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The Jews that dwelt in Galilee very commonly in their necessary journeys to the feasts at Jerusalem took the longer route, which led them across the Jordan, and through the region of Peræa, the Gilead of the Old Testament, that so they might avoid the vexations and annoyances and even worse outrages which they sometimes met in passing through the unfriendly land of the Samaritans.* For these, always unfriendly, would naturally be most unfriendly of all to those that were travelling up to the great feasts of the holy city, and were thus giving witness in act against the will-worship of Mount Gerizim, and the temple of Samaria in which no presence of God dwelt. It is generally understood that now, despite these vexations and the discomforts of that inhospitable route, (see Luke ix. 51–56; John iv. 9,) our Lord, with the band of his disciples, on this his last journey to the holy city, took the directer and shorter way which led him straight from Galilee through the midst of Samaria to Jerusalem. It is certain that the words of the original may bear this meaning, yet not the less I should understand the Evangelist to say that the Lord passed between these two regions, having, that is, one on his right hand, the other on his left, and skirting them both. This explains the mention of Samaria first, which in the ordinary explanation of the words is almost inexplicable. The Lord travelled due eastward towards Jordan, having Galilee on his left hand, and Samaria, which is therefore first named, on his right: and on reaching the river, he either passed over it at Scythopolis, where we know there was a bridge, recrossing the river near Jericho,f or kept on the
* Josephus (Antt., 1. 20, c. 6, § 1) gives an account of the massacre by the Samaritans of a great number of Galilæan pilgrims, which happened a little later than this.
+ So Wetstein : Non viâ rectâ et brevissimâ a septentrione versus meridiem per
western bank till he reached that city, where presently we find him. (xviii. 35.)
“And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers.” Their common misery had drawn them together; (2 Kin. vii. 3;) nay, had even caused them to forget the fierce national antipathy which reigned between Jew and Samaritan. In this border land too it was more natural than elsewhere that they should find themselves in one company, and thus a Samaritan had found admission into this forlorn assembly. There has been already occasion to speak of the nature and meaning of leprosy in the Law of Moses; that it was the outward symbol of. sin in its deepest malignity,--of sin therefore as involving entire separation from God; not of spiritual sickness only, but spiritual death, since absolute separation from the one fountain of life must needs be no less. These lepers, in obedience to the commandment, "stood afar off;" and out of a deep sense of their misery, yet not without hope that a Healer was at hand," lifted up their voices and said, Jesus, Master,* have mercy on us!” They were now in earnest to receive the mercy, however at a later period they were slack in giving thanks for it.
Wonderful is it and most instructive to observe the differences in our Lord's dealing with the different sufferers and mourners that are brought in contact with him; how the Physician, who is all wisdom and all tenderness, varies his treatment for the varying needs of his patients; how he seems to resist a strong faith, that he may make it stronger yet; how he meets a weak faith, lest it should prove altogether too weak in the trial; how one he forgives first, and heals after; and another, whose heart could only be softened by first receiving an earthly benefit, he first heals and then pardons. There is here, too, no doubt a reason why these ten are dismissed as yet uncleansed, and bidden to go show themselves to the priests; while that other, whose healing was before recorded, is first cleansed, and not till afterwards bidden to present himself in the temple. Doubtless there was here a keener trial of their faith. While as yet there were no signs of restoration upon them, they were bidden to do that, which implied they were perfectly cleansed, to take a journey, which would have been ridiculous, a labor in vain, unless Christ's words and promise proved true. In their prompt going
Samariticam regionem iter fecit, sed cum confinia Samariæ et Galilææ venisset, ab itinere deflexit versus orientem, ita ut Samariam ad dextram, Galilæam ad sinistram haberet; et Jordanem Scythopoli, ubi pons erat, videtur transiisse, et juxta ripam Jordanis in Peræâ descendisse, donec e regione Jerichuntis iterum trajiceret.
