The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods







the return of Jesus to Capernaum from his journey to Gadara. the throng of people. the paralytic. the calling of Matthew. more decided conflicts with the Pharisees and with john’s disciples. a succession of miracles

(Mat 9:1-34. Mar 2:1-22; chap. 5:21-43. Luk 5:17-39; chap. 8:40-56)

In Gadara Jesus had met with a fresh repulse. He therefore returned again to His own city (Mat 9:1).

Matthew seems to lay stress upon His being thus sent home, but also on the fact that His home was in Capernaum, where he himself most probably dwelt.

Here they still received Him with open arms, as if they had been looking out towards the eastern shore in anxious expectation of Him. On His arrival a crowd is very soon again collected, and surrounds the dwelling into which He has entered, probably Peter’s house, with whom He was accustomed to lodge. The crowd increases, blocking up the entrance, so that those seeking help cannot approach the door, whilst Jesus is either talking to those immediately around Him, or else preaching to the people from the house. But now something extraordinary occurred, which Matthew mentions with admiration (καὶ ἰδού, ver. 2). The roof of the chamber or hall in which Christ was, opened, and upon a litter, borne by four persons, a paralytic man was let down and laid at the feet of Jesus.

The men who bore this sick man had not been able to gain an entrance by the door of the house in consequence of the crowd. Then they had hit upon this expedient, either gaining the summit of the house by an outside staircase, or else by the roof of a neighbouring house, and then removing the bricks from the platform at the top of the house where Jesus was, until the opening was effected.1 This was indeed a breaking through of faith in its most literal sense, and only to be explained as proceeding from the most fearless confidence, which seemed almost to border on impertinent presumption.2 Antecedently, it is not likely that the lame man allowed himself to be thus dealt with against his will; rather his courageous faith seems first to have given rise to this undertaking. Yes, from the way and manner in which the Lord took this affair, we might conclude that he had been the real leader of this bold expedition; thus resembling General Torstenson, who once gained a victory whilst he was being carried sick and lame in a litter.3 But now, when the man lay there on his litter before the Lord, and looked Majesty Itself in the face, he might perhaps have been frightened at his own boldness. It seems as if he now could not bring out a single word. But well Jesus saw that it was not merely the longing of a sick man for health, but rather the longing of a conscience-stricken, salvation-craving soul for pardon, which had thus been able to burst open for him this spirited and high-soaring method of refuge. He saw in the deed of this bold little company their common faith, and He said to the sick man: ‘Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee!’ But He immediately knew in His spirit that He had spoken this word in a mixed company. Around him were seated Pharisees, and scribes or lawyers, some of whom were from the immediate neighbourhood, others from a distance (Luk 5:17). These changed colour at this word of Jesus. They probably looked at one another with signs of horror; perhaps even murmuring together. And though none dared speak aloud the word in which they all immediately agreed, yet Jesus read in their souls the sentence: ‘This man blasphemeth.’ They had, perhaps, already been in quest of some such word from His lips, and now in every look and gesture was to be plainly read: We have it! But the Lord must have deeply felt the significance of this juncture, when a narrow circle of opposers in the midst of those who revered Him first condemned Him in this brightest moment of His spiritual activity. But that which had stirred up these men of ordinances was in reality the fact, that He had absolved this man not through any medium, but of His own self, whilst in their opinion the man should have first brought the appointed sin-offering to the temple to perform the ceremony of repentance, and have waited until he heard his absolution from the mouth of the priest, who pronounced it in the name of Jehovah. They imagined they could draw this inference, that Jesus set aside the temple-service, and encroached wantonly upon the high prerogative of Jehovah. This was all based on the supposition that this man must have sinned in the Levitical sense. That any one without Levitical guilt could feel himself a sinner, and in need of the forgiveness of sins, was just what they had no conception of. Their want of this conception must have most deeply troubled the Redeemer.4 He immediately blamed them aloud and openly, because they had judged Him with gross error, secretly and with cowardice in their hearts. And then entering with the loftiness of a king into their ways of thought, He gave them a theological riddle: ‘Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee! or to say to such an one, Arise, and walk?’ Then perhaps He made a pause, and left them to guess. They still gave Him no answer, although, according to their habit of thought, they might have imagined the first to be easier, because a man could pronounce the word without any one being in a position to judge of its effect in the spiritual life. In the omnipotence of His divine certainty, Christ thus stood triumphantly opposed to their senseless impotence. It was not, however, His triumph that He cared for, but God’s cause, and so, first fixing His eyes upon His opponents, and then turning to the paralytic, He said in one breadth: ‘But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.’

