Man, He was come for men. He will associate others (chap. 5) with Himself
in this glorious work. He has a right to do it. If He is in grace a
servant, He is so according to the full power of the Holy Ghost. He works a
miracle well adapted to strike those whom He would call, and which made
them feel that everything was at His disposal, that all depended on Him,
that where man could do nothing He could do everything. Peter, stricken in
conscience by the presence of the Lord, confesses his unworthiness, but
drawn by grace goes to Christ. Grace raises him up, and appoints him to
speak of itself to others-to fish for men. Already it was not a preacher of
righteousness among the people of God, but one who drew into His net those
that were afar off. He attracted to Himself as the manifestation on earth
of the power and the character of God. It was grace which was there.
He was there with the will and the power to heal that which was a figure of
sin, and incurable but by the intervention of God. But God had intervened;
and in grace He can say, and says, to one who acknowledged His power but
doubted His will, "I will, be thou clean."
[see note #13]
Yet He submitted to Jewish ordinances as one obedient to the law. Jesus
prayed, as a man dependent on God. This was His perfection as a man born
under the law. Moreover, He must needs acknowledge the ordinances of God,
not yet abrogated by His rejection. But this obedience as man became a
testimony; for the power of Jehovah alone could heal leprosy, and He had
healed it, and the priests were to acknowledge that which had been done.
But He brings pardon as well as cleansing. He gives a proof of this by
removing all infirmity, and imparting strength to one who had none. This
was not the doctrine that God could pardon. They believed that. But God had
intervened, and pardon was present. They would no longer have to wait for
the last day, nor for a day of judgment, to know their condition. A Nathan
would not be required to come and proclaim it on the part of a God who was
in heaven while His people were on earth. Pardon was come, in the Person of
the Son of man come down to earth. In all this, Jesus gave proofs of the
power and the rights of Jehovah. In this instance it was the fulfilment of
Psalm 103: 3; but, at the same time, He gives these proofs as accomplished
by the power of the Holy Ghost, without measure in man, in His own Person
the true Son of God. The Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins: in
fact, Jehovah was come, a man on earth. The Son of man was there before
their eyes, in grace, to exercise this power-a proof that God had visited
In both these instances
[see note #14]
the Lord, while displaying a power fitted to extend, and that was to
extend, beyond this sphere, displays it in connection with Israel. The
cleansing was a proof of the power of Jehovah in the midst of Israel, and
the pardon was in connection with His government in Israel, and therefore
proved itself by the perfect cure of the sick man, according to the psalm
[see note #15]
No doubt, these rights were not limited to Israel, but at that moment they
were exercised in connection with this nation. He cleansed, in grace, that
which Jehovah alone could cleanse. He pardoned that which Jehovah alone
could pardon, taking away all the consequence of their sin. It was, in this
sense, a governmental pardon; the power of Jehovah present, fully to
restore and re-establish Israel-wherever, at least, faith could profit by
it. Afterwards, we shall find pardon for peace of soul.
The call of Levi, and that which follows, shews that not only was this
power of grace to extend beyond Israel, but that the old vessel was not
able to bear it. It must form a vessel for itself.
We may also remark here, on the other hand, that faith is characterised by
perseverance. In the consciousness of the evil, an evil without remedy, and
in the assurance that One able to heal is there, it does not allow itself
to be discouraged-does not put off the relief of its need. Now, the power
of God was there to meet this need.
This terminates that part of the narrative which reveals, in a positive
way, divine power, visiting the earth in grace, in the Person of the Son of
man, and exercised in Israel, in the condition in which it found them.
That which follows characterises its exercise in contrast with Judaism. But
that which we have already examined is divided into two parts, having
distinct characters which deserve to be noticed. First, from chapter 4:
31-41, it is the power of the Lord manifesting itself on His part, as
triumphing (without any particular connection with the mind of the
individual) over all the power of the enemy, whether in sickness or in
possession. The power of the enemy is there: Jesus casts it out, and heals
those who are suffering from it. But, secondly, His occupation is to
preach. And the kingdom was not only the manifestation of a power which
casts out all that of the enemy, but of a power which brought souls also
into connection with God. We see this in chapter 5: 1-26. Here their
condition before God,-sin, and faith, are in question-in a word, all that
belonged to their relationship with God.
Here, consequently, we see the authority of the word of Christ upon the
heart, the manifestation of His glory (He is owned as Lord), conviction of
sin, just jealousy for His glory, in the sense of His holiness which should
keep itself inviolate; the soul taking God's part against itself, because
it loves holiness and respects the glory of God, even while feeling the
attraction of His grace; so that, owing to this, everything is
forgotten-fish, nets, boat, danger: "one thing" already possesses the.
soul. The Lord's answer then dispels all fear, and He associates the freed
soul with Himself in the grace which He had exercised towards it, and in
the work which He wrought in behalf of men. It was already delivered
morally from all that was around it; now, in the full enjoyment of grace,
it is set free by the power of grace, and wholly given to Jesus. The
Lord-perfect manifestation of God-in creating new affections by this revelat
ion of God, separates the heart from all that bound it to this world, to
the order of the old man, in order to set it apart for Himself-for God. He
surrounds Himself with all that is delivered, becoming its centre; and,
indeed, delivers by being so.
He then cleanses the leper, which none but Jehovah could do. Still He does
not come out of His position under the law; and, however great His fame, He
maintains His place of perfect dependence as man before God. The leper, the
unclean, may return to God.
He next forgives. The guilty one is no longer so before God; he is
pardoned. At the same time he receives strength. Nevertheless it is still
the Son of man who is there. In both cases faith seeks the Lord, bringing
its need before Him.
The Lord now exhibits the character of this grace in connection with its
objects. Being supreme, being of God, it acts in virtue of its rights.
Human circumstances do not hinder it. It adapts itself by its very nature
to human need, and not to human privileges. It is not subject to
[see note #16]
and does not come in through them. The power of God by the Spirit was
there, and acted for itself, and produced its own effects, setting aside
that which was old-that to which man was attached,
[see note #17] and to which the
power of the Spirit could not be confined.
The scribes and Pharisees would not have the Lord associate with the wicked
and disreputable. God seeks those who need Him-sinners-in grace.
When they ask why His disciples do not observe the customs and the
ordinances of John and the Pharisees, by which they guided the legal piety
of their disciples, it is that the new thing could not be subjected to the
forms that belonged to that which was old, and which could not sustain the
strength and energy of that which came from God. The old were the forms of
man after the flesh; the new, the energy of God, according to the Holy
Ghost. Moreover it was not the time for a piety that took the form of
self-mortification. What else could man do? But the Bridegroom was there.
Nevertheless, man would prefer that which was old, because it was man, and
not the energy of God.