The Gospels

(Volume 5 of the Numerical Bible: The Fifth Pentateuch of the Bible)

F. W. Grant.

Division 3. (Matt. 8 ― 12.)

The Manifestation of the King; which manifests also the people's heart towards Him.

The Kingdom thus announced, and its principles declared, we have now in detail the signs that manifest the King. These are not, and could not be, mere works of power, but such as bear the stamp of divinity upon them, the evidence of whence this power is derived. Power alone might accredit what was evil ― a thing most necessary to be remembered in the present day: "whose coming is according to the working of Satan; in all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9), is said of Antichrist. But the power manifest now in Israel was displayed in goodness and holiness and truth, and in connection with that which appealed (as just now said) to the whole moral nature. The Lord refused the faith which was built but upon miracles (John 2:23-25), and reproved the craving for them among the people with the words, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe" (John 4:48). Miracles were not with the Lord the foundation of anything, but what flowed naturally out of what He was, and from the intervention of God in behalf of a sin-ruined world. They testified to Christ in this way as the One whom nature owned and served, but who, therefore, was above it, and could not be debtor to it for His authentication. They were in place as they put Him in His place, and with all else served and worshiped Him.

The characters manifested in them were apart from this. They were His characters. They were impressed upon them as His acts, ― were part of His living energy in its operation. And thus they had their inner significance, ― as "signs:" they went with all else that He did to declare Him, and did so, acting in a sphere beyond what was merely human; where dull eyes saw better what was in all spheres the same. Faith was at all times in Christ Himself, the Son of the Father, wherever seen ― "beheld His glory, the glory of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

We are now to see Him in this manifestation of Himself, but to see, alas, that this manifestation did not of necessity bring men to His feet. On the contrary, we are to find Him rejected by His people long taught to anticipate His coming as Messiah as the crown of all their blessings. The more He shows and proves His claim to be this, only the more decisively is He rejected; until grace can no more utter itself, and He turns in spirit from them to own relationship with those only who are doers of His Father's will. If the national refusal of Him is not yet complete, it is in sight; and the next division shows us anticipatively the Kingdom in its present Gentile form, and the New Testament "mysteries 51 begin to be unrolled to us.

Subdivision 1. (Matt. 8 ― 9:26.)

Divine power in constant grace.

The signs themselves occupy the first subdivision; after which, as fully manifested, He sends His messengers through the cities of Israel to proclaim the Kingdom and do the works that confirm their mission; after which we find a remnant separated from the rest, who harden themselves in unbelief and impenitence.

Section 1. (Matt. 8:1-17.)

His fore-known place.

In the first section, one of those dispensational pictures is presented to us such as we have already had in the second chapter. There it was impossible not to see in the Gentile magi coming up to worship a King of the Jews unknown in Jerusalem, the forecast of what was to come. In the present section after the leper has been healed, and sent in testimony to the priests, that they may themselves certify the divine power which is being displayed among them, the faith of a Gentile is declared by the Lord to be greater than any He has found in Israel. And thereupon He announces the coming in of the Gentiles into the Kingdom of God, while the sons of the Kingdom are cast out. Here we are left in no uncertainty, then, as to the larger meaning of what is before us. But the significance is not ended here: for in the healing of Peter's mother-in-law we find Him healing by touch again as in the leper, Himself present therefore, while in the case of the centurion's servant He heals at a distance, as in the present time. The touch assures us that here we have Him once more present as when He returns to Israel at a future time; while the healing of the sick of all kinds, with the reference to His human sympathy in the quotation from Isaiah, leads us out into a wider scene beyond. We seem to have Him thus in four different characters: as Son of God in the case of the leper; as Son of Abraham. in that of the centurion; as Israel's Messiah; and as Son of man. He fills in all this His predicted place.

(1) The cure of leprosy seems to have been unknown in Israel. It was a condition that only God could reach. On this account it was the fitting type of the incurable nature of sin; and a fitting case with which to begin the Lord's manifestation of Himself to Israel. We have seen that He could not take the Kingdom, except as the Son of God; and this was the character in which He was first of all rejected by the leaders of the people. Here He cures by a touch, which would have defiled another, and sends the healed man to the priest that he may certify the cure. But there is no response from this quarter, to which He appeals, as it were, alone, bidding the man tell it to no other. The clamor of a crowd would not have helped such an appeal, which would better be heard in the conscience as a case quietly submitted for their decision. But there is no response: Israel is dumb until her demon is cast out, and then only will she be a true witness to her glorious King.

(2) But here it is that the Gentile comes in; with a faith not found in Israel; and if the contrast with the case of the leper is plain; it is the more striking that in fact they occurred at different times* and are brought together for an evident purpose. Moreover Luke, whose Gospel is the only one that has this story besides Matthew, while giving details omitted by the latter, omits on his part the assurance to the believing Gentile of sitting down in the Kingdom of heaven, and the warning to the Jew of sons of the Kingdom being cast out, which the Jewish Gospel records. Humbling all this was to the pride of those to whom it was addressed; and because humbling, most needful, ― the proud must be abased. On the other hand with the centurion there is the most thorough humility. He is not fit for Christ to come under his roof, but in this already we see the faith that animates him. As self is behind the back, the vision becomes unclouded, and thus he realizes in Him One whom all things serve. Yet Himself is come to serve and to serve such as have no worthiness ― no fitness but in their need. Let Him speak the word then: every thing will do His bidding. He, the soldier, a man under authority, has yet his subordinates, the agents of his will, and knows how promptly his commands are executed. So, with a word, his servant shall be healed.

{*This can be seen by a comparison of the connections in the other gospels, where notes time are given. The healing of the centurion's servant occurred after the sermon on mount (see Luke 7:1,) but that of the leper earlier, so that its introduction here is parenthetical. Mark evidently gives in general the historical order, while Matthew and Luke arrange and adapt for their purposes.}

The experience of the Lord's delight has in it yet what gives rise to much grave question. Why should there be faith outside of Israel greater than any that could be found in Israel? Israel had every advantage in this respect that could have been given her. Do privileges neglected and misused tend to blight even the true faith that exists in the midst of an easy profession? When we speak approvingly of a "child-like" faith, do we not seem to mean that the faith of a man does not fulfil the promise of the child? that hardly it can be expected it should do so? If so, this surely cannot argue that a longer acquaintance with Christ will be unfavorable to development, or that there is inherent a principle of decay in faith that affects this: and if not, what else can it be that does so but the breath of the outside air, the world-atmosphere that is unfavorable to such an exotic as faith is? Yet "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith!"

Without meaning to excuse it in this way, it cannot surely be doubted that the atmosphere of what may be truly called a "Christian world" is more detrimental to development than that of a heathen world would be; and that because a Christian world stands as the very ideal of compromise, and compromise has in it as a first element disloyalty to Christ and to His word. Here you are faced, not with what is openly nor even intentionally hostile to Christ, ― what would put you on your guard, and rouse up in you all your power of resistance; no, you find in it truth owned, but not taken very seriously; you are to follow it, but not be too extreme about it. And how naturally we grow up just to the stature, morally or spiritually as even mentally, of the company we keep! how we read Scripture itself with such a traditional interpretation put upon it as is in this way acquired, until we lose capacity for taking it simply and straightforwardly, as it would necessarily appear to the faith of a child, or of one outside the current rendering.

Who can doubt that the large and miscellaneous Christendom about us also, like the Pharisaic, Sadducean; Herodian Judaism of our Lord's time, is the greatest hindrance to true faith; and that the gospel is rendered so powerless as it is today, by the dead weight upon it of barren profession and the truth unfollowed and unfelt? The witnesses for Christ are just those who may be most terribly against Him, and who, however little they may mean it, can never be merely negative or neutral in their testimony.

I think we can scarcely help such an application of our Lord's words as to the simple faith of the Gentile centurion in the midst of formal, ritualistic hollow-hearted Judaism. But how great a thing to give refreshment to the heart of Christ as this man did! And by it His soul looks out anticipatively to those gathering multitudes who from opposite quarters should come to sit down at the glad feast of welcome with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of heaven: ― then, when "sons of the Kingdom," the claimants now of title to that for which they had no heart, would he cast into the outer darkness, whence God the Light would be withdrawn; into the awful unavailing weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Here the Seed of Abraham is very clearly revealed.

(3) The third miracle here, as may be seen by the account of it in both Mark and Luke, is again out of the order of time, and in fact took place before the cleansing of the leper. It must, therefore, be inserted in this place for a purpose, and we have already glanced at its significance in this respect. The Lord in this case once more heals by touch, ― is Himself, therefore, personally present where He heals. Natural relationship also is owned, as we see in "Peter's wife's mother," and even in its being in the house, the place of relationship. No doubt, such references will be thought by some too minute and trivial to find meaning in them; but the mistake is in supposing anything in Scripture to have that character. We shall find elsewhere just such things with similar meaning and in important connections (Matt. 13:1, 36). By and by the Lord will thus come back (the fullness of the Gentiles having been brought in) into the sphere of His old relationships, to bring in healing for Israel of a deeper kind. The fever of the old life will then be subdued by His presence: He will say to the tumult of human passion; "Peace," and it shall be still; and Israel will arise in the strength of a new devotedness, to minister unto Him. That the scene here is a picture of this must be judged by its fitness to represent it and by the connection with all that goes before and follows. So judged, it seems to answer well to such a thought.

