The temptation of Christ. (1-11) The opening of Christ's ministry in Galilee. (12-17) Call of Simon and others. (18-22) Jesus teaches and works miracles. (23-25)
Verses 1-11 Concerning Christ's temptation, observe, that directly after he was declared to be the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world, he was tempted; great privileges, and special tokens of Divine favour, will not secure any from being tempted. But if the Holy Spirit witness to our being adopted as children of God, that will answer all the suggestions of the evil spirit. Christ was directed to the combat. If we presume upon our own strength, and tempt the devil to tempt us, we provoke God to leave us to ourselves. Others are tempted, when drawn aside of their own lust, and enticed, ( James 1:14 ) ; but our Lord Jesus had no corrupt nature, therefore he was tempted only by the devil. In the temptation of Christ it appears that our enemy is subtle, spiteful, and very daring; but he can be resisted. It is a comfort to us that Christ suffered, being tempted; for thus it appears that our temptations, if not yielded to, are not sins, they are afflictions only. Satan aimed in all his temptations, to bring Christ to sin against God. 1. He tempted him to despair of his Father's goodness, and to distrust his Father's care concerning him. It is one of the wiles of Satan to take advantage of our outward condition; and those who are brought into straits have need to double their guard. Christ answered all the temptations of Satan with "It is written;" to set us an example, he appealed to what was written in the Scriptures. This method we must take, when at any time we are tempted to sin. Let us learn not to take any wrong courses for our supply, when our wants are ever so pressing: in some way or other the Lord will provide. 2. Satan tempted Christ to presume upon his Father's power and protection, in a point of safety. Nor are any extremes more dangerous than despair and presumption, especially in the affairs of our souls. Satan has no objection to holy places as the scene of his assaults. Let us not, in any place, be off our watch. The holy city is the place, where he does, with the greatest advantage, tempt men to pride and presumption. All high places are slippery places; advancements in the world makes a man a mark for Satan to shoot his fiery darts at. Is Satan so well versed in Scripture as to be able to quote it readily? He is so. It is possible for a man to have his head full of Scripture notions, and his mouth full of Scripture expressions, while his heart is full of bitter enmity to God and to all goodness. Satan misquoted the words. If we go out of our way, out of the way of our duty, we forfeit the promise, and put ourselves out of God's protection. This passage, ( Deuteronomy 8:3 ) , made against the tempter, therefore he left out part. This promise is firm and stands good. But shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? No. 3. Satan tempted Christ to idolatry with the offer of the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. The glory of the world is the most charming temptation to the unthinking and unwary; by that men are most easily imposed upon. Christ was tempted to worship Satan. He rejected the proposal with abhorrence. "Get thee hence, Satan!" Some temptations are openly wicked; and they are not merely to be opposed, but rejected at once. It is good to be quick and firm in resisting temptation. If we resist the devil he will flee from us. But the soul that deliberates is almost overcome. We find but few who can decidedly reject such baits as Satan offers; yet what is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Christ was succoured after the temptation, for his encouragement to go on in his undertaking, and for our encouragement to trust in him; for as he knew, by experience, what it was to suffer, being tempted, so he knew what it was to be succoured, being tempted; therefore we may expect, not only that he will feel for his tempted people, but that he will come to them with seasonable relief.
Verses 12-17 It is just with God to take the gospel and the means of grace, from those that slight them and thrust them away. Christ will not stay long where he is not welcome. Those who are without Christ, are in the dark. They were sitting in this condition, a contented posture; they chose it rather than light; they were willingly ignorant. When the gospel comes, light comes; when it comes to any place, when it comes to any soul, it makes day there. Light discovers and directs; so does the gospel. The doctrine of repentance is right gospel doctrine. Not only the austere John Baptist, but the gracious Jesus, preached repentance. There is still the same reason to do so. The kingdom of heaven was not reckoned to be fully come, till the pouring out of the Holy Spirit after Christ's ascension.
