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

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 9:18-26

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 6, 2013

This post begins with the Bishop’s brief analysis of chapter 9 as a whole, followed by his notes on verses 18-26. The opening analysis may have appeared in other posts on Matt 9.

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 9

In this chapter, we have an account of the miraculous cure, by our Lord, of the man sick of the palsy, on whom He first bestows the remission of his sins. This the Pharisees made the occasion of charging Him with blasphemously arrogating to Himself what belonged to God alone; whereupon our Redeemer, in proof of the doctrine He enunciated, performs the miracle, and perfectly cures the sick man (1–7). The people were seized with reverential awe in consequence, and gave glory to God (8). We have next an account of the call of St. Matthew, which was promptly responded to; and of the entertainment given by him to our Lord, at which many of his associate publicans were present (9–10). From this the Pharisees took occasion to accuse our Lord of associating with sinners. On hearing this, our Lord meets the charge by referring to the relation of physician, which He held towards sinners—men spiritually sick, whom He came to cure, and with whom, therefore, He ought to associate. He next confutes them from their own Scriptures, in which mercy was so strongly inculcated (12–13). The Pharisees, having put forward the disciples of John, to insinuate a charge of self-indulgence against our Lord while accepting entertainments, He refutes this charge, by saying that the time had not yet come to subject His disciples to the rigours of fasting (15); that the rigours of fasting were, as yet, untimely for His Apostles—the time for it would come afterwards (15); and, moreover, unsuited to them, in their present state, which He illustrates by examples (16–17). We have next an account of the woman, who, for a long time, suffered from an issue of blood; and of the resuscitation of the daughter of Jairus (18–25), the fame of which spread rapidly through the entire district of Galilee (26). On His way to Jairus’ house, He gave sight to two blind men, who, on leaving Him, find a demoniac, whom they bring to our Lord, by whom the poor sufferer is cured (27–33). Stung with malevolence and envy, the Pharisees ascribe these wonderful cures to diabolical agency (34). Regardless of their calumnious charge, our Lord goes about the entire country, preaching the Gospel, and confirms His doctrine by several miracles. He takes compassion on the destitute spiritual condition of the people, and tells His disciples to pray for good labourers to be sent into the harvest, now ripe for the sickle (35–38).

COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 9:18-26

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.” A different order of narrative is given by Mark and Luke. But the order followed by St. Matthew is, most probably, the correct one (see v. 2). While He was in the act of refuting the calumnious charges of the Pharisees, “behold a certain ruler,” &c. This shows, how deserving of condemnation was the obstinate malice and unbelief of the Pharisees, since the fame of our Redeemer’s miraculous works had reached every order of persons, rich and poor. The word, “behold,” would show that the ruler came up at once while our Redeemer was speaking. “A certain ruler.” St. Mark says (5:22), “one of the rulers of the synagogue”—it would seem that there were many such—“named Jairus, falleth down at His feet.” St. Luke (8:41) says, the same. Whether this implies supreme worship, which the Greek word (προσεκυνει) may, and generally does imply, or mere bodily prostration in token of reverence for a holy man, it is hard to determine from the context. Some think, from the fact of his asking our Lord to “come and lay His hand on her,” which did not equal the great faith of the centurion (8:8), that it was not supreme adoration. At all events, it conveyed a silent censure on the carping Pharisees, to whose sect, very likely, this ruler belonged, who regarded the power of Jesus as the most efficacious means of resuscitating his daughter.

“My daughter.” St. Luke (8:42) says, she was “an only daughter, almost twelve years old.” “Is even now dead.” The other Evangelists represent him as saying “she is at the point of death” (Mark); “she was dying” (Luke). Most likely, he made both statements—first, that she was on the point of death, when he left; and, then, in his hurried excitement, judging from the symptoms, and other circumstances he witnessed, he said, “she is dead,” at the time he was speaking. The other Evangelists (Mark 5:35; Luke 8:49) say, that while he was with our Lord, word was brought to him, “thy daughter is dead, trouble Him no further,” and that our Lord told him, “fear not,” and went and raised the girl to life. “Lay Thy hand upon her.” He heard of the cure of the centurion’s servant, and of other miracles, at Capharnaum; his faith, however, was not so strong as that of the centurion.

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.” While on His way to Jairus’ house (Mark 5:24), our Redeemer had it mercifully so arranged, that He would work the following miracles, so as to strengthen the ruler’s faith. “Twelve years,” shows the inveteracy of the disease. Mark (5:25), and Luke (8:43), say, it was incurable; that she suffered great pain in striving to have the cure effected by physicians, and incurred great expense also, but all to no effect. “Came behind Him,” both from feelings of modesty, owing to the nature of her ailment, and also from a fear lest she might be driven away by the crowd, if she came not as privately as possible and unobserved, this flux of blood being reckoned among legal uncleanness by the law of Moses (Lev. 15:25). “The hem.” The Greek word (τοῦ κρασπἑδου) more properly signifies, a tassel. The Jewish garment should, according to law, have four corners, from each of which a tassel of strings, or threads, was suspended, to distinguish them from the Gentiles (Deut. 22:12; Num. 15:38). Circumcision was also meant for the same purpose, that thus the Jews would be reminded of their obligation to observe the law. Even now, the dress of religious is meant to remind them of their religious obligations. From this verse is derived an argument in favour of the veneration of relics of the saints, and of attaching efficacy to them, as is sanctioned by the Catholic Church. The same is clear, also, from the miracles wrought by the contact of the bones of Eliseus (2 Kings 13:21), and the shadow of Peter curing diseases (Acts 5:15). That the woman referred to here, did not act superstitiously, as is irreverently asserted by some Protestants, is clear from our Redeemer’s attributing her cure to her great faith. The woman, not only believed in our Redeemer, but she touched His garment, from a conviction, that there was some efficacy in it, and our Redeemer felt that a virtue had proceeded from Him (Mark 5:30).

