The election of the Apostles (12–19). The visit of His friends from Nazareth, in order to take Him away. His refutation of the blasphemies of the Scribes (20–31). His description of who His mother, and brothers, and sisters were (31–35).

1. St. Luke (6:6), tells us this occurred “on another Sabbath,” different from that on which His disciples plucked the ears of corn. The Jews were wont to assemble in the synagogues on Sabbath-days for the purpose of prayer, and hearing the Word of God (see Matt. 12:9–13).

Withered hand,” which St. Luke says, was his “right hand.”

2. “And they watched Him,” clearly refers to the Pharisees, from the context St. Matthew also says (12:10), they interrogated Him on the subject of the Sabbath, not for the purpose of information or self improvement, but all from the malicious motive of accusing Him (Matthew 12:10).

3. (See Matt. 12:13).

4. (See Matt. 12:10, 11, 12.) As they could not deny one portion of His questions, regarding the doing of good, the saving on the Sabbath-day, nor affirm the other portion, about doing evil or destroying; hence, their silence. But this forced silence evinced the most crushing refutation.

5. (See Matt. 12:13).

6. (See Matt. 12:14.) Who the “Herodians” were, is explained (Matt. 22:16).

7, 8. (See Matt. 12:15.) “Idumea,” to the south of Judea, was the farthest off from Capharnaum, of all the districts here referred to.

From beyond the Jordan,” the region called Peræa. “Tyre and Sidon,” cities of Phœnicia (Luke 6:17, 18).

9, 10. Residing on the borders of the lake, He wished to have a boat always in readiness for Himself and His Apostles, which He might call His own, and use for crossing the lake when necessary. He might also use it, to teach the crowds, who pressed upon Him so eagerly as to render it inconvenient to address them on the shore. He might also have in view to show the crowds, that if they acted unreasonably, He could, at any moment, leave and cross the lake in some other direction.

10. “Evils.” The Greek is, μαστιγας—“scourges,” grievous disorders, which were a scourge or source of great pain to the sufferers.

11. What the persons possessed by “unclean spirits” did, is here ascribed to the “spirits” themselves, because the wretched energumeni, acted on by the spirits, were not free, or their own masters; they acted as the spirits impelled them (see 1:23, 26). If the ailments of those who are described as possessed by evil spirits, were only some ordinary natural disease, as Rationalists teach, how comes it, that persons thus affected were the only persons to know our Lord to be “the Son of God?”

12. “The Son of God” could not be understood in that general sense, in which all good men are called “sons of God” (1 John 3:1); for, if this were the meaning, why should our Lord “charge them not to make Him known?” The making Him known in this sense, would be only proclaiming Him a just man. Hence, He is called, “the Son of God;” or, as in Greek (το͂υ θεου), “of the God,” in the strict sense of the eternally begotten, consubstantial Son of God.

He strictly charged them.” If this refers to the demons, then, the reasons of this charge are assigned (1:25). It may refer to the men cured, as would seem from St. Matthew (12:16). Our Redeemer’s motive was twofold—1st. To avoid the imputation of vainglory; 2ndly. To avoid further irritating the Pharisees.

13. “Going up into a mountain,” near the Lake of Genesareth, “He called unto Him whom He would.” St. Luke (6:12) says, “He went out into a mountain to pray, and He passed the whole night in the prayer of God.” Prayer was certainly His object in retiring to the mountain. Likely, as the event shows, He had in view to choose His twelve Apostles in the morning, from among His disciples. “When it was day, He called His disciples” (Luke 6:13). St. Mark says here, “He called unto Him whom He would Himself,” to show, how utterly gratuitous was this call on His part; altogether independent of their merits, actual or foreseen. He called, according to the purpose of His will, those whose call should be like that of Aaron (Heb. 4), poor, illiterate fishermen—the weak, foolish, and contemptible things of this world—to confound the strong, the wise, and those held in consideration by the world.

14. “And He made that twelve should be with Him,” which means, He selected twelve out of the number. “Be with Him,” His constant associates and attendants, to constitute, as it were, His family and household. This was the first object for which He had chosen them; the second was, that, after learning the doctrines of eternal life from His own Divine lips, “He might send them to preach” in due course.

15. (See Matt. 10:1, &c.)

16. Simon was called Peter, the immovable rock on which He was to build His Church. (See Matt. 16:16, &c.)

17. “Boanerges, which is, the sons of thunder,” that is, thunderers. Why He gave them this name, is variously accounted for. Some say, it was because of the wonderful power and energy they displayed in announcing, or thundering, to the world the truths of the Gospel, which made James to be such an object of hatred to Herod, as to be apprehended by him and put to death; and John, who survived all the other Apostles, showed the like energy in his writings, whereby he confounded all those heretics who denied Jesus to be the eternal Son of God. Baronius (Ann. 99) says, that when John commenced to write his Gospel, loud peals of thunder were heard, like to those that were heard at the giving of the Law on Sinai. These two Apostles, like thunder, sounded forth the terrors of the Divine judgments everywhere, and, by the salutary influence of holy fear, terrified men into the obedience of faith. Others say, the term is allusive to the occasion (Luke 9:52–56) when they besought our Lord to command fire to descend from heaven on the obstinate Samaritans.

