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I might conclude here, but I am willing to add a few observations on the propriety and beauty of our Lord’s action, and of the Evangelists relations.
St. Matthew informs us, that when the ruler came to Jesus, he was discoursing to the people. While4646Matth. ix. 18. Jesus spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler to him—saying, My daughter is even now dead, but come and lay thy hand upon her,—And Jesus arose and followed him. Jesus is always ready, never unwilling or unprepared for the 104performance of any good work: but immediately hearkens to the call, and proceeds without delay from good and useful discourse to great and useful works.
Not only the disciples, but those also that were hearing him go along with him: And much4747Mark v. 24. people followed him, and thronged him. As he is going, a woman in the crowd, who had a long and grievous infirmity, secretly touches him and is healed. Jesus, perceiving that virtue had gone out of him, instead of omitting the notice hereof, and hasting along to Jairus’s house, lest the case should become too desperate and beyond his reach; but knowing that all things were in his power, stops, turns him about, and asks, Who touched me?
How sedate in his temper! He is not exalted with the thought of the honour done him by a ruler of a synagogue, who had earnestly besought him to heal his daughter. He is not in any haste to proceed to his house, lest the opportunity of shewing his power in the family of a ruler in Israel should be lost. But stands still, enquires who touched him; hears the poor woman tell her case, and confirms her cure, by bidding her, go in peace.
Jesus was now going to Jairus’s house, whose daughter was by this time dead. And there was no way left for him to help this ruler; and perform his request, of laying his 105hand on his daughter, that she might live, without raising her up from the dead. As he is going to this surprizing awful action of giving life to the dead, virtue issues forth from him, through his garment, and heals a long and obstinate disease. How great is Jesus here! how transporting the idea the mind forms of him!
When he came to the ruler’s house,4848Matth. ix. 28. and saw the minstrels and others making a noise, he said unto them: Give place, for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. What modesty! What humility! They laughed him to scorn; supposing him to speak of natural sleep. Yet he corrects not their mistake. Nothing can draw out from him any word, that has the appearance of boast or vanity.
I shall by and by give a like instance of modesty in St. John’s history of the miracle of Lazarus. He who reads such passages as these in these Evangelists, the one originally of so sordid an employment as that of a publican, the other an illiterate fisherman, may be assured, they did not invent, but that they drew some real character: there not being, I believe, another such example of modesty to be found in any author ancient or modern; how well soever skilled in historical facts, or however renowned for greatness of genius and fruitfulness of fansie. The humble modesty is equal to the miracle. Such things as these 106do they write, in the coolest terms; the plainest manner. They subjoin not a fulsome, or any other set encomium. They have not added a passionate exclamation, or so much as a hint of special observation. But the attentive reader, when he pauses and reflects, finds his heart glowing with an ardent affection and zeal for him of whom they write. Nor can he help being transported with the thought of the unparalleled unaffected honesty and simplicity of the Evangelists.
But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. How simple! and yet how truly great is this narration of St. Matthew!
I cannot leave this story, till I have observed the wondrous propriety of our Lord’s action throughout the whole of this affair; which was so public, so diversified with incidents, and so various in its circumstances. So soon as Jairus comes to him, he goes along with him in order to perform the useful work he had desired of him. As he is going, a woman is healed by a secret touch of his garment. He asks, Who touched me? The disciples tell him, .that was a strange question. Still our Lord insists upon it, that some body had touched him. He then looks round him, but points out no person: is only silent, the woman comes, and trembling reveals the whole matter. And what a lustre has this delay of Jesus in the way to Jairus’s house thrown upon his character! what a discovery 107has it made of his knowledge and power! When he hears it reported to the father, that the damsel was dead, he bids him not fear, but believe. When he comes to the house, he directs all things with the highest propriety, by clearing the house of strangers, that it might be quiet; taking in with him, into the room where the young woman lay, the properest persons that could be chosen out of his disciples, and out of the whole multitude that was there.
