"And continually, night and day, in the mountains and in the tombs, he was screaming and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of God the Most High? I adjure You by God, do not torment me." For He was saying to it, "Unclean spirit, come out of the man." And He asked it, "What is your name?" And it answered, "My name is Legion, because we are many." And it begged Him again and again that He would not send them out of the country.
"Now near the mountain, there was a large herd of swine feeding; And all the demons pleaded with Him, saying, "Send us to the swine, so that we may enter into them." Then Jesus immediately permitted them to go. And the unclean spirits went out of the man and entered into the swine; and the herd stampeded down the steep slope into the sea (now they were about two thousand), and they all drowned in the sea. And those who were feeding the swine fled in fear and reported it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what it was that had been done. And they came to Jesus and saw the man who had been possessed by demons, the one who had the Legion, sitting and clothed and of a sound mind; and they were afraid. Then those who had seen it reported to them what had happened to the one who had been possessed by demons, and the things concerning the swine." (Mark 5:1-16, Holy Bible in Its Original Order - A Faithful Version (HBFV))
It gives not only life to the narrative, but greatly illustrates it, that we can with confidence describe the exact place where our Lord and His disciples touched the other shore. The ruins right over against the plain of Gennesaret, which still bear the name of Kersa or Gersa, must represent the ancient Gerasa. This is the correct reading in Mark's, and probably in Luke's, perhaps also in Matthew's Gospel. The locality entirely meets the requirements of the narrative. About a quarter of an hour to the south of Gersa is a steep bluff, which descends abruptly on a narrow ledge of shore. A terrified herd running down this cliff could not have recovered its foothold, and must inevitably have been hurled into the Lake beneath. Again, the whole country around is burrowed with limestone caverns and rock-chambers for the dead, such as those which were the dwelling of the Demonized. Altogether the scene forms a fitting background to the narrative.
From these tombs the Demonized, who is specially singled out by Mark and Luke, as well as his less prominent companion, came forth to meet Jesus. Much that is both erroneous and misleading has been written on Jewish Demonology. According to common Jewish superstition, the evil spirits dwelt especially in lonely desolate places, and also among tombs. We must here remember what has previously been explained as to the confusion in the consciousness of the Demonized between their own notions and the ideas imposed on them by the demons. It is quite in accordance with the Jewish notions of the Demonized, that, according to the more circumstantial account of Luke, he should feel as it were driven into the deserts, and that he was in the tombs, while, according to Mark, he was 'night and day in the tombs and in the mountains,' the very order of the words indicating the notion (as in Jewish belief), that it was chiefly at night that evil spirits were wont to haunt burying-places.
In calling attention to this and similar particulars, we repeat, that this must be kept in view as characteristic of the Demonized, that they were incapable of separating their own consciousness and ideas from the influence of the demon, their own identity being merged, and to that extent lost, in that of their tormentors. In this respect the Demonized state was also kindred to madness. Self-consciousness, or rather what may be termed Individuism, i.e. the consciousness of distinct and independent individuality, and with it the power of self-origination in matters mental and moral (which some might term an aspect of free volition), distinguish the human soul from the mere animal spirit. But in maniacal disease this power is in abeyance, or temporarily lost through physical causes, such as disease of the brain as the medium of communication between the mind and the world of sense; disease of the nervous system, through which ordinarily impressions are conveyed to and from the sensorium; or disease of both brain and nervous system, when previously existing impressions on the brain (in memory, and hence possibly imagination) may be excited without corresponding outward causes. If in such cases the absolute power of self-origination and self-action is lost to the mind, habits of sin and vice (or moral disease) may have an analogous effect as regards moral freedom - the power of moral self-origination and action. In the Demonized state the two appear combined, the cause being neither disease nor vice, but the presence of a superior power of evil.
This loss of individuism, and the subjection of one's identity to that of the demon might, while it lasted, be called temporary 'possession,' in so far as the mental and moral condition of the person was for the time not one of freedom and origination, but in the control of the possessing demon.
One practical inference may even now be drawn from this somewhat abstruse discussion. The language and conduct of the Demonized, whether seemingly his own, or that of the demons who influenced him, must always be regarded as a mixture of the Jewish-human and the demoniacal. The Demonized speaks and acts as a Jew under the control of a demon. Thus, if he chooses solitary places by day, and tombs by night, it is not that demons really preferred such habitations, but that the Jews imagined it, and that the demons, acting on the existing consciousness, would lead him, in accordance with his preconceived notions, to select such places. Here also mental disease offers points of analogy. For, the Demonized would speak and act in accordance with his previous (Jewish) demonological ideas. He would not become a new man, but be the old man, only under the influence of the demon, just as in mania a person truly and consistently speaks and acts, although under the false impressions which a diseased brain conveys to him. The fact that in the Demonized state a man's identity was not superseded, but controlled, enables us to account for many phenomena without either confounding demonism with mania, or else imputing to our Lord such accommodation to the notions of the times, as is not only untenable in itself, but forbidden even by the language of the present narrative.
