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7. Miracles and Teachings

1And there are gathered together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, 2and had seen that some of his disciples ate their bread with defiled, that is, unwashen, hands. 3(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands diligently, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders; 4and when they come from the market-place, except they bathe themselves, they eat not; and many other things there are, which they have received to hold, washings of cups, and pots, and brasen vessels.) 5And the Pharisees and the scribes ask him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with defiled hands? 6And he said unto them, Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

This people honoreth me with their lips,

But their heart is far from me.

7But in vain do they worship me,

Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men.

8Ye leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men. 9And he said unto them, Full well do ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your tradition. 10For Moses said, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death: 11but ye say, If a man shall say to his father or his mother, That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me is Corban, that is to say, Given to God; 12ye no longer suffer him to do aught for his father or his mother; 13making void the word of God by your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things ye do. 14And he called to him the multitude again, and said unto them, Hear me all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing from without the man, that going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are those that defile the man. 16If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear. 17And when he was entered into the house from the multitude, his disciples asked of him the parable. 18And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Perceive ye not, that whatsoever from without goeth into the man, it cannot defile him; 19because it goeth not into his heart, but into his belly, and goeth out into the draught? This he said, making all meats clean. 20And he said, That which proceedeth out of the man, that defileth the man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22covetings, wickednesses, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: 23all these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man. 24And from thence he arose, and went away into the borders of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered into a house, and would have no man know it; and he could not be hid. 25But straightway a woman, whose little daughter had an unclean spirit, having heard of him, came and fell down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by race. And she besought him that he would cast forth the demon out of her daughter. 27And he said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs. 28But she answered and saith unto him, Yea, Lord; even the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs. 29And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the demon is gone out of thy daughter. 30And she went away unto her house, and found the child laid upon the bed, and the demon gone out. 31And again he went out from the borders of Tyre, and came through Sidon unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the borders of Decapolis. 32And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to lay his hand upon him. 33And he took him aside from the multitude privately, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat, and touched his tongue; 34and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. 35And his ears were opened, and the bond of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. 36And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it. 37And they were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well; he maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

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29. His disciples came. One thing only remained to complete the woman’s cruelty. It was, to leave the corpse of the holy man unburied; for there is reason to believe that, when his disciples performed this duty, the attendants of the tyrant had thrown out the corpse. Though the honor of burial is of no importance to the dead, yet it is the will of the Lord that we should observe this ceremony as a token of the last resurrection; and therefore God was pleased with the carefulness which was manifested by the disciples, when they came to commit to the tomb the body of their master. Moreover, it was an attestation of their piety; for in this way they declared that the doctrine of their master continued to have a firm hold of their hearts after his death. This confession was therefore worthy of praise, more especially as it was not without danger; for they could not do honor to a man who had been put to death by the executioner without exciting against themselves the rage of the tyrant.

Mark 7:24. He wished that no man should know it. We must attend to this circumstance, which is mentioned by Mark, that when Christ came to that place, he did not erect his banner, but endeavored to remain concealed for a time, in that obscure situation, like a private individual. Mark speaks according to the ordinary perception of the flesh; for, although Christ by his divine Spirit foresaw what would happen, yet so far as he was the minister and ambassador of the Father, he kept himself, as his human nature might have led us to expect, within the limits of that calling which God had given him; and in that respect it is said that what he wished, as man, he was unable to accomplish. Meanwhile, this occurrence, as I have said, tends powerfully to condemn the Jews, who—though they boasted that they were the heirs of the covenant of the Lord, his peculiar people, and a royal priesthood—were blind and deaf when Christ, with a loud voice and with the addition of miracles, offered to them the promised redemption; while this woman, who had no relationship with the children of Abraham, and to whom, at first sight, the covenant did not at all belong, came of her own accord to Christ, without having heard his voice or seen his miracles.

Mark 7:32. And they bring to him one who was deaf. The reason why they implored him to lay his hands upon him may be learned from passages which we have already considered; for the laying on of hands was a solemn symbol of consecration, 423423     “Pour dedier et eonsacrer les personnes;” — “for dedicating and con-secrating persons.” and by means of it, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were also bestowed. And there is no doubt that this ceremony was frequently used by Christ; so that those men requested nothing but what they knew that he had been formerly in the habit of doing. On the present occasion, Christ employs other symbols; for he puts his spittle on the tongue of the dumb man, and puts his fingers into his ears. The laying on of hands would of itself have been sufficiently efficacious, and even, without moving a finger, he might have accomplished it by a single act of his will; but it is evident that he made abundant use of outward signs, when they were found to be advantageous. Thus, by touching the tongue with spittle, he intended to point out that the faculty of speech was communicated by himself alone; and by putting his finger into the ears, he showed that it belonged to his office to pierce the ears of the deaf. There is no necessity for having recourse to allegories; and we find that those who have amused themselves with ingenious discussions on this subject, are so far from bringing forward any thing of real value, that they tend rather to hold up the Scriptures to ridicule. Readers of sobriety and judgment will be satisfied with this single instruction, that we obtain from Christ, in answer to our prayers, both speech and hearing; for he pours his energy into our tongues, and pierces our ears with his fingers.

33. And when he had taken him aside from the multitude. This was done, partly to afford to those who were ignorant, and not yet sufficiently qualified for becoming witnesses, an opportunity of perceiving at a distance the glory of his Divine nature, and partly that he might have a better opportunity of pouring out earnest prayer. When he looked up to heaven and sighed, it was an expression of strong feeling; and this enables us to perceive the vehemence of his love towards men, for whose miseries he feels so much compassion. Nor can it be doubted, that by conveying the spittle from his own mouth to the mouth of another, and by putting his fingers into his ears, he intended to manifest and express the same feeling of kindness. Yet that he has supreme power to remove all our defects, and restore us to health, is proclaimed by him when he simply orders the tongue and ears to be opened; for it was not without a good reason that Mark inserted that Chaldaic word, (ἐφφαθά) Ephphatha, be opened, but to testify the divine power of Christ. Among other fooleries with which baptism has been debased by foolish men, the ceremony used by our Lord is turned into a piece of buffoonery; and this instance shows us that there is no end to licentiousness, when men wantonly change at their own pleasure the mysteries of God.

36. Then he enjoined them not to tell it to any person. Many commentators torture these injunctions to an opposite meaning, as if Christ had purposely excited them to spread abroad the fame of the miracle; but I prefer a more natural interpretation which I have formerly stated, 424424     Harmony, vol. 1. p. 374. that Christ only intended to delay the publication of it till a more proper and convenient time. I have no doubt, therefore, that their zeal was unseasonable, when, though enjoined to be silent, they were in haste to speak. We need not wonder that men unaccustomed to the doctrine of Christ are carried away by immoderate zeal, when it is not called for. Yet what they unwisely attempted to do, was made by Christ to promote his own glory; for not only was the miracle made known, but the whole of that district, in despising the Author of heavenly gifts, was rendered inexcusable.

37. He hath done all things well. Matthew, after collecting many miracles, concludes by saying that the multitudes wondered, and glorified the God of Israel; that is, because God, taking unusual methods of illustrating his power, had called up the remembrance of his covenant. But the words of Mark contain perhaps an implied contrast; for the reports concerning Christ were various, and the word multitude or crowd (ὄχλος) may be intended to mean that it was only wicked and malicious persons who slandered his actions, since all that he did was so far from exposing him to calumny that it deserved the highest praise. But we know, and it is what nature teaches us, that nothing is more unjust than to make the bestowal of favors an occasion of envy and ill-will.




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