In this chapter, we have,
I. Christ preaching to the people out of Peter's ship, for want of a
II. The recompence he made to Peter for the loan of his boat, in a
miraculous draught of fishes, by which he intimated to him and his
partners his design to make them, as apostles, fishers of men,
III. His cleansing the leper,
IV. A short account of his private devotion and public ministry,
V. His cure of the man sick of the palsy,
VI. His calling Levi the publican, and conversing with publicans on
VII. His justifying his disciples in not fasting so frequently as the
disciples of John and the Pharisees did,
|The Call of Peter, James, and John.
1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to
hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen
were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and
prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And
he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out
into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all
the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I
will let down the net.
6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude
of fishes: and their net brake.
7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the
other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came,
and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees,
saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the
draught of the fishes which they had taken:
10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee,
which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear
not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.
11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook
all, and followed him.
This passage of story fell, in order of time, before the two miracles
we had in the close of the foregoing chapter, and is the same with that
which was more briefly related by Matthew and Mark, of Christ's calling
Peter and Andrew to be fishers of men,
They had not related this miraculous draught of fishes at that time,
having only in view the calling of his disciples; but Luke gives us
that story as one of the many signs which Jesus did in the presence of
his disciples, which had not been written in the foregoing
I. What vast crowds attended Christ's preaching: The people
pressed upon him to hear the word of God
insomuch that no house would contain them, but he was forced to draw
them out to the strand, that they might be reminded of the
promise made to Abraham, that his seed should be as the sand upon
the sea shore
and yet of them but a remnant shall be saved,
The people flocked about him (so the word signifies); they
showed respect to his preaching, though not without some rudeness to
his person, which was very excusable, for they pressed upon him.
Some would reckon this a discredit to him, to be thus cried up by the
vulgar, when none of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed
in him; but he reckoned it an honour to him, for their souls were
as precious as the souls of the grandees, and it is his aim to bring
not so much the mighty as the many sons to God. It was foretold
concerning him that to him shall the gathering of the people be.
Christ was a popular preacher; and though he was able, at
twelve, to dispute with the doctors, yet he chose,
at thirty, to preach to the capacity of the vulgar. See
how the people relished good preaching, though under all
external disadvantages: they pressed to hear the word of God;
they could perceive it to be the word of God, by the divine
power and evidence that went along with it, and therefore they coveted
to hear it.
II. What poor conveniences Christ had for preaching: He stood
by the lake of Gennesareth
upon a level with the crowd, so that they could neither see him nor
hear him; he was lost among them, and, every one striving to get near
him, he was crowded, and in danger of being crowded into the water:
what must he do? It does not appear that his hearers had any
contrivance to give him advantage, but there were two ships, or
fishing boats, brought ashore, one belonging to Simon and
Andrew, the other to Zebedee and his sons,
At first, Christ saw Peter and Andrew fishing at some distance (so
Matthew tells us,
but he waited till they came to land, and till the fishermen,
that is, the servants, were gone out of them having washed their
nets, and thrown them by for that time: so Christ entered into
that ship that belonged to Simon, and begged of him that he
would lend it him for a pulpit; and, though he might have commanded
him, yet, for love's sake, he rather prayed him that he would
thrust out a little from the land, which would be the worse for
his being heard, but Christ would have it so, that he might the
better be seen; and it is his being lifted up that
draws men to him. Wisdom cries in the top of high places,
It intimates that Christ had a strong voice (strong indeed, for he made
the dead to hear it), and that he did not desire to favour
himself. There he sat down, and taught the people the
good knowledge of the Lord.
III. What a particular acquaintance Christ, hereupon, fell into with
these fishermen. They had had some conversation with him before, which
began at John's baptism
they were with him at Cana of Galilee
and in Judea
but as yet they were not called to attend him constantly, and therefore
here we have them at their calling, and now it was that they were
called into a more intimate fellowship with Christ.
