3 Women minister unto Christ of their substance. 4 Christ, after he had preached from place to place, attended with his apostles, propoundeth the parable of the sower. 16 And of the candle. 21 Declareth who are his mother, and brethren. 22 Rebuketh the winds. 26 Casteth the legiont of devils out of the man into the herd of swine. 37 Is rejected of the Gadarene. 43 Healeth the woman of her bloody issue. 49 And raiseth from death Jairus’ daughter.
ND it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,
Douay Rheims Version
The parable of the seed. Christ stills the storm at sea, casts out the legion, heals the issue of blood and raises the daughter of Jairus to life.
ND it came to pass afterwards he travelled through the cities and towns, preaching and evangelizing the kingdom of God: and the twelve with him:
4. And when a very great multitude was gathered together and hastened out of the cities, unto him, he spoke by a similitude.
5. The sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the way side. And it was trodden down: and the fowls of the air devoured it.
Ver. 1.—And the twelve (apostles) were with Him, i.e. they accompanied Jesus as He went through the cities and villages preaching.
Ver. 2.—And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils. These women followed Christ (1.) out of gratitude, because He had healed their diseases, and cast out the devils which possessed them. (2.) For safety, lest if they were away from their physician, their former ills might again overtake them. (3.) From pious motives, that from His companionship and preaching they might advance in holiness.
Mary. In Hebrew, Mary signifies a “bitter sea” of repentance. Bede.
Called Magdalene. As we have before explained, from the castle or fort near Bethsaida and Capernaum. S. Augustine infers that she was a married woman (Hom. 33), and therefore calls her not a harlot but an adulteress. But according to S. Jerome, the author of the commentary on S. Mark calls her a widow, which is much the same thing; so also Jansenius, Luke and others. That she was an inhabitant of Judæa, and like Lazarus and Martha lived at Bethany, is clear from S. John xii. 1. Adricomius, in his description of the Holy Land, tells us that the Magdalene’s home was situated on the shore of the sea of Galilee, and towards the north-east looks out on an extensive plain, and that it was called Magdala from the battlements and towers, wherewith it was fortified. Hence Jerome asserts that she was rightly called Magdalene, that is to say, “turreted” because of her zeal and love. Josephus makes mention of this castle, and tells us that Agrippa fruitlessly sent an expedition against it.
In the Hebrew then Magdalene signifies (1.) turreted, or tower-bearing, from the root מגרל migdol, a tower; for she was tall of stature, and of a yet loftier mind. “Thy neck is like the tower of David,” Cant.iv. 4. (2.)Or “magnificent” (Origen), or “magnified,” according to Pagninus, because, says Origen, she followed Jesus, ministered unto Him, and beheld the mystery of His Passion. For the root צרל gadal, means, “to be great and magnificent,” and the Magdalene was greatly exalted by Christ. (3.) Pagninus says that Magdalene means, “remarkable for the standard,” “bearing, or raising the standard,” from the root רצל deghol, which, when the letters ghimel and daleth are transposed, signifies a standard. For the Magdalene raised the standard of penitence and love, and of the contemplative life. Like as we read, “His banner over me was love,” Cant. ii. 4. (4). Or otherwise, as the same writer remarks, the name means, “brought up, nourished,” i.e. led by the teaching of Christ to a holy and a virtuous life. For the Hebrew ברל gadal means the same thing as to nourish and bring up.
Out of whom went seven devils, i.e. seven capital sins, pride, avarice, gluttony, luxury, anger, envy, and careless living. Bede, Theophylact and S. Gregory. For in a literal sense we are to understand that she had been possessed by devils or evil spirits, as I have before said, and that they had gone out of her, or (S. Mark xvi. 9) been cast out. So teach S. Ambrose, Euthymius, Jansenius, and others.
We may conclude, therefore, that the Magdalene, because of her wickedness and sins, had been possessed by seven devils, and that with other demoniacs she had been made whole by Christ; that on her repentance she had obtained pardon and forgiveness, and, no longer under the power of Satan, but filled with the spirit of God, she devoted her whole after life to the service of Christ. John of Rochester and others.
Seven devils, either seven in actual number, or “seven” in the sense of many, or all; for, as I have often pointed out, “seven” is the sign of multitude or totality.
