Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
10. told him all that they had done] This brief and meagre record, to which nothing is added by the other Evangelists, contrasts so strongly with the joyous exultation of the Seventy over their success, that we are led to infer that the training of the Twelve was as yet imperfect, and their mission less successful than the subsequent one.
went aside privately] The reasons—beside the natural need of the Twelve and of our Lord for rest—were (1) the incessant interruptions from the multitude, which left them no leisure even to eat (Mar_6:31), and (2) (as we see from the context) the news of the murder of John the Baptist and Herod’s enquiries about Jesus. Perhaps we may add (3) the desire to keep in retirement the Paschal Feast which He could not now keep at Jerusalem. This event constitutes another new departure in the ministry of Christ.
into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida] There are here great variations in the MSS. and the best reading is to a city called Bethsaida. The omission may be due to the fact that there was nothing approaching to “a desert place” corresponding to this description near the only Bethsaida which was well known to the copyists, viz. the little fishing suburb of Capernaum on the west of the lake (Bethsaida of Galilee, Joh_12:21), Mar_6:45. This may also explain the variation of ‘village’ for ‘city.’ It is only in recent times that we have been made familiar with the existence of the other Bethsaida—Bethsaida Julias (Mar_8:22), at the north of the lake, another ‘House of Fish’ which had been recently beautified by Herod Philip (3:1) and named by him after the beautiful but profligate daughter of Augustus, Jos. Antt. xviii. 2, § 1; B. J. ii. § 1. The ruins of this town still exist at Telui (a corruption of Tel Julias), and close by it is the green, narrow, secluded plain of El Batîhah, which exactly meets the description of the Evangelists. This important discovery, which explains several serious difficulties of this Gospel, is due to Reland (Palaest. p. 504), and shews us how easily difficulties would be removed if we knew all the facts.
10-17. The Feeding of the Five Thousand. This is the one miracle which is recorded by all four Evangelists (Mat_14:13; Mar_6:30; Joh_6:1). In all four it is the climax of the ministry. Henceforward attention is directed more and more to the death which will bring Christ’s work to a close. From S. John we learn that it took place shortly before the Passover. All four accounts should be compared. Each contributes some special features, and each appears to be to a large extent independent. The marks of Lk.’s style are abundant in his narrative.
10. ὑποστρέφαντες . See small print on 1:56. Lk. connects the miracle with the return of the Twelve; but he gives no hint as to the time of their absence. We may perhaps allow a few weeks. He does not often call the Twelve οἱ ἀπόστολοι (6:13, 17:5, 22:14, 24:10).
διηγήσαντο αὐτῷ ὅσα ἐποίησαν. What this was has already been recorded in brief (ver. 6). It is strange that anyone should infer from Lk.’s not expressly mentioning, as Mk. does (6:12, 13), the casting out of demons, “that Lk. wishes us to believe that they had failed in this respect,” and “had evidently been able to out only a part of their commission.” Lk. records the success of the Seventy in exorcizing demons (10:17): why should he wish to insinuate that the Twelve had failed? Excepting Mar_5:16, Mar_5:9:9; Heb_11:32, διηγεῖσθαι occurs only in Lk. (8:39; Act_8:33, Act_9:27, Act_12:17). Comp. ver. 49. Lk. perhaps wishes us to understand that it was the report which the Apostles brought of their doings that led to Christ’s taking them apart, as Mk. says, for rest. Mt states that it was the news of the Baptist’s death which led to the withdrawal. Jn. has only a vague μετὰ ταῦτα. All may be correct; but there can have been no borrowing.
παραλαβὼν αὐτούς. Comp. ver. 28, 18:31.
ὑπεχώρησεν κατʼ ἰδίαν. The verb occurs only here and 5:16 In NT. Comp. Ecclus. 13:9 (12). Lk. does not seem to be aware that Christ and His disciples went by boat across the lake (Mt. Mk. Jn.), while the multitude went round by land. Hence it is possible that he supposed that the miracle took place near Bethsaida on the west shore, and not at Bethsaida Julias on the near the north-east end of the lake. See D. B.2 art “Bethsaida.” Mt. Mk. and Lk. all have κατʼ ἰδίαν.
The common reading, εἰς τόπον ἔρημον πόλεως καλουμένης Βηθσαιδά (A D A G H K M S U V etc., Aeth. Arm. Goth.), seems to be an ingenious conflation of the original text, εἰς πόλιν καλουμένην Βηθσαιδά (B L X Ξ 33, Boh. Sah.),—which is supported by D [only κώμην for πόλιν],—with a correction of it, εἰς τόπον ἔρημον (א*), or εἰς τόπον ἔρημον Βηθσαιδά (b c ff2 l g Vulg. Syr.), or εἰς τόπον ἔρημον καλούμενον Βηθσαιδα (a e f). These corrections would be suggested by ver. 12 and Mt. and Mk. and the difficulty of associating the miracle with a πόλις. See WH. ii. Intr. p. 102, and also Wordsw. Vulg. in loco. For ther apparent instances of conflation see 11:54, 12:18, 24:53. Note Lk.’s favourite καλουμένην.
Vers. 10-17. The Lord feeds the five thousand.
And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. This, perhaps the most famous and oftenest told of the Lord”s miracles, was worked directly after the return of the twelve from their mission. He and they were no doubt very weary of the crowds which continually now thronged them. The excitement of the multitude about Jesus was now at its height. Directly after the discourse at Capernaum (John 6), which immediately followed the great miracle we are about to discuss, the popular enthusiasm began to wane. Intensely weary, dispirited too at the story of the murder of John the Baptist, which was told the Master by the disciples and the friends of John on their return from their mission, Jesus determined for a brief space to withdraw himself from the public gaze. He crossed the Lake of Gennesaret in one of his friends” fishing-boats to a town lately identified by modern research as Bethsaida Julias, a small city recently beautified by Herod Philip, and named Bethsaida Julias, after the daughter of Augustus. Bethsaida, “house of fish,” was a name attached evidently to several of these fishing centres on the shores of the lake. Many of the multitude of whom we read subsequently in the account of the miracle, had watched his departure in the boat for the neighbourhood of Bethsaida Julias, and had gone on foot round the head of the lake to join the popular Teacher again. The distance round the north end of the lake from the point of embarkation, most likely Capernaum, to Bethsaida Julias is not very considerable. The crowd which soon joined him in retirement would be considerably swelled by many of the Passover pilgrims just arrived at Capernaum on their way to Jerusalem to keep the feast. These would be anxious, too, to see and to hear the great Galilaean Prophet, whose name just then was in every mouth. Not very far from Bethsaida Julias there is a secluded plain, El Batihah; thither Jesus no doubt went after leaving his fishing-boat, purposing to spend some time in perfect rest. Soon, however, the usually quiet plain becomes populous with the crowds following after the Galilaean Master. Though longing intensely for repose so necessary for himself and his disciples, he at once, moved by the eagerness of the multitude to hear and see him again, gives them his usual loving welcome, and begins in his old fashion to teach them many things, and to heal their sick.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
11. the people, when they knew it, followed him] The ensuing miracle is one of the few narrated by all four Evangelists, Mat_14:13-33; Mar_6:30-52; Joh_6:1-21, and is most important from the power displayed, the doctrines symbolized (Christ the bread of life), and the results to which it led (Joh_6). Combining the narratives, we see that the embarkation of Jesus to sail from Capernaum to the northern Bethsaida had been noticed by the people, and as it is only a sail of six miles they went on foot round the head of the lake to find Him. He had barely time to retire with His disciples to one of the hills when a crowd assembled on the little plain which was momentarily swelled by the throngs of pilgrims who paused to see the Great Prophet on their way to the approaching Passover at Jerusalem (Joh_6:5), which Jesus Himself could not attend without danger, owing to the outburst caused by the Sabbath healing of the cripple (Joh_5:1-16). Towards afternoon He came down the hill to the multitude to teach them and heal their sick.
