Chapter 12 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 14
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE DESCENT: FROM THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
INTO THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION AND DEATH.
TO THE DISCIPLES
TWO EVENTS AND THEIR MORAL
(St. Luke 12:1-13:17.)
The record of Christ's last warning to the Pharisees, and of
the feelings of murderous hate which it called forth, is followed by a summary
of Christ's teaching to His disciples. The tone is still that of warning, but
entirely different from that to the Pharisees. It is a warning of sin
that threatened, not of judgment that awaited; it was for prevention,
not in denunciation. That such warnings were most seasonable, requires scarcely
proof. They were prompted by circumstances around. The same teaching, because
prompted by the same causes, had been mostly delivered, also, on other occasions.
Yet there are notable, though seemingly slight, divergences, accounted for by
the difference of the writers or of the circumstances, and which mark the
independence of the narratives.
1. The first of these Discourses1
naturally connects itself with what had passed at the Pharisee's table, an
account of which must soon have spread. Although the Lord is reported as having
addressed the same language chiefly to the Twelve when sending them on their
we shall presently mark several characteristic variations. The address - or so
much of it as is reported, probably only its summary - is introduced by the
following notice of the circumstances: 'In the mean time, when the many
thousands of the people were gathered together, so that they trode upon each
other, He began to say to His disciples: "First [above all, hlxtb],4
beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."' There is no need
to point out the connection between this warning and the denunciation of
Pharisaism and traditionalism at the Pharisee's table. Although the word
'hypocrisy' had not been spoken there, it was the sum and substance of His
contention, that Pharisaism, while pretending to what it was not, concealed
what it was. And it was this which, like 'leaven,' pervaded the whole system of
Pharisaism. Not that as individuals they were all hypocrites, but that the
system was hypocrisy. And here it is characteristic of Pharisaism, that
Rabbinic Hebrew has not even a word equivalent to the term 'hypocrisy.' The
only expression used refers either to flattery of, or pretence before men,5
not to that unconscious hypocrisy towards God which our Lord so truly describes
as 'the leaven' that pervaded all the Pharisees said and did. It is against
this that He warned His disciples - and in this, rather than conscious
deception, pretence, or flattery, lies the danger of the Church. Our common
term, 'unreality,' but partially describes it. Its full meaning can only be
gathered from Christ's teaching. But what precise term He may have used, it is
impossible to suggest.6
1. St. Luke xii. 1-12.
2. St. Matt. x.
3. With St. Luke xii. 2-9, comp. St. Matt. x. 26-33; with St. Luke xii. 10, comp. St. Matt. xii. 31, 32; and with St. Luke xii. 11, 12, comp. St. Matt. x. 18-20.
4. I prefer this rendering to that which connects the word 'first' as a mark of time with the previous words.
5. W�nsche goes too far in saying that Pnx and hpwnx are only used in the sense of flattering. See Levy, sub verb.
6. The Peshito paraphrases it.
After all, hypocrisy was only self-deception.7
'But,8 there is
nothing covered that shall not be revealed.' Hence, what they had said in the
darkness would be revealed, and what they had spoken about in the store-rooms9
would be proclaimed on the housetops. Nor should fear influence them.10
Fear of whom? Man could only kill the body, but God held body and soul. And, as
fear was foolish, so was it needless in view of that wondrous Providence which
watched over even the meanest of God's creatures.11
Rather let them, in the impending struggle with the powers of this world, rise
to consciousness of its full import - how earth's voices would find their echo
in heaven. And then this contest, what was it! Not only opposition to Christ,
but, in it inmost essence, blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Therefore, to
succumb in that contest, implied the deepest spiritual danger.12
Nay, but let them not be apprehensive; their acknowledgment would be not only
in the future; even now, in the hour of their danger, would the Holy Ghost help
them, and give them an answer before their accusers and judges, whoever they
might be - Jews or Gentiles. Thus, if they fell victims, it would be with the
knowledge - not by neglect - of their Father; here, there, everywhere, in their
own hearts, before the Angels, before men, would He give testimony for those
who were His witnesses.13
7. St. Luke xii. 2.
8. Thus, and not 'for,' as in the A.V.
9. St. Luke seems to use tameion in
that sense (here and in ver. 24), St. Matthew in the sense of 'inner chamber' (St. Matt. vi. 6; xxiv. 26). In the LXX. it is used chiefly in the latter sense; in the Apocr. once in the sense of 'inner chamber' (Tob. vii. 16), and once in that of 'storeroom' (Ecclus. xxix. 12).