The man understood Him. He arose, took up his bed, and departed, glorifying God. He went forth in the sight of every one, before them all (Mar 2:12). The royal authority of Christ, His triumph, opened through the crowd a way for the pardoned sinner, which before had been closed against him. In His feet Christ had given a visible proof of what He had just before wrought invisibly in his heart, and all the unprejudiced spectators were struck with the fear of God: they were filled with joy, and joined the happy man in glorifying God. That promise of the prophet (Isa 35:6), that in Messiah’s time the lame man should leap as a hart, had now been literally fulfilled before their very eyes. We have not to inquire how far the healed man’s state of sickness was connected with his sins. That it was connected with his consciousness of guilt is evident; and this idea is agreeable to pious minds. The truly religious man will ever refer his sufferings to his sins, even if he has not immediately through those sins drawn upon himself these sufferings; and in his sufferings he will ever consider it to be his first need most particularly to reconcile himself with God in respect to his sins. Yet it is even possible that this paralytic might have drawn his suffering upon himself immediately through his sins. But even if this were not the case, in his religious frame of mind his sin must have been to him his greatest suffering; and it was upon just this frame of mind that Jesus fixed His eyes first of all with pity and healing sympathy. Therefore we have no need to enter at length into the profane and foolish remarks which have been made here concerning this master-word of the Saviour, that is, the Prince of healing art, whose healing begins from the very fountain of life.5 We may venture to trust the penetration of the master-mind of Christ, as well as the clear certainty of the fact of the healing, to believe that in this case the most definite absolution was the previous requisite of the healing. At all events, to this high-soaring paralytic his absolution seems to have been the first object.

Immediately after this cure, Jesus again helped another man to walk. For He went forth by the sea-side, and after He had taught and dismissed the assembled multitude He called upon the publican Matthew, whilst sitting at the receipt of custom, to follow Him. It was as if the pharisaical spirit, by its positive enmity to His mercy in the healing of the paralytic, had led Him now in this formal manner to call the publican to be amongst the number of his disciples; just as afterwards in like manner the Apostle Paul was induced, in consequence of the unbelief of the Jews, to turn himself all the more decidedly to the Gentiles (Act 18:6). And the Evangelist himself seems to have perceived the significance of the moment in which he was called (Matt. 9 ver. 9). For Jesus saw that He must display a decided opposition to the enmity on the part of the Pharisees against His free compassion, and so, by calling this publican, He gave a great sign that He was turning Himself with especial hope to the publican body. After what has gone before, there can hardly be a doubt that Matthew had already previously stood in a nearer relation to Jesus, even if he could not have been the disciple who was nearly ready to follow Him before the passage across to Gadara. For not only does the scene of the calling presuppose such a friendly relation, but also more especially the circumstance that the new apostle is able at once to introduce to the Lord a number of publicans who honour Him likewise. But yet what the Evangelist has particularly wished to stand out prominent is, that it was the determination of the disciple now to follow Jesus at once, and that this determination was in consequence of a startling and mighty summons from Jesus. Also, it is difficult to see how such a call to the apostolic office could have been partially followed, or how a tax-gatherer’s business could have been gradually given up.6 There lies no difficulty in the fact that Matthew the Evangelist speaks of his own call in the third person. Putting out of view the fact that he herein follows the example of other right-minded historians,7 he had here the especial motive of wishing to set forth in the strongest contrast, how Christ turned Himself from those Pharisees, and went forth to call a man, named Matthew, who was sitting at the receipt of custom. By the introduction of the first person this contrast would not only have been weakened, but would have been made indistinct. But as it is evident that the three first Evangelists relate the same account of the calling of a publican under the same circumstances, the question here arises, how the riddle is to be solved, that Mark and Luke call the newly called one Levi, whilst the first Evangelist designates him as Matthew?

Now it is obvious to conjecture, that the Lord might have given a new name to Levi when receiving him amongst His apostles, just as He had done to Simon and others.8 He named him Matthew, perhaps because he was come to Him above the others as a gift of God.

Therewith might have been connected the fact, that the name of Nathanael, which is almost identical with that of Matthew, was changed into Bartholomew.9 Now, when the second and third Evangelists related the calling of Matthew, it was likely that they should assign to him his earlier name, as it was reported to them, because it might be of interest to the Church. But Matthew loves best to call himself by the new name which the Lord has given him. But besides that, in his Christian modesty, he dwells too little upon himself to mention his earlier name, or to bring out so prominently as Luke does the circumstance, that he made the Lord a great feast. But otherwise he does not conceal this fact.10 He began his disciple’s course and closed his publican’s life by making a joyful feast to the Lord. It was certainly with the heartiest concurrence of Jesus, that at this feast, not only He should associate with Matthew, but that His disciples also should associate with many of Matthew’s old companions, publicans and sinners. Sinners of course are spoken of in the Jewish sense; they appear apparently to have been men who were under Levitical excommunication, or who might be considered Levitically unclean, either on account of their intercourse with Gentiles or with unclean persons. In the condition of the publican already there subsisted a transition to the condition of those who were fallen from pharisaical temple-righteousness. In company, then, with such a group, Jesus brought His disciples to a social meal. Here was a bold step; but not too bold for Him who felt how wide amongst this class of men the doors were opened to Him of a longing for salvation, and how clearly and prominently it behoved Him to set forth and to show by outward deed that it was His desire to save sinners, and therefore that He was even willing to associate with them according to the measure of their readiness to receive Him.

