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The other that Matthew mentions was probably a stranger, or a person less notorious. Coming out of the tombs.' Mark and Luke say that they dwelt in the tombs. The sepulchres of the Jews were commonly caves, beyond the walls of the cities in which they dwelt, or excavations made in the sides of hills, or sometimes in solid rocks. These caves, or excavations, were sometimes of great extent. They descended to them by flights of steps. They afforded, therefore, to demoniacs retreat and shelter. They delighted in these gloomy and melancholy recesses, as congenial to the wretched state of their minds.
29 And behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God ? art thou come hither to torment us before the time ?
'What have we to do with thee?. The meaning is, Why dost thou trouble, or disturb us? See 2 Sam. xvi. 10. 2 Kings ix. 18. Ezra iv. 3. Son of God.' The title, Son of God, is often given to Christ. It denotes his peculiar and near relation to the Father, as evinced by his resurrection, Ps. ii. 7. Acts xiii. 33. It denotes his peculiar relation to God as his Father, Luke i. 35; and is equivalent to a declaration that he is Divine, or equal to the Father, John x. 36. Art thou come hither to torment us,' &c. By the time here mentioned is meant the day of judgment. The bible reveals the doctrine that evil spirits are permitted to tempt and afflict men, but that in the day of judgment they also will be condemned, and bound to everlasting punishment with all the wicked, 2 Pet. ii. 4. Jude 6. These spirits seemed to be apprized of that, and alarmed lest the day which they feared had
Mark and Luke say that Jesus inquired the name of the principal demoniac, and that he called his name Legion, for they were many. The name legion was given to a division in the Roman army. In the time of Christ it consisted of six thousand. It was used to signify a large number, without specifying the exact amount.
30 And there was a good way off from them a herd of many swine, feeding. 31 So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. 32 And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. 33 And they that kept them, fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing; and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.
• They that kept them fled.' These swine were doubtless owned by the inhabitants of Gadara. Swine were to Jews unclean animals, and it was unlawful for them to eat them, Lev. xi. 7. The Jews were forbidden by their own laws to keep them, even for the purpose of traffic. This conduct is easily vindicated. l. If Christ be Divine as well as human-God as well as man, then he had an original right to that and all other property, and might dispose of it as he pleased, Ps. 1. 10–12. 2. If this property was held by the Jews, it was a violation of their law, and it was right that they should suffer the loss; if by the Gentiles, it was known also to be a violation of the law of the people among whom they lived; a temptation and a snare to them; and an abomination in their sight; and it was proper that the nuisance should be removed.
34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus : and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.
• The whole city came out. The people of the city probably came with a view of arresting him for the injury done to the property; but seeing him, and being awed by his presence, they only besought him to leave them. Out of their coasts.' Out of their country. This shows: 1. That the design of Satan is to prejudice men against the Saviour; and even to make what Christ does an occasion why they should desire him to leave them. 2. The power of avarice. These men preferred their property to the Saviour. It is no uncommon thing for men to love the world so much, as to see no beauty in religion, and no excellence in the Saviour; and, rather than part with it, to beseech Jesus to withdraw from them. The most grovelling employment; the most abandoned sins; the most loathsome vices, are often loved more than the presence of Jesus, and all the blessings of his salvation. Alas, how many are there, like the dwellers in Gadara, that ask him to depart; that see him go without a sigh ; and that never, never, again behold him coming to bless them with salvation,
CHAPTER IX. 1 AND he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.
Jesus recrossed the lake of Genesareth, and returned to his own city. By his own city' is meant Capernaum, Mark ii. 1, the city which was at that time his home, or where he had bis dwelling. See ch. iv. 13. This same account, with some additional circumstances, is contained in Mark ii. 3—12, and Luke v. 18-26.
2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of
the palsy, lying on a bed : and Jesus, seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer ; thy sins be forgiven thee.
See Note Matt. iv. 24. "Lying on a bed.' This was a portable bed, probably a mattress, or perhaps a mere blanket spread to lie on, supported, so as to be easily borne.
Mark says 'they uncovered the roof,' ch. ii. 4. Luke says, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling,' ch. v. 19. To us it would appear that much injury must have been done to the house where Jesus was, and that they must be much incommoded by the removal of tiles, and rafters, &c. Acquaintance, however, with the mode of building in the east, removes the difficulty. Houses, in eastern countries, are commonly square in their form, and of a single story. On approaching them from the street, a single door is seen in the centre, and directly above it a single latticed window. On entering the door, the first room is a small square room, surrounded with benches, called the porch. In this room the master of a family commonly transacts business, and, on private occasions, receives visits. Passing through the porch, you enter a large square place, directly in the centre of the building, called the court. Luke says that the paralytic was let down into the midst: not in the midst of the people, but of the building—the middle place of the house. In This large place company is received on marriage, and other festive occasions. This room is surrounded by a gallery, or covered walk, on every side. From that covered walk doors open into the other apartments of the house. So that access from one room to another is always through the centre or court. This court is commonly uncovered or opened above. In wet weather, however, and in times of great heat of the sun, it is covered with an awning or canvass, stretched on cords, and capable of being easily removed or rolled up. This is what Mark probably means when he says they uncovered the roof. They rolled up or removed this awning.