Verses 18-22 When Christ began to preach, he began to gather disciples, who should be hearers, and afterwards preachers of his doctrine, who should be witnesses of his miracles, and afterwards testify concerning them. He went not to Herod's court, not to Jerusalem, among the chief priests and the elders, but to the sea of Galilee, among the fishermen. The same power which called Peter and Andrew, could have wrought upon Annas and Caiaphas, for with God nothing is impossible. But Christ chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Diligence in an honest calling is pleasing to Christ, and it is no hinderance to a holy life. Idle people are more open to the temptations of Satan than to the calls of God. It is a happy and hopeful thing to see children careful of their parents, and dutiful. When Christ comes, it is good to be found doing. Am I in Christ? is a very needful question to ask ourselves; and, next to that, Am I in my calling? They had followed Christ before, as common disciples, ( John 1:37 ) ; now they must leave their calling. Those who would follow Christ aright, must, at his command, leave all things to follow him, must be ready to part with them. This instance of the power of the Lord Jesus encourages us to depend upon his grace. He speaks, and it is done.
Verses 23-25 Wherever Christ went, he confirmed his Divine mission by miracles, which were emblems of the healing power of his doctrine, and the influences of the Spirit which accompanied it. We do not now find the Saviour's miraculous healing power in our bodies; but if we are cured by medicine, the praise is equally his. Three general words are here used. He healed every sickness or disease; none was too bad; none too hard, for Christ to heal with a word. Three diseases are named; the palsy, which is the greatest weakness of the body; lunacy, which is the greatest malady of the mind; and possession of the devil, which is the greatest misery and calamity of both; yet Christ healed all, and by thus curing bodily diseases, showed that his great errand into the world was to cure spiritual maladies. Sin is the sickness, disease, and torment of the soul: Christ came to take away sin, and so to heal the soul.
Matthew 4:1-11 . TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. ( = mark 1:12 mark 1:13 Luke 4:1-13 ).
1. Then--an indefinite note of sequence. But Mark's word ( Mark 1:12 ) fixes what we should have presumed was meant, that it was "immediately" after His baptism; and with this agrees the statement of Luke ( Luke 4:1 ).
was Jesus led up--that is, from the low Jordan valley to some more elevated spot.
of the Spirit--that blessed Spirit immediately before spoken of as descending upon Him at His baptism, and abiding upon Him. Luke, connecting these two scenes, as if the one were but the sequel of the other, says, "Jesus, being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan, and was led," &c. Mark's expression has a startling sharpness about it--"Immediately the Spirit driveth Him" ( Mark 1:12 ), "putteth," or "hurrieth Him forth," or "impelleth Him." (See the same word in 1:43 , 5:40 , Matthew 9:25 , 13:52 , John 10:4 ). The thought thus strongly expressed is the mighty constraining impulse of the Spirit under which He went; while Matthew's more gentle expression, "was led up," intimates how purely voluntary on His own part this action was.
into the wilderness--probably the wild Judean desert. The particular spot which tradition has fixed upon has hence got the name of Quarantana or Quarantaria, from the forty days--"an almost perpendicular wall of rock twelve or fifteen hundred feet above the plain" [ROBINSON, Palestine]. The supposition of those who incline to place the temptation amongst the mountains of Moab is, we think, very improbable.
to be tempted--The Greek word (peirazein) means simply to try or make proof of; and when ascribed to God in His dealings with men, it means, and can mean no more than this. Thus, Genesis 22:1 , "It came to pass that God did tempt Abraham," or put his faith to a severe proof. (See Deuteronomy 8:2 ). But for the most part in Scripture the word is used in a bad sense, and means to entice, solicit, or provoke to sin. Hence the name here given to the wicked one--"the tempter" ( Matthew 4:3 ). Accordingly "to be tempted" here is to be understood both ways. The Spirit conducted Him into the wilderness simply to have His faith tried; but as the agent in this trial was to be the wicked one, whose whole object would be to seduce Him from His allegiance to God, it was a temptation in the bad sense of the term. The unworthy inference which some would draw from this is energetically repelled by an apostle ( James 1:13-17 ).
