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A. M. 4035, sat with the company listening to his instructions; and when Martha complained to &c. or 5441. him that her sister had left the whole burden of the business upon her, and thereupon desired him to send her to her assistance, our Lord commended Mary's choice, and, Vulg. Er 30 though he did not slight Martha's civility, yet her sister's devoutness and attention to
Ann. Dom. 31, &c.
his doctrine, † which was one thing chiefly necessary, he preferred before it.
Upon his retura to Galilee, as he was one day praying with his disciples in a private place, they, taking it into consideration how necessary it was for them to be directed in the right performance of that duty, desired of him to compose a form of prayer for their use, as the Baptist had done for his disciples: whereupon he not only gave them the same excellent form, called the Lord's Prayer, which he had given them above eighteen months before in his sermon on the Mount, but encouraged them likewise, from the consideration of God's goodness and fatherly affection (far more indulgent to his children than any earthly parents were to theirs) to be constant in their petitions to him, with fervour +3, importunity, and an indefatigable perseverance, as the likeliest way to obtain a gracious answer to them.
Not long after this, upon our Lord's curing a demoniac that was dumb, the Pharisees renewed their old senseless cavil of his ejecting devils by Beelzebub, which he confuted by the same arguments he had formerly used upon that account; and when they again demanded of him a sign from heaven, he again made them the same reply. Nay, not only so, but when he was invited to dinner one day by a certain person of that sect, who was not a little offended at his sitting down to meat without washing his hands, he took oocasion from thence to inveigh very severely against their ridiculous superstition, in affecting outward neatness in their manner of living, while they neglected to cleanse their souls from internal pollutions. And so, proceeding to reproach both them and the scribes, the teachers of the law, with their pride and prevarication, their hypocrisy and spirit of persecution, he so exasperated them, that they used all possible methods to ensnare him in his speech, and to find some accusation against him, whereby they might destroy him.
One of the company, however, seeing with what authority he reproved and determined among the people, desired of him † to arbitrate between him and his brother, con
+ Interpreters have given themselves some trouble in determining what that one thing is which our Saviour accounts needful. Some of the ancients are of opinion, that our Lord, in this expression, told Martha, that one dish was enough. But, besides the lowness of the sense, the great company that attended our Lord, seventy disciples and twelve apostles, to be sure, if no more, shews the incongruousness of it. Others will have this one thing needful to be a life of meditation and contemplation, which Mary had all along addicted herself to; but her choosing to take the advantage of our Saviour's company, to hear him for an hour or two, rather than prepare a supper for him, is not foundation enough for this conjecture; and therefore we cannot but think, that the most general interpretation, concerning the care of the soul with reference to eternity, is the best. Pool's Annotations.
+ These disciples must have been some of the LXX. who were not present when our Lord delivered his Sermon on the Mount, wherein he first of all prescribed to his apostles this form of prayer. Beausobre's Annotations.
+3 The word vaideia properly signifies impudence, and might here be used in conformity to that saying of the Jews:" The impudent man overcomes the
modest and the bashful, how much more God, whe is goodness itself." Whitby's Annotations.
The practice among the Jews of referring civil matters to ecclesiastical persons, as judges, began in the captivity of Babylon, when, by this means, the Jews avoided the bringing their differences before heathen judges. Under the dominion of the Romans they were indulged a greater liberty, and had civil courts made up of persons of their own religion. In cases of private difference between man and man, it was usual to make either the consistory of three, or some others chosen by the contending parties, arbitrators. Whether both these brothers had agreed to refer their difference to our Lord's determination, or this one of them only desired him to interpose his authority, if not to enjoin, at least to persuade his brother to come to an accommodation, it is difficult to say, because the Scripture is silent: But this we may observe, that the ordinary rule of inheritance among the Jews was,-for the eldest son to have a double portion of his father's estate, and the rest to be divided equally among the other children; but in what came by the mother, the eldest had no prerogative above the rest-the division among them was equal. Whatever then the controversy between these brothers was, our Saviour might very justly refuse to
23 Luke vi. 1.
Matth. xvii. 14.*
cerning an estate which had lately fallen to them: But this office he chose to decline, From Matth.
