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Ver. 1. And it came to pass, that as the people pressed upon him , etc.] As Christ went through Galilee, and preached in the synagogues there, great crowds of people attended on him, and they followed him wherever he went; and so large were their numbers, and so very eager were they to see him, and hear him, that they were even troublesome to him, and bore hard upon him, and were ready to press him down, though they had no ill design upon him, but only to hear the word of God ; the scriptures of the Old Testament explained, and the doctrines of the Gospel preached; and which were preached by him, as never were before or since, and in such a manner as were not by the Scribes and Pharisees; and both the matter and manner of his ministry drew a vast concourse of people after him: he stood by the lake of Gennesaret ; the same with the sea of Chinnereth, ( Numbers 34:11, Joshua 12:3, 13:27) where the Targums of Onkelos, Jonathan, and the Jerusalem, call it, rswngd amy , “the sea of Geausar” or “Gennesaret”: and so it is elsewhere called f241 , and is the same which is called the sea of Galilee, and of Tiberias, ( John 6:1, 21:1) and is, by other writers f242 , as here, called the lake of Gennesaret, and said to be sixteen miles long, and six broad. Josephus says f243 , it is forty furlongs broad, and an hundred long. The Jews say f244 , that “the holy, blessed God created seven seas, but chose none of them all, but the sea of Gennesaret.”
And indeed, it was a place chosen by Christ, and honoured, and made famous by him, by his preaching at it, his miracles upon it, and showing himself there after his resurrection.
Ver. 2. And saw two ships standing by the lake , etc.] Or two fishing boats; which were, as the Arabic version renders it, “detained by anchors at the shore of the lake”; the one belonging to Peter and Andrew, and the other to Zebedee, and his two sons, James and John: but the fishermen were gone out of them ; that is, either the above persons, or their servants: and were washing their nets ; on shore; they having gathered a great deal of soil and filthiness, but had caught no fish; and therefore were cleansing their nets, in order to lay them up, finding it to be in vain to make any further attempts with them at present; and which considered, makes the following miracle the more illustrious.
Ver. 3. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's , etc.] Simon Peter's, and Andrew his brother's, who were both together at this time, though the last is not here mentioned: and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land : as Simon was the owner of the vessel, Christ desired him; he asked the favour of him to put off a little way from shore; though the Arabic and Ethiopic versions render it, “he commanded him”, being his Lord and master: To which the Syriac and Persic versions agree; only they make the orders to be given not to Simon singly, but to others, to all in the boat; the former rendering it, and he said, or ordered, that they should carry him a little way from the dry land to the waters; and the latter thus, and said, carry ye the ship from dry land a little into the sea. And which adds, agreeable to the sense enough, though it is not in the text, “when they had executed his command”: had done as he entreated, or ordered, and put off the vessel a little way from the shore: he sat down and taught the people out of the ship ; for the boat was not carried neither out of sight, nor beyond the hearing of the people: this method Christ took at another time, and that for conveniency, as now; (see Matthew 13:1-3) and whereas he sat while he taught, this was according to the then custom of the times with the Jews; (See Gill on “ Matthew 5:1”).
Ver. 4. Now when he had left speaking , etc.] Teaching the people, and preaching the word of God unto them out of the ship, as they stood on the shore before him. He said unto Simon, launch out into the deep ; he spoke to Simon Peter, being the master of the vessel, to thrust it out, or put it off further into deep water, more convenient for fishing; and let down your nets for a draught ; of fishes: his meaning is, that he would give orders to his servants, to put out the vessel to sea, to take their nets and cast them into the sea, in order to take and draw up a quantity of fish, which was their business.
Ver. 5. And Simon answering said unto him, master , etc.] Or Rabbi, as the Syriac version renders it: he knew him to be the Messiah, the king of Israel, and a teacher sent from God: we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing ; which carries in it an objection to what Christ advised and directed to: they had been fishing that “night”, which was the best time for catching fish; and they had been at it all the night, and had “laboured” hard; and were even “fatigued”, and quite wearied out; and what was most discouraging of all, their labour was in vain; they had caught “nothing”: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net ; which showed faith in Christ, and obedience to him: thus the faithful preachers of the Gospel, sometimes labour and toil in the ministry of the word a great while, with little or no success; and are discouraged from going on, and would be tempted to leave off, were it not for the commission and word of command they have received from Christ, which they dare not be disobedient to; and for the word of promise he has given them, to be with them, on which they depend.
Ver. 6. And when they had done this , etc.] Had put the ship out further to sea, and had let down their net: they enclosed a great multitude of fish ; in their net, which by the secret divine power of Christ, were gathered together just in that place, where by his order they cast the net: and their net brake ; with the weight and number, of the fishes, yet not so as to let the fish out; the Arabic version reads, “it was within a little that their nets were broke”: they were just upon breaking, the draught was so numerous, the struggling so great, and the weight so heavy.