of the devil. The word signifies a slanderer--one who casts imputations upon another. Hence that other name given him ( Revelation 12:10 ), "The accuser of the brethren, who accuseth them before our God day and night." Mark ( Mark 1:13 ) says, "He was forty days tempted of Satan," a word signifying an adversary, one who lies in wait for, or sets himself in opposition to another. These and other names of the same fallen spirit point to different features in his character or operations. What was the high design of this? First, as we judge, to give our Lord a taste of what lay before Him in the work He had undertaken; next, to make trial of the glorious equipment for it which He had just received; further, to give Him encouragement, by the victory now to be won, to go forward spoiling principalities and powers, until at length He should make a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His cross: that the tempter, too, might get a taste, at the very outset, of the new kind of material in man which he would find he had here to deal with; finally, that He might acquire experimental ability "to succor them that are tempted" ( Hebrews 2:18 ). The temptation evidently embraced two stages: the one continuing throughout the forty days' fast; the other, at the conclusion of that period.
2. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights--Luke says "When they were quite ended" ( Luke 4:2 ).
he was afterward an hungered--evidently implying that the sensation of hunger was unfelt during all the forty days; coming on only at their close. So it was apparently with Moses ( Exodus 34:28 ) and Elijah ( 1 Kings 19:8 ) for the same period. A supernatural power of endurance was of course imparted to the body, but this probably operated through a natural law--the absorption of the Redeemer's Spirit in the dread conflict with the tempter. Gospel, we should suppose the temptation did not begin till after this. But it is clear, from Mark's statement, that "He was in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan" ( Mark 1:13 ), and Luke's, "being forty days tempted of the devil" ( Luke 4:2 ), that there was a forty days' temptation before the three specific temptations afterwards recorded. And this is what we have called the First Stage. What the precise nature and object of the forty days' temptation were is not recorded. But two things seem plain enough. First, the tempter had utterly failed of his object, else it had not been renewed; and the terms in which he opens his second attack imply as much. But further, the tempter's whole object during the forty days evidently was to get Him to distrust the heavenly testimony borne to Him at His baptism as THE SON OF GOD--to persuade Him to regard it as but a splendid illusion--and, generally, to dislodge from His breast the consciousness of His Sonship. With what plausibility the events of His previous history from the beginning would be urged upon Him in support of this temptation it is easy to imagine. And it makes much in support of this view of the forty days' temptation that the particulars of it are not recorded; for how the details of such a purely internal struggle could be recorded it is hard to see. If this be correct, how naturally does the SECOND STAGE of the temptation open! In Mark's brief notice of the temptation there is one expressive particular not given either by Matthew or by Luke--that "He was with the wild beasts" ( Mark 1:12 ), no doubt to add terror to solitude, and aggravate the horrors of the whole scene.
3. And when the tempter came to him--Evidently we have here a new scene.
he said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread--rather, "loaves," answering to "stones" in the plural; whereas Luke, having said, "Command this stone," in the singular, adds, "that it be made bread," in the singular ( Luke 4:3 ). The sensation of hunger, unfelt during all the forty days, seems now to have come on in all its keenness--no doubt to open a door to the tempter, of which he is not slow to avail himself; "Thou still clingest to that vainglorious confidence that Thou art the Son of God, carried away by those illusory scenes at the Jordan. Thou wast born in a stable; but Thou art the Son of God! hurried off to Egypt for fear of Herod's wrath; but Thou art the Son of God! a carpenter's roof supplied Thee with a home, and in the obscurity of a despicable town of Galilee Thou hast spent thirty years, yet still Thou art the Son of God! and a voice from heaven, it seems, proclaimed it in Thine ears at the Jordan! Be it so; but after that, surely Thy days of obscurity and trial should have an end. Why linger for weeks in this desert, wandering among the wild beasts and craggy rocks, unhonored, unattended, unpitied, ready to starve for want of the necessaries of life? Is this befitting "the Son of God?" At the bidding of "the Son of God" surely those stones shall all be turned into loaves, and in a moment present an abundant repast."