The description of the Demonized, coming out of the tombs to meet Jesus as He touched the shore at Gerasa, is vivid in the extreme. His violence, the impossibility of control by others, the absence of self-control, his homicidal, and almost suicidal, frenzy, are all depicted. Evidently, it was the object to set forth the extreme degree of the Demonized state. Christ, Who had been charged by the Pharisees with being the embodiment and messenger of Satan, is here face to face with the extreme manifestation of demoniac power and influence. It is once more, then, a Miracle in Parable which is about to take place. The question, which had been raised by the enemies, is about to be brought to the issue of a practical demonstration. We do not deny that the contest and the victory, this miracle, nay, the whole series of miracles of which it forms part, are extraordinary, even in the series of Christ's miracles. Our explanation proceeds on the very ground that such was, and must have been, the case.
With irresistible power the Demonized was drawn to Jesus, as He touched the shore at Gerasa. As always, the first effect of the contact was a fresh paroxysm, but in this peculiar case not physical, but moral. As always also, the demons knew Jesus, and His Presence seemed to constrain their confession of themselves - and therefore of Him. As in nature the introduction of a dominant element sometimes reveals the hidden presence of others, which are either attracted or repelled by it, so the Presence of Christ obliged the manifestation, and, in the case of these evil spirits, the self-confession, of the powers of evil. In some measure it is the same still. The introduction of grace brings to light and experience sin hitherto unknown, and the new life brings consciousness of, and provokes contest with, evil within, of which the very existence had previously been unsuspected. In the present instance the immediate effect was homage, which presently manifested itself in language such as might have been expected.
Here also it must be remembered, that both the act of homage, or 'worship,' and the words spoken, were not the outcome either of the Demonized only, nor yet of the demons only, but a combination of the two: the control of the demons being absolute over the man such as he was. Their language led to his worship; their feelings and fears appeared in his language. It was the self-confession of the demons, when obliged to come into His Presence and do homage, which made the man fall down and, in the well-known Jewish formula, recorded by the three Evangelists, say: 'What have I to do with Thee,' or rather, 'What between me and Thee' - what have we in common? Similarly, although it was consciousness of subjection and fear in His Presence, on the part of the demons, which underlay the adjuration not to inflict torment on them, yet the language itself, as the text shows, was that of the Demonized, and the form in which their fear expressed itself was that of his thinking. The demons, in their hold on their victim, could not but own their inferiority, and apprehend their defeat and subjection, especially on such an occasion; and the Jew, who consciousness was under their control - not unified, but identified with it - exclaimed: 'I adjure Thee by God, that Thou torment me not.'
This strange mixture of the demoniac with the human, or rather, this expression of underlying demoniac thought in the forms and modes of thinking of the Jewish victim, explains the expressed fear of present actual torment, or, as Matthew, who, from the briefness of his account, does not seem to have been an eye-witness, expresses it: 'Thou art come to torment us before the time;' and possibly also for the 'adjuration by God. ' For, as immediately on the homage and protestation of the Demonized: 'What between me and Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of the Most High God?' Christ had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man, it may have been, that in so doing He had used the Name of the Most High God; or else the 'adjuration' itself may have been the form in which the Jewish speaker clothed the consciousness of the demons, with which his own was identified.
It may be conjectured, that it was partly in order to break this identification, or rather to show the Demonized that it was not real, and only the consequence of the control which the demons had over him, that the Lord asked his name. To this the man made answer, still in the dual consciousness, 'My name is Legion: for we are many. ' Such might be the subjective motive for Christ's question. Its objective reason may have been to show the power of the demoniac possession in the present instance, thus marking it as an altogether extreme case. The remembrance, that the answer is once more in the forms of Jewish thinking, enables us to avoid the strange notion (whether it express the opinion of some, or the difficulties of others), that the word 'Legion' conveys the idea of six thousand armed and strong warriors of evil. For, it was a common Jewish idea, that, under certain circumstances, 'a legion of hurtful spirits' (of course not in the sense of a Roman legion) 'were on the watch for men, saying: When shall he fall into the hands of one of these things, and be taken?'
This identification of the demons with the Demonized, in consequence of which he thought with their consciousness, and they spoke not only through him but in his forms of thinking, may also account for the last and most difficult part of this narrative. Their main object and wish was not to be banished from the country and people, or, as Luke puts it - again to 'depart into the abyss.' Let us now try to realize the scene.