Ver. 3.—And Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward (manager or treasurer, according to the Arabic version) and Susanna and many others which ministered unto Him of their substance. For they were rich, and grateful to their deliverer, and therefore sought to further His preaching, and to spread the faith.
So SS. Plautilla, Priscilla, and many other rich and noble matrons ministered unto SS. Peter, Paul, Clement, and other Roman Pontiffs, and other orders of the clergy.
And Susanna, an illustrious woman who, healed by Christ, had become His disciple. Her name in the Hebrew signifies “a lily.” On, account of the sweet radiance of a heavenly life (Interlinear Gloss), and the golden fervour of her inward affection. Bede.
Ver. 15.—Which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it. The Council of Basle observes that for the right hearing of the word of God there is required,
1. A place fitted to receive it, i.e. an honest and good heart.
2. A proper disposition, to “keep” the word when heard; and
3. That best return, fruit brought forth with patience.
A heart is honest and good, says Lyranus, because of the faith which illumines it, and good (optimum) in a higher sense because of grace working in it; or, as others hold, it is “bonum” because disciplined and exercised in virtue, and “optimum” because of inward peace and consolation. Again, it is “bonum” because purified from sin, and “optimum” because conformed to the will of God (Albertus Magnus); or “bonum” in discerning the truth, and “optimum” in its desire of that which is right (Bonaventura); or, according to S. Augustine on Ps. vii., “bonum” on account of the love it bears its neighbour and itself, “optimum” on account of its exceeding love for God.
Hence we may take the Greek, καλη̃ καί α̉γαθη̃, to mean the same as the Vulgate “bono et optimo,” for the copula καί, or “et,” signifies gradation and increase. They, therefore, who keep the word of God in an honest and good heart bring forth fruit in proportion: good fruit if the heart is good, better if the heart is better, and the best fruit if the heart is perfect, i.e. thirty fold, sixty fold, or one hundred fold. S. Matt. xiii. 8. And it does not follow of necessity, as Toletus holds, that these words apply to different persons, for the heart of a believer may grow in grace, until at last it is “optimum,” perfect in sight of God.
With patience, ὲν ύπομονη̃, i.e. in the endurance of labour, disappointment, and sorrow in the plowing, seeding, and harrowing of the soul, and in the long expectation of harvest.
Ver. 26.—And they arrived at (sailed over to) the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.
Gadarenes. Gergesenes (S. Matt.), or as it is written in some MSS., Gerasenes. Some think that one and the same place is here signified, but Adricomius shows that Gadara, and Gerasa or Gergesa were two distinct cities, but that the surrounding country was named indifferently after either.
The Vulgate translates “the country of the Gerasenes,” because this was the best known name.
Ver. 27.—And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
“A man.” S. Matt. says there were two. But as this one was the fiercer, and possessed by a legion, S. Luke and S. Mark mention him alone.
But in the tombs. 1. The Jews, as I have before said, had their burial places without their cities. Their tombs were large and lofty chambers as it were, so as to afford burial to many, and to be easy of access to the friends and relatives of the departed. This is clear from what we read of the sepulture of Christ, of Abraham, Sarah, and others.
This demoniac then was driven by the devils which possessed him to dwell among the tombs. For these reasons:
1. In order to excite him to greater ferocity, and that he might be the cause of greater fear to the passers-by.
Probably he was like what the French fable to be a “loup-garou,” i.e. a man who after the manner of a wolf sallies forth by night and preys upon men and animals, while by day he hides himself in tombs and by hollows of the rocks. “So that no man might pass by that way” (S. Matt. viii. 28), because passers-by were attacked and wounded by him. The evil spirits were mostly wont to attack those of a melancholy disposition of mind, as the more easily driven into the madness of despair.
2. Because unclean spirits love to dwell in unclean places. Hence witches hold their sabbaths underneath the gallows.
3. Because the devils rejoice at the death of men, and triumph over the souls of them who are condemned to hell.
4. S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, and Theophylact add that he dwelt amongst the tombs, to persuade men that the souls of the dead are changed into devils, who abide in the sepulchres wherein their bodies are buried. Hence demoniacs from time to time have cried out, I am the soul of Peter, or of Paul, or of John.
