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relates, “received him,” though the Nazarenes, the people of his own immediate city, had rejected, and would have killed him *
In treating of this miracle, the first question which occurs is this, namely, whether we have here the same history as that of the servant (mais) of the centurion related by St. Matthew (viii. 5), and St. Luke (vii. 2), and here repeated with only immaterial variations. Irenæus t would seem to have looked at them as one and the same history; and Chrysostom and others note such an opinion as held by some in their time, though they themselves oppose it. And this rightly, for there is almost nothing in its favour. Not merely the external circumstances are greatly different; that centurion being a heathen, this nobleman in every probability
* There is another view of the passage possible, namely that St. John, recording (ver. 43) Christ's return to Galilee, is explaining why he should have first left it, (ver. 44,) and why he should have returned to it now (ver. 45.) He left it, because as he had himself testified, (euaptúpnoe, a first aorist for a plusq. perfect.) a prophet is unhonoured in his own country, but he returned to it now, because his countrymen, the Galilæans, having seen the signs that he did at Jerusalem, were prepared to welcome, and did welcome him, in quite another spirit from that which they manifested at his first appearance; “ So (ver. 46,) Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee.” This is Neander's explanation (Leben Jesu, p. 385,) and Jacobi's, in the Theol. Stud. und Krit., 1836, p. 906.
+ Con Har., 1. 2, c. 22. Filium Centurionis absens verbo curavit dicens, Vade, filius tuus vivit. Yet Centurionis may well be only a slip of the pen or the memory. In modern times only Semler that I know, has held the same opinion.
The term fuordekós tells rather against that view; since it is little probable that any military office is denoted by it. The exact meaning of the word here never can be exactly fixed; even Chrysostom (Hom. 35 in Joh.) speaks uncertainly about it, and only suggests a meaning; showing that even in his day it was not to be explained by the familiar usage of them with whom Greek was a living language. Three meanings have been offered. Either by the Baoilikós is meant one of those that were of the king's party, the royalists, in which case the term would be much the same as Herodian, designating one of those that sided with the faction of the Herods, father and son, and helped to maintain them on the throne (Lightfoot); or, with something of a narrower signification, the Bacılıkós may be one especially attached to the court, aulicus, or as Jerome (In Esai. 65,) calls this man, palatinus
a Jew; that one pleading for his servant, this for his son ; that intercession finding place as the Lord was entering Capernaum, this in Cana ; in that the petitioner sending by others, in this himself coming: the sickness there a paralysis, a fever here. But far more than all this, the heart and inner kernel of the two narratives is different. That centurion is an example of a strong faith, this nobleman of a weak faith; that centurion counts that, if Jesus will but speak the word, his servant will be healed, while this nobleman is so earnest that the Lord should come down, because in heart he limits his power, and counts that nothing but his actual presence will avail to heal his sick; the other receives praise, this rebuke, at the lips of Christ. The difference is indeed here so striking, that Augustine * draws a comparison, by way of contrast, between the faith of that centurion, and the unbelief of this nobleman.
Against all this, the points of apparent identity are very alight, as the near death of the sufferer, the healing at a distance and by a word, and the returning and finding him healed. It is nothing strange that two miracles should have these circumstances in common.
It has been supposed by somef that this nobleman is
(Regulus qui Græce dicitur ßaoedkós, quem nos de aulâ regiâ rectius interpretari possumus palatinum); thus in the margin of our Bibles it is “courtier;" or else, though this seems here the least probable supposition, Baoilea kós may mean one of royal blood; so in Lucian the word is four times applied to those who are actually kings, or are related to them. Perhaps no better term could be found than that of our English version, “ nobleman,” which has something of the doubtfulness of the original expression, and while it does not require, yet does not deny, that he was of royal blood.
* In Ev. Joh., Tract. 16: Videte distinctionem. Regulus iste Dominum ad domum suam descendere cupiebat; ille Centurio indignum se esse dicebat. Illi dicebatur, Ego veniam, et curabo eum: huic dictum est, Vade, filius tuus vivit. Illi præsentiam promittebat, hunc verbo sanabat. Iste tamen præsentiam ejus extorquebat, ille se præsentiâ ejus indignum esse dicebat. Hic cessum est elationi; illic concessum est humilitati. Cf. ChrySOSTOM, Hom. 35 in Joh.
Lightfoot, Chemnitz, and others.