4. But he answered and said, It is written--( Deuteronomy 8:3 ).
Man shall not live by bread alone--more emphatically, as in the Greek, "Not by bread alone shall man live."
but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God--Of all passages in Old Testament Scripture, none could have been pitched upon more apposite, perhaps not one so apposite, to our Lord's purpose. "The Lord . . . led thee (said Moses to Israel, at the close of their journeyings) these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no. And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only," &c., "Now, if Israel spent, not forty days, but forty years in a waste, howling wilderness, where there were no means of human subsistence, not starving, but divinely provided for, on purpose to prove to every age that human support depends not upon bread, but upon God's unfailing word of promise and pledge of all needful providential care, am I, distrusting this word of God, and despairing of relief, to take the law into My own hand? True, the Son of God is able enough to turn stones into bread: but what the Son of God is able to do is not the present question, but what is man's duty under want of the necessaries of life. And as Israel's condition in the wilderness did not justify their unbelieving murmurings and frequent desperation, so neither would Mine warrant the exercise of the power of the Son of God in snatching despairingly at unwarranted relief. As man, therefore, I will await divine supply, nothing doubting that at the fitting time it will arrive." The second temptation in this Gospel is in Luke's the third. That Matthew's order is the right one will appear, we think, quite clearly in the sequel.
5. Then the devil taketh him up--rather, "conducteth Him."
into the holy city--so called (as in Isaiah 48:2 , Nehemiah 11:1 ) from its being "the city of the Great King," the seat of the temple, the metropolis of all Jewish worship.
and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple--rather, "the pinnacle"--a certain well-known projection. Whether this refers to the highest summit of the temple, which bristled with golden spikes [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 5.5,6]; or whether it refers to another peak, on Herod's royal portico, overhanging the ravine of Kedron, at the valley of Hinnom--an immense tower built on the very edge of this precipice, from the top of which dizzy height JOSEPHUS says one could not look to the bottom [Antiquities, 15.11,5]--is not certain; but the latter is probably meant.
6. And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God--As this temptation starts with the same point as the first--our Lord's determination not to be disputed out of His Sonship--it seems to us clear that the one came directly after the other; and as the remaining temptation shows that the hope of carrying that point was abandoned, and all was staked upon a desperate venture, we think that remaining temptation is thus shown to be the last; as will appear still more when we come to it.
cast thyself down--"from hence" ( Luke 4:9 ).
for it is written--( Psalms 91:11 Psalms 91:12 ). "But what is this I see?" exclaims stately BISHOP HALL. "Satan himself with a Bible under his arm and a text in his mouth!" Doubtless the tempter, having felt the power of God's Word in the former temptation, was eager to try the effect of it from his own mouth ( 2 Corinthians 11:14 ).
He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands--rather, "on their hands."
they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone--The quotation is, precisely as it stands in the Hebrew and the Septuagint, save that after the first clause the words, "to keep thee in all thy ways," are here omitted. Not a few good expositors have thought that this omission was intentional, to conceal the fact that this would not have been one of "His ways," that is, of duty. But as our Lord's reply makes no allusion to this, but seizes on the great principle involved in the promise quoted, so when we look at the promise itself, it is plain that the sense of it is precisely the same whether the clause in question be inserted or not.
7. Jesus said unto him, It is written again--( Deuteronomy 6:16 ), as if he should say, "True, it is so written, and on that promise I implicitly rely; but in using it there is another Scripture which must not be forgotten."
Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God--"Preservation in danger is divinely pledged: shall I then create danger, either to put the promised security skeptically to the proof, or wantonly to demand a display of it? That were 'to tempt the Lord my God,' which, being expressly forbidden, would forfeit the right to expect preservation."
8. Again, the devil taketh him up--"conducteth him," as before.
an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them--Luke ( Luke 4:5 ) adds the important clause, "in a moment of time"; a clause which seems to furnish a key to the true meaning. That a scene was presented to our Lord's natural eye seems plainly expressed. But to limit this to the most extensive scene which the natural eye could take in, is to give a sense to the expression, "all the kingdoms of the world," quite violent. It remains, then, to gather from the expression, "in a moment of time"-- which manifestly is intended to intimate some supernatural operation--that it was permitted to the tempter to extend preternaturally for a moment our Lord's range of vision, and throw a "glory" or glitter over the scene of vision: a thing not inconsistent with the analogy of other scriptural statements regarding the permitted operations of the wicked one. In this case, the "exceeding height" of the "mountain" from which this sight was beheld would favor the effect to be produced.
