By Johann Peter Lange
Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods
THE HISTORICAL DELINEATION OF THE LIFE OF JESUS.
THE PUBLIC APPEARANCE AND ENTHUSIASTIC RECEPTION OF CHRIST
THE RESIDENCE OF JESUS AT CAPERNAUM.—THE MAN WITH AN UNCLEAN SPIRIT IN THE SYNAGOGUE, PETER'S WIFE'S MOTHER, PETER'S DRAUGHT OF FISHES. THE CALLING OF THE FIRST APOSTLES.
(Matt. iv. 12-22 ; viii, 14-17. Mark 1. 14-38 ; iii. 9-12. Luke iv. 31-45 (44) ; v. 1-11.)
Jesus had already proclaimed in the synagogue at Nazareth the Gospel, the glad tidings, that now the time was fulfilled—the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, was at hand, This announcement He repeated in the synagogues of Galilee, which He now visited one after another repeatedly, when He required of His hearers to recognize the importance and the demands of this great time, to renew their minds, and to receive the tidings of the new Kingdom with the self-devoting heroism of faith, But He delivered this announcement to His people as a blessed certainty of His own spirit, filled with the kingdom of heaven. Never had such words been heard, such sounds of sorrow and of joy, of love, of peace, and of new life. All who heard Him were charmed, if they were tolerably free from prejudice, and extolled Him. Everywhere, at this beautiful time, He was greeted with an enthusiastic welcome, and the gloomy sign that He had been expelled from: Nazareth was withdrawn into the background.
The joy of greeting the Chief of the new age was in a peculiar degree granted to the city of Capernaum, which lay between the borders of Zebulon and Naphtali,1 on the western side of the Lake of Gennesareth, not far from the entrance of the Jordan into the lake, and formed a flourishing station on the line of traffic between Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea. In this city Jesus took up His abode, in the sense of making it the centre of His excursions and journeys. Hence it is distinguished by the Evangelists as ‘ His own city’ (Mark 9:1). Here He seems generally to have resided wider Peter's roof. He had no house of His own.2 Probably His own family at a later period followed Him in this change of residence. The distinction which was by this event conferred on Capernaum reminded the Evangelist Matthew of the prophetic words of Isaiah (9:1, 2): ‘The way of the sea beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.’3 Matthew with his profound insight may possibly oblige those persons to acknowledge the Messianic import of the passages quoted by him, who have no taste for his more delicate apprehension of the ‘fullilment’ of the Old Testament references in the New Testament.
That district was the most despised in the Jewish land—far from the visible residence of the theocracy, in contact with the Gentiles and mingled with Gentiles—it now became the theatre of the revelation of the glory of the Lord.
Jesus appears to have spent
about a week in Cana and the
neighbourhood after He had been
expelled from Nazareth. There He
made His last appearance on a
Sabbath. Here we find Him first
of all, according to Luke, in a
synagogue. Everywhere His word
operated powerfully ; so it was
here. He taught in the might of
the full truth of the divine
word ; not like the scribes,
with their lifeless formulas and
phraseology. His individual word
was identical with the essential
power of the Word,—an emanation
of the Logos, and therefore an
act of original freshness,
wonder-working. As He was acting
with this power in the synagogne
at Capernaum, suddenly an
extraordinary event occurred, A
man in the assembly cried aloud,
‘Let us alone | what have we to
do with Thee, Thou Jesus of
Nazareth? | Thou art come to
destroy us; 1 know Thee who Thou
art, the Holy One of God!’ This
raving man was known: he was
mastered by the agency of an
impure demon; and since his
consciousness was identified
with that of the demon, he felt
in the holy agency of Jesus,
with the most vivid repulsion,
an attack on his demoniacal
condition, and therefore, as he
now felt himself, an attack on
his very existence, The Saviour
appeared to him as a destroyer.
But Jesus had compassion on the
maniac. He addressed him
imperatively with the word of
power, ‘Hold thy peace and come
out of him! This convulsed the
poor man ; he fell down in the
midst of the assembly; loud
shrill tones escaped from him;
but it was the final paroxysm.