1. When Christ had done preaching, he ordered Peter to apply himself to
the business of his calling again: Launch out into the deep, and let
down your nets,
It was not the sabbath day, and therefore, as soon as the lecture was
over, he set them to work. Time spent on week-days in the public
exercises of religion may be but little hindrance to us in time,
and a great furtherance to us in temper of mind, in our worldly
business. With what cheerfulness may we go about the duties of our
calling when we have been in the mount with God, and from thence
fetch a double blessing into our worldly employments, and thus have
them sanctified to us by the word and prayer! It is our wisdom and duty
so to manage our religious exercises as that they may befriend our
worldly business, and so to manage our worldly business as that it may
be no enemy to our religious exercises.
2. Peter having attended upon Christ in his preaching,
Christ will accompany him in his fishing. He staid with
Christ at the shore, and now Christ will launch out with him
into the deep. Note, Those that will be constant followers of
Christ shall have him a constant guide to them.
3. Christ ordered Peter and his ship's crew to cast their nets into
the sea, which they did, in obedience to him, though they had been
hard at it all night, and had caught nothing,
We may observe here,
(1.) How melancholy their business had now been: "Master, we have
toiled all the night, when we should have been asleep in our beds,
and have taken nothing, but have had our labour for our pains."
One would have thought that this should have excused them from hearing
the sermon; but such a love had they to the word of God that it was
more refreshing and reviving to them, after a wearisome night, than the
softest slumbers. But they mention it to Christ, when he bids them go a
fishing again. Note,
[1.] Some callings are much more toilsome than others
are, and more perilous; yet Providence has so ordered it for the common
good that there is no useful calling so discouraging but some or other
have a genius for it. Those who follow their business, and get
abundance by it with a great deal of ease, should think with compassion
of those who cannot follow theirs but with a great fatigue, and hardly
get a bare livelihood by it. When we have rested all night, let
us not forget those who have toiled all night, as Jacob, when he
kept Laban's sheep.
[2.] Be the calling ever so laborious, it is good to see people
diligent in it, and make the best of it; these fishermen, that were
thus industrious, Christ singled out for his favourites. They
were fit to be preferred as good soldiers of Jesus Christ who had thus
learned to endure hardness.
[3.] Even those who are most diligent in their business often meet with
disappointments; they who toiled all night yet caught
nothing; for the race is not always to the swift. God
will have us to be diligent, purely in duty to his command and
dependence upon his goodness, rather than with an assurance of worldly
success. We must do our duty, and then leave the event to God.
[4.] When we are tired with our worldly business, and crossed in our
worldly affairs, we are welcome to come to Christ, and spread our case
before him, who will take cognizance of it.
(2.) How ready their obedience was to the command of Christ:
Nevertheless, at thy word, I will let down the net.
[1.] Though they had toiled all night, yet, if Christ bid them,
they will renew their toil, for they know that they who wait on him
shall renew their strength, as work is renewed upon their hands;
for every fresh service they shall have a fresh supply of grace
[2.] Though they have taken nothing, yet, if Christ bid them
let down for a draught, they will hope to take something.
Note, We must not abruptly quit the callings wherein we are called
because we have not the success in them we promised ourselves. The
ministers of the gospel must continue to let down that
net, though they have perhaps toiled long and caught
nothing; and this is thank-worthy, to continue unwearied in our
labours, though we see not the success of them.
[3.] In this they have an eye to the word of Christ, and a
dependence upon that: "At thy word, I will let down the net,
because thou dost enjoin it, and thou dost encourage it." We are
then likely to speed well when we follow the guidance of
4. The draught of fish they caught was so much beyond what was ever
known that it amounted to a miracle
They enclosed a great multitude of fishes, so that their net
broke, and yet, which is strange, they did not lose their draught.
