The Pharisees Seek a Sign from Heaven

So soon as Jesus returns to Capernaum, the Phari- Matt. xvi. 1-4.

sees and Sadducees begin to tempt Him by asking a Mark viii. 11,12. sign from Heaven. He reproves their hypocrisy, and declares that no sign should be given them but the sign

of the prophet Jonas. Leaving them, He enters a ship, Matt. xvi. 5-13.

and again departs across the lake toward Bethsaida. Mark viii. 13-21. Upon the way He discourses to the disciples respecting

the leaven of the Pharisees. Arriving at Bethsaida, He Mark viii. 22-26. heals a blind man and sends him privately home.

It is not expressly said that Jesus went from Magdala or Dalmanutha to Capernaum, and it is possible that He may have met Pharisees and Sadducees at either of the former places; yet as the latter city was His home, to which He returned after all His circuits, and was but few miles from Magdala, we have no reason to doubt that He went thither as usual. Here, also, He would more probably meet the Pharisees and Sadducees, for this meeting does not seem to have been accidental, but premeditated on their part. It is the first time the latter are named in conjunction with the former, as acting unitedly in opposition to

1 Rob. ii., 397; Porter, ii. 431. See, contra, Norton, notes, 153.

Him. Apparently as a party, the Sadducees had up to this time looked upon Him with indifference if not contempt. But as His teachings began to expose their errors, their hostility was aroused ; and from this time they seem to have acted in unison with the Pharisees against Him.

The peculiarity of the sign which His enemies now sought from Him, was that it should be from Heaven, or something visible in the heavens; perhaps some change in the sun or moon, or a meteor, or fire, or thunder and lightning. Denouncing them as hypocrites, who could discern the face of the sky, but could not discern the signs of the times, He refuses to give them any other sign than one too late to profit them, His own resurrection.

The departure from Capernaum across the sea seems to have followed close upon this temptation of the Pharisees and Sadducees. That the Lord was greatly grieved at this new instance of their unbelief, appears from Mark viii. 12, where it is said : " He sighed deeply in His spirit." Alexander also observes that the expression, (v. 13,) " c He left them,' suggests the idea of abandonment, letting them alone, leaving them to themselves, giving them up to hopeless unbelief." According to Matthew, He admonishes His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees ; according to Mark, of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod. This slight discrepancy is generally explained by saying that Herod was a Sadducee. This is in itself probable, for none of the Herodian princes seem to have imbibed the true Jewish spirit; and though fearing the Pharisees, because of their great influence over the people, yet favored the Sadducees, and gave office so far as possible to men of that party. But it may be that the Lord speaks of hypocrisy in general as leaven, and so the same in whatsoever person or party it appeared.

If Bethsaida were, as we suppose, at the mouth of the Jordan, its position would correspond with all the conditions of the present narrative. From this point He could easily reach the town of Caesarea Philippi. Although we know from the Lord's own words (Matt. xi. 21) that He had wrought many mighty works in Bethsaida, yet the healing of the blind man is the only one recorded, except the feeding of the five thousand which took place upon its territory. For some reason not stated, (Mark viii. 23,) the blind man was healed without the city. There are many points of resemblance between this miracle and that of the healing of the deaf man with an impediment in his speech, (Mark vii. 32-37.) In both the Lord is besought to touch them; He takes them aside from the people; He uses spittle ; He enjoins silence.