That the Pharisees and scribes could not but soon know of this event, is clear. But it was also immediately seen what great offence Jesus had given them through accepting this invitation. They took His disciples to task because He ate with publicans and sinners. The fact of their always coming to His disciples with their complaints, not only shows the involuntary fear with which His majesty inspired them, but it also exhibits the cowardly, perfidious disposition which generally belongs to zealous superstition, ever hunting after heresy,—the disposition, namely, to calumniate the bearers of a better spirit, chiefly behind their backs, and in this way to seek to alienate their followers from them. But the disciples faithfully report to their Master, and Jesus gives His answer direct to His opponents openly and freely: ‘They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick!’ If they were at all willing to allow that He was a prophet, then, according to their own supposition of a contrast subsisting in the nation between righteous men and sinners, they could not but have expected that this prophet must bring back sinners again to their proper position, and therefore that they must form the chief centre of His activity. Thus He convicted them according to their own hypothesis. And yet they were not to be won by this argument, since they were imagining a Pharisee under the notion of a prophet, and therefore also a despiser and condemner of the publicans par excellence, just as narrow-minded Christians can never see anything but an excellence of their own one-sidedness in the man whom they expect to help them.

Therefore Christ spoke His sententious word not only in their sense, but also in His own. The matter now stands thus, He means to say, that you can be in no need of Me, with the fancied soundness which you possess by virtue of your temple-righteousness; while those, on the contrary, who are in a fallen condition with respect to the superstitious righteousness of the common people may be in want of Me.

To the first, it was their temple-righteousness which was a snare in the way of their conversion; whilst to the others, the open condemnation by which they were oppressed was a salutary agitation. In single cases, however, a greater and even a radical freedom of spirit might be brought into play, as well as a deeper trait of humanity, if a Jew would enter into greater intimacy with Gentiles, particularly through the publican’s office, just as, on the other hand, it was plain enough that the spirit of illiberality and inhumanity had participated in the rejection of Gentiles, publicans, and sinners.

The Lord strengthened His remonstrance by reminding them of the prophet’s words: ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice’ (Hos 6:6). They were to learn the meaning of this word. We shall more exactly understand the connection of this passage with Christ’s words if we remind ourselves that the publicans and sinners were guilty in consequence of their neglect of the sacrificial worship, whilst the Pharisees sinned through their want of mercy for these guilty ones. But now God desires much more particularly the mercy of pious love to men than the sacrifice of pious worship. But if men will fain offer Him sacrifice without joining it with mercy, or even joined in fanatical zeal with unmercifulness, He then cuts asunder with the sword of His word the hateful combination: He rejects the oblation thus destitute of mercy, and chooses rather free, unfettered mercy, even though not supported by sacrifice. The opposite to that, and the disavowal contained in it, is indeed not altogether absolute, but rather relative. It cannot be said unreservedly that God rejects sacrifice, but only when it is offered to Him in opposition to mercy. But when this opposition does confront the Lord, then that disavowal is certainly absolute: the sacrifice devoid of mercy He rejects, because it has thus become a lie; mercy He chooses, because it contains within itself the cheerfulness of self-sacrifice. Thus does Christ, in the name of the Lord, explain to these Pharisees that they are much more wanting in what is essential than the publicans; and He puts the seal to what He says by a solemn explanation of the object of His mission: ‘I come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ Not to the self-righteous, nor to the temple-righteous, nor to the righteous according to the letter, is His divine message addressed: but to those who know and feel and confess that they are sinners, who judge themselves as sinners, to them does His mission extend,-with those He has to do.

Thus did Jesus turn aside the reproach of His having eaten with publicans, and made it into a shaming of His enemies. But now these ill-wishers had an eye upon another feature in this same feast,—namely, that it had been a festive banquet, a feast of rejoicing; and forthwith they found on this circumstance a new cause of offence. But it is a remarkable phenomenon, that it was more particularly the disciples of John who came forward with this complaint, and disciples of John, too, in the stricter sense, not merely admirers of him, such as were to be found scattered everywhere among the people. For it lies quite in the nature of the case, if we find John’s own disciples about this time sometimes in attendance upon the Baptist, and sometimes near Jesus among His observers; and if we recall to our minds the situation which they were thus placed in, this occurrence, at first so surprising, becomes quite intelligible.

We last found the Baptist in full activity at Enon, near to Salim, in the summer of the year 781 (Joh 3:23). But at this time, when the publican-apostle, Levi Matthew, made the Lord a feast, it is probable that he was already in prison, since soon afterwards, and indeed before Christ’s journey to the feast of Purim in the year 782, he sent his well-known deputation to Jesus (Mat 11:2). We must at a subsequent stage return to the more definite inquiry concerning the time of his imprisonment by Herod. But if we clearly apprehend the effect which his apprehension must have had both upon him and upon his disciples, we shall see that his disciples, who were at liberty to visit him in his imprisonment, though they could not live with him, would about this time have been more likely than ever to occupy themselves with Jesus. It is with these disciples of John that we have to do, who already felt themselves in some measure to be in opposition to the higher spiritual life of Jesus. They could not yet have broken with Jesus, as later they did with His Church. They were prevented from doing this by the authority which their master exercised over them. Yes, about this time they would certainly have been willing gladly to put up with His guidance, if He had commenced some dashing work, if He had given them any sort of prospect whatever of His being about to burst open the fortress of Machærus in which their master lay imprisoned. And in this hope they would be disposed to come round Him, and attentively to observe His behaviour. But it must have gone sadly to their hearts when they saw how the people flocked round Him, and exulted in Him, and followed His steps as exclusively as if there were no longer any John the Baptist in the world. And when, besides, they now observed that even Jesus did not seek to obtain the outward freedom of this great man, but that He seemed rather to be drawing away from him the means by which he might be released—the hearts of the people, and then actually saw that He could feast with publicans, whilst in their opinion, He, together with the country at large, ought to be fasting and mourning for the imprisoned prophet,—then it was natural that, with the line of thought which they had once adopted, their feeling of irritation against Jesus should rise to bitter indignation. But they were more honourable than the Pharisees, and therefore they addressed themselves immediately to Him with the inquiry of partisan-like surprise: ‘Why do we, as disciples of John, and the Pharisees, fast oft, but Thy disciples fast not; and Thy disciples eat and drink, hold merry feasts?’