It was so great a draught that they had not hands sufficient to
draw it up; but they were obliged to beckon to their partners, who were
at a distance, out of call, to come and help them,
But the greatest evidence of the vastness of the draught was that they
filled both the ships with fish, to such a degree that they overloaded
them, and they began to sink, so that the fish had like to have
been lost again with their own weight. Thus many an overgrown estate,
raised out of the water, returns to the place whence it came. Suppose
these ships were but five or six tons a piece, what a vast quantity of
fish must there be to load, nay to over-load, them
Now by this vast draught of fishes,
(1.) Christ intended to show his dominion in the seas as
well as on the dry land, over its wealth as over its
waves. Thus he would show that he was that Son of man
under whose feet all things were put, and particularly the fish of
the sea and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea,
(2.) He intended hereby to confirm the doctrine he had just now
preached out of Peter's ship. We may suppose that the people on shore,
who heard the sermon, having a notion that the preacher was a prophet
sent of God, carefully attended his motions afterward, and staid
halting about there, to see what he would do next; and this miracle
immediately following would be a confirmation to their faith, of his
being at least a teacher come from God.
(3.) He intended hereby to repay Peter for the loan of his boat; for
Christ's gospel now, as his ark formerly in the house of Obed-edom,
will be sure to make amends, rich amends, for its kind entertainment.
None shall shut a door or kindle a fire in God's house for
Christ's recompences for services done to his name are abundant, they
(4.) He intended hereby to give a specimen, to those who were to be his
ambassadors to the world, of the success of their embassy, that though
they might for a time, and in one particular place, toil and
catch nothing, yet they should be instrumental to bring in many
to Christ, and enclose many in the gospel net.
5. The impression which this miraculous draught of fishes made upon
Peter was very remarkable.
(1.) All concerned were astonished, and the more
astonished for their being concerned. All the boat's crew
were astonished at the draught of fishes which they had taken
they were all surprised; and the more they considered it, and all the
circumstances of it, the more they were wonder-struck, I had
almost said thunder-struck, at the thought of it, and so were
also James and John, who were partners with Simon
and who, for aught that appears, were not so well acquainted with
Christ, before this, as Peter and Andrew were. Now they were the more
affected with it,
[1.] Because they understood it better than others did. They
that were well acquainted with this sea, and it is probable had plied
upon it many years, had never seen such a draught of fishes fetched out
of it, nor any thing like it, any thing near it; and therefore they
could not be tempted to diminish it, as others might, by suggesting
that it was accidental at this time, and what might as well have
happened at any time. It greatly corroborates the evidence of
Christ's miracles that those who were best acquainted with them
most admired them.
[2.] Because they were most interested in it, and
benefited by it. Peter and his part-owners were gainers by this
great draught of fishes; it was a rich booty for them and therefore it
transported them, and their joy was a helper to their
faith. Note, When Christ's works of wonder are to us, in
particular, works of grace, then especially they command our faith in
(2.) Peter, above all the rest, was astonished to such a degree that he
fell down at Jesus's knees, as he sat in the stern of his boat,
and said, as one in an ecstasy or transport, that knew not where he was
or what he said, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,
Not that he feared the weight of the fish would sink him because he was
a sinful man, but that he thought himself unworthy of the favour of
Christ's presence in his boat, and worthy that it should be to him a
matter rather of terror than of comfort. This word of Peter's came from
the same principle with theirs who, under the Old-Testament, so often
said that they did exceedingly fear and quake at the
extraordinary display of the divine glory and majesty. It was the
language of Peter's humility and self-denial, and had not the least
tincture of the devils' dialect, What have we to do with thee,
Jesus, thou Son of God?
[1.] His acknowledgment was very just, and what it becomes us all to
make: I am a sinful man, O Lord. Note, Even the best men
are sinful men, and should be ready upon all occasions to own
it, and especially to own it to Jesus Christ; for to whom else, but to
him who came into the world to save sinners, should sinful
men apply themselves?