any kind of excess, upon the confidence of their Lord's absence or delay. While he was thus discoursing to his disciples, news was brought him of the massacre which Pilate had caused to be made of some Galileans, while they were offering their sacrifices at the altar; and the consequence which he drew from thence (as well as from another sad accident that had lately happened in Jerusalem, where the fall of the tower of Siloam † had destroyed no less than eighteen persons) was, not that these sufferers were greater sinners than their neighbours, but that their sufferings were intended to lead others to repentance, which, if they did not, in all probability they would meet with the like or worse judgments *2: And then, to engage them all to a speedy repentance, he set forth the patience of the Almighty towards them in the parable of a fig-tree, which the master of the vineyard ordered to be cut down, because for three years 2 it had bore no fruit; but upon the gardener's promising to use a more than
intermeddle in it, and that not only because it was
The general opinion is,-that this piece of history relates to the sedition which Judas Gaulonites raised against the Roman government in Judea, when he and one Sadducus, a Pharisee, possessed the people with a notion, "That taxes were a badge of their slavery; that they ought to acknowledge no sovereign but God himself; nor pay any tribute but to his temple." It was in Galilee, very probably, where this Judas first broached these sentiments, and there acquired such a multitude of followers and abettors, as made Josephus call him Galilæus as well as Gaulonites, Antiq. lib. xviii. c. 2. Nay, all his followers in general, though they were of different provinces by birth, obtained the same name. But when they came to Jerusalem, at one of the great festivals, and began to spread these seditious notions against Cæsar, Pilate, who was then the Roman governor, having had intelligence of it, caused a considerable number of them to be slain in the temple while they were sacrificing. Whuby's and Be usobre's Annotations.
The fountain of Siloam rose at the foot of the wall of the ast part of the city of Jerusalem. The tower, called after its name, was doubtless bunt upon the wall, not far from it; and, being now become an
cient, might fall upon such a number of people, ei-
To verify this prediction of our Saviour's upon
+ Some of the ancients are of opinion, that by these three years we are to understand the three dispensat.ons under which mankind have lived, viz under the natural law, from the beginning of the world
A. M. 4035, ordinary care and diligence about it, he was prevailed on to let it stand one year longer, &c. or 5441, but with this determination, that if it still continued unfruitful, he would not then fail to cut it down.
31, &c. Vulg. Ar. 30.
Every Sabbath day our Lord's custom was to preach in one of the Jewish synagogues; and while he was thus employed, he observed a woman, who, for the space of eighteen years, had laboured under a spirit of infirmity, which bowed down her body so that she was not able to lift herself up. Here was a proper object for his compassion and power to exert themselves; and therefore calling the woman to him, he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she became straight, and glorified God. At this the ruler of the synagogue became so very envious and displeased, that he told the people,―There were six days in the week allowed by God for labour, and that on those they might come for cure, but not on the Sabbath, which was a day appointed for rest. But our Lord soon made him ashamed of his hypocrisy, †2 by an argument drawn from their own practice of loosing an ox or an ass from the stall on the Sabbath day, and leading them away to watering; and much more then might he be permitted to cure, on that day, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan for so many years had afflicted with a sore disease. Whereupon his adversaries were silenced, but the people were all glad and rejoiced at his glorious actions.
The feast of dedication +3 was now approaching, when, after several removals, our Lord repaired again to Jerusalem, and as he was walking in the streets on the Sabbathday †, he saw a poor man that was blind from his very birth. Upon his calling the
to the time of Moses; under the written law, from
In every synagogue there was a considerable number of doctors of the law, who, in the Gospel, are frequently called rulers or governors, and over these there was usually one chief president. But the person here seems not to have been the chief president, but one of the subordinate rulers, because we find him not addressing himself directly to Christ, (which, not improbably, had he been the president, he would have taken courage to do) but only to the people in general, though by them he obliquely struck at our SaviBeausobre's Annotations, and Calmet's Com
+ Our Saviour declared this ruler of the synagogue to be an hypocrite, partly because he placed his holiness in the observation of the ritual precepts of the law, (such as bodily rest on the Sabbath day) to the
disparagement of the works of mercy, and other great matters of eternal obligation; and partly because he pretended to a great zeal for the performance of God's commands, when all the while he was rather acted by a malevolent envy to the glory of Christ, which he, to whom his heart was open, perfectly knew. Whitby's Annotations.
+3 When Judas Maccabæus had cleansed the temple, which had been polluted by Antiochus Epiphanes, he again dedicated the altar, (1 Maccab. iv. 59. and 2 Maccab. x. 8.) and this is supposed to be the dedication, in memory of which the Jews continued to celebrate a feast, which fell out in the winter, in the month Cisleu, between the 13th and 14th of our November; and being the same, in all probability, with what in the Gospel is called rà iyxana, was honoured and approved by our Saviour's presence, though but of human institution. Whitby's Annotations, Hammond's Paraphrase, and Echard's Ecclesiastical History, lib. i. c. 5.