Ver. 7. And they beckoned unto their partners , etc.] Zebedee, and his two sons, James and John; ( Luke 5:10) who were at some distance from them, probably lay at anchor near the shore, not having put out to sea when the other vessel did, and so were not within call; but they were obliged to make signs to them, and beckon with their hands to come to them: which were in the other ship ; mentioned in ( Luke 5:2) which lay by the shore: that they should come and help them ; take up the net, and take the fish out of it: and they came and filled both the ships ; with the fishes they took out of the net, as full as they could hold, and which they were not well able to carry: so that they began to sink ; or “were almost immersed”, as Beza's ancient copy, and another manuscript, with the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions read; the vessels were so heavy laden, with the vast quantity of fish that was taken, that they were just ready to sink with their burden.
Ver. 8. When Simon Peter saw it , etc.] The multitude of fish that was taken, and both vessels filled with them, and the danger they were in of sinking, he fell down at Jesus' knees . The Arabic and Persic versions read, “at” his “feet”: he fell on his knees before him, and threw himself prostrate at his feet, as a worshipper of him, and a supplicant unto him: saying, depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord ; this he said, not as though the presence of Christ was burdensome, or disagreeable to him; but as one amazed at the greatness of the miracle wrought, and struck with the sense of the power of Christ, put forth therein; and with the greatness of his majesty so near him; and as conscious to himself of his own vileness and unworthiness to be in his presence; and so the Persic version adds, and which may serve as a comment, “and am not worthy that thou shouldst be with me”: he had much the same sense of things as the centurion had, ( Matthew 8:8) and when it is considered how gracious persons have been struck with awe and fear, and a consciousness of sin, weakness, and unworthiness, at the appearance of an angel, as Zacharias, ( Luke 1:12) and the shepherds, ( Luke 2:9) yea, at the presence of an holy man of God, as the widow of Sarepta at Elijah, saying much the same as Peter does here, ( 1 Kings 17:18) it need not be wondered at, that Peter should so express himself, in these circumstances.
Ver. 9. Far he was astonished, and all that were with him , etc.] His brother Andrew, and the servants they had with them to manage the vessel, and cast the nets: at the draught of the fishes they had taken ; being so large and numerous, as the like was never seen, nor known by them before.
Ver. 10. And so was also James and John, the sons of Zebedee , etc.] Who were in the other ship, and had been beckoned to them to come and help them, and did come, and were witnesses of the miracle: which were partners with Simon ; were sharers with him in loss and gain in the fishing trade; these were equally astonished at the miracle, as Simon and his brother, and the men that were in the boat with them, where Jesus was: and Jesus said unto Simon ; who was at his knees, and expressed his dread of his majesty, and the consternation of mind he was in particularly: fear not ; do not be afraid of me, I shall do thee no harm, nor shall the boats sink, or any damage come to any person, or to the vessels, nor be so much amazed and affrighted, at the multitude of the fish taken: from henceforth thou shalt catch men ; alive, as the word signifies, or “unto life”, as the Syriac and Persic versions render it; thou shalt cast the net of the Gospel, and be the happy instrument of drawing many persons out of the depths of sin and misery, in which they are plunged, into the way of life and salvation; and which was greatly verified, in the conversion of three thousand at one cast, under one sermon of his, ( Acts 2:41) Ver. 11. And when they had brought their ships to land , etc.] Both Simon Peter's, and the other in which his partners were, and which were laden with fish: they forsook all ; even all their fish, which they doubtless might have made much money of, and their nets, and their ships, and their servants, and their relations, and friends: and followed him ; Christ; and became his disciples, even all four of them, Peter, Andrew, James, and John.