[2.] His inference from it was what might have been just, though
really it was not so. If I be a sinful man, as indeed I am, I
ought to say, "Come to me, O Lord, or let me come to thee, or I
am undone, for ever undone." But, considering what reason
sinful men have to tremble before the holy Lord God and to dread
his wrath, Peter may well be excused, if, in a sense of his own
sinfulness and vileness, he cried out on a sudden, Depart from
me. Note, Those whom Christ designs to admit to the most
intimate acquaintance with him he first makes sensible that they
deserve to be set at the greatest distance from him. We must all
own ourselves sinful men, and that therefore Jesus Christ might
justly depart from us; but we must therefore fall down at his
knees, to pray him that he would not depart; for woe unto us
if he leave us, if the Saviour depart from the sinful man.
6. The occasion which Christ took from this to intimate to Peter
and soon after to James and John
his purpose to make them his apostles, and instruments of planting his
religion in the world. He said unto Simon, who was in the
greatest surprise of any of them at this prodigious draught of fishes,
"Thou shalt both see and do greater things than these; fear not;
let not this astonish thee; be not afraid that, after having done thee
this honour, it is so great that I shall never do thee more; no,
henceforth thou shalt catch men, by enclosing them in the gospel
net, and that shall be a greater instance of the Redeemer's power, and
his favour to thee, than this is; that shall be a more
astonishing miracle, and infinitely more advantageous
than this." When by Peter's preaching three thousand souls were,
in one day, added to the church, then the type of this great
draught of fishes was abundantly answered.
Lastly, The fishermen's farewell to their calling, in order to
their constant attendance on Christ
When they had brought their ships to land, instead of going to
seek for a market for their fish, that they might make the best hand
they could of this miracle, they forsook all and followed him,
being more solicitous to serve the interests of Christ than to advance
any secular interests of their own. It is observable that they left
all to follow Christ, when their calling prospered in their hands
more than ever it had done and they had had uncommon success in it.
When riches increase, and we are therefore most in temptation to
set our hearts upon them, then to quit them for the service of
Christ, this is thank-worthy.
12 And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a
man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and
besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me
13 And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I
will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from
14 And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and show thyself
to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses
commanded, for a testimony unto them.
15 But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and
great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him
of their infirmities.
16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
I. The cleansing of a leper,
This narrative we had both in Matthew and Mark. It is here said to have
been in a certain city
it was in Capernaum, but the evangelist would not name it, perhaps
because it was a reflection upon the government of the city that a
leper was suffered to be in it. This man is said to be full
of leprosy; he had that distemper in a high degree, which the more
fitly represents our natural pollution by sin; we are full of that
leprosy, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is no
soundness in us. Now let us learn here,
1. What we must do in the sense of our spiritual leprosy.
(1.) We must seek Jesus, enquire after him, acquaint ourselves
with him, and reckon the discoveries made to us of Christ by the gospel
the most acceptable and welcome discoveries that could be made to us.
(2.) We must humble ourselves before him, as this leper, seeing Jesus,
fell on his face. We must be ashamed of our pollution,
and, in the sense of it, blush to lift up our faces before the holy
(3.) We must earnestly desire to be cleansed from the
defilement, and cured of the disease, of sin, which renders us unfit
for communion with God.
(4.) We must firmly believe Christ's ability and sufficiency to cleanse
us: Lord, thou canst make me clean, though I be full of
leprosy. No doubt is to be made of the merit and grace of Christ.
(5.) We must be importunate in prayer for pardoning mercy and renewing
grace: He fell on his face and besought him; they that would be
cleansed must reckon it a favour worth wrestling for.
(6.) We must refer ourselves to the good-will of Christ: Lord, if
thou wilt, thou canst. This is not so much the language of his
diffidence, or distrust of the good-will of Christ, as of
his submission and reference of himself and his case to the will, to
the good-will, of Jesus Christ.
2. What we may expect from Christ, if we thus apply ourselves to him.
(1.) We shall find him very condescending and forward to take
cognizance of our case
He put forth his hand and touched him. When Christ visited this
leprous world, unasked, unsought unto, he showed how low he could
stoop, to do good. His touching the leper was wonderful
condescension; but it is much greater to us when he is himself
touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
(2.) We shall find him very compassionate, and ready to relieve
us; he said, "I will, never doubt of that; whosoever comes to me
to be healed, I will in no wise cast him out." He is as willing
to cleanse leprous souls as they can be to be cleansed.