It has been observed before, that our Saviour made choice of the Sabbath day, as a day wherein he did many of his mighty works. It was on this day that he cured the impotent man, who lay at the pool of Bethesda, John v. 10. On this day that he healed him who had the withered hand, Matth. xii. 10. and now on this day likewise that he gave sight to the man who was born blind, John ix. 14. and possibly he might chuse this, because it was the day whereon he ordinarily preached that heavenly doctrine which he confirmed by these miraculous works; or perhaps that he might instruct the Jews (if they would have received instruction) in the right observation of the Sabbath, and arm his disciples against that pernicious doctrine of the Pharisees, viz. that it was not lawful to do good or perform works of mercy and compassion on that day. Pool's and Whitby's Annotations.
xii. 1. Mark ii.
Mark ix. 14.
man to him, his disciples asked him, whether it was the man's own or his parents sin From Matth. that had brought that calamity upon him? But his blindness, as he told them, was 23. Luke vi. 1. not sent for a punishment of any one's sin, but † for the greater manifestation of God's John v. 1. to glory; and so spitting upon the ground, he made some clay, and having anointed his Matth. xvii. 14. eyes therewith, he +2 sent him to wash them in the pool of Siloam; which accordingly Luke ix. 37. he did, and returned with such perfect eye-sight, that his neighbours were amazed, and John vii. 1. began to question whether he was the same man that used to sit begging, until he assured them that he was the very person, and to satisfy them farther, not only told them who his physician was, but in what manner his cure was effected.
Various were the censures and opinions of men upon this occasion. The Pharisees, to diminish the credit of the miracle, said that Jesus could not be a prophet sent from God, +3 because he violated the Sabbath; but others again replied, that no impostor could be permitted to work such miracles, as had apparently the finger of God in them. Those who were averse to believe the miracle, or in hopes of making the thing look intricate, sent for the parents of the man that was cured, and asked them these three questions. Whether he was their son? Whether he was born blind? And whether they knew how, and by whom he was cured? To the two first questions they answered directly, that he was their son, and was born blind; but, as to the last, they referred them to him, who (as they told them) was of age to answer for himself; not daring to say any more for fear of the Sanhedrim, who had made an order † to excommuni
* What the disciples might mean by the sin of the blind man's parents is no hard matter to solve, considering the strict prohibition in the law, Levit. xx. 18. of not coming near a menstruous woman, which was thought to have so ill an influence upon the child, as to make it obnoxious to leprosy or mutilation, and might, consequently, be the cause of this person's blindness: But what we are to understand by his own sin before he was born, is not so easy to be determined. That it cannot relate to the original sin which he brought into the world with him, is evident, because all mankind (our Lord only excepted) are equally guilty of this; nor does this entail upon them any corporeal imperfection: And therefore the sin here intended must be something special and personal. Now, whoever considers that the opinion of the Platonists and Pythagoreans concerning the pre-existence of souls, their transmigration from one body to another, and being sent into bodies better or worse, according to their merit or demerit, had obtained a mong the Jews, and more especially among the Pharisees, need not much wonder to find our Lord's disciples infected with it, or at least desirous to know their master's sentiments about it. The author of the Book of Wisdom, where, speaking of himself, he tells us," that, being good, he came into a body undefiled," i. e. free from any notable infirmity, chap. viii. 20. gives countenance to this doctrine; and in the writings of Philo, (de Gigant. p. 285. et de Somniis, p. 586.) and of Josephus, (de Bello Jud. lib. ii. c. 12.) we have it confirmed to us: And therefore the disciples may well be supposed to enquire here, whether our Lord allowed of the prevailing notion, viz. That the soul of this man might be put into this imperfect body, for the punishment of what he had done, either in or out of the body, in a pre-existent state. Whitby's and Hammond's Annotations, and
It must not be thought that God did any ways actively concur to make this man blind, though, in his wisdom, he thought fit to leave this imperfection in the plastic matter whereof he was formed unrectified, that thereby he might shew his miraculous power in giving sight to such an one, for the confirmation of Christ's doctrine; thereby display his goodness, in illuminating both the soul and body of this man at once; and thereby give all others, who beheld this miraculous cure, a powerful motive to believe. Whitby's Annotations.
+ We read of nothing medicinal in this water, only our Lord was pleased to send the blind man to wash his eyes here, as a probation of his faith and obedience, in the same manner as of old Naaman the Syrian was sent to wash in the river Jordan, 2 Kings v. 10. Pool's Annotations.
