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In the following chapter (9), while acting in the character and according
to the power of Jehovah (as we read in Psalm 103), "Who forgiveth all thine
iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases"; it is the actual grace in itself
towards and for them, in which He came, which is presented. It gives the
character of His ministry, as the previous one gives the dignity of His
Person and the bearing of what He was. He presents Himself to Israel as
their true Redeemer and Deliverer; and, to prove His title (which unbelief
already opposed) to be this blessing to Israel, and to pardon all their
iniquities which raised a barrier between them and their God, He
accomplishes the second part of the verse, and heals the disease. Beautiful
and precious testimony of kindness to Israel, and at the same time, the
demonstration of His glory who stood in the midst of His people! In the
same spirit, as He had forgiven, and healed, He calls the publican and goes
to his house-come not to call the righteous, but sinners.
But now we enter on another portion of the instruction in this Gospel-the
development of the opposition of unbelievers, of the learned men and the
religionists in particular; and that of the rejection of the work and
Person of the Lord.
The idea, the picture of that which took place, has been already set before
us in the case of the Gergesene demoniac-the power of God present for the
entire deliverance of His people, of the world, if they received Him-power
which the devils confessed to be that which should hereafter judge and cast
them out, which displayed itself in blessing to all the people of the
place, but which was rejected, because they did not desire such power to
dwell among them. They would not have the presence of God.
The narration of the details and the character of this rejection now
commences. Observe that chapter 8: 1-27 gives the manifestation of the
Lord's power-this power being truly that of Jehovah on the earth. From
verse 28 the reception this power met with in the world, and the influence
which governed the world, are set forth, whether as power, or morally in
the hearts of men.
We come here to the historical development of the rejection of this
intervention of God upon the earth.
The multitude glorify God who had given such power to a man. Jesus accepts
this place. He was man: the multitude saw Him to be man, and acknowledged
the power of God, but did not know how to combine the two ideas in His
The grace which contemns the pretensions of man to righteousness is now set
Matthew, the publican, is called; for God looks at the heart, and grace
calls the elect vessels.
The Lord declares the mind of God on this subject, and His own mission. He
came to call sinners; He would have mercy. It was God in grace, and not man
with his pretended righteousness counting on his merits.
He assigns two reasons which make it impossible to reconcile His course
with the demands of the Pharisees. How should the disciples fast when the
Bridegroom was there? When the Messiah was gone, they might well do so.
Moreover it is impossible to introduce the new principles and the new power
of His mission into the old Pharisaic forms.
Thus we have grace to sinners, but (grace rejected) now comes at once a
higher proof that Messiah-Jehovah was there, from her bed of death, He
obeys the call. As He goes, a poor woman, who had already employed every
means of cure without success, is instantaneously healed by touching in
faith the hem of His garment.
This history supplies us with the two great divisions of the grace that was
manifested in Jesus. Christ came to awaken dead Israel; He will do this
hereafter in the full sense of the word. Meanwhile, whosoever laid hold of
Him by faith, in the midst of the multitude that accompanied Him, was
healed, let the case be ever so hopeless. This, which took place in Israel
when Jesus was there, is true in principle of us also. Grace in Jesus is a
power which raises from the dead, and which heals. Thus He opened the eyes
of those in Israel who owned Him to be the Son of David, and who believed
in His power to meet their need. He cast out devils also, and gave speech
to the dumb. But having performed these acts of power in Israel, so that
the people, as to the fact, owned them with admiration, the Pharisees, the
most religious part of the nation, ascribe this power to the prince of the
devils. Such is the effect of the Lord's presence on the leaders of the
people, jealous of His glory thus manifested among them over whom they
exercised their influence. But this in no way interrupts Jesus in His
career of beneficence. He can still bear testimony among the people. In
spite of the Pharisees His patient kindness still finds place. He continues
to preach and to heal. He has compassion on the people, who were like sheep
without a shepherd, given up, morally, to their own guidance. He still sees
that the harvest is plenteous and the labourers few. That is to say, He
still sees every door open to address the people and He passes over the
wickedness of the Pharisees.
Let us sum up what we find in the chapter, the grace developed in Israel.
First, grace healing and forgiving as in Psalm 103. Then grace come to call
sinners, not the righteous; the bridegroom was there, nor could grace in
power be put in Jewish and Pharisaic vessels; it was new even in respect of
John Baptist. He comes in reality to give life to the dead, not to heal,
but whoever then touched Him by faith-for there were such-were healed in
the way. He opens eyes to see, as Son of David, and opens the dumb mouth of
him whom the devil possessed. All is rejected with blasphemy by the
self-righteous Pharisees. But grace sees the multitude as yet as having no
shepherd; and while the porter holds the door open, He ceases not to seek
and minister to the sheep.