10. ver. 4.
11. vv. 6, 7.
12. vv. 8-10.
13. vv. 11, 12.
Before proceeding, we briefly mark the differences between this
and the previous kindred address of Christ, when sending the Apostles on their
(after certain personal directions), the Discourse began15
with what it here closes. There it was in the form of warning
prediction, here in that of comforting reassurance; there it was near the
beginning, here near the close, of His Ministry. Again, as addressed to the
Twelve on their Mission, it was followed by personal directions and
and then, transition was made to the admonition to dismiss fear, and to speak
out publicly what had been told them privately. On the other hand, when
addressing His Per�an disciples, while the same admonition is given, and partly
on the same grounds, yet, as spoken to disciples rather than to preachers, the
reference to the similarity of their fate with that of Christ is omitted, while,
to show the real character of the struggle, an admonition is added, which in
His Galilean Ministry was given in another connection.17
Lastly, whereas the Twelve were admonished not to fear, and, therefore, to
speak openly what they had learned privately, the Per�an disciples are
forewarned that, although what they had spoken together in secret would be
dragged into the light of greatest publicity, yet they were not to be afraid of
the possible consequences to themselves.
14. St. Matt. x.
15. St. Matt. x. 18-20.
16. St. Matt. x. 21-25.
17. St. Luke xii. 10, comp. with St. Matt. xii. 31, 32.
2. The second Discourse recorded in this connection was
occasioned by a request for judicial interposition on the part of Christ. This
He answered by a Parable,1819
which will be explained in conjunction with the other Parables of that period.
The outcome of this Parable, as to the utter uncertainty of this life, and the
consequent folly of being so careful for this world while neglectful of God,
led Him to make warning application to His Per�an disciples.20
Only here the negative injunction that preceded the Parable, 'beware of
covetousness,' is, when addressed to 'the disciples,' carried back to its
positive underlying principle: to dismiss all anxiety, even for the necessaries
of life, learning from the birds and the flowers to have absolute faith and
trust in God, and to labour for only one thing, the Kingdom of God. But, even
in this, they were not to be careful, but to have absolute faith and trust in
their Father, 'Who was well pleased to give' them 'the Kingdom.'21
18. Concerning the foolish rich man.
19. St. Luke xii. 16-21.
20. St. Luke xii. 22-34.
21. St. Luke xii. 32.
With but slight variations the Lord had used the same language,
even as the same admonition had been needed, at the beginning of His Galilean
Ministry, in the Sermon on the Mount.22
Perhaps we may here, also, regard the allusion to the springing flowers as a
mark of time. Only, whereas in Galilee this would mark the beginning of spring,
it would, in the more favoured climate of certain parts of Per�a, indicate the
beginning of December, about the time of the Feast of the Dedication of the
Temple. More important, perhaps, is it to note, that the expression23
rendered in the Authorised and Revised Versions, 'neither be ye of doubtful
mind,' really means, 'neither be ye uplifted,' in the sense of not aiming, or
seeking after great things.24
This rendering the Greek word (metewrizein)
is in accordance with its uniform use in the LXX.,25
and in the Apocrypha; while, on the other hand, it occurs in Josephus
and Philo, in the sense of 'being of a doubtful mind.' But the context
here shows, that the term must refer to the disciples coveting great things,
since only to this the remark could apply, that the Gentile world sought such
things, but that our Father knew what was really needful for us.
22. St. Matt. vi. 25-33.
23. St. Luke xii. 29.
24. Comp. Jer. xiv. 5.
25. The word occurs in that sense twenty-five times in the LXX. of the old Testament (four times as a noun, thirteen as an adjective, eight as a verb), and seven times in the Apocrypha (twice as a verb and as an adjective, and three times as
a noun). This must fix the N.T. usus.
