The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods

VOLUME II - SECOND BOOK

THE HISTORICAL DELINEATION OF THE LIFE OF JESUS.

PART IV.

THE PUBLIC APPEARANCE AND ENTHUSIASTIC RECEPTION OF CHRIST

 

SECTION XII L

THE RETURN OF JESUS FROM HIS TOUR THROUGH GALILEE. THE CENTURION OF CAPERNAUM. THE CANDIDATES FOR DISCIPLESHIP. THE SECOND DISCOURSE ON THE SEA-SHORE, THE CROSSING THE SEA TO GADARA, AND THE RETURN HOME.

(Matt. 8:5-13, 18-34; chap. 9:1; chap. 13. Mark 4:1-41; chap. 5:1-21; Luke 7:1-10; chap. 8:4-15; chap. 8:22-39; chap. 90:57-62.

On His entrance into Capernaum, Jesus found Himself anxiously expected by one who needed His help, and who, on account of his extraordinary faith, has obtained everlasting renown in the Gospel history as The Centurion of Capernaum,

We can hardly imagine, as has been already observed,1 a greater contrast between two characters than that which is presented to us between this centurion who sought help for his sick servant and that nobleman who came to the Lord on behalf of his son.2 That nobleman wanted the Lord to take a journey of some distance to Capernaum; he seemed impetuously to seek in Him merely a Saviour for the body; and as his humility did not at once show itself, so it seemed to the Lord that his faith was at first doubtful. The centurion, on the contrary, from the very first appears remarkably strong as well in the humility as in the faith which he exhibited. And this great spiritual difference between the two men is quite in accordance with the treatment which they received at the hand of Jesus. Whilst He was at first very slow in responding to that nobleman, and expresses His doubts respecting the sincerity of his faith, He is here at once willing to come and to help; and soon He has occasion loudly to extol the faith of this Gentile, and to hold him up before the Israelites as an example which might well put them to shame. Thus throughout the spiritual features of the two narratives are quite distinct.

It is evident that Luke gives the more exact account of this transaction. We learn from Matthew that the centurion's servant 'lay sick of a palsy, grievously tormented.'3 Luke tells us that he was 'ready to die;' and we learn likewise from him that this centurion's servant was dear unto his master. The first Evangelist tells us in general terms that he applied to the Lord for help; from the third Evangelist we learn that he was encouraged to do so by others, and that he made use of an honourable embassy to send to the Lord.

He engaged the elders of the synagogue at Capernaum to go to meet the Wonder-worker, and desire Him to come down. These pleaded his cause very earnestly, and sought to give additional weight to it by adding, that he loved the Jews, and had built them a synagogue; from which we may well conclude that he was a proselyte of the first degree, that is, a Proselyte of the Gate. But immediately afterwards the heart of this lowly man was struck with remorse at having given this honoured Deliverer of men the trouble of coming to his house. He immediately dispatched a second embassy to Jesus, with the declaration that he was not worthy that Jesus should enter under his roof, or even admit him to come into His presence, and entreating that He would cure his servant by a word of power spoken at a distance.

He might, perhaps, have heard of the healing at a distance which had fallen to the share of the nobleman's son, and very likely had explained the wonderful character of this deed according to his own fashion. At any rate, he had a reason to give for his petition, in which was contained the most delicate and hearty fealty to the Lord. He founds his petition upon the remark that he himself was a man holding authority under a higher power. But yet he had to command his soldiers who were placed under him. This, in military language, he amplifies in a lively manner: ' I say unto one, Go, and lie goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh.' Then he comes back to his beloved servant: ' And I say unto my servant. Do this, and he doeth it.'

He had an idea that just in this manner Jesus must act in the kingdom of the powers of healing, or of the genii of recovery and of help, and all the more, since that in His kingdom he had no superior. According to his declaration he considered Him as the real Caesar in the kingdom of the wonder-working powers of life, that is, in the kingdom of spirits. According to his view, all the genii of life were bound to obey the word of this great Caesar; by a word, then, He could send as His servant a genius of healing power to his own sick servant.

This sublime and thoroughly original view of faith, coupled with as great a humility, astonished even the Lord Himself, and turning to His followers, He exclaimed: ' I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.' He seized this opportunity to widen the view of the Gospel horizon for His disciples, by giving them the assurance ' that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.' Perhaps a later occasion gave rise to His expressing also the contrast (Luke 13:28, 29): ' But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' Jesus dismissed the embassy with the command to return to the house;4 that it should be done according to the faith of the centurion. On their return they found the sick servant already restored.

The miraculous aid wrought by this word spoken at a distance was accomplished through a twofold drawing of sympathizing and awakened hearts, through a well-prepared road of warmest sympathy. An invisible highway, as one might say, for the victorious health-giving eagles of the great Emperor.