On the very narrow strip of shore, between the steep cliff that rises in the background and the Lake, stand Jesus with His disciples and the Demonized. The wish of the demons is not to be sent out of the country - not back into the abyss. The one is the cliff overhead, the other the Lake beneath: so, symbolically, and, to the Demonized, really. Up on that cliff a great herd of swine is feeding; up that cliff, therefore, is 'into the swine;' and this also agrees with Jewish thoughts concerning uncleanness.
What followed belongs to the phenomena of supersensuous influences upon animals, of which many instances are recorded, but the rationale of which it is impossible to explain. How the unclean spirits could enter into the swine, is a question which cannot be entertained till we shall know more of the animal soul than is at present within our range. This, however, we can understand, that under such circumstances a panic would seize the herd, that it would madly rush down the steep on which it could not arrest itself, and so perish in the sea. And this also we can perceive, how the real object of the demons was thus attained; how they did not leave the country, when Christ was entreated to leave it.
The unearthly utterances of the Demonized, the wild panic among the herd on the cliff, the mad rush down the steep, the splashing waters as the helpless animals were precipitated into the Lake - all this makes up a picture, unsurpassed for vivid, terrible realism. And now sudden silence has fallen on them. From above, the keepers of the herd had seen it all - alike what had passed with the Demonized, and then the issue in the destruction of the herd. From the first, as they saw the Demonized, for fear of whom 'no man might pass that way, ' running to Jesus, they must have watched with eager interest. In the clear Eastern air not a word that was spoken could have been lost. And now in wild terror they fled, into Gerasa - into the country round about, to tell what had happened.
It is morning. He that had been the possession of foul and evil spirits - a very legion of them - and deprived of his human individuality, is now 'sitting at the feet of Jesus, ' learning of Him, 'clothed and in his right mind. ' He has been brought to God, restored to self, to reason, and to human society - and all this by Jesus, at Whose Feet he is gratefully, humbly sitting, 'a disciple.' Is He not then the Very Son of God? Viewing this miracle, as an historical fact, viewing it as a Parabolic Miracle, viewing it also as symbolic of what has happened in all ages - is He not the Son of the Most High God? And is there not now, on His part, in the morning-light the same calmness and majesty of conscious Almighty Power as on the evening before, when He rebuked the storm and calmed the sea?
One other point as regards the healing of this demonism deserves special consideration. Contrary to what was commonly the case, when the evil spirits came out of the Demonized, there was no paroxysm of physical distress. Was it then so, that the more complete and lasting the demoniac possession, the less of purely physical symptoms attended it?
But now from town and country have they come, who had been startled by the tidings which those who fed the swine had brought. We may contrast the scene with that of the shepherds when on Bethlehem's plains the great revelation had come to them, and they had seen the Divine Babe laid in the manger, and had worshipped. Far other were the tidings which these herdsmen brought, and their effect. It is not necessary to suppose, that their request that Jesus would depart out of their coasts was prompted only by the loss of the herd of swine. There could be no doubt in their minds, that One possessing supreme and unlimited power was in their midst. Among men superstitious, and unwilling to submit absolutely to the Kingdom which Christ brought, there could only be one effect of what they had heard, and now witnessed in the person of the healed Demonized - awe and fear! The 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, is the natural expression of a mind conscious of sin when brought into contact with the Divine, Whose supreme and absolute Power is realized as hostile. And this feeling would be greatly increased, in measure as the mind was under the influence of superstitious fears.
In such place and circumstances Jesus could not have continued. And, as He entered the ship, the healed Demonized humbly, earnestly entreated, that he might go with his Savior. It would have seemed to him, as if he could not bear to lose his new found happiness; as if there were calm, safety, and happiness only in His Presence; not far from Him, not among those wild mountains and yet wilder men. Why should he be driven from His fellowship, who had so long been an outcast from that of his fellow-men, and why again left to himself? So, perhaps, should we have reasoned and spoken; so too often do we reason and speak, as regards ourselves or those we love. Not so He Who appoints alike our discipline and our work. To go back, now healed, to his own, and to publish there, in the city - nay, through the whole of the large district of the ten confederate cities, the Decapolis - how great things Jesus had done for him, such was henceforth to be his life-work. In this there would be both safety and happiness. 'And all men did marvel.' And presently Jesus Himself came back into that Decapolis, where the healed Demonized had prepared the way for Him. There seems remarkable correspondence between the two miracles which Jesus had wrought on leaving Capernaum and those which He did on His return. In one sense they are complementary to each other. The stilling of the storm and the healing of the Demonized were manifestations of the absolute power inherent in Christ; the recovery of the woman and the raising of Jairus' daughter, evidence of the absolute efficacy of faith. The unlikeliness of dominion over the storm, and of command over a legion of demons, answers to that of recovery obtained in such a manner, and of restoration when disease had passed into actual death. Even the circumstances seem to correspond, though at opposite poles; in the one case, the Word spoken to the unconscious element, in the other the touch of the unconscious Christ; in the one case the absolute command of Christ over a world of resisting demons, in the other absolute certainty of faith as against the hostile element, of actual fact. Thus the Divine character of the Savior appears in the absoluteness of His Omnipotence, and the Divine character of His Mission in the all-powerfulness of faith which it called forth.