The demoniacal power let him go;
and the last frightful scene, in
which the demon seemed ready to
destroy him, inflicted no injury
upon him. Universal astonishment
seized the spectators. The
synagogue was broken up; the
service was abruptly closed in
the most animated expressions of
praise. They said one to
another, and the question runs
round, What is this? Whence has
He this word of power, this new
doctrine, that with authority He
commands the unclean spirits,
and they obey Him ?
The fame of this miracle spread
through all Galilee.
From the synagogue, His
disciples—most probably the
four, Simon, Andrew, James, and
John—accompanied Him to the
house which belonged to Simon
and Andrew (Mark 1:29). Simon
was already married, as we learn
from this history; and it is a
remarkable fact, that we are
distinctly informed respecting
this chief of the apostles, that
his married state continued
during his apostolic ministry (1
Cor, 9:5), Peter's
mother-in-law lay ill in bed of
a great fever”4 From this.
circumstance we infer that Jesus now
From the synagogue, His disciples—most probably the four, Simon, Andrew, James, and John—accompanied Him to the house which belonged to Simon and Andrew (Mark 1:29). Simon was already married, as we learn from this history; and it is a remarkable fact, that we are distinctly informed respecting this chief of the apostles, that his married state continued during his apostolic ministry (1 Cor, 9:5), Peter's mother-in-law lay ill in bed of a great fever”4 From this. circumstance we infer that Jesus now
for the first time entered into Simon’s house—not earlier, or He would have cured her. But they inform Him at once of her illness. He went in, stood over her, and uttered the curative, menacing words which thrilled through her life, as if He would have rebuked an evil demon in the fever (ἐπετίμησε τῷ πυρετῷ, Luke 4:39). He took her by the hand, and she rose up, and was so free from fever, so well, that she could at once minister to Him as her guest. The day was a festival for Simon’s house. ‘The family felt that there was not a house in Capernaum so highly favoured and honoured as their own, and she who was restored to health at once proceeded to prepare a festive entertainment for the holy guests who had brought such a blessing on herself and the family.
On that day Capernaum was in a state of wonderful excitement. When the evening came, and the sun was setting,5 they brought many sick and demoniac persons to Jesus, sufferers, in short, of whatever kind ; so that it seemed as if, in the throng of sufferers, and those who accompanied or carried them, or those who were spectators, the whole city was gathered before the door (Mark 1:33). Jesus healed the sick one after another, since He laid His hands on every one of them. But many exciting scenes occurred among the demoniacs whom He cured. ‘They agreed in a psychical intensifying of their power of foreboding, in which the universally spread expectation that Jesus was the Messiah became a certainty; and so, amidst the furious paroxysms that attended their restoration, they cried out and addressed Him as the Son of God. But the Lord would not win the acknowledgment of His people by such signs and witnesses. He who only by compulsion, or rather out of condescension to the weakness of the Jews, appealed to the testimony of John,6 could not support His cause on the testimonies of so morbid and spectral and bedimmed a sphere of life. He threatened them, and would not allow them to speak.
On that evening the distresses of the city of Capernaum weighed Him down like a heavy burden. In the representation of this extraordinary scene, the Evangelist Matthew is rightly reminded of the words of Isaiah, ‘Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses’ (Isa. 53:4, 5).7
A great day of festivity and of labour had thus been passed by the Lord,8—a long day of victory in His conflict with the kingdom of sin and death; and His life was put in the greatest commotion.
With such emotions of triumph He gladly hastened into solitude ; for it was not beneficial to the people to continue in a state of such violent excitement ; and for Himself, it was a necessity to refresh Himself in solitude, deep in the heaven of prayer, in communion with His Father. So the Spirit impelled Tim early the next morning, when the day had scarcely dawned (πρωῒ, ἔννυχον λίαν, Mark 1:35; γενομένης δὲ ἡμέρας, Luke 4:42), to retire into a desert place. But with the earliest morning the throng of persons seeking for help and healing again assembled before Simon’s house. Jesus was away, but Simon was pressed, and had to seek Him out. In this errand, it seems, not only the household and the disciples of Jesus, but also persons belonging to the crowd, joined him; and when they found Jesus, the disciples declared to Him that He was anxiously sought by all, while the rest entreated Him that He would not leave the city. Thus the citizens at Capernaum acted the opposite part to the men of Nazareth. The latter had thrust Him out; the former wished to detain Him, and, if possible, to confine Him to a constant residence with them. They probably made very urgent appeals, but Jesus would not be fettered by them. ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also,’ He declared, ‘for therefore am I sent;’ and turning to the disciples, He said, ‘Let us go into the next towns.’ But before He took His departure, which the Evangelists have already mentioned in general (Mark 1:39; Luke 4:44), Jesus fulfilled the wish of those who had sought Him out, in order once more to grant the blessing of His presence to the expectant multitude.