(3.) We shall find him all-sufficient, and able to heal and cleanse us,
though we be ever so full of this loathsome leprosy. One word, one
touch, from Christ, did the business: Immediately the leprosy
departed from him. If Christ saith, "I will, be thou
justified, be thou sanctified," it is done; for he has
power on earth to forgive sin, and power to give the Holy
1 Corinthians 6:11.
3. What he requires from those that are cleansed,
Has Christ sent his word and healed us?
(1.) We must be very humble
He charged him to tell no man. This, it should seem, did not
forbid him telling it to the honour of Christ, but he must not tell it
to his own honour. Those whom Christ hath healed and cleansed must know
that he hath done it in such a way as for ever excludes boasting.
(2.) We must be very thankful, and make a grateful
acknowledgment of the divine grace: Go, and offer for thy
cleansing. Christ did not require him to give him a fee, but to
bring the sacrifice of praise to God; so far was he from using his
power to the prejudice of the law of Moses.
(3.) We must keep close to our duty; go to the priest,
and those that attend him. The man whom Christ had made whole he
found in the temple,
Those who by any affliction have been detained from public ordinances
should, when the affliction is removed, attend on them the more
diligently, and adhere to them the more constantly.
4. Christ's public serviceableness to men and his private
communion with God; these are put together here, to give lustre to
(1.) Though never any had so much pleasure in his
retirements as Christ had, yet he was much in a crowd, to
Though the leper should altogether hold his peace, yet the thing could
not be hid, so much the more went there a fame abroad of him.
The more he sought to conceal himself under a veil of humility, the
more notice did people take of him; for honour is like a shadow, which
flees from those that pursue it (for a man to seek his own glory is
not glory), but follows those that decline it, and draw from it.
The less good men say of themselves, the more will others say of them.
But Christ reckoned it a small honour to him that his fame went
abroad; it was much more so that hereby multitudes were brought to
receive benefit by him.
[1.] By his preaching. They came together to hear him, and to
receive instruction from him concerning the kingdom of God.
[2.] By his miracles. They came to be healed by him of their
infirmities; that invited them to come to hear him, confirmed his
doctrine, and recommended it.
(2.) Though never any did so much good in public, yet he found
time for pious and devout retirements
He withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed; not that he
needed to avoid either distraction or ostentation, but he would set us
an example, who need to order the circumstances of our devotion so as
to guard against both. It is likewise our wisdom so to order our
affairs as that our public work and our secret work may not intrench
upon, nor interfere with, one another. Note, Secret prayer must be
performed secretly; and those that have ever so much to do of the best
business in this world must keep up constant stated times for it.
17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching,
that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by,
which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judæa, and
Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.
18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with
a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay
him before him.
19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring
him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and
let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst
20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins
are forgiven thee.
21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying,
Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but
22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said
unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?
23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to
say, Rise up and walk?
24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon
earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I
say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine
25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that
whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.
26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were
filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.
I. A general account of Christ's preaching and miracles,
1. He was teaching on a certain day, not on the sabbath day,
then he would have said so, but on a week-day; six days shalt thou
labour, not only for the world, but for the soul, and
the welfare of that. Preaching and hearing the word of God are
good works, if they be done well, any day in the
week, as well as on sabbath days. It was not in the
synagogue, but in a private house; for even there where
we ordinarily converse with our friends it is not improper to give and
receive good instruction.