4 For Israel's restoration will, it is certain; bring souls from every part, tormented with Satan's tyranny to Him who has been her Deliverer; and the casting out of Satan will bring in the blessing of those millennial times, while the sympathizing pity of which Isaiah speaks, and which marks Him as true Son of man; will remove the results of sin of whatever character. The principle here will not allow of blessing limited to Israel, as in fact the Lord never did so limit it; and thus the widest, fullest out-flow may be indicated here.

This sketch, then, as a sort of title of all that follows, may well show us the Lord filling all His predicted place: Son of God, Seed of Abraham, Israel's Messiah, Son of man. Mere picture it is not, but a display of personal characters that are found in Him, and this comes naturally in the first place, as the foundation of all else. The characters of the deliverance He brings come next, and in place as suited, and then, briefly, what is exceptional in Matthew, but needed for the full display of what He is, the presence of God is shown to be open to man; and His grace welcomes freely, the restrictions of the law set aside: the new wine is to be put into new bottles.

Section 2. (Matt. 8:18 — 9:8.)

The various deliverances.

The various features of the deliverance are now, then; briefly but sufficiently shown to us. We begin with what is more external, and end with what is deepest and most personal, the heart of the whole matter. Circumstances are in His hands; the power of the enemy is prostrate before Him; sins are remitted, and the helpless and impotent one rises up in strength: such is the power and such the grace of our Redeemer. And yet, beyond this there is blessing for which all this is but the necessary preparation. To be with God: that is the complete and innermost joy of all; without which all else would be but vanity, and the soul's hunger wholly unappeased.

1. We begin with the first lesson first. Creation is in His hand: He has made it and He is Lord of it; full of disorder as it may appear and is, the rod of power has not slipped out of His hand: faith's triumph is in owning Him amid what is real disorder, compelling even this to work out His purposes. So in the beginning of such a record of faith as we have in the catalogue of witnesses in the epistle to the Hebrews, the first thing of all is this, that by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God." Thus the scene of all our trials is in its whole framework and constitution His before whom faith walks. Whatever may be for the moment in the front, behind it rise the everlasting hills founded by divine strength, and bearing testimony to immutable faithfulness. The frost has riven them; the torrents have swept their shattered fragments into the valleys below; they seem to be the prey of every destructive agency which has license to work its will upon their passive forms. Yet the Hand that made them at first is still unseen raising them and sustaining them, while their very dust, spread out over the lower lands, is maintaining these also, and renewing their surface by its ministry. Death and destruction are in the hands of the God of resurrection; amid all the waste is nothing wasted; death ministers to life, and life springs out of it.

And here is the Master of all, in meekest surrender to circumstances in a path where all seems against Him, yet maintaining His absolute title untouched, as He must, or all were given up. Where would we be, if He resigned His authority?

As to circumstances, the foxes in their holes and the birds of heaven are better provided; and this He urges to test the zeal of a too ready disciple. On the other hand, if one would put even a father's claim before His own, He in the plainest manner refuses this. From Luke we learn that the Lord had called this man to follow Him, but there seemed no duty which could take precedence of burying a dead father. The man who is called is not fully ready; the one not called is more than ready. We may be sure that the state of enthusiasm in the one case was genuine enough; and he was one of a class not given to it in regard to Christ. The enthusiasm was all well, but there was in it a dangerous self-confidence, like that which we find in Simon Peter afterwards, and which we know betrayed him into a terrible fall. It was not that sincerity or love was wanting in him, but the consciousness of his own weakness: and this is why so much of early promise is apt to fail, and backwardness succeed, it may be, to confident energy. When Christ's call is heard distinctly in the soul, then it is as dangerous to be reckoning up difficulties, as in mere enthusiasm to lose sight of them. It is for Him who calls us to the path to reckon with the difficulties, and faith for the path also is found as we travel it. Assuredly, if we have not faith for the Lord's path, we shall not find it for any other.

In the second case, therefore, the Lord insists upon promptitude of devotedness. "Let the dead bury their dead" is distinct exhortation to lay aside every thing that would, under the idea of duty itself, delay compliance with what He has called to. Even Abraham suffered his father to lead in obedience to a word addressed to himself; and so we read that "Terah took Abraham his son, . . . and went forth with them . . . to go into the land of Canaan." What came of it? "And they came unto Haran; and dwelt there." While Terah was alive, they never got to the place for which they had set out: "Terah died in Haran."

In the case before us it was only a dead father needing to be buried; and here the living disciple, the messenger of life, was not to be detained in the region of death, from the delivery of his gracious message. Let the dead attend to death, is the Lord's word; and, although the two deaths spoken of here are not the same, yet there is simple and evident connection between them.

If the Lord maintain His authority as Master, it is soon made manifest that Master He is, and able to ensure the safety of those that are with Him. On the stormy sea, He is asleep until, roused by their unbelieving appeal to Him, ― and how much unbelief is expressed in our prayers! ― He hushes with a word the winds and the sea. The application of this is familiar to us all, and made by every one: a pregnant example of how naturally these histories speak to us all of spiritual realities in the way of exhortation and comfort, ― how truly they are meant to do so.

And the unbelief of disciples, how constantly has it been repeated since, and how often does the Lord shame us by coming in for us as here. How much is it all in contrast with that faith of the centurion; which we have so lately seen winning the Lord's wonderment, as here their unbelief does. This restless sea of Galilee, so often lashed with storms, is indeed a vivid picture of the world of our pilgrimage, much vexed, soon traversed; and we find it more than once again in this way, and human feet taught to walk in peace upon it, not without His help who Himself walked there and still walks, for faith, in the like fashion.

2. They come to the other side of the sea, only to find there the enemy's power rampant. Two possessed by demons, coming out of the tombs, stop the way against all comers. Matthew does not go into detail here, as Mark and Luke do. His object is just to show the power of the Lord as manifested in these various deliverances, and details have not for him the same importance. The ghastly horror of the dwelling of these living men in the abodes of death, and their insane fury before which men quailed, are given to put in contrast the absolute surrender of their prey by those who held them captive, when the Lord appears. Men; blinded of Satan, may dispute His right, not they. Striking it is that they give Him at once the title, which men deny Him, of Son of God, and recognize Him as their future Judge. But they plead that the day of judgment has not come, and can He be come to torment them before the time?

The story of the swine that follows seems as if it were designed to make manifest the reality of these demoniac possessions, than which nothing can be plainer, indeed, in the whole account of them. The demons, speaking with the voice of the possessed, recognize the Lord (always, as already said, with intelligence as to His Person), address and are addressed by Him, their testimony to Him being necessarily refused. They ask permission to go into the herd of swine, ("all the demons," according to Mark, taking part in this) and are granted it; and thereupon the whole herd of swine (about 2,000 in number) rush down the steep bank into the sea, and perish in the waters.

Matthew, again; gives us no after-picture of these delivered men. He is occupied with the deliverance itself, the manifestation of the glorious King, and along with this but with the shadow that creeps after it, His rejection; as already showing itself, at the hands of an unbelieving and impenitent people. They are more afraid of the Deliverer than of the awful power from which He would have delivered them, and imitate, in effect, the prayer of the demons themselves, in begging Him to depart out of their coasts. The Lord accepts His rejection and returns across the lake to His own city.

3. The jarring elements have owned Him; the power of the enemy has been broken before Him; the strong man's captives are delivered: we are next to see what is the stronghold of the enemy yield, and man's condition met in its innermost reality; the burden of guilt is lifted from the soul, and the paralysis which sin induces removed in consequence. We are surely to take in widest, fullest application what is given us here, just as we do instinctively, and not the less surely, the hushing of the storm upon the lake. All through these divine narratives, that which is manifested to the senses is but a parable of spiritual realities. The external facts are, none the less as that, a veil of the unseen, a manifestation in flesh of the divine. The miracles are not wonders merely but signs, ― through and through significant.

The miracle that follows here is again taken out of the order of time, but all the more should it be manifest, with such purpose as we have already seen. Morally and spiritually it is here perfectly in its place; and again we find features that are dwelt upon in the other gospels omitted in order to bring into prominence the central fact. They bring to the Lord a paralytic, lying upon a bed; and He, seeing their faith, goes beyond the apparent need, and down to that in which all the distress that is in the world has its root: "He said unto the paralytic, Son; be of good courage, thy sins are forgiven thee."

He who spoke knew perfectly the state of soul to which He was addressing Himself, and the weight of his sins, which might hinder even bodily healing, was certainly pressing upon him. But the miracle of healing which was to follow was thus also to be a witness to that which in itself the senses could not realize or confirm. The sufferer was to have the assurance of this; but also the most unsympathetic and unbelieving there were to find openly the seal of divine power put upon His claim to forgive sins. As Son of man He claims it: but that was itself a Messianic title, and (as we have seen) implied in itself One higher than man; even while it assured them of the tender truth of that humanity. But why the need of assuring any one that He who was in their midst as man really was that? It was in fact the sweetest assurance, as it could only have arisen out of the most absolute conviction of His highest glory.

Even the accusation of Him in their thoughts, by the proof given of His knowledge of them, is made to turn to their conviction; and if none could forgive sins but God alone ― and they were surely right in that ― what, then, was He who could thus so completely prove His authority to do this?