no other than Chuza, Herod's steward, whose wife was among the holy women that ministered unto the Lord of their substance (Luke viii. 3 ; cf. ver. 53). This is not wholly iinprobable; for it would seem as if only some mighty and marvellous work of this kind would have drawn a steward of Herod's with his family, into the net of the Gospel. But whether this was so or not, he leaving his son exceeding sick at Capernaum, now came and found Jesus, who was just returned from his journey to Jerusalem, in Cana of Galilee, "and besought him that he would come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.” From the something of severity which comes out in our Lord's first notice of his petition, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe","
----- - -- -• This passage, with that other in which the Lord declines to give a sign to some that asked it, dismissing them to the sign of Jonah, (Matt. xii. 38– 40; xvi. 1-4,) are favourite passages with those who deny that he laid any especial stress on his miracles, as proving anything concerning him; that other has been stretched so far by some as to be brought in proof that he did not even cluim to do any. Thus by the modern rationalists, though the abuse of the passage is as old as Aquinas, who takes note of and rebukes it. But our Lord's words have not any such meaning, and it may be worth while to show how far they are from bearing out any such conclusion. The Lord says, There shall no sign be given to them, the men who out of an unbelieving heart asked one, the same who but a little before had ascribed his miracles to Beelzebub. (Matt. xii. 24.) “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas,”-not, that is, to that evil and adulterous generation. The only sign for it is the appearance in the midst of it, of a warning prophet, a prophet of woe, a second and greater Jonah, with his burden of near judgment, proclaiming that in forty years shall Jerusalem be destroyed; the same being sealed by the wondrous circumstances of his life, by his resurrection, as Jonah by his deliverance from the whale's belly, to be indeed the commissioned of the Lord. Christ does not deny the value of the miracle, or say that he will do none; but only that he will do none for them, for an evil and adulterous generation which is seeking not after helps and confirmations of faith, but excuses and subterfuges for unbelief. These works of grace and power are reserved for those who are receptive of impressions from them. They are seals which are to seal softened hearts ; hearts utterly cold and hard would take no impression from them, and therefore will not be tried with them. So that this is not, in fact, a slight put upon miracles, but an honouring of them. There are those upon whom they shall not be wasted.
it is evident that this nobleman was one driven to Jesus by the strong constraint of an outward need, a need which no other but he could supply, (Isai. xxvi. 16,) rather than one drawn by the inner necessities and desires of his soul;—a man who would not have come but for this * ; who shared in the carnal temper of the most of his fellow-countrymen (they, by the plural number which our Lord here uses, being, it is most probable, intended to be included in the same condemnation);-one who had (as yet, at least,) no organ for perceiving the glory of Christ as it shone out in his person and in his doctrine,—whom nothing but miracles, “signs and wonders," would compel to a belief; unlike those Samaritans whom the Lord has just left, and who, without a miracle, had in great numbers 6 believed because of his word.” (John iv. 41.) But “the Jews require a sign,” (1 Cor. i. 22,) and this one, in the smallness of his present faith, straitened and limited the power of the Lord, counting it needful that he should “come down to if his son was to be healed; being unable to conceive of any other cure, of any word spoken at a distance and yet mighty to save 1. Not that we are
* Augustine (In Ev. Joh., Tract. 16,) reads the words of Christ as implying that this nobleman did not believe that Christ could do this very thing which he was asking of him. It was but a tentative request: in the utter lack of help anywhere, he snatched at what seemed to him, even while he was snatching at it, but as a straw, and so he received this rebuke: Arguit hominem in fide tepidum aut frigidum, aut omnino nullius fidei: sed tentare cupientem de sanitate filii sui, qualis esset Christus, quis esset, quantùm posset. Verba enim rogantis audivimus, cor diffidentis non videmus; sed ille pronuntiavit, qui et verba audivit, et cor inspexit. Yet the earnestness of the man's rejoinder, “ Sir, come down ere my son die,” is very unlike this.
t Gregory the Great (Hom. 28 in Evang.): Minùs itaque in illum credidit, quem non putavit posse salutem dare, nisi præsens esset in corpore.
I Bengel will have this to be the especial point of the whole answer, laying the entire emphasis thus: “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe:" Innuit Jesus se etiam absenti reguli filio posse vitam dare; et postulat ut regulus id credat, neque profectionem Jesu postulet suscipiendam cum ipso sanationem apud lectulum visuro. Others have done the saine: see Köcher's Analecta (in loc.)
to suppose that the Lord thus speaking meant to cast any slight on the significance of miracles, only they are not to serve for this, namely, to compel the reluctant and unbelieving to the faith, but to confirm the mission of a divine ambassador before them that have already been taken hold of by the power of the truth.
Yet, as Bengel observes, there is a beautiful admixture in this answer, of rebuke and encouragement; an implied promise of a miracle, even while the man is blamed, that he needed this, that nothing short of this would induce him to put his trust in the Lord of life*. And so the man accepts it; for he does not suffer himself to be repelled by this word of a seeming, and indeed of a real severity; rather he now presses on the more earnestly, “Sir, come down t ere my child die;" — still, it is true, not guessing of any other help save througlı the Lord's bodily presence; still far off from the faith and humility of that centurion, who said, “ Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed ;”-much less dreaming of a power that could raise the dead; it must be were my
cious Lord, who had always the higher good of those who came in contact with him in his eye, again tries his faith, and in the trying strengthens it, sending him away with a mere word of assurance that it should go well with his child; “Go thy way, thy son liveth.” And the nobleman was contented with that assurance; he “ belicced the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way,” expecting to find that it should be done according to that word.
There is here again something to be learned by a com
• Simul autem miraculum promittitur, fidesque prius etiam desideratur, et dum desideratur, excitatur. Responsum externâ quâdam repulsæ specie et tacitâ opis promissione mixtum, congruit sensui rogantis ex fide et imbecillitate mixto.
† Katáßn0, Capernaum lying upon the shore, and lower than Cana, where now they were.