Mark 2#Mr 2:1| XXXV. JESUS HEALS A PARALYTIC AT CAPERNAUM. #Mt 9:2-8 Mr 2:1-12 Lu 5:17-26| And when he entered again into Capernaum after some days, it was noised that he was in the house. Luke uses the general expression "those days" (#Lu 5:17|), referring to the early portion of our Lord's ministry in Galilee. Mark says, "some days," which implies the lapse of a considerable interval. The healing of the leper created such excitement that for some time, several weeks, Jesus kept out of the cities. He now, after the excitement has subsided, quietly enters Capernaum, and probably goes to the house of Simon Peter, now looked upon as his head quarters in Capernaum (#Mr 1:29|). His entrance into Capernaum marks the end of his first missionary tour through Galilee. (TFG 181-182) #Mr 2:2| And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, no, not even about the door: and he spake the word unto them. Oriental houses are one- or two-storied structures, built in the form of a square, or rectangle, with an open space in the center called the court. They have one door which opens from the street into an open space called the porch, and this porch in turn opens upon the court. In this porch there is usually a stairway leading to the roof. The roofs are invariably flat, and are surrounded by a breastwork or parapet to keep those on them from falling off. Roofs or housetops are used as we use yards, only they are somewhat private. Some think that this house was a two-storied structure, and that Jesus was teaching in the upper room or second story. If this were so, there would have been little profit to the people who clung about the street door, for they could neither see nor hear. Besides, a two-storied house would probably have been beyond the means of Simon Peter. It is more likely that Jesus was in the room opposite the porch across the court. If so, the crowd at the door might catch an occasional word, or by tiptoeing obtain a momentary glance; and thus fan the hope of some ultimate satisfaction. The gospel is here called the "word," for it is the Word among words, as the Bible is the Book among books. (TFG 182) #Mr 2:3| And they come, bringing unto him a man sick of the palsy, borne of four. Palsy is an abbreviation of the word "paralysis." It is caused by a cessation of the nervous activities. See TFG "#Mt 4:24|". In the East bedsteads were practically unknown. An Oriental bed is a thin mattress, or pallet, just large enough for a man to lie upon; and those generally used by the poor to-day are made of sheepskin with the wool on it. Such a bed could be easily carried by four men, if each took hold of a corner. (TFG 183) #Mr 2:4| And when they could not come nigh unto him for the crowd. To these four who sought Jesus it seemed a case of now or never. If they waited till another season, Jesus might withdraw himself again for "some days," or the palsied man might die. "Now" is always the day of salvation. They uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed whereon the sick of the palsy lay. Some have thought that removing the roof merely means that they took away the awning over the court, and also that the removal of the tile merely means that they took down the parapet or wall which prevented people from falling from the roof into the court. But the language is strongly against such a construction. An awning is not a roof, and it is rolled up, not "broken up." Moreover, the man was let down "through the tiles" (#Lu 5:19|), which seems to indicate that the remaining tiles encased an opening through which he was lowered. The tiles were plates of burnt clay, suitable for roofing rather than for building walls or parapets. We are not told in what part of the house Jesus stood, but evidently an opening was made in the flat roof above him, and the man was lowered to the floor in front of Jesus by means of short straps or pieces of rope fastened to the four corners of the bed. A stout parapet would have aided rather than hindered, if the body had been lowered into the court. (TFG 184) #Mr 2:5| And Jesus seeing their faith. The four friends of the sick man showed their faith by those bold and persistent efforts which took liberties with the house of a neighbor; and the palsied man showed his faith by consenting to the extraordinary means employed in his behalf. Saith unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins are forgiven. The affectionate address, "Son," might have ordinarily surprised the Jewish doctors, who held themselves too far removed from sinners to speak thus familiarly with them. But the smaller surprise was swallowed up in the greater, when they heard Jesus pronounce the forgiveness of the man's sins. Since man had trod the globe, sin against God had never been pardoned by the direct, authoritative utterance of fleshly lips. Such power resides in Jesus alone. Since then, and even in modern times, mistaken priests have presumed to speak forgiveness; but the apostles claimed no such power (#Ac 8:22|). So far as the church forgives sins (#Joh 20:23|), it does it merely as the organ of God, and must do so according to the methods and ordinances laid