How sweet and wonderful the assurance of sins forgiven; His word certifying it after this manner! Not that it was new that God met men in His grace upon the simple confession of their sins to Him. The psalmist had found it so, and published his experience for the help of others (Ps. 32), and in this way David had described, as the apostle says, "the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works" (Rom. 4:6). This had been thickly overlaid with ritualistic practices and rabbinical prescriptions, and could scarcely have been understood by any with the simplicity which it appears to us to have. But who could have undertaken to apply this grace on God's part definitely to the individual, to pronounce him forgiven in this authoritative manner? Thus we see that all this is part of the manifestation of the Deliverer. It is not the doctrine of forgiveness that is declared, nor would this have aroused opposition in the form we find it here, but that the Son of man had authority to forgive sins.

The order of blessing is, however, pregnant with meaning. First, "thy sins be forgiven thee," and then "arise and walk." The load of unforgiven sin is too great for any one to lift and yet find power to walk in a way acceptable to God. Pardon assured from Him, the soul arises with the strength found in this new joy in Him. All is changed for it. The path is a path with Him, not to find Him. It is a path given of Him who is now known. Thus the limbs just now paralyzed with guilt and fear receive, as in a moment, life and energy. The impracticable legal principle, "do and live," has given way to the evangelical one, "live and do." Here is a change of order how significant: "arise and walk" speaks first of the wondrous gift bestowed; then, as the flush and vigor of health are felt, the "walk" becomes but prolonged ecstasy. Salvation in its fullness is not found till this is attained.

Section 3. (Matt. 9:9-26.)

Opening the presence of God to men.

That which follows here is in extension of such thoughts as these, and fully assures us that we are to find this spiritual meaning in what has been before us. For now the Lord openly declares His grace and justifies it, telling men too that it cannot be used to patch up the legal system, nor will the spirit of it be confined within the Mosaic ordinances. Come for the need of men He the Representative (as He has proved Himself) of God on earth, freely receives sinners, and makes faith welcome to draw upon Him at all times. Thus the presence of God is opened to men. They may refuse, but they are not refused. While, though at present only to be told in parables for the wise, the truth of Israel's ― and indeed man's ― condition is that he is dead, and needing life, and Christ's mission needs must be, therefore, to raise the dead. This completes His manifestation; therefore; while the mystery in which it ends shows how little faith there is anywhere to receive it, and prepares us for the full rejection of Him by the mass, which is soon to appear.

1. The call of the tax-gatherer* follows immediately the cure of the paralytic; and this in the order of time, as the words show. The challenge of His authority and the grace He is showing, only makes the assertion of it more imperative, as it would have made it weakness to give way. All was in question now; and now, therefore, He will make as plain as possible what is in His heart. "Tax-gatherers and sinners" are with them in natural association; and that association He never disclaims. But who are not sinners? If He refuse men on that ground He must refuse all; Matthew the tax-gatherer, called into the circle of His immediate Mowers, is to be the witness to all men of His grace for all.

{*"Publican," borrowed from the the Latin, is not the proper rendering. This was the name of those who paid into the "public" treasury the fixed sum for which they farmed the taxes of special provinces. Under these, who generally lived at Rome, were overseers of districts, and under these again the actual collectors, who being in close relationship to the people, themselves in general grossly extortionate, and a sign of subjection to the hated Roman government, were of all men, it would seem, most bitterly hated by the people; and especially, as Edersheim observes, the custom-house official, such as Matthew was. His being a Jew, as many were, would naturally be the climax of his wickedness in the eyes of the people.}

The feast at which we find Him directly afterwards, took place in fact after His return from Gadara, as we see in Mark and Luke. The account of the healing of the paralytic and of Matthew's call are historically parenthetical. The special purpose is maintained all through.

We learn from Luke that Matthew made Him this feast. He knew well what would be that to Him, and showed it by the company he gathered. These persons had, at least, the consciousness of what they were, and grace could not offend them. At the very entrance upon fellowship with God we find it in learning to be with Him as to what we are, and the light of the first day of new creation breaks upon a barren; restless and shoreless sea. The weariness and distress and remorse of sin are witnesses for God which cannot be bribed, though they may not be listened to; while self-righteousness is lulled to sleep by its own monotone, and dreams of peace where there is no peace.

Yet the light troubles these sleepers and angers them; and so we find in the questioning of the Pharisees now. They could not be indifferent to what might seem so little to concern them as where One in whom, at any rate, they did not believe, could find His company. They might have remembered, but chose rather to forget, that the Baptist also, than whom there could be no sterner preacher of righteousness, had found response to his message in just such a class (Matt. 21:32). But the Lord answers, (what indeed they had not ventured to address to Him), that He was a physician; did not, of course, come after them, who were well enough, but to the sick ones; and that they had never learnt, what they needed much to know, that God had said in the Scriptures which they acknowledged, that He would have mercy, rather than sacrifice. It was little mercy indeed that rabbinism showed to these tax-gatherers, as, indeed, "sick" enough, as a class, they were, and needing the physician. But here was One who was the perfect expression of divine mercy, not merely receiving, but actively going out after the objects of it; One who came not to call the righteous but sinners. If so, the chief of sinners would have chief title. But divine love, and the wondrous power of it, are strange to the heart of the legalist at any time; and then Christ must be strange.

2. It is not only the Pharisee who has question as to the Lord's ways. The disciples of John find Him at variance with their master. But there is a notable difference between them: the disciples of John come straight to the Lord with their question, instead of assailing His followers with it: they do not find fault, but inquire. Moreover they may ask, why His disciples fast not: they could not put such a question as to the Lord Himself. Still what they needed was to know better the glory of Him whom they were addressing, as they needed also to realize the essentially secondary character of what had all its value from its being an expression simply of the spirit of the man who used it. To make it an iron or universal rule would be to degrade it really, ― to make it a form from which the life has departed.

Christ had come to His own: and what would be the spirit of those who realized this? The Bridegroom had come to the bride, and should the children of the bride-chamber ― the invited guests ― clothe themselves with the array of mourners? That would be impossible to one who knew Him aright; there would be time enough for fasting, when the Bridegroom would be ken from them; this, of course, implying His rejection: in those days fasting would be perfectly in place.

But the Lord goes beyond this to speak of the change of dispensation that was now at hand, and for which they must be prepared: a change which would be still more complete and radical; not a mere patch upon an old garment. The garment of legal righteousness was in fact wearing out, and man being exhibited as the prophet had declared him, "all his righteousnesses but as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). What good in patching up what was so utterly gone? Between the new evangelical righteousness and the old legal one there can be only the strife of contradictory principles. There can be no fusion here: with all such attempts the rent is only made worse.

Nor only this: the spirit of the gospel, the free, expansive power of Christianity, cannot be put into the old skins of ceremonial Judaism. Here both the wine will be lost, and the skins will perish. And this has been proved experimentally: the thing has happened; ritualism of every kind is just such an experiment, with the result that we have neither Judaism nor Christianity left. The living organism can only clothe itself with the tissues woven by the life itself.

3. This is already parable, and a parabolic story follows it. We have a picture of things which could not as yet be spoken out: two incidents connected together, which, different as they are, throw light upon one another, and are found, in dispensational and moral application; to continue and complete the lessons which the Lord has been enforcing. The perfect fitness of the whole here, internally, and to the place in which it stands, vouches for the reality of the meaning which we attribute to it.

The truth has been coming more and more into recognition; that Israel, whom the Lord came to heal, is in fact but a corpse, like the ruler's daughter. We have not the name of this ruler in Matthew; but in the two other Gospels which narrate the miracle, we find that his name was Jairus or Jair (Judges 10:3, see notes), the "enlightener,"* a name quite suited to those "fathers" of that generation of Israel which had, alas, become a nation of the dead, fathers through whom the enlightening Word has come down to us.

{*This is one of the reasons assigned for a mythical interpretation of the history by Strauss and others, the symbolic meaning of the name; but they might for the same reason make all Scripture mythical; while all that shows inspiration shuts out myth.}

If such then be Israel's condition; we see why the principle of law must be given up, as just now declared. Law is not for the dead, but for the living: for the dead it is useless. But "if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily, righteousness should have been by the law" (Gal. 3:21). These are the two things ― life and righteousness ― which we find in the Lord's words just now, and in the narrative here, connected together.

If the principle of law, then; be given up, and grace be shown by the mere goodness of God, the apostle's question becomes an unanswerable one: "Is He the God of the Jews only? is He not also of the Gentiles?" (Rom. 3:29, 30,) ― will such goodness confine itself within the limits of a feeble and scattered people, or much rather go out to meet the universal need?

So it is, then; that while the Lord is on His way to fulfil a special declared purpose, faith in the woman with the issue claims Him, and finds answer to its claim. Again we have not in Matthew the same detail as in either Mark or Luke, and for the same reason as was noticed before, that it is with the signs which manifest Him that Matthew is occupied. Her disease, an issue of blood, is given, which was not merely a slow sapping of the life away, but, according to the law, defiling also by contact (Lev. 15:25-27): so that here again (as with the leper) there is uncleanness, the typical reminder of the effect of sin.

But in this case it is not the Lord who touches, it is faith that touches, not Him, but rather His garment. It is the activity of faith that is here seen; of course, and that lays hold, not of Himself personally, but of His robe ― His character as displayed in His life down here. None the less certainly is virtue found in Him; and He pauses on His way to ratify her title to the healing and impute it to her faith. In principle it is the grace to the Gentiles during the present delay of Israel's blessing.

But He reaches the house at last, and finds the mourners busy, who mock at the quiet words which speak of the power of resurrection in His hands. But the unbelieving crowd being put forth, the maid arises: and so, in spite of her desperate condition and the unbelief that mocks at Him, will Israel, when He appears and at His word to her, arise. It is a figure we have often in the prophets, of the revival of the nation in the last days. (Isa. 26:19; Ezek. 37; Dan. 12:2; Hosea 6:2.)