Ver. 12. And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city , etc.] Or near it, hard by it, very probably Capernaum; ( Matthew 8:1,2,5) Behold a man full of leprosy; a disease to which the Jews were very incident, and concerning which, many laws and rules are given, in ( Leviticus 13:1- 14:57). The symptoms of the ancient “lepra”, as laid down by Galen, Aretaeus, Pontanus, Aegineta, Cardan, Varanda, Gordon, Pharaeus, and others, are as follow. The patient's voice is hoarse, and comes rather through the nose than the mouth; the blood full of little white shining bodies, like groins of millet, which upon filtration, separate themselves from it; the serum is scabious, and destitute of its natural humidity, insomuch that salt applied to it, does not dissolve; it is so dry, that vinegar poured on it boils; and is so strongly bound together by little imperceptible threads, that calcined lead thrown into it swims. The face resembles a coal half extinct, unctuous, shining, and bloated, with frequent hard knobs, green at bottom, and white at top. The hair is short, stiff, and brinded; and not to be torn off, without bringing away, some of the rotten flesh, to which it adheres; if it grows again, either on the head or chin, it is always white: athwart the forehead, run large wrinkles or furrows, from one temple to the other; the eyes red and inflamed, and shine like those of a cat; the ears swollen and red, eaten with ulcers towards the bottom, and encompassed with little glands; the nose sunk, because of the rotting of the cartilage; the tongue dry and black, swollen, ulcerated, divided with furrows, and spotted with grains of white; the skin covered with ulcers, that die and revive on each other, or with white spots, or scales like a fish; it is rough and insensible, and when cut, instead of blood, yields a sanious liquor: it arrives in time to such a degree of insensibility, that the wrist, feet, or even the large tendon, may be pierced with a needle, without the patient's feeling any pain; at last the nose, fingers, toes, and even privy members, fall off entire; and by a death peculiar to each of them, anticipate that of the patient: it is added, that the body is so hot, that a fresh apple held in the hand an hour, will be dried and wrinkled, as if exposed to the sun for a week f245 . Think now what a miserable deplorable object this man was, said to be full of it. Between this disease and sin, there is a very great likeness. This disease is a very filthy one, and of a defiling nature, by the ceremonial law; under which it was considered rather as an uncleanness, than as a disease; the person attended with it was pronounced unclean by the priest, and was put out of the camp, and out of the cities and walled towns, that he might not defile others; and was obliged to put a covering on his upper lip, and cry Unclean, Unclean, to acknowledge his pollution, and that others might shun him: all mankind, by reason of sin, are by the Lord pronounced filthy; and by their evil actions, not only defile themselves, but others; evil communications corrupt good manners; and when they are made sensible, freely own that their righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and they themselves as an unclean thing: it is a very nauseous and loathsome disease, as is sin; it is abominable to God, and renders men abominable in his sight; it causes the sinner himself, when convinced of it, to loath and abhor himself: David calls his sin a loathsome disease, ( Psalm 38:7) it is of a spreading nature: this was a sign of it, if it did not spread, it was only a, scab; if it spread, it was a leprosy, ( Leviticus 13:5-8). Sin has spread itself over all mankind, and over all the powers and faculties of the soul, and members of the body; there is no place free of it: and as the leprosy is of consuming nature, it eats and wastes the flesh, (see Numbers 12:10) ( 2 Kings 5:10) so sin eats like a canker, and brings ruin and destruction upon men, both soul and body. This disease was incurable by medicine; persons that had it were never sent to a physician, but to a priest; and what he did was only this, he looked upon it, and if it was a clear case, he declared the person unclean; and if it was doubtful, shut him up for seven days, and then inspected him again; and after all he could not cure him; this was the work of God, ( 2 Kings 5:7). All which shows the nature and use of the law, which shuts men up, concludes them under sin, and by which they have knowledge of it, but no healing: the law heals none, it is the killing letter, the ministration of condemnation and death; Christ only, by his blood and stripes, heals the disease of sin, and cleanses from it. There is one thing in the law of the leprosy very surprising, and that is, that if there was any quick raw flesh, or any sound flesh in the place where the leprosy was, the man was pronounced unclean; but if the leprosy covered his skin, and all his flesh, then he was pronounced clean: this intimates, that he that thinks he has some good thing in him, and fancies himself sound and well, and trusts to his own works of righteousness, he is not justified in the sight of God; but if a man acknowledges that there is no soundness in his flesh, that in him, that is, in his flesh, dwells no good thing, but that his salvation is alone, by the grace and mercy of God, such a man is justified by faith in Christ Jesus: the parable of the Pharisee and publican will illustrate this, ( Luke 18:10-14). “Who, seeing Jesus, fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean”; (See Gill on “ Matthew 8:2”).