The healing hand of Christ.
“And healed them that had need of healing.” And who are they to whom these words do not apply? In a world as full of sin as ours is, there is nothing of which we have greater need than a Divine Healer. For sin means sickness, disease, derangement, pain both spiritual and corporeal. Every human ear wants to hear those gracious words, “I am the Lord that healeth thee;” every human heart has occasion to plead, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;” every soul is again and again in need of the great beneficent Physician.
I As THOSE LIABLE TO DISEASE AND PAIN. Considering the extreme intricacy of our bodily structure, and considering also the irregularities and evils of which we are guilty, it is wonderful that there is as much health and as little sickness as we find. But he is an exception to his fellows who goes for many years without ailment and, indeed, without illness. And we have all of us reason to bless the Lord of our lives that he heals us so readily and so often. He heals in two ways.
1. By conferring on us a nature which has recuperative powers, so that without any medical aid the wound is healed, the organ recovers its power and fulfils its functions.
2. By giving us medicinal herbs which our science can discover and apply, the nature of which is to heal and to restore. In both these cases it is the Lord of our human body and of nature who “works” (Joh_5:17) for our benefit. Our art, where it is exercised, only supplies one condition out of many; it alone would be utterly insufficient. Whenever we are healed of any malady, slight or serious, we should join in the exclamation of the psalmist, (Psa_103:3) and feel that we have one reason more for gratitude and devotion. Let those who have been brought back from the gates of the grave by Christ”s pitiful and healing kindness consider whether they are paying him the vows which they made in the hour of suffering and danger. (Psa_66:14)
II As THE CHILDREN OF SORROW. Possibly we may know nothing of serious sickness there are those who escape it but we all know what sorrow means. Trouble is a visitor that knocks at every door, that finds its way to every human heart. It may be some gradually approaching evil, which at length culminates in disaster; or it may be some sudden blow, which badly bruises if it does not break the heart. It may be the heavy, entangling loss; or the grave, oppressive anxiety; or the lamentable failure; or the sore and sad bereavement. How precious, then, beyond all price, the healing of the Divine Healer! In these dark hours our Divine Lord comes to us with ministering hand.
1. He impels all those who are dear to us to grant us their tenderest and most sustaining love; and human kindness is a very healing thing.
2. He grants us his own most gracious sympathy; he is touched with a feeling of our infirmity; we know and feel that he is with us, watching over us, “afflicted in our affliction;” and the sympathy of our Saviour is a precious balm to our wounded spirit.
3. He comes to us in the office and the Person of the Divine Comforter, directly soothing and healing our torn and troubled hearts. Thus he heals us according to the greatness of our need.
III AS THOSE WHO SUFFER FROM A WOUNDED CHARACTER. A wounded spirit is worse than a bodily infirmity; (Pro_18:14) but a wounded character is worse than a wounded spirit, for that is a spirit that has injured itself. There are those who present to their friends and neighbours the spectacle of bodily health and material prosperity; but what their Master sees when he regards them is spiritual infirmity. They are weak, sickly, inwardly deranged. Their hearts are very far from being as he would like to see them; instead of ardent love is lukewarmness; instead of reverence is flippancy of spirit; instead of a holy scrupulousness and a wise restraint is laxity if not positive disobedience; instead of zeal is coldness and indifference to his cause and kingdom. Of all men living, these are they who have most “need of healing.” And Christ both can and will heal them. To such as these he says, “I will heal thy back-sliding; “Wilt thou be made whole?” And if they will but go to him in a spirit of humility, of faith, of reconsecration, they will receive power from his gracious touch, they will rise renewed; and as they rise from the couch of spiritual langour and indifference to walk, to run in the way of his commandments, to climb the heights of close and holy fellowship with God, a deeper note of joy will sound from the depth of their hearts than ever comes from the lips of bodily convalescence, “I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. C.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
12. to wear away] Rather, to decline.
then came the twelve] They were afraid that when once the brief twilight was over, the famished multitude might lose their way or come to harm, and some calamity happen which would give a fresh handle against Jesus. John alone tells us that He had compassionately suggested the difficulty to Philip, watching with gentle irony the trial of his faith; and that Philip despairingly said that it would cost more than 200 denarii (as we might say £10) to procure them even a minimum of food. Philip was “of Bethsaida,” but this had nothing to do with our Lord’s speaking to him, for he belonged to the western Bethsaida.
And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. Simple consideration for the crowds, among whom we know were women and children, probably dictated this remark of the twelve, though it has been with some ingenuity suggested that the advice of the disciples was owing to their fear that, as darkness would soon creep over the scene, some calamity might happen which would give a fresh handle against Jesus to his many enemies.
Vers. 12-17. The Divine provision for the world”s need.
This miracle of our Lord, meeting as it did the present bodily necessities of the multitude about him, stands for ever as a picture and parable of the far more wonderful and the gloriously bountiful provision which the Saviour of mankind has made for the deeper necessities of our race.
I OUR HOLY SOLICITUDE FOR THE SPIRITUALLY DESTITUTE. There is a note of true sympathy in the language of the disciples. (ver. 12; see Mar_6:35, 36) They were concerned to think of that great number of people, among whom were “women and children”, (Mat_14:21) having gone so long without food, and being “in a desert place” where none could be obtained. How strong and keen should be our sympathy with those who are spiritually destitute; who have received from God a nature with immeasurable capacities, with profound cravings for that which is eternally true and divinely good, and who “have nothing to eat”! No solicitude for hungering human hearts can be extravagant; it is only too common to be guiltily and pitifully unconcerned. And if the stage of spiritual hunger and thirst should have passed into that of spiritual unconsciousness, that is one degree (and a large degree too) more deplorable, for it is one stage nearer to spiritual death. We do well to pity the multitudes at home and abroad who might be and who should be living on Divine and everlasting truth, but who are pining and perishing on miserable husks, on errors, on superstitions, on morbid fancies, on low ambitions, on unsatisfying and perhaps demoralizing pleasures.