Very soon the Lord was again surrounded by those who sought His help and desired to listen to His words. But it was not His intention at present to tarry again in Capernaum. He desired to carry His help also to the country lying on the other side of the sea, to that region of Northern Perea where the Jews lived in the midst of Gentiles, and much mixed up with them,—namely, in the district which belonged to the union of Decapolis, or the ten cities. The opportunity for making this journey was in the highest degree favourable. The faith of the heathen centurion had made an impression upon the disciples, so that just now they would have the least difficulty in entering into His plan of visiting such a mixed neighbourhood, where even the Jewish life was obscured by such mingling with Gentile life. But not even yet would the Lord forsake altogether the chosen people. Instead of that, again for the second time (Mark iv. 1) He taught from the ship the multitude assembled on the sea-shore. He spoke to the people as one who was taking His leave of them, which must have heightened still more the effect of His words.

But we find that His discourse now takes a new character. The crowd which surrounded Him had gradually very much increased; but it had now become of a very mixed character. Even in His second Sermon on the Mount, we saw Him make a marked difference between susceptible disciples and suspicious worldly followers.5 As hearers of this description now form a considerable part of His audience, and these being joined by a number even of disaffected, unfriendly listeners, the Lord feels that He must veil the real life-giving meaning of His discourse under the form of parables. This time He feels that it is now already quite clear that He is strongly opposed by a hostile spirit in His audience. Therefore He preaches in parables. It would seem that on this day He did not deliver all the parables which Matthew has grouped together in chap, xiii., but only some of them. The interpretation which, according to ver. 10, He gave to the disciples He might have given them in the vessel immediately after delivering the parable, whilst He gave the people a longer pause to think over what He had said to them. The Parable of the Tares, on the contrary, according to ver. 36, supposes another scene, and from its contents, likewise a later time. According to Mark's narrative, Jesus spoke not only the Parable of the Sower on this day, but also the Parable of the gradual Development of the Seed, and finally that of the Mustard-seed. This discourse forms an entire whole. First, then, Jesus impresses upon His hearers that, in the sowing of His word, He does not find in them all the same susceptibility to receive it. He pointed even then to the noxious birds which already were devouring the seed fallen by the way-side, to the hostile principle by which He was counteracted, and which was ever increasing in strength. He showed them how that much that He should plant would perish in precipitate levity, and much in sluggish despondency. But He also expressed His assurance that He found amongst them some good ground. And. now He comforted these thus ready to receive Him by assuring them that His seed in their life should not result immediately in flowers and fruit, but should first gradually develop itself. But to those who were in danger of being perplexed at the smallness of the number of His real disciples. He gave the true explanation of the marvellous increase of God's kingdom in the parable of the mustard-seed.

When the even was come, the Lord hastened to cross over to the eastern shore of the sea. But now some individuals, struck with especial veneration, stepped forth from the outer circle of disciples, and wished to bind themselves to full and unreserved discipleship (Matt. 8:19-22). The Evangelist Luke removes tins occurrence to a later time, when Jesus was preparing for His last journey into Jerusalem (chap. 9:51-62). But it is easy to be seen that he was led to do so by the transaction which here occurred between Jesus and the two Sons of Thunder. Whilst it was his intention to exhibit the mastery of Christ in dealing with various kinds of minds, we may say of the four different temperaments he has made a psychological combination. But it is not likely that just at this time, when His cause appeared to be so doubtful, scribes of the character of this enthusiast should have wished to join themselves to the Lord with the expression of an enthusiasm which promised too much, and was therefore little to be relied upon.

This moment, on the contrary, when Jesus was about to cross over into the country of the Gadarenes, was peculiarly favourable. The influence of Christ "with the people was now at its height. Even the proposed expedition was rich in promise; only there was against it the scruples of an orthodox shrinking from contact with Gentiles. Therefore a scribe, who felt himself attracted by the prospect which discipleship to Jesus seemed to open, might easily make some merit of his being now ready to follow Him. Besides the Lord's dealing with the sorrowful one who wanted first to bury his father, there certainly also belongs to this place His dealing with the hesitating one who desired to take a formal farewell of those who were at home in his house.

