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of their way, and explained to them that indeed He meant nothing so dreadful as they supposed ! But so far from this, He only reasserts what has offended them so deeply, in «a discourse than which there is none more important in Holy Scripture for the fast fixing of the doctrine concerning the relations of the Father and the Son. Other passages may contain as important witness against the Arian, other against the Sabellian, departure from the truth; but this upon both sides plants the pillars of the faith. It would lead, however, too far from the purpose of this volume to enter on it here.
I conclude with a brief reference to a matter in part anticipated already, namely, the types and prophetic symbols which have been often traced in this history. Many, as has been already noticed, found in these healing influences of the pool of Bethesda a foreshowing of future benefits, above all, of the benefit of baptism; and, through familiarity with a miracle of a lower order, a helping of men's faith to a receiving of the mystery of a yet higher healing which should be linked with water. They were well pleased also to magnify the largeness and freedom of the later grace, by comparing it with the narrower and more stinted blessings of the former dispensation. The pool with its one healed, and that one at distant intervals,—once a year Theophylact and most others assumed, although nothing of the kind is said, and the word of the original may mean oftener or seldomer,—was the type of the weaker and more restrained graces of the Old Covenant; when not as yet was there room for all, nor a fountain opened, and at all times accessible, for the healing of
So especially Chrysostom (in loc.). · Tertullian (Adv. Jud. 13) adduces as one of the signs that even these scanty blessings did with the Jewish rejection of Christ cease altogether, that from that day forth, this pool forfeited its healing powers : Lex et Prophetæ usque ad Joannem fuerunt; et piscina Bethsaïda usque ad adventum Christi, curando invaletudineo ab Israel, desiit a beneficiis deinde cum ex perseverantiâ furoris sui nomen Domini per ipsos blasphemaretur.
the spiritual sicknesses of the whole race of men, but only of a single people,
Thus Chrysostom, in a magnificent Easter sermon ? (it will be remembered that at that season multitudes of neopbytes were baptized): ‘Among the Jews also there was of old a pool of water. Yet learn whereunto it availed, that thou mayest accurately measure the Jewish poverty and our riches. There went down, it is said, an Angel and moved the waters, and who first descended into them after the moving, obtained a cure.
The Lord of Angels went down into the stream of Jordan, and sanctifying the nature of water, healed the whole world. So that there, indeed, he who descended after the first was not healed; for to the Jews, infirm and carnal, this grace was given: but here after the first a second descends, after the second a third and a fourth; and were it a thousand, didst thou cast the whole world into these spiritual fountains, the grace would not be worn out, the gift expended, the fountains defiled, the liberality exhausted.' And Augustine, ever on the watch to bring out his great truth that the Law was for the revealing of sin, and could not effect its removal, for making men to know their sickness, not for the healing of that sickness, to drag them out of the lurking-places of an imagined righteousness, not to provide them of itself with any surer refuge, finds a type, or at least an apt illustration of this, in those five porches,' which showed their sick, but could not cure them; in which they • lay, a great multitude of impotent folk, blind, halt, withered. It needed that the waters should be stirred, before any power went forth for their cure. This motion of the pool was the perturbation of the Jewish people at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then powers were stirring for
1 The author of the work attributed to Ambrose (De Sacram. ii. 2): Tunc inquam temporis in figurâ qui prior descendisset, solus curabatur. Quanto major est gratia Ecclesiæ, in quâ omnes salvantur, quicunque descendunt!
Opp. vol. iii. p. 756, Bened. ed.