II THE APPARENT INADEQUACY OF THE DIVINE PROVISION. Well may the disciples, not yet enlightened as to their Master”s purpose, regard “five loaves and two fishes” as hopelessly inadequate to the occasion. So to human judgment they seemed. Not less strikingly disproportioned must the Divine provision for man”s higher necessities have seemed to those who first regarded it. What was it? It was, in the language of our Lord recorded a few verses on in this chapter (ver. 22), “the Son of man suffering many things, being rejected.., and slain, and being raised the third day.” A crucified and restored Messiah was to be offered as the Bread of life to a hungering world! Would this satisfy the needs of all mankind of Jew and Gentile, of barbarian and cultured, of bond and free, of man and woman? Could One that seemed to fail, whose cause was all but extinguished in obloquy and desertion, be the Redeemer of mankind? It was unlikely in the last degree; speaking after the manner of men, it was impossible! And the machinery, too, the instrumentality by which this strange provision was to be conveyed to all human souls everywhere and through all generations, was that not equally inadequate? A few “unlearned and ignorant men,” a few earnest and true but obscure and uninfluential women, could they establish and perpetuate this new system? could they pass on these scanty provisions to the waiting and perishing multitude? How hopeless! how impossible! Yet see
III ITS PROVED SUFFICIENCY. As those five loaves and two fishes, under the multiplying hand of Christ, proved to be far more than enough for the thousands who partook of them, so is the provision in the gospel of Christ for the needs of man found to be all-sufficient. In a once-crucified and now exalted Saviour we have One in whom is found:
1. Pardon for every sin and for every repentant sinner.
2. Admission, instant and full, to the presence and favour of God.
3. A source of purity of heart, and excellency, and even nobility, of life.
4. Comfort in all the sorrows and privations of our earthly course.
5. Peace and hope in death.
6. A glorious immortality.
Well does this great Benefactor say, “I am come that ye might have life, and, have it more abundantly. ” The provision is more than equal to the necessity; there is a marvellous overflow of truth and grace. C.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
13. We have no more but five loaves and two fishes] Compare Num_11:22. It was Andrew who first mentioned this fact in a tentative sort of way. The little boy (paidarion) who carried them seems to have been in attendance on the Apostles; evidently this was the food which they had brought for their own supply, and it proves their simplicity of life, for barley loaves (Joh_6:9) are the food of the poor (2 K. 4:42; Jdg_7:13; Eze_13:19, Eze_4:9).
But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. Godet here beautifully observes that this reply, and the great miracle that followed, was the result of a loving thought of the Redeemer. “John has disclosed it to us. (Luk_6:4) It was the time of the Passover. He could not visit Jerusalem with his disciples, owing to the virulent hatred of which he had become the object. In this unexpected gathering, resembling that of the nation at Jerusalem, he discerns a signal from on high, and determines to celebrate a feast in the desert as a compensation for the Passover Feast.” We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people. The main lines of this story are the same in each of the four accounts which we possess of this miracle; but each of the four evangelists supplies some little detail wanting in the others. It is clear that there was no original written tradition from which they all copied. St. John tells us it was a little boy who had this small, rough provision. The boy probably was in attendance on the apostles, and this was no doubt the little stock of food they had provided for their own frugal meal. The barley loaves were the ordinary food of the poorest in Palestine, and the two fish were dried, as was the common custom of the country; and such dried fish was usually eaten with the bread.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
14. five thousand men] “Besides women and children,” Mat_14:21. These would probably not be numerous, and would not (in accordance with Eastern usage) sit down with the men, but would stand apart.
by fifties in a company] The vivid details of Mark shew the eyewitness of St Peter. He compares them to parterres of flowers (prasiai prasiai, ‘by garden beds’) as they sat on the green grass in their bright Oriental robes of red and blue and yellow. St Luke’s word, klisiai, means literally in dining-parties, from klisia, ‘a couch.’ This systematic arrangement made it easy to tell the number of the multitude.
They were about five thousand men. St. Matthew adds, “besides women and children.” The multitude generally had come from a considerable distance, we know; there would not be, comparatively speaking, many women and children among them. These were grouped together apart, and, of course, fed, hut were not counted among the five thousand. And he said to his disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company. “Jesus has no sooner ascertained that there are five loaves and two fishes, than he is satisfied. He commands them to make the multitude sit down. Just as though he had said, “I have what I want; the meal is ready; let them be seated!” But he takes care that his banquet shall be conducted with an order worthy of the God who gives it. Everything must be calm and solemn; it is a kind of Passover meal. By the help of the apostles, he seats his guests in rows of fifty each (St.. Matthew), or in double rows of fifty, by hundreds (Mark). This orderly arrangement allowed of the guests being easily counted. St. Mark describes in a dramatic manner the striking spectacle presented by these regularly formed companies, each consisting of two equal ranks, and all arranged upon the slope of the hill. The pastures at that time were in all their spring glory. SS. John and Mark both bring forward the beauty of this natural carpet. “Much grass” (St. John); “on the green grass” (St. Mark)” (Godet). St. Mark”s vivid picturesque details show the observant eve-witness. The words rendered “in ranks” (“they sat down in ranks”) literally mean they were like flower-beds set in the green grass. The bright-coloured Eastern robes of these men, as they sat in long rows, suggested the happy comparison.
16. Here Mt. Mk. and Lk. are almost verbatim the same. All three mention the taking the loaves and fishes, the looking up to heaven, the blessing, and the breaking, and the giving to the disciples. For εὐλόγησεν Jn. has εὐχαριστήσας. This blessing or thanksgiving is the usual grace before meat said by the host or the head of the house. The Talmud says that “he who enjoys aught without thanksgiving is as though he robbed God.” We are probably to understand that this blessing is the means of the miracle. Comp. Joh_6:23; and of feeding the four thousand (Mat_15:36; Mar_8:6); and of the eucharist (Mat_26:26; Mar_14:22; Luk_22:17, Luk_22:19; 1Co_11:24). The manner of the miracle cannot be discerned: it is a literal fulfilment of Mat_6:33. Lk. alone mentions that Jesus blessed the loaves, εὐλόγησεν αὐτούς. The preceding articles, τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας, mean those which had been mentioned before in ver. 13, where the words have no article.
ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς. “Continued giving them to the disciples.” The imperf. in the midst of aorists is graphic. Comp. 24:30; Mar_8:6, and contrast 22:19; Mar_14:22.