Of deepest importance is the final consolation, to dismiss all
care and anxiety, since the Father was pleased to give to this 'little flock'
the Kingdom. The expression 'flood' carries us back to the language which Jesus
had held ere parting from Jerusalem.26
Henceforth this designation would mark His people. Even its occurrence fixes
this Discourse as not a repetition of that which St. Matthew had formerly
reported, but as spoken after the Jerusalem visit. It designates Christ's
people in distinction to their ecclesiastical (or outward) organisation in a
'fold,' and marks alike their individuality and their conjunction, their need
and dependence, and their relation to Him as the 'Good Shepherd.' Small and
despised though it be in the eyes of men, 'the little flock' is unspeakably
noble, and rich in the gift of the Father.
26. St. John x.
These admonitions, alike as against covetousness, and as to
absolute trust and a self-surrender to God, which would count all loss for the
Kingdom, are finally set forth, alike in their present application and their
ultimate and permanent principle, in what we regard as the concluding part of
Its first sentence: ' Sell that ye have, and give alms,' which is only recorded
by St. Luke, indicates not a general principle, but its application to that
particular period, when the faithful disciple required to follow the Lord,
unencumbered by worldly cares or possessions.28
The general principle underlying it is that expressed by St. Paul,29
and finally resolves itself into this: that the Christian should have as not
holding, and use what he has not for self nor sin, but for necessity. This
conclusion of Christ's Discourse, also, confirms the inference that it was
delivered near the terrible time of the end. Most seasonable would be here the
repetition - though in slightly different language - of an admonition, given in
the beginning of Christ's Galilean Ministry,30
to provide treasure in heaven, which could neither fail nor be taken away, for,
assuredly, where the treasure was, there also would the heart be.
27. St. Luke xii. 33, 34.
28. comp. St. Matt. xix. 21.
29. 1 Cor. vii. 30, 31.
30. St. Matt. vi. 19-21.
3. Closely connected with, and yet quite distinct from, the
previous Discourse is that about the waiting attitude of the disciples in
regard to their Master. Wholly detached from the things of the world, their
hearts set on the Kingdom, only one thing should seem worthy their whole
attention, and engage all their thoughts and energies: their Master! He was
away at some joyous feast, and the uncertainty of the hour of His return must
not lead the servants to indulge in surfeiting, nor to lie down in idleness,
but to be faithful to their trust, and eagerly expectant of their Master. The
Discourse itself consists of three parts and a practical application. itself
consists of three parts and a practical application.
1. The Disciples as Servants in the absence of their Master:31their duty and their reward.32
This part, containing what would be so needful to these Per�an disciples, is
peculiar to St. Luke. The Master is supposed to be absent, at a wedding, a
figure which must not be closely pressed, not being one of the essentials in
the Parable. At most, it points to a joyous occasion, and its mention may
chiefly indicate that such a feast might be protracted, so that the exact time
of the Master's return could not be known to the servants who waited at home.
In these circumstances, they should hold themselves in readiness, that,
whatever hour it might be, they should be able to open the door at the first
knocking. Such eagerness and devotion of service would naturally meet its
reward, and the Master would, in turn, consult the comfort of those who had not
allowed themselves their evening-meal, nor lain down, but watched for His
return. Hungry and weary as they were from their zeal for Him, He would now, in
turn, minister to their personal comfort. And this applied to servants who so
watched - it mattered not how long, whether into the second or the third of the
watches into which the night was divided.33
31. St. Luke xii.
32. vv. 35-38.
33. The first is not mentioned, because it was so early, nor yet the fourth, because
the feast would scarcely be protracted so long. Anciently, the Hebrews counted three
night-watches; but afterwards, and probably at the time of Christ, they divided the night into four watches (see the discussion in Ber. 3 a). The
latter arrangement was probably introduced from the Romans.