2. There he taught, he healed (as before,
And the power of the Lord was to heal them--en eis to
iasthai autous. It was mighty to heal them; it was
exerted and put forth to heal them, to heal those whom he
taught (we may understand it so), to heal their souls, to cure
them of their spiritual diseases, and to give them a new life, a new
nature. Note, Those who receive the word of Christ in faith will find a
divine power going along with that word, to heal them; for
Christ came with his comforts to heal the broken-hearted,
The power of the Lord is present with the word, present to
those that pray for it and submit to it, present to heal
them. Or it may be meant (and so it is generally taken) of the
healing of those who were diseased in body, who came to him for
cures. Whenever there was occasion, Christ had not to seek for
his power, it was present to heal.
3. There were some grandees present in this assembly, and, as it should
seem, more than usual: There were Pharisees, and doctors of the law,
sitting by; not sitting at his feet, to learn of him; then I
should have been willing to take the following clause as referring to
those who are spoken of immediately before (the power of the Lord
was present to heal them); and why might not the word of Christ
reach their hearts? But, by what follows
it appears that they were not healed, but cavilled at Christ,
which compels us to refer this to others, not to them; for they sat
by as persons unconcerned, as if the word of Christ were
nothing to them. They sat by as spectators, censors, and spies, to pick
up something on which to ground a reproach or accusation. How many are
there in the midst of our assemblies, where the gospel is preached,
that do not sit under the word, but sit by! It is to them
as a tale that is told them, not as a message that
is sent them; they are willing that we should preach before
them, not that we should preach to them. These Pharisees and
scribes (or doctors of the law) came out of every town of Galilee,
and Judea, and Jerusalem; they came from all parts of the nation.
Probably, they appointed to meet at this time and place, to see what
remarks they could make upon Christ and what he said and did. They were
in a confederacy, as those that said, Come, and let us devise
devices against Jeremiah, and agree to smite him with the
Report, and we will report it,
Observe, Christ went on with his work of preaching and
healing, though he saw these Pharisees, and doctors of the
Jewish church, sitting by, who, he knew, despised him,
and watched to ensnare him.
II. A particular account of the cure of the man sick of the
palsy, which was related much as it is here by both the foregoing
evangelists: let us therefore only observe in short,
1. The doctrines that are taught us and confirmed to us by the story of
(1.) That sin is the fountain of all sickness, and the forgiveness of
sin is the only foundation upon which a recovery from sickness can
comfortably be built. They presented the sick man to Christ, and
he said, "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee
that is the blessing thou art most to prize and seek; for if thy sins
be forgiven thee, though the sickness be continued, it is in mercy; if
they be not, though the sickness be removed, it is in wrath." The cords
of our iniquity are the bands of our affliction.
(2.) That Jesus Christ has power on earth to forgive sins, and
his healing diseases was an incontestable proof of it. This was
the thing intended to be proved
That ye may know and believe that the Son of man, though
now upon earth in his state of humiliation, hath power to forgive
sins, and to release sinners, upon gospel terms, from the eternal
punishment of sin, he saith to the sick of the palsy, Arise, and
walk; and he is cured immediately. Christ claims one of the
prerogatives of the King of kings when he undertakes to forgive
sin, and it is justly expected that he should produce a good proof
of it. "Well," saith he, "I will put it upon this issue: here is a man
struck with a palsy, and for his sin; if I do not with a word's
speaking cure his disease in an instant, which cannot be done by nature
or art, but purely by the immediate power and efficacy of the God of
nature, then say that I am not entitled to the prerogative of forgiving
sin, am not the Messiah, am not the Son of God and King of Israel: but,
if I do, you must own that I have power to forgive sins." Thus
it was put upon a fair trial, and one word of Christ determined it. He
did but say, Arise, take up thy couch, and that chronical
disease had an instantaneous cure; immediately he arose
before them. They must all own that there could be no cheat or
fallacy in it. They that brought him could attest how perfectly
lame he was before; they that saw him could attest how perfectly
well he was now, insomuch that he had strength enough to take up
and carry away the bed he lay upon. How well is it for us that this
most comfortable doctrine of the gospel, that Jesus Christ, our
Redeemer and Saviour, has power to forgive sin, has such
a full attestation!
