HEALING OF A
The time of this miracle seems too definitely fixed here to admit of our
placing it where it stands in Mark and Luke, in whose Gospels no such
precise note of time is given.
1. When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed
2. And, behold, there came a leper--"a man full of leprosy," says
Much has been written on this disease of leprosy, but certain points
remain still doubtful. All that needs be said here is that it was a
cutaneous disease, of a loathsome, diffusive, and, there is reason to
believe, when thoroughly pronounced, incurable character; that though
in its distinctive features it is still found in several countries--as
Arabia, Egypt, and South Africa--it prevailed, in the form of what is
called white leprosy, to an unusual extent, and from a very early
period, among the Hebrews; and that it thus furnished to the whole
nation a familiar and affecting symbol of SIN,
considered as (1) loathsome, (2) spreading, (3)
incurable. And while the ceremonial ordinances for detection and
cleansing prescribed in this case by the law of Moses
held forth a coming remedy "for sin and for uncleanness"
2Ki 5:1, 7, 10, 13, 14),
the numerous cases of leprosy with which our Lord came in contact, and
the glorious cures of them which He wrought, were a fitting
manifestation of the work which He came to accomplish. In this view, it
deserves to be noticed that the first of our Lord's miracles of healing
recorded by Matthew is this cure of a leper.
and worshipped him--in what sense we shall presently see. Mark says
he came, "beseeching and kneeling to Him," and Luke says
"he fell on his face."
saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean--As this is the
only cure of leprosy recorded by all the three first Evangelists, it was
probably the first case of the kind; and if so, this leper's faith in
the power of Christ must have been formed in him by what he had heard of
His other cures. And how striking a faith is it! He does not say he
believed Him able, but with a brevity expressive of a confidence
that knew no doubt, he says simply, "Thou canst." But of Christ's
willingness to heal him he was not so sure. It needed more knowledge of
Jesus than he could be supposed to have to assure him of that. But one
thing he was sure of, that He had but to "will" it. This shows with what
"worship" of Christ this leper fell on his face before Him. Clear
theological knowledge of the Person of Christ was not then possessed
even by those who were most with Him and nearest to Him. Much less could
full insight into all that we know of the Only-begotten of the Father be
expected of this leper. But he who at that moment felt and owned that to
heal an incurable disease needed but the fiat of the Person who
stood before him, had assuredly that very faith in the germ which now
casts its crown before Him that loved us, and would at any time die for
His blessed name.
3. And Jesus--or "He," according to another reading,--"moved with
compassion," says Mark
a precious addition.
put forth his hand, and touched him--Such a touch occasioned
even as the leper's coming near enough for contact was against the
But as the man's faith told him there would be no case for such
regulations if the cure he hoped to experience should be accomplished,
so He who had healing in His wings transcended all such statutes.
saying, I will; be thou clean--How majestic those two words! By not
assuring the man of His power to heal him, He delightfully sets His
seal to the man's previous confession of that power; and by assuring him
of the one thing of which he had any doubt, and for which he waited--His
will to do it--He makes a claim as divine as the cure which
immediately followed it.
And immediately his leprosy was cleansed--Mark, more emphatic, says
"And as soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from
him, and he was cleansed"--as perfectly as instantaneously. What a
contrast this to modern pretended cures!
4. And Jesus--"straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away"
saith unto him, See thou tell no man--A hard condition this would
seem to a grateful heart, whose natural language, in such a case, is
"Come, hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done
for my soul"
We shall presently see the reason for it.
but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that
for a testimony unto them--a palpable witness that the Great Healer
had indeed come, and that "God had visited His people." What the sequel
was, our Evangelist Matthew does not say; but Mark thus gives it
"But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the
matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city,
but was without in desert places: and they came to Him from every
quarter." Thus--by an over-zealous, though most natural and not very
culpable, infringement of the injunction to keep the matter quiet--was
our Lord, to some extent, thwarted in His movements. As His whole
course was sublimely noiseless
so we find Him repeatedly taking steps to prevent matters prematurely
coming to a crisis with Him. (But see on
Mr 5:19, 20).
"And He withdrew Himself," adds Luke
"into the wilderness, and prayed"; retreating from the popular
excitement into the secret place of the Most High, and thus coming
forth as dew upon the mown grass, and as showers that water the earth
And this is the secret both of strength and of sweetness in the
servants and followers of Christ in every age.
HEALING OF THE
This incident belongs to a later stage. For the exposition, see on
For the exposition, see on
The incidents here are two: in the corresponding passage of Luke they
are three. Here they are introduced before the mission of the Twelve:
in Luke, when our Lord was making preparation for His final journey to
Jerusalem. But to conclude from this, as some good critics do (as
BENGEL, ELLICOTT, &c.) that
one of these incidents at least occurred twice--which led to the
mention of the others at the two different times--is too artificial.
Taking them, then, as one set of occurrences, the question arises. Are
they recorded by Matthew or by Luke in their proper place?