* 'Erlotára. The word is peculiar to St. Luke, (v. 5; viii. 24, 45; ix. 33, 49.) It is instead of the kúple of St. Matthew.
was an evident proof that there were in them weak beginnings of faith, though these, in the greater number, came to nothing, and brought no fruit to perfection. For they could not have thought that they were sent to the priests as though these should heal them, since they must have well known that it was no part of the priests' functions to cure, but only to declare cured; that these cleansed, not in the sense of ridding men of their disease; but, when their sickness had disappeared, restoring them with ceremonial washings and offerings to the fellowship of the congregation. There was also here a greater temptation to ingra titude. When they first felt and found their benefit, their benefactor was not immediately before them, so that it should be an easy thing, a costless effort, to return thanks to him: but they were, probably, already out of his sight, and some little way upon their journey ;t we know not how far, for we are only told, that “as they went | they were cleansed.”
Some, indeed, suppose that this returning of the Samaritan to give thanks, did not take place till after he had accomplished all which was commanded him; that he had been at Jerusalem—that he had offered his gift—that he had been pronounced clean—and, this his first duty accomplished, that he returned to render due thanks to his benefactor; and that so the sacred narrative leaps over a large space of time and many intermediate events for the purpose of connecting together the beginning and the end of this history. But certainly the impression
* Calvin: Quamvis enim fætidam adhuc scabiem in carne sud conspiciant, simul tamen ac jussi sunt se ostendere sacerdotibus, parere non detrectant. Adde quod nunquam, nisi fidei impulsu, profecti essent ad sacerdotes : ridiculum enim fuisset ad testandem suam munditiem, lepræ judicibus se offere, nisi pluris illis fuisset Christi promissio, quàm præsens morbi sui intuitus. Visibilem in carne suâ lepram gestant, unico tamen Christi verbo confisi mundos se profiteri non dubitant: negari igitur non potest eorum cordibus insitum fuisse aliquod fidei semen . . . Quo magis timendum est, ne et nobis contingat scintillas fidei in nobis micantes extinguere.
+ Calvin gives another reason, besides the trouble, why they did not return: Ut morbi memoriam extinguerent furtim elapsi sunt.
# We learn from Tertullian (Adv. Marc. 1. 4, c. 35) that the Gnostic Marcion saw in this healing of the lepers by the way, this taking, upon Christ's part, of the work out of the hands of the Levitical priests, a slight cast, and intended to be cast, by him on the Mosaic institutions: Hic Christum æmulum (Legis] affirmat prævenientem solennia Legis etiam in curatione decem leprosorum, quos tantummodo ire jussos ut se ostenderent sacerdotibus, in itinere purgavit, sine tactu jam et sine verbo, tacitâ potestate, et sola voluntate; and again, Quasi Legis illusor, ut in itinere curatis ostenderet nihil esse Legem cum ipsis sacerdotibus. It is needless to observe that there was no taking of the work out of their hands, since the work of the priests was not to cleanse, but to pronounce clean.
$ This is Calvin's view, although he is not strong on it: Mihi tamen magis probabile est, non nisi audito sacerdotis judicio ad gratias agendas venisse . . . Nisi fortè
which the narrative leaves is different;—that, having advanced some very little way on their commanded journey, so little that no time would have been really lost by their return, perhaps in the very village itself, they perceived what had taken place in them--that they were healed ; and then this one returned in the fulness of a grateful heart to give glory to God, and thanks to his great Healer and Saviour; like the Syrian Naaman, who when delivered from the same disease, came back with all his company, beseeching the man of God to take a blessing at his hands; (2 Kin. v. 15;) the others meanwhile enduring to carry away the benefit without one thankful acknowledgment rendered unto him who was its author and its source, and to whose feet the slightest labor would have brought them. Asin only too common! for as Bishop Sanderson says, with allusion to their former crying: “We open our mouths wide till he open his hand; but after, as if the filling of our mouths were the stopping of our throats, so are we speechless and heart
It gives a special significance to this miracle, and to its place in the Gospel of St. Luke, the Gospel for the heathen, that this thankful one should have been no other than a Samaritan, a stranger therefore by birth to the covenants of promise, while the nine unthankful were of the seed of Abraham. Thus there spoke out in this circumstance that the Gentiles, (for this Samaritan was no better,) were not excluded from the kingdom of God, nay, rather might find a place in it before others who by nature and birth were children of the kingdom; that the ingratitude of these might exclude them, while the faith of those might give to them an abundant entrance into all its blessings.
