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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 the temptation of our Lord (1–13). His preaching in Galilee and in His own native place, Nazareth. The contemptuous rejection of Him by His own countrymen (14–32). The casting out of a devil in the synagogue at Capharnaum (33–37). The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and of others (38–41). His preaching throughout Galilee (42–44).

1–13. (See Matthew 4:1–11, Commentary on.)

14. “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee.” He “returned” to Galilee, whence He had come, to the part of the Jordan where He was baptized by John; “in the power of the Spirit,” under the strong impulse and influence of the Holy Ghost. He now displays and externally manifests in His preaching and wondrous works, the power of the Holy Ghost, with which He was filled from His Incarnation, which He possessed without measure, and with which He was anointed in the unction of the hypostatic union. The Evangelist now wishes to have us to understand, that in all the words and actions of our Lord about to be narrated, He was always guided by, and always acted under the influence and power of, the Holy Ghost. This was the second return of our Lord into Galilee, since His fast and baptism. John (1:43), records His first return. Hence, the Evangelist passes over several events in the life of our Lord, which occurred before the return referred to here, viz., His coming to John (John 1:29), who speaks of Him in the most exalted terms; the marriage feast of Cana; the wonders performed at Capharnaum (v. 23, here); His going up to Jerusalem at the Pasch (John 2:13); the time spent by Him in Judea, baptizing (John 3:22); the intimation He received that John was imprisoned, which occasioned His going to Galilee, as recorded here (see Matthew 4:12, Commentary on).

“And the fame of Him,” on account of the wonderful things He did and said, “went out through the whole country,” viz., Galilee and the adjacent districts, Samaria, Phœnicia, Syria, &c.

15. “And,” is interpreted by some to mean, “for,” “He taught in their synagogues.” This was the chief cause of His being so celebrated among them. “And was magnified (extolled) by all,” on account of what He taught, and His authoritative mode of teaching. “He was teaching them, as one having authority, and not as their Scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 7:29).

(For meaning of “synagogue,” see Matthew 4:23, Commentary on).

16. “And He came to Nazareth,” which He passed by on a former occasion (Matthew 4:13), “where He was brought up.”

“Nazareth” was His native place, where He spent the period of boyhood and youth.

“He went into the synagogue according to His custom,” &c. It was usual with the Jews to assemble on Sabbath and festival days in their synagogues for devotional exercises, such as, reading and hearing the Word of God, as also, prayer. “His custom,” may signify the custom He observed from infancy, of frequenting the places of devotion on Sabbath days; or, His custom of frequenting the synagogues since He commenced His mission, for the purpose of expounding the SS. Scriptures. Our Lord taught everywhere, all those who came to Him for instruction; and He availed Himself of every befitting occasion, especially when He wrought miracles, to expound His heavenly doctrines. But, on Sabbath days, He availed himself of the religious meetings in the synagogues to instruct the assembled people.

“He rose up to read,” and expound the SS. Scriptures. It was usual with the Jews to have a certain portion of the Pentateuch read for the people in the synagogue on Sabbath days, to which was subjoined a section from the prophetical books bearing in sense on the passage read from the Pentateuch. Any one learned in the law, might be invited to read and expound such passages. See Acts (13:15), where “the reading of the law and the prophets” is referred to, also Acts (15:21). Our Lord “rose up to read,” thereby intimating, that He had “an exhortation to make to the people” (Acts 13:15). He read the SS. Scriptures in a standing posture, not only to be better heard, but chiefly out of reverence for the Word of God.

17. The Book of the Prophet Isaias was delivered to Him by “the minister” of the synagogue (v. 20). This, although humanly speaking, apparently accidental, was arranged by God’s providence, to afford Him an opportunity of showing His Divinity and Divine mission, from the writings of their own prophets.

“Unfolded the book.” Unlike our modern form of books, the parchment was folded round a roller, in the form of a map—whence the term, Volume—and on unfolding it off the roller, “He found the place where it was written.” He lighted, doubtlessly, by the deliberato guidance of God’s providence, on the following passage (Isaias 41:1). This passage is quoted by St. Luke, according to the Septuagint version, save that Luke himself adds to the passage, according to that version, the words, “to set at liberty them that are bruised,” probably taken from Isaias (58:6), where these words are used in the Septuagint, in the imperative mood.

18. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” In Isaias (61:1, 2), the Lord promises the Jewish people a Redeemer; some say, the Prophet primarily refers to the deliverance of the Jewish people from the Babylonish captivity, under Cyrus, which mystically and principally signifies their spiritual deliverance through Christ—“He shall come like a violent stream which the Spirit of the Lord driveth on” (59:19). In the passage quoted hero by St. Luke (Isaias 61:1), the Prophet represents the Deliverer or Redeemer as having already come, and saying, “the (promised) Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” or as is said elsewhere (Isaias 11:2), “rests upon Him.” I am filled with His gifts, which are bestowed upon me without stint or measure. This Spirit our Lord received at His Incarnation and from the hypostatic union. This Spirit guided and influenced all His actions.

