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eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he cateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, "They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
h Matt. ix. 12, 13, xviii. 11; Luke v. 31, 32, xix. 10; 1 Tim. i. 15.
Christ preaches by the sea-side (ver. 13), whither he went for room, because he found, upon second trial, no house or street large enough to contain his auditory; but upon the strand there might come as many as would. Wherever he goes, though it be to the sea-side, multitudes resort to him. Wherever the doctrine of Christ is faithfully preached, though it be driven into corners or into deserts, we must follow it.
He calls Levi (ver. 14); the same with Matthew, who had a place in the custom-house at Capernaum, from which he was denominated a publican; his place fixed him by the waterside, and thither Christ went to meet with him, and to give him an effectual call. This Levi is here said to be the son of Alpheus or Cleophas, husband to that Mary who was sister or near kinswoman to the virgin Mary; and if so, he was brother to James the less, and Jude, and Simon the Canaanite, so that there were four brothers of them apostles. It is probable that Matthew was but a loose extravagant young man, or else, being a Jew, he would never have been a publican. Christ called him to follow him. Paul, though a Pharisee, had been one of the chief of sinners, and yet was called to be an apostle. With God, through Christ, there is mercy to pardon the greatest sins, and grace to sanctify the greatest sinners. Matthew, that had been a publican, became an evangelist, the first that put pen to paper, and the fullest in writing the life of Christ. Great sin and scandal before conversion, are no bar to great gifts, graces, and advancements, after; nay, God may be the more glorified. Christ prevented him with his call; in bodily cures, ordinarily, he was sought unto, but in these spiritual cures, he was found of them that sought him not. For this is the great evil and peril of the disease of sin, that those who are under it, desire not to be made whole.
Christ converses freely with publicans and sinners, ver. 15. We are here told, That Christ sat at meat in Levi's house, who invited him and his disciples to the farewell-feast he made to his friends, when he left all to attend on Christ; such a feast he made, as Elisha did (1 Kings xix. 21), to show, not only with what cheerfulness in himself, but with what thankfulness to God, he quitted all, in compliance with Christ's call. Fitly did he make the day of his espousals to Christ a festival day. This was also to testify his respect to Christ, and the grateful sense had of his kindness, in snatching him from the receipt of custom as a brand out of the burning. Many publicans and sinners sat with Christ in Levi's house. They did not for conscience sake leave all to follow him, but for curiosity sake they came to Levi's feast, to see him; whatever brought them hither, they were sitting with Jesus and his disciples. The publicans are here and elsewhere ranked with sinners, the worst of sinners. So general were the corruptions in the execution of that office, oppres sing, exacting, and taking bribes or fees to extortion, and accusing falsely, Luke iii. 13, 14. The Jews had a particular antipathy to them and their office, as an affront to the liberty of their nation, and a badge of their slavery, and therefore put them into an ill name, and thought it scandalous to be seen in their company. Such as these our blessed Lord was pleased to converse he appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh.
The scribes and Pharisees took offence at his mixing with such company, ver. 16. They would not come to hear him preach, by which they might have been convinced and edified; but they would come to see him sit with publicans and sinners, by which they would be provoked. They endeavoured to put the disciples out of conceit with their Master, as a man not of such sanctity and severe morals as became his character; and therefore put the question to them. How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners. It is no new thing for that which is both well done, and well designed, to be misrepresented, and turned to the reproach of the wisest and
best of men.
Christ justified himself in it, ver. 17. He stood to what he did, and would not withdraw, though the Pharisees were offended, as Peter afterwards did, Gal. ii. 12. Those are too tender of their own good name, who, to preserve it with some nice people, will decline a good work. Christ would not do so. They thought the publicans were to be hated. No, saith Christ, they are to be pitied, they are sick, and need a physician; they are sinners, and need a Saviour. They thought Christ's character should separate him from them; No, saith Christ, my commission directs me to them; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. If the world had been righteous, there had been no occasion for my coming, either to preach repentance, or to purchase remission.
It is to a sinful world that I am sent, and therefore my business lies most with those that are the greatest sinners in it. Or thus, I am not come to call the righteous, the proud Pharisees that think themselves righteous, that ask, Wherein shall we return? (Mal. iii. 7) Of what shall we repent? But poor publicans, that own themselves to be sinners, and are glad to be invited and encouraged to repent. It is good dealing with those that there is hope of; now there is more hope of a fool than of one that is wise in his own conceit.
