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2. He appealed to the highest of all testimonies, that of God himself; both in the miracles he was commissioned to perform; and also in the voice from heaven at his baptism, ver. 36, 37. This testimony had its due weight with Nicodemus.
3. He referred them to the Scripture prophecies, testifying of Him, delivered to Moses, in whom they trusted, as their teacher, for the attainment of eternal life; such as the prophecies of the "seed of the woman," the "seed of Abraham," "Shiloh," "the star and sceptre to rise out of Jacob and Israel," the prophet like Moses; all fulfilled in Him, as the true MESSIAH; and warned them that Moses himself would accuse them for their criminal infidelity to THE FATHER, in not believing his writings concerning CHRIST. "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed ME, for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my sayings?" ver. 39-47.
4. He stated the true cause of their infidelity, as owing, in a great measure, to their pride and vain prejudices of the temporal grandeur of the MESSIAH'S kingdom. "I have come in MY FATHER'S name, [to found a spiritual kingdom,] and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, [as a false Christ, to found a temporal kingdom,] him ye will receive: How can ye believe, who receive honour from each other, and seek not the honour that cometh from GOD only?" ver. 41-44.
SECOND RETURN TO GALILEE.
After this interesting conversation at Jerusalem, during the feast of the Passover, recorded only by John, our Lord returned with his disciples to Galilee; where his proceedings are continued by the other Evangelists.
The first transaction of moment, and in the order of time, seems to be that of his disciples,
PLUCKING THE EARS OF CORN.
"AS JESUS was going through the corn fields, on a sabbath day, his disciples were hungry, and began to pluck, and eat the ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands," Matt. xii. 1, Mark ii. 23, Luke vi. 1.
This sabbath is marked by Luke, to have been dɛUTEρоTρWTOV, or" the first sabbath after the second day of the paschal week;" for "the morrow after the sabbath,” or the second day of the paschal week," was "the high day," on which the Jews were
required to offer the wave sheaf of the barley harvest; and also from which they were to begin to reckon the seven weeks, till Pentecost, Levit. xxiii. 15, Matt. xxvii. 62, John xix. 31. See Scaliger de emendatione Temp. p. 559, or Cruden, Concordance, voce, sabbath.
Though THE LAW permitted passengers to pluck the ears of standing corn, and eat them, Deut. xxiii. 25, yet it forbad to reap, or do any manner of work on the sabbath day. But the Pharisees perversely interpreted this action of the disciples to be a kind of reaping; and called upon JESUS, either to justify or condemn his disciples, for "doing what was not lawful for them to do on the sabbath day."
This was a dilemma of the most serious nature; if He justified them, he involved himself in the punishment due to a sabbath breaker, which was death; if he condemned them, it would ruin his character, for suffering his disciples to transgress the law; and would deter others from joining him, Matt. xii. 2, Mark ii. 23, Luke vi. 2.
With infinite address our Lord extricated himself from this dangerous dilemma, by taking advantage of some particular exceptions, in which the law was broken without blame.
1. The case of David, who, in his flight from Saul, "ate of the shewbread, he and his men, which was not lawful but for the priests to eat; and this, by and with the consent of Abiathar, afterwards high priest*;" whose decisions were considered as oracular by the Jewish doctors; which may account for our Lord's mentioning him, as a person of greater celebrity than his father, Ahimelech, who was actually high priest at the time, 1 Sam. xxi. 1-6, xxii. 20, 1 Kings ii. 27.
2. The priests profaned the sabbath by the daily sacrifices, which they offered in obedience to the law; and were, therefore, blameless +.
3. The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. For man's convenience, therefore, the law of the sabbath might be dispensed with by THE SON OF MAN, who was "LORD even of the sabbath," and who had declared by his
So "Jesse begat David [afterwards] the king," Matt. i. 6.
Kimchi has noticed another case: "He who ordained the observance of the sabbath, commanded the sabbath to be broken for the destruction of Jericho," Josh. vi. 15. And our Lord afterwards mentioned the case of circumcision performed on the sabbath, John vii. 23.
Prophets, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice," or I delight in acts of mercy and compassion, more than of ritual sacrifice, (Hos. vi. 6, Prov. xxi. 3, Matt. ix. 13, Mark xii. 33.)
Having left his enemies silenced and confounded, with a rebuke that "they ought not to have condemned the guiltless," his disciples; he departed thence, and on another sabbath day, entered into one of the synagogues of Galilee. There he cured the man with a withered hand, after he had silenced his adversaries, who had asked him whether it was lawful to cure on the sabbath day? by proposing to them two questions, which they could not answer; 1. Whether it was lawful to do good, or to do evil on the sabbath day? to save life or to destroy? and 2. by an appeal to their own practice: "Which of you shall have a single sheep fallen into a pit on the Sabbath day, that will not lay hold on, and lift it out? How much better then is a man than a sheep. Wherefore, it is lawful to do good on the sabbath day."
This miracle, and unanswerable argument, in vindication of it, only exasperated them still more to endeavour to destroy him. But JESUS knew it, and withdrew himself from thence, Matt. xii. 9-15, Mark iii. 1-7, Luke vii. 6-11.
THE TWELVE APOSTLES CHOSEN.