Christ could cure lepers, and did; and which was a proof of his Messiahship, and is given among the signs of it, to John's disciples, ( Matthew 11:5) and as there is a likeness between the leprosy and sin, so between the cleansing of a leper under the law, and the healing of a sinner by Christ: for the cleansing of a leper, two birds were to be taken clean and alive, which were both typical of Christ, and pointed at the meekness of his human nature, his innocence, harmlessness, and purity, and that he had a life to lay down; one of these was to be killed, in an earthen vessel over running water, showing that Christ must be killed, his blood must be shed for the cleansing of leprous sinners; the earthen vessel denoted his human nature, his flesh, in which he was put to death; and the running water signified the purifying nature of his blood, and the continued virtue of it, to cleanse from all sin; and the blood and the water being mixed together, may put us in mind of the blood and water which flowed from the side of Christ, when pierced with the spear; which was an emblem of our justification and sanctification being both from him, on account of which, he is said to come both by water and by blood, ( 1 John 5:6). The other bird, after it was dipped with the cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop in the blood of the slain bird, was let go alive; which typified the resurrection of Christ, who was put to death in the flesh, and quickened in the Spirit; and who rose again, for the justification of his people from all sin: the cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop, which were used in the cleansing of the leper, may either relate to the sufferings, and death, and blood of Christ; the scarlet wool may denote the bloody sufferings of Christ, through which he was red in his apparel; the cedar wood may signify the incorruptibleness and preciousness of the blood of Christ, and the hyssop the purging virtue of it; or else these three may have regard to the three principal graces of the Spirit of God, which have to do with, and are in influenced by the sin cleansing blood of Christ: the cedar wood may signify the incorruptible and precious grace of faith; the green hyssop, the lively grace of hope; and the scarlet, the flaming grace of love, when it is in its full exercise: or else the grace of faith, by which dealing with the blood of Christ, the heart is purified, is only meant; signified by cedar wood, for its permanency; by scarlet, for its concern with the crimson blood of Christ; by which sins, though as scarlet, are made white as wool; and by hyssop, for its being an humble and lowly grace: now the cedar stick, with the scarlet wool, and bunch of hyssop bound unto it, was used to sprinkle the blood of the bird upon the leper seven times, when he was pronounced clean; and expresses the instrumentality of faith, in the application of the blood of Christ for cleansing: though after this, the leper was to shave off all his hair, and wash himself and clothes in water; suggesting to us, that holiness of life and conversation which should follow, upon cleansing through faith in the blood of Christ.
Ver. 13. And he put forth his hand and touched him , etc.] Having compassion on him, and commiserating his sad case: saying, I will, be thou clean; and immediately the leprosy departed from him ; (See Gill on “ Matthew 8:3”).
Ver. 14. And he charged him to tell no man , etc.] Of his cure, and by whom he received it; but go show thyself to the priest . The Syriac and Persic versions read, “to the priests: and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses has commanded, for a testimony unto them”; (See Gill on “ Matthew 8:4”).
Ver. 15. But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him , etc.] For the more he charged the man to keep silence, the more he blazed it abroad, being elated with the cure he received, and filled with gratitude to his benefactor; ( Mark 1:45). And great multitudes came together to hear : him, or from him, as the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions add; to hear the doctrines of the Gospel preached by him: “and to be healed by him of their infirmities”; their bodily weaknesses and disorders.
Ver. 16. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness , etc.] Into a desert place, that he might have rest from the fatigues of preaching and healing diseases; and being alone, and free from company, might have an opportunity for private prayer to God, for so it lows: and prayed ; this is to be understood of Christ, as man: as God, he is the object of prayer, and petitions are often addressed unto him; and as mediator, he offers up the prayers of all saints, and presents them to his Father; which are acceptable to him, through the incense of his mediation; and as man, he prayed himself: what he now prayed for, is not known; sometimes he prayed for his disciples, and for all that should believe; for their conversion, sanctification, union, perseverance, and glorification; and sometimes for himself, that the cup might pass from him, and he be saved from death; but always with submission to the will of his Father.
Ver. 17. And it came to pass on a certain day , etc.] When he was at Capernaum, as appears from ( Mark 2:1) As he was teaching : in the house where such numbers were gathered together, to hear the word of God preached by him, that there was not room for them, neither within the house, nor about the door, ( Mark 2:2) That there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by ; who were sometimes called Scribes, and sometimes lawyers, and were generally of the sect of the Pharisees: which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem : having heard much of his doctrine and miracles, they came from all parts to watch and observe him, and to take all opportunities and advantages against him, that they might expose him to the people: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them ; not the Pharisees and doctors of the law, who did not come to be healed by him, either in body or mind; but the multitude, some of whom came to hear his doctrine, and others to be healed of their infirmities, ( Luke 5:15). The Persic version reads the words thus, “and from all the villages of Galilee, and from Judea, and from Jerusalem, multitudes came, and the power of God was present to heal them.”
Ver. 18. And behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy , etc.] Four men brought him, as Mark says, ( Mark 2:3) and which the Ethiopic version expresses here: “and they sought means to bring him in”: into the house where Jesus was: and to lay him before him ; at his feet, in hope of moving his compassion, and to obtain a cure of him: of the nature of this disease, and of the sort which this man's seems to be, (See Gill on “ Mark 2:3”).
Ver. 19. And when they could not find by what way , etc.] As by the door, or in at a window of the house: they might bring him in ; to Jesus, in the house: because of the multitude ; which was about the door, and all the fore part of the house: they went upon the housetop ; by a ladder, or pair of stairs, which usually were on the outside of houses; (See Gill on “ Matthew 24:17”) the houses of the Jews being flat roofed: and let him down through the tiling with his couch , into the midst before Jesus; that is, they untiled the roof, or took away the tiles which were about the trap door, or passage, into the inside of the house; and so making it wider, let down the man upon his couch, or bed, into the middle of the room and of the people, just before Jesus, where he was sitting; (See Gill on “ Mark 2:4”).