“Wherefore He”—the Hebrew has, “the Lord, hath anointed me.” “Anointed” is allusive to the rite employed in consecrating Kings, Prophets, and Priests. Here Christ is the Messiah or Anointed. It is because He had the fulness of all Divine gifts given Him without measure, at His Incarnation, therefore did the Lord anoint Him with the oil of gladness at His baptism; by this unction consecrating and preparing Him for the great office of preaching the Gospel. The words, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” have reference to His Incarnation; and the words, “wherefore He hath anointed me,” to His baptism. The former is the cause of the latter. Some Commentators connect the words, “He hath anointed me” with, “to preach to the poor,” this being the office for which He was anointed and consecrated, to fit Him for it. “He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor,” and these connect the words, “sent me,” with “to heal the contrite,” &c., “He sent me to heal the contrite of heart.”

“The poor.” This is the Septuagint rendering. The Hebrew has, “to the meek” (see Matthew 11:4). “To heal the contrite of heart,” whose hearts are heavily bruised with the heavy load of sin. These words are wanting in some Greek copies.

19. “To preach deliverance to the captives,” captive in the bonds of sin. “Deliverance,” from their chains, and also the providing of means for effectively accomplishing such deliverance.

“And sight to the blind,” To bestow the light of faith and truth on those who are sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, and open the eyes of their understanding to the light of faith, against which they have been hitherto shut.

“To set at liberty them that are bruised.” These words would seem to signify the same as the words, “to heal the contrite of heart.” Hence, some Expositors regard one or the other as redundant; and as the words, “to set at liberty, &c.,” are not found either in the Hebrew, or Chaldaic, or Greek, it is, most likely, the redundant phrase. A similar sentence is found in Isaias (58:6), “let them that are broken go free.” Probably, St. Luke inserted these words in the quotation here, taken from chap. 61:1 of Isaias, as illustrating the benefits conferred by our Redeemer, and more fully explaining the sense of the passage.

The Hebrew phrase, Laasurim Peqach, signifies, Laasurim, “those bound,” and Reqach, “an opening.” St. Jerome then rendered the words, “clausis apertionem,” “deliverance to them that are shut up.” But the Septuagint rendered them, τυφλοις αναβλεψιν, “sight to the blind.” For, assurim signifies, those bound. This is true of the blind, whose eyes are bound, and Peqach signifies, an opening. The blind, when restored to sight, have their eyes opened; hence, the Septuagint rendering of the words.

“To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” “Year,” is put for time. There is manifest allusion here to the year of Jubilee, which occurred every fiftieth year among the Jews, when slaves were set at liberty, and the possessions that were sold, reverted to their original owners. This Jubilee year among the Jews, and the blessings it brought with it, were a type of the entire period of the Christian dispensation, a period of time productive of the greatest blessings to mankind, when they are rescued from the slavery of Satan and sin; the greatest gifts of grace are conferred on them, and they are restored to their lost inheritance of heaven. Our Lord proclaimed this as present, “appropinquavit regnum, &c.” (Matthew 4:17.) This is the period of benevolence on the part of God; of His good-will towards man. This shall continue now to the end of the world. Hence, the Apostle says, “Ecce nunc tempus acceptabile; ecce nunc, dies salutis” (2 Cor. 6:2). Our Lord was sent to announce these glad tidings of a year of jubilee and perpetual reconcilation of God with man. “Pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus” (1 Cor. 5:7.)

“And the day of reward.” St. Jerome renders the Hebrew, Jom naquam, “diem ultionis,” “the day of vengeance,” which some understand of the last day of general judgment, when the Lord, while rewarding the good, shall take vengeance on His enemies. Others, seeing that the entire prophetic quotation regards the benefits to be conferred by Christ on the children of the New Law, understand “vengeance,” of the evil spirits, the enemies of men’s souls, on whom our Lord will take signal vengeance, by publicly exposing them, to public view, to grace His triumph (Coloss. 2:15); judging the Prince of this world and casting him out. To this, reference is made in Isaias (35), “Behold your God shall bring the revenge of recompense; God Himself will come and will save you” (35:4). It is the same as the acceptable year. “Acceptable,” as regards God’s servants; “the day of vengeance,” as regards His and their enemies.

20. “And when He had folded the book,” on the roller round which it was folded, “He returned it to the minister,” the person who was in attendance on the chief officer of the synagogue, and had charge of the sacred books. “He sat down,” as was usually done in such cases before delivering a discourse on the subjects read previously in a standing posture by the speaker.