Under this dispensational application we may without difficulty discover an individual one, in which the intertwining of the two miracles, if not presenting so clear a meaning, is yet significant. In Jairus, daughter we have man's state in its full reality discovered. The Lord is here the Life-giver: the dead hears the voice of the Son of God and lives. This is the divine side of salvation; and here man is passive and recipient merely. But there is another side, and the woman with the issue seems clearly to represent this. Her faith applies to the Saviour for its need, and the issue of blood is staunched. These are the two sides of a common history, to adjust which fully may transcend our power: and yet each has its place. It is Mark, however, especially, who brings out this individual view, as Matthew the dispensational; but the double application, with the place in which we find these in the different Gospels, confirms the whole.

The signs which manifest the King are here complete. We see how truly He is no merely human King, but One "marked out Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection of the dead" (Rom. 1:4, Gk.) And such the fore-ordained King of Israel was to be. He is now, therefore, ready to be proclaimed as this over the land; and accordingly we find provision made for this proclamation now by the commission given to the twelve apostles.

Subdivision 2. (Matt. 9:27 ― 10.)

The King's Messengers.

Section 1. (Matt. 9:27-34.)

The King indeed.

(1) In all that we have hitherto had before us, the Lord has not once yet been owned as Son of David; nor, since the day of the magi, as the King. The question is first as to His higher title. The Father's voice is the first to own Him as the Son of God; and this is surely in due order. Afterwards, and as taught of Him, the Baptist does so (John 1:33, 34); but it is not Matthew who records this, nor have we heard it yet in Matthew upon the lips of men. The devils own it and tremble. Men call Him Master (i.e. Teacher) and Lord: and this He accepts, taking naturally and as of full right the highest place. Of Himself He ordinarily speaks as Son of man, a title which prophecy had given Him indeed, but with some indistinctness, and which claimed more than might at first sight appear: for why should one who was simply and only that, assume what is universal among men, as if it were unique in Him? The grace and tenderness of the title are what strike us most.

With all this, we have not heard Him here as yet openly claim to be the Christ or King. He seems to wait for human lips to pronounce this, and indeed pointedly asks the disciples the question at a later time, who do they say that He, the Son of man is? And when Peter answers, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," He refers this acknowledgment of Him to the Father's revelation of Him (Matt. 16:16). In none of the synoptics does such a confession come before this but in John; Andrew owns Him at the beginning to be Messias (John 1:41), and to the woman of Samaria (John 4:25, 26) He openly declares Himself. Still, upon the whole, we may say, He waits for faith to acknowledge Him, and always, in connection with the Kingdom, His divine Sonship is the first question. The manifestation of Himself in this way is now complete, and now we have the testimony, humble enough though it be, to the King of Israel.

Two* blind men appeal to Him on His way from the ruler's house, as Son of David: a testimony confirmed by Him with the miracle by which they receive their sight, when once it is seen that it is faith that speaks in it. Blindness indeed was upon Israel, for which there could be no remedy until in the sense of it they should cry to Him. Here, as with the leper, He heals by touch, and forbids them to make it known: an injunction which could not have been; as at a later time, because of His rejection by the people, for as yet the decisive rejection had not come ― He was Himself going to send out a testimony far and wide among them. One would say that it must have been because the testimony to the Son of David was peculiarly liable to abuse among a carnal people who could be attracted by miracles and the display of power, while their hearts were far away from God. For this reason the acknowledgment of the Son of God must come before that of the Son of David. The latter title indeed He Himself never uses, though He could not but own it, where as here true faith expressed itself in it.

{*This "two" of testimony to Him is comparatively common in Matthew: as in the case of the two demoniacs previously, where Mark and Luke have only one; and the two other blind men at Jericho, still in the other Gospels only one.}

(2) Linked directly with this miracle we have another. A dumb demoniac is brought to Him, and when the demon is cast out, the dumb speaks. Here again surely, we have Israel's miserable enslavement to the prince of this world, which they showed in their rejection of the true King. The dumb will speak, only when the demon is cast out, and then it will be indeed to the praise of their Deliverer. But now the miracle is only provocative of blasphemy from the Pharisees, which they repeat more boldly at an after-time, and which then brings out the Lord's warning words as to blasphemy against the Spirit. It was a sign of hearts that were hardening themselves against all that divine love could do.

But it was yet to be seen whether Israel as a whole were going with such leaders. The pity of the Lord is only roused by it now to more importunate appeal to the people to whom He had come, ― His people and the sheep of His pasture, ― to listen to His voice.

Section 2. (Matt. 9:35 — 10.)

His Messengers.

The Lord refuses, then, the leaders of the people as representing the people themselves. They are mere misleaders, shepherds not feeding the flock, but injuring and rending them. As He goes up and down Galilee, constantly bearing testimony of the Kingdom at hand, and doing every where the mighty deeds which were the demonstration of the power of God already among them to bring it in, His heart is moved with the misery of their condition. Yet the sheltering wings of divine mercy were manifestly ready to be folded over them. It depended but upon themselves whether they would welcome the love that was seeking them. The abundant miracles, appealing as they did to the very senses of men; by the relief of need in every form and however desperate, could not but appeal to every legitimate self-interest on man's part. And, however it might be with the nation at large, He is assured of the harvest that will reward labor in these beckoning fields. But the laborers, where are they? He bids His disciples, therefore supplicate the Lord of the harvest that He would thrust forth laborers into His harvest ― not merely "send" but impel them to go out and then He turns these praying ones into laborers themselves. He gives them authority to do the works that He is doing ― power over the whole power of the enemy and every outward consequence of sin; and sends them out to testify thus by word and work of the Kingdom drawing nigh.

The messengers thus sent out are themselves significant. We are familiar with their manifest deficiencies from a mere human point of view, deficiencies which made them only the more dependent upon that divine power which worked in them and through them. The apostle of the Gentiles afterwards, himself a man of very different up-bringing from these Galilean fishermen; and just when addressing himself to the vain and luxurious inhabitants of a wealthy pagan city, expressly stripped himself of any natural advantages that he might have, and "came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto them the testimony of God." And this was expressly that his speech and his preaching might not be with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Cor. 2:1, 4). It is certain that these rude instruments, as we should call them, yet moulded and energized by the Spirit of God, did a work such as has never since been done. Doubtless there was a fitness so given to them, transcending all the power of the schools to accomplish since. It is remarkable, with but an exception or two, how little we know of this or of them. In the Gospels themselves we much more often have them held up as warnings to us, than for our imitation. In the Acts, where most we should expect to find them, only one or two ― fewer than in the Gospels ― are at all prominent. And even these soon pass from our sight, and scarcely even a fragment of tradition of them remains. The "Acts" are, as has been well said, rather the acts of the Spirit of God, sovereignly using any that He will, than the "Acts of the Apostles," as they have come without warrant to be called; though Paul the apostle ― not any of the twelve ― is the principal figure in the latter half of the book. It is to the Spirit of God, evidently, that we are commended, and to practise the same utter dependence upon Him as they did.

No doubt, what we have of these earliest workmen should reveal to us much more than we have ever found in it. Even their names and their number should be significant. The Lord Himself connects them with the twelve tribes of Israel, over whom they are to rule in the day of the earth's "regeneration" (Matt. 19:28). And on the foundations of the heavenly city their names are also found (Rev. 21:14). Twelve is indeed the number of manifest divine rule, as we have often seen, and these twelve names should have lessons for us in such connection. Their ministry is specially connected with the Kingdom, as Paul's is eminently with the Church (Col. 1:25*), and thus, probably, it is that their names are on the foundations of the city of God, which is the centre of divine government in that scene to which the book of Revelation carries us forward.

{*Where read "minister" ― not "a minister" ― "to complete the word of God."}

But we have here only a preparatory testimony addressed to Israel, and the names are in pairs, six pairs, as they were sent out by the Lord, two and two, not disregarding apparently in this the natural or spiritual ties which link men together. Simon and Andrew are brothers, and Simon had been led by his brother to Jesus: here there were both links. The sons of Zebedee come next. Then Philip and Bartholomew, the latter supposed to be that Nathanael, whom Philip had brought to the Lord. Beyond this we are not able to go in realizing such connection, and as to the names and persons had better leave what can be said of them to develop naturally from the history.

Here they are upon a special mission to the "lost sheep" ― already that — "of the house of Israel," and are strictly forbidden to go whether to Gentiles or Samaritans. It is not at all an evangelization after the Christian pattern; and the directions given to them are only in part applicable to the present time. They were to proclaim the Kingdom as at hand, accompanying the proclamation with what the apostle calls, because of their connection with this, the "powers of the age" (not "world") "to come" (Heb. 6:5). Sickness and death would yield to them; leprosy, (which had to do also with defilement before God,) and the power of the enemy: blessings to be scattered far and wide, as manifesting the grace which they themselves also had received. They were to take no supply, whether of money or clothing, as not going out into a heathen world but among those professedly owning God, with whose message they came, and as under the guardianship of the King their Master, ― having a right, therefore, to expect the sustenance due to His laborers. Referring to this afterwards, and appealing to their own experience of how this expectation had been fulfilled to them, He distinctly recalls this commandment, in view of their going out into die world after His rejection (Luke 22:35, 36); and the laborers of an after-time are distinctly commended by the apostle, "because that for His Name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles" (3 John 7). But now the King's messengers were not to go as strangers: in every city or village those worthy were to be sought out, and with these they were to abide till they went forth from the city. The "peace" with which they greeted a house, made good, if it were worthy, with substantial blessing, would more than recompense all that they might receive. If it were not worthy, then the blessing would be as if it were not uttered. Finally, against house or city that would not receive them, they were to shake off the dust of their feet, as not willing to carry with them the least particle of that which belonged to those in hostility to their Lord. It would be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than for that city.