Matthew distinctly tells us that this question was addressed by the disciples of John to the Lord. From Mark we learn that the Pharisees also joined in this attack. Luke introduces both the scribes and the Pharisees as questioners, and in such a way that this second attack follows immediately upon that first one. Apparently Luke has made the succession of the attacks his chief attention. Matthew, on the contrary, settles the motive of this second question, namely the irritation of John’s disciples. Finally, Mark gives us the picture of the occurrence. Just as often two parties, between whom there is ill-will, will often become friends in an overpowering ill-will against a third party or person, so was it here. It very likely happened that men with the disposition of Pharisees would stir up yet more the indignation of the disciples of John who were amongst them. And when these latter were wanting to come forward with the reproach that the school of Jesus was wanting in the due severity of pious fastings, and in the definite exercises of devotion (Luk 5:33), it was likely that they would be glad to support the assertion of their observances by referring to the same observances of the Pharisees, and all the more, because in this point they were really related to the latter, and because the established weight of the Pharisees might materially strengthen their reproach.

On the other hand, we can imagine how willing the Pharisees would be to edge and to support these sad and earnest scholars of the great prophet, in order to give a blow to Christ’s authority with the people. It was apparently a well-contrived plan of theirs, an imposing and threatening coalition.

Jesus’ answer appears all the more striking if we remember the Baptist’s last witness concerning Him: ‘He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice.’11 Thus had the Baptist set forth the spiritual glory of Jesus, and his own relation to Him. Hence Jesus now appeared to meet the disciples of John with only a continuation of their master’s words (Joh 3:29) when He replied, ‘Can the companions of the bridegroom mourn or fast so long as the bridegroom is with them? Ye cannot make them do that (Mar 2:19; Luk 5:34). But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.’ In those days, as it is more particularly specified; for the separation between the Bridegroom and His companions shall be indeed but a temporary one. So long as the wedding festivities continue, the children of the bride-chamber cannot mourn and fast; that would be altogether unnatural, even to the minds of John’s disciples. The Messiah was now holding His marriage-feast. In the crowds of believers who embraced Him, His future Church was hastening to meet Him, His bride. Now the disciples of Jesus ought at all events to be recognized as friends of the Bridegroom at this feast.

Therefore they would have been real disturbers of the marriage-feast if at this time they had chosen to fast. Now, according to the full meaning of the words of Jesus, He not only justified Himself to John’s disciples with their master’s word, but He also rebuked them with it. They were now disturbing the pleasure of the Messianic marriage-feast; and they were especially culpable, in that they refused any longer to see in their master himself the friend of the Bridegroom. When the Lord now intimated to them that at the end of a short feast He Himself would be withdrawn from His disciples, and that then His disciples would mourn for Him, and in their mourning would fast, this reference was highly significant for them. They were to remember that true fasting has its truth only in a corresponding disposition of the mind, in great and profound sorrow. They were to feel that Christ entered into their sorrow; but that He could not and would not remove it by outward help, but rather that in holy sympathy He saw Himself already consecrated to death. And that too might have helped them to divine that the death of Christ would assume a greater importance for His disciples and for the world than the martyrdom of John. But the tenderest thought in these words of Christ is this, that it was possible in spirit to hold a heavenly feast of joy over the salvation of sinners even during the imprisonment of a prophet, ay, even in the foreboding of approaching death to Himself.