their healing; and he who went down,' he who humbly believed in his Incarnation, in his descent as a man amongst us, who was not offended at his lowly estate, was healed of whatsoever disease he had. 1
1 Enarr. i. in Ps. lxx. 15: Merito lex per Moysen data est, gratia et veritas
Jesum Christum facta est. Moyses quinque libros scripsit; sed in quinque porticibus piscinam cingentibus languidi jacebant, sed curari non poterant. . . . Illis enim quinque porticibus, in figurâ quinque librorum, prodebantur potius quam sanabantur ægroti. ... Venit Dominus, turbata est aqua, et crucifixus est, descendat ut sanetur ægrotus. Quid est, descendat ? Humiliet se. Ergo quicumque amatis litteram sine gratiâ, in porticibus remanebitis, ægri eritis; jacentes, non convalescentes : de litterâ enim præsumitis. Cf. Enarr. in Ps. lxxxiii. 7: Qui non sanabatur Lege, id est porticibus, sanatur gratiâ, per passionis fidem Domini nostri Jesu Christi. Serm. cxxv.: Ad hoc data est lex, quæ proderet ægrotos, non quæ tolleret. Ideo ergo ægroti illi qui in domibus suis secretius ægrotare possent, si illæ quinque porticus non essent, prodebantur oculis omnium in illis porticibus, sed a porticibus non sanabantur. ... Intendite ergo. Erant illæ porticus legem significantes, portantes ægrotos non sanantes, prodentes non curantes. Cf. In Ev. Joh. tract. xvii.
16. THE MIRACULOUS FEEDING OF FIVE THOUSAND.
Matt. xiv. 15-21; MARK vi. 34-44 ; LUKE ix. 12-17;
John vi. 5-14.
HIS miracle, with the walking on the sea, which may be
regarded as its appendix, is the only one which St. John has in common with the other Evangelists, and this he has in common with them all. It will follow that it is the only one of which a fourfold record exists. It will be my endeavour to keep all the narratives in view, as they mutually complete one another. St. Matthew connects the Lord's retirement to the desert place on the other side of the lake,' with the murder of John the Baptist ;? St. Mark and St. Luke place the two events in juxtaposition, but without making one the motive of the other. From St. Mark, indeed, it might appear as if the immediate motive was another,
Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 371: "The eastern shores of the lake have been so slightly visited and described, that any comparison of their features with the history must necessarily be precarious. Yet one general characteristic of that shore, as compared with the western side, has been indicated, which was probably the case in ancient times, though in a less degree than at present, namely, its desert character. Partly this arises from its nearer exposure to the Bedouin tribes; partly from its less abundance of springs and streams. There is no recess in the eastern hills, no towns along its banks corresponding to those in the Plain of Gennesareth. Thus the wilder region became a natural refuge from the active life of the western shores. It was “ when He saw great multitudes about Him” that “He gave commandment to depart unto the other side ;” and again He said, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile; for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat." ;
* Ludolphus: Ut parceret inimicis ne homicidium Domini jungerent homicidio Johannis.
namely, that the Apostles, who were just returned from their mission, might have time at once for bodily and spiritual refreshment, might not be always in a crowd, always ministering to others, never to themselves. But thither, into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida,'' the multitude followed Him; not necessarily proceeding afoot, for Tee (Mark vi. 33) need not imply this, and here does not ;? but by land,' as distinguished from Him and his company, who made the passage by sea. They lost so little time on their journey, that although their way was much longer about than his, who had only to cross the lake, they "outwent' Him, anticipated his coming, so that when He went forth,' not, that is, from the ship, but from his solitude, and for the purpose of graciously receiving those who had followed Him with such devotion,3 He saw much people' waiting for Him. This their presence entirely defeated the very intention for which He had sought that solitude; yet He not the less received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.' St. John's apparently casual notice of the fact that the passover was at hand, is not so much to fix a point in the chronology of the Lord's ministry, as to explain from whence these great multitudes, that streamed to Jesus, came; they were on their road to Jerusalem, there to keep the feast.
i Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 374: 6“ Bethsaida" is the eastern city of that name, which, from the importance of the new city Julias, built there by Philip the Tetrarch (see Josephus, B. J. iii. 9. 1; Antiq. xviii. 2. 1; and cf. Pliny, H. N. v. 15), would give its name to the surrounding desert tract. The "desert place” was either one of the green tablelands visible from the hills on the western side, or more probably part of the rich plain at the mouth of the Jordan. In the parts of this plain not cultivated by the hand of man would be found the “ much green grass,' still fresh in the spring of the year when this event occurred, before it had faded away in the summer sun,—the tall grass, which, broken down by the feet of the thousands there gathered together, would make as it were “couches” (adisiac) for them to recline upon. This Bethsaida must be carefully distinguished from Bethsaida of Galilee' (Matt. xi.
John i. 44 ; xii. 21).
* Herodotus, vii. 110 ; Plato, Menex. 239 e.