(2) Invitation and warning thus went hand in hand; but the Lord does not hide from the disciples the fact that the nation, nay, the world, would reject Him, and therefore them. He puts this indeed fully before them, to prepare them for it and encourage them in view of it: He was sending them forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, ― a hopeless thing to natural expectation; they were therefore to be as prudent ― or wary ― as serpents, but pure as doves, ― without the serpent's deceit. Men would deliver them up to councils, or sanhedrim, spiritual courts connected with the synagogues themselves. But beyond this they would bring them before governors and kings, the secular Gentile powers, as we see in the Lord's case, necessarily under a different charge, and with a malice which He would turn to a testimony in the highest places and to the Gentiles at large, whom grace was content to seek even in such a manner. Paul's case illustrates all this fully at a later day.

But they need not be careful as to their defence at such times. They would not be left to mere unaided wisdom. As the cause of Christ the Spirit of their Father would take it up and give them words fitted. Yet the hatred of them would be so intense as to break through all natural ties, and change the strongest affections into bitterest enmity. Brother would rise against brother, father against child, children against parents: they must endure, and at the end would come deliverance. Fleeing from one city to another, they would not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of man was come.

These last words make it plain that the mission of the twelve, while a mission to Israel only, and necessarily broken off by the judgment upon Jerusalem and the dispersion of the people, if not before, yet is not in the Lord's mind at an end even now. It will be taken up again under similar circumstances, but in the face of bitterer persecution; and continued until the actual coming of the Son of man from heaven and the consequent deliverance of His own at a time yet future. No doubt the Lord's words could not as yet be understood by those to whom He spoke; and they have been a cause of great perplexity to commentators, and variously interpreted by them in consequence. Had they not mostly confounded this testimony to Israel alone with the general publication of the gospel since, they would have had their perplexity increased. The occurrence of the same exhortation and encouragement with the distinct and detailed prophecy of the coming of the Son of man; in the twenty-fourth chapter, assures us as to the meaning here. Again there we are told that "he that endureth to the end shall be saved," the special troubles of the last days are put before us, and the Lord's coming at the end "with all His holy angels with Him." But even as to the meaning of this, many have gone quite astray; while the lack of understanding of the parenthetical nature of the present Christian time has necessarily confounded things which should have been kept far apart. In the Old Testament prophecy the present time of grace to the Gentiles never appears; and to this character the words of the Lord here conform. The new dispensation was not yet in view, and could not be while yet the testimony to Israel was going on. But this is, on this very account, not yet the place to consider what will necessarily be before us a little further on. (See Matt. 13:35.)

(3) The Lord urges now upon His disciples their necessary identification with Himself, so that they can expect no better treatment than He Himself received. If they had called the Master of the house Beelzebul,* how much more those of his household. Beelzebul means the "lord of the dwelling," ― the Satanic "master of the house," who made the demon-possessed his habitation. They called Him this who was the lawful Master, the One stronger than the strong, who set the poor captives free (Matt. 12:29). What, then; would they call the men of His household? But then from such raving there was nothing to fear. All would one day be unveiled and brought to light; and in that confidence they might proclaim upon the house-tops whatever they had heard of Him in greatest privacy.

{*So all the editors. Most commentators take it as a contemptuous alteration of Baalzebub, "lord of flies," the Philistine god of Ekron. Edersheim says that zebul means, in Rabbinic language, only the Temple, and suggests that zibbul may be referred to, which means "sacrificing to idols." Others take zebul as "dung;" but this is zebel. I give what seems most satisfactory, following Lange (Commentary on Matthew).}

It was true that in their enmity to it men might kill the body: this was their limit; by doing so they would only deprive themselves of further power. The soul would survive beyond their reach. God could destroy both body and soul in hell,* and He who has this power is the One only to be feared. We cannot but remember, in view of the Lord's words here, that there was a Judas already among this little band of witnesses for Christ, ― a man whose surname was "Iscariot,"** and who "from the beginning" was known by Him to be the traitor (John 6:64). Solemn words of our Lord in the presence of such an one; and surely for his ears.

{*Man has spirit as well as soul, but the Lord speaks of soul here, doubtless, because it is in closest connection with the body, ― which is therefore called the "psychical" (not "natural) body" (1 Cor. 15:44), ― of which it is the "life." Psyche, like nephesh in the Old Testament, is thus used for "life" and "soul." Of "spirit" there is not in Scripture a possible question; of soul there might be; but the Lord affirms here its survival also. The common thought of body and soul being the whole man has clouded the truth of immortality, as if it had to be proved from a solitary text or so, as here; and also from its making man only what the beast is, in which there is also a "living soul" (Gen. 1:30). Spirit is what is distinctive of man (1 Cor. 2:11).

Again, when the Lord speaks of body and soul in hell, He does not speak of "killing" any more, but of "destroying," ― a word used as to "ruin" of any kind. (See, for a full discussion, my "Facts and Theories as to a Future State.")}

**The surname "Iscariot" has had many interpretations: commentators in general having pretty well settled down now into the belief that it means "Ish Kerioth," or the "man of Kerioth." If so, he was the one Judean among the disciples, who otherwise were of Galilee; and some see much significance in this. But is it not much more probable that it is from the same root with, and akin to Issachar, "there is reward," or "hire," too near identity being naturally avoided with one of the fathers of Israel? There seems to have been a form of the word, shacar, from which is derived the word eshcar (Ezek. 27:15) of similar meaning. Iscariot might mean even thus the "trafficker," more closely connected with his crime than "hireling" would be. Notice how we are reminded of this surname (which may have been given him afterwards) at the very time when he puts himself into Satan's hands for the betrayal of the Lord (Luke 22:3).}

But He goes on to encourage them with the blessed thought of being in relation to such an one as Father, without whom not one of those sparrows which men sold two for a penny,* could fall to the ground, and whose tender care had numbered every hair of His children's heads. They were of more account, then, than many sparrows.

{*An assarion, really equal to a cent, or a halfpenny sterling[ca.1899].}

But they must confess Christ before men: whoso confessed Him before men He also would confess before His Father in heaven; and whoso denied Him, He also would deny before His Father ― He could not now say their Father ― in heaven. Grace never sets aside the holiness of God, but conforms us to its conditions; while divine holiness does not set aside the grace, which always receives the penitent: and the chief of the apostles furnishes us with the illustration of this.

(4) {Verse 34, 'send': Ballein is to put on over a thing, as clothes, armor, or to put [into the mind]; but rather the former here with put peace upon the earth," "clothe the earth with peace;" "send" is too much as if the sword were His intention, whereas it is the result of the world being away from God.}

The test of true discipleship is found then in the preference of Christ to all things whatsoever else. The Prince of peace had come into the world, and yet the effect of His presence would not be to produce peace as between man and man; but on the contrary to bring out all the opposition of the heart to Him. For this they must be prepared. Variance would be introduced into families, ― an effect with which the truths has been invariably reproached. Professing disciples would have to take their choice, therefore, between Himself and all else, were it father, mother, son or daughter: the inmates of a man's house would be his foes. No one would be fit to be a disciple of His who did not accept this, and take up his cross to follow Him. Here for the first time He intimates the death before Him, ― the shame which He has turned to glory: a dread word now for those whom He is sending out as heralds of His Kingdom, but with all the intimation of sorrow and rejection. Humbling Himself to all that the enmity of man can do, His language is that of serenest, fullest consciousness of a title far more than royal ― a divine title. With the world thus against Him, He putting forth no power to subdue it, nor even to shelter His people from the vindictive hatred which He predicts, He claims from all that will be His disciples the most perfect devotedness that could be shown by man. He is to be dearer than the dearest, nearer than those bound by the closest of ties. And under such constraint they are to follow Him as the perfect, supreme example of all that is highest to be attained: to be "worthy of Him" their whole ambition! How His glory shines out here from the depth of self-abasement.

(5) He goes on to declare the recompense, connecting it with the conditions already laid down. "He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life" ― not simply as having done this, but ― "for My sake, shall find it." This is no principle of asceticism, or anything like that: it is His love governing in the face of a hostile world. Then He identifies Himself in the fullest way with those sent forth by Him: "he that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me." This principle He now extends beyond those He is addressing: "He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward." That is, where mind and heart identify one with the prophet or the righteous man; God will identify him: the receiver of a prophet shall be blessed with the prophet. And divine love will forget nothing that is done for love's sake: "whosoever shall give to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, he shall in no wise lose his reward."

Subdivision 3. (Matt. 11.)

The Separation of a Remnant.

We have now the separation of a remnant to Himself, while the mass are going on to complete rejection. This we see through all this manifestation of Himself; the snore fully He is manifested, the more this rejection of Him appears: for it is just His divine glory which they refuse most utterly. But it is this also which brings out the faith of those divinely taught, the babes, conscious of their own nothingness, to whom the things of God can be declared. These are wisdom's children who justify wisdom, even in ways that seem most opposite; while the rest reject alike whatever God may please to use in the way of witness to them. In the Lord's words to those who listen to Him the coming grace begins to be more distinctly seen.

