Jesus heals son of Royal Official
"Then Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee, where He had made the water become wine. And there was a certain royal official in Capernaum whose son was sick. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and asked Him if He would come down and heal his son; for he was about to die. Therefore, Jesus said to him, "Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe at all." The royal official said to Him, "Sir, come down before my little child dies." Jesus said to him, "Go; your son shall live." And the man believed the word that Jesus said to him and went away.
"Now as he was going down to his house, his servants met him and reported, saying, "Your child is alive and well." Then he inquired of them at what hour he began to improve. And they said to him, "Yesterday, at the seventh hour, the fever left him." Therefore, the father knew that it was at the hour that Jesus said to him, "Your son shall live." And he himself believed and his whole household. This was the second miracle that Jesus did after again coming out of Judea into Galilee." (John 4:46-54, HBFV)
It appears that the son of one of Herod Antipas' officers, either civil or military, was sick, and at the point of death. When tidings reached the father that the Prophet, or more than Prophet, Whose fame had preceded Him to Galilee, had come to Cana, he resolved, in his despair of other means, to apply to Him for the cure of His child.
We do not assume that this 'court-officer' was actuated by spiritual belief in the Son of God, when applying to Him for help. Rather would we go to almost the opposite extreme, and regard him as simply actuated by what, in the circumstances, might be the views of a devout Jew. Instances are recorded in the Talmud, which may here serve as our guide. Various cases are related in which those seriously ill, and even at the point of death, were restored by the prayers of celebrated Rabbis. One instance is specially illustrative. We read that, when the son of Rabban Gamaliel was dangerously ill, he sent two of his disciples to one Chanina ben Dosa to entreat his prayers for the restoration of his son. On this, Chanina is said to have gone up to the Aliyah (upper chamber) to pray. On his return, he assured the messengers that the young man was restored, grounding his confidence, not on the possession of any prophetic gift, but on the circumstance that he knew his request was answered from the freedom he had in prayer. The messengers noted down the hour, and on their arrival at the house of Gamaliel found, that at that very hour 'the fever left him, and he asked for water.' Thus far the Rabbinic story. Even supposing that it was either invented or colored in imitation of the New Testament, it shows, at least, what a devout Jew might deem lawful to expect from a celebrated Rabbi, who was regarded as having power in prayer.
Enough has been said to show, that the application to Jesus on the part of the 'royal officer' did not, in the peculiar circumstances, lie absolutely beyond the range of Jewish ideas. What the 'court-officer' exactly expected to be done, is a question secondary to that of his state of receptiveness, as it may be called, which was the moral condition alike of the outward help, and of the inward blessing which he received. One thing, however, it is of importance to notice. We must not suppose, that when, to the request that Jesus would come down to Capernaum to perform the cure, the Master replied, that unless they saw signs and wonders they would not believe, He meant thereby to convey that his Jewish hearers, in opposition to the Samaritans, required 'signs and wonders' in order to believe.
For the application of 'the officer' was itself an expression of faith, although imperfect. Besides, the cure, which was the object of the application, could not have been performed without a miracle. What the Savior reproved was not the request for a miracle, which was necessary, but the urgent plea that He should come down to Capernaum for that purpose, which the father afterwards so earnestly repeated. That request argued ignorance of the real character of the Christ, as if He were either merely a Rabbi endowed with special power, or else a miracle-monger.
What He intended to teach this man was, that He, Who had life in Himself, could restore life at a distance as easily as by His Presence; by the word of his Power as readily as by personal application. A lesson this of the deepest importance, as regarded the Person of Christ; a lesson, also, of the widest application to us and for all circumstances, temporal and spiritual. When the 'court-officer' had learned this lesson, he became 'obedient unto the faith,' and 'went his way,' presently to find his faith both crowned and perfected. And when both 'he and his house' had learned that lesson, they would never afterwards think of the Christ either as the Jews did, who simply witnessed His miracles, or unspiritually. It was the completion of that teaching which had first come to Nathanael, the first believer of Cana. So, also, is it when we have learned that lesson, that we come to know alike the meaning and the blessedness of believing in Jesus.