“And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.” Probably, on seeing Him read who had not learned letters. It may be also that a Divine effulgence shone from His countenance; and as the Jews knew, that the prayer read had reference to the Messiah, they were anxious to know, if He might not Himself be the Messiah, considering the wonders wrought by Him elsewhere (v. 23), and the fame that went abroad regarding Him.

21. “This day is fulfilled this scripture in your ears.” “In your ears.” A Hebrew phrase for, in your hearing. This oracle of the prophet, which, as you know, regards your expected Messiah, is now fulfilled in me, whom you see preaching to the poor, and of whom you heard it stated, that He performed elsewhere the works described by the prophets, as the distinguishing characteristics of the Messiah. He thereby, without expressly stating it, insinuated that He Himself was the Messiah spoken of by Isaias.

22. “Gave testimony to Him;” not exactly that He was the Messiah, as appears from their calling Him “the son of Joseph,” and their attempt at precipitating Him down the hill; but, they testified to the superior way in which He acquitted Himself, as expressed in the following words, “and wondered at the words of grace, &c.,” the graceful, eloquent words that were uttered by Him, full of persuasiveness, so calculated to move and convince. “He spoke like one having authority, not as their Scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 7:29).

“Is not this the son of Joseph?” (Matthew 13:55). The son of a poor carpenter, Himself a carpenter, brought up in our midst, without influence or consideration or education of any kind. Hence, their wonder. Likely with this, at least in some of them, were mixed up feelings of scorn at His low extraction and humble occupation. “They were scandalized in His regard” (Matthew 13:57).

23. Doubtless you will say to me this similitude: Physician, cure thyself;” a trite proverb, sometimes addressed to physicians, whose powers in the healing art benefit strangers without proving of any service to themselves or theirs; and generally applied to such, as attending to the concerns of others, neglect their own. “Physician,” confine not the advantages of your skill and healing powers to strangers; make yourself and your friends sharers in them. In thus divining the thoughts of their hearts, and their latent objections to Him, to which He replies in the following verse, He displays His Omniscient Divinity.

“As great things,” &c. Here, the proverb is applied to Him, in regard to His fellow-citizens. The people of Nazareth were scandalized or offended at two things in our Redeemer—First, His humble extraction. To this, He replies in verse 24; secondly, the fewness of His miracles among them. To this, He replies in verses 25–27, and He illustrates His own mode of acting on account of their unworthiness, by example of a similar line of acting, from the same causes, on the part of the ancient prophets. If He did not perform a greater number of wonders among them, they had to blame themselves as the guilty cause. From this passage, it is clear our Lord had been in Galilee performing wonderful works and miraculous cures. The visit, therefore, referred to in verse 14, was His second visit. For, on the first occasion, He passed by Nazareth (Matthew 4:13), and proceeded to Capharnaum, which He made His place of abode, and the centre of His missionary labours. The Nazarites, our Lord’s fellow-citizens, wished that He would favour His own people, who naturally had greater claims than strangers had, with these miraculous wonders that He was reported to have performed elsewhere.

24. In this, He taxes their depreciation of Him, as their fellow-citizen, and shows that He scanned the inmost thoughts of their minds. He assigns in this verse, a reason for not favouring them with His miracles, of which, from their pride and contemptuous depreciation of Himself, they would be unworthy (see Matthew 13:58).

25. Again, He shows that their incredulity rendered them unworthy of what they wished for; and hence, following the example of the most celebrated prophets of old, He withheld from them the miracles which were performed in favour of strangers, who proved themselves not undeserving of such blessings. St. Matthew says, “He performed not many miracles, because of their unbelief” (13:58).

“When heaven was shut up three years and six months.” This is not mentioned in the SS. Scriptures of the Old Testament. Hence, our Lord knew it by His omniscient intelligence, or from Jewish tradition, from which source St. James (chap. 5) must have learned it, or from the revelation of our Lord. In the 3rd Book of Kings (chap. 17:1) there is no mention made of the prayer of Elias, that a drought would come; but only that he proclaimed that a drought would prevail. But St. James supplies what is omitted there, when he tells us it was at Elias’ prayers it was done (chap. 5:17). Indeed, it was always the custom with the Prophets and Apostles and our Lord Himself to commence important events with prayer. In 3 Kings (18:1), it is said, that it was in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elias about “giving rain upon the face of the earth.” But this “third year,” may denote the third year completed; others reconcile the words of the Old Testament, by saying that the years there referred to are to be computed, not from the beginning of the drought; but, from the time Elias came to Sarepta. Others say, the “third year” is to be computed from the commencement of the famine, which began to be felt nearly a year after the drought commenced.