(3.) That Jesus Christ is God. He appears to be so,
[1.] By knowing the thoughts of the scribes and Pharisees
which it is God's prerogative to do, though these scribes and Pharisees
knew as well how to conceal their thoughts, and keep their
countenances, as most men, and probably were industrious to do it at
this time, for they lay in wait secretly.
[2.] By doing that which their thoughts owned none could do but God
Who can forgive sins, say they, but only God? "I will
prove," saith Christ, "that I can forgive sins;" and what follows then
but that he is God? What horrid wickedness then were
they guilty of who charged him with speaking the worst of
blasphemies, even when he spoke the best of blessings,
Thy sins are forgiven thee!
2. The duties that are taught us, and recommended to us, by this story.
(1.) In our applications to Christ, we must be very pressing and
urgent: that is an evidence of faith, and is very pleasing to
Christ and prevailing with him. They that were the friends of this sick
man sought means to bring him in before Christ
and, when they were baffled in their endeavour, they did not give up
their cause; but when they could not get in by the door, it was
so crowded, they untiled the house, and let the poor patient down
through the roof, into the midst before Jesus,
In this Jesus Christ saw their faith,
Now here he has taught us (and it were well if we could learn the
lesson) to put the best construction upon words and actions that
they will bear. When the centurion and the woman of Canaan were
in no care at all to bring the patients they interceded for into
Christ's presence, but believed that he could cure them at a
distance, he commended their faith. But though in
these there seemed to be a different notion of the thing,
and an apprehension that it was requisite the patient should be
brought into his presence, yet he did not censure and
condemn their weakness, did not ask them, "Why do you give this
disturbance to the assembly? Are you under such a degree of infidelity
as to think I could not have cured him, though he had been out of
doors?" But he made the best of it, and even in this he saw
their faith. It is a comfort to us that we serve a Master that
is willing to make the best of us.
(2.) When we are sick, we should be more in care to get our sins
pardoned than to get our sickness removed. Christ, in what he said to
this man, taught us, when we seek to God for health, to begin with
seeking to him for pardon.
(3.) The mercies which we have the comfort of God must have the praise
of. The man departed to his own house, glorifying God,
To him belong the escapes from death, and in them therefore he must be
(4.) The miracles which Christ wrought were amazing to those
that saw them, and we ought to glorify God in them,
They said, "We have seen strange things to-day, such as we never
saw before, nor our fathers before us; they are altogether new." But
they glorified God, who had sent into their country such a
benefactor to it; and were filled with fear, with a reverence of
God, with a jealous persuasion that this was the Messiah and that he
was not treated by their nation as he ought to be, which might prove in
the end the ruin of their state; perhaps they were some such thoughts
as these that filled them with fear, and a concern likewise for
|The Call of Matthew; Watchfulness Inculcated.
27 And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican,
named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto
him, Follow me.
28 And he left all, rose up, and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there
was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with
30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his
disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and
31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need
not a physician; but they that are sick.
32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
33 And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast
often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the
Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?
34 And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the
bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?
35 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken
away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
36 And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a
piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the
new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new
agreeth not with the old.
37 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new
wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles
38 But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are
39 No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth
new: for he saith, The old is better.
All this, except the last verse, we had before in Matthew and Mark; it
is not the story of any miracle in nature wrought by our Lord
Jesus, but it is an account of some of the wonders of his grace,
which, to those who understand things aright, are no less cogent proofs
of Christ's being sent of God than the other.
I. It was a wonder of his grace that he would call a publican,
from the receipt of custom, to be his disciple and follower,
It was wonderful condescension that he should admit poor fishermen to
that honour, men of the lowest rank; but much more wonderful
that he should admit publicans, men of the worst
reputation, men of ill fame. In this Christ humbled
himself, and appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh. By
this he exposed himself, and got the invidious character of a
friend of publicans and sinners.