Jesus' First Public Message
"And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and according to His custom, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. And there was given Him the book of the prophet Isaiah; and when He had unrolled the scroll, He found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; for this reason, He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal those who are brokenhearted, to proclaim pardon to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth in deliverance those who have been crushed, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
"And after rolling up the scroll and delivering it to the attendant, He sat down; and the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He began to say to them, "Today, this scripture is being fulfilled in your ears." And all bore witness to Him and were amazed at the words of grace that were coming out of His mouth; and they said, "Is not this the son of Joseph?"
"And He said to them, "Surely, you will say this parable to Me: 'Physician, heal Yourself! Whatever we have heard being done in Capernaum, do also here in Your own country.' " But He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. For in truth, I say to you, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up for three years and six months, and there was great famine upon all the land; And Elijah was not sent to any of them, but only to a widow in Sarepta, a city of Sidonia. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them were cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian."
"Now all in the synagogue who heard these things were filled with indignation. And they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the edge of the mountain on which their city was built, in order to throw Him down headlong; But He passed safely through their midst and departed. (Luke 4:16-30, HBFV)
The visit to Nazareth was in many respects decisive. It presented by anticipation an epitome of the history of the Christ. He came to His own, and His own received Him not. The first time He taught in the Synagogue, as the first time He taught in the Temple, they cast Him out. On the one and the other occasion, they questioned His authority, and they asked for a 'sign.' In both instances, the power which they challenged was, indeed, claimed by Christ, but its display, in the manner which they expected, refused. The analogy seems to extend even farther - and if a misrepresentation of what Jesus had said when purifying the Temple formed the ground of the final false charge against Him, the taunt of the Nazarenes: 'Physician, heal thyself!' found an echo in the mocking cry, as He hung on the Cross: 'He saved others, Himself He cannot save.'
Realizing the scene on such occasions, we mark the contrast. As there could be no un-Jewish forwardness on the part of Jesus, so, assuredly, would there be none of that mock-humility of reluctance to officiate, in which Rabbinism delighted. If, as in the circumstances seems likely, Jesus commenced the first part of the service, and then pronounced before the 'Ark' those Eulogies which were regarded as, in the strictest sense, the prayer (Tephillah), we can imagine - though we can scarcely realize - the reverent solemnity, which would seem to give a new meaning to each well-remembered sentence. And in His mouth it all had a new meaning. We cannot know what, if any, petitions He inserted, though we can imagine what their spirit would have been. And now, one by one, Priest, Levite, and, in succession, five Israelites, had read from the Law. There is no reason to disturb the almost traditional idea, that Jesus Himself read the concluding portion from the Prophets, or the so-called Haphtarah. The whole narrative seems to imply this. Similarly, it is most likely that the Haphtarah for that day was taken from the prophecies of Isaiah, and that it included the passage quoted by the Evangelist as read by the Lord Jesus.
We know that the 'rolls' on which the Law was written were distinct from those of the Prophets; and every probability points to it, that those of the Prophets, at least the Greater, were also written on separate scrolls. In this instance we are expressly told that the minister had him a particular scroll "there was given Him the book of the prophet Isaiah."
When unrolling, and holding the scroll, much more than the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah must have been within range of His eyes. On the other hand, it is quite certain that the verses quoted by the Evangelist could not have formed the whole Haphtarah. According to traditional rule, the Haphtarah ordinarily consisted of not less than twenty-one verses, though, if the passage was to be 'targumed,' or a sermon to follow, that number might be shortened to seven, five, or even three verses. Now the passage quoted by Luke consists really of only one verse (Isaiah 41:1), together with a clause from Isaiah 58:6, and the first clause of Isaiah 41:2. This could scarcely have formed the whole Haphtarah.