18 'And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? 19 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. 21 No man also seweth a piece of || new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. 22 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred but new wine must be put into new bottles. 23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the Sabbath-day; and his disciples began, as they went, 'to pluck the ears of corn. 24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the Sabbath-day that which is not lawful? 25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, "which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27 And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord
also of the Sabbath.
i Matt. ix. 14; Luke v. 33.
Or, raw, or, unwrought.
k Matt. xii. 1; Luke vi. 1. / Deut. xxiii. 25. m 1 Sam. xxi. 6. n Exod. xxix. 32, 33; Lev. xxiv. 9. o Matt. xii. 8.
Christ had been put to justify himself in conversing with publicans and sinners: here he is put to justify his disciples; and in what they do according to his will he will justify them and bear
He justifies them in their not fasting, which was turned to their reproach by the Pharisees. Why do the Pharisees and the disciples of John fast? The Pharisees fasted twice in the week (Luke xviii. 12), and probably the disciples of John did so too. Thus apt are strict professors to make their own practice a standard, and to censure and condemn all that do not fully come up to it. They invidiously suggest that if Christ went among sinners to do them good, as he had pleaded, yet the disciples went to indulge their appetites, for they never knew what it was to fast, or to deny themselves.
Two things Christ pleads in excuse of his disciples not fasting:-1. That these were easy days with them, and fasting was not so seasonable now as it would be hereafter, vers. 19, 20. There is a time for all things. Those that enter into the married state, must expect care and trouble; and yet, during the nuptial solemnity, they are merry, and think it becomes them to be so. Christ and his disciples were but newly married, the bridegroom was yet with them. When the bridegroom should be removed from them to the far country, about his business, then would be a proper time to sit as a widow, in solitude and fasting. 2. That these were early days with them, and they were not so able for the severe exercises of religion as hereafter they would be. The Pharisees had long accustomed themselves to such austerities; and John the Baptist himself came neither eating nor drinking. His disciples from the first inured themselves to hardships, and thus found it easier to bear strict and frequent fasting, but it was not so with Christ's disciples; their Master came eating and drinking, and had not bred them up to the difficult services of religion as yet, for it was all in good time.
To put them upon such frequent fasting at first, would be a discouragement to them, and, perhaps, drive them off from following Christ; it would be of as ill consequence as putting new wine into old bottles, or sewing new cloth to that which is worn thin and threadbare, vers. 21, 22.-God graciously considers the frame of young Christians, that are weak and tender, and so must we; nor must we expect more than the work of the day in its duty, and that day according to the strength, because it is not in our hands to give strength according to the day. Many contract an antipathy to some kind of food, otherwise good, by being surfeited with it when they are young; so, many entertain prejudices against the exercises of devotion, by being burdened with them, and made to serve with an offering, at their setting out. Weak Christians must take heed of overtasking themselves, and of making the yoke of Christ otherwise than as it is, easy, and sweet, and pleasant He justifies them in plucking the ears of corn on the Sabbath-day, which a disciple of the Pharisees would not dare to have done; for it was contrary to an express tradition of their eles. In this instance, as in that before, they reflect upon the discipline of Christ's school, as if it wer not so strict as that of theirs: so common it is for those who deny the power of godliness, to be jealous for the form, and censorious of those who affect not their form. Why do they on the Sabbath-day that which is not lawful? ver. 24. If Christ's disciples do that which is unlawful Christ will be reflected upon, and upbraided with it, as he was here, and dishonour will redound to his name. It is observable, that when the Pharisees thought Christ did amiss, they told the disciples, ver. 16; and now when they thought the disciples did amiss they spoke to Christ. They did what they could to sow discord between Christ and his disciples, and make a breach in the family. Christ defended them in what they did :
1. By example. They had a good precedent for it in David's eating the shewbread, when he was hungry, and there was no other bread to be had (vers. 25, 26); Have ye never read? (Many of our mistakes would be rectified, and our unjust censures of others corrected, if we would but recollect what we have read in the Scripture.) You have read that David, the man after God's own heart, when he was hungry, made no difficulty of eating the shewbread, which, by the law, none might eat of but the priests and their families. Ritual observances must give way to moral obligations; and that may be done in a case of necessity, which otherwise may not be done. This, it is said, David did in the days of Abiathar the high priest; or just before the days of Abiathar, who immediately succeeded Abimelech his father in the pontificate, and it is probable, was at that time his father's deputy, or assistant in the office; and he it was that escaped the massacre, and brougl: the ephod to David.