But in order that these complainers might know once for all in what position they stood towards Him, Jesus distinctly explained His relation towards them in two parables. In the first parable the Lord says, that it is not customary to put a piece of new, unwrought cloth upon an old garment in order to repair it. If any one were to do that, it would be a great mistake; for the new piece itself (by its contraction) would again tear the old garment, and thus the rent in it would be worse than it was before. Surely by this explanation the Lord gave the disciples of John clearly to understand that He was not minded to force the rich stuff of His fresh new life into the worn-out form of the ascetic prophet’s teaching, which they wanted to set forth, still less into that of pharisaical Judaism. At the same time, the word was a rebuke to them for beginning now with the comparatively fresher life of the school of the Baptist to patch on Pharisaism. In this parable He does not draw their attention to the fact that it looks both beggarly and extravagant, that it has a miserably patchy appearance, to see an old garment mended with new cloth. But He leads them to the thought, that they ought better to understand their own interest; that their worn-out religious forms of life would be torn and destroyed if He were to join with them His new, spiritual ways in a mixed patchwork. Since the Lord has expressed His thought so clearly in this parable, we might be disposed to inquire why He should have found it necessary to express it over again in another parable. But we shall soon see that in this second parable He heightens and completes the same thought. At first, these ascetics had the expectation that He would provide them with His stuff, His spiritual ways, to serve to patch up the old garment of their life. But although He set aside this expectation, although He should refuse thus to reform Judaism as such with His Christianity, yet the complaint might recur, it might take a milder form. They might expect that He would at least exhibit His life, Christianity, in Jewish forms—of fasting, for example, and of the asceticism of prophets, or pharisaical ordinances, or of Leviticism. But even this expectation He sets aside; and for this very purpose He makes use of the second parable, at the same time further unfolding in it His thoughts concerning the relation of new to old. In the first parable, Christianity appeared (according to Stier) more ‘as a custom and a way, a mode of life, or even doctrine;’ in the second, it appears as a ‘spiritual principle, as the spirit which creates the doctrine, as the life which fashions the mode of life.’ ‘Neither,’ He adds, ‘is it customary for men to put new fermenting wine into old bottles.’ If it is done, the bottles burst, and the damage is twofold. The old bottles are destroyed, and that is an annoyance for those who love and preserve those old bottles. But what is worse, the noble wine is spilt. It is therefore customary to pour new wine into new bottles: in this way both are preserved, the wine through the bottles, the bottles (as casks) through the wine. Thus the Lord at once explains that He cannot entrust His new wine to old bottles, His Christian spirit of life to old Judaical forms. This sentence of Christ’s is in every age of the highest significance. It shows what great stress the Lord lays on the importance to the contents of the form which holds it; it shows how much He recognized the necessity that the form of Christianity should be in keeping with its inward being. Those who would fain show their skill in blending discordant materials in the sphere of religion—the advocates of Interims and of Adiaphoras12—find here no warrant. When, nevertheless, it has happened that men have again poured the new wine of Gospel life into the bottles of worn-out forms of life, the harm of such a proceeding has been already sufficiently clear. It is abundantly seen with what power the new wine bursts the old bottles, and how much then of the noble substance of life is spilt, mixes with the dust of the earth, and becomes mud. Hence God so disposed and ordered it, that the new wine of Gospel life in the Reformation was poured into new bottles. But for every age the warning of Christ holds good, that the pure life of His Church must not be destroyed by forcing it into worn-out forms. But His sentence contains this too, that pure Christian forms must be preserved together with the wine.

Thus the Lord deems His cloth too good to adorn with it the old garment of pharisaical Judaism. For it would make of it a proud beggar’s garment; consisting half of righteousness of works, and half of righteousness of faith. It is His will that the new garment of righteousness by faith must be made entirely out of the cloth of His life. And as He insists upon the unity and pureness of faith, of faith as the contents, so He does likewise upon the safe preservation of His life in corresponding and vigorous forms. The new living wine of Gospel joy, blessedness, love, holiness, and freedom must be set forth in the new forms of really evangelical, heart-rejoicing sermons, of really festive songs, of really brotherly communions, of genuine New Testament discipline, of radical freedom in spiritual movement and mutual influence.

The disciples of John could gather with certainty from this explanation of Jesus, that He would not allow Himself, through their importunity, to be drawn into their gloomy, ascetic cast of character, or even into that of the Pharisees; but that He meant to set forth the new spiritual life in a new form as well. Certainly the Lord closed this decisive explanation by a word which in some measure excused their individual weakness: ‘No man also, having drunk old wine, straightway desireth new; for he saith, The old is better.’ Thus the matter did not, indeed, certainly stand between the spiritual ways of the Pharisees or of the Baptist on one side, and those of Christ on the other; but the taste of these scrupulous spirits would fain have it that it did, and the Lord gave them to understand that, considering the weakness of their taste, He would generously allow them time to reconcile themselves gradually to His new institution of life.

We ought not to forget that Christ dismissed the disciples of John with this categorical explanation. Apparently they did not receive it in the best possible way, and reported the Lord’s words in such a manner to the imprisoned Baptist as might very much have contributed to lead him into a gloomy state of mind, and into temptation.