II. It was a wonder of his grace that the call was made
effectual, became immediately so,
This publican, though those of that employment commonly had little
inclination to religion, for his religion's sake left a good place in
the custom-house (which, probably, was his livelihood, and where he
stood fair for better preferment), and rose up, and followed
Christ. There is no heart too hard for the Spirit and grace of
Christ to work upon, nor any difficulties in the way of a sinner's
conversion insuperable to his power.
III. It was a wonder of his grace that he would not only admit a
converted publican into his family, but would keep company with
unconverted publicans, that he might have an opportunity of doing their
souls good; he justified himself in it, as agreeing with the great
design of his coming into the world. Here is a wonder of grace indeed,
that Christ undertakes to be the Physician of souls distempered
by sin, and ready to die of the distemper (he is a Healer by
that he has a particular regard to the sick, to sinners as his
patients, convinced awakened sinners, that see their need of the
Physician--that he came to call sinners, the worst of sinners,
to repentance, and to assure them of pardon, upon repentance,
These are glad tidings of great joy indeed.
IV. It was a wonder of his grace that he did so patiently bear the
contradiction of sinners against himself and his disciples,
He did not express his resentment of the cavils of the scribes and
Pharisees, as he justly might have done, but answered them with reason
and meekness; and, instead of taking that occasion to show his
displeasure against the Pharisees, as afterwards he did, or of
recriminating upon them, he took that occasion to show his compassion
to poor publicans, another sort of sinners, and to encourage them.
V. It was a wonder of his grace that, in the discipline under which he
trained up his disciples, he considered their frame, and
proportioned their services to their strength and standing, and to the
circumstances they were in. It was objected, as a blemish upon his
conduct, that he did not make his disciples to fast so
often as those of the Pharisees and John Baptist did,
He insisted most upon that which is the soul of fasting, the
mortification of sin, the crucifying of the flesh, and the living of a
life of self-denial, which is as much better than fasting and corporal
penances as mercy is better than sacrifice.
VI. It was a wonder of his grace that Christ reserved the trials of his
disciples for their latter times, when by his grace they were in some
good measure better prepared and fitted for them than they were at
first. Now they were as the children of the bride-chamber, when
the bridegroom is with them, when they have plenty and joy, and
every day is a festival. Christ was welcomed wherever he came, and they
for his sake, and as yet they met with little or no opposition; but
this will not last always. The days will come when the
bridegroom shall be taken away from them,
When Christ shall leave them with their hearts full of sorrow, their
hands full of work, and the world full of enmity and rage against them,
then shall they fast, shall not be so well fed as they are now.
We both hunger and thirst and are naked,
1 Corinthians 4:11.
Then they shall keep many more religious fasts than they do now,
for Providence will call them to it; they will then serve the Lord
VII. It was a wonder of his grace that he proportioned their exercises
to their strength. He would not put new cloth upon an old
nor new wine into old bottles
he would not, as soon as ever he had called them out of the world, put
them upon the strictnesses and austerities of discipleship, lest they
should be tempted to fly off. When God brought Israel out of
Egypt, he would not bring them by the way of the Philistines,
lest they should repent, when they saw war, and return
So Christ would train up his followers gradually to the discipline of
his family; for no man, having drank old wine, will of a
sudden, straightway, desire new, or relish it, but will say,
The old is better, because he has been used to it,
The disciples will be tempted to think their old way of living better,
till they are by degrees trained up to this way whereunto they are
called. Or, turn it the other way: "Let them be accustomed
awhile to religious exercises, and then they will abound in them
as much as you do: but we must not be too hasty with them." Calvin
takes it as an admonition to the Pharisees not to boast of their
fasting, and the noise and show they made with it, nor to despise his
disciples because they did not in like manner signalize
themselves; for the profession the Pharisees made was indeed
pompous and gay, like new wine that is brisk and
sparkling, whereas all wise men say, The old is better; for,
though it does not give its colour so well in the cup, yet it is more
warming in the stomach and more wholesome. Christ's disciples, though
they had not so much of the form of godliness, had more of the
power of it.