Ver. 28.—When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before Him. S. Mark (chap. v. 6), adds, “And when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,” i.e. bent the knee before Him. Because he felt the power of Christ’s presence, and was therefore compelled to draw nigh and worship Him, for fear lest, if he acknowledged not the Lord, he might receive greater punishment; and again, Christ caused him to act thus in order that an opportunity might be afforded for his cure.
Son of God most high. It would seem that the devil, who in the temptation had not recognised Christ, now after so many miracles acknowledged Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God; yet, blinded by pride and hatred, he hesitated to believe that the Son of God had stooped to take upon Him our flesh, and thought it impossible that by His death upon the Cross the whole human race could be redeemed, because, as Aquinas remarks, in many ways God had hindered him from recognising, the truth. See S. Mark iv. 12.
Torment me not. Do not cast me out and bind me for ever in bell. See S. Matt. viii. 31.
Ver. 29.—For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. From this and similar passages it is clear that the devils are permitted by God to dwell on earth and tempt mankind. Hence it is the custom of the Church to bury the bodies of the faithful in consecrated ground in order that they may rest therein free from the assaults of evil spirits, and may profit by the prayers of the living.
Ver. 30.—And Jesus asked him, i.e. one of the devils, saying, What is thy name? For Christ willed that the evil spirit should declare his name, that from it the number of the devils, and thence the mightiness of the power which expelled them, might be known.
And he said, Legion. A legion was composed of 6000 men, and S. Ambrose thinks that this was the exact number of the devils; others, following the Scripture, take the word generally as meaning “many,” “because many devils were entered into him.”
S. Gregory of Nyssa adds, “The devils, imitating the angelic host call themselves Legion; nay more, they would liken themselves to God Himself, who is called the Lord God of Sabaoth, i.e. the Lord of Hosts. For Satan is the counterfeit and mockery of God.”
Learn then how great must be the number and the malignity of the devils, that so many should possess one man. So we read in the life of S. Dominic, that very many devils were cast out of a man by his prayers and entreaties.
Therefore, since we are surrounded on all sides by so many spiritual foes, we must give ourselves continually to watching and prayer, in order to obtain the victory over them, as Antony, who was wont to say that all temptations could be overcome by the Cross of Christ, by calling on Him, and by praying in the spirit.
Wherefore if any one determines to serve God perfectly, 1et him be well assured that he has arrayed against him, not one legion of devils only, but many, even Satan himself, and all the dwellers in hell. Hence the Apostle (Eph. vi. 12), “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Following the example of Christ, S. Hilarion is said to have healed a demoniac possessed by Legion. It is said that after he prayed to the Lord that He would release the afflicted man from his misery, there were heard various voices proceeding from the mouth of the demoniac, and as it were the clamour of much people. And straightway the demoniac was healed, and presented himself not long after with his wife and children at the monastery, bearing gifts in gratitude for his cure.
Ver. 31.—And they besought Him that He would not command them to go out into the deep. For although the devils, whilst they go to and fro on earth, are consumed by the fires of hell, yet it is some gratification, to them that they are not shut up in prison, but are permitted to tempt men to sin, and make them sharers in their condemnation. For they hate God and envy men, because men are heirs of that kingdom from which they by pride fell. Emmanuel Sa very appropriately remarks, “God has appointed a punishment suited to each sin. Hell for the lusts of the flesh; gnashing of teeth for ribald laughter; thirst for self-indulgence and gluttony; the worm for an evilly disposed heart; darkness for ignorance and self deceit; the deep for pride, and therefore for the devil and his angels.”
Ver. 32.—And there was there an herd of many swine (about two thousand, S. Mark v. ii) feeding on the mountain (nigh unto the mountain, S. Mark, ibid.). But for what purpose were these swine, inasmuch as they were forbidden to the Jews by the law of Moses? Gadara, although a city of Judæa or rather of Galilee, had, according to Josephus, been assigned by Cæsar for a dwelling-place to the Syrians and Gentiles; who were not prohibited from keeping swine. And again, the Jews might have been feeding the swine, not for their own eating, but for other purposes: to sell them to the Gentiles for the use of the Roman soldiery, or in order to provide lard for the greasing of their chariot wheels.
And they besought Him that He would suffer them to enter into them. The devils made this request:
1. In order that, inasmuch as they were unable to injure men directly, they might injure them indirectly through their property or possessions.
