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

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 9:18-26

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 5, 2013

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.
Mat 9:19  And Jesus rising up followed him, with his disciples.

As he was speaking these things. 3. The Jewish ruler and the Gentile woman, vv. 18–26. In the preceding two incidents we have admired the faith of Matthew and the trust of the disciples, as opposed to the separateness of the Pharisees from the company of sinners and the Pharisaic fidelity to merely outward ceremonies. In the present section the faith in our Lord manifestly grows, since it extends, in the case of the Gentile woman, to the healing power of all connected with Jesus, while the ruler elicits by his faith the resuscitation of his dead child. The section naturally falls into three parts: a. The petition of the ruler, 18-19; b. the healing of the Gentile woman, 20–22; c. the resuscitation of the dead child, 23–26.

a. The petition of the ruler. In the parallel accounts, Mk. 5:21–43 and Lk. 8:41–56, the incidents are connected with the gatherings around our Lord after his return from the Gadarene shore of the lake. Schanz is of opinion that the first evangelist connects the following miracles with the dispute on fasting, on account of the importance of convincing the Jewish Christians that the Mosaic ceremonial is foreign to the spirit of Christianity. But if we adhere to the present reading of the first gospel, “as he was speaking these things,” we can hardly suppose that the evangelist arranged the present passage topically. We must then either assume that the dispute concerning fasting occurred twice, once in the connection of the second and the third gospel, and another time on the occasion mentioned by St. Matthew; or we must suppose that the expression “these things” was added by the translator of the first gospel, while the evangelist had merely written “as he was speaking.” The first assumption is not at all unlikely, owing to the importance of the matter in question, while the second solution numbers among its patrons Augustine [De cons, evang. ii. 28, 64; 39, 86]. According to the first view we find in the second and third gospel the more general indication of the time when the ruler approached Jesus, while the first gospel gives the precise part of our Lord’s discourse that preceded the petition of Jairus. According to the second view, also, Jairus approaches Jesus at the time indicated by the second and the third gospel, but this time is very indefinitely stated by the first evangelist. In neither case is the petition of Jairus connected with the feast; such a connection of events is rendered improbable, since according to the words of the disciples [Lk. 8:45; Mk. 5:31] our Lord was surrounded by a multitude of people on his way to the house of the ruler.

The “certain ruler” [Mt.] is, according to the second and third gospel, a ruler of the synagogue; instead of “adored him,” Mk. and Lk. say “fell down at his feet,” so that the ruler prayed suppliantly. “Lord” is an addition found in many Vulgate codd., though it is not in the Greek text. The third gospel shows that the ruler had only one daughter, and that she was about twelve years old [8:42]. Mt. differs somewhat from Mk. and Lk. in the account of the ruler’s petition: according to the second gospel [5:23] the daughter is said to be “at the point of death,” and the third evangelist says that she “lay a dying” [8:42]. According to both, the news of the daughter’s death came only after the cure of the Gentile woman [Mk. 5:35; Lk. 8:49]. We can hardly admit that the first gospel represents the father as incoherent in his excessive grief [cf. Farrar], as if he had said, “my child is dying, is dead”; or that the expression of the first gospel must be understood to mean “she is almost dead” [cf. Schouppe]; or that the ruler intentionally exaggerated his affliction [cf. Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact]; or that the father expressed his real belief concerning his child, “she is by this time dead” [cf. Augustine].

In all these suppositions either the account given in the first gospel, or that contained in the second and third, suffers some violence. Since the evangelist only summarizes the event, he represents the state of the daughter as known after the message; even if it is not said in the gospel that the father expressed the petition in words, he felt it in his heart [cf. Lapide, Augustine, Salmeron, Jansenius]. We need not assume with Maldonado, Cajetan, that the father renewed his oral petition after receiving the message of his daughter’s death. Though the faith of the ruler was not as great as that of the centurion [Mt. 8:10], since he asked for the bodily presence of Jesus, there is nothing reprehensible in his wish that our Lord should lay his hand upon his sick child, since Jesus often healed the sick in this manner [Mt. 8:3; 19:13; Lk. 4:10; 13:13; cf. Acts 6:6; Gen. 48:14; Num. 27:18]. The ready compliance of our Lord with the ruler’s petition contrasts favorably with his manner of healing the king’s son [Jn. 4:48]. In the present case, he was about to give his disciples a most striking proof of his power over death itself, and to offer the poor Gentile woman an occasion of meeting him on the road. While the first gospel mentions only the disciples as accompanying Jesus, the second and the third gospel speak of a great multitude around his sacred person.