On the shore at Capernaum many were gathered on the morning after the storm. It may have been, that the boats which had accompanied His had returned to friendly shelter, ere the storm had risen to full fury, and had brought anxious tidings of the storm out on the Lake. There they were gathered now in the calm morning, friends eagerly looking out for the well-known boat that bore the Master and His disciples. And as it came in sight, making again for Capernaum, the multitude also would gather in waiting for the return of Him, Whose words and deeds were indeed mysteries, but mysteries of the Kingdom. And quickly, as He again stepped on the well-known shore, was He welcomed, surrounded, soon 'thronged,' inconveniently pressed upon, by the crowd, eager, curious, expectant. It seemed as if they had been all 'waiting for Him,' and He had been away all too long for their impatience.
The tidings rapidly spread, and reached two homes where His help was needed; where, indeed, it alone could now be of possible avail. The two most nearly concerned must have gone to seek that help about the same time, and prompted by the same feelings of expectancy. Both Jairus, the Ruler of the Synagogue, and the woman suffering these many years from disease, had faith. But the weakness of the one arose from excess, and threatened to merge into superstition, while the weakness of the other was due to defect, and threatened to end in despair. In both cases faith had to be called out, tried, purified, and so perfected; in both the thing sought for was, humanely speaking, unattainable, and the means employed seemingly powerless; yet, in both, the outward and inward results required were obtained through the power of Christ, and by the peculiar discipline to which, in His all-wise arranging, faith was subjected.
Synagogue ruler's daughter resurrected
"Then he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed. Now when Jesus had again crossed to the other side of the sea by ship, a great multitude was gathered to Him; and He was by the sea. And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name; and when he saw Him, he fell at His feet; And he earnestly besought Him, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death. I beg You to come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may be healed; and she shall live." And He departed with him; and a great multitude followed Him, pressing around Him.
"While He was still speaking, they came from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying, "Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any longer?" But when Jesus heard the words that were spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not be afraid. Only believe." And He did not allow anyone to accompany Him except Peter and James and John, the brother of James.
"Now when He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, He saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. And when He had entered, He said to them, "Why are you making a tumult and weeping? The child is not dead, but is only sleeping." And they laughed at Him in disbelief. But after He had put them all out, He took with Him the father and the mother of the child, and those with Him, and went into the room where the child was lying. And taking the child by the hand, He said to her, "Talitha, cumi"; which is, being interpreted, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" And immediately the little girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years old. And they were filled with great amazement. Then He strictly charged them that no one should know this, and He told them to give her something to eat." (Mark 5:20-24, 35-43, HBFV)
Jairus, one of the Synagogue-rulers of Capernaum, had an only daughter, who at the time of this narrative had just passed childhood, and reached the period when Jewish Law declared a woman of age. Although Matthew, contracting the whole narrative into briefest summary, speaks of her as dead at the time of Jarius' application to Jesus, the other two Evangelists, giving fuller details, describe her as on the point of death, literally, 'at the last breath.' Unless her disease had been both sudden and exceedingly rapid, which is barely possible, it is difficult to understand why her father had not on the previous day applied to Jesus, if his faith had been such as is generally supposed. But if, as the whole tenour of the history shows, his faith had been only general and scarcely formed, we can account the more easily for the delay. Only in the hour of supreme need, when his only child lay dying, did he resort to Jesus. There was need to perfect such faith, on the one side into perseverance of assurance, and on the other into energy of trustfulness. The one was accomplished through the delay caused by the application of the woman, the other by the supervention of death during this interval.
There was nothing unnatural or unJewish in the application of this Ruler to Jesus. He must have known of the healing of the son of the Court-official, and of the servant of the Centurion, there or in the immediate neighborhood - as it was said, by the mere word of Christ. For there had been no imposition of silence in regard to them, even had such been possible. Yet in both cases the recovery might be ascribed by some to coincidence, by others to answer of prayer. And perhaps this may help us to understand one of the reasons for the prohibition of telling what had been done by Jesus, while in other instances silence was not enjoined.