2. That, as actually came to pass, they might stir up the ill-will of the inhabitants against Christ.
3. Because unclean spirits delight in unclean things. Hence the devil is said to be worshipped by the witches in form of a he-goat. But from this entreaty S. Antony, according to S. Athanasius, infers the powerlessness of the devils. “For how,” he says, “can they who are feign to seek permission to enter into the herd of swine, have any real power over man, made in the image of God. Great, my brethren, are our means of defence against the hosts of Satan: an honest and pure life, and unfeigned faith towards God. Believe me, Satan fears the prayers and fasting, the meekness and self-denial, the humility and contempt of vainglory, the compassion and self-command, and above all the heart purified by the love of Christ, of those who are living godly lives. For the old serpent, the worst enemy of man, knows that he lies under the feet of the righteous according to the word of the Lord which saith, ‘Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.’” S. Luke x. l9.
And He suffered them. Christ granted the request of the devils: 1. To show that He had power over the evil spirits, and that they without His leave could do no evil to swine, much less to men. Hence, as we have seen, S. Antony says that they are not to be feared. 2. To demonstrate the number, strength and malevolence of the devils, and to make manifest by their expulsion the greatness of His power and glory. S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius. 3. To refute the error of the Sadducces, who say that there is “neither angel nor spirit,” Acts xxiii. 8. Hilary. Rupert adds, That the Gadarenes were Jews, who kept swine contrary to the laws, and that the destruction of the herd was a punishment for their disobedience; but this interpretation I have shown to be wrong.
Mystically. Christ did this to show men, who, after the manner of swine wallow in fleshly lusts and pleasures, that they in like manner are rushing into the abyss of hell, and also to teach us that we must account the loss of our earthly possessions as of small account compared with the destruction of the soul. For He permitted the devils to enter into the herd of swine in order to free the demoniac from their power; and to show how impure were the minds of the Gadarenes, and therefore how fitted they were to be possessed by devils; and yet further to intimate that those who live after the manner of swine fall an easy prey to the power of Satan.
Ver. 33.—The herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake (the lake of Genesareth or sea of Galilee) and were choked. S. Jerome writes that the place where this happened was well known in his day. The Syriac gives this rendering, “The whole herd hurried up the mountain, and thence rushed into the sea.”
Ver. 34.—When they that fed them saw what was done they fled (lest they also should perish. Titus), and went and told it in the city and in the country. To the owners, in order that they might demand redress from Christ, who had given the swine up to the power of the devils, and not blame those who were in charge of the herd for their loss.
Ver. 35.—Then they (the inhabitants of the city and country round about) went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus. They first wished to ascertain the extent of their loss. Then they “came to Jesus,” to see the author of the mischief which had befallen them, and the man from whom the devils had been cast out. For their loss was so great that they were anxious to see whether there was any possibility of redress.
And found the man out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. It is very probable that the man, as soon as the devils were cast out, fell on his knees at the feet of Christ to give Him thanks, and that when bidden to sit down, in reverent humility he placed himself at Jesus’ feet.
And they were afraid. Lest Christ should punish them because of their anger and murmurings against Him, and perhaps give them up to the power of the devils.
Ver. 37.—Then the whole multitude (the whole city, S. Matt.) of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought Him to depart from them. They did not make their request out of humility, because they considered themselves unworthy of the presence of Christ, as S. Jerome thinks, but out of distrust and fear, lest His continuing amongst them might cause them further loss. For they knew that Jesus was a Jew by nation, a holy man, and possessed of divine power, and that they were Gentiles of an alien race. They therefore feared lest He might inflict further punishment upon them because of their different religion and their past sins. They feared as did the widow of Sarepta, when she exclaimed, “What have I to do with thee, 0 thou man of God? Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?” 1 Kings xvii. 18.
Therefore not from any ill-will, but rather from a reverential awe, they besought Jesus to depart out of their coasts. For sinners, knowing that righteousness and sin cannot exist together, fear the presence of holy men, because of the zeal with which they seek the correction of sinners and the punishment of sin.
And He went up into the ship, and returned back again, from the country of the Gadarenes to Capernaum. S. Matt. ix. i. For He would not force Himself or His ministration on those who were unwilling to receive them.