down by God. Those who profess to forgive sin by word of mouth, should be able to make good their claim to this boasted power by healing diseases or otherwise removing the consequences of sin. Failing to do this, they must forever rest under justified suspicion that they are, wittingly or unwittingly, guilty of blasphemy. (TFG 184-185) #Mr 2:7| Why doth this man thus speak? A scornful expression, shown by the repetition, houtos houtoo, which means, literally, "this one these things." He blasphemeth: Who can forgive sins but one, even God? In classic Greek to blaspheme means to speak evil or, or to slander a person, and it is used in this sense in the New Testament (#Tit 3:2 2Pe 2:2 Jude 1:8|). Its ordinary New Testament use, however, is quite different, since it is employed to designate something which reflects evil on the character and nature of God. This use is peculiar to monotheistic writers, and was unknown to the Greeks. Such blasphemies may be divided into three general heads, thus: 1. To attribute the unworthy to God. 2. To deny the worthy to God. 3. To arrogate or claim any attribute, power, authority, etc., which belongs to exclusively to God. It was under this third head that Jesus seemed to lay himself open to accusation--an accusation entirely just if he had not been the Son of God. The Pharisees were not faulty in their logic, but were mistaken in their premises; hence Jesus does not deny their doctrine; he merely corrects their mistaken application of it to himself. As to this pronounced forgiveness of Jesus, two questions arise: 1. Why did he forgive the man's sins? The haste with which the man was brought to Jesus suggests that his condition was critical; in which case the torment of sin would be the greater. As a searcher of hearts, Jesus saw the unuttered desire of the sick man, and at once responded to it. If his words meant nothing to the conscience of the man, they were wasted; but Jesus knew what was in man. 2. Why did he pronounce the forgiveness so publicly? As the terms of pardon prescribed in the law were yet in full force, this open speech of Jesus was a surprising assertion of authority. In fact, such assertions were exceptional in his ministry; for only on three recorded occasions did he thus forgive sins (#Lu 7:48 23:43|). Being the exceptional and not the established method of pardon, and being thus employed in the presence of so representative an audience, it was evidently used for a special purpose; and that purpose was to show that Jesus had such power, that men seeing this power might believe him to be the Son of God. He was vindicating an eternal law of the universe, in which all human beings throughout all generations would be interested; namely: that humanity has a Ruler who can present it spotless before the throne of God (#Jude 1:24|). Jesus propounded his law in the presence of those most interested in exposing it if false, and most able to explode it had it not been true. Whether his words were truth or blasphemy, was the controversy between Christ and the rulers from that day to the end of his ministry (#Mt 26:65|). (TFG 185-186) #Mr 2:8| And straightway Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves. Jesus read their thoughts by his divine insight, and not because of any recognized habit or tendency on their part to criticize him, for this is the first recorded indication of hostility on the part of the Pharisees, though it is hinted at, at #Joh 4:1|. Such discernment of the thought was to be a characteristic mark of the expected Messiah (#Isa 11:2,3|), and Jesus had it (#Joh 2:25|). It also is an attribute peculiar to God (#1Ch 28:9 Jer 17:10 Ro 8:27 Re 2:23|). Saith unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Jesus could see invisible sin, and could forgive it or condemn it, as the conditions moved him. The powers of discernment, forgiveness and condemnation make him the perfect Judge. (TFG 186-187) #Mr 2:9| Which is easier, to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins are forgiven; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? To understand this sentence we should place the emphasis upon the word "say," because the question at issue was the power or effect of his speech. The rabbis, after their first shock of surprise, thought that Jesus feared to attempt the fraud of a so-called miracle in the presence of learned men, lest he should be detected and exposed; and hence looked upon his present action as an attempt to bear himself safely off before the public, and to maintain his standing by the use of high-sounding words. They felt that he used words of unseen effect, because he dared not use those of seen effect. This was precisely the view that Jesus knew they would take, and that he wished them to take; for by showing his ability to work in the realms of sight that which is impossible; namely: the healing of the sick man, he could place before them proof suited to their own reasoning that he had a like ability to work the impossible in the realms of the unseen; namely: the forgiveness of the man's sins. By thus demonstrating his authority in the eternal and physical world, Jesus