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.
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.

And behold a woman. b. The healing of the Gentile woman. According to Eusebius [H. E. vii. 18] the woman was a Gentile of Cæsarea Paneas, and the apocrypha name her Veronica [Act. Pilati, A. c. 7; Tischend. Evv. ap. p. 239: Gesta Pilati, c. 7, l. c. p. 356]. The same apocrypha enumerate her among those that testified in favor of Jesus before Pilate. Eusebius [l. c.] mentions that he saw in Cæsarea Philippi [or Paneas], at the gates of the woman’s house, on an elevated stone, a brazen image of a woman on her bended knee, with her hands stretched out before her, like one entreating. Opposite to this there was another image of a man, erect, decently clad in a mantle, and stretching out his hand to the woman. This group represented the miraculous cure of the Gentile woman, now under consideration. Socrates adds [H. l. vi. c. 41] that Julian the Apostate destroyed the statue, and had his own placed on the pedestal. The evangelist shows the grievousness of the woman’s disorder by indicating the length of time it had lasted; Mk. adds that she had suffered much from several physicians [an extremely probable fact considering the state of the science of medicine at that period], had spent all she had, and only grown worse in consequence; the physician Lk. says that she had spent all her property on physicians, and that she could not be cured by any. The length of time the woman had suffered indicates that her complaint was not the common courses [Lev. 15:33], but was a chronic issue of blood [Lev. 15:25–29]. Since this infirmity rendered the sufferer legally unclean, the woman feared to make known her complaint or to touch the Lord’s garment in front.

The hem of our Lord’s garment touched by the woman was the legal fringe intended to remind the Jews that they were God’s people [Num. 15:37; Deut. 22:12]. We need not repeat the unfavorable comments of Calvin, Trench, Alford, and other Protestant writers on the confidence of the Gentile woman in the magical power of our Lord’s garment. They fear that the Catholic veneration of relics may find support in the practice of the Gentile woman, and therefore either endeavor to construe our Lord’s words to the woman into a reproof [Alford], or they ascribe it to our Lord’s clemency that he tolerated some sinfulness and error in the Gentile woman [Calvin]. Even if the present passage could thus be explained away, how would the foregoing writers explain Acts 19:12 ff., where God works miracles by means of the handkerchiefs and aprons of St. Paul? Is not the view of St. Hilary [in 1.], that Jesus gave his garment the power to heal those that should touch it with faith, even as God gives to the magnet the power to attract iron,—is not this view more satisfactory and to the point than the evasive comments of the Protestant writers?

The first gospel proceeds again by way of summary in the account of our Lord’s address to the woman; his question, Peter’s answer, the denial of the by-standers are omitted. The consoling word “daughter” occurs as an address only here in the New Testament; the Greek word rendered “hath made thee whole” commonly applies to a spiritual healing, but may here at least imply the spiritual health of the woman [cf. Mk. 5:34; 10:52; Lk. 7:50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42]. The perfect tense of the Greek text may signify something that happens presently [Meyer, Krüger, liii. 3, 4; Winer, xl. 46; Bäumlein, 527], but it applies more naturally to a past event. Since Jesus attributes the miracle to the faith of the woman, he removes all danger of a belief in the magical power of his garment [Jans.]. The brevity of St. Matthew’s account of the miracle may have been caused by the inclination of the Jewish authorities to attribute our Lord’s miracles to the influence of the evil spirit. The expression “from that hour” is different from the phrase “at that same hour” [Mt. 8:13]. Euthymius remarks that the evangelist does not mean the “hour” or the time when our Lord spoke, but that of the woman’s trustful touching of his garments. Schanz explains “from that hour” as referring rather to the perception of the miracle than to its actual happening.