As it is clearly an adherence to Jesus for an unreserved outward following of Him which is here spoken of, so it seems to be in fact a question of future claims to the apostolic office. And we are all the more driven to this conclusion, since a more indefinite adherence to Jesus would not readily have occasioned such a particular discussion concerning the outward proof of discipleship, and since, very soon after this occurrence, we learn that the Lord separated off His first circle of disciples. Perhaps, therefore, it would be well more accurately to ascertain the individuals here spoken of. But, first, we must put aside those apostles who had been already enlisted at an earlier period, thus: Andrew, John, Peter, James the elder, Nathanael or Bartholomew, and Philip. Now, if we recognize James the younger and Judas Lebbeus or Thaddeus to be the Lord's brothers, who did not, we may believe, give in their adhesion to Jesus in so public and sudden a manner, and if, according to the supposition of ancient Church history,6 we leave the possibility as yet undisputed of Simon the Zealot being a third brother of the Lord, then certainly the names of Judas Iscariot, Thomas, and Matthew would come under consideration as the three candidates here spoken of.

The first of these aspirants offered himself to Jesus as His follower with the forward and enthusiastic word, ' Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest!'7 But the word seems to inspire with no confidence the Master in the knowledge of souls. His answer is serious and full of warning: ' The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have dwelling-places;8 but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head' (either to sleep or to die)! Was it with these words, may we imagine, that Jesus replied to the offer of Judas Iscariot? We only know of him that he was the son of one Simon (John vi. 71), apparently a man of Kerioth, of the tribe of Judah (Joshua xv, 25). He might very likely have been a scribe, discharging his office in Galilee. Some people have thought the Lord's answer to this candidate very strange.9 But that He might very possibly have spoken of foxes in a figurative sense, is shown by the message which He sent to the Galilean prince Herod (Luke xiii. 32). Many have marveled how Jesus could have received amongst His disciples such a man as Iscariot. The passage before us might give us a key to this How. Here is a man who comes forward and enthusiastically declares that nothing shall separate him from Jesus, that he will and shall follow Him every- where. Could Jesus altogether give the lie to the expression of such an enthusiastic self-surrender from so important a man? But that He meets him with a tone designed to test his character, and which seems to betray a feeling of mistrust, is evident. He means to say to him, that in connection with the needy Son of man, one should not, one might be sure, look for any earthly gain. The foxes even are better off than one could outwardly be with Him; they, at all events, have their holes. As concerning the birds of the air, we do not wish to attach any importance to the fact that, but a short time before, in the parable of the sower. He had spoken of birds in an evil sense, of the seed-destroying birds. Bat the expression, ' the Son of man hath not where to lay His head,' might very well have been spoken here in an especial presentiment of that moment when, in dying. He should have no pillow on which to support His head.

Yet it certainly is remarkable that Jesus neither positively rejects this candidate, nor yet does He receive him with joyful sympathy.

The second candidate is desired by Jesus Himself to follow Him. But he meets this request with words of sorrow and dejection: ' Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.'

Now, we can hardly imagine that this disciple wanted still to devote himself to the care of his aged father, so as not to become a follower of Jesus until after his death.10 It would have been senseless his promising to follow the Lord at such an uncertain period. Besides which, it would have been unfeeling to describe the care of an aged father by such an expression. The father of this man was therefore dead. His grave stood ready.

But as Jesus was on the point of setting sail, this man must at once decide which he would do: either he must forego his personal attendance at the funeral, or else he must give up his departure with Jesus.

But the melancholy, irresolute man could not bear to make the decision. He therefore begged for permission first to do the funeral honours to his father: perhaps he hoped thereby to effect a delay in Jesus' departure. But the Lord met the grief of this honest man for the death of his relative with rebuking and encouraging decision: ' Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.'

Thus, in spite of His wavering, Jesus does not reckon this man amongst the spiritually dead, of which there were enough in Capernaum who remained at home to attend to the funerals there.

In his sorrowful irresolution, he sees the valuable kernel of faithfulness, as perhaps in the flaring enthusiasm of the first aspirant He may have discerned the smoke of egotistical self-deceit. When, afterwards, the Lord was journeying towards Judea to go to the grave of Lazarus, Thomas uttered those mournful words, ' Let us also go, that we may die with him! ' And again, after Jesus' resurrection, he could not again get free from the idea of His death. His grave.

It would therefore have been quite in accordance with his character to have at first encountered the Lord in this manner, and if the Lord had even already now proclaimed to him the advance of victorious life over the graves of the dead.