The 'Parable' now passes into another aspect of the case, which
is again referred to in the last Discourses of Christ.34
Conversely - suppose the other case, of people sleeping: the house might be
broken into. Of course, if one had known the hour when the thief would come,
sleep would not have been indulged in; but it is just this uncertainty and
suddenness - and the Coming of the Christ into His Kingdom would be equally
sudden - which should keep the people in the house ever on their watch till
34. St. Matt. xxiv. 43, 44.
35. St. Luke xii. 39, 40.
It was at this particular point that a question of Peter
interrupted the Discourse of Christ. To whom did this 'Parable' apply about
'the good man' and 'the servants' who were to watch: to the Apostles, or also
to all? From the implied - for it is not an express - answer of the Lord, we
infer, that Peter expected some difference between the Apostles and the rest of
the disciples, whether as regarded the attitude of the servants that waited, or
the reward. From the words of Christ the former seems the more likely. We can
understand how Peter might entertain the Jewish notion, that the Apostles would
come with the Master from the marriage-supper, rather than wait for His return,
and work while waiting. It is to this that the reply of Christ refers. If the
Apostles or others are rulers, it is as stewards, and their reward of
faithful and wise stewardship will be advance to higher administration. But as
stewards they are servants - servants of Christ, and ministering servants in
regard to the other and general servants. What becomes them in this twofold
capacity is faithfulness to the absent, yet ever near, Lord, and to their work,
avoiding, on the one hand, the masterfulness of pride and of harshness, and, on
the other, the self-degradation of conformity to evil manners, either of which
would entail sudden and condign punishment in the sudden and righteous
reckoning at His appearing. The 'Parable,' therefore, alike as to the waiting and
the reckoning, applied to work for Christ, as well as to personal
relationship towards Him.
Thus far this solemn warning would naturally be afterwards
repeated in Christ's Last Discourses in Jud�a, as equally needful, in view of
His near departure.36
But in this Per�an Discourse, as reported by St. Luke, there now follows what
must be regarded, not, indeed, as a further answer to Peter's inquiry, but as
specifically referring to the general question of the relation between special
work and general discipleship which had been raised. For, in one sense, all
disciples are servants, not only to wait, but to work. As regarded those who,
like the professed stewards or labourers, knew their work, but neither 'made
ready,'37 nor did
according to His Will, their punishment and loss (where the illustrative figure
of 'many' and 'few stripes' must not be too closely pressed) would naturally be
greater than that of them who knew not, though this also involves guilt, that
their Lord had any will towards them, that is, any work for them. This,
according to a well-understood principle, universally, almost instinctively,
acted upon among men.38
36. St. Luke xii. 42-46; comp. St. Matt. xxiv. 45-51.
37. So literally.
38. St. Luke xii. 47, 48.
2. In the absence of their master! A period this of work,
as well as of waiting; a period of trial also.39
Here, also, the two opening verses, in their evident connection with the
subject-matter under the first head of this Discourse,40
but especially with the closing sentences about work for the Master, are
peculiar to St. Luke's narrative, and fit only into it. The Church had a work
to do in His absence - the work for which He had come. He 'came to cast fire on
earth,' - that fire which was
kindled when the Risen Saviour sent the Holy Ghost, and of which the tongues of
fire were the symbol.41
Oh, how He longed,42
that it were already kindled! But between Him and it lay the cold flood of His
Passion, the terrible Passion in which He was to be baptized. Oh, how He felt
the burden of that coming Agony!43
That fire must they spread: this was the work in which, as disciples, each one
must take part. Again, in that Baptismal Agony of His they also must be
prepared to share. It was fire: burning up, as well as purifying and
giving light. And here it was in place to repeat to His Per�an disciples the
prediction already addressed to the Twelve when going on their Mission,44
as to the certain and necessary trials connected with carrying 'the fire' which
Christ had cast on earth, even to the burning up of the closest bonds of
association and kinship.45
39. St. Luke xii. 49-53.
40. Comp. before, under 1, p. 218.
41. This clause is most important for the interpretation of that which precedes it, showing that it cannot be taken in sensu malo. It cannot therefore be 'the fire of judgment' (Plumptre.)
42. Probably, as W�nsche suggests, the y)wlh or else the y)wlw of the Rabbis.
43. vv. 49-50.