Of course, there were occasions - such as the raising of the young man at Nain and of Lazarus - when the miracle was done so publicly, that a command of this kind would have been impossible. But in other cases may this not be the line of demarcation, that silence was not enjoined when a result was achieved which, according to the notions of the time, might have been attributed to other than direct Divine Power, while in the latter cases publicity was (whenever possible) forbidden? And this for the twofold reason, that Christ's Miracles were intended to aid, not to supersede, faith; to direct to the Person and Teaching of Christ, as that which proved the benefit to be real and Divine; not to excite the carnal Jewish expectancies of the people, but to lead in humble discipleship to the Feet of Jesus. In short, if only those were made known which would not necessarily imply Divine Power (according to Jewish notions), then would not only the distraction and tumult of popular excitement be avoided, but in each case faith in the Person of Christ be still required, ere the miracles were received as evidence of His Divine claims. And this need of faith was the main point.
That, in view of his child's imminent death, and with the knowledge he had of the 'mighty deeds' commonly reported of Jesus, Jairus should have applied to Him, can the less surprise us, when we remember how often Jesus must, with consent and by invitation of this Ruler, have spoken in the Synagogue; and what irresistible impression His words had made. It is not necessary to suppose, that Jairus was among those elders of the Jews who interceded for the Centurion; the form of his present application seems rather opposed to it. But after all, there was nothing in what he said which a Jew in those days might not have spoken to a Rabbi, who was regarded as Jesus must have been by all in Capernaum who believed not the horrible charge, which the Judean Pharisees had just raised. Though we cannot point to any instance where the laying on of a great Rabbi's hands was sought for healing, such, combined with prayer, would certainly be in entire accordance with Jewish views at the time. The confidence in the result, expressed by the father in the accounts of Mark and Matthew, is not mentioned by Luke. And perhaps, as being the language of an Eastern, it should not be taken in its strict literality as indicating actual conviction on the part of Jairus, that the laying on of Christ's Hands would certainly restore the maiden.
Be this as it may, when Jesus followed the Ruler to his house, the multitude 'thronging Him' in eager curiosity, another approached Him from out that crowd, whose inner history was far different from that of Jairus. The disease from which this woman had suffered for twelve years would render her Levitically 'unclean.' It must have been not unfrequent in Palestine, and proved as intractable as modern science has found it, to judge by the number and variety of remedies prescribed, and by their character. On one leaf of the Talmud not less than eleven different remedies are proposed, of which at most only six can possibly be regarded as astringents or tonics, while the rest are merely the outcome of superstition, to which resort is had in the absence of knowledge. But what possesses real interest is, that, in all cases where astringents or tonics are prescribed, it is ordered, that, while the woman takes the remedy, she is to be addressed in the words: 'Arise (Qum) from thy flux.' It is not only that physical means are apparently to accompany the therapeutical in this disease, but the coincidence in the command, Arise, with the words used by Christ in raising Jairus' daughter is striking.
Brief as is the record of this occurrence, the healing of a women by her merely touching his garment must have caused considerable delay in the progress of our Lord to the house of Jairus. For in the interval the maiden, who had been at the last gasp when her father went to entreat the help of Jesus, had not only died, but the house of mourning was already filled with relatives, hired mourners, wailing women, and musicians, in preparation for the funeral. The intentional delay of Jesus when summoned to Lazarus leads us to ask, whether similar purpose may not have influenced His conduct in the present instance. But even were it otherwise, no outcome of God's Providence is of chance, but each is designed. The circumstances, which in their concurrence make up an event, may all be of natural occurrence, but their conjunction is of Divine ordering and to a higher purpose, and this constitutes Divine Providence.
It was in the interval of this delay that the messengers came, who informed Jairus of the actual death of his child. Jesus overheard it, as they whispered to the Ruler not to trouble the Rabbi any further, but He heeded it not, save so far as it affected the father. The emphatic admonition, not to fear, only to believe, gives us an insight into the threatening failure of the Ruler's faith; perhaps, also, into the motive which prompted the delay of Christ. The utmost need, which would henceforth require the utmost faith on the part of Jairus had now come. But into that, which was to pass within the house, no stranger must intrude. Even of the Apostles only those, who now for the first time became, and henceforth continued, the innermost circle, might witness, without present danger to themselves or others, what was about to take place. How Jesus dismissed the multitude, or else kept them at bay, or where He parted from all his disciples except Peter, James, and John, does not clearly appear, and, indeed, is of no importance. He may have left the nine Apostles with the people, or outside the house, or parted from them in the courtyard of Jairus' house before he entered the inner apartments.