The Lord directed His course to the sea-shore, probably in order to secure freedom to His movements. Then the people crowded round Him greatly, in their longing to hear the word of God from His lips (Luke 5:1). He was still surrounded by the first most moveable and susceptible hearers ; and, as suited such an audience, He preached first of all in the most general sense the Gospel of the coming of the kingdom of God, of the beginning of the great jubilee, and exhorted the people to a true change of mind,9 the fundamental condition of entrance into His kingdom. But His labours in teaching were interrupted by the over-pressure of those who were themselves afflicted with diseases, or who carried the sick. The Evangelist Mark gives us a very graphic representation of this over-pressure in a passage which doubtless belongs to this period (3:9-12). Since the sufferers in the crowd had an interest in being close to the Lord, in order to make known their sufferings, or secretly to touch Him, so an involuntary pressing movement of the whole circle of living beings that surrounded Tim, towards Him as the centre, took place; and in this way His discourse was subject to perpetual interruptions by the multitude. Hence the Lord was obliged to restore the equipoise between His working of miracles and His teaching, and to secure the delivery of His discourse, by taking refuge on the water.
As the throng was constantly increasing, and with it that popular excitement was created which He always shunned, because it ever tended to a chiliastic vertigo, He looked out for the two ships of His friends, which lay there on the shore. But as soon as they perceived that He wished to get into a vessel with them, they bethought themselves that they might again follow their vocation as fishermen to which they originally belonged: they quickly cleaned their nets in order to cast them into the sea. he Evangelists have designedly brought forward this circumstance. We see how these disciples are still zealously occupied with their earthly calling; how they did not yet imagine that soon they must decidedly give it up, in order to devote themselves exclusively to the service of Jesus. But Jesus desired Simon, into whose vessel He had entered, to thrust out a little from the shore, that He might be at a short distance from the land. And now He turned again to the people, who were detained on the shore by His spiritual power, as He was detained by the intense longing of the people after His word. ‘The expectation of the fishermen therefore, who already had taken their nets in hand, is frustrated by this direction of Christ's spirit, in a similar manner as at Jacob's well, when ‘they prayed Him, saying, Master, eat.’ Seated in the ship, the Lord speaks once more to His hearers, before He leaves them, of the great kingdom of salvation which had begun.
In this style of preaching we feel the entire living freshness of a heart overflowing with compassionate love to men, But Jesus also does justice to His disciples ; they must provide for their families.