Concerning the third aspirant Matthew is altogether silent. This one said to Jesus: ' Lord, I will follow Thee; but let me first go bid them farewell which are at home at my house.' This request Jesus gently reproved in His reply as a .mark of indecision: ' No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.' Soon after His return from the country of the Gadarenes, Jesus called Matthew from the receipt of custom. Immediately he rose up, left all, and followed Him (Luke v. 28). But he now prepared a great feast, at which he entertained the Lord in company with several publicans, of whom he now seemed to be taking leave as of his former professional comrades. Hence that third disciple reminds us of Matthew. Perhaps he would fain have made this great supper at once, before the departure for Gadara, in order immediately afterwards to follow the Lord. But Jesus could not approve of such a farewell feast, at which the young ploughman would have looked back unduly upon his old course of life, instead of looking forward, keeping his eye fixed on the plough, intent on serious labour in God's field, which requires decided self-surrender and renunciation of the world,11—a farewell feast, therefore, calculated to hinder the work of the kingdom. Later, how- ever, when circumstances so ordered it that this feast opened up for Jesus Himself a most appropriate sphere of labour, and when the disciple had proved by his deeds his determination to follow Him, then He gladly took part in such a feast. It is not said whether, notwithstanding, this third disciple followed Him. At all events, He was not yet decidedly received into the inner circle of disciples.

Thus the disciples of Jesus were gathered together, apparently increased by the new companions whom Matthew mentions, and they at once proceed to depart. Jesus determined to set out just as He was. The vessel which bore Him was accompanied by other vessels. It, together with them, formed the little fleet of Christ's increasing company. His fame now fills the whole country of Galilee; the anticipations and hopes of the disciples soared bright and vast away over the Galilean Sea. But a great trial was soon to shake this rising enthusiasm. A sudden mighty hurricane12 broke upon the sea and brought the vessels into danger. The billows dashed over the ship in which the disciples were; the water in the ship got higher and higher, until, as Mark tells us, it was near being full, or getting overloaded; and even the disciples, accustomed as they were to the sea, began to lose courage. It seemed to them that there was something especially fearful in this- sudden storm. And if they thought now of Jonah's voyage, when a storm of wind beat over the ship because he was flying from God, then the apprehension might have seized them, that perhaps there was an accursed thing in the breast of one of their companions in the ship, perhaps in that one who had entered last just as they were about to sail.

But why should they commence any inquiry of this sort, when they could have recourse to the Master? They turned to Him in this trouble of their souls. They found Him lying in the hinder part of the vessel asleep on a pillow, as in the peaceful rest of childhood: the howling storm awoke Him not! And even the disciples' cry of anguish, ' Master, save us, we perish! ' filled Him with no alarm. With perfect composure He rebuked first the disciples for their faint-heartedness, then He rose up, and with His garments fluttering, full of majesty, confronting the storm like a second storm from heaven. He cried out into the din and whirl the holy word: 'Peace, be still!' He had uttered the word from the heart of God, The wind ceased, a great nocturnal calm was soon again spread over the sea. And as the night was restored to serenity and brightness, and seemed fain to array herself with festal splendour amid the glittering lights of the sky and the mirroring sea, so also peace and joy were restored to the souls of the disciples. But a great awe of Jesus had taken possession of them. 'What manner of man is this,' they inquired of one another, ' that even the winds and the sea obey him?'

Thus it is likewise with the ship of the Church, in which the disciples of Christ traverse the world's sea: it cannot go to the bottom, even if the spurious characters existing among disciples themselves should arouse the most dangerous storms, for He Himself is ever with them in the ship; His righteousness outweighs unrighteousness within the circle of His disciples.

The direct mastery which Christ here exhibited over nature13 does not militate against the fact, that Christian humanity again obtains this mastery in the indirect way of the use of means; rather it points out just the creative juncture [Moment] in which humanity becomes again fully conscious of her spiritual superiority in God over menacing nature, and consequently the juncture in which the foundation is laid of the whole Christian era, so far as it develops itself into an overcoming of nature by the use of means. For it is quite certain that even the subduing of nature by the use of means to the service of man supposes the ever-increasing development of Christian enlightenment. This, perhaps, is most especially to be seen when steamers burst, and steam-ships, with all their appliances for subduing nature, blow up in the air. In such a case, something has always been wanting somewhere in the right conjunction of immediateness with the use of means, perhaps in prayer or sobriety of spirit.

The voyagers landed in the neighbourhood of Gadara, the chief city of Perea, which lay to the south-east of the southern extremity of the Lake of Gennesaret; it was built on a hill, and was for the most part inhabited by Gentiles. Immediately on His arrival, Jesus was induced to cast the spirit out of a demoniac; and this healing stands out as the greatest of all His miraculous cures of this nature.14 In relating this occurrence, the Evangelist Matthew differs in two particulars from the other Evangelists. Both differences are, no doubt, to be explained from one cause, and testify to either a greater or a less degree of accuracy in his account in comparison with that which the other Evangelists had received. But we assume that the Gospel, in its essential substance, is in its form before us from Matthew himself, and that Matthew, just in this circle of facts which cluster round his call, is deserving of particular attention. Besides, the circumstance is to be considered that he was a tax-gatherer on the western shore of the lake, so that the opposite shore must have been well known to him. Hence, when Matthew speaks here of the country of the Gergesenes, whilst the others speak of the country of the Gadarenes, we may assume that he points out more precisely the place where they landed, giving it the name which it may have had from a town not so well known as Gadara.15 Besides this, the Evangelist mentions two demoniacs as having hastened out to meet the Lord, whilst the others only speak of one. It would be altogether unpsychological to suppose that the Evangelist had the peculiarity of liking to make two individuals out of one. As little can we imagine that the number two arose out of the name of Legion, which the demoniac gave himself. For it would not only suppose a most entire misunderstanding of the nar-