2. By argument. To reconcile them to the disciples' plucking the ears of corn, they were to consider for whom the Sabbath was made (ver. 27); it was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath This we had not in Matthew. The Sabbath is a sacred and divine institution; but we must receive and embrace it as a privilege and a benefit, not as a task and a drudgery. First, God never designed it to be an imposition upon us, and therefore we must not make it so to ourselves. Man was made for God, and for his honour and service, and he must rather die than deny him; but he was not made for the Sabbath, so as to be tied by the law of it, from that which is necessary to the support of his life. Secondly, God did design it to be an advantage to us, and so we must make it, and improve it. He made it for man. He had some regard to our bodies in the institution, that they might rest, and not be tired out with the constant business of this world; (Deut. v. 14) that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant maý rest. Now he that intended the Sabbath-rest for the repose of our bodies, certainly never intended it should restrain us, in a case of necessity, from fetching in the necessary supports of the body; it must be construed so as not to contradict itself—for edification, and not for destruction. But he had much more regard to our souls. The Sabbath was made a day of rest, only in order to its being a day of holy work, a day of com munion with God, a day of praise and thanksgiving; and the rest from worldly business is therefore necessary, that we may closely apply ourselves to this work, and spend the whole time in it, in public and in private; but then time is allowed us for that which is necessary to the fitting of our bodies for the service of our souls in God's service, and the enabling of them to keep pace them in that work.
They are also directed to consider by whom the Sabbath was made; (ver. 28) The Son of is Lord also of the Sabbath; and therefore he will not see the kind intentions of the institution of
it frustrated by your impositions. The Sabbath-days are days of the Son of man; he is the Lord it was by him that the Sabbath was first instituted; by him God gave the law at mount Sinai, and so the fourth commandment was his law; and that little alteration that was shortly to be made, by the shifting of it one day forward to the first day of the week, was to be in remembrance of his resurrection, and therefore the Christian Sabbath was to be called the Lord's day (Rev. i. 10), the Lord Christ's
day; and the Son of man, Christ, as Mediator, is always to be looked upon as Lord of the Sabbath. This argument he largely insists upon in his own justification, when he was charged with having broken the Sabbath. John v. 16.
1 Christ healeth the withered hand, 10 and many other infirmities: 11 rebuketh the unclean spirits: 13 chooseth his twelve apostles: 22 convinceth the blasphemy of casting out devils by Beelzebub: 31 and sheweth who are his brother, sister, and mother.
AND he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there
which had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the Sabbath-day; that they might accuse him. 3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, † Stand forth. 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath-days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him. 7 But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judea, 8 And from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. 9 And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. 10 For he had healed many; insomuch that they || pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. 11 And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, 'Thou art the Son of God. 12 And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.
a Matt. xii. 9; Luke vi. 6. d Luke vi. 17. Or, rushed.
† Gr. Arise, stand forth, in the midst. [ Or, blindness. b Matt. xii. 14. c Matt. xxii. 16. e Chap. i. 23, 24; Luke iv. 41. f Matt. xiv. 33; Chap. i. 1. g Chap. i. 25, 34; Matt. xii. 16. He entered again into the synagogue (ver. 1); he improved the opportunity he had there, of doing good, and having, no doubt, preached a sermon, he wrought a miracle for the confirmation of it, or at least for the confirmation of this truth-that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath-day. We had the narrative, Matt. xii. 9.
The patient's case was piteous; he had a withered hand, by which he was disabled to work for his living; those that are so, are the most proper objects of charity; let those be helped that cannot help themselves. The spectators were very unkind, both to the patient and to the Physician; instead of interceding for a poor neighbour, they did what they could to hinder his cure: for they intimated that if Christ cured him now on the Sabbath-day, they would accuse him as a Sabbath-breaker. Christ dealt very fairly with the spectators, and dealt with them if possible, to prevent the offence. He laboured to convince their judgment. He bade the man stand forth (ver. 3), that by the sight of him, they might be moved with compassion towards him, and might not for shame, account his cure a crime. And then he appeals to their consciences; Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath-days, as I design to do, or to do evil, as you design to do? Whether is it better to save life or to kill? What fairer question could be put? And yet, because they saw it would turn against them, they held their peace.