+3 And yet they themselves acknowledge, that a prophet might do and command things contrary to the rest required by the Sabbath, which they also prove by the example of Joshua, who commanded that "the ark should be carried round Jericho, the armed men going before and after it seven days," one of which must be the Sabbath, Josh. vi. How then could that which prophets, by the known principles of the Jews, were allowed to do, prove that Jesus was no prophet, especially if we consider, that by these actions of mercy and goodness he did not indeed violate the rest of the Sabbath, but only their corrupt traditions concerning it. Whitby's Annotations.
+ The general opinion is, that among the Jews there were three kinds of excommunication; that the first was called niddui, that is to say, separation, which lasted for thirty days, and separated the person from the use of all things holy: The second was called 2 B
A. M. 4035, tate any person who should acknowledge Jesus to be Christ. Him therefore they be
gan to examine; and to draw him from the good opiuion he had conceived of his physician, bid him ascribe the glory of his cure wholly to God, and not to look upon Jesus Vulg. Ær. 30. with any veneration, who was a sinner and Sabbath-breaker, and consequently could
&c. or 5441. Ann. Dom. 31, &c.
not come from God. To which the man boldly replied, "That it was very unaccountable that they should not perceive from whence the man was, whom God had endued with such a miraculous power of opening the eyes of one born blind, † a thing that was never heard of before since the world began; and that since it was a certain truth
that God heareth not sinners, if he were not sent, and impowered by God, he could never do such wonderful cures as these." This provoked them so highly, that they first upbraided him with his former blindness, as a character of some extraordinary ill in him, and then cast him out of the synagogue with disgrace; but Jesus shortly after met him, and received him into his own church. He declared himself to him that he was the Messsiah; and the poor man, believing on him, immediately fell down prostrate at his feet, and adored him.
After that our Lord had received the poor man's homage, he continued his discourse, and under the allegory of a †2 shepherd and his sheep, proved the Pharisees to be no
cherem, or execration, which excluded the person
They who lose their sight by a disease may be cured; but no man, no not Moses, or any of the prophets, ever did, or ever could, without the assistance of a Divine power, give sight to one born blind; for which reason the Jews reckon this among the signs of the Messiah, that he "should open the eyes of the blind." Whitby's Annotations.
But doth not God hear sinners?" Then whom can he hear, since no man liveth and committeth not sin against God? It is true indeed; but then the sinners which the poor man may be supposed here to mean, are not those who become such through ignorance, weakness, or human infirmity, but such notorious and presumptuous sinners as go on in their impieties with an high hand and an hardened heart, of whom the Spirit of God declares, "When they spread forth their hands I will hide myself from them, and when they make many prayers I will not hear," Isa. i. 15. The maxim however is here to be under stood not in a general, but restrained sense, viz. that God useth not to honour notorious and flagitious sin. ners (especially when they pretend to come with a message from him)-by giving them a power to work miracles, in order to confirm the truth of what they say. For this is the force of the poor man's argu
ment,-That Christ could not be such a notorious sinner as he was represented to him, because it was inconsistent with the attributes of God, to honour such persons with his presence and assistance, in doing such works as none could do without a Divine power committed to them. Pool's Annotations.
+ That this allusion was very proper and pertinent with regard to the persons to whom our Saviour addressed his discourse, the condition and custom of that country may convince us. For the greatest part of the wealth and improvement there consisted in sheep; and the examples of Jacob and David in particular, are proofs that the keeping of these was not usually committed to servants and strangers, (as it is among us), but to men of the greatest quality and substance. The children of the family, nay, the masters and owners themselves, made it their business, and esteemed the looking to their flocks a care and employment in no case below them. Hence probably came the frequent metaphor of styling kings the shepherds of their people. Hence the ancient prophets describe the Messiah in the character of a shepherd; and our Blessed Saviour, to shew that he was the person intended by the prophets, applies the same character to himself, thereby to represent his government of the church, and tender concern for mankind: "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arms, and carry them in his bosom; shall seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away; shall bind up that which was broken, and strengthen that which was sick, and gently lead those which were with young," Isaiah xl. 11. and Ezekiel xxxiv. 16. all lively emblems of our Lord's pastoral care, and of the various methods which he hath employed to accommodate his dispensations to our wants, in order to promote our eternal salvation. And as the character of a shepherd did well become our gracious Saviour, so there is something in the very nature and disposition of sheep (which appears so innocent and inoffensive, so peaceable and gentle, so patient and submissive, so honest