Within, 'the tumult' and weeping, the wail of the mourners, real or hired, and the melancholy sound of the mourning flutes - sad preparation for, and pageantry of, an Eastern funeral - broke with dismal discord on the majestic calm of assured victory over death, with which Jesus had entered the house of mourning. But even so He would tell it them, as so often in like circumstances He tells it to us, that the damsel was not dead, but only sleeping. The Rabbis also frequently have the expression 'to sleep', instead of 'to die.' It may well have been that Jesus made use of this word of double meaning in some such manner as this: Talyetha dimkhath, 'the maiden sleepeth.' And they understood Him well in their own way, yet understood Him not at all.
As so many of those who now hear this word, they to whom it was then spoken, in their coarse realism, laughed Him to scorn. For did they not verily know that she had actually died, even before the messengers had been despatched to prevent the needless trouble of His coming? Yet even this their scorn served a higher purpose. For it showed these two things: that to the certain belief of those in the house the maiden was really dead, and that the Gospel-writers regarded the raising of the dead as not only beyond the ordinary range of Messianic activity, but as something miraculous even among the miracles of Christ. And this also is evidential, at least so far as to prove that the writers recorded the event not lightly, but with full knowledge of the demand which it makes on our faith.
The first thing to be done by Christ was to 'put out' the mourners, whose proper place this house no longer was, and who by their conduct had proved themselves unfit to be witnesses of Christ's great manifestation. The impression which the narrative leaves on the mind is, that all this while the father of the maiden was stupefied, passive, rather than active in the matter. The great fear, which had come upon him when the messengers apprised him of his only child's death, seemed still to numb his faith. He followed Christ without taking any part in what happened; he witnessed the pageantry of the approaching obsequies in his house without interfering; he heard the scorn which Christ's majestic declaration of the victory over death provoked, without checking it.
He now led the father and the mother into the chamber where the dead maiden lay, followed by the three Apostles, witnesses of His chiefest working and of His utmost earthly glory, but also of His inmost sufferings. Without doubt or hesitation He took her by the hand and spoke only these two words: "Talitha, cumi." But the great astonishment which came upon them, as well as the 'strait charge' that no man should know it, are further evidence, if such were required, how little their faith had been prepared for that which in its weakness was granted to it. And thus Jesus, as He had formerly corrected in the woman that weakness of faith which came through very excess, so now in the Ruler of the Synagogue the weakness which was by failure.
It is, to say the least, doubtful whether Jewish theology generally ascribed to the Messiah the raising of the dead. There are isolated statements to that effect, but the majority of opinions is, that God would Himself raise the dead. For, the resurrection to which they refer is that of all the dead (whether at the end of the present age, or of the world), and not of single individuals. To the latter there is not the faintest allusion in Jewish writings, and it may be safely asserted that such a dogma would have been foreign, even incongruous, to Jewish theology.
Jesus authorizes apostles to heal and preach
"And when He had called His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the former tax collector; James, the son of Alpheus; and Lebbeus, who was surnamed Thaddeus; Simon, the Cananean; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. (Matthew 10:1-4, HBFV)
It almost seems, as if the departure of Jesus from Capernaum marked a crisis in the history of that town. From henceforth it ceases to be the center of His activity, and is only occasionally, and in passing, visited. Indeed, the concentration and growing power of Pharisaic opposition, and the proximity of Herod's residence at Tiberias would have rendered a permanent stay there impossible at this stage in our Lord's history. Henceforth, His Life is, indeed, not purely missionary, but He has no certain dwelling-place: in the sublime pathos of His own language, 'He hath not where to lay His Head.'
The notice in Mark's Gospel, that His disciples followed Him, seems to connect the arrival of Jesus in 'His own country' (at Nazareth) with the departure from the house of Jairus, into which He had allowed only three of His Apostles to accompany Him. The circumstances of the present visit, as well as the tone of His countrymen at this time, are entirely different from what is recorded of His former sojourn at Nazareth. The tenacious narrowness, and the prejudices, so characteristic of such a town, with its cliques and petty family-pride, all the more self-asserting that the gradation would be almost imperceptible to an outsider, are, of course, the same as on the former visit of Jesus. Nazareth would have ceased to be Nazareth, had its people felt or spoken otherwise than nine or ten months before. That His fame had so grown in the interval, would only stimulate the conceit of the village-town to try, as it were, to construct the great Prophet out of its own building materials, with this additional gratification that He was thoroughly their own, and that they possessed even better materials in their Nazareth. All this is so quite according to life, that the substantial repetition of the former scene in the Synagogue, so far from surprising us, seems only natural. What surprises us is, what He marvelled at: the unbelief of Nazareth, which lay at the foundation of its estimate and treatment of Jesus.