“Thy faith,” viz., her belief in the power of our Lord, and her confidence in His goodness. For the word “faith,” here includes both. “Hath made thee whole.” His omnipotent power was the primary and principal cause of her cure; but her own faith acted as a disposition, or meritorious cause, for the beneficent exercise of this Almighty power in her favour (see v. 2, Commentary). Faith, though, at all times, essential, it being the “radix et fundamentum omnis justificationis” (Council of Trent), was especially so in the beginning of the Church, as being the essential characteristic of the believers, to distinguish them from unbelievers. The woman here did more than believe, although to faith her cure is attributed. She also touched the hem of His garment, and believed there was efficacy in it. Eusebius (Lib. 7, His. Eccles. c. xviii.); Sozomen (Lib. 5, c. vi.), and Philostorgius (Lib. 7, n. 3), say, this woman was a native of Cæsarea Philippi, and that she erected a statue of our Lord in front of her house, to commemorate this event. Socrates relates, in his Tripartite History (Lib. 6, c. 41), that Julian, the apostate, removed this statue, and had his own set up in its place, and that a strong fire from heaven shattered the apostate’s statue to pieces.

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

“Minstrels,” hired mourners, introduced in accordance with the prevailing usage among the Jews, for the purpose of lamentation, and of exciting and stimulating, by their mournful strains, the grief of the relatives of the deceased. This shows that the girl had really departed this life. The practice of employing mourners of both sexes, with musical accompaniments, to bewail the dead, was commonly in use among the Greeks and Romans. Jeremias (9:17) speaks of “mourning women;” Ecclesiastes (12:5), “the mourners shall go round about in the street.”

“And the multitude making a rout.” By their external manifestations of grief, at the premature death of the girl (Mark 5:38; Luke 8:52).

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

“The girl is not dead, but sleepeth.” Death is frequently called sleep in the Scriptures (Psa. 75:6; Jer. 51:39; 1 Thess. 4:12, &c.) Hence, from Christian usage, the word, cemeteries, or sleeping-places, to designate the graves of the departed. Our Redeemer says, “the girl is not dead,” in the way the crowd imagined, in the sense that she would remain in death, and not to be soon resuscitated. In the same sense, He says of Lazarus, in his grave, “he sleepeth” (John 11:11), because he was at once to be raised from the grave, by the same Divine power. His temporary death was like a sleep. Some Rationalists, and others, say the girl was not really dead. But that she was really dead, appears clear from the context, “the crowd laughed at Him, knowing she was dead” (Luke 8:53). How know this, if she were not dead? Nor would “the minstrels” be present, if she were not dead? Hence, our Redeemer says here, “she sleepeth,” just as He said of Lazarus, “Our friend, Lazarus, sleepeth,” and afterwards explains it, by saying plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” This explanation He gives in the case of Lazarus, as the disciples who heard Him, required it. Here, it was not wanted, as all saw the girl was dead. Hence, “not dead” means, so as not to return to life, which the idea of death implies.

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

“When the multitude was put forth.” Our Lord permitted no one to be present, on His own part, at the miracle, except the chief among His Apostles (Mark 5; Luke 8), Peter, James and John, who were specially admitted to witness other manifestations of His glory, as on Thabor, and were destined to be unimpeachable witnesses, to disclose this to others, at a future day; and, on the part of the girl, He admitted her parents, who were most closely allied to her. He put out all the others, for several reasons; among the rest, probably, to conceal the miracle from those who were disposed to attribute it to diabolical agency. Moreover, He did not wish to irritate His enemies too much at this period, as His hour for suffering, at their hands, had not yet come, and He may not have wished to drive them to desperation, before the time. When He raised Lazarus, He made no secret of it from the multitude, as His destined hour was near at hand.

“Took her by the hand,” to show that there resided in His sacred flesh, from its hypostatic union with the Divinity, a vivifying power. The other Evangelists add that our Lord addressed to her the words, Tabitha, cumi—“Maiden, arise,” and that He ordered food to be set before her (Luke 8:55), in proof of the reality of her resuscitation.

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

This is added by the Evangelist, in proof or confirmation of the truth of the miracle. The entire of Galilee, including men interested in denying the truth of the miracle, if they could, were witnesses of it. The other Evangelists (Luke 8:56; Mark 5:43), say our Lord charged her parents to tell no one of it, probably, with a view of avoiding the imputation of vain glory, and not to give offence to His enemies, as also to prevent the excesses of popular applause.

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