He therefore commands Peter to launch out into the deep, and to let down his net for a draught. The disciple had just then no great expectations of success. ‘ Master,’ he exclaims, ‘we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing; but at Thy word I will let down the net.’ We perceive here a secret trouble in the disciple. After a beautiful day for the city of Capernaum, he had passed an unfortunate night. His desire to improve the toil of the night for the concerns of his family was defeated, and defeated when the glory of the preceding day had promised a richer success than usual. Yet now, at the encouraging words of Christ his spirits revive. So he throws out the net with confidence, and soon it swarms with fish; it threatens to break when they would draw it back again. ‘They beckon to their partners in the other ship, probably that of James and John, and to their servants (ver. 10) ; and these come and help them to make sure of their draught. And so abundant is the draught that the two ships are filled with it, so that they began to sink. At this transaction Peter is overpowered, and he falls on his knees before Jesus, exclaiming, ‘ Depart from me, for I am sinful man, O Lord!’ This draught had filled him and all his companions with astonishment and affright. Peter understands fishing better than the theological critic who cannot understand the reason of his excitement.10 He sees something greater in this event than in the miraculous cures of which he had been previously a witness. For it allows him to look all at once from the land of toil and trouble through wide-opened gates into the paradise of a perfect superabundance. How rich is he suddenly, and how would it be if Jesus remained near him with this assistance! This thought thrills him; but while it thrills him, he is in dread, and feels most keenly that such miraculous success cannot thrive with him.11 This is expressed in his petition ; the most glorious feeling in the most unsuitable words: ‘Lord! depart from me!’ The divine glory of Christ so deeply humbles him, that the whole feeling of his sinfulness was aroused in him ; and his prosperity in temporal things so overwhelmed and ashamed him, that he was alarmed at the thought of its constant enjoyment. Christ grants the extraordinary petition, not according to the letter but the spirit of it. He had wished to provide for the families of His friends richly for a longer time, for they were now to draw with Him. ‘Fear not, was the consoling word; ‘from henceforth thou shalt catch men.’ Thus, then, they still wash and mend their nets. As soon as it is said, Aboard ! they thought only of the fishing, and threw their nets into the sea. Henceforth they must throw their net into humanity. The friends now know that they can altogether trust their Lord with their temporal and earthly wants. They feel that they and theirs are safely provided for in His service. And how great is His promise, that they should draw men in such miraculous draughts out of the sea of the world for the kingdom of God, as they had now made a miraculous draught in their old calling of fishermen! A greater calling He could not give them. They recognise it as such ; and forthwith they are resolved; they bring their ships to land, forsake all, and follow Him.
It would probably make a great sensation in Capernaum, when these young men so suddenly gave up their employment, to which they seemed to be so entirely devoted, though it was still not forbidden them occasionally to resume their old avocation. It was known how painful such a sacrifice was to an Israelite. It was known that these men had just been mending their nets. And now they suddenly leave everything, in order to go with Jesus through the land. The astonishment at the power of Jesus which effected this change, is reflected in the narrative of the calling of the four first apostolic disciples, as we find it in Matthew and Mark. Especially might Matthew, although probably already moved by the appearance of Jesus, be struck even then with the marvellousness of this total change of life, since a less noble calling, that of a publican, fettered himself. Thus in him and others this history, in all its peculiarity, has been distinctly stamped for evangelical tradition as a peculiar history. It is as if Jesus had now for the first time found those men on the beach, and as if one word from Him sufficed, with an almighty irresistible power, to make them become His followers.
And, in truth, this history presents in a new light the relation of Jesus to these disciples, in the first place, as to their giving up their old calling, and next, as they were now called by Christ to become changed into the first fishers of men, or apostles.
1. That the history narrated in Luke 5:1, &c., is identical with that reported in Matt. 4:18, &c., and in Mark 1:16, Ebrard proves (p. 234) briefly and conclusively by the simple remark, that in both narratives the subject-matter is, how Jesus induced these disciples to give up their vocation as fishermen, and how they could not give up a second time their employment, after they had already given it up. The same theologian has proved (p. 236) in a masterly manner, that the history narrated in John 1:1, &., does not exclude the calling of the four disciples at the sea-side.
2. As to the situation of Capernaum, see Tholuck, Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 54. Robinson combines the various notices of the Evangelists on the landing-place of the Lord, on that return, when He walked on the sea (Matt. 14:34 ; Mark 6:45, 53; John 6:17), and arrives at the conclusion that Capernaum was situated in a tract on the western coast of the lake, called the land of Gennesareth, and that Bethsaida, in the vicinity of Capernaum, was probably in the same tract. ‘This district, from which the lake must naturally have taken its name, Robinson finds, according to Josephus, De Bello Jud. iii, 10, § 8, and other notices in the New Testament and the Talmud, situated im a fertile plain extending along the shore, from el-Mejdel on the south, to Khân Minyeh on the north (Biblical Researches) ii. 404). According to Josephus, this district was well watered, particularly by a fountain called by the inhabitants Capernaum, ‘ Josephus here mentions no town of this name,’ says Robinson, ‘but the conclusion is irresistible, that the name as applied to the fountain could have come only from the town, which of course must have been situated at no great distance.’ Capernaum, כפר נחום, means, as Winer remarks, according to Hesychins, Origen, and Jerome, views consolation is, village of consolation; perhaps better, Nahum’s village, but not Beautiful village, as has been also conjectured. In relation to the mental and religious character of Capernaum, a remark of Von Ammon may here be quoted, that the place was inhabited by Jews and Gentiles, and in Jewish writings is noted as the residence of free-thinkers and heretics. It would have been a striking contrast, if at that time Tiberias in the esteem of the Jews had been regarded as a peculiarly holy place, as was the case after the destruction of Jerusalem.