9. And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee--"and the glory of them," adds Luke ( Luke 4:6 ). But Matthew having already said that this was "showed Him," did not need to repeat it here. Luke ( Luke 4:6 ) adds these other very important clauses, here omitted--"for that is," or "has been," "delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it." Was this wholly false? That were not like Satan's unusual policy, which is to insinuate his lies under cover of some truth. What truth, then, is there here? We answer, Is not Satan thrice called by our Lord Himself, "the prince of this world" ( John 12:31 , 14:30 , 16:11 )? Does not the apostle call him "the god of this world" ( 2 Corinthians 4:4 )? And still further, is it not said that Christ came to destroy by His death "him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil" ( Hebrews 2:14 )? No doubt these passages only express men's voluntary subjection to the rule of the wicked one while they live, and his power to surround death to them, when it comes, with all the terrors of the wages of sin. But as this is a real and terrible sway, so all Scripture represents men as righteously sold under it. In this sense he speaks what is not devoid of truth, when he says, "All this is delivered unto me." But how does he deliver this "to whomsoever he will?" As employing whomsoever he pleases of his willing subjects in keeping men under his power. In this case his offer to our Lord was that of a deputed supremacy commensurate with his own, though as his gift and for his ends.
if thou wilt fall down and worship me--This was the sole but monstrous condition. No Scripture, it will be observed, is quoted now, because none could be found to support so blasphemous a claim. In fact, he has ceased now to present his temptations under the mask of piety, and he stands out unblushingly as the rival of God Himself in his claims on the homage of men. Despairing of success as an angel of light, he throws off all disguise, and with a splendid bribe solicits divine honor. This again shows that we are now at the last of the temptations, and that Matthew's order is the true one.
10. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan--Since the tempter has now thrown off the mask, and stands forth in his true character, our Lord no longer deals with him as a pretended friend and pious counsellor, but calls him by his right name--His knowledge of which from the outset He had carefully concealed till now--and orders him off. This is the final and conclusive evidence, as we think, that Matthew's must be the right order of the temptations. For who can well conceive of the tempter's returning to the assault after this, in the pious character again, and hoping still to dislodge the consciousness of His Sonship, while our Lord must in that case be supposed to quote Scripture to one He had called the devil to his face--thus throwing His pearls before worse than swine?
for it is written--( Deuteronomy 6:13 ). Thus does our Lord part with Satan on the rock of Scripture.
Thou shalt worship--In the Hebrew and the Septuagint it is, "Thou shalt fear"; but as the sense is the same, so "worship" is here used to show emphatically that what the tempter claimed was precisely what God had forbidden.
the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve--The word "serve" in the second clause, is one never used by the Septuagint of any but religious service; and in this sense exclusively is it used in the New Testament, as we find it here. Once more the word "only," in the second clause--not expressed in the Hebrew and the Septuagint--is here added to bring out emphatically the negative and prohibitory feature of the command. (See Galatians 3:10 for a similar supplement of the word "all" in a quotation from Deuteronomy 27:26 ).
11. Then the devil leaveth him--Luke says, "And when the devil had exhausted"--or "quite ended," as in Luke 4:2 --"every (mode of) temptation, he departed from him till a season." The definite "season" here indicated is expressly referred to by our Lord in John 14:30 , Luke 22:52 Luke 22:53 .
and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him--or supplied Him with food, as the same expression means in 1:31 , Luke 8:3 . Thus did angels to Elijah ( 1 Kings 19:5-8 ). Excellent critics think that they ministered, not food only, but supernatural support and cheer also. But this would be the natural effect rather than the direct object of the visit, which was plainly what we have expressed. And after having refused to claim the illegitimate ministration of angels in His behalf, oh, with what deep joy would He accept their services when sent, unasked, at the close of all this temptation, direct from Him whom He had so gloriously honored! What "angels' food" would this repast be to Him! and as He partook of it, might not a Voice from heaven be heard again, by any who could read the Father's mind, "Said I not well, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased?"