From the court to the roof the ascent is by flights of stairs, either in the covered walk or gallery, or in the porch. The roof is nearly flat. On those roofs blades of grass, or wheat, or barley sometimes spring up, but they are soon withered by the sun, Ps. cxxix. 6–8. On such a roof Rahab concealed the spies, Josh. ii. 6; Samuel talked with Saul, 1 Sam. ix. 25; David walked at even tide, 2 Sam. xi. 2; and Peter went up to pray, Acts x. 9. This roof was surrounded with a balustrade, or railing, breast high, on the sides, covered with terras or matting. A breastwork or railing was of course built in the same manner around the open space in the centre, to prevent them from falling into the court below. This railing, or breastwork, is what Luke, ch. v. 19, says they let him down through. They removed it probably so that the couch could be conveniently let down with cords; and,
standing on the roof over the Saviour, they let the man down airectly before him. The pains which they had taken, and the perseverance which they had manifested, was the evidence of their faith or confidence in his power, and their desire that the sick man should be brought into his presence. “Be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee. The man trembled as he came before the Saviour, and feared that he was so great a sinner that Christ would not regard him. He therefore assured him that his offences were pardoned, and that he might lay aside his fears. Jesus intended to show his power to forgive sins. Had he stated it without any miracle, the Jews would not have believed it, and even his disciples might have been staggered. In proof of it, he worked a miracle; and no one, therefore, could doubt that he had the power. The miracle was wrought in express attestation of the assertion that he had the power to forgive sins. As God would not work a miracle to confirm a falsehood, or to deceive men, the miracle was a solemn confirmation, on the part of God, that Jesus
nad such power.
3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.
The word ' blaspheme' originally means to speak evil of any one, to injure by words, to blamé unjustly. When applied to God, it means to speak of him unjustly, to ascribe to him
acts and attributes which he does not possess, to speak impiously or profanely, to blame him. It means, also, to attempt to do or say a thing which belongs to him alone, or which he only can do. This is its meaning here. Christ was charged with saying a thing in his own name, or attempting to do a thing which properly belonged to God; thus assuming the place of God, and invading his prerogatives. None,' said they, (as in Mark and Luke,) .can forgive sins but God only. In this they reasoned correctly. See Isa. xliii. 25; xliv. 22. By saying that he forgave sins, Jesus was understood to affirm that he was Divine ; and as he gave a proof of it by working a miracle expressly to confirm the claim, it follows that he is Divine, or equal with the Father.
4 And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts ?
* Jesus, knowing their ihoughts.? Mark says, “Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned.' The power of searching the heart, and knowing the thoughts of men, belongs only to God, 1 Chron. xxviii, 9. Rom. viii. 27. Rev. ii. 23. Jer. xvii. 10. In claiming this, as Jesus did here, and often elsewhere, he gave clear proofs of his omniscience, John ii. 24, 25.
5 For whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise, and walk ?
6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to
forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house." And he arose, and departed to his house. 8 But when the multitude saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.
“They glorified God.' See note Matt. v. 16. To glorify God, here, means to praise him, or to acknowledge his power. The expression, ' which had given such power to men,' was a part of their praise. It expresses no sentiment of the evangelist about the nature of Christ.
9 And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
Sitting at the receipt of custom. That is, at the place where custom, or tribute, was received; or in other words he was a puh. lican, or tax-gatherer. See note Matt. v. 47. This man was Matthew, the writer of this gospel. The same account is found in Mark ii. 14, and Luke v. 27, 28. Both these evangelists call him Levi. The Jews were in the habit of giving several names to the same person. Thus Peter was called Simon and Cephas. It is worthy of remark that Luke has mentioned a circumstance favourable to Matthew, which Matthew himself has omitted. Luke says, 'he left all." Had Matthew said this, it would have been a commendation of himself. No men were ever further from praising themselves than the evangelists.
10 4 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
This feast was given to him by Levi, or Matthew, Luke v. 29. To receive Christ hospitably and kindly was a commendable act, and it strongly evinces Matthew's freedom from ostentation that he has suppressed the fact. It thus illustrates Mait. vi. 1–4. At meat. At the table, at supper.
11 And when the pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners ?
'To eat and drink with others denotes intimacy and familiarity. The pharisees, by asking this question, accused him of seeking the society of such men, and of being the companion of the wicked. The inference they would draw was, that he could not be himself righteous, since he delighted in the company of abandoned men.