44. St. Matt. x 34-36.
45. St. Luke xii. 51-53.
3. Thus far to the disciples. And now for its application to
- although here also He could only repeat what on a former occasion He had said
to the Pharisees.47
Let them not think that all this only concerned the disciples. No; it was a
question between Israel and their Messiah, and the struggle would involve the
widest consequences, alike to the people and the Sanctuary. Were they so
blinded as not 'to know how to interpret the time'?48
Could they not read its signs - they who had no difficulty in interpreting it
when a cloud rose from the sea, or the sirocco blew from the south?49
Why then - and here St. Luke is again alone in his report50
- did they not, in the circumstances, of themselves judge what was right and
fitting and necessary, in view of the gathering tempest?
46. ver. 54
47. St. Matt. xvi. 2, 3.
48. St. Luke xii. 56.
49. The observant reader will notice how characteristic the small differences are. Thus, the sirocco would not be expected in Galilee, but in Per�a, and in
the latter also the first flowers would appear much earlier.
50. ver. 57.
What was it? Even that he had told them before in Galilee,51
for the circumstances were the same. What common sense and common prudence
would dictate to every one whom his accuser or creditor hauled before the
magistrate: to come to an agreement with him before it was too late, before
sentence had been pronounced and executed.52
Although the illustration must not be pressed as to details, its general
meaning would be the more readily understood that there was a similar Rabbinic
with very different practical application.
51. St. Matt. v. 25, 26.
52. St. Luke xii. 58, 59.
53. Sanh. 95 b. Its import is thus explained: Pr�pare ta vengence, sans que ton ennemi puisse s'en douter (Schuhl, Sent. et. Prov. d. Talm. p. 3.)
4. Besides these Discourses, two events are recorded before
Christ's departure to the 'Feast of the Dedication.' Each of these led to a
brief Discourse, ending in a Parable.
The first records two circumstances not mentioned by the Jewish
nor in any other historical notice of the time, either by Rabbinic or other
writers. This shows, on the one hand, how terribly common such events must have
been, when they could be so generally omitted from the long catalogue of
Pilate's misdeeds towards the Jews. On the other hand it also evidences that
the narrative of St. Luke was derived from independent, authentic sources - in
other words, the historical character of his narrative - when he could refer as
well known to facts, which are not mentioned in any other record of the times;
and, lastly, that we are not warranted in rejecting a notice, simply because we
find no other mention of it than on the pages of the Third Gospel.
54. This omission goes far to prove the groundlessness of the charge brought by Renan,
and lately by Jo�l (Bl. in d. Relig. Gesch. ii. pp. 52 &c), that the writings of Josephus have been largely falsified by Christian copyists.
It appears that, just then, or quite soon afterwards, some
persons told Christ about a number of His own Galileans, whom Pilate had
ordered to be cut down, as we infer, in the Temple, while engaged in offering
so that, in the pictorial language of the East, their blood had mingled with
that of their sacrifices. Clearly, their narration of this event must be
connected with the preceding Discourse of Jesus. He had asked them, whether
they could not discern the signs of the terrible national storm that was
nearing. And it was in reference to this, as we judge, that they repeated this
story. To understand their object, we must attend to the answer of Christ. It
is intended to refute the idea, that these Galileans had in this been visited
by a special punishment of some special sin against God. Two questions here
arise. Since between Christ's visit to Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles
and that at the Dedication of the Temple no Festival took place, it is most
probable that this event had happened before Christ's visit to
Jerusalem. But in that case it seems most likely - almost certain - that Christ
had heard of it before. If so, or, at any rate, if it was not quite a recent
event, why did these men tell Him of it then and there? Again, it seems strange
that, although the Jews connected special sins with special punishments, they
should have regarded it as the Divine punishment of a special sin to have been
martyred by a Pilate in the Temple, while engaged in offering sacrifices.
55. St. Luke xiii. 1-5.
All this becomes quite plain, if we regard these men as trying
to turn the edge of Jesus' warning by a kind of 'Tu quoque' argument.
