CHAPTER IV (CONTINUE)
The Early Galilean Ministry (CONTINUE)
6. A Full Day of Miracles at Capernaum
References: Matt. 8:14-17; Mk. 1:21-34; Lk. 4:31-41
It will be noted that we have skipped over the three chapters in Matthew on the Sermon on the Mount, which seems to have been given later after Jesus had ordained His Twelve Apostles.
In comparing these three accounts it will be seen that Mark and Luke are almost identical. Matthew omits completely the preaching in the synagogue and the casting out of the unclean demon, but he does give substantially the same stow as Mark and Luke on the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, and of the miraculous events at the end of the day.
Regarding the synagogue at Capernaum it is interesting to note that the ruins of this synagogue may be seen today and the inscription on the middle wall forbidding Gentiles to cross over on pain of death has been unearthed. It was here that Jesus taught on that Sabbath day when a man with an unclean spirit cried out: “What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee, who thou art: the Holy One of God.” Luke says the man had a spirit of an unclean demon. This is the only occurrence of this expression. Mark speaks of unclean spirits eleven times, Luke six times and Matthew twice. Neither Matthew nor Mark speak of unclean demons. Spirits are called evil and dumb, as well as unclean, and once one is spoken of as a spirit of infirmity.
There are 76 references to demons in the N.T., always rendered “devil” or “devils” in the Authorized Version. Demon possession was especially prevalent at the time of Christ and will be again at the end of the age. We know very little about the nature of demons, only that they are evil spirits which apparently seek embodiment in human beings. The Bible reveals some of the effects of demon possession, although some of these effects may be simply physical or psychosomatic diseases. Demons may cause Dumbness (Matt.9:32,33); Blindness (Matt. 12:22); Lunacy (Matt. 17:15); Super-human strength (Mk. 5:1-4); Sickness (Lk. 13:12,16); Divination (Acts 16:16); Immorality or uncleanness (Matt. 10:1); Nudity (Luke 8:27); Free-love (1 Tim. 4:3); Maniac behavior (Mk. 5:2-5).
Whereas demons almost always produce degrading behavior and are under the control of the Devil, Satan himself and his ministers transform themselves into angels of light and ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-15), working lying signs and wonders, deceiving the very elect if that were possible (Matt. 24:24; Rev. 12:9; 13:14). In apostolic times a special gift of discerning of spirits was given which made it possible to recognize demon possession. Demons still exist and doubtless there are cases of demon possession, and Christ and His gospel are powerful enough to overcome any demon or Satanic powers.
The demons recognized Jesus as the Holy Son of God and they trembled in His presence, even if mankind did not. They knew they were under condemnation and someday would be judged. When Jesus commanded the unclean demon spirit to come out of the man, and it obeyed, convulsing him as it did, the people were amazed at the authority of Jesus and His fame spread throughout the region.
Leaving the synagogue, He entered the house of Simon and Andrew where He found Simon’s mother-in-law sick with a fever. He rebuked the fever and it left her and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.
The news had spread and, in the evening, a great multitude came bringing all of the diseased and demon possessed and He laid hands upon everyone and healed them all. This healing was vastly different from that of so-called faith healers today, where some claim to be healed and the majority go away disillusioned. It is Matthew again who links up this healing ministry with prophecy, for he says that Jesus healed them “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses” (Isa. 53:4). This passage deserves very careful exposition, since there are many today who are claiming divine healing on the basis that Christ bore our sicknesses just the same as He bore our sins, and we have just as much right to claim healing of the body as we do salvation of the soul. We believe there are at least six answers to this.
• It is plainly stated that Christ fulfilled this prophecy in bearing sicknesses two years before He died on the Cross where He made atonement for sin. Therefore, the healing was not in the atonement.
• The verbs for bearing sin and bearing sickness are entirely different. The word for bearing sin is “anaphero,” and is used in such passages as I Pet. 2:24; Heb. 9:28; and Isa. 53:12 (Septuagint). The word for bearing sickness is “bastazo” and is used in such passages as Matt. 3:11, “whose shoes I am not worthy to bear;” Gal. 6:2, “bear ye one another’s burdens;” Rom. 15:1, “bear the infirmities (same word as sicknesses in Matt. 8:17) of the weak;” Isa. 53:4, “surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Thus Christ bore sins in an altogether different way from bearing sicknesses.