27. By these two examples well known to the Jews, our Lord wishes to convey, that as their celebrated prophets of old, by the command of God—“to none of them was Elias sent”—refused performing miraculous cures among their countrymen, on account of their unbelief, while they exercised the same in favour of strangers, who proved worthy of such blessings; so, might the people of Nazareth blame themselves, if He did not work many miracles among them. This was owing to their unworthiness and unbelief.

28, 29. Perceiving the force of His rebuke, when charging their own pride and incredulity with the fewness of the miracles performed by Him in their midst, the Nazarites were “all in the synagogue filled with anger.” Even those, who before admired His graceful words and His eloquence, are now suddenly changed. Their pride was such at finding themselves corrected by Him, at being told of their envy and incredulity, which rendered them more undeserving of His miracles than the rest of their countrymen, nay, than the very Pagans themselves; that, notwithstanding the cures they saw Him perform among them; notwithstanding the sacredness of the Sabbath, and their natural feelings of consideration for a fellow-citizen, who had already done so much to reflect honour on their hitherto despised district of Nazareth; they are prepared for the last extremity, and mean to compass His death.

30. “But He passing through the midst of them.” Some say He rendered Himself invisible; others, that He changed their wills, so that they no longer meditated His death; others, that He so stupified them and restrained their hands and feet, that seeing Jesus, they could not or dare not lay hands on Him. His hour had not come. The mode in which He was to die was different from that kind of death, with which He was now menaced; hence, He exerted His power to prevent it. “Went His way,” fearing no one. No one could harm Him save by His own free will and consent.

31. “And He went down into Capharnaum, &c.” Capharnaum was in a lower situation than Nazareth. Hence, the Evangelist says, “He went down.” This was not His first visit to Capharnaum (v. 23). Nor is this visit to be confounded with that recorded (Mark 1:21), since on this latter occasion He did not “descend.” He only came there from the maritime coasts, although the miracle here recorded is mentioned there also.

“And there He taught them on the Sabbath days.” He taught them assembled in the synagogue on Sabbath days, principally; but, He, at the same time, taught all who came to Him, and made frequent missionary excursions into the country, and sometimes performed miracles on these occasions.

“And they were astonished.” The Greek word, εξεπλησσοντο, means, they were wonderfully struck and enraptured, “at His doctrine.”

“For, His speech was with power” (see Matthew 7:28–29).

33–37. (See Mark 1:23–28, Commentary on.)

38–40. (See Matthew 8:14–16.)

41. (See Mark 1:34.) “Devils went from many,” by our Lord’s command. At this time there were many demoniacs among the Jews, either because the devils had a presentiment of our Lord’s coming, whose presence caused them the greatest torture; or, because God wished to give His Son an opportunity of showing His power over demons by expelling them forcibly from the bodies of the possessed.

42. “When it was day,” at the early twilight. St. Mark (1:35), has “very early.” “Going out,” from the house where He spent the night and from the city. “He went into a desert place,” probably, for the purpose of prayer (Mark 1:35), and to avoid the crowd and show His indifference in regard to human applause.

“The multitudes,” attracted by His miraculous cures, coming to Peter’s house, where He stayed, and not finding Him, went in search of Him into the desert place, and desired Him to remain with them. St. Mark (1:36) says, the Apostles found Him first, and received the answer there recorded (1:38), and the multitude afterwards found Him, and received the answer recorded here, next verse.

43. “To other cities also,” where the Gospel has not yet been preached. “The kingdom of God” (see Matthew 3:2). “For therefore,” viz., the preaching of the Gospel, “am I sent.” The object of His mission by His Heavenly Father was not precisely to work miracles. They were only subsidiary to the other end. They were only means to be employed to confirm the truth of the Gospel.

44. “He was preaching.” He now discharged the function of preaching, continuously, unremittingly. Now, that the Baptist, His Precursor, had passed away, after discharging his office of bearing testimony; our Redeemer, who had during John’s lifetime, preached only in a partial way, now preaches everywhere, publicly and privately, throughout Galilee and Judea, filling every place with the blessings of the Gospel. Hence, at His Passion He is charged with stirring up commotions everywhere, “commovet populum äocens per universam Judæam, incipiens a Galilea usque huc” (Luke 23:5). As the sun rises gradually, and emerging by degrees, diffuses its light only in a gradual way, and following the day star, diffuses its full light and heat when the latter disappears; so was it with our Lord’s preaching; while the Baptist, who preceded Him, like the day star, pointing to the coming sun, was engaged in preaching and bearing testimony to Him, He did not suddenly appear. But, when the Baptist had diffused the light of his testimony and disappeared; then, the Sun of Justice appeared in all His splendour, diffusing the heat of Divine grace, and the light of heavenly truth everywhere around Him.

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