assures us of his dominion over the internal and spiritual. (TFG 187) #Mr 2:10| But that ye may know that the Son of man. Daniel's name for the Messiah (#Da 7:10-13|). Hath authority on earth to forgive sins. The words "on earth" are taken by some to indicate the then existing contrast between Christ's present humiliation or ministry on earth, and his future glorification or enthronement in heaven; in which case they would mean that Jesus could grant now that which some might think could only be exercised hereafter. Others take them to mean the same as if Jesus had said, "You think that forgiveness can only be granted by the Father in heaven, but it can also be granted by the Son upon earth. That which you have heretofore sought from the Father you may now seek from me." The latter is probably the correct view. As to the test of power or authority, the miracle of Jesus was very convincing; for in the popular opinion sin was a cause of which disease was the effect. We are told, on the authority of later rabbis, that it was a maxim among the Jews that no diseased person could be healed till his sins were blotted out. We also recognize a correlation between sins and diseases, which the Saviour's use of this miracle justifies. A mere miracle, such as swallowing fire or causing iron to float, would not prove his ability to forgive sins. The proof consisted in the relation which disease bears to sin, and the consequent relation which healing bears to forgiveness. The connection between disease and sin is a real and necessary one. The Jews were right in seeing this connection, but they erred in thinking that they were warranted in personally criminating every one whom they found afflicted, and in judging that the weight of the affliction indicated the quantity of the sin. The Book of Job should have corrected this error. Such unrighteous judgments are condemned by Christ (#Joh 9:3 Lu 13:2-5|). Paralysis is, however, to-day looked upon as ordinarily the punishment of some personal sin, usually that of intemperance or sensuality. (TFG 187-188) #Mr 2:11| I say unto thee, Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thy house. What command could be more pleasant than that which bade this sick man go home forgiven and healed? (TFG 188) #Mr 2:12| And he arose, and straightway took up the bed, and went forth before them all. "A sweet saying! The bed had borne the man; now the man bore the bed" (Bengel). Insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God. The "all" of this passage hardly includes the scribes and Pharisees, or, if it does, their admiration of Jesus was but a momentary enthusiasm, which quickly passed away. Saying, We never saw it on this fashion. See TFG "#Lu 5:26|". (TFG 188-189) #Mr 2:13| XXXVI. THE CALL OF MATTHEW. (At or near Capernaum.) #Mt 9:9 Mr 2:13,14 Lu 5:27,28| And he went forth again by the seaside, etc. That is, he left Capernaum, and sought the shore of the sea, which formed a convenient auditorium for him, and which was hence a favorite scene for his teaching. (TFG 189) #Mr 2:14| And as he passed by, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus. It will be observed that Matthew, in his account of his call, does not make himself prominent. All the Evangelists keep themselves in the background. Because Mark and Luke give us the name Levi, it has been thought by some that they describe the call of a different person from the one mentioned by Matthew--an opinion which seems to have started with Origen. But the difference in name is not an important divergence, for many in that day had two names; as, for example, Lebbaeus, who was called Thaddaeus; Silas, who was called Sylvanus; John, who was called Mark; etc. Moreover, it was then common to change the name; as is shown by the cases of Simon, who became Peter; Joseph, who became Barnabas; Saul, who became Paul, etc. Therefore, as we have previously suggested (see TFG "Joh 1:45"), that Nathanael was also known as Bartholomew, so here we are satisfied that Levi is called Matthew; for the narratives which describe the calls are almost verbatim, and they agree chronologically, being placed by all three Evangelists between the healing of the paralytic and the feast where Jesus ate with publicans. Mark involves us in another difficulty by calling Levi the son of Alphaeus; for a man named Alphaeus was the father of James the younger (#Mt 10:3|). It is not likely, however, that Matthew and James were brothers, for Alphaeus was a very common Jewish name, and brothers are usually mentioned in pairs in the apostolic lists, and these two are not so mentioned. Pool takes the extreme view here, contending that James, Matthew, Thaddaeus, and Simon Zelotes were four brethren. Sitting at the place of toll. Wherever it is at all practicable, Orientals sit at their work. The place of toil was usually a booth or a small hut. Whether Matthew's booth was by the lake, to collect duties on goods and people ferried across; or whether it was by the roadside on the great highway leading from Damascus to Acco, to collect taxes on all produce brought into Capernaum, is not material. The revenues which Rome derived from