OLSHAUSEN adhere to Luke's
order; while MEYER,
LANGE prefer that of Matthew. Probably
the first incident is here in its right place. But as the command, in
the second incident, to preach the kingdom of God, would scarcely have
been given at so early a period, it is likely that it and the third
incident have their true place in Luke. Taking these three incidents up
here then we have,
I. The Rash or Precipitate Disciple
(Mt 8:19, 20).
19. And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will
follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
20. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of
the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head--Few as there were of the scribes who attached
themselves to Jesus, it
would appear, from his calling Him Teacher, that this one was a
"disciple" in that looser sense of the word in which it is applied to
the crowds who flocked after Him, with more or less conviction that His
claims were well founded. But from the answer which he received we are
led to infer that there was more of transient emotion--of temporary
impulse--than of intelligent principle in the speech. The preaching of
Christ had riveted and charmed him; his heart had swelled; his
enthusiasm had been kindled; and in this state of mind he will go
anywhere with Him, and feels impelled to tell Him so. "Wilt thou?"
replies the Lord Jesus. "Knowest thou whom thou art pledging thyself to
follow, and whither haply He may lead thee? No warm home, no downy
pillow has He for thee: He has them not for Himself. The foxes are not
without their holes, nor do the birds of the air lack their nests; but
the Son of man has to depend on the hospitality of others, and borrow
the pillow whereon He lays His head." How affecting is this reply! And
yet He rejects not this man's offer, nor refuses him the liberty to
follow Him. Only He will have him know what he is doing, and "count the
cost." He will have him weigh well the real nature and the strength of
his attachment, whether it be such as will abide in the day of trial. If
so, he will be right welcome, for Christ puts none away. But it seems
too plain that in this case that had not been done. And so we have
called this the Rash or Precipitate Disciple.
II. The Procrastinating or Entangled Disciple
(Mt 8:21, 22).
As this is more fully given in Luke
we must take both together. "And He said unto another of His disciples,
Follow Me. But he said,"
Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto
him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead--or, as more
definitely in Luke, "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and
preach the kingdom of God"
This disciple did not, like the former, volunteer his services, but is
called by the Lord Jesus, not only to follow, but to preach Him. And he
is quite willing; only he is not ready just yet. "Lord, I will;
but"--"There is a difficulty in the way just now; but that once
removed, I am Thine." What now is this difficulty? Was his father
actually dead--lying a corpse--having only to be buried? Impossible. As
it was the practice, as noticed on
to bury on the day of death, it is not very likely that this disciple
would have been here at all if his father had just breathed his last;
nor would the Lord, if He was there, have hindered him discharging the
last duties of a son to a father. No doubt it was the common case of a
son having a frail or aged father, not likely to live long, whose head
he thinks it his duty to see under the ground ere he goes abroad. "This
aged father of mine will soon be removed; and if I might but delay till
I see him decently interred, I should then be free to preach the kingdom
of God wherever duty might call me." This view of the case will explain
the curt reply, "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach
the kingdom of God." Like all the other paradoxical sayings of our Lord,
the key to it is the different senses--a higher and a lower--in which
the same word "dead" is used: There are two kingdoms of God in existence
upon earth; the kingdom of nature, and the kingdom of grace: To the one
kingdom all the children of this world, even the most ungodly, are fully
alive; to the other, only the children of light: The reigning irreligion
consists not in indifference to the common humanities of social life,
but to things spiritual and eternal: Fear not, therefore, that your
father will in your absence be neglected, and that when he breathes his
last there will not be relatives and friends ready enough to do to him
the last offices of kindness. Your wish to discharge these yourself is
natural, and to be allowed to do it a privilege not lightly to be
foregone. But the kingdom of God lies now all neglected and needy: Its
more exalted character few discern; to its paramount claims few are
alive: and to "preach" it fewer still are qualified and called: But thou
art: The Lord therefore hath need of thee: Leave, then, those claims of
nature, high though they be, to those who are dead to the still higher
claims of the kingdom of grace, which God is now erecting upon
earth--Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom
of God. And so have we here the genuine, but Procrastinating or
The next case is recorded only by Luke:
III. The Irresolute or Wavering Disciple
(Lu 9:61, 62).
And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first
go bid them farewell which are at home at my house.
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough,
and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. But for the very
different replies given, we should hardly have discerned the difference
between this and the second case: the one man called, indeed, and the
other volunteering, as did the first; but both seemingly alike willing,
and only having a difficulty in their way just at that moment. But, by
help of what is said respectively to each, we perceive the great
difference between the two cases. From the warning given against
"looking back," it is evident that this man's discipleship was not yet
thorough, his separation from the world not entire. It is not a case
of going back, but of looking back; and as there is here a
manifest reference to the case of "Lot's wife"
and see on
we see that it is not actual return to the world that we have
here to deal with, but a reluctance to break with it. The figure
of putting one's hand to the plough and looking back is an exceedingly
vivid one, and to an agricultural people most impressive. As ploughing
requires an eye intent on the furrow to be made, and is marred the
instant one turns about, so will they come short of salvation who
prosecute the work of God with a dist