Lk 9:16Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. The blessing was the usual introduction of a pious Jewish family to a meal. It was pronounced by the head of the household. An ordinary formula was, “May God, the Ever-blessed One, bless what he has given us!” The Jewish barley loaves were broad, thin cakes; these were usually broken, not out hence the expression, “and brake.” In SS. Mark and Luke the tense of the verb rendered “gave,” in the original Greek, is an imperfect, and signifies, “he gave, and kept on giving.” This supplies a hint as to the way of working the miracle. Each disciple kept coming to him for a fresh supply of bread. It was, however, as it has been well said, a miracle of the highest order, one of creative power, and is to us inconceivable. The evangelists make no attempt to explain it. They evidently did not care to ask. They beheld it, and related it to us just as they saw it in its simple grandeur. Neither disciples nor crowds seem at first to have grasped the stupendous nature of the act. St. John tells us of its effect on the crowds, who, when they came to see what had been done, wished to take him by force and make him king. For a brief space they were convinced that in the poor Galilee Rabbi they had found King Messiah none but he could have done this great thing. They were right.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
17. of fragments] Compare 2 K. 4:43, 44. These were collected by the order of Jesus, who thus strikingly taught that wastefulness even of miraculous plenty is entirely alien to the divine administration.
twelve baskets] Cophini, probably wicker-baskets (salsilloth, Jer_6:9). Every Jew carried such a basket about with him to avoid the chance of his food contracting any Levitical pollution in heathen places (Juv. Sat. iii. 14, vi. 542). The baskets used at the miracle of the four thousand were large rope-baskets, ‘frails’ (spurides). The accuracy with which each word is reserved by all the narrators for each miracle is remarkable.
At this point there is a considerable gap in the continuity of St Luke’s narrative. He omits the amazement of the multitude which made it likely that they would seize Jesus to make Him king; His compelling His reluctant disciples to sail back towards the other—the western—Bethsaida; the gradual dismissal of the multitude; His flight, (φεύγει, Joh_6:15, א) to the hill top to escape those who still lingered, and to pray alone; the gathering of the storm; the walking on the sea; the failure of Peter’s faith; the very memorable discourse at Capernaum, intended to teach what was the true bread from heaven, and to dissipate the material expectations of the popular Messianism; the crisis of offence caused by these hard sayings; the dispute with the Pharisees on the question of the Oral Law or Tradition of the Elders; the deepening opposition and the one great day of conflict and rupture with the Pharisees (which St Luke appears to relate out of chronological order in 11); the flight among the heathen as far as Tyre and Sidon; the incident of the Syrophoenician woman; the feeding of the four thousand; the return to Galilee and demand for a sign; the sailing away, and the warning against the leaven of the Pharisees; and the healing of a blind man at Bethsaida Julias during His second journey northwards. These must be sought for in Matt. 14-16:12; Mar_6:45-30; Joh_6. For my view of them, and their sequence, I may perhaps be allowed to refer the reader to my Life of Christ, i. 403-ii. 9.
17. The verbal resemblance between the three accounts continues. For ἐχορτάσθησαν see on 6:21, and take κλασμάτων after τὸ περισσεῦσαν (De W. Hahn). All four mention the twelve κόφινοι, as also does Mt. in referring to this miracle (16:9); whereas at the feeding of the four thousand (Mat_15:37; Mar_8:8), and in referring to it (Mat_16:10), the word used for basket is σπυρίς. It is the more remarkable that Lk. and Jn. both have κόφινοι because they do not mention the other miracle. The σπυρίς was large, capable of holding a man (Act_9:25). The κόφινος was the wallet carried by every travelling Jew, to avoid buying food from Gentiles: Judæis quorum cophinus fænumque supellex (Juv. Sat. iii. 14). Comp. nupsisti, Gellia, cistifero, “thou hast married a Jew” (Mart. Epig. v. 17, 4). These exact details would scarcely have been maintained so consistently in a deliberate fiction or in a myth. Still less would either fiction or myth have represented one who could multiply food at will as giving directions that the fragments should not be wasted (Joh_6:12). The possessor of an inexhaustible purse is never represented as being watchful against extravagance.
Note the climax in ver. 17. They not only ate, but were satisfied,—all of them; and not only so, but there was something over,—far more than the original supply.
Weiss well remarks that “the criticism which is afraid of miracles finds itself in no small difficulty in the presence of this narrative. It is guaranteed by all our sources which rest upon eye-witness; and these show the independence of their tradition by their deviations, which do not affect the kernel of the matter, and cannot be explained by any tendencies whatever. In the presence of this fact the possibility of myth or invention is utterly inadmissible. … Only this remains absolutely incontrovertible, that it is the intention of all our reports to narrate a miracle; and by this we must abide, if the origin of the tradition is not to abide an entirely inexplicable riddle” (L. J. 2. pp. 196-200, Eng. tr. 2. pp. 381-385). The explanation that Christ’s generosity in giving away the food of His party induced others who had food to give it away, and that thus there was enough for all, is plainly not what the Evangelists mean, and it does not explain their statements. Would such generosity suggest that He was the Messiah, or induce them to try to make Him king? Still more inadequate is the suggestion of Renan: Grace à une extrême frugalité, la troupe sainte y vécut; on crut naturellement voir en cela un miracle (V. de. J. p. 198, ed. 1863).
And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them, twelve baskets. A very impressive lesson from the Creator himself against waste or extravagance. St. John expressly tells us that this order to gather up the fragments of their meal emanated from Jesus himself. Carefulness, thrift, and economy in small things as in great, form part of the teaching of the loving Master. From such passages as Mar_6:37 and Joh_13:29, it seems probable that the disciples, acting under their Master”s direction, were in the habit of distributing, out of their comparative abundance, food to those persons in the villages who were poorer than themselves. It was, no doubt, for some such hallowed object as this that the careful collection of the fragments which filled twelve baskets was made. The “baskets” (cophinus) were usually carried by travelling Jews to keep their food from contracting Levitical pollution in Gentile places. Juvenal, in a well-known passage (“Sat.,” 3:14), writes of the Jews travelling about Italy with no baggage save a little bundle of hay to serve as a pillow, and this cophinus, or basket, for their food. So abundant had been the provision created by Jesus, that the fragments collected far exceeded the original stock of food which the disciples gave to Jesus to bless, to break, and to distribute among the five thousand and upward who were fed that memorable afternoon. This miracle is the only one in the entire Galilaean ministry which is told by all the four evangelists. It evidently had a very prominent place in the teaching of the first days. Rationalizing interpretation in the case of this miracle is singularly at fault. After eighteen centuries of unremitting hostility to the teaching of Jesus Christ, not even a plausible explanation of this miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes has been found by adverse critics. In our own days, Renan, following the ancient interpretation of Paulus, simply suggests that the multitudes were fed by materials provided by themselves. “Every one took his little store of provision from his wallet; they lived on very little an explanation, as it has been happily termed, “ludicrously inadequate.