But, if as we suppose, the passages quoted formed the introductory text of Christ's discourse, such quotation and combination were not only in accordance with Jewish custom, but formed part of the favorite mode of teaching - the Charaz - or stringing, like pearls, passage to passage, illustrative of each other. In the present instance, the portion of the scroll which Jesus unrolled may have exhibited in close proximity the two passages which formed the introductory text (the so-called Pethichah). But this is of comparatively small interest.
It was, indeed, Divine 'wisdom' - 'the Spirit of the Lord' upon Him, which directed Jesus in the choice of such a text for His first Messianic Sermon. It struck the key-note to the whole of His Galilean ministry. The ancient Synagogue regarded Isaiah 61:1-2, as one of the three passages, in which mention of the Holy Spirit was connected with the promised redemption. In this view, the application which the passage received in the discourse of our Lord was peculiarly suitable. For the words in which Luke reports what followed the Pethichah, or introductory text, seem rather a summary, than either the introduction or part of the discourse of Christ.
"Today, this scripture is being fulfilled in your ears."
There was not a word in all this of what common Jewish expectancy would have connected with, nay, chiefly accentuated in an announcement of the Messianic redemption; not a word to raise carnal hopes, or flatter Jewish pride. Truly, it was the most un-Jewish discourse for a Jewish Messiah of those days, with which to open His Ministry. And yet such was the power of these 'words of grace.' that the hearers hung spell-bound upon them. Every eye was fastened on Him with hungry eagerness. For the time they forgot all else - Who it was that addressed them, even the strangeness of the message, so unspeakably in contrast to any preaching of Rabbi or Teacher that had been heard in that Synagogue. Indeed, one can scarcely conceive the impression which the Words of Christ must have produced, when promise and fulfilment, hope and reality, mingled, and wants of the heart, hitherto unrealized, were wakened, only to be more than satisfied. It was another sphere, another life. Truly, the anointing of the Holy Spirit was on the Preacher, from Whose lips dropped these 'words of grace.' And if such was the announcement of the Year of God's Jubilee, what blessings must it bear in its bosom!
The discourse had been spoken, and the breathless silence with which, even according to Jewish custom, it had been listed to, gave place to the usual after-sermon hum of an Eastern Synagogue. On one point all were agreed: that they were marvellous words of grace, which had proceeded out of His mouth. And still the Preacher waited, with deep longing of soul, for some question, which would have marked the spiritual application of what He had spoken. Such deep longing of soul is kindred to, and passes into almost sternness, just because he who so longs is so intensely in earnest, in the conviction of the reality of his message. It was so with Jesus in Nazareth. They were indeed making application of the Sermon to the Preacher, but in quite different manner from that to which His discourse had pointed. It was not the fulfilment of the Scripture in Him, but the circumstance, that such an one as the Son of Joseph, their village carpenter, should have spoken such words, that attracted their attention. Not, as we take it, in a malevolent spirit, but altogether unspiritually, as regarded the effect of Christ's words, did one and another, here and there, express wonderment to his neighbor.
They had heard, and now they would fain have seen. But already the holy indignation of Him, Whom they only knew as Joseph's son, was kindled. The turn of matters; their very admiration and expectation; their vulgar, unspiritual comments: it was all so entirely contrary to the Character, the Mission, and the Words of Jesus. No doubt they would next expect, that here in His own city, and all the more because it was such, He would do what they had heard had taken place in Capernaum. It was the world-old saying, as false, except to the ear, and as speciously popular as most such sayings: 'Charity begins at home' - or, according to the Jewish proverb, and in application to the special circumstances: 'Physician, heal thyself.' Whereas, if there is any meaning in truth and principle; if there was any meaning and reality in Christ's Mission, and in the discourse He had just spoken, Charity does not begin at home; and 'Physician, heal thyself' is not of the Gospel for the poor, nor yet the preaching of God's Jubilee, but that of the Devil, whose works Jesus had come to destroy.