Ver. 38.—Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that He might be with Him. In gratitude for the mercy he had received, and in hope of further benefits.
But Jesus sent him away, saying,
Ver. 39.—Return to thy own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee, by means of Me, that therefore acknowledging Me to be the Messiah, and laying aside their bitter feeling because of the loss of their swine, they may believe and be saved.
And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city (in Decapolis, S. Mark. v. 20) how great things Jesus had done unto him. This city was in the neighbourhood of Gadara, and near it were the tombs in which the demoniac used to dwell. It is very probable that, besides Jews, some of its inhabitants were Gentiles and unbelievers; to them, therefore, he would tell of his belief in Christ, in order to lead them to acknowledge the Son of God. S. Ambrose and S. Chrysostom.
Mystically. S. Gregory explains (Moral lib. vi. cap. xvii.), that Christ here would teach us to prefer the contemplative to the active life.” For when our thoughts are once awakened to divine truths, we are unwilling to be taken up again with earthly concerns, and refuse to be burdened with our neighbours’ wants and necessities. We seek the quiet of contemplation, and long for nothing but that which without labour refreshes the mind. But truth bids us return home, and show what great things have been done unto us in order that the mind may be first exercised in working, and then refreshed by contemplation.
1 Christ sendeth his apostles to work miracles, and to preach. 7 Herod desired to see Christ. 17 Christ feedeth five thousand. 18 Enquireth what opinion the world had of him: foretelleth his passion. 23 Proposeth to all the pattern of his patience. 28 The transfiguration. 37 He healeth the lunatick. 43 Again forewarneth his disciples of his passion. 46 Commendeth humility. 51 Biddeth them to shew mildness towards all, without desire of revenge. 57 Divers would follow him, but upon conditions.
HEN he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
36 And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
45 But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.
46 Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.
Douay Rheims Version
Christ sends forth his apostles, feeds five thousand with five loaves, is transfigured and casts out a devil.
HEN calling together the twelve apostles, he gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases.
Ver. 8.—One of the old prophets was risen again. As Enoch and Elias will rise again before the end of all things, to resist Antichrist. In like manner as Peter, Bishop and Martyr, the son of Urijah the prophet (Jer. xxvi. 20), was recalled to life by S. James the Apostle, and ordained first Bishop of Braga, six hundred years after his decease. S. Athanasius and others, cited by Bivarius.
Ver. 14.—Make them sit down by fifties in a company, κλισίας, i.e. in companies, in ranks or rows. Syriac.
Ver. 26.—For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels, i.e. at the day of judgment, when he shall sit as judge in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and in the presence of all, both men and angels, reward the just, and punish the evildoers.
Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me. Whosoever, from false shame or from fear of others, shall deny his faith in Me or refuse to obey My commandments, or fear the reproach of the Cross and a crucified Saviour, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, i.e. him will Christ pass over, and make of no account when He comes in that glory which He has acquired by the humiliation of His passion. For the Cross of Christ seemed to many a shame and a reproach, for Christ crucified was “unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness,” 1 Cor. i. 23. Many, therefore, from shame or fear, did not dare to profess their belief in the Cross, much less to preach Christ crucified. In opposition to whom S. Paul boldly declares, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek,” Rom. i. i6.
So the monk Martyrius took Christ, who appeared to Him as a wearied leper, upon his shoulders, and carried Him to the monastery, but felt not the weight of his burden, for the burden he was carrying supported him. There Christ assumed His own proper form, and ascending to heaven said, “As thou, Martyrius, wast not ashamed of Me on earth, I will not be ashamed of thee in heaven.”
S. Gregory (hom. 39), also, explaining this passage of S. Luke, writes, “Each one should ask himself, in order to test the reality of his confession of Christ, not whether he is ashamed of the name of the Redeemer, but rather whether by strength of purpose he has subdued all false feelings of earthly shame. In time of persecution believers might have had cause for shame at the treatment to which they were subjected; but now that persecutions are past, there is another aspect of the matter to which we should give heed. We shrink often from being lightly esteemed, and from being evilly spoken of by our fellow men, and in case of a dispute with our neighbour, we are ashamed to be the first to make amends. Because the carnal heart, seeking this world’s glory, refuses the grace of humility;” and further on he gives the remedy for this false shame. “Let human pride be confounded, and let every man be ashamed, if he be not the first to seek to make amends to his neighbour; since, after we have done amiss, God by His ministers beseeches us to be reconciled to Him, whom we have offended.”
