The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 9:18-26

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 3, 2011

Mat 9:18  As he was speaking these things unto them, behold a certain ruler came up, and adored him, saying: Lord, my daughter is even now dead; but come, lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.

A certain ruler.
By name Jairus (S. Mark 5:22; S. Luke 8:41). He who presided over a synagogue was called the ruler of the synagogue, as in our schools we have the title of ” dean of the faculty “.

Is even now dead.
There appears to be a great divarication between S. Matthew and the other Evangelists. For S. Mark 5:23 says not that the young girl was dead, but that she was at the point of death. S. Luke 8:42, that she was dying. Bede, Euthymius, Theophylact, reconcile them by the suggestion that the ruler did not say that his daughter was actually dead; but that either she was so grievously sick, when he left his house, as to make him think her to be now dead, or that his grief had exaggerated his prayer. S. Augustin (11., De Consens.) says that S. Matthew did not relate what the ruler said, but what bethought. It is more likely that he said both that she was at the point of death and that she was now dead. At first he said that she was at the point of death, and afterwards his attendants came and told him of her death, as S. Mark 5:35, S. Luke 8:49, have said. And then the ruler said to Christ what S. Matthew has related—that his daughter was dead.

It seems as if the ruler had not said at once what S. Matthew says he did (verse 18), “My daughter is even now dead; but come, lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live,” but only the words ” come, lay thy hand,” &c., before he knew that she was dead. But when he heard of this he rather asked, or thought to ask Him, not to come because she was dead. For (1) SS. Mark and Luke thus relate it; and (2) when the messenger had brought the information of the death, Christ said to him, ” Fear not,” &c. (S. Mark 5:36): as if he had begun to fear lest Christ, who was able to heal the dying, could not raise the dead, and it did not seem credible that a Jew, and he a ruler of the synagogue, should have had so much faith as to believe that Christ, by the touch of His hand, could recall to life a young girl already dead.

Mat 9:19  And Jesus rising up followed him, with his disciples.
Mat 9:20  And behold a woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment.

And behold a woman.
She was an inhabitant of Csesarea Philippi. She erected a statue of Christ before her house in remembrance of the benefit He had conferred upon her, as Eusebius (vii. 28) and Sozomen (v. 21) relate. Theophylact also mentions it on this place. The assertion of S. Ambrose (lib. v.), in his work on Solomon, that she was Martha, the sister of Lazarus, seems scarcely probable.

Twelve years.
The length of time, and the woman’s having spent all that she had, and being nothing better but rather worse, show that the disease was not only inveterate but also incurable, so that the miracle of its being healed appears the greater.

Came behind Him.
There was no reason for this, except, as some think, her humility, as both S. Mark 5:33 and S. Luke 8:47 say, or, as is suggested by Optatus (v., Cont. Parmen) and S. Ambrose (De Solom., chap, v.), her shame; because she was afflicted with a loathsome disease; or, as others say, she was compelled by the law (Levit 15:25) to keep herself separate from the society of men.

Mat 9:21  For she said within herself: If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed.
Mat 9:22  But Jesus turning and seeing her, said: Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.

But Jesus, turning and seeing her.
He turned as if He did not know, and would ask who had touched Him, as the other Evangelists say. He did this that the woman, seeing that she could not be hid, might come forward and show herself, and confess the miracle by the lips, not of Him who had performed it, but of herself who was the object of it. S. Luke 8:46 says, “And Jesus said. Somebody hath touched Me “. He spoke as man, as if virtue had gone out of Him, as blood issues from the body when a vessel has been divided. S. Luke states that the disciples said to Christ: “Master, the multitudes throng and press Thee, and dost Thou say. Who touched Me?” (Lk 8:45). On these words S. Augustin has more than once observed that not all who follow Christ and touch Him, touch Him truly, but rather press Him. They who come to Him in faith, and so gain a blessing, touch Him truly. “By faith,” says S. Ambrose, ” Christ is touched ” (lib. vi., in Luc).

Be of good cheer, daughter.
It seems that the woman, when she saw that Christ asked who had touched Him, feared greatly, as if she had committed a sacrilege, and stolen her cure in a surreptitious manner, as S. Chrysostom says, and was to pay the penalty of her rashness, as S. Mark 5:33 and S. Luke 8:47 say. She is therefore bid to be of good heart, that is, not to fear, but to have confidence. It is of little moment that S. Mark says that Christ called her “woman,” and S. Matthew “daughter”; one gives the words, the other the meaning. Which gives the word? S. Matthew, probably because it was more in accordance with the loving- kindness and custom of Christ to call her “daughter” than “woman,” especially as He sought to allay her fears and trembling by gentle words, like those in verse 2, “Be of good heart, son, thy sins be forgiven thee “.

Some have asked why Christ wished that the miracle should not be concealed? S. Chrysostom and Theophylact answer, “that the glory of God might appear the more clearly, and the faith of the ruler of the synagogue be confirmed”.

Mat 9:23  And when Jesus was come into the house of the ruler, and saw the minstrels and the multitude making a rout,

The minstrels.
It is the opinion of Theophylact that because the damsel was unmarried and, as SS. Mark and Luke say, about twelve years of age, the minstrels which were present at marriages should be also at the funeral, according to the custom of the Gentiles. But that this was the custom we have no authority but his for believing. S. Ambrose (On S. Lnke, lib. viii.) is more probably correct. He says that it was the custom of the Gentiles to summon female mourners and minstrels, who might excite the tears of the spectators by their mournful songs, and that the custom had now reached the Jews. Of these “mourning women” Jeremiah 9:17 makes mention. We have no other example in Scripture, but a profane poet has said:

” Cantabit maestis tibia funeribus. “—Ovid, Fast. iv.
(The pipe shall sound at the sad funeral.)