Ver. 20. And when he saw their faith , etc.] That is, Jesus, as the Syriac and Persic versions express it; when he saw the faith both of the paralytic man, and of the men that brought him, which was shown in the pains they took, and trouble they were at, in getting him to him; he said unto him . The Vulgate Latin only reads, “he said”; but the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, still more fully express the sense, rendering it, “he said to the paralytic man”; and the Ethiopic version, “he said to the infirm man”; as follows: man, thy sins are forgiven thee . The other evangelists say, he said “son”; perhaps he used both words: however, all agree that he pronounced the forgiveness of sins, which were the cause of his disease; and which being removed, the effect must cease; so that he had healing both for soul and body; (See Gill on “ Matthew 9:2”).
Ver. 21. And the Scribes and the Pharisees began to reason , etc.] To think and say within themselves, and it may be to one another, in a private manner: saying, who is this which speaketh blasphemies ? what vain boaster, and blaspheming creature is this, who assumes that to himself, which is the prerogative of God? Who can forgive sins but God alone ? against whom they are committed, whose law is transgressed, and his will disobeyed, and his justice injured and affronted. Certain it is, that none can forgive sins but God; not any of the angels in heaven, or men on earth; not holy good men, nor ministers of the Gospel; and if Christ had been a mere man, though ever so good a man, even a sinless one, or ever so great a prophet, he could not have forgiven sin; but he is truly and properly God, as his being a discerner of the thoughts of these men, and his healing the paralytic man in the manner he did, are sufficient proofs. The Scribes and Pharisees therefore, though they rightly ascribe forgiveness of sin to God alone, yet grievously sinned, in imputing blasphemy to Christ: they had wrong notions of Christ, concluding him to be but a mere man, against the light and evidence of his works and miracles; and also of his office as a Redeemer, who came to save his people from their sins; and seem to restrain the power of forgiving sin to God the Father, whereas the Son of God, being equal with him, had the same power, and that even on earth, to forgive sin; (See Gill on “ Mark 2:7”).
Ver. 22. But when Jesus perceived their thoughts , etc.] Being God omniscient; he answering said unto them, what reason ye in your hearts ? This he said, not as being ignorant what their reasonings were, for it is before said he perceived their thoughts, but to expose the wickedness of them; in one exemplar of Beza's it is added, “evil things”, as in ( Matthew 9:4). (See Gill on “ Matthew 9:4”).
Ver. 23. Whether is it easier to say , etc.] Mark adds, “to the sick of the palsy”; to whom Christ had said that his sins were forgiven him, which had given offence to the Scribes and Pharisees, imagining that he had assumed too much to himself: wherefore he proposes the following case to them, which they thought was most easy for man, or more proper and peculiar to God to say, thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, rise up and walk ? Neither of them could be said by a mere man, with effect, so as that sins would be really remitted on so saying; or that a man sick of a palsy, by such a word speaking, would be able to stand upon his feet and walk; but both of them were equally easy to him, that is truly God; and he that could say the one effectually, could also say the other: or in other words, he that could cure a man of a palsy with a word speaking, ought not to be charged with blasphemy, for taking upon him to forgive sin: our Lord meant, by putting this question, and acting upon it, to prove himself to be God, and to remove the imputation of blasphemy from him; (See Gill on “ Matthew 9:5”). (See Gill on “ Mark 2:9”).
Ver. 24. But that ye may know, that the son of man , etc.] Whom the Scribes and Pharisees took for a mere man, in which they were mistaken; for though he was really a man, and the son of man, yet he was God as well as man; he was God manifest in the flesh: hath power upon earth to forgive sins ; even in the days of his flesh, whilst he was in his humble form on earth; for he did not cease to be God by becoming man, nor lose any branch of his power, not this of forgiving sin, by appearing in the form of a servant; and, that it might be manifest, he said unto the sick of the palsy : these are the words of the evangelist, signifying, that Christ turned himself from the Scribes and Pharisees to the paralytic man, and thus addressed him: I say unto thee, arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house .