THE GADARENE DEMONIAC. 147

rative, but also the most pitiful endeavour in the compilation of the Gospel, if we were to assume that the plurality of the possessing demons was meant to be thus in some measure confirmed through the duality of the demons.

Also it is surely quite impossible to suppose that Matthew, who was so well acquainted with the localities in the neighbourhood of the lake, should have brought hither that demoniac out of the synagogue at Capernaum, and have joined him to this demoniac of Gadara16 Rather, we have here surely to recognize more exact precision in the introduction of the second demoniac, of the same kind as when he observes that the shore of Gadara where Jesus landed, was more precisely described as the country of the Gergesenes.

The one difficulty bears evidence for the other, and both bear evidence for the originality of the Gospel. Jesus therefore cured two demoniacs in the country of the Gadarenes; but that characteristically important one which caused His speedy return was only one of the two. Thus the first Evangelist, according to his habit of grouping together several incidents, has represented both cures as one fact.

All the Evangelists have considered it characteristic that this neighbourhood should have so decidedly turned its dark side to the Gospel. The road from the sea to the nearest town was insecure. Rocky fissures extended through this region, which were used as sepulchres. In these caves dwelt two demoniacs, terrifying the passers-by. Jesus healed them; and one of them under most remarkable circumstances.

This possessed man, who stands forward more prominently, would no longer allow himself to be kept at home. They had often tried to bind him. He had even been placed in chains and fetters, but he was always free again: the fetters were broken, the chains snapped as if he had rubbed them asunder, his clothes he tore off, and fled into the desert, which resounded with his cries. His paroxysms were so fearful that he raved against himself, wounding himself with stones. This savage being rushed then towards the Lord immediately on His landing. There was something self-contradictory in his behaviour, as we have seen above, which is explained, on the one hand, by the foreboding sense of Christ's superior might, which came upon him in his demoniacal power of apprehension, and, on the other hand, by the ungovernable defiance which the demons inspired.

This contradictory circumstance, that he hastened to the Lord and fell down before Him, and yet cried out to Him, 'What have I to do with thee?' quite agrees, therefore, with his condition.17 Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the sick man. We have seen what delayed the cure. The possessed man, in accordance with his distracted consciousness, felt as if a legion of spirits were within him: therefore with this consciousness Christ had to deal. The demons now besought Him that He would only not send them into the deep, but allow them to go into the herd of swine.

Those who have not caught aright the difference between the great Shepherd of men and the well-conditioned swine-keeper in the country of the Gradarenes, imagine here that Jesus ought to have forbidden the demons to work this mischief, that it was a violation of the Gadarenes' rights of ownership to have granted their request, and that this proceeding can be only falsely defended by referring to the sovereign right of Christ's Godhead. It is quite true that the demons acknowledge in Him this divine fulness of power; but yet we explain His decision on the ground of His human consciousness of right: yes, on the very ground of His perfect unassumingness with reference to legal rights. He had not to administer justice nor the laws, nor to undertake the guardianship of swine in the country of the Gadarenes; and therefore He permitted that to take place which He could not have forbidden without mixing Himself up with local affairs of justice. Consequently modern lawyers who bring an action for damages in consideration of these Gadarenian swine, and who would thereby make the Gospel history also answerable for what the Prince of the Gospel once did, have to take the part of that wild legion of malicious demons.18

But now follows what is indeed a very obscure history. Even defenders of the Gospel narrative have been almost tempted to see here some mythical traits. But yet it seems to us that we should rather speak only of highly mysterious features in a circumstance clearly enough delineated.

It has been explained above, how first of all we are to understand demoniacal operations among the demons, according as they took hold of the consciousness of the possessed sufferer; perhaps in such a way as generally a fixed idea becomes the central point in the consciousness of a crazy person. We therefore consider these demoniacal operations on their natural side as proceeding from a frame of mind spiritually powerful, and physically diseased.

Now it is quite certain that such states of mind, according to the measure of their powerfulness, pass over from men to men, particularly to the weak, or that they can make an agitating impression upon those men. But here the question forces itself upon us, how far animals also may be susceptible of such impressions.