Upon their own showing their unbelief was most unwarrantable. If ever men had the means of testing the claims of Jesus, the Nazarenes possessed them. True, they were ignorant of the miraculous event of His Incarnation; and we can now perceive at least one of the reasons for the mystery, which was allowed to enwrap it, as well as the higher purpose in Divine Providence of His being born, not in Nazareth, but in Bethlehem of Judea, and of the interval of time between that Birth and the return of His parents from Egypt to Nazareth. Apart from prophecy, it was needful for Nazareth that Christ should have been born in Bethlehem, otherwise the 'mystery of His Incarnation' must have become known.
By thus withdrawing Him successively from one and the other place, there was really none on earth who knew of His miraculous Birth, except the Virgin-Mother, Joseph, Elizabeth, and probably Zacharias. The vision and guidance vouchsafed to the shepherds on that December night did not really disclose the mystery of His Incarnation. Remembering their religious nations, it would not leave on them quite the same impression as on us. It might mean much, or it might mean little, in the present: time would tell. In those lands the sand buries quickly and buries deep - preserving, indeed, but also hiding what it covers. And the sands of thirty years had buried the tale which the shepherds had brought; the wise men from the East had returned another way; the excitement which their arrival in Jerusalem and its object had caused, was long forgotten.
Messianic expectations and movements were of constant recurrence: the religious atmosphere seemed charged with such elements; and the political changes and events of the day were too engrossing to allow of much attention to an isolated report, which, after all, might mean little, and which certainly was of the long past. To keep up attention, there must be communication; and that was precisely what was wanting in this instance. The reign of Herod was tarnished by many suspicious and murders such as those of Bethlehem. Then intervened the death of Herod, - while the carrying of Jesus into Egypt and His non-return to Bethlehem formed a complete break in the continuity of His History. Between obscure Bethlehem in the far south, and obscure Nazareth in the far north, there was no communication such as between towns in our own land, and they who had sought the Child's life, as well as they who might have worshipped Him, must have been dead.
But in Nazareth they knew nothing of all this; and of Him only as that Infant Whom His parents, Joseph the carpenter and Mary, had brought with them months after they had first left Nazareth. Jewish law and custom made it possible, that they might have been married long before. And now they only knew of this humble family, that they lived in retirement, and that sons and daughters had grown around their humble board. Of Jesus, indeed, they must have heard that He was not like others around - so quite different in all ways, as He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Then came that strange tarrying behind on His first visit to Jerusalem, when His parents had to return to seek, and at last found Him in the temple. This, also was only strange, though perhaps not strange in a child such as Jesus; and of His own explanation of it, so full of deepest meaning, they might not have heard. If we may draw probable, though not certain, inferences, after that only these three outward circumstances in the history of the family might have been generally noticed: that Jesus followed the occupation of His adoptive father; that Joseph had died; and that the mother and 'brethren' of Jesus had left Nazareth, while His 'sisters' apparently continued there, being probably married to Nazarenes.
When Jesus had first left Nazareth to seek Baptism at the hands of John, it could scarcely have attracted much attention. Not only did 'the whole world' go after the Baptist, but, considering what was known of Jesus, His absence from, not His presence at the banks of Jordan, would have surprised the Nazarenes. Then came vague reports of His early doings, and, what probably His countrymen would much more appreciate, the accounts which the Galileans brought back from the Feast of what Jesus had done at Jerusalem. His fame had preceded Him on that memorable Sabbath, when all Nazareth had thronged the Synagogue, curious to hear what the Child of Nazareth would have to say, and still more eager to see what He could do. Of the charm of His words there could be no question. Both what He said and how He said it, was quite other that what they had ever listened to. The difference was not in degree, but in kind: He spoke to them of the Kingdom; yet not as for Israel's glory, but for unspeakable comfort in the soul's deepest need. It was truly wonderful, and that not abstractly, but as on the part of 'Joseph's Son.' That was all they perceived. Of that which they had most come to see there was, and could be, no manifestation, so long as they measured the Prophet by His outward antecedents, forgetful that it was inward kinship of faith, which connected Him that brought the blessing with those who received it.
The Twelve were to go forth two and two, furnished with authority - or, as Luke more fully expresses it, with ' power and authority' - alike over all demons and to heal all manner of diseases. It is of secondary importance, whether this was conveyed to them by word only, or with some sacramental sign, such as breathing on them or the laying on of hands. The special commission, for which they received such power, was to proclaim the near advent of the Kingdom, and, in manifestation as well as in evidence of it, to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. They were to speak good and to do good in the highest sense, and that in a manner which all would feel good: freely, even as they had received it. Again, they were not to make any special provision for their journey, beyond the absolute immediate present. They were but laborers, yet as such they had claim to support. Their Employer would provide, and the field in which they worked might well be expected to supply it.