After the relation of the great miracle of feeding the five thousand, St. Luke omits in his Gospel a variety of incidents and several discourses told at greater or lesser length by the other evangelists. For instance, the reverential amazement of the people when the nature of the stupendous miracle in connection with the creation of the loaves and fishes flashed upon them, they wished to recognize him as King Messiah; the walking on the sea; the long and important discourse on the true Bread at Capernaum, the text of which was the late great miracle of the loaves; the journey among the heathen as far as Tyre and Sidon; the meeting with the Syro-phoenician woman; the feeding of the four thousand, etc. These incidents are related in Mat 14:1-16:12 Mar 6:45-8:30 Joh 6. No commentator has satisfactorily explained the reason of this omission of important portions of our Lord”s public ministry. The reason for St. Luke”s action here probably will never be guessed. We must, however, in all theories which we may form of the composition of these Gospels, never lose sight of this fact, that while SS. Matthew and Peter (Mark) were eyewitnesses of the events of the life, St. Luke, and his master, Paul, simply reproduced what they had heard or read. We may, therefore, suppose that St. Luke exercised larger discretionary powers in dealing with materials derived from others than the other two, who desired, no doubt, to reproduce a fairly general summary of their Divine Master”s acts. On such a theory of composition, a gap in the story like the one we are now alluding to, in the more eclectic Gospel of St. Luke, would seem scarcely possible in the first two Gospels. We, of course, make no allusion here to the Fourth Gospel; the whole plan and design of St. John was different to that upon which the first three were modelled.
37-43. The Healing of the Demoniac Boy. Mat_17:14-18; Mar_9:14-29. In all three this incident is closely connected with the Transfiguration. The moral contrast between the peace and glory on the mount and the struggle and failure down below is intense, and is magnificently brought out by Raffaelle in the great picture of the Transfiguration, which was his last work. The combination of the two scenes is fatal to the unity of the subject, which is really two pictures in one frame; but it heightens the moral and dramatic effect. It is perhaps even more instructive to regard it as three pictures. Christ and the saints in glory; the chosen three blinded by the light; the remaining nine baffled by the powers of darkness.
The marks of Lk.’s style continue with considerable frequency: ἐγένετο, ὲξῆς (ver. 37); καὶ ἰδού, ἐβόησεν, δέομαι, μονογενής (38); καὶ ἰδού (39); ἐδεήθην (40); ἰάσατο (42); πάντες (43). None of these are in the parallel passages. See small print on 8:35-39, 40-48.
37. τῇ ἑξῇ ἡμέρᾳ. See on 7:11. The Transfiguration probably took place at night. Lk. alone tells us that the descent from the mountain did not take place until next day. Thus the three Apostles had time to think over what they had seen and heard, before receiving fresh experiences. Lk. omits the conversation about Elijah. Mk., who is here much more full than either Lk. or Mt., tells us that this ὄχλος πολύς was gathered round the other disciples, with whom scribes were disputing. The opportune arrival of Christ caused great amazement.
Vers. 37-45. The scene at the foot of the hill of Transfiguration. The healing of the demoniac boy.
On the next day, when they were come down from the hill. The Transfiguration had taken place in the late evening or night. It probably lasted for a much longer period than the brief account, preserved by the eye-witnesses, seems to speak of. How long the three disciples slept is not mentioned. Wearied and exhausted, deep slumber overtook them while the Master was praying. When they awoke, Jesus was bathed in glory, and the two heavenly spirits were conversing with him. They only tell us generally that the subject which occupied the blessed ones was their Master”s speedy departure from earth; no mention is made of the time all this consumed. It was morning when they rejoined their company. Much people met him. St. Mark, whose account here is more detailed evidently Peter preserved a very vivid memory of these events tells us that the crowds, “when they beheld him, were greatly amazed.” Without concluding that any lingering radiance of the last night”s glory was still playing about his Person, we may well imagine that a holy joy just then lit up that face over which for some time past a cloud of deep sadness had brooded. The heavenly visitants; the words he had been listening to, which told him of his home of grandeur and of peace, voluntarily left by him that he might work his mighty earthwork; had no doubt strengthened with a strange strength the Man of sorrows; and when the crowds gazed on his face they marvelled, as St. Mark tells us, at what they saw there.
Vers. 37-42. The healing of the lunatic child.
From this most interesting story we may gather the truths
I THAT FROM THE VERY FANGS OF DEFEAT A GREAT VICTORY MAY BE SECURED. More than once in the history of war there has occurred such an incident as that which is related concerning the great struggle in the United States (1860-1864). A severe and successful attack is made by one army on the other; the enemy is driven back, his guns and his camp captured. As his regiments are in full retreat, the general of the defeated force, who has been unfortunately absent, arrives on the scene; he arrests the tide of retreat, gathers his soldiers about him, stops the pursuing host in their career, leads a triumphant attack upon them, drives them beyond his own camp, recaptures his guns, and chases the once-conquering but now defeated army for miles to the rear of its first position. Such a victory snatched from the jaws of humbling defeat took place on this occasion. The returning Saviour found his disciples driven before the hostile attack of his enemies, but his presence soon availed “to restore the day,” and before long transformed humiliating failure into joyous triumph. In the Master”s actual, spiritual absence the cause of the Church may be brought very low indeed, and a complete and crushing disaster may impend; but let the Lord return, let his presence and his power be felt, and from the very teeth of threatened calamity there shall be secured a glorious victory. Let no heart despond so long as there is a present Captain; failure is never irretrievable when he is “on the field;” under his leadership even “death is swallowed up in victory.
II THAT HUMAN AFFECTION IS MEANT TO LEAD TO SPIRITUAL ATTACHMENTS. It was his sons sickness that led this man to seek Jesus; but for that he would not have sought and found him. It was his strong parental love that would not be denied, that led him to urge his plea, that enabled him to overcome his fears and to gain that valuable victory. God employs many instrumentalities to lead his children into his kingdom. We ought to be influenced by our sense of what is right and of what is wise in the matter; but, if not won by these, let the consideration of the deep and tender interests of those who are dear to us convince and determine us. For the sake of those children of ours, whom we love so profoundly, and who have such a vital interest in Christian truth, let us sit at the feet of Christ, and be subject to his sway.