Now, first of all, it is quite certain that they, especially dogs and horses, are very susceptible of physical impressions from man. The dog has a great disposition to receive into his animal condition, and to exhibit, human peculiarities. The horse has a great disposition to physical terror from impressions—one might almost say to ghost-seeing.19 But as for the pig, he seems, in his dull, obstinate nature, to represent quite the opposite pole to the aforesaid noble animals. Nevertheless it is capable of receiving terrifying impressions; and such a shock once received by the whole herd of swine, manifests itself sympathetically. It hurries along a whole herd in wild senseless fury.

Now, if we return to the demoniacs, we must first of all again bear in mind that the healing of demoniacs was each time accompanied by a final paroxysm. This paroxysm appeared generally to be in proportion to the grievousness of the complaint. Here, therefore, in this moment, when the demoniac called Legion knew that his last attack was come, we may expect a most frightful paroxysm. It certainly is contrary to the meaning of the Gospel narrative to suppose that he rushed into the herd of swine: the herd was a good way off from them, Matthew says. And even the final paroxysm of a demoniac would hardly exhibit itself in so very strange a manner. Yes, this form of healing would be opposed to his own consciousness. Besides, the outward entrance of a man into a herd of two thousand swine, by itself alone, considered as a material influence, would not have called forth the results here recorded. The real matter is therefore set forth in the following simple mysterious form. The demoniac has a final paroxysm. And if he before made the place unearthly by his fearful cries, the thousand voices of the demons which were being driven out of him now make themselves heard in the most horrible howl. His outcry is like the shrill, confused savage sound of a wild hunt. This roar acts like an electric shock upon the herd of swine, which is feeding at some distance off on the slope of the hill overhanging the sea. The terror which comes upon them seizes the whole herd like a storm; and with senseless, stupid excitement, they rush down from the steep mountain side into the sea; in their flight, perhaps, deceived by a rush-covered bank, which makes them hope to find a refuge in their most congenial home, a swamp. Thus they perish.20

Without doubt, this obscure occurrence is not without its significance. One explanation is, that the Gadarenes deserved to have been punished for their un-Israelitish breeding of swine; but against this it has been urged, that though certainly the Jews dared not eat swine's flesh, yet that they were not forbidden to trade in swine. Only, this last distinction does not exactly hold good; for the breeding of swine must in any case have been opposed to the feeling of Jewish purity. But also it is not to be supposed that immediately on His crossing over to the eastern shore of the sea, Jesus could have found nothing but simple heathenism and Gentile ways.

The herd of swine characterized, therefore, the mixed neighbourhood, where perhaps even the Jews gained their livelihood by swine, in furnishing them to Gentiles. Under these circumstances, the occurrence was very significant, even if we cannot say that Jesus here inflicted a punishment on the Gadarenes; still less, since He did not Himself order the accident, but merely permitted it to happen as a decree of God. When such an accident as this took place at the very entrance of Jesus in that neighbourhood, it showed how far removed was His course of life from the lawlessness with which it has been often charged.21 Yes, this occurrence, happening at a time when the Old Testament laws concerning meats were about to end for the kingdom of Christ, threw a wondrous streak of light at the end of their existence across the centre-point of these laws, by bringing out in strong relief the ideal significance which might have been couched under the prohibition to eat swine's flesh. The remark has recently been made with truth, that the aversion which ancient civilized nations had to eat horse flesh, proceeded apparently from the fact that the horse is peculiarly disposed to receive within himself human influences, and to come iiito a certain friendly relation with man.22

The horse so often becomes inspired by the physical disposition of his rider, even by his heroism, that one might indeed venture to say, that he who feeds on a riding horse, eats likewise something of the life of his rider. A lap-dog is entirely interwoven, as it were, with the reflection of his mistress's humours and fancies. Hence, no doubt, arises the deep-seated aversion to eating the flesh of such an animal, in which can be imprinted such varied reflections of humanity. But as concerning swine, they seem to have a susceptibility to receive dark impressions of wild sylvan terror, which caused their flesh to appear unclean to the ever-watchful spirit of the theocracy.23 But for mature Christian nations, this disposedness of swine's flesh to disease no longer carries with it in general any weight; but just as theocratical humanity was passing out of the legal into the Gospel period, it would seem that the spirit of the ancient theocracy was, by a singular occurrence, to appear justified in the severity of its prescriptions intended for the nonage of God's people.

At all events, this fact may be considered as a great primary phenomenon concerning the relation between the demoniacal dispositions of men and the psychical nature of animals, and especially of swine; and let those who have no better explanation to give, refrain at least from all such glosses as do no more than throw a certain gloss of tolerable respectability over the Gospel narrative, impoverishing the great reality of the fact recorded, in order that the wisdom of the day may find no difficulty in the passage, ie. may be relieved of this riddle likewise.