1) One critic, from the circumstance that ὄρια denotes the border-territory, has made it a jest, that the Evangelist has placed Capernaum at the same time in two tribes, On this point see Ebrard.
2) Mark i, 29; Luke v. & Compare Matt. viii. 20.
3) It appears to me that it was not the intention cither of the prophet or the Evangelist to mark four particular districts of Northern Palestine, as Chris. K. Hofmann (Weissag. und Erf. p. 94) supposes, For such specifications the expression ὀδὸν θαλάσσης would be little suited. Every one of the four designations too much coincides with the other in a geographical relation. But no geographical interest bas influence here, but the matter is to designate despised Upper Galilee from the proud stand-point of Judea, And it is then reproached in three ways:—First of all, as the land of the profane sea-way, not as the sea-way simply; hence the accusative ὀδὸν. It is evident that not the Sea of Gennesareth, but the Mediterranean, is intended, Then it is called the land—the land beyond Jordan—not according to the contrast of the two banks of the Jordan, but of the consecrated valley of that river and the unconsecrated region which was situated beyond it up the stream. The hyperbole of the language may be illustrated by a hundred analogies ; for example, by Schiller’s sentence about the left bank of the Rhine, ‘where German fidelity expires.’ The third designation makes the two former sufficiently clear.
4) [Alford thinks this expression is used by Luke as a physician, to distinguish the kind of fever. Would the article not be necessary in this case? And has it been sufficiently considered, that not the physician, but the fisherman, was the original reporter of the case ‘—ED.]
5) Not in order to avoid the sun's heat were they brought so late, for it was the winter season. It was perhaps a determination of a delicate feeling, that for a public exposure of humiliating infirmities of all kinds the dusk was chosen. It may be added, that towards evening that commotion reached its highest point. [The general opinion seems to be, that the note of time is given to show that the Sabbath was now past. The Greek interpreter in Cramer's Catena (Mark i. 32) says, ‘They let the Sabbath be past, because they thought it unlawful to heal on the Sabbath, Lightfoot (on Matt. viii. 16) says, ‘They took care of the canonical hour of the nation, Ewald (292) adds to this, that it was the cool of the day.—ED.]
6) 2 John v, 34,
7) See Olshausen's Commentary, i. 255. To speak, with Olshausen, of a spiritual exhaustion of Christ, might be hazardous, if he did not mean a psychical exhaustion. Von Ammon could not find in this instance the propriety of the application of that prophetical passage, because he had no perception of the deep-lying relation between spiritual, psychical, and corporeal sicknesses,
8) [Ewald (Christus, 290) says, ‘This day’s work serves as a specimen of His daily activity during this whole period.’ So Ellicott, p. 166: ‘Such a picture does it give us of the actual nature and amount [of His merciful activities], that we may well conceive that the single day, with all its quickly succeeding events, has been thus minutely portrayed to show us what our Redeemer's ministerial life really was, and to justify, if need be, the noble hyperbole of the beloved apostle, &c.—ED.]
10) Schleiermacher, Lukas, 71.
11) Von Ammon shows himself quite unable to enter into the disposition of the noble and pious fisherman. On the exclamation of Peter he has much that is thoroughly beside the point (p. 378). [Ewald does not show his usual profound spiritual sagacity when he says that the sinner is overwhelmed in presence of the Holy One, because he fears that the same power which now unexpectedly blesses him, may, if he should (perhaps unwittingly) sin against it, as unexpectedly destroy him (Christus, 288). Riggenbach (Vorltsunyen über das Leben, &c., 351) follows the author almost verbally, yet with spirit, and with one or two good additions. He interprets the words as the words of the fervid Peter, whose utterance oversteps his real desire. The comparison of his request with that of the Gadareue demoniac, verbally agreeing, but really so different, is useful. ED.]