In accordance with this, singleness of purpose and an entire self-denial, which should lead them not to make provision 'for the flesh,' but as laborers to be content with daily food, were the further injunctions laid on them. Before entering into a city, they were to make inquiry, literally to 'search out,' who in it was 'worthy,' and of them to ask hospitality; not seeking during their stay a change for the gratification of vanity or for self-indulgence. If the report on which they had made choice of a host proved true, then the ' Peace with thee! ' with which they had entered their temporary home, would become a reality. Christ would make it such. As He had given them 'power and authority,' so He would 'honor' the draft on Him, in acknowledgment of hospitable reception, which the Apostles' ' Peace with thee! ' implied.
But even if the house should prove unworthy, the Lord would none the less own the words of His messengers and make them real; only, in such case the peace would return to them who had spoken it. Yet another case was possible. The house to which their inquiries had led them, or the city into which they had entered, might refuse to receive them, because they came as Christ's ambassadors. Greater, indeed, would be their guilt than that of the cities of the plain, since these had not known the character of the heavenly guests to whom they refused reception; and more terrible would be their future punishment.
So Christ would vindicate their authority as well as His own, and show the reality of their commission: on the one hand, by making their Word of Peace a reality to those who had proved 'worthy;' and, on the other, by punishment if their message was refused. Lastly, in their present Mission they were not to touch either Gentile or Samaritan territory. The direction - so different in spirit from what Jesus Himself had previously said and done, and from their own later commission - was, of course, only 'for the present necessity.' For the present they were neither prepared nor fitted to go beyond the circuit indicated. It would have been a fatal anticipation of their inner and outer history to have attempted this, and it would have defeated the object of our Lord of disarming prejudices when making a final appeal to the Jews of Galilee.
These remarks show how closely the Lord followed, in his charge to the disciples, Jewish forms of thinking and modes of expression. Whether or not when the Lord charged His disciples on their first mission, He was led gradually to enlarge the scope of His teaching so as to adapt it to all times, need not be discussed.
Without here anticipating the full inquiry into the promise of His immediate Coming, it is important to avoid, even at this stage, any possible misunderstanding on the point. The expectation of the Coming of 'the Son of Man' was grounded on a prophecy of Daniel, in which that Advent, or rather manifestation, was associated with judgment. The same is the case in this Charge of our Lord. The disciples in their work are described 'as sheep in the midst of wolves,' a phrase which the Midrash applies to the position of Israel amidst a hostile world, adding: How great is that Shepherd, Who delivers them, and vanquishes the wolves!
Similarly, the admonition to 'be wise as serpents and harmless as doves' is reproduced in the Midrash, where Israel is described as harmless as the dove towards God, and wise as serpents towards the hostile Gentile nations. Such and even greater would be the enmity which the disciples, as the true Israel, would have to encounter from Israel after the flesh. They would be handed over to the various Sanhedrin, and visited with such punishments as these tribunals had power to inflict. More than this, they would be brought before governors and kings - primarily, the Roman governors and the Herodian princes. And so determined would be this persecution, as to break the ties of the closest kinship, and to bring on them the hatred of all men. The only, but the all-sufficient, support in those terrible circumstances was the assurance of such help from above, that, although unlearned and humble, they need have no care, nor make preparation in their defense, which would be given them from above. And with this they had the promise, that he who endured to the end would be saved, and the prudential direction, so far as possible, to avoid persecution by timely withdrawal, which could be the more readily achieved, since they would not have completed their circuit of the cities of Israel before the ' Son of Man be come. '
But the reality, the genuineness, the depth and fervour of self-surrender, which Christ expects, is met by equal fulness of acknowledgment on His part, alike in heaven and on earth. In fact, there is absolute identification with His ambassadors on the part of Christ. As He is the Ambassador of the Father, so are they His, and as such also the ambassadors of the Father. To receive them was. therefore, not only to receive Christ, but the Father, Who would own the humblest, even the meanest service of love to one of the learners, ' the little ones. ' All the more painful is the contrast of Jewish pride and self-righteousness, which attributes supreme merit to ministering, not as to God, but as to man; not for God's sake, but for that of the man; a pride which could give utterance to such a saying, ' All the prophets have announced salvation only to the like of those who give their daughters in marriage to sages, or cause them to make gain, or give of their goods to them. But what the bliss of the sages themselves is, no mortal eye has seen.'
It was not with such sayings that Christ sent forth His disciples; nor in such spirit, that the world has been subdued to Him. The relinquishing of all that is nearest and dearest, cross-bearing, loss of life itself - such were the terms of His discipleship.