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26. THE OPENING THE EYES OF ONE
BLIND AT BETHSAIDA.
There is little peculiar in this miracle which has not been treated of elsewhere. For Christ's leading the man out of the town*, and touching his eyes as he did, see what has been said already on the miracle last treated of but one. The Lord links on his power, as was frequent with him, to forms in use among men ; working through these forms something higher than they could have produced, and clothing the supernatural in the forms of the natural. It was not otherwise, when he bade his disciples to anoint the sick with oil,-one of the most esteemed helps for healing in the East. Not the oil, but his Word was to heal, yet without the oil the disciples might have found it too hard to believe in the power which they were exerting,—those who through their faith were to be healed, in the power which should heal them. (Mark vi. 13 ; Jam. v. 14.) So the figs for Hezekiah's boil were indeed the very remedy which a physician with only natural appliances at command would have used ; (Isai. xxxviii. 22 ;) yet now, hiding itself behind this nature, clothing itself in the forms of this nature, did an effectual work of preternatural healing go forward.
The only circumstance which remains distinctive of this narration is the progressiveness of the cure; which is not itself without analogies in other cures, as in that of the man blind from his birth, who only after he had been to wash in Siloam, “came seeing;” (John ix. 7 ;) yet the steps of the progress are marked more plainly here than in any
* Bengel gives this as the reason why the Lord led him out into the country: Cæco visum recuperanti lætior erat aspectus cæli et operum divinorum in naturâ, quàin operum humanorum in pago.
other instance. For first " when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw aught. And he looked up and said, I see men, as trees, walking ;" certain moving forms about him, but without the power of discerning their shape or magnitude, -trees he should have accounted them from their height, but men from their motion *. Then the Lord perfects the cure : “He put his hands again upon his eyest, and made him look up, and he was restored, and saw every man clearly."
Chrysostom and others find the reasons for this only progressive cure, in the imperfectness of this blind man's faith, whereof they see an evidence in this, that while others in like case cried with their own voices to Jesus for the opening of their eyes, this man was brought to him by others, himself perhaps scarcely expecting a benefit. The gracious Lord, then, who would not reject him, but who could as little cure him so long as there was on his part this desperation of healing, gave a glimpse of the blessing, that he might kindle in him a longing for the fulness of it, that he might shew him how he was indeed an opener of the blind eyes. Others again see a testimony here of the freeness of God's grace, which is linked to no single way of manifestation, but works in divers manners, sometimes accomplishing in a moment what at other times it brings about only little by little 1.
* In the very interesting account which Cheselden bas given (Anatomy, p. 301, 1768, London,) of the feelings of a child, who having been blind from his birth, was enabled to see, a curious confirmation of the truthfulness of this narrative occurs: “When he first saw, he knew not the shape of any thing, nor any one thing from another, however different in shape or magnitude, but being told what things were, whose forms he before knew from feeling, he would carefully observe that he might know them again.”
+ Chemnitz (Ilarm. Erang., c. 84): Manus imponit ut ostendat carnem suam esse instrumentum per quod et cum quo ipse ó óyos æternus omnia opera vivificationis perficiat.
Calvin : Paulatim cæco visum restituit: quod ideo factum esse probabile est, ut documentum in hoc homine statueret liberæ suæ dispensationis, nec se astrictum esse ad certam normam, quin hoc vel illo modo virtutem suam proferret. Oculos ergo cæci non statim ita illuminat ut officio suio
There has oftentimes been traced in this healing an apt symbol of the manner in which he who is the Light of the world makes the souls that come to him partakers of the illumination of his grace. Not all at once are the old errors and the old confusions put to flight; not all at once do they sce clearly: for a while there are many remains of their old blindness, much which for a season still hinders their vision ; they see men but as trees walking. Yet in good time Christ finishes the work which he has begun; he lays his hands on them anew, and they see every man clearly *.
fungantur, sed obscurum illis confusumque intuitum instillat: deinde alterâ manuum impositione integram aciem illis reddit. Ita gratia Christi, quæ in alios repente effusa prius erat, quasi guttatim defluxit in hunc hominem.
* Bede: Quem uno verbo totum simul curare poterat, paulatim curat, ut magnitudinem humanæ cæcitatis ostendat, que vix et quasi per gradus ad lucem redeat, et gratiam suam nobis indicet, per quam singula perfectionis incrementa adjuvat.
27. THE HEALING OF THE LUNATIC
Matt. xvii. 14—21; Mark ix. 14—29; Luke ix. 37—42.
The old adversaries of our Lord, the Scribes, had taken advantage of his absence in the Mount of Transfiguration, to win a temporary triumph, or at least something like one, over his disciples, who were themselves weakened by the absence of their Lord; and with him of three, the chiefest among themselves-those, too, in whom, as habitually the nearest to him, we may suppose his power most mightily to have resided. It was here again, as it was once before during the absence of Moses and his servant Joshua, on his mount of a fainter transfiguration. Then, too, in like manner, the enemy had found his advantage, and awhile prevailed against the people. (Exod. xxxii.)
It would seem that the disciples who were left below had undertaken to cast out an evil spirit of a peculiar malignity, and had proved unequal to the task; “they could not.” And now the Scribes were pressing the advantage which they had gained by this miscarriage of the disciples to the uttermost. A great multitude too were gathered round, spectators of the defeat of the servants of Christ; and the strife was at the highest,—the Scribes, no doubt, arguing from the impotence of the servants to the impotence of the Master*, and they denying the conclusion ; when suddenly he concerning whom the strife was, appeared, returning from the holy mount, his face and person yet glistening, as there is reason to suppose, with reminiscences and traces of the glory which had clothed him there, reminiscences and traces which had not yet disappeared, nor faded into the light of common day, so that
- -- - -- ----• Calvin : Scribæ victores insultant, nec modò subsannant discipulos, sed proterviunt adversùs Christum, quasi in illorum personâ exinanita esset ejus virtus.
“all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed.” Yet here the impression which that glory made was other than the impression of the countenance of Moses. When the multitude saw him as he came down from his mountain, the skin of his face shining, “they were afraid to come nigh him," (Exod. xxxiv. 30,) for that glory upon his face was a threatening glory, the awful and intolerable brightness of the Law. But the glory of God shining in the face of Christ Jesus, though awful too, was also an attractive glory, full of grace and beauty, drawing men to him, not driving them from him ; and thus, indeed, “ all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed," such gleams of brightness played around him still; yet did they not therefore flee from him, but rather, as taken with that brightness, they “ running to him, saluted him*.” (Compare 2 Cor. iii. 18.)
Yet the sight and sounds which greeted him on his return to our sinful world, how different were they from those which he had just left upon the holy mount! There the highest harmonies of heaven ; here some of the wildest and harshest discords of eartht. There he had been receiving honour and glory from the Father; here his disciples, those to whom his work had been entrusted in his absence, had been procuring for him, as far as in them lay, shame and dishonour. But as when some great captain, suddenly arriving upon a field of battle, where his subordinate lieutenants have well nigh lost the day, and brought all into a hopeless confusion, with