The Evangelist relates these details to increase the miracle, proving that the damsel was really dead, as the minstrels had been summoned to afflict the whole house by their death songs. With the same view SS. Mark and Luke have said that the messenger came to the ruler and told him that his daughter was dead, and that there was no need to trouble Christ further.

Mat 9:24  He said: Give place, for the girl is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.

Give place.
Various authors have given various reasons for this. S. Chrysostom (Hom, xxiii.), S. Hilary, and Theophylact think that it was because the people were in a tumult: because they had not faith; because they mocked and derided Christ when He said, “She is not dead, but sleepeth”.  The truth may be gathered without difficulty from SS. Mark 5:43 and Luke 8:56. For each relates that Christ urgently commanded the parents not to let any know of it. Hence He excluded the multitude, which cannot retain a secret. He also said, “The girl is not dead but sleepeth,” that when they should see her walk, they might think that she had not been raised from the dead, but awaked from sleep.

The girl is not dead, but sleepeth.
It has been asked in what sense Christ said, “She is not dead, but sleepeth”? Many think that He spoke according to the Scriptures, which call the dead sleeping because all things live to God (S. Jerome, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, in loc). But Christ not only says that she sleeps, but declares that she was not dead; while Scripture, though it calls the dead sleeping because they will rise again, does not deny that they are dead. Christ, as we have said, held the multitude in suspense by an ambiguity of speech, and desired to persuade them that she was not dead. Nor did He say, as others think, that she slept, and was not dead, to show that she should be raised again by Him, as He said of Lazarus: “Lazarus our friend sleepeth” (S. John 11:11-12). He did not deny that Lazarus was dead, but rather affirmed it when He said, ” he sleeps,” because when the disciples did not understand. He said plainly, ” Lazarus is dead ” (verse 14). But here He says, and wishes it to be believed, that the girl was not dead, and when they did not understand but derided Him, He would not explain how she was sleeping. He wished, then, to signify that she was not truly dead, but sleeping, that, as was said on the preceding verse, the multitude might thus think that she was wakened from sleep, and not raised from the dead, and not publish as a miracle that which they held to be no miracle at all. He said that  she was not dead, indeed; not that she was not so, but not in the way they thought, so as that she could not be recalled to life. For if the multitude had known that she would shortly rise again, when she actually did so, they would have thought that she was not dead, but sleeping. Christ therefore speaks from their opinion; not from that which they actually had, for they believed that she was truly dead; but from that which He knew that they would have, if they had known that she would shortly rise again.

Mat 9:25  And when the multitude was put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand. And the maid arose.

He took her by the hand.
He could have raised her by a word alone, but He took her by the hand, because the father had asked Him to lay His hands upon her (verse 18), and to show that He would raise her (who was no otherwise dead than sleeping, as He had said before), by taking her hand. For when we wish to rouse or relieve those who are asleep, or in pain, we take them by the hand, as Christ raised up Peter’s wife’s mother by touching her hand (Matt 7:15). We have given other reasons why Christ used to touch the sick or the dead with His hand, on Matt 8:3-15.

And He said.
He commanded the soul to return because He had the keys of death and hell (Rev 1:18; 1 Kings  2:6; S. Luke 8:54). He cried out also, as on the resurrection of Lazarus (S. John 11:43), not that He had need of any voice loud or soft, but that He might speak after the manner of men, who call those who are at a great distance with a loud voice; as if He wished to show not only that the damsel was dead, but that her soul was a long way off. Where was it? We know not. But if anything can be known, we may more properly look for it in S. Luke 16:22, a description which will supply us both with an opportunity of discussion and with arguments.

SS. Mark and Luke say that Christ strictly charged both the father and mother to tell no man of what had happened. Why He did so we know not, but we know that He acted with the highest reason and wisdom; probably with the design of avoiding the ill-will of the Pharisees and Scribes; for if they could not endure the lesser miracles, what would they have done if they had heard of a resurrection from the dead? We observe that Christ only enjoined silence in cases of resurrection from the dead, and of restoration of sight to the blind. We find the latter in verse 30, because other diseases might appear to be curable; but everyone knows that if life or sight are lost, no art can ever restore them. Christ did not say absolutely to the leper when he was cleansed (Matt 8:4), “tell no man,” but “not before you have shown yourself to the priests “. He knew that, whatever His commands, the miracle could not be concealed; but that that would take place which the evangelist has described (verse 26).

Why, then, did He give this command? That He might do what in Him lay (quod in se erat). He knew that Judas would betray Him; why did He choose him? He knew that men would not keep His commandments; why did He institute them ? He knew that Adam would fall; why did He create him? There are questions without number of the like kind. But if it were not expedient that the miracle should be divulged, and He yet knew that it would be, why did He perform it? Because the ill-will of the Pharisees ought not to defraud the ruler of his daughter’s resurrection.

Mat 9:26  And the fame thereof went abroad into all that country.

And the fame thereof went abroad.
The Evangelist says that this was for the proof of the miracle, that no one might pretend that Christ had feigned it. The whole region was a witness of it; for this is the meaning of the Greek ολην την γην εκεινην—the whole region, the entire province. S. Mark 5:42 says, with the same design, that all the people were “astonished with a great astonishment”; and both S. Mark and S. Luke relate that Christ said, “Give her to eat,” to show that she was not a phantom, but truly raised; as Christ Himself, to show that He had truly risen, ate and drank with the disciples (S. Luke 24:41; S. John 21:5; Acts 10:41).

3 Responses to “Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 9:18-26”

  1. […] Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 9:18-26). […]

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