Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
HEALING OF A
Healing of the Demoniac Boy
14. And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about
them, and the scribes questioning with them--This was "on the next
day, when they were come down from the hill"
The Transfiguration appears to have taken place at night. In the
morning, as He came down from the hill on which it took place--with
Peter, and James, and John--on approaching the other nine, He found
them surrounded by a great multitude, and the scribes disputing or
discussing with them. No doubt these cavillers were twitting the
apostles of Jesus with their inability to cure the demoniac boy of whom
we are presently to hear, and insinuating doubts even of their Master's
ability to do it; while they, zealous for their Master's honor, would
no doubt refer to His past miracles in proof of the contrary.
15. And straightway all the people--the multitude.
when they beheld him, were greatly amazed--were astounded.
and running to him saluted him--The singularly strong expression of
surprise, the sudden arrest of the discussion, and the rush of the
multitude towards Him, can be accounted for by nothing less than
something amazing in His appearance. There can hardly be any doubt that
His countenance still retained traces of His transfiguration-glory.
Ex 34:29, 30).
No wonder, if this was the case, that they not only ran to Him, but
saluted Him. Our Lord, however, takes no notice of what had attracted
them, and probably it gradually faded away as He drew near; but
addressing Himself to the scribes, He demands the subject of their
discussion, ready to meet them where they had pressed hard upon His
half-instructed and as yet timid apostles.
16. And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them?--Ere they
had time to reply, the father of the boy, whose case had occasioned the
dispute, himself steps forward and answers the question; telling a
piteous tale of deafness, and dumbness, and fits of epilepsy--ending
with this, that the disciples, though entreated, could not perform the
17. And one of the multitude answered, and said, Master, I have brought
unto thee my son--"mine only child"
which hath a dumb spirit--a spirit whose operation had the effect of
rendering his victim speechless, and deaf also
In Matthew's report of the speech
the father says "he is lunatic"; this being another and most
distressing effect of the possession.
18. And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him; and he foameth, and
gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away--rather, "becomes withered,"
"dried up," or "paralyzed"; as the same word is everywhere else rendered
in the New Testament. Some additional particulars are given by Luke,
and by our Evangelist below. "Lo," says he in
"a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him
that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly [or with difficulty]
departeth from him."
and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they
could not--Our Lord replies to the father by a severe rebuke to the
disciples. As if wounded at the exposure before such a multitude, of
the weakness of His disciples' faith, which doubtless He felt as a
reflection on Himself, He puts them to the blush before all, but in
language fitted only to raise expectation of what He Himself would do.
19. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation--"and
perverse," or "perverted"
how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer
you?--language implying that it was a shame to them to want the
faith necessary to perform this cure, and that it needed some patience
to put up with them. It is to us surprising that some interpreters, as
CHRYSOSTOM and CALVIN, should
represent this rebuke as addressed, not to the disciples at all, but to
the scribes who disputed with them. Nor does it much, if at all, mend
the matter to view it as addressed to both, as most expositors seem to
MEYER, we regard it as
addressed directly to the nine apostles who were unable to expel this
evil spirit. And though, in ascribing this inability to their "want of
faith" and the "perverted turn of mind" which they had drunk in with
their early training, the rebuke would undoubtedly apply, with vastly
greater force, to those who twitted the poor disciples with their
inability, it would be to change the whole nature of the rebuke to
suppose it addressed to those who had no faith at all, and were
wholly perverted. It was because faith sufficient for curing this
youth was to be expected of the disciples, and because they should by
that time have got rid of the perversity in which they had been reared,
that Jesus exposes them thus before the rest. And who does not see that
this was fitted, more than anything else, to impress upon the
by-standers the severe loftiness of the training He was giving to the
Twelve, and the unsophisticated footing He was on with them?
Bring him unto me--The order to bring the patient to Him was instantly
obeyed; when, lo! as if conscious of the presence of his Divine
Tormentor, and expecting to be made to quit, the foul spirit rages and
is furious, determined to die hard, doing all the mischief he can to
this poor child while yet within his grasp.
20. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway
the spirit tare him--Just as the man with the legion of demons, "when
he saw Jesus, ran and worshipped Him"
so this demon, when he saw Him, immediately "tare him." The
feeling of terror and rage was the same in both cases.
and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming--Still Jesus does
nothing, but keeps conversing with the father about the case--partly to
have its desperate features told out by him who knew them best, in the
hearing of the spectators; partly to let its virulence have time to show
itself; and partly to deepen the exercise of the father's soul, to draw
out his faith, and thus to prepare both him and the by-standers for what
He was to do.
21. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto
him? And he said, Of a child, &c.--Having told briefly the affecting
features of the case, the poor father, half dispirited by the failure of
the disciples and the aggravated virulence of the malady itself in
presence of their Master, yet encouraged too by what he had heard of
Christ, by the severe rebuke He had given to His disciples for not
having faith enough to cure the boy, and by the dignity with which He
had ordered him to be brought to Him--in this mixed state of mind, he
closes his description of the case with these touching words:
22. but if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help
us--"us," says the father; for it was a sore family affliction.
Compare the language of the Syrophœnician woman regarding her
daughter, "Lord, help me." Still nothing is done: the man is but
struggling into faith: it must come a step farther. But he had to
do with Him who breaks not the bruised reed, and who knew how to
inspire what He demanded. The man had said to Him,
"If Thou canst do."
23. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe--The man had
said, "If Thou canst do anything." Jesus replies.
all things are possible to him that believeth--"My doing all depends
on thy believing." To impress this still more, He redoubles upon the
believing: "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that
believeth." Thus the Lord helps the birth of faith in that struggling
soul; and now, though with pain and sore travail, it comes to the birth,
as TRENCH, borrowing from
OLSHAUSEN, expresses it. Seeing the case
stood still, waiting not upon the Lord's power but his own faith, the
man becomes immediately conscious of conflicting principles, and rises
into one of the noblest utterances on record.
24. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with
tears, Lord, I believe: help thou mine unbelief--that is, "It is
useless concealing from Thee, O Thou mysterious, mighty Healer, the
unbelief that still struggles in this heart of mine; but that heart
bears me witness that I do believe in Thee; and if distrust still
remains, I disown it, I wrestle with it, I seek help from Thee against
it." Two things are very remarkable here: First,
The felt and owned presence of unbelief, which only the strength of
the man's faith could have so revealed to his own consciousness.
Second, His appeal to Christ for help against his felt unbelief--a
feature in the case quite unparalleled, and showing, more than all
protestations could have done, the insight he had attained into the
existence of a power in Christ more glorious them any he had besought for his poor child. The work was done; and as the commotion and
confusion in the crowd was now increasing, Jesus at once, as Lord of
spirits, gives the word of command to the dumb and deaf spirit to be
gone, never again to return to his victim.
26. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him; and
he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead--The malignant,
cruel spirit, now conscious that his time was come, gathers up his whole
strength, with intent by a last stroke to kill his victim, and had
nearly succeeded. But the Lord of life was there; the Healer of all
maladies, the Friend of sinners, the Seed of the woman, "the Stronger
than the strong man armed," was there. The very faith which Christ
declared to be enough for everything being now found, it was not
possible that the serpent should prevail. Fearfully is he permitted to
bruise the heel, as in this case; but his own head shall go for
it--his works shall be destroyed
27. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.
28. Why could not we cast him out?
29. And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing but by
prayer and fasting--that is, as nearly all good interpreters are
agreed, "this kind of evil spirits cannot be expelled," or "so desperate
a case of demoniacal possession cannot be cured, but by prayer and
fasting." But since the Lord Himself says that His disciples could not
fast while He was with them, perhaps this was designed, as
for their after-guidance--unless we take it as but a definite way of
expressing the general truth, that great and difficult duties require
special preparation and self-denial. But the answer to their question,
as given in
Mt 17:20, 21
is fuller: "And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief. For
verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye
shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it
shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you"
"Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting"
that is, though nothing is impossible to faith, yet such a height of
faith as is requisite for such triumphs is not to be reached either in
a moment or without effort--either with God in prayer or with ourselves
in self-denying exercises. Luke
adds, "And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God"--"at the
majesty" or "mightiness of God," in this last miracle, in the
Transfiguration, &c.; or, at the divine grandeur of Christ
rising upon them daily.