• If healing is in the Atonement as is claimed to the same extent as salvation, then one possesses salvation only to the extent he has perfect health. But since all saints in the past have died, most from disease, this would prove that all had lost their salvation, for they surely lost their health.
• The Apostle Paul gloried in his infirmities (the same word as used in Matt. 8:17). See 2 Cor. 11:30; 12:9,10. If having sickness is necessarily out of the will of God then Paul gloried in being out of the will of God, and it was God’s grace that taught him to do it.
• Healing in the Atonement denies such Scriptures as Rom. 8:23: “but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” Our final salvation includes a redeemed body, but not in this world, where Paul tells us we have a body of humiliation.
• Finally it should be noted that God has promised health to Israel, along with all other physical and material blessings. See Deut. 28:1-14. God revealed Himself to Israel as “Jehovah-Ropheca,” the Lord that healeth thee (Ex. 15:26). This is the reason we find that physical healing was the prominent part of Christ’s earthly ministry to Israel. Healing was one of the credentials of the Messiah, by which Israel could recognize Him when He came on the scene.
7. Jesus Prays and Goes On a Mission Throughout All Galilee
References: Matt. 4: 23-25; 8:1-4; Mk. 1:35-45; Lk. 4:42-44; 5:12-16
Mark alone tells us that Jesus arose long before daybreak and went out into a desert place to pray. It is very difficult for us to understand the prayer life of our Lord, how or why it was necessary for the very Son of God to pray to the Father. He was God Himself and why should God have to pray? But He was also Man, and as such He humbled Himself and submitted Himself to the will of the Father. There is much of the prayer life of our Lord in the Gospels. Here, before starting out on a preaching tour throughout Galilee, He communes with the Father and doubtless asks the Father’s blessing upon this undertaking.
The disciples arose later and went out looking for Him and when they found Him they told Him how the multitudes were waiting for Him. Many others who followed the disciples also begged Him to continue His ministry with them, but Jesus told them He must move on and preach in all of the other towns because He was sent for this purpose. And so we read that Jesus went throughout all Galilee teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all manner of disease and sickness.
One particular healing miracle is singled out in this section, that of a leper. Leprosy was considered an incurable disease and any healing of it to be a working of the power of God. The loathsomeness of this disease and its hopelessness is doubtless a picture of the nature of sin. Leprosy separated its victim from the remainder of society (Lev. 13:44-46), just as sin separates from fellowship with God.
Matthew also records the cleansing of this leper, but he places it right after Jesus comes down from delivering the sermon on the mount, (ch. 8:1-4). Luke states it was while He was in one of the cities the event took place. The leper kneeled before Jesus, worshipping Him (an expression of Christ’s Deity), and saying: “Lord if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” Jesus stretched forth His hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be thou made clean.” Jesus had to come in contact with the leprosy of sin, a contact which would have made a clean person unclean; He had to take upon Himself man’s sin in order to cleanse man from his defilement. After cleansing the leper Jesus charged him to say nothing to any man about the healing but to go and show himself to the priest and offer the sacrifices Moses commanded for a testimony unto them (Lev. 14). Although the priesthood in Israel was corrupt and would finally condemn Jesus to death, He recognized that He was still under the divinely established dispensation of Law, and was always obedient to it and instructed His disciples to do whatsoever Mosaic leaders commanded (cf. Matt. 23:1-3).
In what way would this leper give a testimony to the priest? The priest was the one who had pronounced him to be a leper. The priest knew that only God could cure leprosy. This fact is clearly seen in the story of 2 Kings 5 when the king of Syria sent a message to the king of Israel saying his army general had leprosy and he was sending him to the king with gifts for the king to heal him of his leprosy. When the king read the letter, he rent his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of leprosy?” Of course, there was in Israel at that time a prophet of God who performed the miracle on Naaman. Therefore the priest in our present case would have to admit that Jesus was God, or at least was doing the works of God. Thus, by going to the priest the man’s healing was authenticated. Had the man not gone to the priest for an official bill of health others might have said, “We don’t believe you ever had leprosy.” We think this is the reason Jesus told the man to say nothing to others but go straight to the priest. He was not saying, “I do not want you ever to tell anyone about your healing, ”but rather,” don’t tell others until you have gone to the priest.” The fact is, that after he had gone to the priest he told so many people about Jesus that Jesus could no longer openly enter into the city because of the crowds, but had to retire to a desert place and minister to those who came to Him.
