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THE MIRACLES OF JESUS AS SYMBOLS OF THE TREASURES
OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN OPENED UP TO US.
We are following the leading of a higher power, in placing at the head of the narratives belonging to this group, the one to the meaning of which our Lord Himself has provided a key, in the same manner as He has unfolded the first of His parables to the understanding of His disciples. The position thus allotted to it is, however, so much the more fitting, as it exposes as attainable a treasure in which all the other treasures of the kingdom of heaven are united together in their true value.
HEALING OF THE SICK OF THE PALSY.—MATT. IX. 1-8;
MARK II. 1-12; LUKE V. 17–26.
The circumstance, that the representation of this event in Matthew is much more concise than is the case with Mark and Luke, has furnished Strauss with an occasion for making the same assertion that he had already done in the narrative of the woman with the issue of blood. He imputes to the third, but more especially to the second evangelist, the fact of having added to the original event, which must have been very simple, numerous and partly monstrous elements. This time, however, the text of Matthew also appears to him so made up, that he does not
consider the actual facts which lie at its foundation to be distinguishable from the rest of the account. He finds it therefore more advisable to explain the history, in short, as a fiction which arose from a literal understanding of the prophecy in Isa. xxxv. 3-6. He appeals for this to the agreement of the prophetical passage with the expressions of the evangelists.
Strengthen the feeble knees,'—thus it stands in the prophet, mapale vuéva; but Luke speaks also here of a zapaleuuévos (chap. v. 18). "Then shall leap as a hart the lame.' Now in the narrative before us none of these expressions occur, though they do in the somewhat similar one in Acts iii. 7. Really these are splendid grounds to stand on!
In order to form a due conception of this miracle of our Lord, we will simply follow the account which Strauss has in vain tried to make ludicrous, and in which all unprejudiced expositors have recognised the impression of truth. We are placed in Capernaum (Mark ii. 1), in the house which Jesus was accustomed to visit. He had been absent, for He had said to His disciples (i. 38), “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also.' After some days, He returned 'into His own city' (Matt. ix. 1). But hardly had He entered into the house, when a great multitude of people assembled on the report of His arrival, which made the entry into the house, and even the approach to it, impossible (Mark ii. 2). Lord taught in the house. Then four bearers brought near a paralytic on his bed; and as they could not make for themselves a way through the crowd, they let down the sick man through the opened roof into the room (the 'mepôov) before Jesus.
Matthew certainly tells us nothing of this ; he wishes, as we have before repeated (chap. viii. and ix.), to relate everything only summarily. But the remark
made by him, “Jesus seeing their faith,' presumes some peculiar act of faith on the part of the bearers. For the ařTôv leaves no doubt on this point, that the faith is recognised not only in the paralytic himself, but in his bearers. The conviction that the sick man would receive help, if they could only succeed in bringing him before the face of Jesus; and this in conjunction with the energy with which they knew how to overcome the hindrances,—that is the faith which they showed, and was just the same as that which our Lord had extolled in the woman with the issue of blood. And on account of this faith He could act as He was moved.
He does not proceed at once to cure, but thus speaks to the sick man: 'Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.' The irregular form åpéwvtal compels our consideration. It matters little whether it be Doric, as Suidas and Phavorinus say, or Attic, according to the Etymologicon Magn.; for it appears to us, as to all grammarians, that we have here no conjunctive, but the indicative perfect. However, an emphasis minime negligenda is not sufficient as an explanation; it is rather shown by this, that the forgiveness announced is really already accomplished, just in the same way as the Révoal shows to the bowed down woman that her cure is one already accomplished, although it has not yet appeared. We merely make this remark, as another question occurs to us.
The bearers of the paralytic had not brought him in order that our Lord might bestow on him the
1 This seeing' (idáv) can certainly be understood also in the sense of a purely spiritual comprehension, for in the 4th verse the same expression is used in regard to the thoughts of the scribes. But when we consider that Mark and Luke only write 'seeing' in the former passage, and in the latter én vyvoús (perceived), Mark adds, in His spirit; it is certain that the second and third, and at least probable that the first evangelist used idós in the sense of observing an appearance occurring to the external eye.
forgiveness of his sins, but that the man might be healed of his sickness. Christ acts as if He was fulfilling a wish expressed to Him, and yet this request had not been made to Him. It is important to notice, that an expressly declared wish had not been uttered; but this circumstance in itself does not take away the difficulty, for the unspoken language, in the appearance of the person brought, was unmistakeable. Some expositors, as for instance Meyer, explain that our Lord knew that this sickness was the punishment of special sins, perhaps of voluptuousness, and on that account He first expresses forgiveness as the necessary condition for bodily restoration ; but the representation of a forgiveness of sins as dependent on physical healing is quite unbiblical, and finds really no support in the passage (John v. 14) which is cited as a parallel. Others have accepted the idea, that the paralytic himself had no thought of bodily healing ; that he as a truly repentant sinner had sought for nothing else but grace and forgiveness; and our Lord, who well knew his heart's desire, grants at once that on which his longing was directed. But to this arbitrary exposition the text gives not the slightest countenance. We will compare it to the analogous case in John iv. 47. Our Lord answers the nobleman, when he has 'besought Him that He would come down and heal his son,' — Except ye see signs and wonders you will not believe.' He speaks as if the nobleman had come in order to learn how to believe, while his object was the healing of his sick
If we pay attention to the result, as it afterwards appears in the 53d verse,—and himself believed, and his whole house,'—it is evident that the
reproving expression of our Lord (s that you always need a miracle before you believe') will point out the end which He strives after, namely, the faith of
the world in general, and that of this ruler in particular.
Let us now apply this reasoning to the narrative before us. While Jesus announces to the paralytic the forgiveness of his sins, He names to him and to all present 'grace,' which is the highest of the heavenly treasures which He came on earth (émè tûs yns, Mark ii. 10) to spread abroad. The bodily cure which He intended to work upon him, He wishes to be considered as only a symbol-here as especially a symbol, proving what was said before (“that ye may know,' Mark ii. 10), --- that was its peculiar object. If He had done nothing else than simply cure the sick of the palsy, we should, from our present standpoint, say also that the complete cure symbolizes the present grace of our Lord, in fact, the unbinding of men from the burden of their sins; but then the significance of the sign should be expressly shown ; and our Lord shows it,-not in the cure, nor after it, but before, in order that the unexpected light should shine out brightly to every eye.
Our conviction is, that Christ immediately on seeing the sick man intended to give him bodily help. If some expositors are of opinion that He was moved to this particular miracle by the dialoylouoi of the Pharisees, this view is opposed by the fact, that in the whole range of the evangelical history no single case occurs in which He sent away a sick person with merely spiritual consolations. The actual proceeding of Jesus would have been the same, even if the thoughts of the scribes had not been remarked by Him. However, He makes use of this incident, by completing the healing, and thus refuting the suspicion which He observed, in order to place it clearly in the point of view which He had announced in His first expression, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.'