III THAT THE VERY WORST CASE WILL YIELD TO THE TOUCH OF THE DIVINE HAND. There could not well be a worse case of possession than this (see vers. 39, 42). If the malignant forces could have triumphed over the benevolent Spirit, they would have triumphed here. But everything was accomplished when “Jesus took him by the hand”. (Mar_9:27) So is it with the worst spiritual maladies. They may seem so bad as to be incurable; it may be the general opinion that the case is utterly hopeless. But there is a power in reserve against which the most virulent and the most violent evils are not able to stand. For “… many of whom all men said, “They”ve fallen, never more to stand,” have risen, though they seemed as dead When Jesus took them by the hand.
The most stricken souls will be healed, the most sorrowing ones comforted, the most despondent filled with a new and blessed hope, the most fallen and sunk in sin lifted up to purity and even to beauty and nobility of spirit and of life, when the Divine voice is heard bidding to be comforted, when the Divine hand is laid on the broken heart or the defiled and guilty soul.
IV THAT THE EARNEST SOUL NEED NOT LET ANYTHING KEEP HIM BACK FROM CHRIST AND HIS SALVATION. This father had much to overcome the natural reluctance he would have to bring the poor demoniac into such publicity; the failure of the disciples to effect a cure, well calculated as that was to discourage and dishearten him; his own imperfect faith. (Mar_9:22, 24) But he overcame all these, and gained his plea. Many may be the obstacles in the way of our salvation; they may be circumstantial, or they may be inward and spiritual; but if there be a thoroughly earnest spirit, they will not prevail over us; we shall triumph over them, and go on our way with our cause gained and our hearts gladdened. C.
Vers. 37-62. The secret of successful work.
We saw that the Transfiguration was the result of prayer; but it was not the end of the prayer. This was preparation for further service. The glory is not the end, but only an incidental accompaniment, of devotedness of spirit. It is work for God, further service in his kingdom, which is the aim of all means of grace. And now these verses bring out in different aspects the secret of successful work. Let us notice
I SUCCESSFUL WORK MUST BE PRAYERFUL. (Vers. 37-42) We have here a case of failure on the part of the nine disciples, and of success on the part of the descended Christ. The difference between the two cases was that Christ had been praying on the mountain while they had been prayerless in the valley. Prayerlessness and powerlessness go hand-in-hand. Work done in a prayerless spirit cannot succeed as it ought to do. The transfigured ones alone can meet the emergencies of Christian work, and succeed where others fail. Some cases are doubtless more difficult than others, and some demons make a harder fight of it than others; but there are none of them who can stand a prayerful Christian who faithfully follows Jesus in his line of attack.
II SUCCESSFUL WORK MUST BE IN SPITE OF MALIGNANT OPPOSITION. (Vers. 43-45) Our Lord, as the crowd are wondering at his success, tells the disciples plainly that he is destined to be delivered into the hands of men. This is a sufficient set-off to his success. Men will take and kill him, notwithstanding all his philanthropy and exorcising power. This crucifixion of Jesus is but the type of the world”s recognition of the best work done by human hands. A long line of noble workers have followed Jesus along the path of martyrdom. Let no worker, then, be surprised at the world”s malignity.
III SUCCESSFUL WORK MUST BE DIVESTED OF BASE AMBITIONS. (Vers. 46-48) Notwithstanding recent failure through want of prayer, the disciples are soon selfishly contending about the first places, and who is to be greatest. It is wonderful how soon we forget our failures and betake ourselves to our ambitions. Now, one characteristic of base ambition is pride about work. Certain lines of work are thought to be beneath our dignity and worth. To correct this in the disciples, our Lord sets a little child before them, and shows that such a child might be received in such a spirit as would be recognized by God himself. The nursing of a little child may be done for the sake of Jesus Christ, and in such a case it is such a work as he will regard, and the Father who sent him also. It is not a great work, therefore, that is needed, but a great heart carried into the smallest work. We think of quantity; Christ thinks of quality. We will not “take our coats off,” so to speak, unless it is some work eminently creditable; Christ could throw his great spirit into the fondling of a little child, and do the little one everlasting good. Hence we must do any work clearly laid to our hand with large-heartedness, and we shall find it successful in the best sense. It is the meek ones who are ready to put their hand to anything who are great in the kingdom of God.
IV SUCCESSFUL WORK DEMANDS, BESIDES, A TOLERANT SPIRIT. (Vers. 49-56) John and James, after the Transfiguration privileges, seem to have got very excited and ardent in Christ”s service. Two cases in particular show how heated and hasty they were. The first was a case of exorcism through Christs Name. Some Jew had witnessed the exorcisms of Christ, and, abandoning the Jewish methods and traditions, had tried the new plan, and proved the power of “the Name which is above every name.” But because he did not join the disciples, and so preserve their monopoly of delegated power, he is forbidden by them to do such work. This was intolerance misplaced. The worker, though not uniting with the disciples, was promoting the Master”s glory by showing the power of his Name. He was an ally, though not a disciple of the same set. Hence Jesus instructs them always to act on the tolerant principle that “he that is not against us is for us.”The second case in which the sons of Zebedee exhibited unholy zeal was in a certain Samaritan village, during Jesus” journeys to Jerusalem. The last journey has begun (ver. 51), and nothing will keep him flora accomplishing it. The Samaritans would have liked him to linger with them, and avoid his enemies and theirs. But he would not listen to their syren voice, but insisted on going up to Jerusalem. Taking umbrage at this, one Samaritan village denied him the usual hospitalities when his forerunners sought it. Incensed at this, John and James inquire if they should not call down fire from heaven to consume the inhospitable Samaritans, as Elijah had done. Samaria was the scene of that fiery ministry. But Elijah”s spirit would not suit the Saviour”s times. Had the prophet descended from the Mount of Transfiguration, he would not have insisted on any such policy as this. lie had doubtless got less fiery in the peaceful abodes above! As a destructive force, he had served his generation, but the disciples were to remember that saving men, not destroying them, was to be their mission. From both these cases we learn that the true evangelical spirit must reject all intolerance if it is to secure the highest success.
V SUCCESSFUL WORK REQUIRES FAITHFUL DEALING WITH INDIVIDUAL CASES. (Vers. 57-62) As Jesus was moving upwards to the capital, the people perceived that a crisis was at hand. Hence the desire of some on insufficient grounds to cast in their lot with him who is to be the conquering King. Here is a case in point. A man comes and professes his willingness to be a follower of Jesus wheresoever he goeth. But Jesus undeceives him by indicating that he is not going to be sure of any lodging in this world. Perhaps the man was hoping to reach a palace by following him; but Jesus shows that the birds and beasts have more certain lodgings than he. He thus laid bare the man”s danger, and prevented a rash decision. The second case is an invitation to the individual by Jesus himself. It is a case of bereavement, and Jesus seizes on it to secure a disciple. He knew that the best thing this broken-heart could do would be to become a herald of his kingdom. The bereaved one naturally enough asks leave to go and bury his father, but Jesus assures him that there are sufficient dead hearts at homo to pay due respect to his father”s remains, and the formalities of the funeral may only change his promptitude into delay and neglect; and so he urges him to become a preacher at once. A third case is that of one who is ready to follow Christ, but wishes to bid those at home farewell. Our Lord tells him the danger of looking back. The farewells at home might have resulted in a farewell for ever to Jesus. It is thus Jesus shows the importance of dealing faithfully with individual souls. We have the secret of successful work laid clearly before us. R.M.E.