conquered nations consisted of tolls, tithes, harbor duties, taxes for use of public pasture lands, and duties for the use of mines and salt works. And he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. Such obedience was not, of course, performed in ignorance; it indicates that Matthew was already a disciple, as were the four fisherman when they also received a like call. Matthew was now called to become a personal attendant of Jesus, preparatory to being chosen an apostle. Nor are we to conclude from the abruptness of his movements that he went off without settling accounts with the head of his office. Though it may be more dramatic to thus picture him as departing at once, yet the settlement of accounts was indispensable to his good name in the future, and in no way diminishes the reality and beauty of his sacrifice--a beauty which Matthew himself forbears to mention, as became him (#Pr 27:2|). But Matthew certainly neither delayed nor sought counsel (#Ga 1:15,16|). By thus calling a publican, Jesus reproved the religious narrowness of his times. (TFG 189-191) #Mr 2:15| LVII. MATTHEW'S FEAST. DISCOURSE ON FASTING. (Capernaum.) #Mt 9:10-17 Mr 2:15-22 Lu 5:29-39| Many publicans and sinners sat down with Jesus and his disciples. Matthew had invited his old friends. On publicans, see TFG "Mt 5:46". (TFG 349) #Mr 2:16| The scribes of the Pharisees. That is, the scribes which were of their party or sect. How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? From their standpoint, the question was natural enough. No strict Jew could eat with a Gentile (#Ac 11:3 Ga 2:12|), and Matthew's guests were classed with the heathen. See TFG "#Lu 15:1|". (TFG 349) #Mr 2:17| And when Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. Being charged with recklessly consorting with sinners, it was necessary for Jesus to vindicate himself, else his influence would be damaged; hence he presents three arguments: 1. His office being analogous to that of a physician, required him to visit the sin-sick. 2. God himself commended such an act of mercy, and preferred it to sacrifice; see TFG "Mt 9:13". 3. As he came to call sinners to repentance, he must therefore go to the sinners. These arguments do not justify us in keeping company with bad people for any other purpose than to do them good--that is, as their soul's physician. When he used the word "righteous," Jesus did not mean to admit that any were so righteous as to need no Saviour; he merely quoted the Pharisees at the value which was set upon themselves. (TFG 349-350) #Mr 2:18| Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not. As John the Baptist observed one almost continual fast, his diet being locusts and wild honey (#Mr 1:6|), his disciples naturally had great respect for that rite, and noted the lack of its observance by Jesus as an apparent defect in his character. They were honest inquirers, and Jesus answered them respectfully as such. (TFG 350) #Mr 2:19| Can the sons of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? The bridegroom's friends were called "sons of the bride-chamber." They went with the bridegroom to the bride's house, and escorted her to her new home. Arriving at the bridegroom's house, a feast usually lasting seven days ensued (#Mt 22:4 Lu 14:8 Joh 2:8,9|). Mourning and fasting would therefore ill befit such an occasion. (TFG 350) #Mr 2:20| But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then will they fast in that day. Jesus here foretells the removal of his visible presence from his disciples by his ascension. His words predict but do not command a fast. He prescribed no stated fasts, and the apostolic church kept none. History shows that prescribed fasts become formal and tend to Phariseeism. (TFG 351) #Mr 2:21| No man seweth a piece of undressed cloth on an old garment, etc. Jesus justifies the conduct of his disciples by an appeal to the principles of the new dispensation, by which they were governed. The disciples of John looked upon Jesus as a reformer of Judaism, but he corrects their false impressions. To tear the new dispensation to pieces to renovate or embellish the old would be to injure the new and to destroy the old. By the process of fulling or dressing, new cloth was cleansed and shrunk so as to become more compact. The new cloth, therefore, had in it, so to speak, a life-element, and in its movement while shrinking it would tear the weaker fiber of the old cloth to which it was sewed, and thus enlarge the rent. The new dispensation could have rites and forms of its own, but could not conform to the rites of the Pharisees. If the conduct of his disciples made made a rent in the rabbinical traditions with regard to fasting, Jesus could not so modify the conduct of his disciples as to patch the rent without injuring the moral sense of his disciples, and without making Phariseeism a more meaningless hypocrisy than ever. (TFG 351) #Mr 2:22| And no man putteth new wine into old wineskins, etc. This parable is also an illustration of the principles set forth above. Wine was then stored in casks of skin--usually hides of goats. Wine-skins, newly made, were elastic, and would