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THE FAILURE TO HEAL THE LUNATICK.

105

CHAP.

II

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thew and St. Mark

them. And thus has the other part of Malachi's prophecy been fulfilled : and the land of Israel been smitten with the ban.'

Amidst such conversation the descent from the mountain was accomplished. Presently they found themselves in view of a scene, which only too clearly showed that unfitness of the disciples for the heavenly vision of the preceding night, to which reference has been made. For, amidst the divergence of details between the narratives of St. Matthew and St. Mark, and, so far as it goes, that of St. Luke, the one point in which they almost literally and emphatically accord is, when the Lord speaks of them, in language of bitter disappointment and sorrow, as a generation with whose want of faith, notwithstanding all that they had seen and learned, He had still to bear, expressly attributing their failure in restoring the lunatick to their in St. Matunbelief.'?

It was, indeed, a terrible contrast between the scene below and that vision of Moses and Elijah, when they had spoken of the Exodus of the Christ, and the Divine Voice had attested the Christ from out the luminous cloud. A concourse of excited people—among them once more “Scribes,' who had tracked the Lord and come upon His weakest disciples in the hour of their greatest weakness—is gathered about a man who had in vain brought his lunatick son for healing. He is eagerly questioned by the multitude, and moodily answers; or, as it might almost seem from St. Matthew, he is leaving the crowd ver. 14 and those from whom he had vainly sought help. This was the hour of triumph for these Scribes. The Master had refused the challenge in Dalmanutha, and the disciples, accepting it, had signally failed. There they were,' questioning with them' noisily, discussing this and all similar phenomena, but chiefly the power, authority, and reality of the Master. It reminds us of Israel's temptation in the wilderness, and we should scarcely wonder, if they had even questioned the return of Jesus, as they of old did that of Moses.

At that very moment, Jesus appeared with the three. We cannot wonder that, when they saw Him, they were greatly amazed, and running to Him saluted Him.'" He came—as always, and to us also-unexpectedly, most opportunely, and for the real decision

3

e St. Mark

| The question, whether there is to be a literal reappearance of Elijah before the Second Advent of Christ does not seem to be answered in the present passage. Perhaps it is purposely left unanswered.

? The reading • little faith’instead of *unbelief,' though highly attested, seems

only an early correction. On internal
grounds it is more likely, that the expres-
sion ‘little faith’is a correction by a later
apologete, than ‘unbelief.' The latter also
corresponds to faithless generation.'

3 There is no hint in the text, that their
amazement was due to the shining of His
Face.

BOOK
IV

* St. Matthew

of the question in hand. There was immediate calm, preceding victory. Before the Master's inquiry about the cause of this violent discussion could be answered, the man who had been its occasion came forward. With lowliest gesture (“kneeling to Him ’a) he addressed Jesus. At last he had found Him, Whom he had come to seek; and, if possibility of help there were, oh! let it be granted. Describing the symptoms of his son's distemper, which were those of epilepsy and mania—although both the father and Jesus rightly attributed the disease to demoniac influence-he told, how he had come in search of the Master, but only found the nine disciples, and how they had presumptuously attempted, and signally failed in the attempted cure.

Why had they failed ? For the same reason, that they had not been taken into the Mount of Transfiguration--because they were ' faithless,' because of their ‘unbelief. They had that outward faith of the probatum est' (“it is proved '); they believed because, and what, they had seen; and they were drawn closer to Christat least almost all of them, though in varying measure-as to Him Who, and Who alone, spake the words of eternal life,' which, with wondrous power, had swayed their souls, or laid them to heaven's rest. But that deeper, truer faith, which consisted in the spiritual view of that which was the unseen in Christ, and that higher power, which flows from such apprehension, they had not. In such faith as they had, they spake, repeated forms of exorcism, tried to imitate their Master. But they signally failed, as did those seven Jewish Priestsons at Ephesus. And it was intended that they should fail, that so to them and to us the higher meaning of faith as contrasted with power, the inward as contrasted with the merely outward qualification, might appear. In that hour of crisis, in the presence of questioning Scribes and a wondering populace, and in the absence of the Christ, only one power could prevail, that of spiritual faith; and that kind' could not come out but by prayer.' 2

It is this lesson, viewed also in organic connection with all that had happened since the great temptation at Dalmanutha, which furnishes the explanation of the whole history. For one moment we have a glimpse into the Saviour's soul: the poignant sorrow of His disappointment at the unbelief of the faithless and perverse genera

1 In St. Mark ix. 16 the better reading like a later gloss. It is not unlikely, that is, “He asked them,' and not, as in the St. Matt. xvii. 21 is merely a spurious T. R., the Scribes.'

insertion from St. Mark. However, see 2 The addition of the word “fasting' Meyer on this point. in St. Mark is probably spurious. It reads

"ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE TO HIM THAT BELIEVETH.'

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tion'', with which He had so long borne; the infinite patience and condescension, the Divine 'need be' of His having thus to bear even with His own, together with the deep humiliation and keen pang which it involved; and the almost home-longing, as one has called it, of His soul. These are mysteries to adore. The next moment Jesus turns Him to the father. At His command the lunatick is brought to Him. In the Presence of Jesus, and in view of the coming contest between Light and Darkness, one of those paroxysms of demoniac operation ensues, such as we have witnessed on all similar occasions. This was allowed to pass in view of all. But both this, and the question as to the length of time the lunatick had been afflicted, together with the answer, and the description of the dangers involved, which it elicited, were evidently intended to point the lesson of the need of a higher faith. To the father, however, who knew not the mode of treatment by the Heavenly Physician, they seemed like the questions of an earthly healer who must consider the symptoms before he could attempt the cure.

If Thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.'

It was but natural—and yet it was the turning-point in this whole history, alike as regarded the healing of the lunatick, the better leading of his father, the teaching of the disciples, and that of the multitude and the Scribes. There is all the calm majesty of Divine self-consciousness, yet without trace of self-assertion, when Jesus, utterly ignoring the “if Thou canst,' turns to the man and tells him that, while with the Divine Helper there is the possibility of all help, it is conditioned by a possibility in ourselves, by man’s receptiveness, by his faith. Not, if the Christ can do anything or even everything, but, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.' The question is not, it can never be, as the man had put it; it must not even be answered, but ignored. It must ever be, not

2 Godet.

! The expression generation,' although of course, one of the outward grounds on embracing in its reproof all the people, which the criticism of the text must prois specially addressed to the disciples. ceed, I confess to the feeling that, as age

and purity are not identical, the interpreter * The weight of the evidence from the must weigh all such evidence in the light MSS. accepted by most modern critics of the internal grounds for or against its (though not by that very judicious com- reception. Besides, in this instance, it mentator, Canon Cook) is in favour of the seems to me that there is some difficulty reading and rendering: “If Thou canst ! about the τo, if πιστεύσαι is struck out, all things are possible,' &c. But it seems and which is not so easily cleared up as to me, that this mode of reply on the part Meyer suggests. of Christ is not only without any other ** Omnipotentiæ Divinæ se fides homiparallel in the Gospels, but too artificial, nis, quasi organon, accommodat, ad recipitoo Western, if I may use the expres- endum, vel etiam ad agendum.'-Bengel. sion. While the age of a MS. or MSS. is,

BOOK
IV

what He can, but what we can. When the infinite fulness is poured forth, as it ever is in Christ, it is not the oil that is stayed, but the vessels which fail. He giveth richly, inexhaustibly, but not mechanically; there is only one condition, the moral one of the presence of absolute faith—our receptiveness. And so this has to all time remained the teaching to every individual striver in the battle of the higher life, and to the Church as a whole; this, the “in hoc signo vinces'' over the Cross, the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

It was a lesson, of which the reality was attested by the hold which it took on the man's whole nature. While by one great outgoing of his soul he overleapt all, to lay hold on that one fact set before him, he felt all the more the dark chasm of unbelief behind him, but also clung to that Christ, Whose teaching of faith had shown him, with the possibility, the source, of faith. Thus through the felt unbelief of faith he attained true faith by laying hold on the Divine Saviour, when he cried out and said : ? • Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.' 3 These words have remained historic, marking all true faith, which, even as faith, is conscious of, nay implies, unbelief, but brings it to Christ for help. The most bold leap of faith and the timid resting at His Feet, the first beginning and the last ending of faith, have alike this as their watchword.

Such cry could not be, and never is, unheard. It was real demoniac influence which, continuing with this man from childhood onwards, had well-nigh crushed all moral individuality in him. In his many lucid intervals these many years, since he had grown from a child into a youth, he had never sought to shake off the yoke and regain his moral individuality, nor would he even now have come, if his father had not brought him. If any, this narrative shows the view which the Gospels and Jesus took of what are described as the

demonised. It was a reality, and not accommodation to Jewish views, when, as He saw the multitude running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to him: Dumb and deaf spirit, I command thee, come out of him, and no more come into him.'

Another and a more violent paroxysm, so that the bystanders almost thought him dead. But the unclean spirit had come out of

1. In this sign shalt thou conquer '—the inscription on the supposed vision of the Cross by the Emperor Constantine before his great victory and conversion to Christi. anity

The words with tears,' in the T. R.

are apparently a spurious addition.

3 The interpretation of Meyer: Do not withhold thy help, notwithstanding my unbelief 'seems as jejune as that of others : Help me in my unbelief.'

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'LORD, I BELIEVE ; HELP THOU MINE UNBELIEF' him. And with strong gentle Hand the Saviour lifted him, and with loving gesture delivered him to his father.

All things had been possible to faith ; not to that external belief of the disciples, which failed to reach that kind,' and ever fails to reach such kind, but to true spiritual faith in Him. And so it is to each of us individually, and to the Church, to all time. “That kind,' —whether it be of sin, of lust, of the world, or of science falsely so called, of temptation, or of materialism-cometh not out by any of our ready-made formulas or dead dogmas. Not so are the flesh and the Devil vanquished; not so is the world overcome. It cometh out by nothing but by prayer : 'Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.' Then, although our faith were only what in popular language was described as the smallest—like a grain of mustard-seed' --and the result to be achieved the greatest, most difficult, seemingly transcending human ability to compass it—what in popular language was designated as “removing mountains'2_nothing shall be impossible' unto us. And these eighteen centuries of suffering in Christ, and deliverance through Christ, and work for Christ, have proved it. For all things are ours, if Christ is ours.

1

But it is rather too wide an application, when Euthymius Zygadenus (one of the great Byzantine theologians of the twelfth century), and others after him, note' the kind of all demons.'

* The Rabbinic use of the expression, 'grain of mustard seed,' has already been noted. The expression “tearing up' or * removing mountains' was also prover

bial among the Rabbis. Thus, a great Rabbi might be designated as one who uprooted mountains' (Ber., last page, line 5 from top; and Horaj. 14 a), or as one who pulverised them (Sanh. 24 a). The expression also occurs of apparently impossible things, such as those which a heathen government may order a man to do (Baba B. 3 b).

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