Mat 9:23  And when Jesus was come into the house of the ruler, and saw the minstrels and the multitude making a rout,
Mat 9:24  He said: Give place, for the girl is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.
Mat 9:25  And when the multitude was put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand. And the maid arose.
Mat 9:26  And the fame hereof went abroad into all that country.

And when Jesus was come. c. The resuscitation of the dead child. The first gospel omits the message concerning the death of the child, of which the other evangelists speak. Funereal music existed not only among the Jews, but also among the Romans and Greeks [cf. Marquardt, v. i. p. 352 ff.]. Lamentation over the dead was known even in the time of the patriarchs [Gen. 50:4; 2 Sam 1:17–20; Sirach 22:6]. Later on we find professional wailing women and mourning musicians [Amos 5:16; 9:16; Josephus B. J. III. ix. 5]. The Talmud is quite precise in its determination of the mourning custom: even the poorest Israelite must have at least two flute-players and a wailing woman at the funeral of his wife. “The multitude making a rout” was composed of these professional mourners; hence it is easily understood how the multitude could be “put forth” without offence.

Our Lord’s words “the girl is not dead, but sleepeth” have induced a number of rationalistic writers to deny the real death of the child [Paul. Michael. Olshausen etc.]; but Jesus used similar language in the case of Lazarus, who had been four days in the grave at the time of our Lord’s arrival, and the evangelist [Jn. 11:11] testifies that “Jesus spoke of his death.” The presence of the mourners, their laughing “him to scorn,” the message sent to Jairus, are so many signs of the real death of the child. The language of Jesus is nevertheless true, because it either expresses what the multitude would have thought of the condition of the girl, if they had known her speedy return to life [Maldonado], or because it signifies that the girl is not dead in the ordinary sense of the word, remaining lifeless till the general resurrection [Theophylact, Dionysius, Cajetan Salmeron]. Jerome adds that “for God all are alive,” and Chrysostom says in the same manner that “in his presence death was nothing but sleep.” This manner of speaking agrees with the command recorded by Mk. and Lk. [5:43; 8:56], that the report of the miracle should not be spread by the parents of the child; for Jesus did not wish to arouse the antagonism of the Pharisees unnecessarily at so early a period, nor did he wish to excite in the multitude an unreasonable desire of having more dead persons resuscitated.

According to Mk. 5:38 f. and Lk. 8:51 Jesus was accompanied by three disciples, Peter, James, and John, and according to Lk. by the child’s parents also, when he entered the apartment of the dead girl; in the first and the second gospel [5:38–40] the entrance into this apartment is distinguished from our Lord’s first entrance into the house, while the third gospel [8:51] is less clear on this distinction. Here, again, our Lord has recourse to outward contact while he performs the miraele; the second gospel has preserved the exact words addressed to the dead child: “Talitha kumi” or “Damsel, arise.” It is here that Jesus exhibits himself for the first time as the lord over life and death [Jn. 5:25], who came that all might have life, and have it more abundantly. The phrase “and the maid arose” calls to mind 4 Kings. 4:31, and prepares the way for Mt. 11:5. Since the fame of this miracle went abroad into all that country, the enemies of Jesus became more inexcusable for their continued opposition.

Finally, the dead child is compared with the Gentile woman in such a manner that the former represents the synagogue, the latter signifies the Gentile world [Hilary, Jerome, Ambrose, Chrysologus, Bede Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas, Faber Stapulensis, Salmeron, Jansenius, Barradas etc.]. Since the age of the child corresponds with the duration of the woman’s infirmity, it illustrates the coincidence of the greater moral infirmity of the Gentile world with the institution of the Synagogue; when Jesus came to be united to his spouse, the Church, he found the Synagogue dead, just as the daughter of Jairus died in the years of her puberty; the Gentile world is cured of its moral infirmity before the Jews, as the Gentile woman is healed before the dead child; the faith of the Gentile world will cause the faith of the Synagogue and thereby its moral resurrection, just as the faith of the Gentile woman and her miraculous cure strengthened the faith of Jairus and thereby effected the resuscitation of the dead child [cf. Grimm, iii. p. 339 ff.; Knabenbauer].

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One Response to “Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 9:18-26”

  1. […] Father Maas’ Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 9:18-26). […]

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