Ver. 29.—Glistering, ε̉ξαστζάπτων, i.e. like lightning glittering and emitting flashes of light, for the raiment of Christ shone from the glory of His altered countenance.
Ver. 31.—And spake of his decease, έξοδον, departure, i.e. death.
1. They spake of His death, that He should die upon the Gross.
2. But the words may signify the victory which Christ was to win over death and sin and Satan. Allusion is made to the deliverance, the exodus of Israel from Egypt, and the destruction of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, which is a type of the deliverance effected by Christ for His people. Cyril thinks that by exodus we must understand “His passion” and the Arabic version interprets the word by “eventum,” “outcome:” “They spake of the outcome and the events connected with the sufferings and triumph which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
3. Some take the word to mean the excess of love and all virtues. For on the Cross was exhibited the excess and perfection of love, obedience, humility, patience, and every Christian virtue, inasmuch as Christ by the offering of Himself far exceeded the utmost limits of human virtue. This “excessus” then was an ecstasy of love, wherein Christ went as it were out of Himself to show the immensity of His love for God and men.
Ver. 32.—But Peter and they that were with Him were heavy with sleep. S. Chrysostom takes sleep to mean amazement. But we may rather accept the words simply as describing the natural sleep which had fallen on the Apostles after the fatigue of their journey and watchings, from which they were awakened by the brightness of the transfiguration. See S. Matt. xvii. i.
Ver. 49.—And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting, out devils in Thy name; and we forbad him, because he followed not with us, i.e. because he was not Thy disciple. For he thought that only the Apostles, to whom that power was given, were permitted to do this. Cyril and S. Ambrose remark, “He thinks that he who does not render obedience, should not enjoy the benefit arising therefrom.” S. John asks the question, because from his love he was the more zealous for his Master’s honour.
Ver. 50.—And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. They were taught that no one was to be hindered from the exercise of such powers of doing good as he possessed, but rather to be encouraged to seek to increase them. Gloss. God rewards the strong, but does not reject the weak. S. Ambrose. For, saith Theophylact, the grace of God operates even by means of the unworthy who are not disciples of Christ: like as men are made holy by priests who are not holy themselves. Hence Bede remarks, In the case of heretics, it is not their sacraments which they hold in common with us, but their divisions, so contrary to the truth and peace, which we ought to detest and strive to amend. See S. Mark ix. 37.
Ver. 51.—And it came to pass when the time was come (i.e. was drawing nigh) that He should be received up. The time when, after having fulfilled His earthly ministry, He was to return again to the Father. The day foreordained of God when He was to be taken up into heaven. Euthymius. Up to this time Christ had, for two years and a half, been preaching the Gospel everywhere, but chiefly in the towns and villages of Galilee. There yet remained to Him six months of life. He therefore now set forth to preach more particularly to the inhabitants of the holy city and Judæa, in order to prepare for His passion in Jerusalem and resurrection from the dead. S. Luke therefore implies that hitherto he had written of those things which Christ had done in Galilee, but was henceforward about to tell of what was done in Judæa.
He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. With a firm and undismayed mind. Bede. Christ turned not aside, as timid and hesitating people are wont to do, but went direct to Jerusalem, eager for the dread encounter. Titus, Theophylact, and others.
“For,” says Jerome, “He who of His own will was hastening to His passion, needed both fortitude and firmness.”
Thus it behoves us also to nerve our hearts, after the example of the martyrs, to endure hardship, like the lions described by Pliny, who tells us that, “when a lioness fights for her young, she keeps her eyes fixed on the ground, that she may not be terrified by the sight of the hunters.”
S. Mark adds, x. 32, “and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed;” because they saw Him cheerfully and with a good courage going up to suffer and to die, and “as they followed, they were afraid” lest they might be called upon to die with Him.
It seems clear, as I have said in my chronological table, that this journey of Christ from Galilee to Judæa, is the same as that mentioned by S. Matt. xix. i; by S. Mark x. 32; and S. Jolin vii. 2 and 14.