Ver. 25. And immediately he rose up before them , etc.] As soon as ever these words were spoken by Christ, the man, before sick of the palsy, finding himself perfectly well, got off of his couch, and stood up on his feet before the Scribes and Pharisees, and all the people: and took up that whereon he lay ; his couch, or bed: and departed to his own house; with it upon his back: “and went to his business”, as the Persic version renders it: glorifying God ; both for the healing of his body, and for the pardon of his sins; each of which he knew none but God could do. This circumstance is only mentioned by Luke, and shows the sense the man had of the great favours bestowed upon him: he glorified God, by ascribing them to his goodness and power; by offering the sacrifice of praise, or giving thanks unto him for them; by publishing them among his neighbours, to the honour of his name; and by living a holy life and conversation, to his glory, under a grateful sense of his kindness: yea, he glorified Jesus Christ as God, who he knew must be God, by forgiving his sins, and curing his disease; he proclaimed his divine power, and ascribed greatness to him; he confessed him as the Messiah, and owned him as his Saviour, and became subject to him as his Lord.
Ver. 26. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God , etc.] Not the Pharisees, and doctors of the law, but the common people: and were filled with fear ; of the Divine Being, whose presence and power they were sensible must be in this case: saying, we have seen strange things today ; paradoxes, things wonderful, unthought of, unexpected, and incredible by carnal reason, and what were never seen, nor known before; as that a man, who was so enfeebled by the palsy, that he was obliged to be carried on a bed by four men, yet, on a sudden, by a word speaking, rose up, and carried his bed, on his back, home.
Ver. 27. And after these things he went forth , etc.] After his discourse with the Scribes and Pharisees, and his healing of the man, sick with the palsy, he went forth from the city of Capernaum, to the sea side; not only for retirement and recreation, after the work of the day hitherto, but in order to meet with, and call one that was to be a disciple of his: and saw a publican named Levi who is said to be the son of Alphaeus, ( Mark 2:14) and so it is said to be in Beza's ancient copy here; and who was also called Matthew, (see Matthew 9:9) sitting at the receipt of custom ; at the place where custom was received, and toll taken, near the sea side, of such that went over. The Syriac and Persic versions read, “sitting among publicans”, of which business he himself was; and these might be his servants under him, or partners with him; (See Gill on “ Mark 2:14”) and he said unto him, follow me : of all the publicans that were there, he singled out Levi, or Matthew, and directed his discourse to him, and called him to be a follower of him: an instance of powerful, special, and distinguishing grace this; (See Gill on “ Matthew 9:9”).
Ver. 28. And he left all , etc.] His company, his business, and all the profits of it: rose up ; directly; such power went along with the words of Christ, that he could not withstand it: and followed him ; not only in a literal, but in a spiritual sense, and became a disciple of his.
Ver. 29. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house , etc.] At Capernaum, which, very likely, was made some time after his call, though recorded here; for it is not reasonable to think there could be time enough that day to get ready so great a feast, as this is said to be Levi, it should seem, was a rich man, and in gratitude to Christ for his special grace and honour bestowed on him, made this entertainment for him; and he seems to have had also another view in it, to bring him into the company of his fellow publicans, hoping he might be useful to them, as he had been to him; for of this nature is true grace, to wish for, and desire the salvation of the souls of others, as well as a man's own: and there was a great company of publicans, and of others : µyrja , which word is sometimes used in Talmudic writings for Gentiles; so µyrja tça , “the wife of others”, is interpreted the wife of the Cuthites, or Samantans f246 : and thus the Jews explain the text in ( Deuteronomy 24:14) “thou shalt not oppress an hired servant, that is poor and needy”, whether he be “of thy brethren”, on which they make this remark, µyrjal jrp , “this excepts others”; that, is, as the gloss interprets it, it excepts the nations of the world, or the Gentiles: they go on to expound the text, “or of thy strangers that are in thy land”; these are the proselytes of righteousness: “within thy gates”; these are they that eat things that are torn f247 : so that the “others” are distinguished from the Jews, and from both the proselytes of righteousness, and of the gate; and it is easy to observe, that publicans and Heathens are sometimes mentioned together: here it means sinners, as appears from ( Matthew 9:10, Mark 2:15) such the Gentiles were reckoned: that sat down with them ; being invited by Matthew.
Ver. 30. But their Scribes and Pharisees , etc.] Not the Scribes of the publicans and sinners that sat down, but the Scribes of the people in general; the Scribes of the Jewish nation: all the eastern versions leave out the word “their”: murmured against his disciples, saying ; or, “murmured, and said unto his disciples”, as the Syriac and Persic versions render it: that is, they either murmured at the publicans and sinners sitting down at meat; or “against him”, as the Ethiopic version reads: either against Matthew for inviting them; or rather against Christ for sitting down with them: and not caring to speak to him, address themselves to his disciples in these words, why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? The other evangelists represent these as saying, why does he, or your master, eat with such? doubtless, they included both Christ, and his disciples; though they chiefly designed him, and to bring an accusation against him, and fix a charge upon him, in order to render him odious to the people.