18, 19. (See Matt. 10:3, 4).

20. Probably, there is question of Peter’s house at Capharnaum, where He was wont to stop. This occurred after the Sermon on the Mount. (Luke 6:17; 7:1; Matt. 5, 6, 7.) Such was the constant attendance of the crowd, attracted by His doctrine and miracles, that our Lord and His disciples had not time to take food.

21. When our Lord’s relatives and friends, who knew Him from infancy, heard of His teaching and wonderful works, and of the crowds that everywhere followed Him (the Greek for friends is, ὁι παρ αυτοῦ—his own), they “went out” from Nazareth, where they lived (Matt. 13:55, 56), to Capharnaum, to lay hold of Him and secure His person, as one whom they regarded as unfit to take care of Himself. It would, of course, be impious to say this of the Blessed Virgin and His believing relatives. It only applies to some of them, who did not yet believe in Him (John 7:5.) In this, they were actuated by a feeling of friendship, and from a conviction that, as His friends, they were bound and had a right to do so. “For they said: He is become mad.” The Greek word, εξεστη, means, transported out of his wits, become beside Himself. Our Lord was not alone in bearing this reproach. At all times does the world regard those as mad, who, giving up all, follow Christ. On the Day of Judgment, however, worldlings shall see their error, and be forced to cry out in despair, “Nos insensati, vitam illorum, estimabamus insaniam … ecce, nunc, inter sanctos sors illorum est.” Some commentators say, our Lord’s friends did not really believe Him to be mad, but that they affected to think so. This they did, in order to save both Him and themselves from the great danger they and He would incur, owing to the commotions excited on occasion of His preaching, and the envy and jealousy of the ruling powers among the Jews, this “evil and adulterous generation,” this “generation of vipers” (Matt. 12:34–39), whose errors and hypocrisy He never failed to make the subject of His unsparing denunciations.

22. “And the Scribes, who were come down from Jerusalem.” “Come down,” because Jerusalem was built on hilly grounds, higher than Galilee. It is recorded (Matt. 12:22; Luke 11:14), that our Lord had cast out a deaf and dumb devil, in presence of these calumniators. St. Matthew (12:24) calls them, “Pharisees.” It may be, they were the same, and that the Pharisees, too, were “Scribes,” doctors of the Law; or, it may be, that the Evangelists indifferently call them Scribes and Pharisees, as both were joined in the unholy work of thwarting our Lord.

The events recorded in the remainder of this chapter occurred, not immediately after what is recorded in the preceding part, but after the lapse of a year. Certain other occurrences intervened, also, recorded later on by St. Mark, who, any more than St. Matthew, does not always observe in his narrative the order of events. He sometimes describes them out of the order in which they occurred. What is described here (4:1, 10, 12), should be inserted between verses 21 and 22 (see Matt. 12:22). What is described (v. 21) took place in Galilee, before the Pasch and midsummer of the year of our Lord 28.; and what is described (22–35) took place in the autumn of 28, after the Feast of Tabernacles (Patrizzi).

22–30. (See Matt. 12:24–32; Luke 11:14, &c.)

23. By “parable” is here meant, a simile or illustration. Our Lord refutes His adversaries—1st. By showing the utter absurdity of what they allege.

24–25. It would be sheer folly to think that Satan, this crafty spirit, would expel Satan, as this would result in the destruction of his own power.

26. Hence, our Lord could have nothing in common with Satan.

27. 2ndly. By showing that He must be stronger than Satan, since He forcibly drives him out. Hence, it cannot be that it is by Satan’s power He overcomes and disarms Satan.

29. “Everlasting sin.” The Greek for “sin” is, κρισεῶς (judgment). He shall be liable to an everlasting judgment of condemnation.

30. These are the words of the Evangelist, assigning a reason why our Lord referred to the sin against the Holy Ghost; because the Scribes and Pharisees committed that sin, and incurred the judgment of everlasting condemnation annexed to it.

31. (See Matt. 12:46–50.) Regarding the incident here referred to by St. Mark Commentators are agreed that it is the same as recorded by St. Matthew (as above). It is said by many, that St. Luke refers to the same occurrence; although it is held by others, among them Patrizzi (in hunc locum), that St. Luke records a similar, but not the same occurrence. It is most likely, however, that the three Evangelists refer to the same thing. Matthew and Mark observe the order of events, as they record this occurrence in connexion with the expulsion of the mute devil. Hence, St. Matthew says, “And while He was yet speaking to the multitude,” thus specifying the order of events. St. Luke omits any such words, and merely records it as happening at some indefinite time.

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