As we read the report of Jesus' words, we perceive only dimly that aspect of them which stirred the wrath of His hearers to the utmost, and yet we do understand it. That He should have turned so fully the light upon the Gentiles, and flung its large shadows upon them; that 'Joseph's Son' should have taken up this position towards them; that He would make to them spiritual application unto death of His sermon, since they would not make it unto life: it stung them to the quick. Away He must out of His city; it could not bear His Presence any longer, not even on that holy Sabbath. Out they thrust Him from the Synagogue; forth they pressed Him out of the city; on they followed, and around they beset Him along the road by the brow of the hill on which the city is built - perhaps to that western angle, at present pointed out as the site.
This, with the unspoken intention of crowding Him over the cliff, which there rises abruptly about forty feet out of the valley beneath. If we are correct in indicating the locality, the road here bifurcates, and we can conceive how Jesus, Who had hitherto, in the silence of sadness, allowed Himself almost mechanically to be pressed onwards by the surrounding crowd, now turned, and by that look of commanding majesty, the forthbreaking of His Divine Being, which ever and again wrought on those around miracles of subjection, constrained them to halt and give way before Him, while unharmed He passed through their midst. So did Israel of old pass through the cleft waves of the sea, which the wonder-working rod of Moses had converted into a wall of safety. Yet, although He parted from it in judgment, not thus could the Christ have finally and for ever left His own Nazareth.
"Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the Sabbath days. And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority." (Luke 4:31-32, HBFV)
Cast out of His own city, Jesus pursued His solitary way towards Capernaum. There, at least, devoted friends and believing disciples would welcome Him. There, also, a large draught of souls would fill the Gospel-net. Capernaum would be His Galilean home. Here He would, on the Sabbath-days, preach in that Synagogue, of which the good centurion was the builder, and Jairus the chief ruler. These names, and the memories connected with them, are a sufficient comment on the effect of His preaching: that 'His word was with power.' In Capernaum, also, was the now believing and devoted household of the court-officer, whose only son the Word of Christ, spoken at a distance, had restored to life.
Jesus calls disciples to be fishers of men
"Now it came to pass that while the multitude was pressing on Him to hear the Word of God, He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret; And He saw two ships standing by the shore of the lake, but the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. And after going into one of the ships, which was Simon's, He asked him to put out from the shore a little; and He sat down and taught the multitudes from the ship. Now when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep, and let your nets down for a haul." Then Simon answered and said, "Master, we have labored through the entire night, and we have taken nothing; but at Your word, I will let the net down." And when they did this, they enclosed a great school of fish; and their net was breaking. Then they signaled to their partners, those in the other ship, that they should come and help them; and they came and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
"And when he saw this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord." For great astonishment came upon him and all those with him, on account of the miraculous haul of fish that they had taken; And in like manner also upon James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Fear not; from this time forth you shall be catching men." And after bringing the ships to land, they forsook everything and followed Him. (Luke 5:1-10, HBFV)
The boat has been thrust out a little from the land, and over the soft ripple of the waters comes the strange melody of that Word. We need scarcely ask what He spake. It would be of the Father, of the Kingdom, and of those who entered it - like what He spake from the Mount, or to those who labored and were heavy laden. But it would carry to the hearers the wondrous beauty and glory of that opening Kingdom, and, by contrast, the deep poverty and need of their souls. And Peter had heard it all in the boat, as he sat close by, in the shadow of His Majesty. Then, this was the teaching of which he had become a disciple; this, the net and the fishing to which he was just called. How utterly miserable, in one respect, must it have made him. Could such an one as he ever hope, with whatever toil, to be a successful fisher?
Jesus had read his thoughts, and much more than read them. It was all needed for the qualifying of Peter especially, but also of the others who had been called to be fishers of men. Presently it shall be all brought to light; not only that it may be made clear, but that, alike, the lesson and the help may be seen. And this is another object in Christ's miracles to His disciples: to make clear their inmost thoughts and longings, and to point them to the right goal.
