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partly from the position in which the incident is found in the first Gospel. Matthew does not relate it in the part of his writing where he collects into one rich picture so many instances of the miraculous working of Jesus, without any regard to the chronology of the events, but in the part in which he observes thoroughly the real sequence of events, and the interest connected with which is especially to show the commencement of the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. In this case also we must keep in sight the point of view, that our Lord by His deed has given a sign of the coming kingdom of heaven. Moreover, this is the condition by which it becomes really conceivable to
THE HEALING OF THE MAN WITH THE WITHERED HAND.
MATT. XII. 9–14; MARK III. 1-6; LUKE VI. 6-11.
We attempt the solution of our problem by endeavouring to understand this miracle of Jesus on the ground of the twofold interest attached to it, viz. that its object is in the first place to destroy the Jewish dogma of the Sabbath, and secondly, to present to view a token of the time of grace just begun. If we succeed in this, we can the better cast aside the assertion of Strauss, that the narrative is based on the ground of a Hebrew prophetic legend, -an assertion which is founded merely on a casual coincidence of single expressions. What are we to think, when, from a comparison between 1 Kings xiii. 4 (" And his hand which he [Jeroboam] put forth against him was dried up') and Mark iii. 1 (" And there was a man there which had a withered hand'), the conclusion is drawn, that 'the origin of the evangelical narrative cannot be doubtful,''the imitation can hardly be mistaken"? * 'Stand forth,' says our Lord before He proceeds to action; for He wills that this deed should attain the highest publicity, and especially on that account determines that it shall be correctly understood, by preceding it with the question, ‘Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath-days, or to do evil; to save life, or to kill ?’l The words are at first sight obscure. All would have been clear if Jesus had simply put the question, as He did in the history of the healing of the man with the dropsy, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath-day?' But now the ěžectiv relates just as well to the do evil,' which can never appear right, either on the Sabbath or on the working day.
of the Sabbath. Thereupon, he continues, the Jews watched Him, to see if He would act on this principle even in the use of His healing work.
1 This is one of the numerous points where the first and the fourth Gospels coincide ; compare Matt. xii. 14 (« Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him how they might destroy Him ') with John v. 16 (“Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath-day '). The manner in which Strauss has misused this coincidence does not shield him, as by his specious arguments, from the reproach of arbitrariness and fantastic combinations.
We must take into consideration the peculiar character of the fourth commandment. It is peculiar only in a limited sense. The Sabbath was presented to man as a gracious gift of divine philanthropy.
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,' Mark ii. 27. On this day he was released from the duty of work, which had been laid on him on account of his sin. It does not stand thus : Six days shalt thou work, on the seventh thou shalt not; but the true
1 We have already remarked, that an acknowledgment of the genuineness of the first Gospel, and the consequences flowing therefrom, does not exclude the assertion that Mark, and even Luke, are the more complete narrators of details. The question of our Lord, as Mark relates it in chap. iii. 4, bears in itself, in the plainest manner, the stamp of originality ; but in thus stating it, he is supported by the text of Matthew, where in fact the conclusion (chap. xii. 12) does not follow, as we should expect from the 10th verse, where it says, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-days ?' But instead of so doing, there is written an un
unexpected to do well.'
state of the matter is this : Six days thou must work, on the seventh thou needest not do so. The έξεστιν at the head thus reduces the question to this: How is it about the liberty which the Sabbath grants ? about the festival, the holiday which it authorizes? Has man on the Sabbath so extensive a freedom, that he can also do evil then ? Or is it so limited, that he cannot even do good ? Our Lord wishes evidently to point out, that the fourth commandment cannot be taken away from its connection with the others, and that the duty to do good and the prohibition to do evil stand above it, and self-evidently take effect even on the Sabbath-day. Thou must do good, thou must avoid evil, whatever day it is. The Sabbath does not loose thee from the duty of doing good, it does not justify thee in doing evil. Of the advice which some expositors give to the Pharisees as to how they should have contended with Jesus, they would with the best intentions have been unable to make any use; otherwise they would have been well enough satisfied with it.
For in the doing good,' the question is not primarily that of curing the sick, but in fact of goodness in general. (If Bleek and others understand the former specially as the "doing good, it conflicts even verbally, almost irremediably, with the just comprehension of the opposite proposition, the doing evil.') Now our Lord, in fact, at once makes a use of these general conceptions. But what use? He speaks of a "saving' and of a ‘killing,' without mentioning beside them a third as possible. Now if the Sabbath does not loose us from the duty of doing good, the ‘killing' would be wrong (as at all times), but especially on the Sabbath ; yea, it would be particularly a desecration of the feast day.
Such a ' killing,' thus a contravention of the sixth commandment, does in truth occur on that day which is made
holy by the fourth commandment, directly the power to assist (which is present) is denied on account of the tradition. The silence of the Pharisees on the question laid before them is made clear by the words in the 5th verse. There was a silence not on account of their embarrassment, nor of their shame, but because of their profound perversity. The hardness of their hearts hindered an acknowledgment which their reason could not deny; and by this is explained the anger not less than the grief on our Lord's part. He often at other times proceeds to work a miracle with a similar mixed motive.
It may be disputed whether in the present case the simple command, “Stretch forth thy hand,' would compel them to avow that such a cure could certainly not disturb the Sabbath rest. Still more doubtful is it to us, if this really striking proof of the power of Jesus was not calculated to overcome the obstinacy of hardened minds.
However, we hold the opinion that our Lord by means of this deed wished to show before the eyes of Pharisees a sign, that the tradition over which they watched was antiquated and near its end, and that in Him the time was fulfilled when its oppressive and unbearable yoke was to be taken away. It had been carried so far, that the gift of divine grace had been changed into a heavy burden, and the Sabbath brought with it care and privation instead of refreshment; so that there was urgent need for a deliverance from its oppression, which was an object of longing with all the pious. 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you :' thus had our Lord spoken in regard to the pharisaic traditions ; by means of the miracle before them He lets them see an evident token that the hour of refreshment is at hand-the kingdom of heaven is come near to them. In some sense, the Sabbath miracles which we have been considering prepare the way for us to our second group. For besides their general significance, which we have in each case kept in view, and proved, they contain in reality an instructive lesson—that which our Lord expressed in words full of meaning, thus : ‘All plants which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted out.' But it is not our opinion that the narratives to which we are about to call attention do not also offer such a motive of instruction, one more outspoken, more studiously and more earnestly shown; but their intention is certainly not specially to teach, as we are accustomed to understand that expression; and if in a former place we have compared them to the parable, it was in the sense that the interest of the explanation always underlies the parabolic manner of teaching Still less is it our opinion that these miracles of Jesus should not be considered as showing His compassion. This compassion is so much in the foreground, that those expositors who content themselves with laying exclusive emphasis on it, by no means hold an untenable position. We, however, maintain that these works of our Lord point beyond the region in which they are immediately performed; that they reflect a higher compassion than that which appears to the bodily eye; that they represent possessions as opened, as attainable, which belong to another sphere than an earthly one. From this standpoint they are conceivable ; and it is our problem to place them in this light.
1 The cure in this case did not occur on or by the word of Jesus, but in consequence of His directing His will before the words. For the demand, • Stretch forth thy hand,' supposes the cure of the hitherto useless and inactive member as already accomplished.