Matthew 4:12-25 . CHRIST BEGINS HIS GALILEAN MINISTRY--CALLING OF PETER AND ANDREW, JAMES AND JOHN--HIS FIRST GALILEAN CIRCUIT. ( = mark 1:14-20 mark 1:35-39 Luke 4:14 Luke 4:15 ).
There is here a notable gap in the history, which but for the fourth Gospel we should never have discovered. From the former Gospels we should have been apt to draw three inferences, which from the fourth one we know to be erroneous: First, that our Lord awaited the close of John's ministry, by his arrest and imprisonment, before beginning His own; next, that there was but a brief interval between the baptism of our Lord and the imprisonment of John; and further, that our Lord not only opened His work in Galilee, but never ministered out of it, and never visited Jerusalem at all nor kept a passover till He went thither to become "our Passover, sacrificed for us." The fourth Gospel alone gives the true succession of events; not only recording those important openings of our Lord's public work which preceded the Baptist's imprisonment--extending to the end of the third chapter--but so specifying the passover which occurred during our Lord's ministry as to enable us to line off, with a large measure of certainty, the events of the first three Gospels according to the successive passover which they embraced. EUSEBIUS, the ecclesiastical historian, who, early in the fourth century, gave much attention to this subject, in noticing these features of the Evangelical Records, says [Ecclesiastical History, 3.24] that John wrote his Gospel at the entreaty of those who knew the important materials he possessed, and filled up what is wanting in the first three Gospels. Why it was reserved for the fourth Gospel, published at so late a period, to supply such important particulars in the life of Christ, it is not easy to conjecture with any probability. It may be, that though not unacquainted with the general facts, they were not furnished with reliable details. But one thing may be affirmed with tolerable certainty, that as our Lord's teaching at Jerusalem was of a depth and grandeur scarcely so well adapted to the prevailing character of the first three Gospels, but altogether congenial to the fourth; and as the bare mention of the successive passovers, without any account of the transactions and discourses they gave rise to, would have served little purpose in the first three Gospels, there may have been no way of preserving the unity and consistency of each Gospel, so as to furnish by means of them all the precious information we get from them, save by the plan on which they are actually constructed.
Entry into Galilee ( Matthew 4:12-17 ).
12. Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison--more simply, "was delivered up," as recorded in Matthew 14:3-5 , 6:17-20 , Luke 3:19 Luke 3:20 .
he departed--rather, "withdrew."
into Galilee--as recorded, in its proper place, in John 4:1-3 .
13. And leaving Nazareth--The prevalent opinion is that this refers to a first visit to Nazareth after His baptism, whose details are given by Luke ( Luke 4:16 , &c.); a second visit being that detailed by our Evangelist ( Matthew 13:54-58 ), and by Mark ( Mark 6:1-6 ). But to us there seem all but insuperable difficulties in the supposition of two visits to Nazareth after His baptism; and on the grounds stated in Luke 4:16 , &c., we think that the one only visit to Nazareth is that recorded by Matthew ( Matthew 13:53-58 ), Mark ( Mark 6:1-6 ), and Luke ( Luke 4:14-30 ). But how, in that case, are we to take the word "leaving Nazareth" here? We answer, just as the same word is used in Acts 21:3 , "Now when we had sighted Cyprus, and left it on the left, we sailed into Syria,"--that is, without entering Cyprus at all, but merely "sighting" it, as the nautical phrase is, they steered southeast of it, leaving it on the northwest. So here, what we understand the Evangelist to say is, that Jesus, on His return to Galilee, did not, as might have been expected, make Nazareth the place of His stated residence, but, "leaving for passing by Nazareth,"
he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the seacoast--maritime Capernaum, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee; but the precise spot is unknown. chosen it for several reasons. Four or five of the Twelve lived there; it had a considerable and mixed population, securing some freedom from that intense bigotry which even to this day characterizes all places where Jews in large numbers dwell nearly alone; it was centrical, so that not only on the approach of the annual festivals did large numbers pass through it or near it, but on any occasion multitudes could easily be collected about it; and for crossing and recrossing the lake, which our Lord had so often occasion to do, no place could be more convenient. But one other high reason for the choice of Capernaum remains to be mentioned, the only one specified by our Evangelist.
in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim--the one lying to the west of the Sea of Galilee, the other to the north of it; but the precise boundaries cannot now be traced out.
14. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet--( Isaiah 9:1 Isaiah 9:2 or, as in Hebrew, Isaiah 8:23, and 9:1).
15. The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea--the coast skirting the Sea of Galilee westward--beyond Jordan--a phrase commonly meaning eastward of Jordan; but here and in several places it means westward of the Jordan. The word seems to have got the general meaning of "the other side"; the nature of the case determining which side that was.
Galilee of the Gentiles--so called from its position, which made it the frontier between the Holy Land and the external world. While Ephraim and Judah, as STANLEY says, were separated from the world by the Jordan valley on one side and the hostile Philistines on another, the northern tribes were in the direct highway of all the invaders from the north, in unbroken communication with the promiscuous races who have always occupied the heights of Lebanon, and in close and peaceful alliance with the most commercial nation of the ancient world, the Phoenicians. Twenty of the cities of Galilee were actually annexed by Solomon to the adjacent kingdom of Tyre, and formed, with their territory, the "boundary" or "offscouring" (Gebul or Cabul) of the two dominions--at a later time still known by the general name of "the boundaries (coasts or borders) of Tyre and Sidon." In the first great transportation of the Jewish population, Naphtali and Galilee suffered the same fate as the trans-jordanic tribes before Ephraim or Judah had been molested ( 2 Kings 15:29 ). In the time of the Christian era this original disadvantage of their position was still felt; the speech of the Galileans "bewrayed them" by its uncouth pronunciation ( Matthew 26:73 ); and their distance from the seats of government and civilization at Jerusalem and Cæsarea gave them their character for turbulence or independence, according as it was viewed by their friends or their enemies.
16. The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up--The prophetic strain to which these words belong commences with the seventh chapter of Isaiah, to which the sixth chapter is introductory, and goes down to the end of the twelfth chapter, which hymns the spirit of that whole strain of prophecy. It belongs to the reign of Ahaz and turns upon the combined efforts of the two neighboring kingdoms of Syria and Israel to crush Judah. In these critical circumstances Judah and her king were, by their ungodliness, provoking the Lord to sell them into the hands of their enemies. What, then, is the burden of this prophetic strain, on to the passage here quoted? First, Judah shall not, cannot perish, because IMMANUEL, the Virgin's Son, is to come forth from his loins. Next, one of the invaders shall soon perish, and the kingdoms of neither be enlarged. Further, while the Lord will be the Sanctuary of such as confide in these promises and await their fulfilment, He will drive to confusion, darkness, and despair the vast multitude of the nation who despised His oracles, and, in their anxiety and distress, betook themselves to the lying oracles of the heathen. This carries us down to the end of the eighth chapter. At the opening of the ninth chapter a sudden light is seen breaking in upon one particular part of the country, the part which was to suffer most in these wars and devastations--"the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee and the Gentiles." The rest of the prophecy stretches over both the Assyrian and the Chaldean captivities and terminates in the glorious Messianic prophecy of the eleventh chapter and the choral hymn of the twelfth chapter. Well, this is the point seized on by our Evangelist. By Messiah's taking up His abode in those very regions of Galilee, and shedding His glorious light upon them, this prediction, He says, of the Evangelical prophet was now fulfilled; and if it was not thus fulfilled, we may confidently affirm it was not fulfilled in any age of the Jewish ceremony, and has received no fulfilment at all. Even the most rationalistic critics have difficulty in explaining it in any other way.
17. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand--Thus did our Lord not only take up the strain, but give forth the identical summons of His honored forerunner. Our Lord sometimes speaks of the new kingdom as already come--in His own Person and ministry; but the economy of it was only "at hand" until the blood of the cross was shed, and the Spirit on the day of Pentecost opened the fountain for sin and for uncleanness to the world at large.
Calling of Peter and Andrew James and John ( Matthew 4:18-22 ).