Ver. 31. And Jesus answering, said unto them , etc.] Knowing that they aimed at him; though, according to this evangelist, they only mentioned his disciples, however, he takes up the cause, and vindicates both himself and them, by observing to them the following proverb; they that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick: suggesting hereby, that as such who are in good health, who are free from all diseases, wounds, bruises, and putrefying sores, stand in no need of the advice and assistance of a physician, or surgeon, but such who have either distempers or sores on their bodies; so they, the Scribes and Pharisees, who, in their own opinion, were free from the disease of sin, original and actual, and touching the righteousness of the law, were blameless, stood not in any need of him, the physician, who came to cure the maladies of the souls, as well as of the bodies of men; but such persons, who not only are sick with sin, but sick of it, who are sensible of it, and desire healing: and therefore this was the reason of his conduct, why he conversed with sinners, and not with the Scribes and Pharisees; his business, as a physician, lying among the one, and not the other; (See Gill on “ Matthew 9:12”). (See Gill on “ Mark 2:17”).
Ver. 32. I came not to call the righteous , etc.] Such as the Scribes and Pharisees were in their own apprehension, and in the esteem of others, who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and submitted not to the righteousness of Christ: these Christ came not to call by his grace, and therefore did not associate himself with them: but sinners to repentance; such as the publicans, and others, with them, were; and therefore he was chiefly with such, and chose to be among them: these he not only called to repentance by the outward ministry of the word, but brought them to it; he having power to bestow the grace of repentance, as well as to call to the duty of it; (See Gill on “ Matthew 9:13”). (See Gill on “ Mark 2:17”).
Ver. 33. And they say unto him , etc.] The Scribes and Pharisees, or the disciples of John; (see Matthew 9:14) why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers ? set times apart frequently for fasting and prayer. The Ethiopic version reads, “why do the disciples of John baptize frequently, fast, and make prayers?” in which the former clause is added; and as without any authority, so without judgment, since it must suppose that the Pharisees did so likewise, whereas they rejected the baptism of John; for it follows, and “likewise” the disciples of “the Pharisees”; who fasted often, at least twice in the week, and made frequent prayers in the synagogues, and corners of the streets, and in widows' houses. But thine eat and drink? instead of fasting and praying; (See Gill on “ Matthew 9:14”).
Ver. 34. And he said unto them , etc.] The disciples of John, or the Scribes and Pharisees: can ye make the children of the bride chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? signifying, that he was the bridegroom, and his disciples the children of the bride chamber; and that as it is unreasonable to expect, and morally impossible, that persons, attending the festivals of a nuptial solemnity, should be engaged in severe fastings; so it was not to be thought, that whilst Christ was corporeally present with his disciples, that they should be prevailed upon to live such an austere and mortified life.
Ver. 35. But the days will come , etc.] And that in a very little time, as they did: when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them : as their master, John, was taken away from them, and now in prison, and therefore it was no wonder they mourned and fasted; signifying, that in a short time he, the bridegroom of his church and people, should be taken away by death: and then they shall fast in those days ; mourn, and be humbled, of which fasting was, a sign, for the death of their Lord, and on account of the many afflictions and persecutions they should endure for his sake; (See Gill on “ Matthew 9:15”).
Ver. 36. And he spake also a parable unto them , etc.] The Scribes and Pharisees; illustrating what he had just now said: no man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old ; by “a piece of a new garment” meaning the new and upstart notions and traditions of the elders, which were so in comparison of the law of Moses; and by the “old”, the robe of their own righteousness, wrought out in obedience to the moral and ceremonial law: and Christ suggests, that to join these together, in order to patch up a garment of righteousness, to appear in before God, was equally as weak and ridiculous, as to put a piece of new and undressed cloth into a garment that was old, and wore threadbare. If otherwise, then both the new, maketh the rent ; that is, much worse than it was, as it is expressed both in Matthew and Mark; the old and new cloth being unsuitable, and not of equal strength to hold together: by this Christ intimates, that the Jews, by being directed to the observance of the traditions of the elders, were drawn off from a regard to the commandments of God; so that instead of having a better righteousness, they had one much the worse, a ragged, and a rent one. And the piece that was taken out of the new, agreeth not with the old ; and so the statutes of men, and the ordinances of God, or the traditions of the elders, and the commands of God, are no more like one another, than the piece of a new and an old garment, and as unlike is obedience to the one, and to the other; (See Gill on “ Matthew 9:16-17”). (See Gill on “ Mark 2:21-22”) where this, and the following parable, are more largely explained.