The keepers of the swine beheld the terrible disaster, and flew to the city to proclaim it there. The city here spoken of seems to have been a small provincial town near the sea. On hearing the frightful news, the people from the villages and hamlets hasten out to meet Jesus. They see the evidence of the misfortune which the swine-keepers announced, in a most gratifying sight; for they see the demoniacal man healed, and sitting quietly on the ground at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. From some quarter his clothing has been promptly provided; and by his speech he shows that he is restored to his right mind. They now liear the full particulars from those who witnessed the transaction. But immediately a great fear falls upon them, and with courteous entreaties they implore the mighty Stranger to leave their neighbourhood. The destruction of two thousand swine outweighs with them even the deliverance of a man whose misery had disturbed the whole neighbourhood. At any rate, the fear of faith certainly as yet outweighs with them the joy of faith.

The working of the spiritual glory of Jesus has, therefore, for the present, agitated quite powerfully enough this neighbourhood, and a stronger exhibition of it they could not have borne. Besides which, He forces Himself nowhere. He therefore agrees to their courteous rejection. But in return, when about to depart, He takes care that the healed man should stay behind, to be a witness amongst them of this deed of His. This man seems to have been deeply grieved that his countrymen should banish his Deliverer; at all events, He was dearer to him now than his home. Therefore, when Jesus was entering the ship, he begged to be allowed to remain with Him. But Jesus charged Him to return to his own house, and proclaim to his family how that God had had mercy upon him. And this charge he fulfilled most energetically: throughout the whole neighbourhood of the ten towns he declared what had befallen him, and together with the praises of God he proclaimed likewise the name of Jesus. Thus in the dark country of the Gadarenes, during a very short sojourn, Jesus had changed an inhuman wretch driven hither and thither, and absolutely controlled by the darkest sentiments of the country, into a faithful and zealous preacher of God's delivering grace, and of the salvation which had been set forth in him. And' this great blessing of His Spirit He leaves behind for a people who had been punished through the judicial severity of His appearance, and who were fast chained to earthly interests.24

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Notes

1. That the centurion of Capernaum (centurio, commander of a company) was a Gentile, may clearly be gathered from the narrative. But as concerning the corps to which he belonged, many have expressed the opinion that there was at Capernaum a Roman garrison, and that to this he belonged. By others, again, this has been doubted. Compare Kuinoel on this passage. As Herod Antipas was by the Romans the acknowledged prince of Galilee, the garrison at Capernaum probably belonged to his own military, in which case the centurion was attached to this Galilean corps. Herod Antipas had many Gentiles among his subjects, and, no doubt, therefore among his officers as well.

2. Concerning the locality of Gadara, compare Ebrard, p. 248; concerning Decapolis, or the ten cities, see Winer's R. W. s. v.

3. It is self-evident that the many other difficulties which recent critics have found in the foregoing Gospel narrative,—for example, why the demons were so foolish as to drive the herd of swine down a precipice, and thus deprive themselves of their lodging,—it is self-evident that these difficulties are set at rest by our view of the demoniac state. The examples which Strauss, vol. ii. p. 37, brings forward are interesting, concerning the manner and means by which, in former times, exorcists sometimes made the 'demons give them a sign that they were gone out. [Westcott, Characteristics of the Gospel Miracles, p. 73, gives a tabular view of the various phrases which express the idea of possession, and serve to bring out some of its characteristics.—ED.]

 

 

1) Comp. Book I. v. 5, Note, and Book II. iv. 10, Note 1.

2) With good reason does Ebrard draw attention to the fact that the δοῦλος of the centurion is in Luke (ver. 7) called παῖς, just as in Matthew. This is sufficient to show how we are to understand Matthew's use of  παῖς in this narrative.

3) Although 'paralysis does not at other times occur as a disease quickly bringing on death,' yet the circumstance that it may occur as an illness which at last is fatal, and at last therefore is also speedily fatal, is sufficient to put aside the observations of Schleiermacher (Řiber die Schriften d. Luk. p. 92) and of Strauss (Leben Jesu, ii. p. 96), according to which there is a contradiction between the account of St Matthew and that of St Luke respecting this illness. Why might not a paralytic fall into such fearful agony as to make people apprehensive of his dying? Comp. Ebrard, Gospel History, p. 281 (Clark).

4) Matthew inexactly gives the words as addressed immediately to the centurion.

5) This would explain the expression. ὰλλ΄ ύμῖν λέγω (Luke vi. 27), which has been considered strange. See Schleiermacher, p. 90.

6) See Winer, s. v.