39. a spirit taketh him] This was the supernatural aspect of his deafness, epilepsy, and madness. St Matthew gives the natural aspect when he says, “he is a lunatic, and sore vexed, &c.,” 17:15.
Suddenly (exephnēs). Old adverb, but in the N.T. only in Luke’s writings save Mar_13:36. Used by medical writers of sudden attacks of disease like epilepsy.
It teareth him that he foameth (sparassei auton meta aphrou). Literally, “It tears him with (accompanied with, meta) foam” (old word, aphros, only here in the N.T.). From sparassō, to convulse, a common verb, but in the N.T. only here and Mar_1:26; Mar_9:26 (and sunsparassō, Mar_9:20). See Mar_9:17; and note on Mat_17:15 for variations in the symptoms in each Gospel. The use of meta aphrou is a medical item.
Hardly (molis). Late word used in place of mogis, the old Greek term (in some MSS. here) and alone in Luke’s writings in the N.T. save 1Pe_4:18; Rom_5:7.
Bruising him sorely (suntribon auton). Common verb for rubbing together, crushing together like chains (Mar_5:4) or as a vase (Mar_14:3). See notes on Mat_17:15 and notes on Mar_9:17 for discussion of details here.
And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not. This appears to have been a case of the deadliest kind of epileptic lunacy. Our Lord distinctly assumes here that the disease in this case was occasioned by an unclean spirit who had taken possession of the suffering child. The whole question of demoniacal possession, its extent, its cause, whether or no it still survives in some of the many mysterious phases of madness, is very difficult. It has been discussed elsewhere. (see notes on Luk_4:33 and following verses)
Many of these “demoniacs” mentioned in the Gospels would nowadays certainly be classed under the ordinary category of the “sick.” They seem to have been simply afflicted with disease of one kind or other; for instance, the epileptic child mentioned by St. Luke, (Luk_9:39) or dumbness again, (Mat_9:32) blindness, (Mat_12:22) and insanity, among other instances, are ascribed to demoniac agency. Are we, then, simply to regard these cases, not as exceptional displays of diabolical power, but as instances of sickness and disease which still exist among us? and to suppose that our Lord, in speaking of devils possessing these sick ones, accommodated himself to the popular belief, and spoke of these afflicted persons in the way men were able to understand? for it is disputable that Judaism in the days of Jesus of Nazareth ascribed to “demons,” or “devils,” much of the suffering and woe with which men are afflicted under the common name of disease. The Talmud, which well represents the Jewish teaching of that time, has endless allusions to evil spirits, or devils, who were permitted to work evil and mischief on the bodies and even on the souls of men. Josephus, the contemporary historian, narrates that a lamb grew at Machaerus, the wool of which had the power of expelling devils; and he toils how he was the eye-witness of the cure of a man possessed of a devil by means of a ring containing a root which had similar properties; this, he says, took place in the presence of the Emperor Vespasian (“Ant.,” 8:2, 5; “Bell. Jud:,” 7:6, 3). Many believed that these demons, or devils, were the souls of the wicked who returned to earth after death, and sought a new home for themselves in the bodies of the living. This popular belief in demoniacal agency is mentioned by Justin Martyr (“Apol.,” 1.), and even seems to have lingered in some parts as late as Chrysostom. But such a theory which represents Jesus in his miraculous cures accommodating himself to popular belief, and speaking of the sufferers as possessed by devils which really had no existence save in imagination is not only quite foreign to the transparently truthful character of all the Master”s words and works, but is perfectly incompatible with the narratives given us by the evangelists of the cures in question. In these, in several instances, the devils are not only spoken to, but they speak themselves they answer questions, they even prefer requests. Jesus, too, gives his own power to cast out devils, (Luk_9:1) and to tread on all the power of the enemy. (Luk_10:19) He even, in St. Mark, (Mar_9:29) is represented as distinguishing a special class of devils over whom a mastery could be obtained alone through prayer and fasting. Evidently the Holy Spirit, who guided the writers of those memoirs of the apostles we call the Gospels, intended that a marked distinction should be impressed upon the readers of the apostolic memoirs as existing between ordinary maladies of the flesh and those terrible and various scourges which the presence of devils inflicted upon those hapless beings in whose bodies, for some mysterious reason, they had been permitted to take up their habitation.
The whole question is fraught with difficulties. Dean Plumptre suggests that perhaps we possess not the data for an absolutely certain and exhaustive answer. It seems, on the whole while not denying the possible presence of these evil spirits at different times of the world”s history occupying the bodies and distracting the souls of men best to assume that these devils possessed special and peculiar power over men at that period when Jesus walked among us. By this means, as Godet well says, Jesus could be proclaimed externally and visibly as the Conqueror of the enemy of men (and of his legions of evil messengers). That period, when the Lord taught among us, was a time when, it is generally conceded, moral and social evil had reached its highest point of development. Since that age the power of these unhappy spirits of evil has been, if not destroyed, at least restrained by the influence greater, perhaps, than men choose to acknowledge of the Master”s religion or by the direct command of the Master himself.
In considering the question of demoniacal possession we must never lose sight of the indisputable fact, that our sources of information clearly, consistently, and repeatedly represent Christ as healing demoniacs by commanding demons to depart out of the afflicted persons. The Synoptic Gospels uniformly state that Jesus went through the form of casting out demons.
If the demons were there, and Christ expelled them and set their victims free, there is nothing to explain: the narrative is in harmony with the facts.
If the demons were not there, and demoniacal possession is a superstition, we must choose between three hypotheses.
1. Jesus did not employ this method of healing those who were believed to be possessed, but the Evangelists have erroneously attributed it to Him.
2. Jesus did employ this method and went through the form of casting out demons, although He knew that there were no demons there to be cast out.
3. Jesus did employ this method and went through me form of casting out demons, because in this matter He shared the erroneous belief of His contemporaries.
On the whole subject consult articles in D. B.2, Schaff-Herzog, Ency. Brit. on “Demoniacs,” “Demons,” “Demonology”; Trench, Miracles, No. 5; Caldwell, Contemp. Rev. Feb. 1876, vol. 28. PP. 369 ff. No explanation is satisfactory which does not account for the uniform and repeated testimony of the Evangelists.