18. And Jesus, walking--The word "Jesus" here appears not to belong to the text, but to have been introduced from those portions of it which were transcribed to be used as church lessons; where it was naturally introduced as a connecting word at the commencement of a lesson.
by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers--"called Peter" for the reason mentioned in Matthew 16:18 .
19. And he saith unto them, Follow me--rather, as the same expression is rendered in Mark, "Come ye after Me" ( Mark 1:17 ).
and I will make you fishers of men--raising them from a lower to a higher fishing, as David was from a lower to a higher feeding ( Psalms 78:70-72 ).
20. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
21. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship--rather, "in the ship," their fishing boat.
with Zebedee their father, mending their nets: and he called them.
22. And they immediately left the ship and their father--Mark adds an important clause: "They left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants" ( Mark 1:20 ); showing that the family were in easy circumstances.
and followed him--Two harmonistic questions here arise: First, Was this the same calling as that recorded in John 1:35-42 ? Clearly not. For, (1) That call was given while Jesus was yet in Judea: this, after His return to Galilee. (2) Here, Christ calls Andrew: there, Andrew solicits an interview with Christ. (3) Here, Andrew and Peter are called together: there, Andrew having been called, with an unnamed disciple, who was clearly the beloved disciple goes and fetches Peter his brother to Christ, who then calls him. (4) Here, John is called along with James his brother: there, John is called along with Andrew, after having at their own request had an interview with Jesus; no mention being made of James, whose call, if it then took place, would not likely have been passed over by his own brother. Thus far nearly all are agreed. But on the next question opinion is divided: Was this the same calling as that recorded in Luke 5:1-11 ? Many able critics think so. But the following considerations are to us decisive against it. First here, the four are called separately, in pairs: in Luke, all together. Next, in Luke, after a glorious miracle: here, the one pair are casting their net, the other are mending theirs. Further, here, our Lord had made no public appearance in Galilee, and so had gathered none around Him; He is walking solitary by the shores of the lake when He accosts the two pairs of fishermen: in Luke, the multitude are pressing upon Him, and hearing the word of God, as He stands by the Lake of Gennesaret--a state of things implying a somewhat advanced stage of His early ministry, and some popular enthusiasm. Regarding these successive callings,
First Galilean Circuit ( Matthew 4:23-25 ).
23. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues--These were houses of local worship. It cannot be proved that they existed before the Babylonish captivity; but as they began to be erected soon after it, probably the idea was suggested by the religious inconveniences to which the captives had been subjected. In our Lord's time, the rule was to have one wherever ten learned men or professed students of the law resided; and they extended to Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and most places of the dispersion. The larger towns had several, and in Jerusalem the number approached five hundred. In point of officers and mode of worship, the Christian congregations are modelled after the synagogue.
and preaching the gospel of the kingdom--proclaiming the glad tidings of the kingdom,
and healing all manner of sickness--every disease.
and all manner of disease among the people--every complaint. The word means any incipient malady causing "softness."
24. And his fame went throughout all Syria--reaching first to the part of it adjacent to Galilee, called Syro-Phoenicia ( Mark 7:26 ), and thence extending far and wide.
and they brought unto him all sick people--all that were ailing or unwell. Those
that were taken--for this is a distinct class, not an explanation of the "unwell" class, as our translators understood it.
with divers diseases and torments--that is, acute disorders.
and those which were possessed with devils--that were demonized or possessed with demons.
and those which were lunatic--moon-struck.
and those that had the palsy--paralytics, a word not naturalized when our version was made.
and he healed them--These healings were at once His credentials and illustrations of "the glad tidings" which He proclaimed. After reading this account of our Lord's first preaching tour, can we wonder at what follows?
25. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis--a region lying to the east of the Jordan, so called as containing ten cities, founded and chiefly inhabited by Greek settlers.
and from Jerusalem, and from beyond Jordan--meaning from Perea. Thus not only was all Palestine upheaved, but all the adjacent regions. But the more immediate object for which this is here mentioned is, to give the reader some idea both of the vast concourse and of the varied complexion of eager attendants upon the great Preacher, to whom the astonishing discourse of the next three chapters was addressed. On the importance which our Lord Himself attached to this first preaching circuit, and the preparation which He made for it,