7) Schleiermacher refers the expression ὅπου ἂν ἀπέρχῃ to the different roads which Jesus might travel (towards Jerusalem). See the work already referred to, p. 169.

8) 'Dwelling-places, not nests; for birds do not live in nests.'—De Wette, Comment. p. 86.

9) Weisse, in his Evan. Geschichte, vol. ii. p. 57. Besides, according to Weisse, the Lord's words must be taken in an allegorical sense, and mean that the Divine Spirit, which had become incarnate in Christ, never reposes or rests, never allows Himself to be enclosed under any roof or between any four walls, &c.

10) Compare De Wette's Cormmentar. z. Matt. p. 87. According to a tradition in Clem. Alex. [Stromata, iii. 4), this other disciple was Philip. But Jesus had admitted Philip before this into the inner circle of disciples.

11) See Stier's Words of the Lord, i. 369 (Clark).

12) ['To understand the causes of these sudden and violent tempests, we must remember . . . that the water-courses have cut out profound ravines and wild gorges, converging to the head of this lake, and that these act like gigantic funnels to drawdown the cold winds from the mountains.'—Thomson, Land and Book, 374.—ED.]

13) [Hase, Leben Jesu, p. 138 4th edition, 1854), mentions the doubt of some, whether Jesus only, through His knowledge of nature, predicted the calm, or through His power over nature, brought it about; and he observes that the eye-witnesses, who were seafaring men, decided for the latter.—ED.]

14) [On the connection of this miracle with the preceding, see Trench.—ED.]

15) [On the disputed reading in this passage, see the author's Comm, on Matt., vol. i. 331; Ebrard, p. 248; Ellicott, p. 188; and Alford in loc. Ellicott reads  Γεργεσηνῶν with the Textus Rec.; and it is obvious that the reading Γαδαρηνῶν may be easily explained as an attempt to bring Matthew into harmony with the other Gospels. For deciding the reading, the remarks of Thomson, Land and Book, p. 375, on the ruins of Gersa are important. His description of the locality answers point for point, in remarkable coincidence, to the scene required by the narrative.—ED.]

16) So Ebrard, p. 247.

17) By this the difficulty is solved which Strauss and others have found in this apparent contradiction.

18) Concerning this point, the narrative in the two other Evangelists evidently clears up the more obscure account in St Matthew.

19) We are reminded here of Balaam's ass, which we are to imagine to be a lively oriental ass, more nearly approaching to a horse; perhaps a very strong type of this class of animals.

20) [This explanation, however, will be considered superfluous, and indeed out of place, by those who accept the simple statement of the narrative, that they were not demoniacal dispositions but personal devils which possessed the man. These persons, by their request (which must have some meaning), provided for their reception in the swine when they should be expelled from the man. They were conscious that, as persons, they must now go elsewhere; and when they entered the swine, they produced effects similar to those they had been producing in the man. And it was this, apparently, which completed the man's cure. He knew now that they were persons which had been in him; he saw them going elsewhere, and knew himself In distinct conscious separation from his tormentors. By those who would have the swine to be merely affected in sympathy with the man, the event is misunderstood as a whole, the case of the swine being disconnected from the cure of the man. No doubt there are cases in which the feeling of a man is communicated to animals; but it is forgotten that such communication does not diminish but rather increases the original feeling in man, and cannot therefore be applied to the present case.—ED,]

21) See Hess's Lehensgeschichte Jesu, i. 533. 'It is well known how much scorn, ay, and even persecution, the Jews must have had to endure in consequence of their being forbidden to eat swine's flesh. Did Jesus desire, perhaps, to justify His nation in this respect, and to show to the Gentile Gadarenes that even in this point the Jewish law had divine authority to support it? '

22) Comp. the article Pferdeileischesseu, in Tippelskirch's Volkshlatt, 1844.

23) Just so the Arabians, Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Phoenicians. Comp. Von Ammon, vol. i. p. 396.

24) [The remarks of Westcott (Characteristics of the Gospel Miracles, pp. 83 ff.) on the judgment which is involved in the miracles on the spirit-world are very worthy of consideration. And regarding the different effect of this miracle on the demoniac himself and on his countrymen, he says (p. 70), The one, in the consciousness of a restored being, entreats that he may still follow the author of his blessing ; the others, in the anticipation of greater sacrifices, seek still to retain for a while that which could not abide the ordeal of the divine presence. The one petition is refused, the other granted; yet so that what seems in both cases the withdrawal of a blessing, is really the counsel of tenderest love. The Saviour departs, but the witness of His love remains. The greater blessing is replaced by one which was less overpowering. Augustine (Quœst. Evan. ii. 13) compares the healed demoniac's case to Paul's: To depart and be with Christ is far better; nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. ED.]