Immediately after this transaction, Jesus had an opportunity of showing that His way of joining in a joyous meal did not estrange Him from those who were sorrowing. A ruler of the synagogue at Capernaum, Jairus by name, had sought Him out in anguish of heart. As soon as he found Him, he fell at His feet, and excitedly, with many words, begged Him to hasten to his house. ‘My little daughter,’ he said, ‘lieth at the point of death.’ Apparently reckoning the time that had been lost since his departure from home, and distracted by his grief, he expresses himself stronger still: She is even now dead!13 he wailed out; and then again correcting himself, and in the hope that every spark of life was not yet extinct in her, he prayed: ‘Come and lay Thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.’ Jesus immediately went with him, followed by His disciples, and a crowd of people, who thronged Him almost to suffocation. A woman needing help, and ashamed to tell openly of her woman’s disorder, an issue of blood, availed herself of this throng. She had already suffered twelve years from this complaint, and had spent all that she had on doctors, whilst her complaint only continued to get worse.14 In her conflict between womanly modesty and her longing for deliverance, it came into her thoughts that if she could only touch secretly the garment of this much extolled miraculous Physician—even that would bring her help. With the strength of despair she forced her way till she came immediately behind Jesus, and, not very gently, perhaps, in her extreme agitation, she grasped a corner of His garment—the hem, or perhaps the tassel which hung at the shoulder of the garment. To feel this pull, to understand it, and to accept it: this was but the work of a single moment in the soul of Jesus. The woman felt a shock from the touch, and was immediately conscious also that she was healed. But Jesus, who with superintending consciousness (ἐπιγνούς, Mar 5:30) had felt His own life stirred, and consequently the streaming forth from Him of healing power, turned Himself about, thus directly facing the woman, and said: ‘Who touched My clothes?’ This question seemed marvellous to Peter and the other disciples. ‘Master,’ they say, ‘the people throng Thee and press Thee; and sayest Thou, Who touched Me?’ But Jesus let His eyes wander over the crowd (περιεβλέπετο ἰδεῖν, Mark) as if inquiringly, though she whom He was in quest of was just opposite to Him. He was wishing for her free confession: only through that could the healing receive its last sanction, and become a spiritual blessing to the woman. For it was necessary that she should not only be brought out of the natural reserve of womanly feeling, but also out of the present reserved form of her faith. She was not to take this blessing home with her as a secret, beneath the veil of modesty or of superstition. And now for the first time did there pass through her life the true terrors of the Spirit like holy fire from heaven. The reserved and fettered Jewess became an unreserved and unfettered Christian: trembling and yet determined, and with her spirit freed, she stepped close in front of Him, fell down before Him, and before all the people told Him her whole history up to the moment of her feeling herself healed. Upon which the Lord gave her His blessing: ‘Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.’ Thus He blessed her in like manner as He blessed the paralytic. And, indeed, both these supplicants must be compared together in order that we may see two wholly characteristic forms of bold faith, a manly as well as a womanly exhibition of faith in direct contrast. Both supplicants broke through with heroic confidence, and forcibly laid hold on help: the man did it in a manlike way, breaking through the roof of a house, almost like a robber; the woman, in a womanly fashion, almost like a skilful thief. But both were acknowledged by the Lord in the pure heroism of their confidence.

The delay occasioned by this transaction almost makes one forget that Jesus was on His way to a dying person. It reminds one of a later tarrying, when His delay in coming was such a sore trial to His friends Mary and Martha; and it gives us an idea as to the way in which He might then also have been employed. But for Jairus too this pause was a heavy trial. He appears to have been silent; and this was, no doubt, much accounted of in his favour. But, in the meantime, messengers came from his house with the intelligence that his daughter was dead. There almost seems to have been some irony and bitterness mixed with the words which they added: ‘Why troublest thou the Master any further?’15 Perhaps they meant to say that this man knew very well before that He could do nothing more here; at all events, it is characteristic that Mark and Luke should both have preserved the strong expression, ‘Why troublest thou Him any further?’1 But Jesus spoke to him words of encouragement: he was not to be afraid, but only believe. But when entering into the house of mourning itself, He made a careful selection. Of His disciples He only took Peter, James, and John with Him; and besides them, only the father and mother of the child, the last having apparently hastened out to meet Him at the door. We have here the first instance of His choosing out some peculiarly trusted ones from among those who were properly His. The others in the meantime had an office assigned to them amongst those who remained without. But besides this, the Lord doubtless wished only to be surrounded by the perfectly pure sympathy of the purest and greatest among His disciples, for even in sympathetic delicacy He showed the majesty of His nature. But the reason why He chose out these three is explained by His perfect insight into the very depths of personal character, and by the equally great freedom and sovereignty of His spirit: just these were His most chosen ones. But this selection is an evidence to us of the elevated and holy feeling with which He now approached this work, and beforehand prepares us to expect some new and singular act, such as has not yet come before us. But the house was already filled with the noisy tumult of the official mourners, with the sound of wailing flutes and voices. These appeared to be at hand, just as in the desert vultures hover over a fallen and wounded deer, glorifying the power of death. And when He reproached them for making such a din, explaining, ‘The maid is not dead, but sleepeth,’ they laughed Him to scorn (all the Evangelists make use of this expression); their profanity thus breaking forth coarsely and glaringly out of the midst of the funeral wail. For the rest, we are here assured that they had judged rightly as to her being dead, and that it is erring just as much on the other side to mistake the higher style of Jesus’ words, to take them literally, and to say, The maid was not dead, but only apparently dead.16 The Evangelist Luke expressly states that she was dead; and only upon this supposition can we at all understand the very peculiar behaviour of Jesus in this case. Those who would wish, on the contrary, to explain the words of Jesus quite literally, cannot talk of the maid’s being apparently dead, but only as sleeping. But Jairus would not have needed to summon the Lord merely to awake his daughter out of sleep in its ordinary sense. Jesus then drove out those mourners who maintained that the maiden was not asleep, but dead, i.e., was not to be again awakened. The house had now become quiet and empty. Two souls stood, believing and praying for help, near the maid like two mourning tapers—the father and mother. His Church the Lord saw represented through His three intimate friends. And now came the solemn awakening. The Talitha cumi thrilled through Peter, and by Him through Mark in all its original power; and by their transmission it will continue to sound through the Church even till the end of the world.17 The efficacy of the word appeared, as it were, abundant and overflowing. The maid arose and walked about the room, perhaps in her agitation moving to and fro between her father and her mother. But the Lord was so profoundly calm in it all, that He was able quite formally, or as if He were a physician, to order that something should be given the child to eat, whilst the witnesses of the transaction felt as in a holy ecstasy. But when He straitly charged them that they should tell no man what was done, we may suppose that by this was meant, not the fact of the awakening itself, but only that the particular details of this sacred occurrence were not to be profaned by any premature talking about it amongst the people.