1. (1) First of all, we have brought before us the sufficiency and unity of the manifestation made. And this is emphasized in a message to the Baptist, who from Herod's prison in which he is shut up, sends by his disciples to the Lord, to ask if He is indeed the Coming One, the One they had been expecting; or were they still to look for another.

It is evident that, in some measure at least, doubt was assailing the mind of the Baptist. Indeed, with regard to such a matter as this, the smallest question unanswered is an agony. No doubt, he had expected in the One to whom he had borne witness, conduct in some way different from that which he had since heard of Him. It is generally and naturally said that he expected, as the mass of the nation certainly did, the Kingdom to be established in power which would put down all opposition; and yet here was he, the messenger to prepare His way, languishing in the power of an immoral usurper of the Kingdom that was Christ's alone. But John had proclaimed Him as the Lamb of God, and evidently the Lamb of sacrifice, ― nay, as taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29). How, but by suffering and death? taking he not have understood, then, that this might involve suffering for His disciples also, even as the Lord had spoken of days to come in which the Bridegroom would be taken away from them, and that then they would fast?

Perhaps the reserve the Lord had hitherto maintained as to His Messiahship, and for which we may find reason in the carnal views held by the people as to it, may have, at least, prompted the desire that He would explicitly declare Himself. This seems the simplest account of the question put through his disciples. It was from the Lord Himself he sought the answer: and if he could not put this and that together, the Lord would know how to help him, and to have compassion on him.

The Lord answers by referring the messengers to what they heard and saw. The signs spoken of by Isaiah (Isa. 35:5, 6) were being given before them: the blind were receiving sight, and the lame were walking; more than that, the lepers (whose uncleanness cast them out from man and from the house of God, and which only God could heal) were being cleansed, and the deaf heard ― a blessed thing, when now there was so much to hear, ― these were such things as the prophet had spoken of, to be fulfilled in Messiah's days.

But more, the dead were being raised: ― the sign which marked out Christ as "Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness."* For, although prophets had done this before, yet never as the seal of such a testimony as His, that "as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will" (John 5:21). Thus now there was indeed "good news" for the poor: we may say "gospel," for it is the same word; only we must understand that the gospel, as we think of it now, is a very different thing. Then it was that "the Son of man had power on earth to forgive sins;" now it is the precious "blood of Jesus Christ His Son" that "cleanseth from all sin" (1 John 1:7). The blood shed was the emphatic sign of His rejection by the world, as it is for us that by which we are brought to God. That death of His was not, therefore, yet preached; He was not preaching it: and though He had indeed spoken to His disciples of taking up their cross, it was only after this that He began to speak to them of His own; to the consternation of all, and to be "rebuked" by Peter for it (Matt. 16:22). When His death came, though they had been then fully warned of it, it seemed the collapse of all their hopes; and when the women declared His resurrection, "their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not" (Luke 24:11).

{*Rom. 1:4: where it should read, "by resurrection of dead persons," and cannot be limited therefore to His own resurrection, as the common version is taken to mean.}

Yet how sweet this gospel preached to them by the Son of God among them, and confirmed by the abundant signs of divine power working far and wide. "To the poor" also ― poor in every sense ― He proclaimed it; to "publicans and sinners," as we know: One come to seek and save the "lost" ― though that is not quite what we have reached yet, and as yet He is acting as "Minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers" (Rom. 15:8). Israel's rejection of Him, without being able to destroy this as the final purpose of His love, was soon to bring about the revelation of purposes still more glorious, the display of which would be, characteristically, among sinners of the Gentiles.

The Lord adds therefore, as admonition for John, but in the gentlest terms, "And blessed is he who shall not be stumbled by Me." His reserve as to taking His title as Messiah was already the foreshadow of the blessing passing. in the meantime, from the people with whom all the Scriptures had connected it ― to whom belonged "the adoption; and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service, and the promises" (Rom. 9:4) ― heart-break enough for a Jew, that! And He had already spoken of "days in which the Bridegroom should be taken away from them!" Here was danger, indeed, of stumbling over the stumbling-stone. The exercise as to this John could not escape: it was forced upon him by his own circumstances. But then this new beatitude was to be his also. And every honest exercise, if it be for the time an agony, will be found in the end the travail-pain of a new beatitude.

(2) But thus now it is the Lord whom we find bearing witness to John, instead of John bearing witness to Him. His own words are fulfilled, "I receive not testimony from man" (John 5:34). Right and meet it is that He should be His own sufficient witness; and blessed it is to see now how, where John had brought his own testimony into question; the Lord comes forward on his behalf. What was it that the multitudes had gone out into the wilderness to look upon? in fact it was what John was that had largely drawn them out to him. Had they been thus moved by a mere reed, to be shaken by the wind? No, spite of all seeming now, they knew better. Was it a soft luxurious man that they saw in the wilderness? It was the wrong place in which to find such. Had they not rather believed him to be a prophet? And they were not mistaken: he was that and more. For, indeed, among those merely born of women; there had not arisen a greater than this man with his strange baptism; and yet, the Lord adds emphatically, "the one comparatively little in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he."

He does not say, "the least," nor does the expression seem the equivalent of this and we must first of all consider in what this greatness which the Lord ascribes to John consists, before we can properly estimate the force of His words.

Plainly, it cannot be that even the little one in the Kingdom of heaven can be greater morally than. John the Baptist; but then it can hardly be thought that John himself was greater in this respect than all the men that had preceded him. That is not the point of comparison: it is in the place given to him as the predicted messenger who was to prepare the way before Messiah. Certainly spiritual greatness could not be wanting in one put in such a position; but that is another thing. "All the prophets and the law prophesied until John:" they all pointed onward to the time of which John was able to say, "It is just at hand." It was for him to change the whole character of testimony hitherto, and to sound the note of Jubilee which announced a Kingdom not of earth but of heaven, and the King Himself even at the door. And, this being his greatness, it is easy to understand that he would be in the greater position, who was in the Kingdom itself, and could say in the language of the psalmist anticipating,. this, "As we have heard, so have we seen, in the city of Jehovah of hosts, in the city of our God" (Ps. 48:8).

The Lord's words are commonly taken indeed to refer to the Kingdom in its present Christian and parenthetic character; and no one would deny that such an application could be made. But the testimony as to this was not that given by the Baptist, nor was it yet given when these words were spoken. The Kingdom in this form only began to be spoken of, and in parabolic utterance, when once it was clear that Israel had indeed rejected Him. And that time was now close at hand, and of course foreseen by the Speaker here, but not yet made definitely plain, even to disciples. Every thing would indicate to us that the Lord is declaring the blessedness of that of which all the prophets prophesied, and which John himself had announced, and when Israel will be lifted up to a greatness, which has never yet been paralleled in all the history of that favored nation. That they then put it away from them does not in the least affect this application which relieves all difficulties at once, and yet leaves room for another application. This must, however, as I believe, be a secondary one.

The next words of the Lord have more real difficulty than those preceding them. They have been taken in opposite ways: the "violent," who seize upon the Kingdom having been thought to refer to the opposition of the scribes and Pharisees, as if they were forcibly taking possession of it but this is hardly possible as the meaning of the words. "Seize upon it" they could not, though they could obstruct the way of those who were seeking to enter. But their opposition compelled men to violence who would possess themselves of it. As yet, indeed, it was only preached, or presented in the person of the King, and not set up; but the adversaries and those who laid hold of it as thus proclaimed were being distinguished. Until John there had only been the prophesying of what was yet at a distance; John was in fact, if men would receive him, the Elias who was to come. Elias then had come and gone: his "days" could be spoken of as past already. So urgent was the call, then: he that had ears at all must now give ear.

2. The Lord goes on to speak of the way in which, in fact, the senseless generation to which God had thus been speaking had treated the divine appeal that had been made to them. They were merely like children in the midst of the serious business going on around them, idling away their time in mocking the realities of life. They trifled in their pleasure, they trifled with sorrow, even with that which was upon man for his sins, and carried him away from both his pleasures and his sorrows. They would have had John dance to their piping, and Jesus and his disciples beat their breasts to their idle dirge. The ways of God never suited them; if John came in the way of righteousness and so with his call to repentance, they said he had a demon ― would drive us among the tombs. If the grace of God in Christ came among them as not shunning contact, but eating and drinking even with the sinners whom it had come after to win them to the Giver of all good they knew not, then they reviled it as licentiousness, and the Saviour as fit company for those whose need had brought Him to their help. No way would suit them that divine love could take; while wisdom's children justified her in all her ways.

So then they but turned the mercies shown them into occasions of judgment and self degradation. Tyre and Sidon would have repented, had they seen the glorious things which Chorazin and Bethsaida had beheld unmoved. Sodom would have remained to that day, if it had had the privileges of favored Capernaum. But therefore the judgment of Tyre and Sidon and of Sodom would be lighter in the day of judgment, than that of Israel's cities. Capernaum, the city of His choice, had come near to heaven by the Presence which indeed makes heaven for those that have received His grace. It would sink down under the weight of its rejection of Him to a mere abode of death and desolation.* And such it has long been; whether the identification of its site be correct or not.