Very probably these Galileans were thus ruthlessly murdered, because of their
real or suspected connection with the Nationalist movement, of which Galilee
was the focus. It is as if these Jews had said to Jesus: Yes, signs of the
times and of the coming storm! These Galileans of yours, your own countrymen,
involved in a kind of Pseudo-Messianic movement, a kind of 'signs of the times'
rising, something like that towards which you want us to look - was not their
death a condign punishment? This latter inference they did not express in
words, but implied in their narration of the fact. But the Lord read their
thoughts and refuted their reasoning. For this purpose He adduced another
instance,56 when a
tower at the Siloam-Pool had fallen on eighteen persons and killed them,
perhaps in connection with that construction of an aqueduct into Jerusalem by
Pilate, which called forth, on the part of the Jews, the violent opposition,
which the Roman so terribly avenged. As good Jews, they would probably think
that the fall of the tower, which had buried in its ruins these eighteen
persons, who were perhaps engaged in the building of that cursed structure, was
a just judgment of God! For Pilate had used for it the sacred money which had
been devoted to Temple-purposes (the Qorban),57
and many there were who perished in the tumult caused by the Jewish resistance
to this act of profanation. But Christ argued, that it was as wrong to infer
that Divine-judgment had overtaken His Galilean countrymen, as it would be to
judge that the Tower of Siloam had fallen to punish these Jerusalemites. Not
one party only, nor another; not the supposed Messianic tendency (in the shape
of a national rising), nor, on the other hand, the opposite direction of
absolute submission to Roman domination, was in fault. The whole nation was
guilty; and the coming storm, to the signs of which He had pointed, would
destroy all unless there were spiritual repentance on the part of the nation.
And yet wider than this, and applying to all time, is the underlying principle,
that, when a calamity befalls a district or an aggregation of individuals, we
ought not to take to ourselves judgment as to its special causation, but to
think spiritually of its general application - not so much seek to trace what
is the character of its connection with a district or individuals, as to learn
its lessons and to regard them as a call addressed to all. And conversely,
also, this holds true in regard to deliverances.
56. St. Luke xiii. 4.
57. Jos. War. ii. 9. 4.
Having thus answered the implied
objection, the Lord next showed, in the Parable of the Fig-tree,58
the need and urgency of national repentance.59
58. St. Luke xiii. 6-9.
59. For the exposition of this Parable, I refer to that of all the Parables of that period.
The second event recorded by St. Luke in this connection60
recalls the incidents of the early Jud�an61
and of the Galilean Ministry.62
We observe the same narrow views and externalism as before in regard to the
Sabbath on the part of the Jewish authorities, and, on the part of Christ, the
same wide principles and spiritual application. If we were in search of
evidence of the Divine Mission of Jesus, we would find it in this contrariety
on so fundamental a point, since no teacher in Israel nor Reformer of that time
- not the most advanced Sadducee - would have defended, far less originated,
the views as to the Sabbath which Christ now propounded.63
Again, if we were in quest of evidence of the historical truthfulness of the
Gospel-narratives, we would find it in a comparison of the narratives of the
three Sabbath-controversies: in Jerusalem, in Galilee, and in Per�a. In all the
spirit was the same. And, although the differences between them may seem
slight, they are characteristic, and mark, as if they pointed to it with the
finger, the locality and circumstances in which each took place. In Jerusalem
there is neither reasoning nor rebuke on the part of the Jews, but absolute
persecution. There also the Lord enters on the higher exposition of His action,
motives, and Mission.64
In Galilee there is questioning, and cunning intrigue against Him on the part
of the Jud�ans who dogged His steps. But while no violence can be attempted
against Him, the people do not venture openly to take His part.65
But in Per�a we are confronted by the clumsy zeal of a country-Archisynagogos
(Chief Ruler of a Synagogue), who is very angry, but not very wise; who admits
Christ's healing power, and does not dare to attack Him directly, but, instead,
rebukes, not Christ, not even the woman who had been healed, but the people who
witnessed it, at the same time telling them to come for healing on other days, not
perceiving, in his narrow-minded bigotry, what this admission implied. This
rustic Ruler had not the cunning, nor even the courage, of the Jud�an Pharisees
in Galilee, whom the Lord had formerly convicted and silenced. Enough, to show
this obscure Per�an partisan of Pharisaism and the like of him their utter
folly, and that by their own admissions.66
And presently, not only were His adversaries ashamed, while in Galilee they
went out and held a council against Him,67
but the people were not afraid, as the Galileans had been in presence of their
rulers, and openly rejoiced in the glorious working of the Christ.