When they rebelled against the light, he lamented their stubbornness (ver. 5); he looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts-their insensibility to the
evidence of his miracles and their inflexible resolution to persist in unbelief. He was provoked by the sin; he looked round upon them; for they were so many, and had so placed themselves, that they surrounded him: and he looked with anger; his anger, it is probable, appeared in his countenance; his anger was like God's, without the least perturbation to himself, but not without great provocation from us. The sin of sinners is very displeasing to Jesus Christ; and the way to be angry, and not to sin, is to be angry as Christ was, at nothing but sin. Let hard hearted sinners tremble to think of the anger with which he will look round upon them shortly, when the great day of his wrath is come. He pitied the sinners; he was grieved for the hardness of their hearts; as God was grieved forty years for the hardness of the hearts of their fathers in the wilderness. It is a great grief to our Lord Jesus, to see sinners bent upon their own ruin, and obstinately s against the methods of their conviction and recovery, for he would not that any should perist. This is a good reason why the hardness of our own hearts and of the hearts of others, should be a grief to us.
Christ dealt very kindly with the patient, he bade him stretch forth his hand, and it was immediately restored. Now, Christ has hereby taught us to go on with resolution in the way of our duty, how violent soever the opposition is that we meet with in it. We must deny ourselves sometimes in our ease, pleasure, and convenience, rather than give offence even to those who causelessly take it; but we must not deny ourselves the satisfaction of serving God, and doing good, though offence may unjustly be taken at it. None could be more tender of giving offence than Christ; yet, rather than send this poor man away uncured, he would venture offending all the scribes and Pharisees that compassed him about.
The enemies of Christ dealt very barbarously with him. Such a work of mercy should have engaged their love to him, and such a work of wonder their faith in him. But, instead of that, the Pharisees, who pretended to be oracles in the church, and the Herodians, who pretended to be supporters of the state, though of opposite interests one to another, took counsel together against him how they might destroy him.
While his enemies sought to destroy him, he quitted the place. He was followed into his retire ment. When some had such an enmity to him, that they drove him out of their country, had such a value for him, that they followed him wherever he went; and the enmity of their leaders to Christ did not cool their respect to him. Great multitudes followed him from all parts of the nation; as far north as from Galilee; as far south as from Judea and Jerusalem; nay, and from Idumea; as far east as from beyond Jordan; and west, as from Tyre and Sidon, vers. 7, 8. What induced them to follow him, was the report they heard of the great things he did; some wished to see one that had done such great things, and others hoped he would do great things for them. They pressed upon him to touch him as many as had plagues, ver. 10. Diseases are here called plagues, corrections, or chastisements; so they are designed to be, to make us smart for our sins, that thereby we may be made sorry for them, and may be warned not to return to them. Those that were under these scourgings came to Jesus. The errand on which sickness is sent, is to quicken us to inquire after Christ, and apply ourselves to him as our Physician. They pressed upon him, each striving which should get nearest to him, and which should be first served. They fell down before him (so some translate it), as petitioners for his favour; they desired leave but to touch him, having faith to be healed, not only by his touching them, but by their touching him; which no doubt they had many instances of. He made ready to attend them (ver. 9); He spoke to his disciples, who were fishermen, and had fisher-boats at command, that a small ship should constantly wait on him, to carry him from place to place on the same coast; that, when he had despatched the necessary business he had to do in one place, he might easily remove to another, where his presence was requisite, without pressing through the crowds of people that followed him for curiosity.
He wrought abundance of good in his retirement. He did not withdraw to be idle, nor did he send back those who rudely crowded after him when he withdrew, but took it kindly, and gave them what they came for; for he never said to any that sought him diligently, Seek ye me in vain. Diseases were effectually cured; he healed many; divers sorts of patients, afflicted with divers sorts of diseases. Devils were effectually conquered; those whom unclean spirits had got possession of, when they saw him, trembled at his presence, and they also fell down before him, not to supplicate his favour, but to deprecate his wrath, and by their own terrors were compelled to own that he was the Son of God (ver. 11). It is sad that this great truth should be denied by any of the children of men, may have the benefit of it, when a confession of it has so often been extorted from devils, who are excluded from having benefit by it. Christ sought not applause to himself in doing those great things, for he strictly charged those for whom he did them, that they should not make him known (ver. 12); that they should not be industrious to spread the notice of his cures, that they should