In the history of raising the young man at Naim it is said: And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier (and they that bare him stood still) and he said, Young man, I say unto thee, arise.
On ordinary occasions Jesus could not work a miracle without being first sought to, lest thereby a suspicion should have arisen, that he had chosen objects within his power. But here, the meeting of the corpse being perfectly casual, he had an opportunity of shewing both his power and his goodness, without being sought to. And he wisely and graciously lays hold of it, as soon as it offers. How glorious is Jesus here! Travelling with his disciples he meets a dead man, carried forth to burial. And he on the sudden, without any previous notice of the case, without any prior preparation, raises the dead man to life.108
And he delivered him to his mother. The highest propriety! He was moved by compassion to perform this work, and he delivers the raised person to her, to whom his life was the greatest comfort. Not to say farther, that she would best know, whether it was her son or another, that was restored to her: and that instead of making a show, and calling upon the multitude to admire the action; he barely delivers the young man to his mother, as if he had only performed an ordinary piece of kindness.
In the history of raising Lazarus there are these things very observable. Jesus had declared to his disciples a design of going to Bethanie. Before he sets out from the place where he then was, he says to them: Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Here we have again a like example of humble modesty; with that I observed before in the account of Jairus’s daughter. These low soft terms does he use concerning death, and raising to life: the one he terms sleep, the other awaking him out of it; as appears from what follows. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Jesus was obliged to let them understand what he meant. Then said he unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes, that I was not there (to the intent you may believe) nevertheless let us go. When Jesus 109spoke in the low and ambiguous term of sleep, he added: But I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. But having now said plainly, that Lazarus was dead, he does not say: But I go to raise him to life; only intimates in general, that there would be some new proof given them to confirm their faith; studiously avoiding every thing, that had any appearance of boasting. The modesty there is rather greater than in the former case. There Jesus had to do with a mixed multitude of strangers. Here he is talking with his own disciples. Yet he forbears to say beforehand in plain terms, that he should raise Lazarus to life.
Herein also is adorable the wisdom, the goodness, the condescension of Jesus, that he who could have healed sick Lazarus, or raised. him when dead, without opening his lips, or rising from his seat, went from the place of his retirement beyond Jordan into Judea, where they had lately sought his life: because his raising up Lazarus at Bethanie, the place where he had died, and was well known, in all those circumstances, and before so many persons, as he afterwards did, would be a means of convincing men of the truth of his mission, and of drawing men of that and future ages to the belief of his doctrine, which is so suited to prepare them for eternal life.
There is likewise somewhat very remarkable in the manner of performing this miracle. The great works which our Lord did are in themselves a proof, that he was espoused by 110God. He accordingly made frequent and public appeals to his works, as certain proofs and evidences, that God was with him. But he did not ordinarily, at the time of doing these works, formally and expressly address himself to God. But now being about to perform in the sight of mortal men so extraordinary and affecting a thing, as the raising up from the grave a man that had been buried four days, he lifts up his eyes to heaven, and adores the Father in an act of praise and thanksgiving; acknowledging the power of doing the works he had already done, and of that he was then going to perform, to have been given him by the Father. Then took they away the stone from the place, where the dead was laid. And Jesus lift up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I know that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by, I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. That is, the works I do declare that thou art with me; but that the people may have the fuller assurance that thou concurrest with me, and that the words I speak are not mine but thine; before I do this great and awful work in their sight, I publickly praise and thank thee. In this way (of an immediate appeal to God) the fullest proof possible was given, that his authority was from the Father, and all objections were answered. See John xiv. 8-11. xvi. 28-30.111
Other things might be observed here, but I shall take notice of but one particular more. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus come forth. Sure the majesty of the voice well became the work. Herein is some resemblance of that loud command, at the sound of which shall be broken all the bars of hell and the grave, and their doors fly open, and the dead of all orders and of all times shall awake and come forth; some to honour, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. There is a peculiar propriety and decence in this loud and majestic voice, as it had been immediately preceded by a humble and thankful acknowledgement of the Father, who is over all.
F I N I S.
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