60. St. Luke xiii. 10-17.
61. St. John v. 16.
62. St. Matt. xii. 9-13.
63. On the Sabbath-Law, see Appendix XVII.
64. St. John v. 16, 17 &c.
65. St. Matt. xii. 1-21.
66. St. Luke xiii. 15, 16.
67. St. Matt. xii. 14.
Little more requires to be added about this incident in 'one of
the Synagogues' of Per�a. Let us only briefly recall the scene. Among those
present in this Synagogue had been a poor woman, who for eighteen years had
been a sufferer, as we learn, through demoniac agency. It is quite true that
most, if not all, such diseases were connected with moral distemper, since
demoniac possession was not permanent, and resistance might have been made in
the lucid intervals, if there had been moral soundness. But it is ungrounded to
distinguish between the 'spirit of infirmity' as the moral and psychical, and
her being 'bent,' as indicating the physical disease,68
or even to describe the latter as a 'permanent curvature of the spine.'69
The Greek word here rendered 'infirmity' has passed into Rabbinic language (Isteniseyah,
hysyntsy)), and there means, not any particular disease, but sickliness,
sometimes weakliness. In fact, she was, both physically and morally, not sick,
but sickly, and most truly was hers 'a spirit of infirmity,' so that 'she was
bowed together, and could in no wise lift herself up.' For, we mark that hers
was not demoniac possession at all - and yet, though she had not yielded, she
had not effectually resisted, and so she was 'bound' by 'a spirit of
infirmity,' both in body and soul.
68. This is the view of Godet, who regards the 'Thou hast been loosed' as referring to the psychical ailment.
69. So Dean Plumptre.
We recognise the same 'spirit of infirmity' in the
circumstances of her healing. When Christ, seeing her - probably a fit symbol
of the Per�ans in that Synagogue - called her, she came; when He said unto her,
'Woman, thou hast been loosed70
from thy sickliness,' she was unbound, and yet in her weakliness she
answered not, nor straightened herself, till Jesus 'laid His Hands on her,' and
so strengthened her in body and soul, and then she was immediately 'made
straight, and glorified God.'
70. So, and not as in the A. V.
As for the Archisynagogos, we have, as already hinted, such
characteristic portraiture of him that we can almost see him: confused, irresolute,
perplexed, and very angry, bustling forward and scolding the people who had
done nothing, yet not venturing to silence the woman, now no longer infirm -
far less, to reprove the great Rabbi, Who had just done such a 'glorious
thing,' but speaking at Him through those who had been the astounded
eye-witnesses. He was easily and effectually silenced, and all who sympathised
with him put to shame. 'Hypocrites!' spake the Lord - on your own admissions your practice and your Law condemn your speech. Every one on the Sabbath
looseth his ox or ass, and leads him to the watering. The Rabbinic law
expressly allowed this,71
and even to draw the water, provided the vessel were not carried to the animal.72
If, as you admit, I have the power of 'loosing' from the bonds of Satan, and
she has been so bound these eighteen years, should she - a daughter of Abraham
- not have that done for her which you do for your beasts of burden?
71. It was not contrary to the Rabbinic law, as Canon Cook (ad loc.) supposes. The rule is quite different from that which applied in St. Matt. xii. 11.
72. Erub. 17 b; 20 b.
The retort was unanswerable and irresistible; it did what was
intended: it covered the adversaries with shame. And the Per�ans in that
Synagogue felt also, at least for the time, the blessed freedom which had come
to that woman. They took up the echoes of her hymn of praise, and 'rejoiced for
all the glorious things that were done by Him.' And He answered their joy by
rightly directing it - by setting before them 'the Kingdom,' which He had come
both to preach and to bring, in all its freeness, reality, power, and
all-pervading energy, as exhibited in the two Parables of the 'Mustard-seed'
and 'the Leaven,' spoken before in Galilee. These were now repeated, as
specially suited to the circumstances: first, to the Miracle they had
witnessed; then, to the contention that had passed; and, lastly, to their own
state of feeling. And the practical application of these Parables must have
been obvious to all.
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