As Jesus was returning to His former abode, He heard that two suppliants were following Him, who cried, ‘Thou Son of David, have mercy upon us!’ He did not stop. He was not disposed openly to attend to this cry of premature allegiance. For if He had publicly given them a hearing, a rising perhaps of the Galileans, in the name of the Son of David, might have been attempted. But they followed Him even into His dwelling; and here, before they spoke, He encountered them with the question: ‘Believe ye that I am able to do this?’ On their answering in the affirmative, He touched their eyes and cured them. And now these two men looked upon Him with their eyes, who even before their healing had proclaimed Him the Son of David, and who were now more than ever bound to do so. Therefore He straitly charged them that they were to let no man know what had occurred. No doubt they were, above all things, to keep secret the title under which they had sought Him, and under which He had helped them. But the healed men could not keep the secret to themselves: as soon as they were departed, they proclaimed Him everywhere,—not merely thus making known the deed, but Himself as the Son of David, throughout the town and country.

But as soon as this watchword of allegiance sounded through the country, opposition began also more distinctly to arise. This was especially the case when a fresh occurrence took place. Jesus healed a dumb man possessed by a devil, who had been brought to him, i.e., a man whose demoniac consciousness would not allow him to speak. This was a case of disguised demoniacy, in which the demon who held possession of the man concealed itself under the appearance of his dumbness; which dumbness proceeded not from any organic defect, but from a physical-demoniac constraint. The demoniac state of mind under which this man was suffering, was such that he thought either that he could not or that he must not speak, that his demon would not allow it; and consequently it may be compared to the condition of those insane persons who are prevented by a fixed idea from going out of doors, or the like. The mastery of Jesus was therefore shown in this case by His immediately seeing through the condition of this man—fastening upon the hidden demon who made himself known by no word, and casting him out. And as soon as He had thus freed the man’s soul, he began to talk reasonably. The people marvelled at the sight of this master-stroke of Jesus, and said, ‘It was never so seen in Israel!’ This homage was pretty clear: Jesus was placed by it above Moses and the prophets. In consequence of this, the pharisaical party were led for the first time to put forward the satanic opposition of affirming that Jesus drove out the demons because He was in league with Satan, the prince of demons, and made use of his help; that all these miracles, therefore, were but a jugglery of hellish powers, whose ends Jesus was subserving as a spirit in their employ. This blasphemy was at first only put forward in the form of a sneaking whisper in face of the loud enthusiasm of the multitude: later we find it grown into a shameless and open accusation against the Lord. Envy, from its very nature, is willing to adopt this extreme accusation. Just as the envious man himself does unconscious homage to the powers of darkness, so is he inclined to see their rule in others whose spiritual workings soar above him and weigh him down, and all the more, since, in his beclouded state of mind, Satan will appear to him to be mightier than God. Even the popular mind often is guilty of committing this sin against those great geniuses who in God’s power accomplish some incredible result. Thus, for example, a lofty cathedral, that of Cologne, was only built by the help of the devil; he had a helping hand in the erection of a bold bridge—the Devil’s Bridge; in the perfecting of a new discovery—the art of printing. And even the creative Spirit Himself must often have His boldest ideas and works designated as devil’s enchantery; as, for example, when He has thrown gigantic masses of rock in confusion on a mountain’s summit. If, then, even the more harmless popular mind can so often mistake the works of natural genius, and even of the creative Spirit in His general government, for the devil’s works, there is no such very great cause for wonder that the pharisaic-hierarchical mind should have fallen into the horrible error of traducing the glorious Spirit-works of the great God-man as being no better than Satan’s jugglery.



1. The woman cured of the issue of blood has been honoured by Church tradition under the name of St Veronica. She is said (according to Eusebius, vii. 18) to have erected at her home in Paneas, at the sources of the Jordan, a brazen (according to Von Ammon, a stone) monument before her house, in honour of Him who had saved her life.18 When Von Ammon maintains (i. 413) that the sick woman was a Jewess, and therefore concludes that she could not have had her house in the Gentile town of Paneas, this conclusion is certainly without much weight. For how many Jew sat that time were scattered far beyond Paneas, even throughout the world! Concerning the details of the tradition, compare the passage referred to.

2. Concerning the healing of this blind man now before us, and other healings of this kind, compare Ebrard, p. 262. Concerning the difference between the dumb demoniac which we here meet with, and the man similarly afflicted who is also blind, Mat 12:22 (Luk 11:14), compare the same, p. 241. There is surely something surprising in the fact that just twice, at the healing of a dumb demoniac, the Pharisees should come forward with the same reproach, that Jesus drove out the demons with the devil’s help; but no doubt they were just the persons who would have an especial motive for doing so, inasmuch as these particular cases of illness might appear to be just those which the exorcists have always held to be incurable, and because on this account they would look upon these cures with more especial envy.