From the latter Evangelist it is apparent that the journey was undertaken at the time of the feast of tabernacles, which falls in the September of our year, and since Christ suffered in the following March, it follows that the events here recorded happened about six months before the crucifixion. It is also evident, from what is recorded by S. Luke in the subsequent chapters, that during this period Christ often went to Jerusalem, and returned thence through Judæa, preaching and working miracles, as He had before done in Galilee; but we must bear in mind that S. Luke at times interrupts his narrative to recapitulate certain things which had happened before our Lord had come to Judæa. Jansenius, Francis Lucas, and others.
On the other hand, Maldonatus places this journey a year before the death of our Lord, and is of opinion that Christ returned again to Galilee, and only went up to Jerusalem to suffer and to die. But this explanation does not agree with the words of the fifty-first verse, “when the time was come that He should be received up”—words which would not have been written if the time had been a year distant.
Ver. 52.—And sent messengers before His face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him, to prepare food and lodging for Him and His companions, the twelve Apostles and the holy women who had followed Him out of Galilee. See chap. viii. 2, xxiii. 49.
Christ sent them in order that they might become accustomed to act independently of Him, and to be despised of men. Theophylact, Euthymius, and Maldonatus are of opinion that these messengers were James and John. Maldonatus also thinks that by the Greek κώμην, we are to understand city, possibly Samaria itself; but other commentators agree that the disciples were sent to some small town or village of the Samaritans which lay on the road to Jerusalem.
Ver. 53.—And they (the Samaritans) did not receive Him, because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem. Because He appeared to be going up to Jerusalem (Syriac), for it was plain, from the bearing of Jesus and His messengers, that they were on their way to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, S. John vii. 2. The Samaritans, contrary to the Law, had erected a temple on Mount Gerizim for the worship of God, and therefore there was on this account a constant enmity between the Jews and them. S. John iv, 20, and Josephus. Hence they rejected Jesus, as despising their form of worship and favouring that of their enemies, the Jews.
“His face was as though,” a Hebraism for םיככּ, i.e. πζόσωπον, or face, is often used for the person himself.
Ver. 54.—And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? They show themselves to be indeed Boanerges, or sons of thunder, for with excess of zeal they would destroy these Samaritans, because of their inhospitality and refusal to receive Christ. They remembered how Elijah had destroyed those who had been sent by Ahaziah to apprehend him (2 Kings i. 10), and they knew that Jesus was mightier than that prophet; and if fire was sent from heaven to protect Elijah from harm, and to consume the Jews, who had come to take him, how much more deserving of punishment were these Samaritans, who had refused to receive the Son of God.
Wilt Thou that we command? For as S. Jerorne goes on to say (Epist. 151), “The command of the Apostles can effect nothing, unless by the permission and will of God.” They therefore seek from Christ, as from a judge, justice, and the punishment of the wicked, according to their deserts.
Ver. 55.—But He turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. By spirit we must understand “disposition of mind,” whether for virtue or vice. Ye know not what spirit worketh in you. Ye think ye are led by the spirit of God, when ye are prompted by impatience and the spirit of vengeance. Ye know not to what spirit ye are called. Ye know not that ye should be meek and lowly, as I your Lord and Master am. Ye would imitate the zeal of Elijah, and demand “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” Exod. xxi. 24. But this is not my spirit, nor is it the teaching of the new and Gospel Law, for I say unto you “Love your enemies, and do good unto those that hate you.” S. Matt. v. 44. Have ye not heard and learned this from Me, or are ye so soon forgetful of my doctrine and teaching? He who had come, not for judgment but to show mercy, not in power but in humility, not in the glory of His Father but in lowly fashion as a man, rebuked them because they were forgetful both of His teaching and of the merciful precepts of His Gospel. S. Jerome.
Ver. 56.—For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. Act, therefore, saith Bede, according, to the spirit ye are of. Following the example of Christ, bear patiently as becometh saints. Titus.
And they went to another village, where they might meet with a better reception. By this He teaches His Apostles that hereafter, when they went throughout the world to preach the Gospel, if they were cast out of one city, they were patiently to go on to another. Hence He allowed Himself to be rejected by the Samaritans, that by His rebuke of James and John, He might teach the Apostles a life-long lesson. For, as saith S. Ambrose, mercy promoteth in thee patience, in the offender correction. Thus we find that these Samaritans who were spared punishment the sooner became believers. S. John iv.; Acts viii.