Even the Saviour himself, who knew what was in man, who had already had so many proofs of the ingratitude of men, seems to have marvelled here : for he asks, “Were there not ten cleansed ?f but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger." Him he dismisses with a new and a better blessing; the first had reached but to the healing of his body, and that he had in common with the unthankful nine: but gratitude for a lower mercy obtains for him a higher, a peculiar blessing, which is singularly his, which reaches not merely to the springs of bodily health, but to the very fountains of his spiritual being. These also are healed; that which the
magis placet diversa conjectura, simul ac mundatum se vidit, antequam testimonium expeteret à sacerdotibus, ad ipsum auctorem pio et sancto ardore correptum venisse, ut sacrificium suum à gratiarum actione inciperet.
* Bernard: Importuni ut accipiant, inquieti donec acceperint, ubi acceperint in. grati. Calvin : Sic inopia et esuries fidem gignit, quam occidit saturitas.
+ Or rather, “Were not the ten (oi déka) cleansed !”
others missed, to which their bodily healing should have led them up, he has obtained; for to him and to him only it is said, “ Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.”*
It is difficult not to be struck with the aptness of the image which this history supplies, to set forth the condition of the faithful in this world. They are to take Christ's word that they will be cleansed. In Baptism is the pledge and promise and the initial act of it all. And they are to believe this, while they yet feel in themselves the leprous taint of sin,-to go forward in faith, being confident that in the use of his Word, and of his Sacraments, slight as they may seem to meet and overcome such mighty mischiefs, they will find that health, which according to the sure word of promise is already theirs; and as they go, believing this word, using these means, they are healed. And for them, too, a warning is here—that they forget not the purging of their old sins
-nor what those sins were, how hideous, how loathsome; in this way sinning like these nine, who perhaps did not return because they would fain have obliterated the very memory of the fact that they had ever been those lepers. There is a warning here for the spiritually cleansed, that they keep in memory the times of their past anguish of soul,—the times when every thing seemed defiled to them, and they to every thing, when they saw themselves as “unclean, unclean,” shut out from all holy fellowship of God and man, and cried out in their anguish, “ Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,”—a warning to them that now they are at peace, they forget not the time of their trouble, but that the remembrance of the absolving cleansing word which was spoken to them then, with each new consciousness of a realized deliverance from the power of sin, bring them to the Saviour's feet, giving glory to God by him; lest failing in this, they be worse than even these unthankful nine. For they carried away only temporal mercies unacknowledged; but we should in that case be seeking to carry away spiritual; though that never could truly be, since the spiritual mercy which is not evermore
* Calvin: Servandi verbum quidam interpretes ad carnis munditiem restringunt; verùm si ita est, quum vivam in hoc Samaritano fidem commendet Christus, quæri potest quomodo servati fuerint alii novem; nam eadem promiscuè omnibus sanitas obtigit. Sic ergo habendum est Christum bic aliter æstimasse donum Dei quàm soleant profani homines, nempe tanquam salutare paterni amoris symbolum vel pignus. Sanati fuerunt novem leprosi, sed quia Dei gratiam impiè obliterant, ipsam sanitatem inficit et contaminat eorum ingratitudo, ut quam decebat utilitatem ex eâ non precipiant. Sola igitur fides dona Dei nobis sanctificat, ut pura sint, et cum legitimo usa conjuncta in salutem nobis cedant ... Servatus est suâ fide Samaritanus. Quomodo ? certè non ideo tantùm, quod à leprâ curatus sit (nam hoc et reliquis commune erat), sed quia in numerum filiorum Dei acceptus est, ut paterni amoris tessaram ex ejus manu acciperet.