Second Explicit Announcement of His Approaching Death and Resurrection
30. And they departed thence, and passed--were passing along.
through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it--By
Mt 17:22, 23
and Lu 9:43, 44
with this, we gather, that
as our Lord's reason for going through Galilee more privately than usual
on this occasion was to reiterate to them the announcement which had so
shocked them at the first mention of it, and thus familiarize them with
it by little and little, so this was His reason for enjoining silence
upon them as to their present movements.
31. For he taught his disciples, and said unto them--"Let these sayings
sink down into your ears"
not what had been passing between them as to His grandeur, but what He
was now to utter.
The Son of man is delivered--The use of the present tense expresses
how near at hand He would have them to consider it. As
steps were already in course of being taken to bring it about.
into the hands of men--This remarkable antithesis, "the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men," it is worthy of notice,
is in all the three Evangelists.
and they shall kill him--that is, "Be not carried off your feet by
all that grandeur of Mine which ye have lately witnessed, but bear in
mind what I have already told you and now distinctly repeat, that that
Sun in whose beams ye now rejoice is soon to set in midnight gloom."
and after he is killed, he shall rise the third day.
32. But they understood not that saying--"and it was hid from them,
[so] that they preceived it not"
and were afraid to ask him--Their most cherished ideas were so
completely dashed by such announcements, that they were afraid of laying
themselves open to rebuke by asking Him any questions. But "they were
While the other Evangelists, as WEBSTER and WILKINSON remark, notice their ignorance and their fear,
Matthew, who was one of them, retains a vivid recollection of their
STRIFE AMONG THE
GREATEST IN THE
Strife among the Twelve, with Relative Teaching
33. What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?--From
this we gather that after the painful communication He had made to
them, the Redeemer had allowed them to travel so much of the way by
themselves; partly, no doubt, that He might have privacy for Himself to
dwell on what lay before Him, and partly that they might be induced to
weigh together and prepare themselves for the terrible events which He
had announced to them. But if so, how different was their occupation!
34. But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among
themselves, who should be the greatest--From
we should infer that the subject was introduced, not by our Lord, but
by the disciples themselves, who came and asked Jesus who should be
greatest. Perhaps one or two of them first referred the matter to
Jesus, who put them off till they should all be assembled together at
Capernaum. He had all the while "perceived the thought of their heart"
but now that they were all together "in the house," He questions them
about it, and they are put to the blush, conscious of the temper
towards each other which it had kindled. This raised the whole question
afresh, and at this point our Evangelist takes it up. The subject was
suggested by the recent announcement of the Kingdom
the transfiguration of their Master, and especially the preference
given to three of them at that scene.
35. If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all,
and servant of all--that is, "let him be" such: he must be prepared
to take the last and lowest place. See on
36. And he took a child--"a little child"
but the word is the same in both places, as also in
and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his
arms--This beautiful trait is mentioned by out Evangelist alone.
he said unto them--Here we must go to Matthew
(Mt 18:3, 4)
for the first of this answer: "Verily I say unto you, except ye be
converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the
kingdom of Heaven:" that is, "Conversion must be thorough; not only
must the heart be turned to God in general, and from earthly to
heavenly things, but in particular, except ye be converted from that
carnal ambition which still rankles within you, into that freedom from
all such feelings which ye see in this child, ye have neither part nor
lot in the kingdom at all; and he who in this feature has most of the
child, is highest there." Whosoever, therefore, shall "humble himself
as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven":
"for he that is [willing to be] least among you all, the same shall be
37. Whosoever shall receive one of such children--so manifesting the
spirit unconsciously displayed by this child.
in my name--from love to Me.
receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but
Him that sent me--(See on
Incidental Rebuke of John for Exclusiveness
38. And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out
devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbade him,
because he followeth not us--The link of connection here with the
foregoing context lies, we apprehend, in the emphatic words which our
Lord had just uttered, "in My name." "Oh," interposes John--young, warm,
but not sufficiently apprehending Christ's teaching in these
matters--"that reminds me of something that we have just done, and we
should like to know if we did right. We saw one casting out devils "in
Thy name," and we forbade him, because he followeth not us. Were we
right, or were we wrong?" Answer--"Ye were wrong." "But we did it
because he followeth not us." "No matter."
39. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do
a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me--soon, that is,
readily "speak evil of me."