Perfect virtue desireth not vengeance, nor can anger exist where love aboundeth. The infirmities of our fellow men are to be borne with and remedied, not to be rejected as incapable of cure. Titus.
Ver. 61.—And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. This verse has been variously explained.
1. Suffer me to give notice to my parents and to consult with them; for he was doubtful what he should do. But Christ would not grant his request, because parents very often do not approve of the higher life, and sometimes dissuade their children from adopting it. Titus.
2. Suffer me to tell my parents of my intention, that knowing what is become of me, they may neither be anxious about me, nor come to seek me. S. Augustin (serm. vii. De verbis Domini) and, Toletus.
3. S. Basil (Constit. cap. xxi.) thinks that the man, like the one who preceded him, was a disciple, and that he only sought permission to say farewell to his friends, as about to return to them no more. The Syriac favours this interpretation, and translates, “Let me go to salute, i.e. to bid farewell to my family at home, and I will come again.”
4. The best rendering is that of the Vulgate, which for “them” substitutes “those things.” Let me go bid “those things” farewell. Give me time to dispose of my property at home, and divide it amongst my brethren and kinsmen; for this is the trite meaning of the Greek word ὰποτάξασθαι. Hence the Arabic has, “Suffer me to make division amongst my friends at home.” So also S. Augustin, Maldonatus, and others.
Ver. 62.—And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God, or, to carry on the metaphor, is fit to work in the vineyard of God. For as the ploughman who seeks to make his furrows straight ought to look forward and never back, so he who has determined to consecrate himself to God’s service, is unworthy to be Christ’s disciple and to be an heir of the heavenly kingdom, if he still has regard for the perishable possessions of this world which he has renounced and given up; and so Euthymius says, “He who follows Christ ought forthwith to give up all things, lest by averting his eyes from his leader and guide, he might again be entangled by the sight of those things which he has left.” So also Titus, Jansenius, Toletus, and others.
Christ in this very remarkable verse points out the way of perfection, and endeavours to withdraw the man from his own anxiety for his friends and possessions, in order that he might give himself up wholly to God. Especially as there was danger lest, delayed in the disposal of his property, or impressed with the value of his possessions, he might change his purpose, and like many others, lose the hope of his calling. And again, there was no need of his presence, for his brethren and kinsfolk could divide his property without him.
Thus James and John, when they were called, left their father and their nets, and straightway followed Christ, S. Matt. iv. 20. But on the other hand Elisha (1 Kings xix. 20) was permitted to bid farewell to his father and mother, apparently because there was in his case little danger of his being forgetful of his call. Hence S. Basil saith (serm. 1 De Baptism): He looks back who delays, however briefly, that obedience which is to be rendered at once and promptly to the call of God.
Hence of the cherubim we read (Ezek. i. 12), “They went every one straight forward: they turned not when they went.” Whereon S. Gregory says the winged creatures, i.e. holy preachers, turn not as they go, because they are passing through earthly things to heavenly; and therefore no more return to these things which they have left behind. For to seek in heart and mind after better things is, as it were, to advance or go along a certain road. Hence S, Paul, Phil. iii. 13, 14: “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” And to the bride it is said, “Forget thine own people and thy father’s house,” Ps. xlv. 10.
Hence also S. Augustine (serm. 7 De verbis Domini) says, “The east calleth thee, and thou turnest to the west.”
Figuratively, says Bede, he putteth his hand to the plough, who by the Cross of Christ, as if by an instrument of remorse, wears away the hardness of his heart, and opens it to bear the fruit of good works. But he must not look back like Lot’s wife to the things which he has left, and if the follower of the Lord, who wishes to bid farewell to them which are at home, is worthy of reproach, what will become of them, who for no sufficient reason visit the houses of those whom they have left in the world? For the frequent looking back on the things which we have forsaken, by force of habit draws us again to our past way of life. For practice, by which habits are formed, is very powerful; and habits become a second nature, which it is difficult to do away with or change. For it rapidly returns to itself.
See also the copious explanation of Suarez, De voto, lib. 1. cap. ii.