Ver. 37. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles , etc.] To which the Scribes and Pharisees are here compared, into whose hearts the new wine of Gospel grace was not put; or to whom was not made known the love of God Comparable to new wine; nor the blessings of the new covenant of grace, now exhibited; nor the truths of the Gospel now more clearly and newly revealed. Else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled ; they not being able to receive and bear these things, no, not the relation of them: these were hard sayings to them, of which they said, who can hear them? they could not hear them with patience, much less receive them in the love of them; but were at once filled with wrath and indignation, and rejected them. And the bottles shall perish ; their condemnation shall be the greater.
Ver. 38. But new wine must be put into new bottles , etc.] Such as the disciples of Christ were, and sinners called to repentance are, who are renewed by the Spirit and grace of God: and these are filled with spiritual joy and comfort, as with new wine, arising from discoveries of the love of God, a view of interest in the blessings of the covenant, and an application of Gospel truths and promises. And both are preserved ; both these renewed ones, who are preserved unto the kingdom and glory of Christ; and the grace that is put into them, which is a well of living water, springing up to everlasting life; as well as the Gospel, and its blessings.
Ver. 39. No man also having drunk old wine , etc.] “Wine”, though not in the text, is rightly supplied by our translators, as it is by the Syriac and Persic versions: straightway desireth new ; new wine: for he saith, the old is better ; old wine is more grateful, more generous, and more reviving to the spirits, than new wine is. This is a proverbial expression, and which Luke only records; which may be applied to natural men, who having drunk the old wine of their carnal lusts and pleasures, do not desire the new wine of the Gospel, and of the grace of God, and of spiritual things, but prefer their old sins and lusts unto them: carnal lusts may be signified by old wine, both for the antiquity of them, being as old as men themselves, and therefore called the old man, and for the gratefulness of them to them; and who may be said to drink of them, as they do drink iniquity like water; which is expressive of their great desire and thirst after it, and delight in it: now whilst they are such, they cannot desire the new wine of the Gospel, which is insipid and ungrateful to them; nor the grace of God, to which their carnal minds are enmity; nor any thing that is evangelical and spiritual, at least, not straightway, or immediately; not until they are regenerated by the Spirit of God, and their taste is changed, but will prefer their old lusts and former course of life unto them: or it may be accommodated to legalists, and men of a “pharisaical spirit”, to whom spiritual and evangelical things are very disagreeable: Scribes and Pharisees, who have drank of the old wine of the law, and the traditions of the elders, do not desire the new wine of the Gospel, but prefer the former to it: the ceremonial law may be expressed by old wine, being originally instituted of God, and acceptable to him; and one part of which lay in libations of wine, and was of long standing, but now waxen old, and ready to vanish away; and likewise the traditions of the elders, which were highly pleasing to the Pharisees, and which pretended to great antiquity: and of these they might be said to drink, being inured to them from their youth, and therefore could not like the new dispensation of the Gospel, neither its doctrines, nor its ordinances; but preferred their old laws and traditions to them: or rather this proverb, as used by Christ here, may be considered as intimating the reason why the disciples did not give into the practices of the Pharisees, because they had drank of the old wine of the Gospel; which, as upon some account it may be called new, because of the new dispensation, fresh discovery and clearer revelation of it; in other respects it may be said to be old, being what was prepared and ordained before the world began; and what Adam drank of, in the first hint and promise of the Messiah; and after him Noah, the preacher of righteousness; and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom the Gospel was preached before; and even Moses, who wrote and testified of Christ; and David, and Solomon, and Isaiah, and all the prophets of the former dispensation: and now the disciples having more largely drank of it, under the ministry of Christ, could not easily desire the new wine of the fastings and prayers of the Pharisees, and John's disciples; for the old wine of the Gospel was much better in their esteem, more grateful to the taste, more refreshing to their spirits, and more salutary and healthful, being the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Old wine, with the Jews f248 was wine of three years old, and was always by them preferred to new: so they descant on those words in ( Deuteronomy 15:16) “because he is well with thee f249 , (i.e. the servant,)” “with thee in food, with thee in drink; for thou shalt not eat bread of fine flour, and he eat bread of bran; or thou drink, ˆçy ˆyy , “old wine”, and he drink, çdh ˆyy , “new wine”.”
And sometimes they use this distinction of old and new wine proverbially and parabolically, as here f250 . “Rabbi Jose bar Juda, a man of a village in Babylon, used to say, he that learns of young men, to what is he like? to him that eateth unripe grapes, and drinks wine out of the fat: but he; that learns of old men, to what is he like? to him that eats ripe grapes, and drinks, ˆçy ˆyy , “old wine”” signifying, that the knowledge of old men is more solid, and mature, and unmixed, and free from dregs of ignorance, than that of young men: though it follows, that “Ribbi had used to say, do not look upon the tankard, but on what is in it; for sometimes there is a new tankard full of old wine, and an old one in which there is not so much as new in it:” signifying, that sometimes young men are full of wisdom and knowledge, when old men are entirely devoid of them.