{*To Hades, "the unseen," the region of departed spirits; not "hell" or Gehenna.}

3. The Lord turns from it all, to approve, spite of the sorrow that filled His heart, the Father's perfect ways. It was right to hide from the world's wise and prudent what to babes He could reveal. This is not hiding anything from men as men, but from men that cleave to their own wisdom, ― are wise enough to judge God, but not to judge themselves. In that condition it is impossible that He and they should come together. It is a first necessity that God should have His place ― should be God; and therefore man be the puny creature that he is, a babe indeed before Him. If there be true wisdom, he will find it no hardship to take his place as this before the Lord of heaven and earth: and here is the condition of all true blessing.

Here, then, was the Son of the Father; Himself the Repository of all blessing: all things in His hand, whose very Person was to man an inscrutable mystery, before which all the pride of man must humble itself; but a mystery of grace in which as nowhere else God is revealed. The Son makes known the Father, ― He, and He alone. We find here, beyond all that had been predicted as to Messiah, the glory which is not, so to speak, officially, but personally His. It passes knowledge, and yet it is for us to know: it is not God shrouded in the darkness, but the glory of the Light; inaccessible, though most accessible; an infinite fullness, in which we are filled up. Here we need but capacity to receive; emptiness in ourselves, not fullness; the "babe's" capacity to draw from and live upon Another, and to such need it is that He wills to reveal Himself, and in revealing Himself to reveal God ― Lord of heaven and earth, and yet the Father, for the "babe" to call upon as such.

Practically rejected already by the people to whom He came, He appeals, then; to these needy ones wherever they may be ― to those who have found the world but a weary place, in which those laboring" after satisfaction only find, in proportion to the eagerness of search, the heavier weight of disappointment ― He appeals to these to come away from this fruitless labor to Himself for rest. He will give rest. The responsibility of fully satisfying them shall be His own.

In this way, He is practically outside of Israel: for wants of this kind are not the birth-right privileges of the chosen nation. He, too, is more and higher than a mere King of the Jews; as His call and offer show, by the character of those invited and by the freeness of the gift, that it is not law but grace that He is declaring. But He is a King; and in submission to Him all hope for man is found. He gives rest, but not to those going on in rebellion. Seeking and following one's own will, no rest is practicable it would be rest in sin. "Take My yoke upon you," He says, "and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls."

What an example for our imitation! When God raised up a leader for His people of old, to bring them out of Egypt and into the land, He gave them one after this pattern: "the man Moses was very meek above all men that were on the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3). That was God's choice for a ruler of His people. But now here is the One to whom all things are delivered, and how perfectly does He exemplify this character! Maker and Lord of all, He has come down among men as one that serveth: doing, throughout, His Father's will, and learning what obedience is, in a strange path of human suffering. Well may we learn such a lesson from such a Teacher! and, submitting ourselves to such a yoke as He will impose, find rest from the unrest of our own self-will!

Some think of His yoke here, as if it were a yoke He had borne that He gave us, or as if we shared it with Him. But the "red heifer" is His picture, "upon which never came yoke" (Num. 19:2): the doing of His Father's will was never that to Him. For a yoke implies restraint; and then there must be something to be restrained: and this for us is true, as for Him it could not be. He speaks both of a yoke and of a burden; but the yoke is not that of the law, but a gentle as well as salutary one; and His burden is light.

Subdivision 4. (Matt. 12.)

The Passing of Divine Long-suffering.

The fourth subdivision now closes this part with the full manifestation of the breach between the Lord and Israel. The incidents are grouped together, however, not altogether historically, but according to the usual manner in Matthew, for the purpose of illustrating clearly the great dispensational change that is beginning. The story of the corn-fields and the healing of the withered hand is brought in here from the earlier place to which it belongs chronologically, because the Sabbath was a sign of God's covenant with the nation; and Christ being Lord of it shows how absolutely dependent upon Him their blessing was. The repetition of their awful charge of casting out demons through the prince of the demons, gives occasion to the Lord's warning as to blasphemy against the Spirit as the unpardonable sin. While at the end of the twelfth chapter He formally refuses the claim of fleshly relationships, such as Israel's was ("of whom, as concerning the flesh Christ came,") and declares the spiritual tie between His disciples and Himself as that which replaces it, ― the new principle of Christianity. In the next chapter we have the parables of the Kingdom in its present form, and the very style (the parable) shows the mass of the people as given up to hardness of heart (Matt. 13:11-15). It is true that after all this the Lord presents Himself definitively to the nation; riding into Jerusalem as her King in fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy, and this brings on the closing scenes; but it is the full public confirmation which they here give, and which it was designed of God that they should be permitted to give, of a rejection which had virtually taken place before. At this, and the principle involved in it, we shall have to look, when we reach that portion of the Gospel.

1.(1) The question of the Sabbath is that which we find first raised; and Christ declares Himself the Lord of the sabbath on a double ground, that of His Person and that of His work. At this we must look more closely. The two incidents given here are found in both the other synoptic Gospels, and the question (somewhat differently answered) is found in all.

If the ten commandments were, as Scripture positively declares (Ex. 34:27), God's covenant with His people, the Sabbath as the fourth of these had evidently a peculiar place among them. It was the only commandment that was positive, not moral, ― something, therefore, which, with the failure of the covenant itself, might fail and be set aside, as those which were moral could not. Covenant or no covenant, every other part of the "ten words" has its ground in the nature of God Himself, and must be as unchanging as He is. Thus, although the "rule" of Christianity is not that of the law but a higher one (Gal. 6:16), yet it is none the less true that "the righteousness of the law" ― the "righteous requirement" (dikaioma), that which was essentially righteous in it ― "is fulfilled in us who walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:4). In the sabbath, then; we find something which in its being set aside could be a "sign" of their relationship with God broken by their sin, as no other commandment could.

And the Sabbath was a "sign." "I gave them My sabbaths," says God by Ezekiel, "to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them" (Ezek. 20:12). For this purpose it was, in fact, every way fitted. As first given in the book of Exodus, it is a memorial of God's rest as the Creator, when satisfied with the goodness of all His hands had made. Thus alone could He rest ever; and as a sign of God resting as satisfied, we can see at once how much the maintenance of the sabbath meant for an Israelite, ― how fiercely the Pharisee would resent the thought of its being set aside. In Deuteronomy (Deut. 5:15) they are commanded to keep it as a people redeemed from Egyptian bondage; and here also the loss of it would be most serious. As the sign of a people set apart to God they had often submitted to all kinds of injury rather than themselves violate it.

With their multiplied guards against infringement ― the hedge round the law ― the disciples rubbing the ears of corn between the hands could be thought of as a work: the gathering for personal use, if hungry, was permitted. The Pharisees boldly appeal to Him about the conduct of His disciples in doing what was not lawful to do upon the sabbath; not unlawful in itself, or at other times, but as a violation of the day of rest. The Lord replies, justifying them against the charge, but not at all in the way we should expect Him to have done. He does not attack their human additions to the divine Word, nor their fine spun interpretations of it: He takes higher and stronger ground, exposing the whole condition of the people as before God, and through their unbelief in Him, who was Lord of the sabbath, and with whose rejection the sabbath could no longer be with them at all.

David was ahungered, and those that were with him: did they remember how he entered into the house of God, and ate the show-bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, but only for the priests? This was not a doubtful point, not a question of human additions to the law or interpretations of it, but a direct opposition to the Levitical statute. But how, then, could the Lord justify this? Was it on the ground of hunger, merely? and were they so far from possibility of help as to justify the setting aside of the law in their case? and was every hungry man entitled with David here to set it aside?

The answer must be surely sought elsewhere: David, who took the show-bread, was in fact the anointed King of Israel, Saul having been rejected of God for his disobedience to the divine commands. Yet David was now fleeing, a well-nigh solitary man; from the causeless wrath of Saul. Moreover upon,the King all Israel's relation to God now depended. The priesthood had utterly failed; the ark was in practical banishment all the days of Saul (1 Chron. 13:3). And, according to the prophetic word of the man of God to Eli, even the "faithful priest," raised up of God, was to "walk before" His "anointed" king "continually." (1 Sam. 2:35, 36, and contrast Num. 27:21.) Thus David brings the ark to Zion, and assumes afterwards the ordering of the service in connection with it.

David, then, being in rejection, the whole relationship of God with Israel had suffered eclipse, and the sanctity of the consecrated things was departed from them: and this is, no doubt, the meaning of his words to the high-priest upon the occasion referred to: "and the bread is, as it were, common; though it were sanctified this day in the vessel." All was, for the moment, in abeyance in Israel, and that because of the rejection of the anointed of Jehovah. How much more surely, then, when the antitypical David was in their midst, only to be rejected, was it the uttermost folly to contend for a sabbath! How could the sabbath remain for those who were refusing the Lord of the sabbath?*

{*See for further remarks, and especially the relation of the show-bread to a rejected Christ and to Christianity, 1 Sam. 21 notes.}

The Lord cites from the law itself another witness. The priestly service of sacrifice did not cease upon the sabbath: the morning and evening sacrifices were even increased (Num. 28:9, 10). Here man's sin was the cause, but the grace of God also that provided for the sin. This whole typical sacrificial system, much older than the law, and dating really from the gate of Eden; though incorporated with the legal system when this was established, was the constant, though veiled, witness of the grace running through all previous dispensations. Before it, wherever there was conflict, the "sign" of the legal covenant gave way, as here. Thus, even now, Israel's sin, and yet also the incoming grace of God along with it, were setting aside the legal covenant. "The temple" thus insisted on this violation of the Sabbath, for the glory of Him whose abode it was, and in the interests of those who could only in such a manner be maintained in relation to Him. But here was what was greater than the temple as much as the antitype was greater than the type: temple and sacrifice, the glory of God and the blessing of man, were all represented there in Him, as never before had been. No doubt, they were ignorant of it: alas, they were ignorant of plainer things, in which the character of God whom they professed to serve declared itself. He had said: "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice," but with them sacrifice (in the mere external way) overshadowed mercy. God was a God of requirement rather than of bounteous giving. Had they known Him as such, they would not have condemned the guiltless.