But what did it all mean to Simon Peter? He had been called to full discipleship, and he had obeyed the call. He had been in his boat beside the Savior, and heard what He had spoken, and it had gone to his heart. And now this miracle which he had witnessed! Such shoal of fish in one spot on the Lake of Galilee was not strange. The miraculous was, that the Lord had seen through those waters down where the multitude of fishes was, and bidden him let down for a draught. He could see through the intervening waters, right down to the bottom of that sea; He could see through him, to the very bottom of Peter's heart. He did see it - and all that Jesus had just spoken meant it, and showed him what was there. And could he then be a fisher of men, out of whose heart, after a life's night of toil, the net would come up empty, or rather only clogged with sand and torn with pebbles? This is what he meant when 'he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying: 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord' And this is why Jesus comforted him: 'Fear not; from this time forth you shall be catching men.'
Demon cast out of person attending Synagogue
"Then they went into Capernaum; and on the Sabbath day He immediately went into the synagogue and taught the people. And they were astonished at His doctrine; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
"Now in their synagogue there was a man with an unclean spirit; and it cried out, Saying, "Ah! What have we to do with You, Jesus, the Nazarene? Have You come to destroy us? I know Who You are - the Holy One of God!" But Jesus rebuked it, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him." And after throwing him into convulsions and crying out with a loud voice, the spirit came out of him. Then all were astonished, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? What new teaching is this, that with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him?" And His fame swiftly spread into all the country around Galilee." (Mark 1:21-28, HBFV, see also Luke 4:33-37)
It was the Holy Sabbath - the first after He had called around Him His first permanent disciples. The greater detail with which Mark, who wrote under the influence of Peter, tells these events, shows the freshness and vividness of impression on the mind of Peter of those early days of his new life.
But as yet all seemed calm and undisturbed. Those simple, warm-hearted Galileans yielded themselves to the power of His words and works, not discerning hidden blasphemy in what He said, nor yet Sabbath-desecration in His healing on God's holy day. It is morning, and Jesus goes to the Synagogue at Capernaum. To teach there, was now His wont. But frequency could not lessen the impression. In describing the Influence of His Person or words the Evangelists use a term, which really means amazement. And when we find the same word to describe the impression of the 'Sermon on the Mount,' the inference is naturally suggested, that it presents the type, if it does not sum up the contents, of some of His Synagogue-discourses.
It is not necessary to suppose that, what held His hearers spell-bound, had necessarily also its effect on their hearts and lives. Men may be enraptured by the ideal without trying to make it the real. Too often it is even in inverse proportion; so that those who lead not the most moral lives even dare to denounce the New Testament standpoint, as below their own conceptions of right and duty. But there is that in man, evidence of his origin and destiny, which always and involuntarily responds to the presentation of the higher. And in this instance it was not only what He taught, but the contrast with that to which they had been accustomed on the part of 'the Scribes,' which filled them with amazement. There was no appeal to human authority, other than that of the conscience; no subtle logical distinctions, legal niceties, nor clever sayings.
Among the hearers in the Synagogue that Sabbath morning was a person possessed of a demon. If we believe that the Son of God came to destroy the works of the Devil, we can understand the developed enmity of the kingdom of darkness; and if we regard Christ as Very God, taking, in manner to us mysterious, Humanity, we can also perceive how the Prince of Darkness might, in counterfeit, seek through the Demonized a temporary dwelling in Humanity for purposes of injury and destruction, as Christ for healing and salvation.
Jesus had come not only to destroy the works of the Devil. His Incarnation meant more - to set the prisoners free. By a word of command He gagged the confessions of the demon, unwilling made, and even so with hostile intent. It was not by such voices that He would have His Messiahship ever proclaimed. Such testimony was wholly unfitting and incongruous; it would have been a strange discord on the witness of the Baptist and the Voice Which had proclaimed Him from heaven. And, truly, had it been admitted, it would have strangely jarred in a Life which needed not, and asked not even the witness of men, but appealed straightway to God Himself. Nor can we fail to perceive how, had it been allowed, it would have given a true ground to what the Pharisees sought to assign as the interpretation of His Power, that by the Prince of Demons He cast out demons. And thus there is here also deep accord with the fundamental idea which was the outcome of His Temptation: that not the seemingly shortest, but the Divine way must lead Him to the goal..