expand to accommodate the fermentation of the new wine within. But the old wine-skins were stiff and of little strength, and would burst if fermenting liquid were confined within them. (TFG 352) #Mr 2:23| XXXVIII. JESUS DEFENDS DISCIPLES WHO PLUCK GRAIN ON THE SABBATH. (Probably while on the way from Jerusalem to Galilee.) #Mt 12:1-8 Mr 2:23-28 Lu 6:1-5| And it came to pass, that he was going on the sabbath day through the grainfields; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears. This lesson fits in chronological order with the last, if the Bethesda events took place at Passover. The paschal lamb was eaten on the fourteenth Nisan, or about the first of April. Clark fixes the exact date as the twenty-ninth of March, in A.D. 28, which is the beginning of the harvest season. Barley ripens in the Jordan valley about the first of April, but on the uplands it is reaped as late as May. Wheat ripens from one to three weeks later than barley, and upland wheat (and Palestine has many mountain plateaus) is often harvested in June. If Scaliger is right, as most critics think he is, in fixing this sabbath as the first after the Passover, it is probable that it was barley which the disciples ate. Barley bread was and is a common food, and it is common to chew the grains of both it and wheat. (TFG 209-210) #Mr 2:24| And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? The Pharisees did not object to the act of taking the grain. Such plucking of the grain was allowed by the law (#De 23:25|) and is still practiced by hungry travelers in Palestine, which is, and has always been, an unfenced land, the roads, or rather narrow paths, of which lead through the grainfields, so that the grain is in easy reach of the passer-by. The Pharisees objected to the plucking of grain because they considered it a kind of reaping, and therefore working on the sabbath day. The scene shows the sinlessness of Jesus in strong light. Every slightest act of his was submitted to a microscopic scrutiny. (TFG 210) #Mr 2:25| And he said unto them, Did ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was hungry, he, and they that were with him? There is a touch of irony here. The Pharisees prided themselves upon their knowledge of Scriptures, but they had not read (so as to understand them) even its most common incidents. (TFG 210) #Mr 2:26| How he entered into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the showbread, which it is not lawful to eat save for the priests. Jesus here refers to the incident recorded at #1Sa 21:1-6|. Ahimelech and Abiathar have been confused by transcribers. It should read Ahimelech. However, we are not referred to the actions of Abiathar, but to those of David. He went with his followers to the tabernacle at Nob near Jerusalem, and being hungry, asked bread of the priests. There was no bread at hand save the showbread. This bread was called showbread because it was "set out" or "exhibited" before Jehovah. It consisted of twelve loaves, which were baked upon the sabbath, and were placed, hot, in two rows upon the showbread table every sabbath day. The twelve old loaves which were then removed were to be eaten by the priests and no one else (#Le 24:5-9|). It was these twelve old loaves which were given to David (#1Sa 21:6|). Since the showbread was baked on the sabbath, the law itself ordered work on that day. The vast majority of commentators look upon this passage as teaching that necessity abrogates what they are pleased to call the ceremonial laws of God. Disregarding the so-called ceremonial laws of God is a very dangerous business, as is witnessed by the case of Uzzah (#2Sa 6:6,7|), and Uzziah (#2Ch 26:16-23|). Christ never did it, and strenuously warned those who followed the example of the scribes and Pharisees in teaching such a doctrine (#Mt 5:17-20|). The law of necessity was not urged by him as a justifiable excuse for making bread during the forty days' fast of the temptation. Life is not higher than law. "All that a man hath will he give for his life," is Satan's doctrine, not Christ's (#Job 2:4|). The real meaning, as we understand it, will be developed below in our treatment of #Mt 12:7|, which verse refers both to this incident and to the discussion in progress. (TFG 210-211) #Mr 2:28| So that the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath. The expression "Son of man" is used eighty-eight times in the New Testament, and always means the Messiah, and not man generally. The Sabbath was made for man's convenience and blessing, and so Jesus, who was complete and perfect manhood, was Lord of it. But men who were incomplete and imperfect in their manhood, can not trust their fallible judgment to tamper with it. Though the day was made for man, this fact would not entitle man to use it contrary to the laws under which it was granted. As Lord of the day Jesus had a right to interpret it and to apply it, and to substitute the Lord's day for it. In asserting his Lordship over it, Jesus takes the question outside the range of argument and brings it within the range of authority. (TFG 213)
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