Before the choice of his Apostles, OUR LORD retired to the mountain district, to pray, and spent the whole night in prayer unto God, Luke vi. 12. In addition to his six early disciples, chosen before the first passover, and Levi the publican, or Matthew, chosen before the second, Matt. ix. 9, he chose five more, to complete the number of twelve Apostles: in reference, probably, to the twelve tribes of Israel,
Simon Peter, and Andrew his brother,
James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother,
Philip and Nathaniel, or Bartholomew,
Matthew, and Thomas called Didymus, (a twin,)
James, the son of Alpheus, or Cleophas, and Thaddeus, or Jude,
Simon, the Cananite, or Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the traitor, Matt. x. 2, Mark iii. 16, Luke vi. 14.
Simon Peter is named first in all the lists of the Evangelists, because he was the elder brother of Andrew; and for the same
reason, James is put before John. Matthew is put before Thomas, by Mark and Luke; though after, by Matthew himself. James the less, Thaddeus, or Jude, and Simon, were brothers, and the cousin-germans of CHRIST, Matt. xiii. 55; and were among the last that were chosen, probably to repress their presuming upon their kindred; or because they were slower in their faith; as may be collected from the account of the unbelief of our Lord's family and friends, noticed immediately after their appointment, by Mark iii. 20, 21.
THE CURE OF DEMONIACS.
Of all the miraculous cures wrought by OUR LORD, unquestionably the most extraordinary, astonishing, and awakening, are those of Demoniacs, or of patients possessed by wicked or impure spirits, called Demons, (δαιμονες, δαιμονια *.)
It has been the fashion to decry and ridicule the doctrine of demoniacal possessions, and to represent the patients merely as lunatics or madmen. And there is some countenance for it in the calumny of the unbelieving Jews concerning CHRIST, "He hath a demon, and is mad," John x. 20. Both possession and madness often producing the same symptoms with lunacy, of convulsions, &c. Matt. xvii. 15-18. But that they were distinct diseases, may be collected from the following considerations.
1. The Evangelists, enumerating the various description of patients, distinguish demoniacs, (daiμovičoμevoi,) lunatics, (oɛAnviatoμevoi,) and paralytics, (TapaλuтIKоt,) from persons afflicted with other kinds of diseases, Matt. iv. 24, Mark i. 34, Luke vi. 17, 18.
2. That a real dispossession took place, seems to follow from the numbers of these impure inmates; Mary, of Magdala, or the Magdalene, was afflicted with seven demons, Mark xvi. 9, &c. "A legion" besought CHRIST's permission to enter into a numerous herd of 2000 swine; which they did, and drove the whole herd down a precipice into the sea, where they were all
These technical terms are improperly rendered "Devils," which is the appropriate rendering of diaßoλoç. They should not be confounded. According to the primitive Pagan and Jewish notions, demons were "the spirits of deceased men," good or bad, Acts xvii. 18.; and Hesiod's account of the former, Vol. I. p. 243; and of the latter Josephus says that they entered into the living, and often killed them, unless expelled: which they might be, he says, by virtue of a root called baaras. Bel. Jud. VII. 63.
drowned. This remarkable case is noticed by the three Evangelists, Matt. viii. 28, Mark v. 1, Luke viii. 26, most circumstantially.
3. The testimony of the demoniacs to CHRIST, was not that of madmen or idiots. It evinced an intimate knowledge both of his person and character, which was hidden from the wise and prudent of the nation, the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees *. Their language was, "Ah! what hast thou to do with us, JESUS of Nazareth! Art thou come to torment us before the time? -Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the HOLY ONE OF GOD;-thou art THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, THE SON OF THE MOST HIGH GOD, Matt. viii. 29, Mark i. 24, iii. 11, Luke iv. 34-41. And they repeatedly "besought him, not to torment them, not to order them to depart into the abyss," Luke viii. 28-31. Thus did "the demons believe and tremble," James ii. 19. Not surely, the persons possessed, who were merely passive instruments on such occasions, totally ignorant of JESUS OF NAZARETH, or of CHRIST. See Campbell's excellent observations on Διαβολος, Δαιμων, and Aaiμoviov. Dissertations on the four Gospels, Vol. I. p. 182— 206. JESUS himself disdained and abhorred such profane testimony: "He rebuked, and suffered them not to speak, because they knew that he was THE CHRIST," Mark i. 34, Luke iv. 41. He silenced and expelled them in the strongest and most authoritative terms, φιμωθητι, και εξελθε εξ αυτου, “ Be muzzled, and come out of him," Mark i. 25, Luke iv. 25. It is remarkable that OUR LORD used the same term, and in a more energetic form, when he quelled the storm on the lake, raised perhaps by "the prince of the jurisdiction of the air," to sink the vessel in which he slept :-" And he rebuked the wind, and commanded the sea," saying to the former, ownα, "Hush!" to the latter, Пεдчμwσо, "Be muzzled instantly!" And immediately, "the πεφίμωσο, wind ceased, and there was a great calm [of the sea,"] Mark iv. 39 +. This most sublime oracle could scarcely be addressed to
• Cicero uses the same argument, among others, to prove the reality of divination, and of the spirit of prophecy in Cassandra, who foretold the destruction of Troy. Quid deinde causæ est, cur Cassandra furens futura prospiciat? Priamus sapiens hoc idem facere nequeat? De Divin. I. 19.
The other Evangelists, Matthew and Luke, have also recorded this stupendous miracle; but Mark more circumstantially. He probably had his account from Peter, an eye-witness.