40. For he that is not against us is on our part--Two principles of
immense importance are here laid down: "First, No one will readily speak
evil of Me who has the faith to do a miracle in My name; and second, If
such a person cannot be supposed to be against us, ye are to
consider him for us." Let it be carefully observed that our Lord
does not say this man should not have "followed them," nor yet that
it was indifferent whether he did or not; but simply teaches how such a
person was to be regarded, although he did not--namely, as a reverer
of His name and a promoter of His cause.
41. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name,
because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose
his reward--(See on
Continuation of Teaching Suggested by the Disciples' Strife
What follows appears to have no connection with the incidental reproof
of John immediately preceding. As that had interrupted some important
teaching, our Lord hastens back from it, as if no such interruption had
42. For whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in
me--or, shall cause them to stumble; referring probably to the effect
which such unsavory disputes as they had held would have upon the
inquiring and hopeful who came in contact with them, leading to the
belief that after all they were no better than others.
it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his
neck--The word here is simply "millstone," without expressing of
which kind. But in
it is the "ass-turned" kind, far heavier than the small hand-mill
turned by female slaves, as in
It is of course the same which is meant here.
and he were cast into the sea--meaning, that if by such a death that
stumbling were prevented, and so its eternal consequences averted, it
would be a happy thing for them. Here follows a striking verse in
"Woe unto the world because of offences!" (There will be stumblings and
falls and loss of souls enough from the world's treatment of disciples,
without any addition from you: dreadful will be its doom in
consequence; see that ye share not in it). "For it must needs be that
offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" (The
struggle between light and darkness will inevitably cause stumblings,
but not less guilty is he who wilfully makes any to stumble).
43. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to
enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell--See
Mt 5:29, 30.
The only difference between the words there and here is that there they
refer to impure inclinations; here, to an ambitious disposition, an
irascible or quarrelsome temper, and the like: and the injunction is to
strike at the root of such dispositions and cut off the occasions of
47. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for
thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two
eyes to be cast into hell-fire--On the words "hell" and
"hell-fire," or "the hell of fire," see on
48. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not
The "unquenchablesness" of this fire has already been brought before us
and the awfully vivid idea of an undying worm, everlastingly consuming
an unconsumable body, is taken from the closing words of the
which seem to have furnished the later Jewish Church with its current
phraseology on the subject of future punishment (see LIGHTFOOT).
49. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall
be salted with salt--A difficult verse, on which much has been
written--some of it to little purpose. "Every one" probably means "Every
follower of mine"; and the "fire" with which he "must be salted"
probably means "a fiery trial" to season him. (Compare
&c.). The reference to salting the sacrifice is of course to that maxim
of the Levitical law, that every acceptable sacrifice must be sprinkled
with salt, to express symbolically its soundness, sweetness,
wholesomeness, acceptability. But as it had to be roasted first,
we have here the further idea of a salting with fire. In this case,
"every sacrifice," in the next clause, will mean, "Every one who would
be found an acceptable offering to God"; and thus the whole verse may
perhaps be paraphrased as follows: "Every disciple of Mine shall have a
fiery trial to undergo, and everyone who would be found an odor of a
sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God, must have
such a salting, like the Levitical sacrifices." Another, but, as
it seems to us, farfetched as well as harsh, interpretation--suggested
first, we believe, by MICHAELIS, and adopted by
ALEXANDER--takes the "every sacrifice which must
be salted with fire" to mean those who are "cast into hell," and the
preservative effect of this salting to refer to the preservation
of the lost not only in but by means of the fire of hell.
Their reason for this is that the other interpretation changes the
meaning of the "fire," and the characters too, from the lost to the
saved, in these verses. But as our Lord confessedly ends His discourse
with the case of His own true disciples, the transition to them in
is perfectly natural; whereas to apply the preservative salt of the
sacrifice to the preserving quality of hell-fire, is equally contrary
to the symbolical sense of salt and the Scripture representations of
future torment. Our Lord has still in His eye the unseemly jarrings
which had arisen among the Twelve, the peril to themselves of allowing
any indulgence to such passions, and the severe self-sacrifice which
salvation would cost them.
50. Salt is good; but if the salt have lost his saltness--its power
to season what it is brought into contact with.
wherewith will ye season it?--How is this property to be
restored? See on
Have salt in yourselves--See to it that ye retain in yourselves those
precious qualities that will make you a blessing to one another, and to
all around you.
and--with respect to the miserable strife out of which all this
discourse has sprung, in one concluding word.
have peace one with another--This is repeated in