41. ὦ γενεὰ ἄπιστος. This probably is neither addressed to the disciples, who had failed to cure the lad, nor includes them. It is addressed to the father, and includes the multitude. Per unum hominem Judæos arguit infidefilitatis (Bede). As in the case of the peralytic (5:20), the faith of those who had charge of the afflicted person is taken into account. This is more clearly brought out in Mk. It was a wish to see what the disciples could do, rather than faith in Divine power and goodness, which prompted the bringing of the boy to them. Possibly it was a wish to see what the disciples could not do that inspired some of them. The hierarchy sometimes attacked Jesus through His disciples (Mar_2:16, Mar_2:18, Mar_2:24, Mar_2:7:5; comp. Luk_13:14). In 12:46 ἄπιστος means “unfaithful,” and in Act_26:8 “incredible.”
καὶ διεστραμμένη. Not in Mk. It is a strong expression: “distorted, wrong-headed” (Act_20:30; Php_2:15; Deu_32:5). Comp. ὀ θυμὸς ἄρχοντας διαστρέφει καὶ τοὺς ἀρίστους ἄνδρας (Arist. Pol. iii. 16, 5); εἰσὶ δʼ αὐτῶν αἱ ψυχαὶ διεστραμμέναι [a.l. παρεστραμ] τῆς κατὰ φύσιν ἕξεως (8:7, 7).
ἕως πότε ἔσουμαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς; The notion is that of being turned towards a person for the sake of intercourse; and the question implies that Jesus is not of that generation, or that it is alienated from Him. Comp. Isa_55:2. For ἕως ποτε comp. Joh_10:24; and for πρὸς ὑμᾶς, apud vos, comp. Mat_13:56; Mar_6:3, Mar_6:14:49; Joh_1:1, etc. Mt. has μεθʼ ὑμῶν. Vita Jesu perpetua tolerantia (Beng.).
And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? This grave and mournful expression of the loving but just Master was addressed to the entire crowd, in whose midst he now found himself. The people, swayed hither and thither, now enthusiastic in his favour, when soma sweet promise, or noble sentiment, or marvellous work touched their hearts, now” coldly indifferent or even hostile, when his teaching seemed to exact some painful sacrifice of self at their hands. these were looking On with quiet indifference at his disciples” failure in the case of the poor possessed child, and listened to their scribes as they wrangled with the Lord”s dismayed and perplexed followers. These followers, trying to imitate their Master in his wonder-works, but failing because, after all, their faith in him wavered. The rather of the child, confessing his unbelief, but utterly wretched at the sight of the suffering of his boy. The ghastly spectacle of the insane boy writhing and foaming on the ground, and then lying all bruised and dishevelled, with the pallor of death on the poor, pain-wrung face, and this sorely afflicted one a child, one of those little ones whom Jesus loved so well. Poor child-sufferer, on whose comparatively innocent life the sin of mother and father weighed so heavily! What a contrast for the Lord between the heavenly hours he had just been spending on the mount, and this sad sight of pain and suffering, of jealousy and wrangling, of doubts and indecision, in the midst of which he now stood! “faithless and perverse,” cried the pitiful Lord with a burst of intense sorrow, “how long shall I be with you, and suffer you?” One word, he knew, and for him all this might be exchanged for the scenes of heaven, for the company of angels and of blessed spirits, for the old home of grandeur and of peace; only it was just to heal this bitter curse that he had left his heaven-home. But the contrast between the glory of the Transfiguration mount and the memories which they evoked, and the present scene of pain and woe unutterable, of human passions and weakness, called forth from the Lord this bitter, sorrowful expression.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
42. rebuked the unclean spirit] See the fuller details and the memorable cry of the poor father in Mar_9:21-24. The child had been rendered deaf and dumb by his possession; in the last paroxysm he wallowed on the ground foaming, and then lay as dead till Jesus raised him by the hand. Interesting parallels to these strange and horrible paroxysms in a condition which may well be ascribed to demoniac possession may be found in a paper on Demoniacs by Mr Caldwell, Contemp. Rev., Feb., 1876. The boy’s ‘possession’ seems on its natural side to have been the deadliest and intensest form of epileptic lunacy which our Lord had ever healed, and one far beyond the power of the real or pretended Jewish exorcisms. Hence the words of Jesus were peculiarly emphatic, Mar_9:25.
43. mighty power] Rather, majesty. 2Pe_1:16.
42. προσερχομένου αὐτοῦ. This is to be understood of the lad’s approach to Jesus, not of His approach to the lad. Jesus had just said, “Bring thy son hither.”
ἔρρηξεν αὐτὸν τὸ δαιμόνιον. “The demon dashed him down.” The word is used of boxers knocking down, and of wrestlers throwing, an opponent: and some distinguish ῥήσσω in this sense from ῥήγνυμι. Comp. Wisd. 4:19; Herm. Mand. xi .3; Apost. Const. vi. 1. There is also ῥάσσω, like ἀράσσω, in the sense of dashing to the ground (Isa_9:10). The expulsion of the demon left the boy in a condition which still required healing. Lk. gives each act separately. Comp. Mar_9:27. For ἰάσατο see small print on 5:17; and with ἀπέδωκεν αὐτὸν τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ, which Lk. alone mentions, comp. 7:15 and 8:55.
43. This also is peculiar to Lk., who omits the rebuke to the disciples, thus again sparing them. The division of the verses is unfortunate, half of ver. 43 belonging to one section and half to another. For μεγαλειότητι comp. Act_19:27; 2Pe_1:16: Latin texts have magnitudo (Vulg.), magnificentia (e), magnalia (d). The πάντες in the first half of the verse, and the πάντων ἐπὶ πᾶσιν in the second half, strongly illustrate Lk.’s fondness for πᾶς: see on 7:35 and 11:4; and comp. Act_4:10, Act_17:30, Act_21:28, Act_24:3.
And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father. A word of the great Master was sufficient, and the spirit which had brought the cruel curse of disease and madness into the boy was cast out, and the strange cure was complete. St. Peter supplied St. Mark with fuller details here, and especially adds one priceless gem of instruction in the Christian life. The Lord told the father of the suffering child that the granting of the boon he craved for his son depended on his own faith. Then the poor father, won by the Divine goodness manifest in every act and word of Jesus, stammered out that pitiful, loving expression, re-echoed since in so many thousand hearts, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” If he accepted and rewarded that trembling, wavering faith in him, will he reject mine?
And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples. Once more were kindled the disciples” hopes of an earthly royalty in the Person of that strange Messiah. For was he not Messiah after all, who with a word worked such stupendous works as the miracle they had just witnessed? But Jesus read their thoughts, and again tells them (in ver. 44) of the terrible doom which awaited him. They must remember there was no earthly crown or human sovereignty for him.