Modern drugs have been found which will arrest the disease of leprosy, but these drugs have no ability to cure the patient of the effects of the disease. If fingers or toes or other parts of the body have been sloughed off, the drug cannot restore these members. The victim is still a pitiable creature. When Jesus healed the leper he was completely restored. It is stated in the case of Naaman, “and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2 Kings 5: 14). The same principle works in God’s salvation. When He saves a person He does not merely patch up the old man with all of his deformities and scars: He creates a new man (cf. Col. 3:9,10).
8. Paralytic Let Down Through the Roof
References: Matt. 9:2-8; Mk. 2:1-12; Lk. 5:17-26
We learn from Matthew that Jesus entered a boat and crossed the lake of Galilee and came to “his own city.” Mark tells us that this city was Capernaum. This is where Jesus made His headquarters in Galilee. Matthew omits the part about removing the tiles from the flat-topped roof so they could lower the paralytic man in the presence of Jesus, but Mark and Luke both give this detail. Mark gives the further detail that the paralyzed man was carded by four other men. Luke tells us that on this occasion Pharisees and doctors of the law from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem had gathered to observe Jesus and that the Power of the Lord was with Jesus to perform healing.
If leprosy with its defilement speaks of sin, then palsy or paralysis represents powerlessness or inability of the sin nature toward God. Paul brings out this aspect of our nature in Rom. 5:6: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” The sinner must come to the place where he sees himself as morally and spiritually paralyzed, unable to move himself and therefore dependent one hundred percent on the grace of God for salvation. The leper and the paralytic both illustrate Israel’s spiritual condition, and their healings illustrate the regeneration which will take place when Christ returns as Israel’s Savior and King.
The four men represent the soul-winner: we cannot save souls; all we can do is to bring men to Christ. And these four personal workers manifested great industry, if they couldn’t get the man to Christ by the usual means of going through the door, they used a very unusual means of tearing a hole in the ceiling and lowering him through the hole. We need to use every means at our disposal to reach men for Christ.
The man in the story had two diseases. The Lord healed the most important one first. Seeing the man’s faith He said, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” This immediately stirred up the Jewish religious leaders present, for they said, “Who is this that speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” Only God could cleanse the leper and restore his flesh like new, and only God can forgive sins, but Jesus did both, which proves that Jesus was God. Then Jesus asked, “Which is easier to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee, or to say, Arise and walk?” But to prove He had power to forgive sins He said to the paralyzed man, “Arise and take up thy couch, and go unto thy house.”
The spectators were amazed when the cripple got up, picked up his pad and started home glorifying God. All they could say was, “We have seen strange things today,” and others said, “We never saw it on this fashion.” Is it not strange, almost unbelievable, that the sinful hearts of these unconverted religionists could witness such evidences of the Deity of Christ, and still rebel in their minds and seek some means of putting Jesus to death? It is no wonder Paul says that the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can be (Rom. 8:6-8).
9. The Call of Matthew
References: Matt. 9:9-13; Mk. 2:13-17; Lk. 5:27-32
Mark and Luke call Matthew, Levi, and Mark adds that he was the son of Alphens. He was a publican or tax collector for the Roman government and was naturally hated by the people. He was seated at the tax office or toll house when Jesus passed by and said, “Follow me.” Luke tells us that Levi made a great feast at his house for Jesus and invited a great many publicans and others to the feast. Then the Pharisees began complaining to the disciples, as they did in Lk. 15, that Jesus received sinners and ate with them. Jesus’ answer was two-fold: “People who are healthy have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Thus, those who refused to come to Jesus affirmed that they were healthy and righteous: they had no need of Jesus. But the other answer He gave was: “But go ye and learn what this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” The reference is to Hos. 6:6. The prophet was not saying that God never commanded the people to bring sacrifices; for He did, but that He desired mercy and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings. The Pharisees were punctilious in the religious observances but their hearts were far from God. They honored Him with their lips but denied Him by their works.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)
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