For the truth was here, the seal of all that He was saying, that "the Son of man was Lord of the Sabbath," ― the One, therefore, who had in His hand the whole adjudgment of their case; which in law, too, had gone so entirely against them. The Giver of divine rest was, indeed, among them: as that, we have just heard him proclaim Himself; for no rest could there be for man; except at the same time God could rest also. In Christ He has declared His delight; on Him the Spirit of God, dove-like, rests; He is the "Father of eternity," the One who brings about the eternal rest of God, and who, by His work, brings sinners to partake of it. But thus also, if He be rejected, Sabbath there can be none, and for ever none.

The claim of His work is more distinctly affirmed in His healing the withered hand in the synagogue afterwards. Here He does work Himself, and in answer to their challenge. With distinct purpose to accuse Him, they ask, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?" to which He answers by another question: would they not lift a sheep of theirs out of a pit upon the sabbath? and was not a man more than a sheep? Then; having silenced them with His word, He silences them with His deed: divine power heals the man before their eyes. Who shall stay God's love from going forth? and yet they but respond to this with more determined hatred.

(2) We now, for the first time, hear of a council held to put Jesus to death. Aware of it, He withdraws Himself, but cannot withdraw from the need which continually appeals to Him. Still the stream of mercy flows; but He charges them strictly not to make Him known: He accepts rejection, will not gather the multitudes after Him by the fame of His abundant miracles, nor raise up any against His enemies. There was plenty of material to work upon; plenty of readiness, as we know, to follow a leader of such a kind as had arisen and still would rise; but He was upon a different path and with a different purpose from any of theirs. The Spirit of God quotes from Esaias to show this. The Son-Servant (ho pais) of God, His Chosen; His Beloved, in whom His soul delights, ― terms by which He is characterized in answer to the enmity and reproach which manifest themselves upon man's part, ― characterized, too, by the Spirit that abides upon Him, in the fulness of that Spirit He is going to show judgment to the nations. Judgment is here the absolute right of things. Quietness, patience and gentleness characterize Him: "He shall not strive, nor cry, nor cause His voice to be heard in the streets. A bruised reed" ― the perfect symbol of weakness surely ― "will He not break, and smoking flax will He not quench, until He send forth judgment unto victory. And in His name shall the nations trust."

The application here is perfectly evident. Rejected of Israel, He is turning to the Gentiles, and we think, and are intended to think, of the present grace going out to the Gentiles during the Christian dispensation. But such a Gentile dispensation is never contemplated in the Old Testament prophets: it is a gap of time in the working out of God's purposes as to Israel, which in this way foreshortens their perspective, and brings the first and second comings of the Lord between which it lies, into a closeness of connection which is confusing enough to those who are not aware of this.* Isaiah in the passage quoted does not, in fact, speak of such a dispensation. He begins with the character of the Lord's ministry in Israel as Matthew here exhibits it, and then contrasts with this His showing judgment to the nations, and the final blessing which will flow out to them, in words which are quite capable of taking in the present time; and Matthew uses it in this way. There is no statement of any change of dispensation; as is clear; none the less it snits well with what is now taking place, ― the shadow of the cross now beginning to fall across the path of One who meek and lowly of heart, and knowing what is before Him, accepts rejection and this uttermost sorrow with it, finding His joy meanwhile in such service of love as grace had brought Him down to, His precious compensation for the cross itself.

{*The principle itself is clearly stated, Matt. 13:11, 35; Rom. 16:25, 26; Eph. 3:6, 9, 10; Col. 1:25-27, and will be considered under these texts.}

(3) And the road still leads downwards. One possessed by a demon is brought to Him, blind and dumb and, the demon cast out, the blind and the dumb is at once restored. The multitudes, astonished, cry out, "Is this the Son of David?" and yet, as the question implies, only half convinced. The Pharisees hasten to extinguish the spark of this conviction by repeating their former blasphemy. They could not deny the power that was so manifest. They were driven then; if they did not submit and own God in it, to the awful alternative of imputing this to Satan. To Himself, it would seem, they dared not do this. The Lord read it in their hearts, however, and answered it. If Satan could cast out Satan; as they supposed, his kingdom would be divided against itself, and such a divided kingdom could not stand. Division there might be, no doubt, and discord in many respects, and in fact evil is in this way ever discordant, as truth and goodness are the only perfect unity. But with these healed demoniacs, it was not insinuated even that merely one form of evil had contended with another, ― one had given place to another. Nay, the power of Satan; they confessed, was broken and gone: Satan was really cast out. Satan. then, had not done this. To say so would be but to confound good with evil, and lose the power of discernment altogether.

Moreover their sons professedly cast out demons. How was it, then; if they admitted, as they did admit, this? Was it an opposite power that worked in the same way? or how did they distinguish? These, then; would be their judges.

If, on the other hand, it had to be admitted that this was the work of the Spirit of God, the kingdom of God had come upon them unawares. The expression here suggests the idea of surprise: here it was, not indeed as established outwardly, but in the power which belonged to it, and that as manifested in the King Himself. Yet they were not prepared for it and did not recognize it, When before their eyes! Who, then, could enter into a strong man's house, and seize upon his goods, if he did not first bind the strong man? Strong enough Satan had shown himself in the case of these poor demoniacs; yet his power had been vanquished, the enemy bound. And by whom?

It had come, then, to this: there must now be an open decision; neutrality could not be permitted. "He that is not with Me is against Me; he that gathereth not with Me scattereth." Mercy could no longer be shown where the power of the Spirit of God had, as power, to be owned, and yet attributed to Satan himself: This blasphemy was no longer ignorant unbelief: it was open-eyed opposition to God and to all that was of God. A word spoken against the Son of man might be forgiven; the lowly place that He had taken ― though it were but fullest grace and to meet the need of man ― might yet hide His glory from the eyes of carnal men; but here was what had to be owned, could not be hidden: open-eyed hatred could not be forgiven; could never be. They expected fuller mercy in the age to come ― in Messiah's day ― than in the present age of law: but this could never be forgiven; in this age nor in that to come.

(4) That generation had proved its condition; the tree was known by its fruit. It was a viper's brood, from which no good thing could be expected any longer. Their mouth was speaking now out of the fulness of the heart. The treasures of the good man were good things, but the treasures of the evil, evil. Thus an idle word might prove a man's condition, and in the day of judgment all such would be taken into account, ― by his words a man be justified or condemned. How impossible, then, for any to escape, who has not found his shelter in Him whom Israel here refuses!

(5) The end, then; had been reached morally. It was no use asking now for signs. An evil and adulterous generation could not be helped by signs. One they should have, the sign of the prophet Jonah. Jonah, three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, had been a sign to the Ninevites, and thus the preaching of a man; as it were risen from the dead, had brought that great city to repentance. Well, the Son of man would be really in the grave three days and nights, rejected and cast out, but at His preaching by His resurrection they, more hardened than Nineveh, would not repent. The Ninevites would rise up in the judgment to condemn them; so much the more as the Son of man was greater than Jonah. The queen of the south also, would rise up in the judgment against them, who came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon: and here was One how much greater!

(6) The Lord goes on to predict the end of this reformed and law-boasting generation; which rejected Him. They were cleansed from idolatry indeed, but it was but as when the unclean spirit had gone out of a man; not cast out, but of its own will. Swept and adorned its house might be, but, empty, it only invited the return of its former occupant. The occupant would return: idolatry will again take possession of Israel in the latter days, and with seven other spirits worse than this: and they will enter in and dwell there. The last state of that generation* will be worse than the first. We shall see later on in the Gospel (Matt. 24) to what the Lord refers.

{*"Generation" in Scripture is often used with a moral application rather than in a time sense, ― for a succession of people with the same moral characteristics, see Ps. 12:7. This is, no doubt, the sense here.}

(7) All this is closed, on the Lord's part, with a significant word. While still speaking to the people, He is told by one of the bystanders that His mother and His brethren stand without, desiring to speak with Him. The cry had been raised, as we learn from Mark (3:21), even among His "friends," that He was beside Himself; and this attempt speak with Him on the part of His relatives no doubt was a consequence of this. The opposition had grown so great, that alarm for His personal safety may have actuated them, and the desire to induce Him to take in some respects a different course. But if such were their thought Matthew gives no hint of it; and the omission is significant. The Lord's words are not to be taken as if they referred merely to any conduct of this kind, as far as this Gospel is concerned. They are to be taken rather in connection with what has gone before and what follows here; that is, as referring to the dispensational change beginning. Judaism was essentially a national religion: men were "Jews by Nature," as the apostle says, although of course, proselytes were admitted. Christians are such by new nature only: the spiritual tie is the whole thing. And that is what the Lord here affirms: He answered an said to him that spake to Him, Who is My mother? and who are My brethren? And, stretching out His hand over His disciples, He said, Behold My mother and My brethren: for whosoever shall do the will of My Father who is in heaven; he is My brother, and sister, and mother."