3. The Evangelist Matthew closes the account of the healing of Jairus’ daughter (ver. 26), as well as of the healing of the two blind men (ver. 30), with the remark, that the fame thereof was spread abroad into all that country (ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ γῇ ἐκείνῃ). This expression might be taken as if the Evangelist spoke of another neighbourhood in contrast to that of His own home. But these particular scenes, together with the healing of the paralytic, are strictly confined, as far as locality is concerned, to Capernaum. Add to this, that the expression in ver. 28, ‘when He was come into the house,’ seems to refer to His abode at Capernaum. And at length His departure from Capernaum is announced in ver. 35. Now when we again turn to the expression above referred to, that the fame of Jesus was spread abroad throughout all that land, it seems possible that it had reference to the town and neighbourhood of Capernaum. Yet it might be more obvious here to think of that particular district in Capernaum in which Peter’s house was situated, and to suppose that it was not the fame of Jesus generally which is here spoken of, but the more specific announcement that He who wrought such works was the Son of David, and therefore the Messiah (see Mat 9:31).

4. It is a characteristic observation of the famous ‘Criticism,’ that the intimation of the Evangelists, that Jairus’ daughter was twelve years old, has been derived from the preceding intimation that the woman with the issue of blood had suffered for twelve years. Such very minute and external coincidences in the Gospel history, though they occur everywhere a thousand times over, are judged by this critical theory of the world too full of significance to be credited.



1) It is evident from Mark’s account that it was not an enlarging of a trap-door which is here spoken of. This is apparent also from the circumstance itself. See Ebrard, p. 263.

2) ʻCriticism,’ in its usual narrow-minded littleness of spirit, has been shocked at this heroism of faith, and has expressed concern lest this breaking open of the roof might possibly have injured those who were underneath, Dr Hug, with reference to this concern of theirs, has described the whole operation in his Gutachten, Part ii. p. 22, showing how such an opening could be made without endangering those who were below, [Thomson (p. 358) recounts a number of facts regarding Eastern roofs, which shows the whole affair to have been a very simple matter,—‘the extemporaneous device of plain peasants, accustomed to open their roofs and let down grain, straw, and other articles, as they still do in this country.ʼ—ED.]

3) [Westcott perhaps too decidedly ranks this among the Miracles of Intercession, p. 50, Characteristics of the Gospel Miracles—ED.]

4) ʻIn fact, from their traditional standing-point, these men had by no means wrongly judged,ʼ &c. Von Amman, vol. i. p. 421.

5) According to Von Ammon, vol. i. p. 419, the sick man had ʻa fixed idea that his bodily condition was in consequence of his previous sins.

6) With cutting irony, Ebrard, p. 265, has dismissed the supposition of ‘criticism,’ that the called man would have been induced gradually to leave his office of publican.

7) Besides the example of the four Evangelists, that of Josephus is particularly to be observed. Cf, Strauss, i, 572.

8) See Hug, i. 193.

9) See Von Ammon, i, 424, on the etymology of the name Matthew. The author combats the customary reference of it to the meaning: Gift of God.

10) [The English version of Matt. ix. 10 unduly conceals the fact that it was Matthew’s house into which the Lord entered. The words ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ are precisely what Matthew would have used to mean ‘in his house.’ See Scholefield’s Hints for an Improved Translation, p. 2.—ED.]

11) Comp. Stier, vol. i. p. 380.

12) [Cf. Guericke's Handbuch der Kirchengeschichte, vol. iii. p. 394. TR.]

13) If we combine together the accounts of the different Evangelists, we shall find that they give us a most graphic picture of the extreme agitation of this man. When he left his daughter, she still lived, but signs of the death-struggle seemed to have made their appearance. Therefore, among the many words which, according to Mark, he uttered in his confused address, he might have dropped also the word which Matthew records, ‘Even at that moment his daughter was dead,’ and yet he might then have again recurred to the hope that she might still be saved and live. That his daughter was dead, and that the Lord should raise her from the dead—this, surely, could not have been distinctly contained in his petition, But that Jesus could save her even in the last gasp, he was sure ; and whilst contradicting himself in his agitation, his words unwittingly expressed a yet stronger confidence. We should therefore deprive this narrative of its most lively features, if we were here to correct Matthews account by Mark, merely in order that the man may give a clear connected statement, which does not so well become him as the confused utterance of extreme agitation.

14) The long continuance of this complaint ʻnot only endangered her health and her life, but was also a positive ground for divorce, and laid her under the obligation of avoiding every public assembly.ʼ—Von Ammon, i. 403.

15) Τί ἔτι σκύλλεις (Mark); μὴ σκύλλε (Luke).

16) See Olshansen's Commentary, vol. ii. p. 13 ; Yon Ammon, i. 413. Comp., on the other hand, Stier, i. 397.

17) A ʻCriticʼ has made the frivolous remark, that the disciples may have communicated this word as a sort of spell or incantation. Surely the meaning of an incantation must have quite escaped him, for everything in it depends upon the formula; hence, according to this criticism, the disciples must have presupposed that any one by quoting these two words could raise maidens from the dead.

18) [The curious will find a careful excursus on this subject in Heinichen's Eusebius, iii. 396. ED.]